Decade nostalgia usually happens on a strict time table. We got all wistful for the 1950s during the 1970s (with American Graffiti, Happy Days, and Grease). We fell in love with the ‘60s again during the ‘80s (The Big Chill, The Wonder Years, Dirty Dancing), and the 1970s were back in style in the 1990s (Dazed and Confused, That ‘70s Show, Boogie Nights). Nostalgia for the ‘80s started kicking in during the early 2000s, just as expected. But then something weird happened: it didn’t dissipate.
In 2018, ’80s fever is in full force, with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. And it’s not just those of us who were alive during the ’80s that love it. People who were only a glint in their parents’ eyes when pop culture was ruled by mullets and power ballads are obsessed with all things ’80s. Frankly, we’re not that surprised. The ’80s ruled. Here are 25 reasons why we collectively can’t get enough of this neon-soaked decade. And for more 80s secrets, see the 30 Funniest Jokes about Growing Up in the ‘80s.
Everything was unabashedly goofy.
Every decade looks ridiculous in hindsight, but none quite as much as the ‘80s. There were shoulder pads and pastel suits, side ponies and man ponies, neon Jam shorts and gigantic hair. It was all preposterous and over the top. Nobody during the ‘80s seemed to ask, “Is this too tacky?” The only question was, “Could we make it bigger and add more neon?”
Everybody seemed a lot less self-conscious.
It’s not just that people were making insane fashion choices during the ‘80s, it’s that nobody seemed particularly embarrassed about it. They put on velour tracksuits, keyboard neckties, and Olivia Newton-John headbands, and then looked in the mirror and said, “I look goooooooood.” And for ridiculousness from everyone’s favorite decade, check out the 20 Slang Terms From the 1980s No One Uses Anymore.
Spotify playlists are easy to use and offer thousands of song possibilities (up to 10,000 per playlist, if you’re a Premium member), but they still feel like a pale imitation of mixtapes. Putting together the perfect collection of songs on a cassette required skill and dedication. You didn’t have a limitless archive of songs at your disposal, just whatever you could find at your local record store. Mixtapes were tangible, beautiful pieces of art that felt more personal and special than their online imitators.
The Rubik’s Cube was the smartphone
During the ’80s, when people were pretending to listen to you but really looking down at their hands, they weren’t staring at their phones. No, they were consumed with the impossible task of figuring out a Rubik’s cube. To try your hand at some modern-day problem-solving, Try These Brain Teasers That Astronauts Have to Pass Before Going to Space.
It was the last decade without the Internet.
AOL took hold of the nation during the mid-’90s, and other servers quickly followed. Pretty soon, everybody was online and addicted. But not in the ’80s. The closest we had to an all-consuming media obsession was MTV, and that was much easier to turn off.
Nobody “binged” on TV.
It just wasn’t possible. If you wanted to find out who shot J.R., you had the watch Dallas every week and hope it got revealed eventually. You couldn’t say, “I’m going to spend this weekend watching the first four seasons of M*A*S*H.”
People were less stressed.
That might not be entirely accurate, but it sure did seem like it to a lot of us that experienced the ‘80s first-hand. “I think we’re nostalgic for the ‘80s because it was a stress-free decade,” said Steven Spielberg, while promoting his ’80s-themed movie Ready Player One. Maybe we were just less informed—other than CNN, cable wasn’t filled with 24-hour news channels trying their hardest to freak us out—but whatever it was, the ‘80s felt like the most laid-back decade.
Pop culture was still wildly un-PC.
In what other decade could a movie like The Blue Lagoon—a film about two cousins (one of whom was played by a 14-year-old Brooke Shields) who get trapped on a desert island and fall in love—become a monster blockbuster and nobody complains?
Cartoons were on Saturday morning only.
Kids today have limitless options when it comes to cartoons. Thanks to modern cable and the internet, they can watch any cartoon ever created whenever they want. But during the ‘80s, cartoons only aired at one time: on Saturday morning. If you slept in, sorry bud, there’s no Bugs Bunny for you until next week. It was an important lesson in patience.
People picked up phones.
This one might require some explanation. When you called a person, a phone started ringing in their house, and they’d hear the ringing and think, “Oh, somebody wants to talk to me.” So they picked up the phone and said, “Hello.” And then you had a conversation. No, seriously, that’s how people interacted in the ‘80s.
But you could also be unreachable.
Because the phone was attached to a wall in your house—mobile phones did exist, but they were super bulky and only rich finance guys in Oliver Stone movies owned them—people could leave their homes and essentially disappear. No calls, no emails, no texts. You were totally unreachable. If you want to achieve such off-the-grid status today, learn the 11 Easy Ways to Conquer Your Smartphone Addiction.
Video games didn’t try so hard.
Video games in 2018 are like mini Hollywood action films. Photorealistic graphics, crazy choreography, plots more complex than a Nolan film. But video games from the ‘80s, when the industry was still in infancy, were almost adorably slow-paced. It didn’t get much more sophisticated than badly-pixelated plumbers jumping over barrels or a frog trying (and failing) not to fall off a log.
There was no fake news.
There were only a handful of news sources, and they were anchored by serious-looking men with commanding voices, like Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings and Dan Rather. Nobody ever said, “I just don’t trust that Bernard Shaw.”
Prince and David Bowie were still alive…
… and making some of the best music of their respective careers. In 2018, we need their musical genius now more than ever.
The Cold War was ending.
When Ronald Reagan declared during a stirring speech in Berlin in 1987, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” who would have believed that the Soviet leader would respond with, “Sure, okay?” But that’s exactly what happened just a few years later, when the Berlin Wall that had divided East and West Germany since 1961 was finally torn down, signaling the end of the Cold War.
The worst people you could imagine were fictional.
The most evil people of the ‘80s existed on celluloid, like Gordon Gekko in Wall Street, and Principal Vernon in The Breakfast Club, and Frank Booth in Blue Velvet. Today, the most sinister baddies can mostly be found in the newspaper headlines.
Your whole life could be kept in a Trapper Keeper.
The velcro-flapped folder that every cool kid in school had in the ‘80s was all you needed to carry anything significant. If it couldn’t fit in a Trapper Keeper, you probably didn’t need it. What a difference from today, when we need to keep upgrading our cloud storage just to store all our apps and photos and files and blah blah blah.
The only one insulting strangers was Mr. T.
When Mr. T would pity a fool, it could be harsh and arbitrary, but it was always fair. No fool was pitied who didn’t deserve to be pitied. The world only needs one troll, and he’s got a mohawk and a gigantic gold chain.
Kids were less supervised.
It’s amazing to imagine such a thing in 2018, but in the ‘80s kids roamed freely. They could leave the house without their parents even noticing, and wander around town or through outer-limit woods with their friends, doing whatever, until it started to get dark. And yet somehow, despite the lack of adult supervision, kids almost always survived to adulthood.
Instant gratification was not a thing.
In the ‘80s, you couldn’t have whatever you wanted whenever you wanted it. You couldn’t see a movie without going to a video store and seeing if they had it in stock. (If it was a new release, there was a good chance every copy was already rented.) Your favorite TV shows were just on when they were on, and you had to wait all week to see a new episode. And every time you took a picture, you had to take the film to a developing lab and then wait, sometimes overnight, to see your photos.
Bored teenagers didn’t have the internet or their phones to keep them distracted in the ‘80s. When there was nothing to do, they went to the mall. Not to buy anything in particular, just to hang out and socialize, maybe loiter outside the Chess King or Merry-Go-Round and say “S’up” whenever a friend wondered past. Truly, it was a magical time.
Bill Murray. ‘Nuff said.
Yes, we’re well aware that Bill Murray is still making movies, but during the ‘80s he was at the height of his comedic powers. Even a subpar Bill Murray movie during this decade (like She’s Having a Baby) was a cause for celebration.
We hate to use such a cliche phrase like, “They don’t make ‘em like that any more,” but in the case of power ballads, they really don’t. From Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian” to Journey’s “Open Arms” to Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds,” no other decade has produced so many great songs that you can’t help but belt out when they come on the radio.
Ferris Bueller was the epitome of teenage misbehavior.
Ah, the good old days, when teenagers trying to break the rules would just go to baseball games and take part in city parades. Today’s Ferris Buellers wrap each other up in duct tape and eat Tide pods.
The crazy things said by presidents were just mildly crazy.
In August of 1984, President Ronald Reagan was preparing for his weekly radio address on National Public Radio when, during a sound check, he said into the hot mic, “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” And that was shocking! We were still talking about it months later. Even years after his presidency, people still mention it as one of the craziest thing Reagan ever said. Still, that’s not even close to any of the 30 Craziest Things U.S. Presidents Have Done.
To discover more amazing secrets about living your best life, click here to sign up for our FREE daily newsletter!