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In Defense of the Awful Clothes I Wore in the 1980s

28 July 2010 Stories and Appreciations 9,977 views 12 CommentsPrint This Post Print This Post Email This Post Email This Post

Recently, I bought a photo/negative scanner with the intent of scanning some of my many newspaper and magazine clippings. Nearly everything I published between 1992 and 1995 exists only as dead trees, and I have a ton of clippings from 1996 through 2001 that were misplaced when the Las Vegas Sun revamped its online archives. If I’m to do a proper job of inflicting this stuff upon an unsuspecting world, a borrowed scanner ain’t gonna cut it. So I got a great deal on a lightly-used Epson on eBay, brought my first Rubbermaid storage bin full of articles down from the upstairs closet, and got myself all pumped up to PDF.

But it wasn’t the carton o’ articles that I’d brought down: It was a bin full of photographs from the 1980s. Surprised, I began to pore over the stack of  images, smiling at photos of friends old but not lost (I have to admit that Facebook, though a colossal time suck, isn’t without its benefits) and crinkling my forehead at every single shot someone had managed to take of me. I really don’t like the way I look in photographs. That’s kinda why I picked up the camera in the first place: to control the means of production. Now, in looking through these snapshots, I am confronted with incontrovertible proof that my relationship with the camera has always been one-sided. Also, I used to dress like the world’s worst superhero.

Don’t get the wrong idea: I don’t regret a single one of those photographs. I’m having fun in nearly every one of them, and everyone else appearing in the shots is also dressed pretty badly. I’m content with where I am … and in order for that miracle to have happened, I have had to make peace with where I was. I absolve you, Geoff Carter, of your crimes against Savile Row — both those committed in the Reagan Years, and those you’re surely committing right now, this second.

In fact, I believe I’m ready to defend some of those sartorial choices. You may mock the padded shoulders and acid-washed jeans of your forebears, young America, but know this: You are wrong, and your mother dresses you funny. Ten, fifteen years from now, you’ll be made to answer for the ensemble you’re wearing right now. I hope, for your sake, that you’re as confident in your defense of it as I am in my defense of these:


The pink can; you’re goddamn right. Big hair made your skull look bigger, and people inferred that your brain was bigger than it actually was. Also, some say the polymers made it more difficult for alien influences to infiltrate our minds — important in a decade during which UFO flyovers occurred several times a day.


We had a lot of important shit weighing on our shoulders in those days — unemployment, nuclear war, Coke vs. Pepsi. And you never knew when an acrobat might fall out of a Duran Duran video and land on you.


I wore these because I was really secure in who I was, which was someone who was hanging out with a bunch of people — male and female — who were also wearing stretch pants with monkey boots. Besides, you shoulda seen how I rocked that ensemble at nightclubs, and at that one job interview.


I would miss these flimsy, candy-flavored time pieces  in the same way I miss Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers (which is not at all), but a quick Google search reveals that the company is still in business and still pumping out hundred-dollar plastic wristwatches, even though the Thompson Twins and the Fat Boys are no longer around to promote them. Anyway, I had a Swatch and it was cute, but Fossil now fills my cheap and trendy wristwatch needs — and I seldom wear my wristwatch, anyway, because I’ve become conditioned to checking the time on my phone, or simply not caring what time it is.


I never actually owned one of these shirts, but I wish I had. They changed color with your body heat. Who doesn’t want a splash of vivid color in their armpits?


All the better for writing on with black Sharpie. We didn’t have Facebook in those days; you had to apply your Likes and Interests directly to your person.


I have no regrets whatsoever about wearing bolo ties. There was a whole cowpunk thing happening in LA back in 1984-85, and bolo ties were worn by some fairly cool guys — Stan Ridgway, John Doe from X, and the brothers Alvin from the Blasters, among others. I actually kept my bolo tie past its expiration date, and I’m glad I did: Last Halloween I dressed as a kind of Lucha Libre executive, and the bolo really brought the ensemble together.


We thought it was the future. Acid! It was going to start falling from the skies any day, so we figured we might as well get a jump on it.


Um, I got nothin’. Pastel blue was pretty stupid.

Geoff Carter

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  1. Hilarious. Stretch pants and monkey boots to a job interview? Oh my.

    Acid wash is not cosigned to the rag heap of history. Here in Korea it has made a comeback, though I doubt the “comeback” is the correct word, since it likely never made it here to begin with.

  2. I was just thinking about this yesterday! But I’m black so it was all Cross Colors and Timbos, black power medallions and over-sized baseball hats. But I miss it. I hate the modern style of $300 jeans and over patterned shirts. I remember when a good pair of jorts and Malcolm X shirt was all you needed!

  3. I tried to explain to an early-20-something coworker recently what ‘Monkey-Boots’ were–despite his nose ring, hip hugging black skinny-jeans and several MISFITS tattoos amongst his sleeves? He had no idea what I was talking about.

    LOVE this article, thank-you ever so much for the reminders.

  4. You almost convinced me… but no. However, I salute how brave you are for trying.

  5. haha! I’m with ya on everything but that white denim jacket. Dude. I had to shake my had sadly for you on that one.

  6. I collected swatches in the 90s in my quest to be anachronistically new wave. I had two- one I wore until I died, the other I gave to an undeserving ex. Them shits weren’t cheap, I should have saved them and hocked them on ebay!

  7. I was just at the Vegas Swatch store last week with the hopes of finding a re-released Jelly Fish like the one I wore in the ’80s. No such luck

  8. I actually bleached a blue denim jacket to make it white. Sadly, I overestimated the bleach and it tore to shreds.

  9. One of my biggest mistakes of the 80s was trusting my hair to B) a man at B) the Vidal Sassoon Academy in the King’s Road in London. My hair hadn’t been that short since I was…oh…two. (For several weeks, I made up for that very pixy-ish bob with extra-thick black eyeliner.) Important takeaway lesson learned and never, ever forgotten: Men do not know what an inch is.

  10. Bolo ties..Aah, yes.I have several, but, then, I still collect those skinny ties from the 60’s and 70’s. And wear them proudly!(When I have to wear a tie at all)

  11. I am purchasing shorts, knee high white socks, sandals and disturbingly loud shirts as I prepare for retirement. Class never goes out of style!

  12. I wore bolo ties with blue jeans, blue denim jacket, white collared shirts with white socks and brown or maroon penny loafers (i.e. John Cougar Mellencamp “rain on the scarecrow”).

    The department store, Dilliards, carried a brand called Genera or something similar. There style was pastels and paisleys. I wore matching shorts and shirts in baby blue and pink. Lets just say I will never be caught doing that again. LOL Any guy who dresses in pink must be doing so at the request of his girlfriend/wife.

    I loved Swatches and owned that was clear/ no color. Loved it! I hate break dancing and those parachute pants with zippers. I hated it then hate and now just as much.

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