We’d like to take our hats off to the 1980s. You Gen Xers refused to go bare-headed and single-handedly saved the millinery arts. So, break out your trucker hats and berets, because we’re taking a tour through 80s hat styles and we’re not missing any stops.
You can’t get a hat that’s more 1980s than one with a song named after it! In 1985, Prince waxed poetically about raspberry berets while the world’s most beautiful people (Lisa Bonet and Eartha Kitt to name a few) were strutting their stuff in their colorful French hats. Even punks and alternative folks didn’t shy away from the fashion trend, decking theirs out with safety pins and anti-establishment buttons.
There’s nothing like a cartwheel hat to strike fear into the working class during the 1980s. Confused about how some fabric and trim could make an entire economic class of people quake in their boots? Two words. Alexis. Carrington.
Alexis Carrington was the ultimate "we should hate them, but we love them" character on the epic 80s daytime soap Dynasty. And one of this rich stereotype's (that wore extravagant designer outfits while stabbing people in the back) favorite hat choices was the cartwheel. You could say that cartwheel hats in the 1980s were the same visual code as the stacked "Karen" bob is today.
Leather Biker Hats
If you were in the fetish scene or the gay club circuit in the 80s, then you know running coat check for black leather biker hats was a nightmare. These edgy hats made a bold statement in an era rife with homophobia and plagued by the AIDS crisis. They said, "we're here, we're queer, and we're not just a tally on your death toll roster." Who knew a simple hat could be such a beautiful intersection of fashion and cultural politics?
In the 80s, fedoras were in their prime. The fedora was a classy hat you’d expect to walk off the sets of a film noir, and Michael Jackson knew exactly what he was referencing when he broke out that white fedora in the Smooth Criminal music video. If the King of Pop knew one thing, it was how to sell a fashion item — and boy did the fedora do well in the 1980s.
Many people consider trucker hats a 2000s trend (Von Dutch, anyone?) but Gen X sported trucker hats all day every day in the 1980s. What made this casual hat so appealing was just how many logos you could iron on the front. From automobile brands to touristy Americana, to Waffle House of all places, you could collect 'em all. It was all in the hopes that you could master a streetwear outfit that Ad-Rock from the Beastie Boys would’ve been jealous of.
Flat Brim Hats
We can’t talk about 80s hats without addressing the style that put its chokehold on people thanks to Molly Ringwald’s adorably awkward character in Pretty in Pink. The Brat Pack star dons an array of hats in the movie, but it’s that dark flat brim with the band of fresh flowers that immediately comes to mind.
Admittedly, these hats are the lesser of so many 80s hats evils. Though they didn’t work for everyone, they were a trendy way to feel cool. Cause at the end of the day, even 80s teens had to fake it 'til they made it.
One of the cooler hat styles that broke onto the scene in the 80s were kufis. These traditional African hats brought Black culture to the public eye with rap stars like Salt (Cheryl James) & Pepa (Sandra Denton) proudly repping their heritage in brightly colored kente kufis. These hats were just one of the ways that Black culture painted a colorful picture in the 80s.
Newsboy caps are the manic-pixie-dream-girls of the hat world. They’re quirky and hippie, and have been used time and time again as a visual aid to comment on someone’s artsy personality. Millennials probably remember how Y2K made newsboy caps the IT teen fashion (along with dresses over jeans and scarves as belts), but what they don’t remember is the newsboys their parents were rocking two decades earlier.
But let’s face it. When you popped that newsboy on your hormonal head, you aspired for Madonna circa 83 but stopped just shy of Caddyshack.
We have the 1980s to thank for the bane of the hat’s existence — bucket hats. Okay, we’ll give them the fact that they’re incredibly functional (bye-bye skin cancer and sunspots). But there’s something about these absolutely shapeless (often) patchwork hats that made everyone’s head look ridiculously small. Yet, that didn’t stop anyone from ironing on patches and embroidering their bucket hats to their heart's content, and for that tenacity, we salute you, 80s kids.
We’d like to challenge you to find a picture of someone not looking like a complete dork while wearing a visor hat in the 80s. Unlike drop-top convertibles, hacking the top half off of these hats off did not create a sexy and cool effect. Instead, they were the must-haves for everyone’s over-sunned grandparents, who loved gardening, golfing, and sunbathing.
But maybe we’re being too harsh on the visor! After all, what kind of hat was supposed to stay on your head with permed hair stacked that high?
Hats How They Rolled in the 80s
For all the questionable 80s trends that defined the decade, hats were one of the least regrettable. Today, the hat game’s lackluster, especially in comparison to what the MTV Generation brought to the competition. Now, this might be the first time anyone’s gotten fashion advice from the 1980s, but we’d recommend taking a look back and getting inspired by all those big, beautiful hats.