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Article: Why 80s Jeans Are Still Simply the Best

80s jeans

Why 80s Jeans Are Still Simply the Best


There was a time when we were horrified by the prospect of 80s fashion coming back into style. Especially 80s jeans!

The low waists of the 90s and 00s and the skinny, super tight legs of the 2010s for a while had us convinced that jeans should never look frumpy.


Jeans: Should they be trendy or comfy?

Through the 90s-00s, jeans were having their moment as the peak of style for dressed-up outfits. Clubbing, parties, or even red-carpet events; jeans in the 00s were sleek and stylish and didn't look out of place paired with sparkly tops and strappy heels, or shirts and ties.

Eighties jeans, in comparison, were the opposite of sleek. Baggy, distressed, and sometimes just a bit silly.

But, that's exactly why we still love them.

In the mid-2010s, the non-stretch, high-waist, baggy fit with tapered-leg jeans took a little step back into our modern trends. And they've never left. Cries of "finally, comfortable jeans!" were heard all around. These were jeans you could eat in, breathe in, and still bend in. 



80s Vintage Jeans 

There are some styles of vintage 80s jeans that stand out more than others. The fit, colors, and washes that were the most popular at the time and stuck around in our memories.


80s jeans

High-Waisted Mom Jeans

The high-rise, high-waist mom jeans are the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to 80s jeans.

High-waisted pants were an iconic part of 70s fashion, but the style then was far more restrictive, with super cinched-in waists and tight-fitting to the hips and thighs.

Eighties high-waisted jeans finally let us breathe out again.

The rise of mom jeans sits on the narrowest part of the waist. They are baggy throughout the leg, with a loose fit on the hips and thighs tapering slightly narrower at the ankles. 

Everyone breathed a sigh of relief at the return of jeans with a bit more comfort! 


Why were they called mom jeans?

In the 80s, the baggy, high-waisted jeans we know as mom jeans were just called jeans. They were worn by everyone from models to pop stars.

But as they went out of style in the 90s, the baggy, blue, and belted high-rise jeans had become a staple in the wardrobe of suburban moms instead. Before that, suburban moms were expected to dress in their best clothes for the housework, cooking, and picking up the kids. Not exactly practical. These jeans were the perfect durable, comfortable, but still fashionable option.

Then as the children of those moms grew up, they began associating baggy, tapered, and high-waisted jeans as outdated, uncool, and frumpy. It's what their moms wore! Leaving the style labeled as “for moms”.

This is how we found ourselves in the 90s and 00s, with jeans getting lower and lower waists and then tighter and tighter legs. This was until the mid-2010s, when fashion revolted against the skinny jean and brought back our glorious, comfortable friend: the mom jean.

But this time, we said the name nostalgically. After the controversial revival moment 80s disco pants had in the mid-00s, we weren't sure if we were ready for another 80s pant trend. But mom jeans proved there was a reason for their popularity.




Which jean washes were popular in the 80s?

Eighties mom jeans came in more washes than just the classic vintage blue. 


1. Acid Wash 80s Jeans

Probably the most iconic wash of the 80s, acid washing was a relatively new way to distress jeans at the time.

80s acid wash jeans

What are acid wash jeans?

Acid washed denim gets its extremely faded look from being soaked in a chemical solution containing either chlorine bleach or potassium permanganate.

It could be applied selectively, but the 80s style of acid washing was pretty much a dunk and soak.

Acid washed denim appears pale blue or grey to white as the blue color of the denim is almost completely broken down.


Who wore acid wash jeans in the 80s?

Acidwashing started as a bit of an anti-fashion trend in the punk movement. What could be more anti-fashion than distressing your denim with bleach?

The look made its way into many corners of 80s fashion. Worn by musicians from Madonna to Cher and even becoming a part of clean-cut preppy fashion.




2. Stonewash Blue 80s Jeans

But before you could acid wash denim, it needed to be stonewashed. This is the classic vintage blue.

80s stonewash blue jeans

What are stonewashed jeans?

Stonewashed jeans have a mottled, worn-in vintage look to their blue dye. 

The denim is loaded up in a washing machine with abrasive pumice stones, which then spin around and beat up until the denim is softened and the dye leaks from the fabric.

This leaves the jeans still blue but with an aged, faded appearance rather than a clean, bright blue wash.


Why are stonewashed jeans so popular?

Stonewashed denim is the kind of wash that can be worn anywhere. It wasn't making a statement like acid wash; it was subtle and looked like you were wearing your dad's old jeans from the 50s.

The eighties went through a 50s nostalgia wave, being the moment that retro became truly trendy. Classic dark blue jeans were a 50s staple, and after 30 years of wearing, they'd be worn and faded. That is the look of casually cool nostalgia that stonewash captured.




3. 80s Colorful Jeans

Of course it's not possible to talk 80s without talking about the love of bright colors.

80s colorful jeans

80s roller disco outfits with colored jeans | Photo from Unsplash


Known for its bright, neon, and primary-colored hues, 80s fashion wasn't going to shy away from that when it came to jeans.

From bright red to blue, yellow, and green, 80s denim loved making a statement. These jeans were paired with tops that were just as colorful and clashing.

 80s brightly colored jeans

Colorful jeans from our collection of vintage 80s clothes




3. 80s White Jeans

One step further than bleaching or acid washing is where you'll find the 80s love for white, cream, and beige denim.

80s neutral jeans


These shades of jeans were popular in the 80s with men and women. 

In the eighties, there was a revival of pastel and white colors inspired by TV shows like Miami Vice. White, cream, or beige jeans were paired with pastel tops or even matching shades of cream for a pure white-out-outfit.

These were considered the classy kind of cool.

80s neutral jeans

White and beige jeans from our collection of vintage 80s clothes




What material were 80s jeans made from?

Eighties jeans were usually made from 100% cotton twill. This type of denim has no stretch (unlike modern jeans), making it tougher and more durable than similar styles made today.



What makes vintage 80s jeans so good?

They last!

Jeans made before the advent of super-fast fashion were made with higher-quality materials. With trends moving slower, they were intended to be worn for years rather than weeks. They won't wear out, tear, or lose shape like modern jeans.

The lack of stretch in 80s denim wasn't uncomfortable. Over time, denim gets softer and easier to bend with your movements. Vintage 80s jeans are comfortable because they've already been worn in and softened up.

And while many styles like acid and stonewash were pre-aged to look cool back in the 80s, they've gained a real aged look and feel that's authentically distressed.



Which brands of jeans were popular in the 80s?

  • Levi's - The 501 model we still love.
  • Wrangler - Bright colors and the iconic W pocket stitching.
  • Guess - Marketed the first "pre-washed" stonewash and acid wash jeans.
  • Calvin Klein - Featured celebrity campaigns wearing their jeans.
  • Lee - Pastel shades and zip cuffs.


    Where can you buy authentic vintage 80s jeans?

    When you buy vintage jeans online, you want to make sure they're real - not just for the style but also for the quality.

    Find vintage 80s jeans in our collection of 80s clothes from the real decade. Our 80s clothes are hand-picked to bring you a selection of iconic styles and brands.

    You'll find vintage jeans in classic styles and quality from brands like Levi's, Wrangler, and Lee.


    Not sure of your size in vintage jeans?

    We know finding the right fit of vintage jeans can be tricky online. So we’ve got some tips to help you choose the right pair:

    • Check the material: If the fabric is 100% cotton, it won’t stretch like modern clothes. This is the toughest type of denim, but the least forgiving for sizing. A little bit of elastane in the denim will give it some stretch.
    • Check your measurements: At ThriftTale, we provide measurements for most jeans in the descriptions. To ensure they’ll be the right size, compare your own measurements with these. Use a measuring tape to measure your waist, inseam, and thigh. Or, if you have a favorite pair of well-fitting jeans, you can measure those and match the results.
    • Consider the style: If the jeans are slim fit, you’ll want to give yourself some extra space to have enough room to move comfortably. When it comes to 100% cotton denim, a relaxed fit is far more forgiving with measurements.