Since I started my career in licensing, specifically in apparel, the 80s have almost never gone away, though we’ve had glimpses of 90s retro here and there as generations move into adulthood and are able to shop for themselves.

To me it’s ironic to see articles about the 80’s coming back when I’m pretty sure they never fully left us. I look around and see spandex leggings everywhere, even though maybe I don’t see legwarmers as much. I see neon colors coming and going from store shelves. And when it comes to IP, between reboots of classic titles, studio anniversary promotions, and all of the IP referenced within those, it’s hard to escape the 80s completely.

Over the course of my career, I have seen the rise and fall and rise and fall of numerous properties and trends:

  • Care Bears
  • My Little Pony
  • Smurfs
  • Strawberry Shortcake
  • Pacman

And then all of the key fashion elements from bangles to acid wash jeans to neon colored unicorns a la Lisa Frank.

But, what feels different this time is what seemingly brought back so many elements in one fell swoop: Stranger Things. It held the minds of so many consumers and brought back memories of everything from wall phones to 80’s malls, video arcades, creepy Cold War Russians, and, of course, Dungeons and Dragons. Prior to this it has typically been a film anniversary, a pop singer modeling their looks after their own idols, a series or film reboot, or some fashion designer deciding that a mess of plastic bangles adds a certain je ne sais quoi to a look.

For me, this time it feels real. I have friends diving back into their Dungeons and Dragons guides, purchasing arcade games for their play rooms, and following Paulina Porizkova on Instagram. I even bought some pants with neon pink stripes on the side and an off the shoulder cut off sweatshirt. Maybe it’s the pandemic and all of us Gen X latchkey kids feeling comfortable reliving our afterschool days from home, leading by example hunkering down by ourselves as we did when we were young.

I don’t know, but I like it and I kind of hope it stays. Maybe I’ll go as Madonna in Lucky Star this Halloween. I mean, look at this set from Amazon.


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