80s Fashion Culture: Power People to Fingerless Gloves

Ronald Reagan with Nancy Reagan and Jackie Kennedy - 1985
Ronald Reagan with Nancy Reagan and Jackie Kennedy - 1985 | Source

Power People...

In 1979 Margaret Thatcher was elected British Prime Minister. A year later Ronald Reagan was elected President of the USA. Together they were known as "political soul mates". Their widespread economic reforms echoed each others policies. His became known as "Reaganomics" and she was called "The Iron Lady". You either loved them or you hated them. Their personal relationship had everything sans consummation! Reagan's wife Nancy was known for her style and elegance. She restored a sense of glamour to the White House, which had been lacking any form of magic influence since Jackie Kennedy. Nancy and Jackie were often compared. Both had a sense of style, glamour and fashion. On the other side of the Atlantic, fashion received a boost from Lady Di, who was destined to become one of the most powerful fashion icons of the 80s.

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...to Power Pop Stars

In the 80s there emerged a young pop star who would prove to become very influential to womens fashion. Her name was Madonna. And just "like a virgin" she would start it all by wearing clothing and accessories that would be popularized by millions of young girls the world over. Her fingerless gloves, sometimes lace, would unite followers of fashion and catch on to such an extent that they would survive this scandalous decade and spread out into other categories of motorcycle fingerless gloves and womens leather fingerless gloves for driving and/or as a fashion statement.

The 80s were a time of extravagance and indulgence and fun! The punk scene endorsed it with muso's like Billy Idol and his studded leather fingerless gloves. Michael Jackson tried to make a fashion statement when he wore his rhinestone-studded glove (yes, only 1). It flopped, was a disaster, did not catch on at all, so he had to invent the moonwalk to supplement the catastrophe. That glove, however, was sold at auction for about 350K - plus tax! Never before in the history of fashion has so much, been paid for so little. If they could find the other glove, would it fetch the same price, or would it halve the value? Anyway, Michael had a skin condition on one hand, so he would have thrown the other one away!

Then Mad Max strode across the screen with a squeaky leg and a blue heeler, in post-apocalyptic Australia, dealing to murdering, mohawked biker dudes, all sporting fingerless gloves and other biker accessories. In Thunderdome, Tina Turner came to the party wearing shoulder pads underneath her metal-mesh, slit to the waist, dress. Her big hair and earrings set her right off as a bad-ass not to mess with. And she could sing! While Tina was belting out the title track to the movie, goody-two-shoes Olivia Newton-John was enticing us to get "Physical" in the gym with tight, colored lycra, headband and leg warmers. Cyndi Lauper wrote ambiguous lyrics and wore fingerless gloves that accessorized her 80s look.

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"How Could I Have Worn That?!"

Publicly admitted now by so many, but then, publicly worn as a fashion fad by so many, from leg warmers to shoulder pads, from huge earrings to fingerless gloves. It was scandalous, undisputed and recognized. But it wasn't all loud colors and baggy tops. The 80s saw a shift to the more expensive designer clothes and accessories. The "Yuppie" (young, urban, professional) was born. And when he wasn't wearing his "power suit" into his corporate, brokers office during the week, he was shakin' it up at Studio 54 in his "M C Hammer" pants and cut-off T-shirt on Saturday night, while the girls were watching Joan Collins and those excessive shoulder pads "powering" across the screen in "Dynasty".

So, the 80s came and went, whether we liked it or not. If we were trying to "find ourselves", then we lost ourselves in the parachute pants and heavy make-up, but make no mistake, the 80s styles have influenced our dress in 21st century fashion. The shoulder pads are slimmer, that's all. And tight jeans are actually comfortable and fingerless gloves stay on hand.

Comments 2 comments

Marshall Madsen - full size trundle beds 5 years ago

Very good piece on fingerless gloves. Good history, well thought out and put together. I learned some things from this piece.


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