80s Shoes Everyone Wanted to Have - In the 1980s (2023)

80s Shoes That Defined the Decade

Words like, “bohemian,” “versatile,” “preppy,” “jelly” and “inflatable” all have one thing in common…They all describe 80s shoes. In a decade described by many as “big and bright,” big hair and neon-colored clothes were definitely in. But, when it came to 80s shoes, there was actually quite a bit of variety. Thanks in large part to a strong cult movie presence, the mainstream introduction of hip-hop, and the growing popularity of athlete endorsement deals. There were numerous fashion choices to fit just about any style. The following are ten 80s shoes everyone wanted to have!

Minnetonka Moccasins

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Minnetonka Moccasins were popular 80s shoes worn mainly with jeans.

No closet in the 80s was complete without a pair of Minnetonka Moccasins. Thanks to the worldwide Urban Cowboy trend at the time, the Mocs with their classic Native American beading were all the hype. As most 80s fashion went, the moccasins were in a class of their own. The shoe’s sole allowed you to comfortably feel the ground but was durable enough to still protect your feet. Aside from their comfort, the shoes served another purpose: versatility. So, although people of the Bohemian Chic variety would frequently sport these babies, they were adaptable enough to be paired with any style.


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Jelly Shoes

Which of the popular 80s shoes was affordable, unique and came with built-in glitter? Jelly shoes, of course! And they became a staple of 1980s fashion simply thanks to a man named Preston Haag Sr., who discovered the shoe when he traveled to South Africa in 1981 (FN1). By 1982, the shoes debuted at the World’s Fair, and by 1983, they were in Bloomingdales and flying off the shelves. They were as sold for as little as $1, so they were a definite steal (FN2)! They were also water-resistant so rain was never a problem. Add in the many different available neon colors and the sprinkle of glitter, and you have an 80s fashionista’s dream!

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Air Jordans

Before #23 ever won his first NBA championship (or even completed his rookie year), he scored big with a multi-million dollar endorsement deal with Nike for the Air Jordan. Michael Jordan had barely even lived up to the shoe’s name. But Nike took a gamble with ads, hype, marketing and promotion touting his ability to “fly” (due in large part to the balloon in the heel that was filled with compressed gas to provide additional comfort and support). They even paid the NBA’s $5,000-per-game fine for Jordan wearing the shoes during games despite the league’s policy on uniforms and colors. It’s safe to say it paid off. With Spike Lee as his wingman in most of the 80s commercials, Michael Jordan had kids everywhere flocking to secure a pair of these 80s shoes in hopes that they, too, could fly like “His Airness.”


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A screenshot of Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) shows Spiccoli with his new checkered Vans shoes.

In the 1982 movie, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, people fell in love with 2 things: Sean Penn’s character, Spiccoli, and the checkerboard Vans he wore. After fans saw Spiccoli hit himself in the head with the shoe in the movie’s trailer, demand for the shoe spiked. Vans weren’t just a pop culture phenomenon, though. The second wave of Ska music-called the Two Tone wave—was on the rise. Bands like the Specials and the Toasters were front and center. So, the Vans dual-colored checkerboard pattern also became a symbol of racial unity as they were the shoe of choice for the subculture.

Chuck Taylors/Converse All Stars

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One of the most popular 80s shoes was the Converse All Stars. This is an advertisement for the shoe made in 1984.

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The Chuck Taylor All-Stars, which were named for the American semi-professional basketball player, were first designed as a basketball shoe in 1922. They largely served in that capacity until the 1980s. Little did Chuck Taylor know that they would become more of a casual, retro-style shoe-particularly for artists and musicians. And, they would become an iconic symbol for 80s pop culture. Bands like the Rolling Stones and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones rocked the shoe on stage and in music videos. The canvas high-top was also popularized by 1980s cult movies, Back to the Future and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Adidas Campus

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Beastie Boys in 1986 wearing their Adidas Campus. Image: Getty/Lynn Goldsmith.

More Adidas sneakers than a plumber’s got pliers…That’s a line from the Beastie Boys song “Shadrach.” The hip-hop pioneers became the poster child for the Adidas Campus after band members Ad-Rock and Mike D were photographed wearing the suede low-tops for the Beastie Boys Check Your Head album (3). The group’s allegiance to the shoe no doubt was responsible for it being a trendy item in the 80s. They continued to rock the shoes even after Adidas discontinued production in 1987.

Colorful Pointy High Heels

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Brightly colored pointy shoes became very popular in the early 1980s.

High heels became more mainstream in the 80s after designers like Manolo Blahnik brought them to the catwalk and to Hollywood. So, it was only a matter of time before they became the shoe of choice for a night out on the town. As we know, color was all the hype in the 80s, so it would not have been a true shoe of the decade if the women didn’t step out with a pop of pink or yellow on their stilettos.

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Penny Loafers

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Michael Jackson wearing G.H. Bass & Co Weejuns Penny Loafers in the Thriller music video.

Of all the 80s shoes, the penny loafer was probably the most unique. When they were developed in the 1930s, it was more for utility. After all, no other shoe was designed for space for a penny. That two cents would come in handy in the event you had to make an emergency phone call at a phone booth (4). As the 80s rolled around, the penny loafer stood in direct contrast to the flashy and rebellious teen culture that was dominating the decade. The shoe symbolizedprep school, wealth and confidence. Even Wall Street wolves who wore them (5). Also, in contrast to the popular neon color trend, penny loafers were much more conservative. The colors were generally black and brown. If anything was an anomaly—yet still a symbol of the 80s—it was the penny loafer.

Reebok Pump

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Reebok Pump advertisement from 1989.

It was released at the end of the decade, but the Reebok Pump was the only other athletic shoe that was able to upset the Nike/Air Jordan monopoly. The shoe was the first of its kind featuring a pump system that allowed you to “pump” air into the shoe to provide more ankle support. Reebok recruited Michael Jordan’s on-court nemesis, Dominique Wilkins, as the face of their marketing campaign. And, when it was released in 1989, Reebok stuck a hefty $170 price tag on the shoe. Both were genius moves. Dominique appealed to the masses. And although paying $170 for a sneakeris considered beyond extravagant, it made the shoe that much more appealing because of its status symbol. The result was that by the end of 1990, Nike was forecasting sales of $10 million for its Air Pressure inventory while Reebok earned $500 million with their Pump shoes.


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A screenshot of the movie Dirty Dancing (1987) where Baby Houseman is wearing white Keds.

If you ever attended an athletic event in the 1980s where cheerleaders were performing, chances are they were wearing Keds.Have you ever watched the hit TV show Full House? Chances are you saw D.J. and Stephanie in the Tanner house with Keds on their feet. But, the real reason most of us are familiar with the shoe is because of its prominent appearance in the 1989 film, Dirty Dancing. In the movie, Jennifer Grey’s character, “Baby,” gave us some of her dirtiest dances in the canvas shoe.

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Seeing Baby rock the sneaks paired with denim shorts and khakis sparked attention from more women. No longer just a kid’s shoe, Keds were now appealing to working mothers, professional women, and young women who just wanted a simple shoe. On top of that, at only $20 a pop, the price tag was a lot more attractive than what Nike and Reebok was advertising! All of this contributed to Keds’ retail sales growing from $60 million in 1986 to $227 million in 1989.

Each decade has had a shoe or a set of shoes that were the staple of fashion. However, the 80s shoes seemed to be more varied than any other decade. And for those of us who were around, we were able to take one heck of a stroll through the decade.

Additional References

Jelly Shoes.” 80’s Fashion. March 12, 2015. Retrieved September 11, 2019.

A Brief History: Adidas Originals Campus.” Size? n.d. Retrieved September 11, 2019.

A Penny for Your Thoughts.” Brooks Brothers. n.d. Retrieved September 11, 2019.

7 Style Tribes that Adopted the Penny Loafer.” Esquire. October 5, 2016. Retrieved September 11, 2019.

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Jim H

Just like many of you who visit this website, Jim grew up in the 1980s. Since that timeframe, Jim has developed a love for website design and history. Jim and his wife Kim decided to put it all together and created inthe1980s.com. Thanks for visiting!

(Video) Top 10 Decade Defining Fashion Trends Of The 1980s


What women's shoes were popular in the 80s? ›

We can select from spike heels, wedge heels, “flats,” pumps, penny loafers, moccasins and boat shoes, just to name a few. Having such a wide range of styles and colors is what makes shoe shopping fun.

What kind of boots were popular in the 80s? ›

Big, beefy boots, Doc Martens were the footwear du jour of angsty teenagers. Usually fans of the Cure, these boots became infamous in the proto-emo scene.

What did everyone wear in the 80s? ›

In the first half of the 1980s, long hair, leather rocker jackets (biker jackets) or cut-off denim jackets, tight worn-out jeans, and white, high trainers (sneakers) and badges with logos of favorite metal bands were popular among metalheads, and musicians of heavy metal and speed metal bands.

What were shoe trends in the 80s? ›

80s shoes for girls and teens were primarily jelly shoes, cutout flats, canvas flat sneakers in bright colors, high top sneakers (white or bold colors), classic Converse, Minnetonka moccasins, booties, and penny loafers.

What heels were popular in the 80s? ›

Welcoming in the 1980s were shoes with chunky heels and huarache-style crisscrossed straps. Sneakers were really the biggest shoe trend of this decade, but these heels were also pretty standard.

Were Converse worn in the 80s? ›

Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars were a staple of 80's fashion, just as they are today, and this short piece by Roger House provides an interesting retrospective on an iconic shoe that has now been around for over 100 years.

What was the fashion trend in the 80s and 90s? ›

In the 1980s and 1990s, headbands, slip gowns, bomber jackets, and plaid flannels dominated fashion. Today, several of these clothing styles are regaining popularity.

Did people wear Jordans in the 80's? ›

Sport Sneakers

If you liked sports, you would be spotted wearing these Nike Air Jordans in the 80s. This shoe gained its popularity from the NBA star Micheal Jordan. Every kid who was into basketball back in the 80s begged their parents for these shoes.

What sneakers were out in the 90? ›

Iconic Sneaker Models of the 90s
  • Nike Air Huarache. Nike. ...
  • adidas EQT Support 93. Size? ...
  • Reebok Instapump Fury. Reebok. ...
  • Air Jordan V. ...
  • Nike Air Max Plus. ...
  • Nike Air 180. ...
  • Nike Air Max BW. ...
  • New Balance 1500.
Jan 25, 2023

Was Nike a thing in the 80s? ›

The 1980s was a milestone decade for Nike in more ways than one. This was a 10-year period in which the Swoosh went public on the stock market, signed Michael Jordan, and coined "Just Do It".

What color jeans were popular in the 80s? ›

80s Denim Fashion Trend

A fashionable style of denim jeans at the time were mom jeans, a comfortable and loose-fit item. “Mom” jeans were recognizable by their light-bluish color and excess space around the zipper and leg areas. Brands such as Calvin Klein and Gloria Vanderbilt brought the denim trend to life.

What shoes were popular in 1989? ›

Of course the Air Jordan IVs were number one, but some were a surprise to see. The sneakers listed, in order from 10 to 1, are; New Balance 577, British Knights, Vision Street Wear, Adidas ZX9000, Nike Air Mags, Etnies Natas, Nike Air Tech Challenge, Vans Half Cab, Reebok Pump, and Nike Air Jordan IV.

What is the 80s style called? ›

A decade typified by its “power dressing,” the 1980s actually opened with stylish sportswear and the soft “New Romantics” style. Carrying on from the late 1970s trend for sportswear and encouraged by a fitness craze, women increasingly wore stylish gym wear in their day-to-day life.

What makeup was popular in the 80s? ›

'80s makeup overview

While modern makeup trends tend to focus on balance or accentuating one part of the face, like bold lips or power brows, '80s makeup was all about excess. From neon eye-shadow, to contoured cheeks, to frosted lips, there was no limit to how bold a look could be.

How did 80s girls dress? ›

Crazy floral printed fleece seperates, acid wash denim jackets, pants and skirts, turtlenecks with mock vests, elastic waist pants, drop yoke skirts, tent tops, crewneck tops, denim jeans with pleat front and accent pockets, and vests were all popular girls' clothing in this year.

Were high top sneakers popular in the 80s? ›

Women wore the Reebok Hightop Aerobic style with miniskirts, stirrup pants (an interesting trend at the time) and regular jeans. These sneakers became popular during the '80s aerobics craze, accounting for more than half of Reebok sales in 1984.

Were Adidas popular in the 80s? ›

Now the decade of the 1980s is rearing its head once more. Adidas is one of the stars of the comeback. Retro fashion is hip.

Were ripped jeans popular in the 80s? ›

Ripped jeans, created in the 1970s and popularized in the 1980's, is a trend that's never quite fallen out of style. It can be seen in every decade since, but was considered an alternative trend in the 1980s symbolizing the punk scene. This one hasn't made a comeback because it's never gone out of fashion.

What was 80s fashion known for? ›

80s Punk Fashion

Featuring iconic pieces like studded leather jackets, ripped jeans, band t-shirts, and heavy-duty boots, the punk look was intense and edgy. Even the hair of this subculture was bold and in-your-face. Today, punk fashion is once again becoming popular.

What did people wear in the 80s 90s? ›

Evidence of the current obsession with all things '90s is even more extensive: Square-toe shoes, slip dresses, bike shorts, baguette bags, and tiny sunglasses are just a few of the '80s and '90s fashion trends that have made a triumphant return in recent seasons.

What is 80s glam fashion? ›

80s glam fashion – Music icons

From the world of music, we saw the punk rock influence of David Bowie who embodied 80s glam fashion style with his spiky big hair, androgynous costumes, thick makeup, spandex, washed denim, platform shoes, animal prints and metallic embellishments everywhere.

How cheap were Jordans in the 80s? ›

Air Jordan I | Designer : Peter Moore | Released : 1985 | Original Price : $65.

What are old Jordans called? ›

What's a retro? Retros are recreations of an earlier model (the original is fittingly called an OG), re-released years later using different shoe-making technology with minor changes in material. That explains why there are so many Air Jordan 1s from different years, even though the OG was released in 1985.

What shoes was hot in the 90s? ›

10 shoe brands everyone had and wanted in the 1990s
  • Skechers Roadies. ...
  • Converse All-Stars and One-Stars. ...
  • Reebok Pump Sneakers. ...
  • Nike Air Huarache. ...
  • Spice Girl-style Buffalo Platform Sneakers. ...
  • Dr. ...
  • Steve Madden Slinky. ...
  • Jelly Shoes.
Dec 14, 2022

What was a popular shoe in the 90s? ›

Adidas Superstar Sneakers

A recognizable shoe today, The Beastie Boys even wore Adidas on the cover of their 1992 album. The shoes are still ultra popular as seen on celebrities such as Rihanna and Jay-Z. There is no denying that Adidas Superstar Sneakers were one of the best selling shoes of the decade.

What is the oldest sneaker? ›

British company J.W. Foster and Sons designed and produced the first shoes designed for running in 1895; the shoes were spiked to allow for greater traction and speed.

Did people wear Nikes in the 80s? ›

Sport Sneakers

If you liked sports, you would be spotted wearing these Nike Air Jordans in the 80s. This shoe gained its popularity from the NBA star Micheal Jordan. Every kid who was into basketball back in the 80s begged their parents for these shoes.

Did people wear Converse in 80s? ›

Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars were a staple of 80's fashion, just as they are today, and this short piece by Roger House provides an interesting retrospective on an iconic shoe that has now been around for over 100 years.

What was the most popular thing to wear in the 80s? ›

80s fashion was big on accessories. The trendiest items included scrunchies, leg warmers, fingerless gloves, plastic bangles, large funky earrings in neon shades, mesh accents, fanny packs and pearl necklaces.

What was the most popular sneakers in the 80s? ›

Here's a list of the top sneaker styles that came out in the eighties, including Nike Air Force One, Reebok Classic, and Air Jordan.

What sneakers were popular in 1982? ›

Reebok Freestyle is an athletic shoe style introduced in 1982 by Reebok. The Freestyle was the first sneaker designed (by Angel Martinez) and marketed for women. It helped Reebok into the mainstream athletic wear market and fashion scene along with becoming one of the most popular athletic shoes of all time.

Was sneakers popular in the 80s? ›

Sneakers are the legendary shoe style that became a huge part of streetwear and the punk lifestyle of the '80s. They have multi-layered soles and come in various colors and designs. Move away from conventional footwear and make space for these retro beauties!

What was the most popular shoe in 1989? ›

Of course the Air Jordan IVs were number one, but some were a surprise to see. The sneakers listed, in order from 10 to 1, are; New Balance 577, British Knights, Vision Street Wear, Adidas ZX9000, Nike Air Mags, Etnies Natas, Nike Air Tech Challenge, Vans Half Cab, Reebok Pump, and Nike Air Jordan IV.

What is the oldest Nike shoe? ›

What was the first Nike shoe? The first Nike shoe was nicknamed the 'Moon Shoe' and was made in Bowerman's waffle iron. This waffle sole design came into fruition after Bill Bowerman was eating breakfast and wondering if the grooves in his waffle would work for additional traction when playing sports.

What pants were popular in the 80s? ›

The 1980s were a wicked cool time for various pants styles. Parachute pants, harem pants, stirrup pants, metallic jogger pants, and tapestry pants are just a few of the distinct and iconic 80s pants styles. Dress slacks found a unique new place in casual fashion, and the new paper bag waist went on just about anything.

Did they wear Adidas in the 80s? ›

Adidas Jumpsuits

Thanks to professional athletes, Run-D.M.C. and the Beastie Boys, the Adidas tracksuit came into style in the '80s.

What was the 80s big for? ›

The 1980s, often remembered for its materialism and consumerism, also saw the rise of the "yuppie," an explosion of blockbuster movies and the emergence of cable networks like MTV, which introduced the music video and launched the careers of many iconic artists, and the emergence of the AIDS crisis, which would go on ...

What do you wear to an 80's party? ›

Thrift for 80s fashion staples like acid-washed jeans, jumpsuits, and denim jackets. Channel the spirit of the 80s with a teased hairstyle, sweatband, and heavy, bright makeup. Add some 80s-inspired accessories to your outfit such as fingerless gloves, big earrings, and layered necklaces.


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