The ‘80s called ... They want their pants back!

Exploring the unknown need to hold on to the ill-advised fashion statements of our youth.



If you grew up in the  1980s, you already know how notorious the style of the day was. Perhaps you had a “Frankie Says RELAX” T-shirt you teamed with a Members Only jacket. Or you were the preppie who layered two Izod shirts with the collars up-turned and paired them with matching pants that had whales stitched on them. Oh wait, I bet you were the one wearing gigantic earrings, an oversized Flashdance shirt, and leg warmers. Aahhhhh. Good times.

The point is: I think we all tried to be cool back then. I know I did. My defining fashion statement at the time was my neon purple parachute pants. I wore them proudly with a white shirt and a super skinny black tie—Yeah, that’s right! And, for reasons unknown, I have shuffled these parachute pants from my parents basement to my first apartment, to a condo or two, and then finally to my current home. All without even realizing it. Over many, many years.

I had long forgotten these aviatrix slacks of mine until last week when I discovered them smooshed at the bottom of a bin, under some papers left over from college. Just like on Antiques Roadshow, cleaning out my basement yielded a treasure. And the memories came flooding back ...

As I recall, these vintage purple parachute pants cost my mother $35 and, I assume, a large chunk of her soul. But I had to have them. As a gangly high-school freshman, my very identity was wrapped up in such things, stuff other people had. Stuff I desperately wanted. Stuff that would boost my self-esteem. 

So, since being myself wasn’t even a consideration, I tried to turn myself into Molly Ringwald. (The Breakfast Club Molly, not the Sixteen Candles one.) I also tossed in a little Wham! with a light sprinkle of Flock of Seagulls. Think edgy, but not cloying. You see, I wasn’t babe-a-licious like some of the other girls in my grade—which is probably why my mother gave in to these purple  pants. And guess what? It worked! Those balloon trousers of mine ended up in the same room as celebrities!

 I wore them when I met Tristan Rogers, aka Scorpio, from the soap opera General Hospital. It was back in the Luke and Laura days and he signed an autographed picture for me at a mall.  Remember that? When famous people would do shopping-center appearances? If I recall correctly, Tiffany owes her entire “I Think We’re Alone Now” career to the likes of JC Penny and Lord & Taylor. And speaking of pop stars, I was wearing these same grape-colored pants when I screamed my eyes out at a Rick Springfield concert. 

“RRIIIICCCKKKKKKK!!!”

With all of that history, you would think I would enshrine my vintage fashion garment in a ceremonial display case or drape it over a gilded hanger. Or, better yet, waggle my buns back into them and dance around to “U Can’t Touch This” until the low seam stitching causes me to fall flat on my face. But I won’t. And it is because of the following reasons:

  • I am not M.C. Hammer.
  • I am not color blind.
  • I do not live in New York City.
  • I am not a pirate.

Plus, they are a size 6. I’m no size 6. So, even if I were to suddenly decide to take up singing and dancing, my vision went wonky, and I moved to New York to be a pirate, I would not be able to wear them. Furthermore, displaying them, anywhere, would definitely be weird. Imagine all of the questions...

So, for now, I will put them back into the storage bin. Who knows, maybe someday when I’m old and withered I’ll be able to slide back into them. Perhaps I’ll even put on some enormous earrings and do a dance. Maybe turn up the collar on my shirt? Hopefully they will make me feel cool again. Like they did in the ‘80s. Even if it’s just for a moment; one, sweet, Hammer-time moment. 

Because you can’t touch the ‘80s. EVER! And who would want to? 

Jane Suter is one funny mom. Check out more essays at njfamily.com/jane.

 

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