From the troubled but memorable ‘70’s in the last blog post, we go to the ‘80’s, a decade of great change which has been described by many as ‘tumultuous’.
A combination of many factors made this an almost volatile decade:
- A deep recession in 1981, affecting manufacturing in particular and causing high unemployment.
- 1982 – Argentina invaded the Falklands. Britain went to war.
- The miners’ strike 1984-1985 (more than half of Britain’s miners left work to strike).
- With Margaret Thatcher (Prime Minister 1979-1990) came the rise of ‘Thatcherism’ promoting privatization of national industries and entrepreneurialism, amongst other things, which had many effects.
- The 1986 ‘Big Bang’ – the deregulation of the London Stock Exchange.
- Late ‘80’s economy boom, named the ‘Yuppie Years’ (rising wages, rising house prices and a stock market boom).
This decade felt different from the previous ones. Youth culture no longer dominated, and the older generation were becoming more financially secure.
New technologies developed and formed.
The world was ever-changing; USSR relaxed its rules and opened up for private enterprise, the Berlin Wall came down and other eastern bloc countries wanted western clothes and liberation.
By the mid-80’s shopping malls were developing, credit card use was becoming very popular and clothing sales were increasing.
Which brings us on to fashion….
Dress to impress (or not). British fashion in the 1980s
- The 80’s was a time for flambouyance and luxury, influenced by the ‘New Romantic’ scene in the London clubs.
This desire to emulate 1930’s and 1950’s Hollywood fashion spread into mainstream fashion and was reinforced by bands such as Adam and the Ants, Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran and the singer Boy George. Velvet and silk were the perfect fabrics and outfits in a frilly ‘pirate style’ were favoured.
The more luxurious the feel and the more extravagant the look, the better!
- ‘Occasion wear’ was also popular – cocktail dresses, evening suits and straight just-above-knee skirts. Think slinky satins, chiffon, silks, lace collars and shoulder pads.
- ‘Power dressing’ was another 80’s thing. Women favoured suits with oversized jackets and padded shoulders.
- In contrast to this dressiness the wearing of sports clothes as leisure wear was becoming popular and the most memorable (notorious?) of all the 80’s fashion garments – the Shell Suit!!! A glorious combination of a brightly coloured nylon jacket with matching trousers!
- Designer labels and branding (for many goods, not just clothes) were becoming desirable.
Big Hair! British hairstyles in the 1980s
- This was the decade for large hairstyles. Flicks, volume and perms, didn’t matter what length of hair you had! The bigger the better.
Size and flamboyancy weren’t exclusive to hair and fashion….
British Christmas in a 1980’s home
Yep, decorations and catering tended to be lavish too. Tinsel was draped everywhere and foil decorations, fake snow and garlands generously adorned living rooms.
Co-ordinating designs inside (maybe on with a theme), plenty of lights outside and cooking becoming adventurous, this was the decade of growing affluence.
Food & Drink over a British 1980s Christmas
Christmas Day was pretty much like the previous decade, but a starter was becoming more common.
- Prawn cocktail
- Canapes – especially smoked salmon blinis.
- Stuffed olives.
- Pigs-in-blankets (more likely to be home-made rather than bought).
- Christmas pudding – boiled rather than microwaved (not everyone had them yet).
- Garlic bread – new to this decade.
- Battenburg cake.
- Vienetta. This iconic dessert was introduced in 1981.
- Not particularly festive but interesting, kiwis were first imported in 1988 whereupon, sliced, they seemed to decorate every pudding going!
- Diet Coke and Cherry Coke – early 80’s arrival.
- Hofmeister Lager.
- White Zinfandel.
NB Vegetarianism was gaining popularity during this decade and in 1989 Linda McCartney published her first book on vegetarian cooking which became the biggest-selling vegetarian cook book in the UK.
Time for nostalgia – British 1980’s favourite toys
- BMX Bike.
- Rubik’s Cube.
- My Little Pony.
- Smurf figurines.
- Cabbage Patch Dolls.
- Mr Frosty Crushed Ice Dispenser.
- The Game Boy.
Some favourite 1980s Christmas films
- The Snowman – 1982.
- Trading Places –1983.
- Gremlins – 1984.
- Santa Claus – The Movie. 1985.
- Scrooged – 1988.
- Prancer – 1989.
- National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation -1989.
- The Simpsons’ Christmas Special – 1989.
British Christmas no 1’s in the 1980s
- 1980- ‘There’s no one quite like Grandma’ . St Winifred’s school choir.
- 1981 – ‘Don’t you want me’. Human League.
- 1982 – ‘Save your love’. Renee and Renato.
- 1983 – ‘Only you’. Flying Pickets.
- 1984 – ‘Do they know it’s Christmas’. Band Aid.
- 1985 – ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’. Shakin’ Stevens.
- 1986 – ‘Reet Petite’ – Jackie Wilson Stevens.
- 1987 – ‘Always on my mind’. Pet Shop Boys.
- 1988 – ‘Mistletoe and Wine’. Cliff Richard.
- 1989 – ‘Do they know it’s Christmas’. Band Aid (two).
Popular gifts of the 1980s
- Swatch watch.
- Leg warmers.
- Cassette mix tapes.
- Boom boxes (or Ghetto Blasters in the 80’s).
- ‘Relax’ t-shirt (Frankie Goes to Hollywood).
- Slap bracelets.
- A shell suit?!
Memories of a 1980s Christmas
Many people look back wistfully at this decade and say Christmases were better then. Why would this be?
It’s thought that the anticipation people felt generally before such occasions as Christmas increased the enjoyment; the having to wait for things instead of them being available all year round (tins of sweets?).
Despite chocolate advent calendars not being widely available until 1993, children still found opening chocolate-less ones exciting.
TV still only had 4 channels (channel 4 began in November 1982) and so people tended to watch together, less choice but perhaps more enjoyable AND they found looking through the TV and Radio Times exciting!
A decade of excitement, chaos, and pop culture…. next time it’s Christmas in the 1990’s.