After last week’s walk down a very preppy lane, someone requested I keep tripping down eighties street and talk about what happened we put down our boat shoes, found a tin of hair gel, and listened to Cyndi Lauper and Madonna.
We lost our cotton-picking minds.
It seemed like overnight the pastels of earlier had been struck by lightning and were now electrified neon.
The hair that was worn in prim ponytails and demure page boys exploded into giant halos of teased and shellacked hair. The boys’ hair soon followed suit. If the higher the hair, the closer to God is true, we were all lounging on clouds, dancing to hard-rock celestial choirs.
Tank tops, which before “the ’80s” had been worn mainly by Italian grandpas were now required wearing, in multiple layers and shocking colors. Torn sleaves, ripped edges, and deconstructed layers replaced grosgrain trim and hemmed cuffs.
To emulate Madonna and Cyndi Lauper, one only had to pull the first fourteen items from a rag bag and put them on.
Oh; and add some shredded lace gloves.
There also was a polished new aesthetic for dressier or professional situations. The colors were still luridly bright and the hair was still colossal.
But so were our shoulders.
Women’s shoulder pads were so large you could land an airplane on them, and sharper than a Ginsu knife. I put shoulder pads in my t-shirts—no lie.
Men’s suits came in two designs. One was the mate to women’s oversized, gargantuan-shouldered attire. Big and broad.
The other style was inspired by revelatory ratings juggernaught, Miami Vice. Very unstructured, Caribbean-hued jackets and pleated trousers. Underneath jacket were either collared shirts with twig thin ties, or t-shirts.
It wasn’t only big hair bands and fierce women that influenced fashion.
New Wave and Rap music were hits on newly launched MTV. This meant even kids in tiny little towns in the very Northeastern corner of North Carolina had access to a 24-hour-a-day fashion show. My hair was big, my skirts were little, and my socks were slouchy.
It was around this time that I got into retail, working at a store in the mall selling uber-fashionable clothing to my peers.
I sold shirts so colorful that sunglasses were required. Another popular item was genie pants in which no self-respecting genie would be caught dead.
Also a big seller in those over-the-top eighties were fur coats. In Elizabeth City the dead animals of choice were rabbit, at about 60 dollars, and red or silver fox at around 100.
One day we received a shipment of a new type of fur jacket. It was a familiar shade of gray, with long coarse hair. I was afraid I knew what creature it was, but couldn’t imagine that someone would actually make a coat from it.
Reading the tag, my worst fears were confirmed. The coats were made from the skin of…possums!
I called my boss and asked why. I was informed that the fur of the Didelphis virginiana was lush and beautiful.
I informed my boss that in this agrerian region, one did not wear possums. One swerved to avoid hitting them on dark country lanes. A small percentage of young men I knew sometimes swerved in order to hit them. Possums were not coats, they were road kill. I didn’t think they would be a big seller.
My boss responded that with my defeatist attitude they probably wouldn’t. So, I gave it the old college try. If someone came in looking for a dead animal jacket I would urge the purchase of possum.
I got plenty of laughs, quite a few odd looks, but not one sale.
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