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Andy Sullivan: Against the Grain

This week, I’ll continue my ‘80’s streetwear fashion column.  In the 1980’s, Ray-bans was a brand on its way down.  They decided to get busy getting noticed.  A young Tom Cruise wore them in the movie Risky Business and sales shot up from 15,000 in 1980 to 1,500,000 in 1986.  Talk about capitalizing! After Tom Cruise turns Ray-bans and Wayfarer sunglasses into a smash hit, the company focuses on another of its most iconic brands-Aviators.  Aviators are really just standard military-issued sunglasses.  Tom Cruise relaunched these iconic sunglasses, wearing them in the 1986 smash Top Gun.  One year after Top Gun tops the box office, Ray-ban sales are at an all-time high at $1.2 billion.  And thanks to some Maverick product placement, Aviators are as popular today as ever.

Next up is an item invented in the 1950’s that shaped a fashion craze in the ‘80’s.  In 1984, the group Twisted Sister hit the big time, turning traditional macho heavy metal om its head and stretching into a miracle fabric that would cover the ‘80’s in athletic and not-so-athletic glory: Spandex.  Spandex is a =n anagram of “expands”.  It can expand up to 500% of its own length.  Spandex, Lycra or elastance is a synthetic fiber known for its exceptional elasticity.  It’s a polyether-polyurea copolymer that was invented in 1958 by chemist Joseph Shivers at DuPont.  How did this fabulous fiber go from being the outfit of choice for wrestlers to becoming mainstream fashion? After breaking her ankle on the set of The China Syndrome, Jane Fonda turns to aerobics to help with her recovery.  Her workout video became the best-selling VHS of all time.  Millions of fans ditch their polyester for spandex.  In fact, one of Jane Fonda’s workout leotards was actioned off for $2,000.  Now to @6 on the ‘80’s fashion list.

In the early 1980’s, sales of traditional denim were in decline.  The industry needs a radical reboot. Adriano Goldschmied would become the godfather of denim.  “When we started working in the ‘80’s, my mission was to bring the jean to a different level”.  His vision was to create a new look inspired by 1960’s surfer culture.  The idea was to wash the jeans with bleach and stones, also known as stonewashing.  Then, a happy accident occurred at the factory: someone forgot to add the water that dilutes the bleach.  Although acid-wash is born out of a blunder, it’s a very profitable blunder.  Within a few years, acid-washed denim is everywhere and worn by every celebrity from Dolly Parton to Andre Agassi.

Next up at #5 in ‘80’s streetwear fashion is the shoulder pad.  In the ‘80’s, the number of women in the workforce increases by almost 30%, meaning an increase in shoulder pads. The tv shows Dynasty and Dallas popularized the look but real women in the workplace also needed a uniform that meant business. We’ve reached the top 4 in ‘80’s fashion! We’ll get to that next week.  Thanks for reading! Below are links to my podcast, Blendertainment:


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