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Top 15 Symbols of the 1980s With Meanings

Top 15 Symbols of the 1980s With Meanings

Remember the 1980s? One of the top decades for fashion and music, the ’80s culture cannot be forgotten! This was the era for legwarmers, fashionable clothes, and multiple wristwatches. Outstanding rock n roll and pop music also took the lead in the ’80s.

Read on to find out the Top 15 symbols of the 1980s:

1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

London Comic Con Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
London Comic Con Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
big-ashb, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was an animated American TV show. This show was produced by the French IDDH Group and Murakami-Wolf-Swenson. The Ninja Turtle superhero team was initially created by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman. The television adaptation was first released on December 14, 1987.

The television series is set in New York City and revolves around the adventures of teenage mutant Ninja Turtles. The stories of the episodes also feature their allies as well as the villains and criminals that the ninja turtles battle.

The comic books initially created featuring the characters had a darker theme to them. The TV series was changed so that it was suitable for children and families. [1]

2. Slap Bracelets

Slap Bracelet.
Slap Bracelet Wiki Loves Earth Logo
Anntinomy, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

These unique bracelets were initially created by Stuart Anders, who was a shop teacher in Wisconsin. Anders experimented with steel and created something called the ‘slap wrap.’ This was a thin strip of metal covered with fabric that needed to be smacked on one’s wrist to curl into a bracelet.

The president of Main Street Toy Co., Eugene Martha, agreed to distribute these bracelets, and they were marketed as slap bracelets. The slap bracelets became a huge success in the 1980s. [2] 

3. The Walkman 

The Walkman was the pioneer of today’s music culture. If you listen to music on your iPod or phone, you must know that the Walkman started it all. The Walkman cassette player was the first portable device through which you could listen to your music on the go.

Incredibly popular in the 1980s, the year saw the sale of over 385 million Walkman’s. The portable cassette player laid the foundation of future electronics that enabled listening to music on the go. [3]

4. Rubik’s Cube

Rubik's Cube.
Rubik’s Cube
William Warby from London, England, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The 1980s saw the Rubik’s cube craze. The first-ever batches of Rubik’s cubes were released in May 1980 and received modest initial sales. A television campaign was created around the Rubik’s cube in the middle of the same year, followed by a newspaper campaign.

This changed how people reacted to the Rubik’s cube completely. Following the advertising campaigns, the Rubik’s cube won the best toy of the year in the UK, France, and the US. It also won the German Game of the Year Award.

Soon the Rubik’s cube turned into a craze. From 1980 to 1983, it is estimated over 200 million Rubik’s cubes were sold throughout the world. [4]

5. Atari 2600

Atari 2600 console.
Atari 2600 Console
Yarivi, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Atari 2600 was previously branded as the Atari Video Computer System until 1982. This was a home video game console through which you could play video games for as long as you liked. This console had two joystick controllers conjoined with paddle controllers and game cartridges.

The Atari 2600 became incredibly successful due to the home conversion of several arcade games. These games included Space Invaders, Pac-man, and ET. 

6. Leg Warmers

Colored Leg Warmers.
Colored Leg Warmers
David Jones, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Leg warmers are leg coverings for the lower legs that are generally footless. They are thicker than socks and used to keep legs warm during cold weather. When you think of fashion in the 80s leg warmers immediately come to mind.

Anyone inclined towards fashion had at least a handful of leg warmers in their closet in this era. Legwarmers were popular even before the 80s but were used for functionality and not fashion. The 80s changed this.

Popular television sensations ‘Fame’ and ‘Flashdance’ hit the silver screen. Soon teenage girls started adding legwarmers to their everyday wardrobes as well. You can add legwarmers to almost every outfit, from dresses to miniskirts to jeans and even parachute pants. [5]

7. Care Bears

Care Bears Toys.
Care Bears Toys
Image Courtesy: Flickr

Care Bears were multi-colored teddy bears that rose to fame in the 1980s. Care bears were originally painted by Elena Kucharik in 1981 and were used in greeting cards created by American Greetings. In 1982, Care Bears were transformed into plush teddy bears.

Each Care Bear had a unique color and a belly badge that showed its personality. The Care Bear concept became so famous that a Care Bear Television series was created from 1985 to 1988. Three special feature films were also created over the Care Bears.

Soon new additions were also added to the Care Bear Family called the Care Bear Cousins. These included racoons, pigs, dogs, cats, horses, and elephants created in the same Care Bear style. 

8. Pop Music

Madonna at concert in Taipei.
Madonna at concert in Taipei
jonlo168, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The 1980s saw the rise of pop music. This was the time when artists like Prince, Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Whitney Houston soared to incredible heights of fame. Madonna was known as one of the most influential figures of pop culture. She also earned the title ‘Queen of Pop.’

Michael Jackson was dubbed’ King of Pop’ and contributed to dance, fashion, and music over this four-decade-long career. Prince was also one of the most prolific artists of the ’80s and topped musical charts worldwide.

Whitney Houston also had seven consecutive No. 1 hits in the Billboard Hot 100 and was one of the most successful musical artists of her time. 

9. New Coke

Coca Cola Different Sizes.
Coca Cola Different Sizes
Oilpanhands at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The drink Coca-Cola was initially introduced in 1886 and infused into American culture in the coming years. In the 1980s, Coke faced a challenge from Pepsi. A majority of American consumers were choosing Pepsi over Coke.

Coke executives reformulated the drink and created a sweeter version of coca-cola. This new Coke was launched in the year 1985 and was branded simply as ‘Coke.’ It was also marketed as ‘Coca-Cola Classic.’

In 1985, Coke was also the first soft drink tested in space. Astronauts in a spaceship tested the drink on a mission. [6]

10. Mix Tapes

Compact Cassette.
Compact Cassette
Thegreenj, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

When you compile music, which comes from various sources and is recorded on any particular medium, it is called a mixtape. It originated in the 1980s. These tapes were mainly produced by individual albums, which were distributed free of cost so as to gain recognition.

These songs are kept either in a sequence or kept according to beat matching. Beatmatching means that there is a single program in which a song can be started or ended by fading or any other kind of edit. These mixtapes were very popular amongst the youth of the 1980s. 

11. Slogan T-Shirts

Slogan Shirts.
Slogan Shirts
Image Courtesy:

T-Shirts are a fashion item and very popular for casual wear. Short but catchy sentences on a T-shirt to advocate a cause or just for business promotion are called Slogan T-shirts. It is a very creative way to tell the world what you really care about.

In the 1980s, these slogan T-shirts were a way of expressing oneself and which was approved by the peers too. Frankie goes to Hollywood, and Wham “Choose life” T-shirts were one of the popular slogans at that time. The popular T-Shirt brands were: Ron Jon Surf Shop, Hard Rock Cafe, Big Johnson, Hypercolor, Esprit, OP, MTV, Guess. [7][8]

12. Punk Style

A Punk Hairstyle.
Punk Hairstyle
Ricardo Murad, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Multi-colored Mohawks, torn-skinny jeans, leather jackets, old T-shirts with slogans were the description of the Punk style fashion of the 1980s. The people who listened to punk music such as Gun N Roses, Time Bomb, I Against I, etc., also liked to dress up as punks.

They would take random pieces of fabric and then attach them together with safety pins. These were also called Pin-shirts. The Punk style was associated with rebels since historically, punk meant a disrespectful child or a teenager. But now it has become a fashion style. This style originated from Europe. [9]

13. Transformers

Transformers Decepticons.
Transformers Decepticons
Ultrasonic21704, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This was an animated TV Series that was shown in America in the late 1980s. It revolves around the story of war among giant robots that could transform into vehicles or other objects. It was a Marvel production series that was later on made into a movie called The Transformers.

This series is also known as Generation-1 and was again made in 1992 as Generation-2. The theme of this series was inspired by the Japanese toy line Micro man in which similar humanoid figures could transform into humanoid robot bodies once they would sit in the driver seats of vehicles.

14. Swatch

Colored Swatches.
Colored Swatches
Image Courtesy: Flickr

Teens in the 1980s were always looking for fresh and exciting ways to stand out. They wore Day-Glo clothes, wore leg warmers, and watched MTV. Another fashion craze of the time was neutral-colored watches.

The Swiss watchmaker Swatch made this trend stand out. People loved wearing bold and colorful analog quartz watches. Swatch watches were trendy and flashy. Often people wore two, three, or even four at a time to make a statement. [10]

15. Rock Music

Saving Molly Rock Music Festival.
Saving Molly Rock Music Festival
Ccbrokenhearted, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In the 1980s, rock music was at its peak. Great rock songs were produced throughout the decade. Outstanding music artists made the rock n roll genre one of the most popular genres of America in the 1980s.

Classical hits like Sweet Child of Mine by Guns and Roses and Livin’ On a Prayer by Bon Jovi were released in the 80s. [11]


The 1980s had its own unique style and charm. Which of these Top 15 Symbols of the 1980s were you already aware of? Let us know in the comments section below!


  1. IGN. March 21, 2007. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles On TV”. 

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