Skip to main content

80s Cliques & Hair: Flipping Through My High School Yearbooks

I've lived in Flagstaff, AZ, since 2003, where I'm an active member of the Coconino County Sheriff's Search & Rescue team and an avid hiker.

My own '80s hair

My own '80s hair

A Trip Down Memory Lane Through the Hairstyles of my Teenage Years

There was Depeche Mode and Cindy Lauper, parachute pants and Pac Man. I'm looking through my Junior and Senior year yearbooks, now almost three decades old, and remembering Vans tennis shoes, Tears for Fears, and scrunch socks.

At the movies, we were seeing Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Breakfast Club, and Back to the Future, knowing we looked so cool waiting in line at the concession stand wearing ripped Levis -- which were sometimes brand new -- and acid-washed jeans with zippers up the sides. On the ride home, we'd rock out to Van Halen, Duran Duran, and Poison while Pop Rocks with Crush soda chasers crackled in our mouths.

In the '80s, we wiggled into our stretchy stirrup pants, cut the collars from our sweatshirts, letting them slip off a shoulder a la Jennifer Beals in Flashdance, then turned up the volume on our Ghetto Blasters and moonwalked, break danced (badly), and bopped around to Michael Jackson, MC Hammer, and Billy Idol.

On the weekends, we'd head to whichever kid's house had the coolest parents, or at least a basement rec room, and plop ourselves on the couch to watch MTV for hours, occasionally checking our Swatch watches to make sure we'd be home in time for dinner.

Yeahhhh (big nostalgic sigh), those were the days ... of some pretty goofy fads and fashions.

And, oh boy, the hair! There were the influential hair bands, of course. Farrah Fawcett and her fluffy feathered locks were still the in thing in some circles. And then there were the lopsided or asymmetrical 'dos that looked like the hairdressers had been a little tipsy with scissors in their hands.

But as a teen, your hairstyle kind of depended on what circle or clique you were in -- or not in, as the case may have been. I don't know about you and your high school, but mine in the 1980s had some very distinct cliques, and those within one fold or another definitely followed the crowd when it came to fashion and hair, among other things.

So, join me as I continue flipping through my yearbooks, and I'll show you some '80s hair and the cliques that made the most of certain styles. Oh, and that photo up there ... that's me in 1986. Where do you think I fit in?

Did You Go to High School in the '80s? - A quick visitor poll

Not That They Were the Only Kids Who Were Smart.... - But school and studying at home seemed to be their favorite places and pasttimes


They didn't play sports. They didn't go to parties or hang out at the mall. They never got in trouble or disobeyed the rules. They carried they're loaded backpacks squarely on their backs instead of casually slung over one shoulder, and most had perfect or near perfect attendance.

The geeks and nerds stuck their hands in the air, arms up straight as an arrow, whenever a teacher asked a question. In school, they wore their oxfords buttoned to their necks and sometimes even ties. Their jeans were never faded, baggy, or torn. Mostly, they wore cotton or polyester "trousers" and penny loafers.


Nerdy Hair in the 1980s

These were the kids whose hair usually covered their foreheads, sometimes swept to the side or just laying flat across. They rarely tamed or gelled their curls or sported spikes or feathers. They often looked ready to go from classroom to boardroom, and most seemed brainy and mature enough to do so well before high school graduation, though most would surely get advanced degrees first.

Like I said, they weren't the only smart kids in school by any means, but they were the ones who at least appeared to like being there more than anyone else and studying when they weren't. They seemed to have careers and success on their minds well before the rest of us.

I was a smart kid, too -- at least, smart enough to manage mostly A's -- but I definitely wasn't a geek or nerd. Me, my biggest dreams were about grand adventure and romantic love.

Scroll to Continue

The Coolest Athletes Among Us - Casual yet current in fashion and style


I was fairly athletic and made both the cross-country and volleyball varsity teams, but I had to work extra hard to be "good enough." Never a star player, though, rarely a stand-out, and not popular with enough of the coolest of my teammates, I wasn't qualified for jock status.

The jocks -- the boys and the girls -- were generally the game starters. They were the highest scorers, the fastest runners, the best spikers and setters, point guards, centers, quarterbacks and pitchers.

Mostly the jocks were cute, but even if traditional good looks weren't in their favor, they had the athletic skills and physiques to make up for it.

The jocks were generally civil even if they weren't your friend. They were polite for the most part and not the bullies or big troublemakers. They also usually weren't the smartest of the pack -- at least not in terms of grades or advanced placement classes -- though there were certainly exceptions to that rule. Then again, sports took precedence over studies.


Sporty Fashion and Hair in the 1980s

When it came to style, the jocks were generally casual dressers, their clothing usually clean and rarely tight. Most didn't mimic the latest from the teen fashion magazines or MTV. And they weren't flashy kids in the fashion sense, other than a colorful stripe or logo here and there on clothing and shoes, and their athletic style looked pretty comfortable but classy at the same time. Their sneakers usually looked brand new.

The girl jocks sometimes wore their hair long enough for a ponytail. Otherwise, they often went short-short.


Every Hair in Place - They had the looks, the style, and the attitude


Ah, yes, the popular crowd. How they fascinated me. I'd spend far too much time watching them -- many were in my classes -- wondering why it was that they were the kids so many others fawned over, emulated, wanted to be like and be liked by.

Why were those the kids even the teachers seemed to like best? Why were they the trend-setters, and how did they know which trends to set? And how come no one picked on them?

The popular kids and jocks sometimes overlapped, so it was possible to be both. Those were the kids that really seemed to have it all going for them. They were the coaches' pets too.


More Trendy Styles for the "In" Crowd

The popular kids and preppies usually came from solidly middle class homes if not always the affluent, though many of them did come from money. And that showed in their clothing, eventually their cars, and I would say their hair styles too.

The popular guys who didn't have super curly hair often went the layered, feathered look. Same with the girls, many of whom went pretty foofy.

And that asymmetrical style I mentioned earlier was common with this crowd, too. In fact, it was like an unspoken rule that if you weren't part of this clique, you weren't "allowed" to get one of those lopsided 'dos. (That's not really how it was, of course, but I don't see a single lopside hairstyle in my yearbooks that isn't on a popular kid's head.)

The asymmetrical style....


'80s Foof and Fluff

'80s Foof and Fluff

'80s Foof and Fluff

Remember the Banana Clip? A handy "bad hair day" solution


The Quest to be Unique

Some tried really hard

Multicolored hairdos, lots of leather and studded bands, heavy chains, dark makeup for the girls and the guys, numerous piercings, and combat boots.There were a few with mohawks that stuck up two feet high. Punked out head to toe, so much over-the-top style sometimes morphed into a blur of the bizarre. (But it seems most of the more extreme didn't show up to have their yearbook pictures taken, because I only see the more moderate of the crowd.)

Those intentional misfits blended right in with the morbid among us, too -- the goths -- with their black hair, black lips, black clothes, and black boots. The only part of their bodies that wasn't black or otherwise dark was their skin, which was usually quite pale.

The rockers would probably have protested being lumped in with the punks and the goths, but, to me, they were equally as individualistic ... or at least tried to be, though their collective efforts rendered them very much alike in my eyes when it came to fashion and hair. And the rocker kids I knew tended to hang out with the punks and the goths, so they all seemed like one united front in stark contrast to the preppies, jocks, and nerds.

Among them, there was lots of hair dye, often with streaks of blue, purple, deep red, fuchsia, and other deep and bold colors. There were long locks on both the girls and the boys and lots of teasing. No, not the picking-on-each-other kind; the hair kind, which stuck out in all directions. These were kids who didn't intend to blend in.

Toned way down (for Mom and Dad) for senior picture day

Toned way down (for Mom and Dad) for senior picture day

Toned way down (for Mom and Dad) for senior picture day

Channel the Hair Bands

You may not want to admit it publicly, but c'mon; you're still a closet hair band fan, aren't you? Or at least there's one band from the '80s (Bon Jovi, maybe?) or one song you still find yourself singing under your breath while you clean the house or walk the dog.

I ... wanna rock and roll all niiiight ... and party e-very day. I ... wanna rock and roll all niiiight .... . Yep, the songs we love to hate.

Welcome to the jungle!


Get Into the Hair Band Mood

Ah, yes, Twisted Sister. I don't think a single school dance went by without We're Not Gonna Take It being played and all the kids shouting, "No! We ain't gonna take it!" at the top of their lungs ... although they (or "we," I suppose) had no idea what exactly we weren't going to take.

You can relive the good ol' days of '80s metal while rockin' out to this album, including the above-mentioned hair band classic and 15 others, with the likes of Poison, Ratt, Cinderella, and Slaughter.

They Danced to the Beat of Their Own Drummers - Hang out with a clique? No way!


These were the kids who either seemed to be loners or stuck with one or two friends to the exclusion of most other peers. They were often the "plain Janes" and "average joes," who didn't seem to give a hoot what the latest in fashion and style might be. If it fit and still had wear in it, they kept wearing it. They didn't care all that much, so it appeared, HOW they appeared. On the contrary, they seemed free of all that hassle ... and I admired that.

Still, I didn't fit in in the non-clique either. I had too many friends from too many other cliques (many of whom didn't like each other, so I was the common ground) and cared a little too much that I fit in somewhere. These "other" kids I'm talking about ... they either didn't care one little bit or were certainly excellent at faking it.


"The Others"

Sorta nondescript is how I'd describe them. Not the highest achievers, not the lowest. Not the class clowns and not painfully shy. For the most part, they didn't play sports or, if they did, they kept the bench warm during the majority of the games. They didn't go to parties or often participate in extra-curricular activities, but you'd see them around town, at the beach, and the malls ... so it's not like they disappeared when school let out for the day or the year. They were just kinda ... there.

As far as fashion, their clothes were sort of on the drab side, but not nerdy per se. And their hair ... well, kind of the "can't quite put your finger on it" style. They definitely didn't appear to waste much time on such a thing, or much of their or their parents' money. They probably had their priorities pretty well in order and couldn't be bothered with all that silly, cliquey stuff.

I don't know if these "other" kids enjoyed their high school experiences much, but they didn't seem to be too anxious to get it over with either.

Me, I couldn't WAIT to get out of there.

Hairstyles of the '80s: What you would have seen in magazines and on hair salon walls

As with any generation, celebrities -- particularly actors, musicians, and singers -- greatly influenced the clothing and hairstyles the kids were copying in the '80s. For me and my peers, that meant people like Madonna, Billy Idol, Boy George, Johnny Depp, Julia Roberts, and so many more with their big and sometimes spikey, very gelled and hairsprayed 'dos.

Here's a fun look at some of the celebrities and their famous hairstyles that we mimicked back then.

And everyday styles from another high school yearbook

Continue Reminiscing With Me

Remember and celebrate the 80s through the tunes of the times.

Music is always a good memory-jogger. When I hear songs I listened to back in high school, I remember not only certain people but also specific times we shared ... like when Saving All My Love for You started playing, and one of the most popular boys in school asked me to dance RIGHT in front of all the most popular girls in school. Ha! (Okay, so he never spoke to me again, but still...)

Travel Back in Time on This Other Fun Site

Share what comes to mind when someone mentions the 1980s, whether you were around yet or not.

Do you still -- even secretly -- have an '80s style you still love today? (ie. a pair of parachute pants in the back of your bottom bureau drawer that you like to put on when no one else is around) C'mon, you can tell US!

Leave your comments (and confessions) in the guestbook below.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Deb Kingsbury

What's Your Favorite '80s Trend? A favorite (or infamous) hairstyle? A fashion fad? A band or song?

PERCE-NEIGE on October 03, 2019:

Fact: Those ridiculous haircuts will come back one day.

ConvenientCalendar on May 02, 2013:

Saved by the Bell

CatJGB on April 21, 2013:

Ah, the spiral perm! Ooh, for the first time in my life I had the curls I'd always wanted....didn't matter that they went frizzy and then grew out, lol.

jodijoyous from New York on April 21, 2013:

I don't know whether to laugh or cry at that hair!

jolou on April 21, 2013:

I loved lot of 80s tv shows like Dallas and Knots Landing.

Titia Geertman from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands on April 20, 2013:

LOL Great idea and I love the 80's hairstyle. We don't have yearbooks in my country, at least not in primary and secundary school.

anonymous on April 20, 2013:

The movies of the 80s come to my mind - Wall Street, Back to the Future, The Breakfast Club come to mind. I was in my twenties and early thirties during the 80s and was as happy as I could be. It was a great decade.

Related Articles