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80s fashion - trends, styles and fashions of the 80s  

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Trying to understand each aspect of 80s fashion will take you on a long and winding road. Around the world, 80s fashion tended to have many local flavours and quirks - some trends were skipped, while others were retained for far too long. In this first part examining many 80s fashion icons, Eighty-Eightynine will look at the puffy shirt, which itself was part of the wider pirate style.

The New What?
Pirate outfits and puffy shirts were a cornerstone of the New Romantic movement. This was mainly a UK trend from the early 80s and had a very limited impact in the US. This explains why most New Romantic bands are English (Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Visage, Adam & The Ants) but there few, if any American bands that would fit so easily into this category. As a fashion style, the pirate style and New Romantic look was brief - lasting no more than 18 months. Which raises the question: how did these fashions begin?

Puffy shirts & Pirates
The sudden rise of the puffy shirt and pirate look can be traced back to a fashion event in the UK. 'The Pirate collection was Vivienne Westwood's first runway show presented at Olympia in London in March 1981. She was no longer solely interested in youth and street culture [ie Punk] but also in tradition and technique. The models in the show carried Walkmans [the size of bricks] and danced to ethnic and rap music. They wore baggy round the ankle flat heel boots, henna ringlets and gold teeth. The collection was about gold and treasure, adventure and exploration.' [Taken from the Official Vivienne Westwood history].

After that point, the pirate look was adopted by many bands looking to distance themselves from the less glamourous punk style of the late 70s. Some older bands even tried to re-invent themselves with a New Romantic flavour. The most tragic was the Village People who, even in an interview, admitted that the look would not be staying with them for long. Unfortunately, by this time it wasn't their fashion sense that was the problem - their musical appeal had long since vanished.

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Images Copyright Vivienne Westwood

The Puffy Shirt in 1993
The puffy shirt look was wonderfully lampooned by Seinfeld in the early 1990s (Episode 66, The Puffy Shirt). In the episode, Jerry unwittingly agrees to wear one of Kramer's girlfriend's new puffy pirate shirts during an upcoming appearance on the Today Show. Trivia: The Puffy Shirt worn in the episode was placed in the Smithsonian in 2004. From the Press Release: 'In a special donation ceremony on Nov 18, 2004, Jerry Seinfeld presented the legendary puffy shirt from his TV series to the National Museum of American History.' The museum also received an original script from the episode.

Here are some memorable quotes:

- Kramer: Yes, yes. This pirate trend that she's come up with, Jerry - this is gonna be the new look for the 90s. You're gonna be the first pirate!
- Jerry: But, I don't wanna to be a pirate!

- George: Have you completely lost your mind? Who's dressing you? You look like a complete idiot!

- Homeless Guy 1 : Can you spare a little change for an old buckeneer?

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