Greetings Retrojunk community! I am new here, but I'm sure I'll get the gist of making articles over time.
I know everyone here has heard of 90s kids (Millennials) and their memes, but very little has been said from the children of the 1980s. I was born in the year 1979, so naturally, my favorite years to grow up were 1984 to 1991, but I enjoyed the year 1992 as there was good pop culture being released for people in my age group back then, also. Not much has been said about my generation, Xennials, because we are commonly thought of as Millennials by Baby Boomers and members of Generation X. Technically, we are early Millennials, but most of us do not like being called Millennials (we are the middle child between Xers and Yers, not Yers really). People born between the late-70s (1975-1977) to mid-80s (1984-1986) are bonafide Xennials, but some generational theorists in the past claimed that we were born between 1977 and 1983 and 1977 to 1987. 1987 borns were children of the 1990s, so that places them under Millennials and not Xennials. To be a Xennial, you would have to have had your growth and development years happen in any part of the 1980s.
Growing up as a Xennial was amazing because we saw it all! People my age and around my age witnessed the 50s revival that bloomed in the 1970s become mainstream in the 1980s and very early 1990s. We were there when the 1960s revival was brand new in the 1980s. Better yet, Xennials know that the early 1990s (1990-1992) culture came out of the 1980s. Generation Xers and Xennials are the only generations that tell people younger than them and older than them the differences between the 1980s and 1990s. The 1980s were simple, yet fun to live in (100 percent analog age), while the 1990s were hip, sexy, rad, and edgy all at once (analog age morphing into the digital age). The 1980s and 1990s were definitely "conjoined at the hip" from 1984 to 1992. The earliest of those years was when it became clearer to the public that the Silent Generation had handed down the torch to Baby Boomers.
I really want to touch on the magic that happened in those years 1984 to 1992, so I will be giving you all a rundown on what the years 1984 to 1992 were like for a child who grew up in them. In my opinion, 1984 to 1989 were the most turbulent times in the 1980s that 'brought us all head-first' into the very early 1990s (1990-early 1991). Get ready, because there is a long article ahead of us all. The Mid 1980s (1984-1986)
A Brief Introduction to The Hotbed 80s (Most Scandalous Part of the 1980s)
The mid-1980s were an awkward stage in the 1980s. The post-punk era was upon us and it was reflected well in everything. Teens and young adults at the start of the mid-1980s wore colorful mohawks and hair. Older adults were throwing around the slang term "punk" and the punk movement officially became one of the things the 1980s were known for when the hit TV show "Punky Brewster" made its debut on NBC in the fall of 1984. It was 'in' all of a sudden to have an attitude like celebrity Mr. T of The A-Team fame(who had a box of cereal with his animated face on it at the time), musician Billy Idol, or movie character Travis Bickle from the 1976 movie Taxi Driver (a movie still being rented at the time).
As for the boys and girls of the mid-1980s, so many major events were happening before our very eyes. He-Mania (Masters of the Universe action figure craze) earlier in 1984 made Star Wars craze of 1977 into 1978 seem a little dated. I initially thought He-Man was Luke Skywalker buffed up and shirtless and pantless for a second as a child. It was an exciting new phase for boy toy history to see 3 3/4 inch figures like Return of the Jedi and G.I. Joe A Real American Hero (better than the originals from the 60s, IMO) on one shelf of the boys toy aisle and Masters of the Universe on another side. Modernism in the 1980s! Girls enjoyed Cabbage Patch Kids dolls and Smurfs figurines to look at when they missed Alvin and the Chipmunks on Saturday mornings.
The most talked-about network was MTV because, in those days, you could sit on the couch and watch MTV all day. It was either MTV, Atari 2600, Commodore 64 (love that the name rhymes with the number), talk shows, daytime dramas, anthology shows, RPG games (as seen in Stranger Things), board games, or the arcade for children and teenagers in the mid-1980s. MTV WAS THE INTERNET IN THE 1980S AND VERY EARLY 1990S.
Preppy outfits, jogger outfits, football outfits, workout outfits, disco outfits, and breakdancer outfits are the clothes commonly associated with the mid-1980s.
Now that you have been given an overview of the mid-1980s, I want to describe my childhood in each year of them. 1984
1984 was one of the last now-vintage years of the 1980s. There were not that many changes between 1984 and six years before it. With that said, MTV was the most talked-about TV network at the time because it was so innovative for its time. Since we were in post-1983 times, the hit singles for "Thriller" and "Beat It" by Michael Jackson were the most played videos on MTV. Everyone obviously loved the music videos better than the songs (a pop-funk fusion). The jackets used in both music videos were the most iconic clothes ever used in anything at the time to the people my age and older.
I admit I was blown away when the Pepsi commercial featuring Alfonso Ribeiro from the then-popular NBC sitcom Silver Spoons first came on TV. Those jackets really put the color red on the map from 1984 into the 1990s. Both jackets looked like something an adult would wear to an adult club like Studio 54 or a disco. The jackets were 'more Members Only' than the actual Members Only jackets. Every child wishes to be an adult and I KNOW some children of the 80s and teens of the 80s felt like adults each time they wore those jackets back then.
Watching MTV was not the only major event of the mid-80s. Children and teens, also, loved listening to the radio. Everyone pretty much listened to the same music in 1984. Some people carried around new stereos on their shoulders, while others listened to the Top 40 countdown with Casey Kasem on their beds (Casey Kasem is best known as the voice of Shaggy from Scooby Doo, Where Are You?). Sony Walkman players and carry along radios were necessities to us like sunglasses in '84 (part of the then-new early to mid-60s revival).
At the time, I was afraid of the then-new movie in theaters, Gremlins. The theatrical poster was terrifying and I did not like whenever the TV spots came on at night! The boys at my school owned the action figures and that was how I came across the character of Gizmo. Even at the time, I figured Gizmo was the E.T. of the movie (E.T. was a Close Encounters of the Third Kind second attempt). Still, I would not go near anything Gremlins from 1984 to 1985 when all of the merchandise was in stores.
One of the smallest things in '84 that blew up into a much larger issue was Wendy's Where's the Beef ad campaign. Wendy's burger patties were always small, so to 5 years old me, I wondered what the lady in the commercial was talking about. Then, the whole ad campaign became a controversial mid-80s event when adults wearing funny slogan shirts with "Here's the Beef ↓". I don't think anyone ever looked at the elderly actress (may she rest in peace) in the commercial the same way ever again after that. The whole ad campaign was dropped after a while.
In 1984, while some of my cohorts were watching the latest He-Man and The Masters of the Universe episodes, I was tuning in to Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show. There was something 'neat' about seeing all of the DC Superheroes together. It was the 80s (one huge throwback time to the 1950s) and I was a huge Superman fan, so I begged my father for a Super Powers Superman toy (my parents would not buy Superman underoos for me, so I got the toy of him instead). I never owned any of the other figures on the back, but I didn't want to. The action feature to the Super Powers Superman was that you squeeze both of his legs together inward and Superman would punch whatever action figure it was up against. I think of the action figure as 'He-Man meets Superman' (there is an actual comic book crossover in existence). Looking back, the He-Man and The Masters of the Universe series was a huge Super Friends knock-off. Super Friends was more epic with fluid animation (it looked like He-Man would never move around on the rare occasions I watched the show). 1985
If 1984 was the year that could have belonged to the early 1980s, then 1985 was the 'fifty-fifty' year of the mid-1980s. The oldness of everything from 1984 and the time periods before was starting to 'wash away'. In hindsight, it had seemed like we were living in another world entirely before 1985 was over. Perhaps, Ronald Reagan's second term that began in '85 changed the atmosphere of the 1980s or it was the late 1960s nostalgia that was brand new then. None of us knew for sure in 1985, but I think we were all fatigued from the old 80s (the years of the 80s before 1985).
The one pop-cultural phenomenon that belonged wholly to the year 1985 was Madonna Fever. My parents at the time had to turn the car stereo knob to the oldies station whenever "Like A Virgin" from Madonna came on the radio. I think what had scared my parents, even more, was Madonnabes. In 1985, the Valley Girl became the Madonnabe and you could not escape Madonnabes as they were everywhere! At the movies seeing Suddenly Seeking Susan and going to prom dances with guys in suits. To me, Madonna was always Mrs. Pac-Man (bow in her hair) meets Punky Brewster meets Prince of Prince and The Revolution.
There was an endless number of Madonna knock-offs on the radio starting in 1985 and that was 'a thing' for some time until the 2000s began. Of course, everything about Madonna was controversial from her name to her image to her songs. My parents couldn't have been the only ones terrified whenever any mention of Madonna came up. Still, everything with Madonna was racier than the female artists of the 70s. I think Cher was influenced by Madonna in 1989 when "If I Could Turn Back Time" appeared on MTV.
Another tidbit to know about 1985 was that it was the year of Coca Cola (shortened to 'Coke' in the early 80s) soda. New Coke (a much sweeter version of Coca Cola) was introduced in May of 1985 and Americans hated it. Coca Cola, which had to be rebranded to Coca Cola Classic (The Real Thing), was more of what you would expect from a soda, whereas New Coke was a sweetened drink and that was it. There was no way of telling you were drinking carbonated water. New Coke was the first gimmicky new soda of the 80s and 90s (Crystal Pepsi was far worse), so there is no way of forgetting it, I guess.
After the earliest months of 1985, Coca Cola advertising took off. Coca Cola Clothing was introduced with and without the ad mascot Max Headroom. I thought the slogan "Catch the Wave" was a great way for the Coca Cola team to cash in on the mid-60s nostalgia that Baby Boomers had at the time. Though looking back, I'm not sure how I wasn't afraid of silver and white waves on the New Coke can(chemical waves). My mind had to be on the Coca Cola rugby sweatshirts that were similar to the Benetton sweatshirts. Designer clothes in the 1980s and 1990s were expensive because you had to go to a particular store to get them.
With that said, I redirected my attention from all things Coca Cola to The Goonies that summer. The Goonies was one of those movies that spoke to children everywhere and told us that we're more advanced than adults. Honestly, I love 'how mid-1980s' The Goonies was. The only other movies like The Goonies that I can think of are "The Monster Squad" from 1987 and "Home Alone" from 1990, but I wish there were more movies like The Goonies to this day.
By 1985, my generation was tired of Luke Skywalker-like heroes and moved on Transformers. The purple and red clashing colors used for the hero and villain symbols were 'very mid-1980s', so we took a liking to them quickly over the Go-Bots, Voltron, Robotech, and Mighty Orbots (the competition to Transformers in late 1984). I was onboard myself until the Dinobots were the new Transformers of the week on the cartoon. How can there be a dinosaur robot (that was probably one of the biggest 'What Was That' moments of the 80s for me)?! As far as I'm concerned, only the first season of the cartoon and the first assortment of action figures happened, nothing after that. 1986
1986 changed everything! The youngest members of Generation X were getting older, there was more Xennial culture around, and the year 1983 was finally 3 years ago (it showed in everything). 1986 would set the tone for every year of the 'tacky late 1980s' (the clothes and music of the late 80s were bad, but unique at the same time). The 80s were starting to look like even more of a different place from how they did in even late 1984 and early 1985, but 1986 was the 80s, nonetheless.
The one routine I remember from 1986 to about 1993 was watching primetime sitcoms with my family. For some reason, the adults in my life thought the Christmas sweater guy was the funniest comedian alive. I watched for the new styles that popped up on the screen with each new episode. It seemed like everyone I knew in the 1980s thought they were the best dressed, so people like me watched hit TV shows and read magazines to imitate what we saw and those sweaters were 'in' from 1986 to early 1992.
"The Alex P. Keaton" of Family Ties (skinny ties and black blazers with the sleeves turned up) and "The Sonny Crocket" of Miami Vice (white blazer with pastel blues and pinks underneath) were great choices as well. The network NBC had something for everyone - 50s TV sitcom reappearances in the form of new shows, cop dramas, movies, sports, and 'spit drink' comedies like The Golden Girls.
Teenage boys and young adults were not the only individuals wearing pastels, women were into them as well. The tides were turning in the 80s and now almost everyone loved print designs, pastels, abstract Memphis designs, and Hawaiian trees. The best word I can use to describe 1986 is "light" as more people were dieting and exercising while wearing lighter clothes with lighter colors on them and seeing movies like Pretty In Pink (pink was the color of the year). It was like my generation was living in early 1966, except it was 1986.
Swatch watches were the lightest watches on the watch market. I never asked for a Swatch because of the Swatch guards, Swatch Wall Clocks, and other six Swatch watches you HAD to have to form like an arm tattoo. In a way, Swatches were the Pet Rocks of the mid to late 1980s more than Chia Pets. I would have preferred a Casio calculator or a Timex watch to a Swatch.
For those Retrojunkers that don't know, 1986 was the year when parents began scoffing children for their controversial selections. Sticker collecting was stronger than ever after Garbage Pail Kids cards and stickers (One big MAD magazine like spoof of Cabbage Patch Kids) were out. I didn't have many of the Garbage Pail Kids cards and stickers as my parents were religious. Regardless of that fact, was easier to grab ahold of one or two packs of Garbage Pail Kids from over the counter at a gas station than it was to get a Madball for me. My parents were not a fan of the menacing and demonic faces, so they were not sporting goods to my parents. I wish I could have had the whole set, but that was difficult to accomplish for me as my parents were questioning who would allow such a toy to make it to the boys' toy aisle.
An American Tail was the biggest film for children in 1986. Think of it like this, An American Tail was Disney's The Little Mermaid of 1986 before the actual Disney's The Little Mermaid was in theaters. From what I remember, girls loved the Fievel plush dolls and An American Tail shirts. Disney tried to outdo Amblin Entertainment and Sullivan Bluth Incorporated with Oliver and Company in late 1988, but An American Tail won that battle. On the other hand, Disney won the war with Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and The Little Mermaid in the late 80s.
The American Tail bliss of 1986 into 1987 was nothing like the ALF craze of 1987 to 1990, but I will cover that and more in my next installment.
Well, that is all for now. I will be touching on the rest of the 80s in part 2 and early 90s in part 3. I love the 80s. The 80s were an instrumental part in making me who I was from the start of the 1990s into today! Stay tuned, Retrojunkers! This is going to be a wild ride!