80s Craze: Mrs. Beamer, Mr. Kim, and Mr. Assaf discuss the rise of 80s trends

Three bishop’s students pose in front of Bishops’ Scripps Hall in the early 1980s. If any readers know who they are, contact us!

Courtesy of Anneke Roy, Alumni Relations Coordinator

Three bishop’s students pose in front of Bishops’ Scripps Hall in the early 1980s. If any readers know who they are, contact us!

One thing is for certain – the nature of trends is that they re-cycle. A recent example of this is 80s fashion, since Gen Z seems to have a fascination with the colorful and carefree decade. Some fashion trends that originated in the 80s are oversized t-shirts, scrunchies, and biker shorts, to name a few. However, the younger generation can only imagine what life was like back then based on the clothing, music, and movies that were popular. A few Bishop’s faculty members who were teenagers around the time helped give a clearer image of what it was like to live through the 80s.


Q: What fashion trends do you remember most from the 80s?

6th grade math teacher Mrs. Catherine Beamer (‘95): I remember a lot of side ponytails, and scrunchies were sort of starting to come into play at the end of the 80s. There were definitely legwarmers and big T-shirts, with T-shirt clips that you would wear – leggings or bike shorts with a big T-shirt and a special T-shirt clip that your shirt would go through to sort of hold it in place. Or fringe shirts, T-shirts with fringe on the sleeves or on the bottom of the T-shirt.

Head of School Mr. Ron Kim: Yeah, so, I was really boring in my fashion choices. I wore jeans every day, a t-shirt, my high school letterman jacket, and sneakers. That was pretty much my standard clothing. Now, there were other people who were far more fashion-forward than I was. I remember that at that time, some of my friends were really interested in the band Stray Cats, and rockabilly style. I can’t describe exactly what that kind of fashion is, but I do remember they would dress that way.


Q: What prominent singers or bands do you remember most?

Mrs. Beamer: I definitely remember people like Cyndi Lauper, and Tiffany was very popular when I was growing up. There were a lot of female singers coming out in terms of pop songs and things like that. I certainly remember more of that sort of stuff, like jazz and tap dance – those are things that I did growing up, so those were a lot of the kinds of songs that I remember. You know, Prince and Wham! and other bands like that. There isn’t one particular person or group that stands out to me necessarily.

9th grade history teacher Mr. Kamal Assaf (‘88): Boy George, George Michael, David Bowie, and Madonna were some singers who had a certain style – not that people dressed like Madonna, but those people had a huge impact on pop culture. And MTV was gigantic! We were the first generation to be able to come home after school, turn on MTV, and see our favorite singers in these little 3-minute videos. And it was really influential, to promote music and pop culture. We were seeing our favorite actors and singers portrayed in these little vignettes, for example, Thriller by Michael Jackson was huge. It was like an event. A lot of kids probably watched hours of MTV – we were the MTV generation.


Q: What were some of the most recent developments with photography devices? Were Polaroids popular in the 80s? 

Mrs. Beamer: There were definitely some polaroid pictures of me when I was younger. I feel like that was something that came back again maybe 10 years ago, with the smaller polaroid photos. Although Polaroid cameras weren’t something that, at my age, I was necessarily using a lot. It was a big deal when disposable cameras came out, I remember being able to take something like that on a field trip, and come back with photos that we could take to Costco or to the drugstore, and get it developed. And then half of them weren’t any good, because you didn’t know what they looked like before they arrived in print.

Mr. Kim: I think it was the 70s and 80s. I remember having polaroids, and it was such a big deal at the time, that you could immediately see the picture you took. Because prior to that, you would have to buy film and then take it to a photo place. And then you wouldn’t see the photo until after they got processed, and so it was days… unless you wanted to pay a lot of money for same-day photo development. And those polaroids, they weren’t very good quality, the color on them was terrible. But being able to get something instantly was pretty novel. I know in today’s culture, we just expect anything to be available instantly. But that was new back then. 


Q: What were the main differences between Bishop’s in the 80s and Bishop’s now?

Mr. Assaf: It was just becoming a co-educational day school. Boarders were out my first year as a 7th grader, so the boarding program basically ended. Boys were equal to girls for the first time – they were brought in in 1971, as just a small percentage. The gym was built in my 7th and 8th grade years, and so were the field and the pool, so there was a lot of construction. And there was a sense of a new direction. The Head of School Michael Teitelman wanted a really robust academic program, a strong arts program, and a strong athletics program. And we were tech-free – I can’t believe this, but there were no cell phones, no nothing. All the computers were in one room, and the best thing you could do with them was take word processing. So it didn’t really become the modern Bishop’s school until the early 80s.


Q: What are your feelings about some of these 80s trends coming back recently?

Mr. Kim: Well, I’m happy to know that some of the music has come back, because I have a lot of nostalgia for that. You know, I can remember songs and imagine exactly where I was and what I was doing, so that’s been a lot of fun. The fashion? I don’t mind it so much. Some of the fashion that I’ve seen in recent years, like the low-cut jeans, or the really skinny jeans, I’m not a fan of that. I can’t remember – the hairstyles were pretty bad. So, I don’t mind seeing some of the 80s fashion return. It didn’t feel that way at the time, of course, but the 80s – as I reflect back on it now – had a simplicity to them that I miss.