This week Cara Balen looks at the 80s trends and tropes in the Netflix series Stranger Things and explores why they are so popular amongst the show’s younger viewers.
With the release date of the Season 3 of Stranger Things drawing near (July 4th on Netflix), it is almost time to jump back into the fantastical world of Dustin, Mike and all the other characters we have come to know and love. If you haven’t watched this extraterrestrial TV show, it delves into the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, exploring the lives of different members of the community.
But, this isn’t just some normal town. Like all classic science fiction stories, the viewer is plunged into a thrilling saga which investigates the deep, dark paranormal workings that lurk just below the surface.
Don’t worry, there won’t be any spoilers in this article, but if you are a fan of creepy monsters, mysteries, and the supernatural – this is the show for you!
Tinged with 1980s nostalgia, the series takes the viewer on a journey back in time. A perfect mix of Spielberg and Stephen King, the show’s creators, The Duffer Brothers, allow us to forget the present and step into a story full of sentimentalities of the past. The characters rock vintage windbreakers, baggy jumpers with roll necks, ‘mom’ jeans, and leather jackets which give an eclectic mix of the 80s throwback items that are still popular today. You just need to look at Steve and Billy’s lion mane hairdos to know that this is not 2019 anymore: we are in the totally radical 80s dude!
From my jarring use of slang, you have probably guessed that I am not an 80s baby. Like many others watching Stranger Things, I can only dream of this 80s world of arcades, Star Wars memorabilia, rock and roll, and 70s Chevys.
The Duffer Brothers wanted to use 80s America as their backdrop because they took their inspiration from the some of the darker sides of the Cold War, telling Rolling Stone they were influenced by “bizarre experiments” such as Project MKUltra, the chilling mind-control program organised by the CIA up to the mid-70s. This also allowed them to fill this new world they created with their 80s childhood memories, adding a real sense of genuine nostalgia to lives led by the band of kids which become wrapped up in the show’s mystery.
The internet seems to have coined the word ‘anemoia’ for feeling nostalgia about a time one hasn’t lived through, and this certainly seems to be the case here. We’ve all felt it, listening to a song or watching a movie, wishing you could go back to a time or place you’ve never even experienced. Maybe The Duffer Brothers are just so fantastic at imparting their emotions to us, and that is definitely true!
But, perhaps it is something more. There must be a reason why, even in contemporary pop culture, we keep on going back to the 80s. So, what is it?
I’m not going to pretend I can answer such a complex question. But, watching Stranger Things has definitely given me an idea. For many Gen Zs and late Millennials, we may be feeling this strange sense of sentimentality because we are, by being placed in the middle of Hawkins, reliving our past in some sense. Looking at Barb and Nancy in their ‘mom’ jeans may actually remind us of the very person who is symbolised by such clothing – our mums!
The 80s may not be our time of growing up, but it certainly was for many of our parents, who donned baggy denim jackets, denim trousers (denim anything really); teased and gelled their hair; and had a sizable collection of woolly jumpers in seemingly every pattern imaginable! Trends popular in someone’s formative teen years often stay with them for life, so whether it is Barb’s oversized glasses (which I definitely recognise from some old photos of my mum), or the classic sherpa jackets as the ‘trendy’ dad’s go-to, it is definitely the case that many of us have experienced these 80s fashion moments in our own childhood.
These memories also go hand in hand with our parents listening to their favourite music from when they were growing up. Think of the classic rock and roll loving dad, and
the fact that many of us were shown movies from 80s which made up our parents’ favourites. The movies that The Duffer Brothers drew inspiration from, like Jurassic Park or Ghostbusters, also probably inspired many of us, and formed some happy memories.
So, we are not completely crazy for feeling that warm tingly sensation
we call nostalgia when watching Stranger Things, for it showcases many of the fashion trends we have grown to know and love through our parents. But, whatever the reason, the fact remains that the Stranger Things characters pull off some pretty fierce looks, and we cannot wait to return and pick up fashion tips and tricks from the most stylish kids in Hawkins!
You can find out more about Cara’s work by following @BalenCara on Twitter. All images via Netflix