2020 wasn’t a particularly great year for fashion, with The Spicy Cough affecting nearly every facet of the fashion industry: supply lines, the viability of seasonal collections, runway shows, consumer confidence… Just about the only fashion item that has really been popping off has been face masks, with many brands scrambling to produce their own PPE since the start of the pandemic.
Now, at the start of 2021, where we find ourselves with a number of viable vaccine candidates being gradually rolled out across the world and the global mood becoming more positive, fashion insiders are waiting with bated breath to see what the next breakout trend will be.
Of course, no-one has a crystal ball. But there’s a style that’s been steadily gaining momentum over the last few years that’s noticeably accelerated over the last few months – with even haute couture labels paying attention and keen to craft collaborations that can harness this growing aesthetic.
The style in question? 80s Americana. And we’ve got all the right ingredients brewing to make Americana the style that defines 2021.
Let’s start by trying to nail down what 80s Americana is. The United States, as the world’s predominant cultural and economic superpower, has always had an outsized influence on the fashion world. Quintessential items of modern fashion such as denim jeans, browline glasses and bomber jackets are all American inventions, and many of the world’s most influential fashion brands are American. But you probably already know that.
The 2010s was a decade defined by streetwear. Influenced by hip-hop, the 90s and revolving around athleisure brands, streetwear is also quintessentially American… And has also arguably reached its peak. When you’ve got even highly traditional haute couture names like Burberry, Lanvin and Louis Vuitton jumping onto the streetwear trend, you know it’s basically mainstream. The way the wind’s blowing is that the 80s (and even the 70s) are becoming far more of an influence on 2020s fashion – funny how these fashion cycles work.
One of the few big fashion trends of 2020 was people investing in quality, comfortable basics over more formal or trendy styles during the COVID-19 crisis – quite an old-school mentality, all things considered. This is why 80s Americana is poised for further success – because the brands that define the aesthetic are brands that place a premium on quality.
It’s likely that consumers’ buying habits will continue to remain rather conservative into 2021, which will mean people will choose to invest in more timeless pieces. And 80s style is certainly pretty timeless…
Let’s put it this way: if classic Americana is preppy and owes more to the 50s (your Ralph Laurens and Sperry Top-Siders) and streetwear is flashy and is inspired by the 90s (your Nikes, Off-Whites and Supremes) then 80s Americana is more rugged; more Western. Think workwear brands like Carhartt, Levi’s or Stan Ray, and timeless staples like Converses, Ray-Bans or Pendleton knits.
For further inspiration (and evidence of how the trend is taking root), just look at these recent fashion collaborations for a sense of what the aesthetic is like.
Clockwise from top left: Levi’s x BAPE; Jared Leto in The North Face x Gucci; Supreme, Travis Scott x McDonalds and Nike x Sacai; Rhude x McLaren.
The other reason that Americana is on the way back in is that with Joe Biden’s election as President of the United States, there’s already a newfound sense of optimism about America’s future and a renewed willingness to engage with American culture – both within and outside the United States. Dressing like Bruce Springsteen is cool again, basically.
It’s worth pointing out that there’s a big difference between Americana and American-made. Many brands that champion that old-school American aesthetic aren’t American at all – for example, Japanese brands like Human Made and BAPE (both founded by legendary designer Nigo); Palm Angels, which is Italian; or Wood Wood, which is Norwegian,