A Mildly True History of ’80s and ’90s Fashion Accessories

Fashion designers of the ’80s and ’90s brought our childhood super phat trends that we still wish we could sport today. Remember looking rad as you chased boys around the playground in scrunchies and leg warmers? Ever wonder where designers found their inspiration for such groundbreaking fashion movements? Through hard-hitting journalism, Wikipedia article searches and a dash of imagination, you will find the answers you’ve been looking for right here!
1.  Slap Bracelets
slap bracelets 90s fashion 80s fashion
Slap bracelets were first invented by Wisconsin schoolteacher Stuart Anders. Sold under the brand “Slap Wrap”, they were made popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s. As with most things kids find awesome, they were banned from most schools due to improper use.

Inspiration: Some experts believe Anders was originally trying to invent an easy-to-use sexual bondage device. His wife apparently found that handcuffs, rope and even Velcro straps just took too long when she wanted to tie up Anders. The cuffs worked really well and the couple used them for years. However, one day, their daughter, Lindsey, found the cuffs and wore them to school. To avoid embarrassment, Anders told everyone he made them as a child’s accessory and, as they say, the rest is history.

2.  Butterfly Clips

butterfly clips guinea pigs 80s fashion 90s fashion
Butterfly clips were made popular during the mid to late ’90s.  Girls often wore them around their head like a headband, twisting small bits of hair up in the clip to form a sort of butterfly crown.  At first, you could only find butterfly clips at fine establishment such as Claire’s or Afterthoughts, but by the end of the fad, you could find them in most drug stores and truck stops.

Inspiration: Dr. Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden, an American geologist noted for his expeditions of the Rocky Mountains in the late 19th century, is also credited with inventing the butterfly clip. He conceived of the fashion accessory upon discovering the Pachycephalosaurus.  Few people know this, but Hayden was a strong supporter of women’s suffrage and felt girls needed better access to education in the sciences.  Because Hayden gained his love for dinos through dressing up and pretending to be a Triceratops, he thought the clips would be a fun learning tool to get girls interested in the creatures as well.  As an educational tool, they fell flat, but about 100 years later, they become the popular fashion accessory we know today. 

3.  Leg Warmers

leg warmers 80s fashion 90s fashion
Leg warmers were originally worn by dancers to keep their muscles from cramping after stretching.  In the early 1980s, leg warmers became a phenomenon among teenage girls and remained a fashion staple for a decade.  Their popularity was partly due to the influence of the films Fame and Flashdance and the concurrent aerobics craze.
Inspiration: The rise of leg warmers in popularity actually came from a brilliant yet subtle marketing campaign.  In 1981, as the country’s economy was already in recession, the banking community was shocked by the news of a $21.3 million embezzlement scheme by a Wells Fargo employee, Ben Lewis.  Wells Fargo saw a sharp decline in profits and nearly went under.  However, in 1983, when Carl E. Reichardt became CEO, he not only cut costs, but also, through his connections with Hollywood and the fashion industry, started the leg warmer fashion trend.  Why, you ask?  Because if kids thought leg warmers were cool, then they would think Clydesdale, the Wells Fargo mascot, was cool, and hence subconsciously trust Wells Fargo with their money when they got older.  And it worked. 

4.  Scrunchies

scrunchies 80s fashion 90s fashion
Scrunchies, also called Scrunci, are ponytail holders created out of colorful fabric that covers rubber bands.  A woman named Rommy Revson created the hairbands for herself and patented the design with the U.S. Patent Office.  The fashion accessories were later popularized by Debbie Gibson and defined about two generations of hair fashion.

Inspiration: This was not revealed until a few years ago, but it was actually Revson’s schizophrenic sister, Julie, who gave her the idea for the scrunchie.  Julie also had psychopathic (antisocial personality disorder) tendencies and during one particularly bad episode, she apparently killed a small animal and used its intestines to put her hair up in a ponytail. This was the final straw and Revson had her sister institutionalized, but she couldn’t help thinking that the intestines actually looked quite nice.  Though this made her question her own mental health, she designed the scrunchie and the fad took off. 

5.  Beanie Babies

beanie babies
A Beanie Baby is a stuffed animal, created by Ty Inc.  Unlike most stuffed animals, each toy is stuffed with plastic pellets rather than conventional stuffing, giving Beanie Babies a flexible feel.  Each animal is given a unique name, birth date and poem written on the tag.  Beanie Babies began to emerge as popular collectibles in late 1995.  Ty systematically retired designs, leading people to assume that retired designs would rise in value.  The craze lasted through 1999 and ended with the company’s announcement that they would no longer be making Beanie Babies.  They made [E
a bear called “The End.”

Inspiration: Okay, so Beanie Babies were in no way inspired by Methamphetamine (crystal meth) but did have the same addictive properties and damaging side effects. 

[Editor’s Note: The above account is mildly true, in fact, it’s probably mostly not true.  Basically, this is not real.  So don’t sue us!  But it sure did make you laugh, didn’t it?]


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Emily McGregor

Hey hey! I’m Emily McGregor, and I’m Comediva’s VP of Production. I also direct our original videos, but you won’t hear me say “my vision” because that just sounds douchey. If you like our videos, send me whiskey and flowers. If you don’t like them, don’t leave a comment. Follow me @emilyamcgregor

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