I’m a t-shirt kinda guy. Always have been, probably always will be. Sure, I clean up nice on special occasions, but nothing beats a comfy tee – preferably with some sort of antiquated, obscure, or flat-out offensive message emblazoned upon it. Yep, I’m one of those types who likes a good ol’ vintage t-shirt. They look cool, and plus they fit better!
No decade embraced this fashion choice more than the 1980s, and nowhere was it more noticeable than the various cult films over the years. My love and appreciation of these films is probably why I have such an affinity for weird, wordy, retro tees. Or maybe it’s my love of weird tees that lends itself to my love of flicks from the 80s?
To celebrate my appreciation of these 50/50 cotton-poly blended gems, I’ve compiled a few screenshots of my favorites from various 80s movies. Now this is far from a comprehensive list; just a compilation of the ones I really dig – the ones that stuck with me. They’re listed, as always, in chronological order. Enjoy and lemme know which ones you like!
I wanna start the list with two honorable mentions, actually. Neither are t-shirts exactly (one is sleeveless, the other is a sweatshirt), but I’ll be damned if they aren’t cool as all get out!
Stripes (1981) & Police Academy (1984)
First up is Lori Singer in Footloose (1984). I fully support curse words on t-shirts, especially when it’s embracing a healthy and positive message. Or when it’s just cursing for cursing’s sake.
This next one is a little weird. Not sure if I find it so troubling because I, without hesitation, would take him up on the offer — or if it’s because he wore this to a Halloween party in the real-life drama, Mask (1985). I mean, Cher’s kid Rocky is dying of a super rare disease, and you show up rocking that tee? I guess that’s why nobody puts Sam Elliott in the corner.
This one may be a little hard to see, but this amazing shirt from Aliens (1986) says, “Peace Through Superior Firepower”. Kinda prophetic, ain’t it? Anyway, I wear a size small (or Youth XL) in case any a-you charitable types wanna snag me one.
Oh boy, The Feldster. While Corey Feldman’s personal attire has always been pretty embarrassing — especially during his Michael Jackson phase (1988 – Current) — he’s always been pretty decked out in his movies. Look no further than the film The Lost Boys (1987). I always felt his Edgar Frog character was some distant relative to his Ricky Butler character from the film The ‘Burbs (1989), but that’s another article entirely. Feldman’s hard-to-see shirt says “Why Waltz When You Can Rock & Roll?”, and it’s got an AK-47 on it. Look, I’m no gun nut or anything, but there’s no denying: that is a badass shirt. Again, size small/Youth XL for those reading.
Confession: I own this next shirt. I don’t care if that makes me lame, or wannabe-cool, or a dum-dum or what. Stephen King does, in fact, rule – as does the shirt itself. As does Monster Squad (1987). It’s a win-win-win. Fun fact: I wore this to a horror convention last year and so did one other person — A 50-something grandma type. I still say the shirt is cool.
Poor Martha Dunnstock. Besides the fact that she’s alienated, picked on and given the nickname “Martha Dumptruck”, her short, permed hair is the true tragedy. It’s so painfully 80s. But at least she’s got that awesome Big Fun shirt. Big Fun, of course, being the fictional band that sings the incredibly catchy “Teenage Suicide (Don’t Do It)”, from the film Heathers (1988). Considering Martha walks into traffic shortly after this scene, I don’t think the song worked. (Don’t worry, she lives! Oh, SPOILERS. Sorry.)
This beaut from The Great Outdoors (1988) is just a simple, cool looking shirt. Nothing particularly spectacular about it, but it definitely looks like something you could find in your local thrift store if you dug deep enough. Plus, it’s being sported by the dude who gives Danny his magic ticket in Last Action Hero (1993)!
Okay, so this list didn’t start as a competition, and it’s not intended to be, but these next three characters have to be handled a little differently. There’s no doubt in my mind that they not only are the most memorably-clad of the decade, but that their styles helped influence and solidify the quirky/offensive/wordy t-shirt trend that exists today. Bold statement, sure. But just check these out and tell me I’m way off base.
First up, your friend and mine, Stiles Stilinski from Teen Wolf (1985). The man might not have been the smoothest operator when trying to score a keg from the liquor store, but boy he sure knew how to wear a t-shirt. Let’s take a look:
“What Are You Looking At Dicknose”, “Life Sucks Then You Die”, and “Obnoxious: The Movie”. Classics. I know “Dicknose” is a crowd favorite, but – while it does have a nice ring to it – I gotta say my favorite is “Obnoxious: The Movie”. It’s a head-scratcher, which gives it that extra edge. T-shirts should do one of three things: educate, offend, or confuse. If you wear one that can do all three, hell, you’re doing it right. And don’t it look great on that robin’s egg blue shirt?
Next up is probably my favorite character from an 80s comedy, hands down: Dudley “Booger” Dawson, from Revenge of the Nerds (1984). I don’t want to say he’s a direct influence on my wardrobe/personality, because he’s such a scumbag. But I also don’t want to say he’s not, because then I’d be lying.
If Stiles was the high school version of the lame-o who thinks he’s hotshit, Booger is definitely the college version. But what Booger lacks in hygiene and charm he makes up for in amazing t-shirts. Check ‘em:
“Gimme’ Head Till I’m Dead”, “High On Stress”, “Who Farted?”, and “Greasy Tony’s”. First off, “Who Farted?” is timeless. Secondly, tell me that “Greasy Tony’s” shirt isn’t one you’d see hawked at some store in the mall. And “Gimme’ Head”? I mean, the man is a fashion icon. If you’re a scumbag and you know it, clap your hands *clap, clap*
However, despite his extensive and awe-inspiring collection, Booger is not the ultimate t-shirt idol of the 80s. That honor actually goes to Val Kilmer’s Chris Knight character in Real Genius (1985). While not as offensive as I like, they’re all still really cool. Some may be hard to read, but I’ll go through them:
“International Order For Gorillas”, “Roy Rogers Olympic Games 1984″, “Summer Games 1984″, “Surf Nicaragua”, “I (heart) Toxic Waste”.
Now, I’m not sure on the history of all these shirts, but the word is that Val Kilmer was friends with Roy Rogers and eventually bought his house, so that may have something to do with the Roy Rogers shirt. But why “Roy Rogers Olympic Games 1984″? Remember: it’s important to confuse. The other shirts are just as bewildering and colorful, and one was apparently popular enough to pop up in another film: “Summer Games 1984″, which shows a runner in a gas mask, carrying a torch, smoggy Los Angeles in the background — that shirt also made an appearance in Repo Man (1984). That’s gotta be a first, right? And “I (heart) Toxic Waste”? Forget about it.
Well, that concludes my list of favorite t-shirts from 80s movies. Although I didn’t include Chainsaw from Summer School (1987). He had a couple really cool tees in that film. As did Billy from Big (1988).
Looks like it’s time to start working on a second list.