Ask anybody who grew up in the ’80s and they’ll tell you: the fashion and hairstyles were hideous and we hope they never come back.
Wait, what? I meant they’ll tell you that the ’80s were a totally rad decade. Those of us who were kids at the time have fond memories of proudly redeeming Book-It certificates at Pizza Hut, strapping our feet with roller skates or jelly shoes, and plastering our Trapper Keepers with scented stickers.
It was a simpler time in a lot of ways, and if you look back fondly on those days — enough to name your baby in tribute to them, perhaps — we’ve got a few suggestions. “Just Say No” to boring names and embrace this tubular treasure trove of ’80s inspired classics.
“Madison’s not a name,” says Tom Hanks’ character, Allen Bauer, in everybody’s fave ’80s mermaid flick Splash. He may have been dismayed that his aquatic girlfriend picked her name from a street sign in NYC, but joke’s on Allen Bauer — after the release of the film, Madison skyrocketed up the baby name popularity charts, hitting its peak at #3 in 2000.
There was hardly an ’80s kid that didn’t beg their parents for a Teddy Ruxpin, the bear that would “talk” when you slipped a cassette tape into his back. But moooom, if you get me one of these, you won’t have to read any more bedtime stories! And if Teddy Ruxpin wasn’t your jam, there’s always Buddy — as in My Buddy, the doll with the red overalls and sassy bowl cut that always looked so fun on the commercials.
Okay, so this name does have somewhat of a ’60s hippie vibe, but hear me out. It’s actually a very relevant word for ’80s kids, for two reasons: Rainbow Brite and Reading Rainbow. If you’re picturing Rainbow Brite’s fabulous padded, multi-hued costume and the signature star on her cheek, and/or humming the Reading Rainbow theme song (Butterfly in the skyyyyy … I can go twice as hiiiiigh …) while picturing LeVar Burton’s smiling face, then you understand what I’m talking about. But you don’t have to take my word for it. (Bonus points if you read that in LeVar Burton’s voice.)
Speaking of fabulous costumes, who didn’t love the big (pink!) ’80s hair and rockin’ face paint of Jem, the “truly truly truly outrageous” lead singer of Jem and the Holograms? In the cartoon, which aired from 1985-88, Jem was the stage name of music company owner Jerrica Benton. But Jem doesn’t necessarily have to be a girl’s name … just look at To Kill a Mockingbird and its character Jeremy Atticus “Jem” Finch.
Place names are on-trend these days, but this one has particular significance to the ’80s. Of all the political issues of the decade, the Berlin Wall was a biggie. From 1961 to 1989, it divided Germany into West and East, amid much strife. In a June 1987 speech, then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan made what would become an infamous statement when he implored, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” And while we’re on the subject …
The man who was President from 1981-1989 — literally the majority of the decade — is probably the catalyst for the spelling of this name becoming so popular. The name Regan has been around for quite a while, but its unsavory associations (lookin’ at you, Regan MacNeil from The Exorcist) coupled with the spelling of the President’s last name made this spelling, Reagan, far surpass its alternate spelling in terms of popularity.
Back in the day before we had electronics to glue our eyeballs to, we played games. And those games were almost always manufactured by Parker Brothers. The company was eventually purchased by Hasbro, but that doesn’t stop us ’80s kids from associating fun times with that black-and-white Parker Brothers logo featuring the trippy-looking swirl.
While you were mesmerized by the TV during Saturday morning cartoons (okay, so maybe we did have electronics to glue our eyeballs to), you no doubt were familiar with Morris: the perpetually-unimpressed orange spokes-cat for 9Lives cat food. He is considered a great advertising icon to this day.
If you were lucky, you owned a coveted item from Japanese company Casio, who was (and is) famous for its fancy digital watches and calculators. But the best Casio product for ’80s kids were its keyboards, which we used to plunk out sweet tunes against an electro-beat backdrop. No doubt annoying the hell out of our parents in the process, TBH.
If there’s a show that’s ubiquitously ’80s, it’s “Family Ties.” You’d gather round the old Magnavox every week and tune into the family-friendly shenanigans of the Keatons and their kids: flighty-but-pretty Mallory, straitlaced and ambitious Alex, and no-nonsense Jennifer. Oh, and in the last seasons, the little one … Andy.
Arguably one of the greatest movies of the 1980s, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial made us all wish for our own adorable alien invasion. One of its main characters was, of course, Elliott … and if you’re a true ’80s aficionado, you can hear E.T. saying it in your head.
’80s kids will never forget the first time we laid eyes on the big, boxy Apple II series computers: most likely at school, because home computers weren’t a thing then. We were awed by our newfound ability to play Oregon Trail … and, subsequently, frustrated at “dying from dysentery.” I bet this is exactly what Gwyneth Paltrow had in mind when she named her daughter Apple in 2004.
If you ever cuddled up to a Cabbage Patch Kid in the 1980s (and who didn’t?), you know that each CPK butt bore the scrawling signature of its creator: Xavier Roberts. We don’t have to talk about why we were even looking at their butts in the first place.
One of the must-have clothing brands of the ’80s (and the most usable as a baby name, unless you want to go with Jordache or Izod) was Esprit. Can’t you still picture the bright colors and those logo sweatshirts? As a bonus, this name has a super-cool meaning; it’s actually a word for “the quality of being lively, vivacious, or witty.”
It sounds literary (thanks, Thoreau), and I guess it is — because the ’80s inspiration behind this name is the mall store we all visited while our moms were getting perms: Waldenbooks. Where else could you browse the latest issues of YM magazine, or pick up a copy of the new books from the Sweet Valley High or Baby-Sitters’ Club or Choose Your Own Adventure series?
The preppy look so prized in the 1980s wasn’t complete without a pair of Sperry Topsiders, the penny loafers that were best worn with pegged jeans and an Izod shirt with a sweater casually-but-not-casually thrown over the shoulders. And if you weren’t preppy? There were Vans or Jordans.
Raise your hand if your parents or grandparents followed along with the decade-long saga of the greedy, backstabbing Ewing family on “Dallas” every week. *raises hand* It was like the “stories” your mom and grandma watched during the day, but in prime time.
If you were one of the cool kids who owned a first-generation Nintendo, The Legend of Zelda was probably one of the first games you played (and were obsessed with, much to your parents’ dismay). Outside of Mario, naturally.
One of the biggest denim brands of the ’80s — with the most scandalous ads, to boot — was Calvin Klein. It was, after all, 1980 when a then-15-year-old Brooke Shields posed in super-tight jeans and uttered the controversial line, “Do you know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.”
Even if you’re “just a small town girl, livin’ in a lonely world,” “Don’t Stop Believin'” that Journey was one of the most iconic bands we rocked out to in the ’80s, “Faithfully” producing four albums during that decade.
Want more decade-inspired names? Here are some names that remind us of the ’90s.
Looking for more baby name inspiration? Check out Scary Mommy’s comprehensive baby name database!
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