When choosing a
baby name, we all revert to thinking back on our childhood and asking ourself, “Who does this name remind me of?” I’m convinced that’s why we parents don’t usually pick names that are ubiquitous among our classmates and peers; maybe we fought with a Jenny or were ignored by a Tracy, or dated a Danny who broke up with us... and so on.
Many parents also want to tiptoe around the
current popular baby names and find a name that’s unique but not odd. Well, there is plenty of inspiration to be had not just in current pop culture (hello, names inspired by ) but in our way-back youth, or at least in my way-back youth, back in the dawn of Yellowstone Gen X.
The ‘80s and early ‘90s saw an explosion of pop-culture phenomena — movies, TV shows, songs and supermodels — that can now be mined for overlooked, underutilized baby names. Several of these can even work for a boy or a girl. Let me introduce you to a few Gen-X-inspired names to consider.
01 Clair or Claire
Without the -e, it’s a nod to the most badass
mom of an ‘80s sitcom, Clair Huxtable. She was a high-powered lawyer and a funny mom in The Cosby Show. With the -e reminds us of Claire Danes, heroine of the short-lived but very important (and currently an expecting mom herself). And, ahem, there is the store, Claire’s, where we bought all of our My So-Called Life important accessories. For us, the name is always gonna have a sweet ring to it. 02 Luke
Don’t pretend that this semi-trending name (it’s in the top 50s for boys) doesn’t have a ring of space cowboy to it.
Star Wars changed all of our lives forever, and Luke is still appearing in the franchise now, in shows like The Mandalorian. It’s a Gen-X classic. And everyone roots for Luke. 03 Jackson Janet Jackson ruled Gen X, and there was also the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the first black man to run for a presidential nomination. Any way you slice it, someone named Jackson seems like they should be a maverick and a groundbreaker. 04 Alanis
Rock goddess of the ‘90s
Alanis Morissette has been enjoying a whole new kind of fame with her Broadway show Jagged Little Pill. She’s dated Ryan Reynolds, had three cute kids, and continued to slay as a songwriter, so it’s time to use her Irish name more often. 05 Josie or Jo Josie and the Pussycats was not just an early-aughts movie, it was a ‘ 70s-era cartoon that featured a girl band frequently tasked with saving the world. To Gen X, Josie always means rockstar. Oh, and of course the nickname “Jo” belonged to our favorite rebel from . The Facts of Life 06 Lily
There are a lot of Violets, Ivys, and Willows in this generation. If you want a flower name that’s relevant but not ubiquitous, why not go back to Lily, the name that ‘80s icon Phil Collins gave his
now- daughter? Emily-in-Paris 07 Elliot/Elliott low-key devastates every kid who sees it. But while the name Elliott ranked only 371 in boy’s names when the movie came out in 1982, it’s up to 169 now because we all have nothing but sympathy and love for that young boy. But even in the top 200, this is a sadly undervalued name — we say grab it. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial 08 Keaton
This name manages to sound fun and serious all at the same time. We loved the Keatons of
Family Ties and the way that family modeled having different political beliefs but calm (if snarky) discourse. Also, Michael J. Fox is a national treasure, which brings us to... 09 Fox
This is for the star of
Back to the Future, an all-around “point of light,” as we would have said in 1988. Also, this harkens back to Fox Mulder, the handsome and sarcastic lead of The X-Files. 10 Samantha or Sam
Samantha was the girl we cheered for in the now-cringy
Sixteen Candles (no need to screen that one for the kids), and she often went by Sam, which was adorable. Sam was also the Alyssa Milano character in the classic Who’s The Boss. These days we love Sam for any gender. 11 Diamond
More was more in the ‘80s, and shows like
Dynasty were all about diamonds, diamonds, and more diamonds. Also, Lou Diamond Phillips was hot back in that era. The name is in the top 300 for girls right now, which means it’s not obscure, but there’s also not likely to be another Diamond in kindergarten. 12 Calvin (and Hobbes)
My ‘80s husband still reads this comic about a boy and his stuffed tiger every day — it appears in his Facebook feed. Calvin is in the top 200 of boys’ names, while Hobbes is
way down this list. So, the latter is good if you’re looking for something super rare. Much to our delight, our 17-year-old has one friend Calvin and another friend Hobbes. There should be babies with these names to keep them going for another generation. 13 Martha
The name of an original MTV VJ (video deejay) has been falling out of favor which means your kid can own it.
14 Niki/Nikki or Nick
I spent my college years staring at the unattainable beauty of Niki Taylor, but I forgive her because she seems to be such a genuinely sweet person. In the ‘80s, Nikki also meant Nikki Sixx, the hard-rocking Mötley Crüe songwriter. And then there was Prince’s “Darling Nikki,” which we were not supposed to listen to per Tipper Gore. Also: gorgeous Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran! Perhaps none of this is selling you on naming your baby Nick but let me just say, to an ‘80s person, Nikki will always mean beautiful.
Simon Says was an early electronic game that came out at every sleepover; it also references Duran Duran again, and its lead singer Simon Lebon. Plus, there was also a goofy ‘80s detective TV show called Simon & Simon. It’s ranking as something like number 300 in boys’ names, so it’s totally worth grabbing.
16 Madelyn or Maddie
In the ‘80s, one of my very favorite shows was
— and Cybill Shepherd’s character, Madelyn-who-went-by-Maddie, was magnetic. It’s still one of my favorite-ever names. Moonlighting 17 Phoenix
Ending this list with a place name. In the ‘80s, everyone wanted to live someplace warm like Miami or Los Angeles or Phoenix. We wore palm trees on our T-shirts and dressed like we were ready to play golf. The Phoenix acting family, with River especially, burst onto the scene. The name is rising in popularity, so maybe we’ve had enough of the Dakotas and the Brooklyns and are ready to head back to Phoenix.