“’Cause we are living in a material world, and I am a material girl.” Madonna, 1984
From hair to defense budgets, shoulder pads to tax cuts, the 1980s were BIG.
After a defeat in war, disillusionment, advances in civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s, and disco, Americans became status seekers and shopaholics—the “Me Generation” was born and Madonna’s “Material Girl” was their anthem. The Eighties are remembered by many as a time of excess and extremes. But this materialism was not embraced or experienced by all Americans, and many pushed the boundaries of what was conventional.
These photographs from the Richmond Times-Dispatch were important when they appeared in the 1980s as evidence of news being reported at the time. Today, they make real what has become legend to a generation who know the events of the decade were important without knowing why. They also help us understand today’s culture, which is being shaped by ’80s kids who are bringing that decade’s values, worldviews, and attitudes back.
Photograph of a DeLorean car. Image courtesy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
The DeLorean might have simply faded into obscurity had it not been for the movie "Back to the Future" (1985), where high school student Marty McFly is accidentally sent 30 years into the past in a time-traveling version of the car.
Photograph of Terry Brawtley. Image courtesy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
This outfit—modeled here by Terry Brawtley—was heavily influenced by clothes popular among urban breakdancers and by the music video for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” which was released the previous year.