The 1980s

Punk didn’t really impact on Kays. In fact, although youth subcultures multiplied increasingly rapidly during this decade, most passed under the Kays catalogues radar.

The checked shirts and donkey jackets worn first by skinheads and then by Smiths’ fans were sold in the catalogue as work wear, not styled as fashion items, just as the heavy denim jeans popularised by James Dean had been in the early 1950s.

By the 1980s, the slender athletic female figures of the previous decade became alarmingly skinny as ‘unisex’ and then skin-tight ‘body-conscious’ styling was introduced.

‘Big Gals’ were still encouraged to wear girdles in order to squeeze themselves into Lycra jeans. Either that or resign themselves to wearing a small range of polyester smocks that were a far cry from the tailored styles for ‘Outsized’ women in the 1960s.

In order to lose weight, young women bought leotards for the new aerobics classes, or resorted to more drastic measures. In 1983, Karen Carpenter became the first high-profile casualty of anorexia nervosa, brought on by a desperate desire to be thin.

By the late 1980s, the brash ‘yuppie’ culture of the wealthy Young Urban Professional had introduced masculine-styled ‘power dressing’ for women. Men’s suits, influenced by Armani’s loosely structured designs modelled to great effect in US TV series Miami Vice, lost their tailored shape and were worn with casual loafers and even t-shirts, quite a departure from the formality of the previous decades.