In the 1950s, Beaver’s mom sent him to school everyday with his plaid button down shirt tucked neatly into his blue jeans, and his hair plastered neatly to his head. Once out of the house, his only sign of rebellion was to plop his baseball cap on his head. The 1980s were a different story. What our parents sent us to school in rarely resembled the 80s outfits we actually sported throughout the day.
Every morning, mom approved the sensible outfit her daughter wore into the kitchen for breakfast. Her Add-A-Bead necklace was on. Then, she left the house and hopped on the bus. Crouching in the back seat, she ripped off the sweater and polo, revealing an over-sized “Relax” t-shirt in neon pink and white. She tore the headband from her head, pulled out a can of spray, and teased her hair into a giant, swirling, abstract sculpture that wouldn’t bend in a hurricane. She slipped on some polka dotted leggings, and slipped off the A-Line to reveal a neon miniskirt short enough to qualify as a postage stamp.
Tucking her necklace inside the voluminous t-shirt, she was ready to face the school day.the perfect accessory for her white sweater over her oh so neat Izod polo shirt. Her A-Line skirt ended sensibly at her knees, and was either khaki, or color-coordinated to match her shirt. Her hair was perfectly neat, held in place by a wide headband, or a set of ribbon barrettes that matched her outfit. What a dream child, none of those wild 80s outfits for this girl.
His transformation began on the bus, as well. As soon as he was out of mom’s sight, the Oxford was stuffed into his book bag. In its place was a worn and tattered t-shirt, usually black, that advertised the punk and rock groups his mom hated: Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, the Ramones, Judas Priest, or, later in the 80s, Metallica. His jeans became festooned with over-sized safety pins, and, on occasion, he ripped them across the knees and thighs.
He knew he could explain away the rips and tears later. His bucks joined the Oxford in favor of his Vans or Combat Boots. He then finished his preparations by taking out a can of mousse, and turning his hair into an imitation Mohawk, or a face-covering wave of “I don’t care.”The gender descendants of Beaver showed almost as much duplicity in his 80s outfits. Every morning, he appeared at the breakfast table in a pinstriped button down Oxford, sensibly tucked into the top of his Levi’s 501 blue jeans. His blue jeans, although snug, didn’t seem to be obscenely tight, and they draped the top of his deck shoes or bucks. His hair was combed neatly to the side, with a part as clear and sharp as the edge of a knife. He was respectability defined.
Beaver? He wouldn’t have died of emphysema in these school bathrooms, or found his head orbiting a toilet bowl. The beautiful little children that left the house every morning as the apple of mom’s eye transformed themselves into the Children of the Corn before the bus shuddered to a stop in front of the school. The 80s outfits that parents thought their kids wore to school bore little resemblance to the sartorial upheaval that actually held sway in America’s “Rock N Roll” high schools.