There’s so much of eighties culture that makes me think of the stereotypical man’s man. The slicked hair, stubble beard, cigarettes, baggy shoulder padded suits, strong cologne and to top it off; a bright big shiny car to cruise in. It was a time for men to own it and own it they did during this era.
Eighties culture prompted men to reassert their masculinity. While the sixties and seventies brought social change to achieve equality between men and women which was often reflected in youth culture; in the eighties, pop culture was very much masculine focused. It was an age where man was the consumer and products and advertising of the era reflected that. Before the eighties women were commonly portrayed as the face of a product campaign. In the eighties, advertising saw an increase of having a male protagonist for products. These campaigns often reflected society’s definition of masculinity as men would be portrayed as strong, mysterious, with status from self-made success.
The economy at the beginning of the eighties in Western culture was a force to be reckoned with. It was an opportunity for men to earn and earn big. While these were the same men that grew up during the hippy craze of opposing convention and traditional gender roles, the eighties almost took us back in time from social strides that were made in decades prior. With the stock market and the mergers and acquisitions industry, there was plenty to achieve. I can’t help picturing Don Draper in a Miami Vice suit. With all the money to earn, a man’s status was quickly defined by his income.
With money to make, there was also plenty of money to spend. With products and services being advertised to men, men were the primary consumers. The products of that period only further added to culture’s views of what defined a man. Popular products were excessive, bright and flashy, as were the products’ ad campaigns. The messages displayed were stereotypical and often sexist gender roles. Women would swoon over the male character in the ad, purchasing the product. Man was the earner and because of his status, he got all the women. This was a typical story line.
A period’s culture, norms and trends are almost always reflected through art and pop culture. Eighties trends, including its music is often ridiculed today. We look back and think ‘what were they wearing? They look ridiculous!’, and yet in twenty or thirty years people will be saying the exact same thing about our present. Much like the eighties, we currently live in a self-entitled society of complete excess that isn’t just particular to one gender or age group. The music of the eighties created a story that encapsulated the male dominated excess of the era.
If you have a listen to the list below and really listen to the lyrics, you will see the recurring themes of ambition, status and male sexuality. They tell the story of the eighties with all its stereotypes. If you want more clarity of just how much the man’s man characteristics were really driven home during this period, check out some of the music videos for these songs.
1980s Music Mix
- Big Time – Peter Gabriel
- Need You Tonight – INXS
- Eye of the Tiger – Survivor
- Money for Nothing ( I Want My MTV) – Dire Straits feat. Sting
- Material Girl – Madonna
- Body Language – Queen
- I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On – Robert Palmer
- Everybody Wants to Rule The World – Tears for Fears
- Sweet Dreams – Eurythmics
- Under Pressure – David Bowie & Freddie Mercury
- Centerfold – J. Geils Band
- Say Say Say – Paul McCartney feat. Michael Jackson
- In the Air Tonight – Phil Collins
- Relax – Frankie Goes to Hollywood
- Tainted Love – Soft Cell
- Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey
- Pour Some Sugar on Me – Def Leppard
- Abracadabra – The Steve Miller Band
- All Night Long – Lionel Richie
- Born in the U.S.A. – Bruce Springsteen