Iconic '80s Fashion: Acid Wash vs. Leggings

On this episode of Criss Cross Counter Punch, The Weirdgirl and Mamatulip debate which was the more iconic '80s fashion: acid wash or leggings.

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The Weirdgirl: Flashback to the '80s: you're getting ready for a concert. Maybe your first concert. Maybe a concert with that special someone who doesn't yet know you think he's special. You want to look trendy but with a little edge, like you could hold your own if a throw-down happened, if you weren't already too cool for anyone to mess with. A look that said you thought about it, but not too much. And you especially want the ideal light wash that highlights your derriere to perfection as you dance the night away. So what do you grab?

Acid wash jeans! One of the defining forces of '80s fashion. It was in the '80s that designer jeans really took off, yet jeans still represented the working class and rock and roll rebellion. The look of negligent coolness was in, and almost everyone (even you) fell for it at one point or another. Secretly wearing out your jeans until they were so exquisitely pale you had to sit down carefully behind your grade 10 desk, so you didn't bust out the butt.

Then acid wash came along! Acid wash took all the work out of lightening your jeans to that perfect shade. They were cool, they were cutting edge, and they were a look no one had seen before (the '80s loved innovation). The just right blend of money spent and ruggedness. Suddenly you could sit down without fear! And acid wash, being jeans, went with everything. You could throw on a preppy sweater or a mod vest and it still worked. With that type of versatility is it any wonder acid wash is making a comeback today?

Mamatulip: There are a lot of things that come to mind when I think about the eighties – big hair (pulled up in neon scrunchies, no doubt), slouch socks, miniskirts and of course, acid wash. Yet one of the things that completely defines the eighties – for me, anyway – is leggings. But in my day, they weren't called leggings. They were stretchy pants.

Stretchy pants. It's safe to say that they were totally awesome. They were comfortable, versatile and cheap; with the right accessories, a pair of stretchy pants made an outfit. They represented a large percentage of my wardrobe for a good five to seven years: I wore stretchy pants with dresses and skirts, underneath ripped jeans and on their own, paired with an oversized shirt, preferably in neon.

I wore stretchy pants underneath those spandex bicycle shorts – you know, the ones with the bright neon stripe down the side? Oh yes, I did. And those crushed velvet leggings? Yeah, I wore those for much, much longer than I probably should have. (Case in point: I think I was like, fifteen in this picture. Aw, yeah.)

(Nothing says Happy Holidays! like crushed velvet leggings.)

They're tried, tested and true. Leggings are just as popular today, if not more, as they were back in the day. Long live leggings!

The Weirdgirl: It is your very argument that proves "stretchy pants" are not nearly as iconically '80s as acid wash. People are still wearing them today, whether they're called leggings or stretchy pants (or the sneakier reincarnation: yoga pants)! Sure, leggings are wonderfully comfy - I've had long-term relationships with a few myself - but that very comfort is what also leads to the horrible fashion abuses you see everywhere! People wearing stretchy pants without a long enough top. People in too thin black leggings wearing white undies... and then bending over! People who forget that leggings show everything, things they might not want showing. (You wouldn't think camel toe would occur with stretchy pants, but I've SEEN it, the horror!) People who are just too darn old to be rocking the stretchy pants and sports bra (sorry, Grandma). I propose that leggings, by their very nature of comfort/potential evil, have left both the realms of the '80s and of being fashionable. Acid wash jeans, on the other hand, will never lose points for holding everything in (you know what I'm talking about). And unlike some of the "faded out" jean finishes that are popular today (you know that lighter swatch that appears on the thighs and butt?), the uniform light effect of acid wash will never make you look bigger in unfortunate areas.

Mamatulip: I've gotta give credit where credit is due – you raise a good point, Weirdgirl. Yes, people abuse leggings on a daily basis – people who really shouldn't be wearing leggings – and yes, acid wash jeans are far more concealing than a pair of stretchy pants. But leggings have stood the test of time; they've grown with the ages. They ruled the '80s, survived the '90s relatively unscathed and became a fashion staple in the new millennium, unlike acid wash, which lived – nay, raged – and died in the same decade. Acid wash is so iconic because of the way it instantly represents the eighties, and that, essentially, has limited the look – a person walking down the road wearing acid wash today would, on some level, look dated, whereas leggings have yet to date themselves, and I doubt they ever will.

The Weirdgirl: Aw, but there are people walking down the street wearing acid wash! And those people are celebrities! They have been popping up all over recently in their light denim fannies and that means the fashion world realizes it wrote off acid wash prematurely. We only roll our eyes at acid wash because we've been conditioned to roll our eyes at all that is the '80s, not because it actually looks bad (*cough* unlike leggings *cough cough*). With the fashion world, and more importantly, the celebrities who we follow without question, taking a second look, that perception is bound to change. Leggings will always be those "comfy pants". Acid wash is the denim you willingly pay too much money for.

Mamatulip: Well I know one thing for sure – you won't find me willingly paying too much money for a pair of acid wash jeans, let alone wearing them. What do you think? When it comes to iconic '80s fashion, does acid wash trump leggings, or vice versa?

(Special thanks to Culture Brats' own Jenny for allowing us to post an awesomely eighties photo - top right - of her, sporting an acid wash jacket and some pretty hot bangs.)

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