Members Only

Please note: to read this article, you need to own a "Members Only" jacket. Check out the sweet epaulets on the jacket. I used to put my gloves in there during the winter.

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Fashion Faux Pas

Members Only, Bugle Boy and L.A. Gear

At the dawn of the decade, an obscure company called Europe Craft Imports revolutionized the men's outerwear market with a tight- fitting shiny cotton jacket, adorned with a throat latch, snap epaulets and, most important, a small but conspicuous "Members Only" tag over the left breast pocket. True, there was a certain inherent paradox to a $65 mass-market product, available in two dozen hues, whose name spoke of exclusivity.

That didn't seem to faze the typical '80s Lothario, who appreciated a design that allowed the flipped-up collar of his Polo shirt to remain fashionably visible while retro-dancing to Motown classics at Crush Club Continental on North Cahuenga Boulevard or waiting in line outside L.A.'s other hot '80s singles scenes. (No wonder that a couple of decades later, singer Sheryl Crow would lyrically observe: "He seems to be stuck in the '80s/He wears his Members Only jacket/'cause he thinks it turns on all the ladies.") Scrunched-up (as opposed to rolled-up) sleeves were mandatory. Members Only jackets were in such demand that, by 1984, counterfeiters were selling $5 million worth of phony ones a year.

The origin of the leg warmers fad is a little less clear. One historical source suggests that the bunched-up tube of knitted cotton, a traditional bit of ballet garb, first emerged as an everyday accessory during the frigid East Coast winter of 1981-1982, when women started wearing them under their slacks. Others suspect it was the influence of "Jane Fonda's Workout," the 1982 video whose cover showed the actress-turned-fitness maven flexing her cotton- enshrouded gastrocnemius muscles. In any case, leg warmer sales rose more than 340% that year, according to Forbes magazine.

Leg warmers were the first inkling of fitness fashion, in which leotards and baggy sweatshirts--slipping off one shoulder, as worn by "Flashdance" actress Jennifer Beals--became acceptable street wear, creating the illusion that women were continually headed to, or coming back from, an aerobics studio. In L.A., where that wasn't necessarily an illusion, exercise fanatics had by 1985 taken to wearing two or three pairs of leg warmers at a time, in varying colors.

Perhaps the most inexplicable fashion trend of the late '80s was acid-wash denim, an Italian invention whose name was a bit misleading. Instead of soaking jeans in acid, clothing makers put them in giant washers, along with pumice stones soaked in bleach, for three to four hours at a time. The tumbling created random spots and streaks on the garments, giving them a sort of factory-reject look that teens and young adults found irresistibly chic....

In 1983, Chatsworth-based clothing manufacturer Bugle Boy, inspired by Michael Jackson's hardware-laden wardrobe, dreamed up tight-fitting parachute pants, which were made of nylon and decorated with multiple zippers. The style caught on, supposedly because the slippery texture was ideal for break dancing. Demand mushroomed so fast that in 1983 and 1984, Bugle Boy and a single retailer, Merry Go Round, had the fad all to themselves. They sold 10 million pairs in a single year....

And, of course, there's the quintessential '80s footwear, L.A. Gear sneakers. The Marina del Rey-based brand was founded in 1986 by Robert Greenberg, a multitalented impresario who once made $3 million in three months peddling E.T.-themed shoelaces. While Nike and Adidas shoes were functional, L.A. Gear shoes were all about fashion. One model came in gold lame, while others had punk-rock style chains. With celebrity spokespeople such as Paula Abdul, Belinda Carlisle and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, L.A. Gear quickly became the No. 3 sneaker brand in America behind Nike and Reebok.

In 1989, the company tried to put itself over the top with "Bad," a black buckle-laden shoe endorsed by Jackson. "Bad" turned out to be as popular among teenagers as the nasty principal in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." L.A. Gear tried to convince trendoids that the next wave in athletic shoes involved lots of clunky hardware, but it ended up losing millions.

zaftig defined

zaftig |ˈzäftig; -tik| (also zoftig)
adjective informal
(of a woman) having a full, rounded figure; plump.
ORIGIN 1930s: Yiddish, from German saftig ‘juicy.’

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