Neon lighting–check. Glass block–check. Bright hues and geometric design referencing the Memphis-Milano movement–check. Throw in a dash of 1950s malt-shop, and you have the ’80s teen hangout in all of it’s glory!
The neon, glass bricks and crazy geometry are no surprise, but what about the repeated references to the 1950s that swept the ’80s teen set by storm? There could be many explanations, from the undeniable teen identity conjured by the ’50s malt shop to pure nostalgia (which some say comes in 30-year cycles) to the ’80s boom of ’50s revisitation as exemplified in films like Back to the Future and Peggy Sue Got Married.
Whatever the culprit, in the ’80s, teen decor magically gelled in a candy-colored feast for the eyes. With shapes and colors that made many a sitcom set good enough to eat, the only place to go was up once neon lighting and sparkly fashion-clad young actors embellished the visuals. Oh to be a teen in the ’80s…
Let’s start with Kids Incorporated, which aired from 1984-1993. Each episode featured musical numbers, in which teens performed pop hits of the day inside their hangout The P*alace (The Palace until the first “a” in the neon sign burned out). A ’50s-style counter and neon tubing were two of the many highlights:
Saved by the Bell
Now we go to Saved by the Bell, which began airing in the late ’80s. The show’s signature “edgy” style was exemplified by the decor of The Max, the local hangout which boasted a jukebox, glass block windows, and enough Memphis-Milano design movement references to indoctrinate the most unsuspecting of teens.
The Facts of Life
Let’s revisit The Facts of Life and its wonderfully blatant celebration of ’80s pop culture. While technically a store rather than a hangout, retail outlet Over Our Heads is born when housemother Mrs. Garrett’s shop (Edna’s Edibles) is destroyed by a fire. The result: the largest collection of useless trinkets under one roof, but presented so enticingly that one can’t help but remember shopping for plastic dead weight at the local mall during those magical days of youth. Good thing Natalie, Jo, Blair and Tootie are there to oversee the merchandise in all of its pastel glory.
We leave you with this clip from Kids Incorporated, featuring the Dead or Alive hit “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record).” Which may seem like an odd choice for a kids’ show until you realize that the young talent of Kids Incorporated covered virtually every pop song known to man during the glory days of the show.
And this clip has a twist: Rather than rocking out in standard Kids Incorporated fashion, the teens and tweens dance and sing while sporting bizarre glasses and disguises, elevating the piece to the level of performance art. Enjoy!
Thanks for joining us as we traveled back to a simpler time–one of plastic and the shameless use of all things bright and shiny. Wasn’t youth grand?!