17 Things From the ‘80s That Are No Longer Socially Acceptable

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By Darryl Henderson

The ‘80s was a unique decade, filled with neon colors, interesting fashion choices, and the ever-present smell of hairspray wafting through the air. However, it wasn’t all rosy, with issues such as sexism and homophobia rife in society. Here are 17 things from the ‘80s that are no longer acceptable. 

Not Recycling

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In the 1980s, recycling wasn’t the norm and was instead seen as a progressive, almost ‘hippie’ thing to do. However, due to the rise of environmental awareness, it has now become a part of a lot of Americans’ routines. Currently, as reported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 32% of Americans recycle.

Smoking Indoors

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People’s attitudes to smoking have drastically changed since the 1980s, a time when people would often smoke at indoor venues such as pubs, restaurants, and bars. Nowadays, there are very few countries that allow for indoor smoking, with bans in the US coming into law in the 2000s.

Casual Sexism

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It wasn’t long ago that casual sexism was a defining factor of the American workplace, with no action taken against the main perpetrators. Gender equality has made large strides since the ‘80s, with sexism not accepted in any of its many forms.

Cultural Appropriation

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Showing respect for other peoples’ cultures wasn’t high on the priority lists of many during the 1980s, with a lot of fashion items influenced by the national dress of other nations. Fancy dress costumes were also a major culprit, leaning heavily into various stereotypes.

Casual Homophobia

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There was a time when the word ‘gay’ was thrown around as a derogatory insult, which has thankfully been stamped out of society. There’s a considerably wider acceptance that this is a backward way of thinking and can’t be a part of a progressive society.

Wearing Fur

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Fur coats made from the skin of animals used to be a sign of class and luxury, with no consideration of ethical practices and the welfare of animals. Animal rights campaigners and groups have since taken steps to eradicate fur clothing from society.

Showing Up Unannounced

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With a lack of mobile phones or instant messaging, the 1980s was a time when people would show up at your front door unannounced, springing you into an unexpected social interaction. It’s now considered against social norms to turn up at somebody’s door without warning them before your arrival.

Women Not Being Financially Independent

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Back in the 1980s, women had far less control over their finances and careers than they do now, with archaic beliefs that they should be doing domestic work still lingering. This is no longer the case, although there’s still work to be done. In a report by The Independent, only 45% of women say they feel financially independent.

Shaming Tattoos

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There was once a cloud hanging over tattoos, with many believing that they would hold people back in a professional setting. This is no longer the case as workplaces become more accepting and diverse, with the Harvard Business Review suggesting that it will no longer hurt your job prospects.

Looking Down on Disabled People

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In the 1980s, there was far less mental protection handed to disabled people, as they would often be called derogatory names and often disregarded for job roles. Many employers will now ensure that they treat each candidate equally, whether they are able-bodied or disabled. 

Mental Health Stigma

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Millennials and Gen Z have taken great strides in improving mental health awareness into the mainstream. There is no longer a stigma around speaking out about mental struggles such as anxiety and depression, especially for men, like there was back in the 1980s.

Babies Out of Wedlock

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The fact that having a baby outside of marriage was once deemed to be a taboo issue, even if the parents had been in a long-term relationship, is laughable to young people growing up in modern times. However, in the 1980s, it wasn’t the norm.

Hitting Children

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Parenting is regarded as having been considerably more strict in the 1980s, with parents unafraid to hit their children if they believed they were misbehaving. This method of parenting has largely been eradicated from society as it is seen as overly brutal and mentally damaging.

No Consideration for Dietary Requirements

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Having a food allergy in the 1980s was difficult, as restaurants were far less likely to accommodate you, and food packaging was less open about the ingredients used. There were also fewer vegan and vegetarian options on restaurant menus.

Children Being Left to Play Out

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Children in the 1980s were given a lot more freedom, often playing out daily until the sun went down. However, an increase in safety worries and the rise of technology has meant that only 27% of kids now play outside, compared to 71% of the baby boomer generation, according to Save the Children.


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Hitchhiking was a common mode of transport for young people looking to get somewhere without paying for it. A string of scandals and tragedies involving hitchhikers in the years since the 1980s has made it a rare practice, as well as six US states have made it illegal.

Children Buying Cigarettes for Parents

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It wasn’t uncommon 40 years ago for small children to be sent to the store to buy cigarettes on behalf of their parents. They would often require a note to do so, but shopkeepers would happily oblige in handing over a pack to someone below the age of 15.