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The 1980s: What made the decade flashy and dangerous

Silke Wünsch db
November 23, 2018

Flashy fashion, plastic and New Wave music, prime time TV series called Dallas and Dynasty, Rubik's cubes, the Cold War and Michael Jackson: No other decade was as diverse as the 1980s. A museum showcases memories.

red 1980s phone
Image: Sven Adelaide

If you are 50 years old or thereabouts, you will remember the strange hair styles, the shoulder pads and the clothes in bright neon colors as well as music that sounded like it came from the depths of a plastic bucket. You will remember the peace movement, dying forests and, in Germany, the environmentalist Greens party entering parliament for the first time.

The 1980s was a decade fraught by unimaginable threat scenarios involving nuclear wars and nuclear energy, and it was a decade that celebrated many a revolution small and large, a legacy that still lives on today.

The Oldenburg State Museum for Art and Cultural history has dedicated a special exhibition to 1980s culture, titled "Madonna, Manta, Mauerfall. Die achtziger Jahre in der Bundesrepublik" (Madonna, Manta, Fall of the Berlin Wall. The 1980s in Germany). The show promises visitors checking out the 350 exhibits some unforgettable "flashback moments."

cordless phone L
A sensation: the cordless phoneImage: Sven Adelaide

Science Fiction come true

Today, we may smirk at the first, unwieldy mobile phones, but for people back then, they were science fiction come true.

Computers became common in households, even if the idea had previously been rejected as preposterous. Computer and communications technology plays a large role in the exhibition, and some of it is interactive: visitors can try out original 1980s computers and play video games, too.

Politics and Nirvana

References to one of the biggest scandals in Germany in the 20th century are part of the show, says its curator, Michael Reinbold: "We will be presenting one of the fake Hitler diaries by Konrad Kujau."

clothes on mannequins
Padded shoulders and gaudy colors marked 1980s fashionImage: Sven Adelaide

On display are also the leather jacket Udo Lindenberg  once gave East German leader Erich Honecker, and rare memorabilia from a Nirvana concert in Oldenburg 1989.

Fashion trends

Tapered jeans were in, along with shoulder pads, headbands, wide belts in neon and metallic tones worn by men with a mullet hairstyle or women with their hair in a fluffy perm. Lifestyle cults from poppers to punkers emerged, to the soundtracks of German Neue Deutsche Welle music, or Michael Jackson , Madonna and Prince.

The exhibition that showcases objects from private collectors, public culture institutions and the museum's own collection is on from November 25 to February 24, 2019 at Oldenburg Palace.