Prince and shoulder pads, Lionel Richie and mustaches, Rocky Balboa and Ivan Drago – and more of the sexiest, manliest trends of 1985

By Saryn Chorney
Updated November 16, 2015 11:30 AM
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Sunset Boulevard/Corbis

You know that old saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same”? Well, anyone who says that probably doesn’t have the year 1985 in mind. A lot of things were different 30 years ago, including the overall pop culture perception of what was considered sexy. For instance, PEOPLE chose its very first Sexiest Man Alive Mel Gibson.

It’s true, Mel was totally sexy in 1985. He was hot off the set of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome with those dreamy baby blues and an Australian accent to boot, obviously dead sexy in any decade.

Mel Gibson in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome in 1985:

But does this choice hold up today? Well, that’s debatable. However, Mad Max: Fury Road was a huge box office hit last summer and, thus, Gibson’s sexy legacy clearly does live on. You see, everything must be considered in context. Check out 30 other people, places and things that were considered sexy three decades ago – and then tell us how many have stood the test of time in the comments below.

1. George Michael and Wham

If that saxophone riff isn’t sexy, I don’t know what is. “Careless Whisper” was No. 1 on the Billboard charts in 25 countries and sold around 6 million copies worldwide.

2. Prince and Shoulder Pads

The two weren’t mutually exclusive, but Prince’s Purple Rain Tour was redefining sexy across the nation in 1985. Shoulder pads, purple or otherwise, were just gloriously along for the ride.

3. Born in the U.S.A.

I have two sexy words for you: Bruce Springsteen. The album was released in 1984, but it spent all of 1985 in the Top 10, with three weeks at no. 1. It also surfaced as No. 1 at the top of the year-end Billboard chart.

4. Michael J. Fox in Everything

Back to the Future was tops at the box office, meanwhile Family Ties was the No. 2 television series. And don’t forget Teen Wolf or his Pepsi commercial; Fox made likeability the new sexy thing.

5. The Dancing Chicago Bears

1985 was a big year for the football team that not only won the Super Bowl, led by MVP Walter Peyton and lineman William “Refrigerator” Perry, but also released the all-time sexiest NFL rap jam (and only NFL rap jam?), "The Super Bowl Shuffle."

6. Bienvenidos a … Miami Vice

Will Smith was barely a Fresh Prince when Miami Vice, starring Don Johnson (before he was Dakota Johnson’s dad) and Philip Michael Thomas as “Crockett and Tubbs,” took over the boob tube. At the time, PEOPLE said it was “the first show to look really new and different since color TV was invented.” Color TV + pastel suits + girls in neon bikinis = Sexy.

7. Out of Africa Wins the Oscar

Sorry, Taylor Swift and Scott Eastwood: Meryl Streep and Robert Redford did it first. This epic romance featuring the two as star-crossed lovers was the Oscar pick for Best Picture in 1985. And moms then (and probably now) still think of it as sexy, despite certain plot points.

8. Wrestlemania Sweeps the Nation

The original wrestling dream team, Hulk Hogan and Mr. T, won the very first Wrestlemania event on March 31, 1985. Jesse (formerly “The Body”) Ventura was a commentator, Muhammad Ali was Special Guest Referee, Liberace was Special Guest Timekeeper, the Rockettes were just Special Guests and the song "Easy Lover" by Philip Bailey and Phil Collins was the theme song. You just can’t make up that kind of sexy.

9. Feathered Hair on Men (and Women)

As seen here on Andrew McCarthy and Ally Sheedy in 1985’s St. Elmo’s Fire, feathered hair was one of many sexy – albeit androgynous – fashion trends of the ’80s.

10. The Brat Pack

1985’s hit films The Breakfast Club and the aforementioned St. Elmo’s Fire begat the moniker for Hollywood’s then-young (and very cool) actor clique. The core male members included Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Andrew McCarthy, Michael Anthony Hall and Rob Lowe, but you could make a case for Robert Downey Jr., Charlie Sheen, James Spader and a bunch of other sexy ’80s A-Listers (and I do).

11. Don Henley and "The Boys of Summer"

Former Eagles frontman and ’70s sex symbol Don Henley went solo in the ’80s and made some sexy music like “All She Wants to Do Is Dance” and “The Boys of Summer,” which won the MTV Video Music Award for Video of the Year in 1985. The song has been covered tons of times since, which is surely the mark of a timeless tune.

12. Don Mattingly’s Mustache

The New York Yankees’ American League MVP of 1985, Mattingly was a hit (literally) on the field – and his ‘stache was a hit off the baseball field, too. Other iconic ’80s mustaches include those of Geraldo Rivera, Wilford Brimley, Alex Trebek and Tom Sellek.

13. Speaking of Mustaches Hello, Lionel Richie!

Not only can the man rock facial hair like nobody’s business, but he was also one of the biggest hitmakers of the 1980s. Richie’s Can’t Slow Down won Album of the Year at the 1985 Grammys. The record featured a number of sexy singles, including “Hello,” “Stuck on You,” and “All Night Long.”

14. Bond, James Bond – and Duran Duran

Before Daniel Craig, Pierce Brosnan and Timothy Dalton, Agent 007 was portrayed by Roger Moore in 1985’s A View to a Kill. Seminal ’80s band Duran Duran provided the seductive theme song, and the film also featured notable Bond girls (and villains) Tanya Roberts, Alison Doody and Grace Jones.

15. Primetime Gets Soapy in Dallas

Dynasty, Knots Landing and Falcon Crest were also popular, but Dallas was the biggest hit in 1985 and Patrick Duffy may’ve had the biggest, sexiest head of hair.

16. Downtown Guy Marries Uptown Girl: Billy Joel and Christie Brinkley Wed

Who would’ve guessed it? On March 23, 1985, the Piano Man married the Sports Illustrated cover girl, giving supermodels everywhere the idea that wooing an “Average Joe” musician could lead to a starring role in a hit music video.

17. Cheers to Ted Danson (and Woody Harrelson)

Everybody sing: “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came ” Cheers is one of the most beloved television comedies, and in 1985, Ted Danson (as Sam Malone) was nominated for a Best Comedy Actor Emmy. He didn’t win, but how many episodes of Benson do you remember? Also, Harrelson joined the hit show in 1985, playing the adorable (if not sexy) bartender Woody.

18. Bugle Boy and Parachute Pants

This pants-tastic fad peaked in popularity from 1984-1985. According to From Abba to Zoom: A Pop Culture Encyclopedia of the Late 20th Century, they were worn by “boogaloo break-dancers and cool New Wave dudes” and went well with “Members Only jackets, Van sneakers and headbands.” Now that sounds like a sexy rad outfit, am I right?

19. Super Mario Brothers

Our gaming heroes Mario and Luigi first hit the home entertainment system scene on Sept. 13, 1985. Plumbers were never sexier.

20. The Phil Donahue Show

1985 was a transcendent year for the king of the ’80s daytime talk show circuit: Donahue moved from Chicago to New York City and began taping at 30 Rock. Blame it on that full head of white hair and those sexy-nerdy glasses, but ladies couldn’t get enough of the loquacious host.

21. Knowing Is Half the Battle: The G.I. Joe Cartoon Premieres

The launch of a G.I. Joe cartoon series was one indicator that 1985 would go down in the history books (and blogs) as an epic year for Saturday morning cartoons. Boys were glued to the weekly TV adventures of those “real American heroes,” and when they weren’t watching the show, they were collecting every studly action figure they could find. (Lady Jaye and the Baroness were pretty hot, too.)

22. The End of the Cold War

The U.S. had been in an anxious, frozen stalemate with the U.S.S.R. for decades before Mikhail Gorbachev took office in 1985 and warmed the place up. (He was also known for having the sexiest birthmark in the world until Cindy Crawford rose to fame in the ’90s.)

23. Sylvester Stallone and Dolph Lundgren in Rocky IV

If Gorbachev helped end the Cold War in reality, Rocky IV ended it in our hearts and minds on Nov. 27, 1985. Watching perpetual underdog Rocky Balboa get pulverized by Ivan “I must break you” Drago in a 10-plus-minute fight montage was soul wrenching, but any form of entertainment that ended with America winning was considered both patriotic and sexy in 1985.

24. Live Aid and "We Are the World" Make Charity Sound Sexy

So many sexy voices, with so many good intentions. In a decade best known for its greed, 1985 was a banner year for charitable celebrity causes.

25. Michael Jordan Named NBA Rookie of the Year

Arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, a young MJ took home the NBA’s Rookie of the Year trophy in 1985. He also scored with Nike, fueling the success of his namesake Air Jordan sneakers, which were released to an adoring public in ’85.

26. The First Blockbuster Video Store Opens

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Before “Netflix and Chill” was a thing, Blockbuster home videos made it possible to make out with your date in the comfort of your own living room. And in 1985 terms, “first base with my main squeeze” was basically equivalent to “hooking up with my bae.”

27. Forget New Coke – Drink Cherry Coke

New Coke was a marketing disaster, but 30 years later Cherry Coke – which also launched in 1985 – is still a favorite frosty beverage and Slurpee flavor. (But beware of the very un-sexy “brain freeze” phenomenon).

28. MacGyver Premieres

Ah, Richard Dean Anderson: The man who made Swiss Army Knives and the inventive use of common household items sexy long before the term “life hack” emerged in the popular lexicon. The series premiered on Sept. 29, 1985, and a remake is currently in the works.

29. Peak David Lee Roth

He was more than just the lead singer of Van Halen and much more than "Just a Gigolo": David Lee Roth was everywhere in 1985. The comedic frontman brought a certain saucy ’80s joie de vivre to all his music videos (see: "California Girls"), and he split from Van Halen in 1985 to enjoy a lucrative solo career in the latter half of the decade. After stints with Sammy Hagar and Gary Cherone singing lead vocals (and a variety of mini reunions), the original band reformed with Roth in 2007.

30. Cocoon: Septuagenarians Are Sexy Too

Its premise was every bit as surprising as its sexiness: Retirement home residents Wilfred Brimley, Don Ameche, Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy and Maureen Stapleton befriend the aliens next door and find their youth and vitality restored. Released in theaters on June 21, 1985, the “E.T. for old people” flick was a summer box office hit, winning two Academy Awards and even spawning a 1988 sequel.