What was life like in 1980’s Britain?

What was life like in 1980’s Britain?

1980’s Britain heralded the age of computer technology. Building on a history of space travel in the 70’s, when we sent a man to the moon, the 80’s began in a confident and pioneering spirit. The 80’s, no longer constricted by the mere shackles of our terrestrial planet, only limited by the bounds of our imagination. So, the possibility of extra-terrestrials and encounters of a third kind became something that we all secretly looked out for. So, what was life was like in 1980’s Britain? 

Major Events

The love story of the century, in the early 1980’s,  saw Prince Charles and Lady Diana’s royal love story unfold. Culminating in the ultimate fairy-tale wedding of the century, complete with princess wedding dress and golden carriage, the nation remained transfixed. Rose-tinted glasses colour our memory of a decade however and we can often forget tragic events. 1982 witnessed the Falklands War, between Britain and Argentina. The conflict lasted 74 days. 649 Argentine military personnel, 255 British Military Personnel and 3 Falkland Islanders lost their lives. Chernobyl in 1986 and the explosion of the Challenger Shuttle in the same year also affected the world, emotionally and physically.

1987 witnessed a remarkable thaw of east-west relations between Reagan and Gorbachev. President Reagan challenged the Russian leader to “tear down the wall”. Two years later, uprising German citizens, on either side of the wall, did just that. Watched by an incredulous international audience, all remained critically aware of the significance of the act.

Film and TV

Back to the Future


Pushing the boundaries of space and time, the inimitable mad scientist Doc. Looking suspiciously like Albert Einstein, he took Marty McFly Back To The Future in an innovative, gull wing De Lorean car. Strange times indeed, where the impossible seemed possible and an air of hope and optimism prevailed. We all looked west to the U.S and the ‘Brat-pack’ for our diet of scary movies, like Halloween and a Nightmare on Elm Street. Coming of age films, for example, St Elmo’s Fire, Pretty in Pink and Footloose uplifted us and made us feel like we could take on the world!

TV favourites including the Kids from Fame, Dynasty and Dallas, influenced fashion, shoulder pads and power dressing a must! The popularity of Star Wars and other sci- fi’s, such as Dr Who and Star Trek, continued unabated. New soap operas arrived from down – under. Many will remember Charlene and Scott, from sunny ‘Neighbours’, as they fell in love and got married.

1980’s Music


A sad goodbye to John Lennon heralded the end of innocence and the age of peace and love in 1981. With the launch of MTV in 1981 and music videos dominating Top of the Pops, music had a huge influence on the decade. Ghetto Blasters and Walkman’s blasted tunes like ‘Walk This Way’ by Run DMC. Disco music fell out of fashion, replaced by soft-rock, synth-pop and R & B genres, to name but a few. Notable artists included Madonna, Prince, Michael Jackson, Wham,  and Duran Duran. A 2010 survey, conducted by the digital broadcaster ‘Music Choice’, revealed the 1980s to be the most favoured tune decade of the last 50 years.


1980’s toys we played with included Barbie dolls and Action Men. Techno toys, like Simon Says and Nintendo games consoles became popular. Teenage mutant ninja turtles lived underground and crept into Santa’s sack in the form of cuddly toys. We all fell in love with Donatello, Raphael, Michelangelo and Leonardo and their love of pizza! Finally, you cannot discuss toys in the 80’s without recalling the Cabbage Patch craze that hit in 1983. Scenes of panicked parents, literally fighting over the dolls in toy shops across the globe filled the TV headlines! No two dolls looked the same and they came with a unique name and birth certificate – who wouldn’t want to have one!


The 1980’s was definitely the era of technology when the Apple home computers and Sinclair computers Zx Spectrum Computer from the 1980'swere on everyone’s Santa list. The first mobile phone ‘bricks’,  spotted in films provided a hint of our future connectedness. Those who had time and were lucky enough to have the chance, played video arcade games like Pacman and Asteroids on their televisions and home computers. Meanwhile, irreplaceable memories were captured instantly on our polaroid cameras. The hunger for space travel fed into the zeitgeist with the launch of the Russian Space Station the Mir. Astronauts for the first time ever, could live and work in space. 


1980's Retro Sweets


Lounging in shell suits, with permed, coloured hair, we chomped our way through a lot of 1980’s retro sweets. Refresher chews, space dust popping candy, everlasting gobstoppers, sherbet spaceships, fizz bombs and dib dabs were big hits! Chocolate bars that came and went included, Old Jamaica, Secret, Twilight and Coconut Boost. Bars that did endure include Orange Aero and the sickly sweet, Caramac.

Here at Sweet and Nostalgic we have a great range of 1980’s Gift Ideas. Come and have a look at what life was like in 1980’s Britain, our products give you a warm nostalgic flavour for this wonderful decade. Our range covers the whole of the 20th Century, so there’s something on our site for everyone interested in the most influential century that the world has known to date.

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