Shell Suits

Shell Suits

Health and safety just wasn't the same in the 80s as it is now. For one, if it was kids would never have been allowed to wear shell suits... on bonfire night... while brandishing a sparkler. Cue the fire engines!

The shell suit was a pretty bizarre fashion statement, jumping on the leisure wear trend a la Flashdance. It was a trend that allowed people who blatantly never did any form of exercise to look like they did, and it came in the form of nylon waterproof trousers and a matching jacket.

Shell suits really hit it off in the mid-eighties and it was around that time that fluorescent materials were at the very peak of their popularity. This meant that all manner of different garish colours and fluorescent strips were thrown together and it really didn’t matter if it clashed or not – in fact, if it did clash that was all the better! And if your brothers and sisters all had matching shell suits, even better!

Although various manufacturers created different shell suits the principle of the design was always pretty much the same; the lightweight top featured a small, rounded collar with a full zip down the centre. The arms were generally puffy and it was preferable to have a shell suit that was slightly too big rather than have the elasticated wrists ride halfway up your forearm. If you wanted to ride the sleeves up on purpose though, that was OK! The arms would feature either brightly coloured strips down the side of them, or it was also possible to find jackets with fluorescent arrow-like computer generated designs down the front.

Of course, unless you wanted it to look like you were just wearing a nylon jacket then you simply had to have the matching trouser bottoms to complete the look, paired with a global hypercolour T-shirt, naturally. Based on the design of a jogging pant the loose trousers always featured an elasticated waist with elastic around the ankles. This was teamed up with a pair of ultra white socks and chunky white Reebok's or Nike's with the tongue out and you got the look! White sock fear just didn’t exist in those days – in fact Michael Jackson had made it positively fashionable to show off your white socks so it was preferable to position the elasticated ankle well above your ankle and puff the bottom of the nylon out slightly like a retro Aladdin. The beauty of separates was that you could mix and match, so if you wanted to wear the top with jeans (stonewash only though, please) or don the bottoms with just your global hypercolour T that was OK, too.

Even though a shell suit-donned figure would be more likely to be seen browsing the shelves of C&A or John Menzies rather than tearing around a hurdle track, the shell suit’s roots were firmly in the sportswear section. The elasticated waists and forgiving movement of the baggy bottoms were perfect for outdoors activities - Kris Akabusi for one loved them very much as he was able to lunge and run to his heart’s content without the fear of chaffing. Likewise, it was perfect for couch potatoes who had one too many Arctic rolls - because that's the beauty of elastic.

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Do You Remember Shell Suits?

Do You Remember Shell Suits?

  • Ruth on 2011-03-15 22:16:45
    Oh maaan, i used to have 2, a pink one and a blue one. Back then they were cool, but now its like....did i really wear those??? o_O
  • Ruth on 2011-03-15 22:13:59
    I used to have 2, i think. One was pink and the other was blue....if i remember rightly mine kinda fell apart after a while...
  • sandie76 on 2010-11-28 15:56:30
    I went on and on about wanting a shell suit and eventually got one. It wasn't a well known brand name one so I was a bit embarrased by that, but it was black with yellow and green stripes over the front, arms and at the bottom of the trousers. Thought the jacket was quite smart, but rarely wore it as a two-piece. This was around 1989 I owned one. Don't think I've got any photos to cringe at.
  • pat pat on 2010-10-15 11:23:29
    Has any one got a shell suit that i can buy for a fancy dress party next week PLEASE
  • tabi on 2009-09-28 21:01:42
    omg, I'm only 15 and never saw people wearing these, however, I saw one in a thrift store, photographed it and referred to it as a "starfish suit", which I coined myself. Very close to the actual "shell suit" I would say. Haha!
  • uknational on 2009-07-18 23:25:47
    There used to be a joke at the time: Q. How do you know the Bride at a Scouser wedding? A. Shes the one in the white shell suit.
  • johnjrambo on 2009-07-02 20:53:13
    i had 1 when i was 12 ish, stood to close to a bonfire and melted it to my footy socks didnt realise til i went to take it off
  • J-Nylon on 2008-11-09 12:14:57
    I still own my Campri shell suit, it as navy blue bottoms and a navy blue top with a white stripe across the back and a green panel to the sleeves. I still wear it around the house. They are really comfy to wear and feel nice and silky to wear. BRING EM BACK but with sensible designs tho'. I also own 16 Adidas and Puma shell suit tops, all very 90's, when people see them they ask where did I get them from, as they want some of the Adidas designs.
  • Madonna1984 on 2008-10-24 23:03:08
    I sadly owned of these circa 1989 I wore it on my first holiday abroad me my mum and my sister had matching ones I think mine was an england one blue white and red. How cringe worthy my partner also wore several during the 80s he had one that he wore with his towelling mis match socks one pink one green luminous I cringe soo much when I look back at photographs no matter how old you were in the 80s you still could commit such bad crimes against fashion and look so stupid even though at the time you thought you looked so cool. What I want to know is why would your parents subject you to such cruelty making you wear these ha ha.
  • michellex3 on 2008-10-17 13:15:27
    i used to wear 1 when i was 13 most nights i have my bounce they were so noisy but nice feel off them while i was bouncing ! anybody else bounce while wearing them ?
  • bison on 2008-06-02 16:41:35
    aren't shellsuits more early nineties than eighties anyway...don't remember people wearing them in the eighties and I'm the kind of sad bloke who remembers stuff like this
  • skedd on 2008-06-01 18:13:26
    Everyone else has elasticated bottom of legs on there shell suits, forcing me to tuck mine into my odd flouro socks and puff them out over my reebok pump trainers... they were the days! it was a white shell suit with a multitude of flouroescent colours with a pose of 4 surfers on the reverse of jacket, did anyone else own one of these my mum bought it for me from the thrify shop crewe! Emma x
  • interceptor on 2007-08-21 11:04:29
    Yeah I had one, and I am so embarrassed because I even bought it via the stereotypical route...from a scouser lol
  • arsetaffylover on 2007-07-14 23:36:30
    The satin like ones were better, I went wild when my girlfriend started wearing one, seeing her in it made me feel horny!
  • maddog_chrisuk on 2007-07-07 01:27:55
    I have over 30 shell suits in my collection. I just love them. My collection just keeps on growing and growing, just wish these would come back into fashion :) I am a web designer and have a few domain names, ready to design a website about them :) if anyone has any ideas or would like to get in touch let me know. Maddog
  • bazzap on 2007-07-06 21:39:07
    I was made to wear one to my mother's second marriage. She thought it looked better then a normal suit. Thank goodness she git divorced and the wedding photos and evidance of me wearing one have vanished!
  • vic on 2007-07-06 20:55:26
    Someone nicked my much loved shell suit jacket from the PE changing rooms at school and I never found out who it was and never got it back. To think you couldn't pay a kid to nick one now! I hope they stood too close to a roaring fire and suffered the concequences!
  • Anonymous on 2007-05-23 14:12:56
    these clothes rule i go out in them everyday iv got a blue one and a red one there the best style i am 50 yr old and lookin ;) hint hint ;) any single 50 yr old men out there im waiting
  • Anonymous on 2007-05-23 14:11:14
    these clothes rule i go out in them everyday iv got a blue one and a red one there the best style i am 50 yr old and lookin ;) hint hint ;) any single 50 yr old men out there im waiting
  • Anonymous on 2007-05-10 02:39:56
  • Anonymous on 2007-02-28 13:19:23
    Thanks Mullentino!!! It has been annoying me for ages!!
  • Anonymous on 2007-02-23 06:31:59
    Becky - that's Bob Downe, he's an Aussie comedian. I had the same shell suit as MC Duke (who my sister's mate was seeing) on the cover of one of his singles. Horrible things that just create static electricty every time you move. I think that shell suits weer actually responsible for the hole in the Ozone layer.
  • Anonymous on 2007-02-13 16:22:03
    For James: You could always try they tend to have anything and everything!
  • Anonymous on 2007-02-13 13:02:21
    I had loads of these nasty things. Now I actually want one again. Only for an 80's party. Where can I get one?
  • Anonymous on 2007-01-08 14:42:29
    Oh yes! had one of these...the shame!!!..can somebody tell me who the guy in the picture is, I have seen him somewhere on tv!?
  • Anonymous on 2007-01-04 13:43:26
    I remember having one as a child and my Mum getting rid of it because there was a feature on TV about them shrink wrapping people near fires...
  • Anonymous on 2006-12-29 13:09:51
    i had an awesome PUMA cats shell suit in Light Blue!!!! I rocked in the playground!!! ha ha ha
  • Anonymous on 2006-11-13 13:54:37
    I remember holidaying as a family and we'd all go out wearing our shell suits! Very worrying times when I look back...
  • Anonymous on 2006-11-07 21:44:06
    Well I was forced into a shell suit by my mother in the 80's/90's, I honestly wish I could burn the photos, they are hideous! I was so pleased when in the early 90's shell suits were being shown on the news being burnt on bonfires, supposedly to illustrate the dangers of their highly flammable properties, but I like to think it was a symbolic ending of the worst fashion disaster since knitted swimwear.
  • Anonymous on 2006-11-07 16:10:42
    The Shell Suit - A sure way to hear someone walking from a mile away, god i hated them.
  • Anonymous on 2006-11-06 19:36:12
    ahhhhh! my brothers had a couple of shell suits, lets just say they well erned the title "fashion crime" good times!
  • Anonymous on 2006-06-01 16:21:57
    I had a couple of shell suits, my favorite being my England World Cup one.It was dark blue and white.Gazza had one so I had to have one.OMG..
  • Anonymous on 2006-06-01 09:21:54
    Yup I had a few of these when I was younger. My favourite one melted in the airing cupboard. I remember being gutted. Now whenever I see photos I cringe!
  • Anonymous on 2006-05-31 21:23:06
    my mum made my dad one an it fit my mum when she was pregnant
  • Anonymous on 2006-05-30 16:24:15
    I bought a green and red acrylic one in a charity shop two years ago for ?5 and gave it away to charity the other day - the missus was thrilled !
  • Anonymous on 2006-05-30 09:58:48
    i owned two!!..sadly..i remember getting a mark on my favourite one which wouldn't wash out..i was gutted. Perhaps wasn't such a bad thing afterall!!
  • Anonymous on 2006-05-29 18:55:51
    I had a shell suit!!! I was about 10 years old maybe, They were all the rage!!(even my 4yr old bro had one?!) It was one of my most prized posessions!! Oh the shame!!
  • Anonymous on 2005-11-01 11:26:08
    I was so chuffed when i got one for christmas. it was brightpink with a psychodelic patterned stripe across the front and down the legs! I teamed it with a bum bag and thought I was super cool!
  • Anonymous on 2005-08-21 13:58:11
    I didn't have one!! I was gutted I had pleaded for one but My Mum thought them I waste of money, Know I look back and think thank god!!!!
  • Anonymous on 2005-03-22 12:06:47
    i wore a pink shellsuit with spandex.
  • Anonymous on 2004-12-20 10:08:52
    I've never been one to follow fashion or the latest trend, and ain't I glad - I can proudly say that I NEVER owned a shellsuit.
  • Anonymous on 2004-06-23 10:48:51
    ~Laffing~ Why hasnt anyone else admitted to having one of these I wonder ... OOOH THE SHAME!