Fashion FASHION

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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Shell Suits Last post by darren
06 May 2014
Shell Suits Last post by www.doyouremember.co.uk
20 May 2012
Does anyone still have any of their 'trendy' shell suits? Last post by darren
28 February 2012

Do You Remember Shell Suits?

Do You Remember Shell Suits?

  • SpiralCoolStuff
    on
    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
  • SpiralCoolStuff
    on
    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
    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.
  • Anonymous user
    on
    Has any one got a shell suit that i can buy for a fancy dress party next week PLEASE
  • Anonymous user
    on
    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!
  • Anonymous user
    on
    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.
  • Anonymous user
    on
    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
  • Anonymous user
    on
    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.
  • Anonymous user
    on
    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.
  • Anonymous user
    on
    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 ?