Call it what you like Neon , Fluorescent , Day-glo they are all the screaming mimi of colors. A fad so beloved that it manages to resurface yet again decades later for new generations , backed by a market continuing to release products for the florrid demmand.
So when exactly did Neon hues surface? Truth be told I’m not sure – I do know however it’s presumptuous to assume it’s a merely 80’s fad. Fluorescent brites actually made an appearance in the mid 60’s when synthetic fabrics were beginning to become popular in the new quick n’ easy , wash and wear era. Color on the go-go. Fashion-wise, Mod Madness gave the hallucinogenic colors
their spotlight swirling across groovy mini dresses and seeping into anything that could exhibit this new trend – homes were now spotted with neon touches – wether they were psychedelic posters , bombastically bright knick knacks all with pop Peter Max curves and twirls. Even Andy Warhol got on the bandwagon giving 50’s glamour queen Marilyn Monroe a new neon puss. Granted popularity by the anything goes movement the colors took on a quirky , carefree with-it manner. Fluorescents were definitely happening.
However as the 60’s gave way to the more rational seventies with toned down organic hues counterbalanced with a disco nightlife
featuring new glitter fabrics, Neon had seemed to fade for a while. The kooky colors that were once revered as being an expression of extreme individuallity (especially if you were as indivially-the-same as everyone else) – Had now become something to poke fun at – Mrs. Roper and her hot neon caftans and blindingly bright costume jewelry became the fashion don’t. But rock star garrishness was about to bring the colors back into fashion at least in a counter culture way – Punk rock groups led by David Bowie strutting as rooster tufted Ziggy Stardust combined the 70’s glitter fabrics with a trend that revolutionalised make-up. Cherie Currie part of a late 70’s band the Runaways had a hit with her day-glo anthem – Neon Angels on the Road to Ruin and in her late 80’s bio decribed
in one chapter how she transformed herself into a glitter queen using fluorescent make-up pencils ( ala David Bowie ) kinda like emotional warpaint.
Though the mainstreaming of neon wasn’t going to come about so easily it would take a few more years of the oatmeal stage of early colonial 80’s to pass. But by about 1983 neon was coming into it’s own. New Wave rock artists wanting to stand out of the pack – for in the 80’s musicians were 10% music and 90% style two exhibitionist singers – Madonna who made underwear outter wear and Cyndi Lauper who looked like a walking advertisement for Madras Grai was about to take fashion into day-glo extremes. Others would flock to the hoopla as Neo(n) Edwardian hit the racks prompted perhaps by the glorious froo-froo in the Oscar winning
hit Amadeus making frillies a must ( as long as like Prince they were hot orchid purple or some other extravegently , outrageous color). Litebrite hues bloomed once again egged on by the sudden mania for it’s namesake. Bars of actual hum-a-zum neon were everywhere , even in posh -pad magazines featuring flaming fakes fires strobing and blinking , luminescent wall sculptures , bars of colorful twisted tubing under table tops or illuminating stairways , with gassy rainbows in mini reno-esque lit malls. Not to
mention , script signs and trendy neon script in ad art. With all this flaming throbbing color it’s not surprising that it spread to fashion – plastic costume jewelry offered fluorecent bright accesories along with hair do-dads and cylander sports bags.
Shoes and purses embracing the new anti-fabric of jelly-rubber gave us – congeled neon. Though fluorescent hadn’t flourished as heavily as it had in the 60’s – which back then had saturated it’s candy-colors even into Sears catalogs neons appeared whenever the need dictated a touch of New-Wave whimsy. Aerobics outfits , jazz shoes , pantyhose , shoe laces , nail polish
and those gauzy chiffon scarves that always appeared in sock-hop lp artwork holding up a bouncy ponytail.
Make-up had taken a day-glo turn with a flamboyant pink so neon hot it looked as though your lips had been dipped in polyurethane. Toys fizzed with brightness – and with the use of nylon hair came the fantasy hues of sick fluorescent green
for the Pizazz doll in the Jem and the Holograms line to neon red for a counter balancing stripe in a My Little pony mane.
Popples burned in a plush patchwork of neon while Nerds candy allowed you to taste neon.
Copy art offered whiz-bang colors usually corresponding with the ultra-brite make-over or fashion spread but then neon took a turn and as all fads dictate didn’t really die but literally faded – Florida pastels replaced the neon shades ushering in the age of Miami Nice , pastel pink and white-whites. But it would be only a hop skip and a jump before neon returned with a surprizingly more mainstream throb of popularity.
Color me happy it’s 1990. Jazzy 50’s squiggle graphics in bold bright neons jittered across the credits in Saved by the Bell , M.C. Hammer updated the painter pants – now bloated and dubbed parachute pants they were spattered with hot shades in such crazy clashing colors that they had a tendency to look as though they were some otherworldly , trick-or-treat pajamas – it was fashion insanity! More 90’s neon had plastic frame sunglasses and other accesories – huge plastic earrings in funky geometric shapes , and spandex being a hot much abused fabric offered girls to wriggle into skin-tight dresses in colors as outrageous as neon green or pylon orange. Surfer garb made sure the typical boy – if he was rad enough – dressed head to toe in neon – from muscle shirts with neon print graphics of surfboards or beach scenes to Jammers ( longish cotton shorts ) that had dizzing prints that make me instantly think of the band Busy & Amanda want to join in 1993’s Ready or Not – Neon Vomit. How true , how true. To end this
florid fashion display the toe if you will – Nike’s neons.
What is about these hues that draw us in their brightness? their ever-happy upbeat look at me persona? Who knows. It could be that nobody wanted to let go of their box of Crayola Neons – let’s color the whole world neon. And with an 80’s revival that certainly possible as Timbuk 3 would say – the Future’s so bright I gotta wear shades.
Hope you love the pics! – I got inspired because of my favorite series cover ever! – Caprice’s #73 – Madly in Love which features a
freaking ode to 80’s Fluorecent! From her flaming hot pink knit sweater – with snappy neon yellow suspenders , matching fluorescent
yellow baggy pants and a wrist full of jelly bracelets it might be enough but – squint hard – there in her ear is one tiny little neon
green stud earring! Even her hair has a red aura. Too cool!