20 Once-Normal ‘80s Practices That We Consider Outlandish and Bizarre Today

The ‘80s was a decade known for its unique fashion, diverse and evolving lifestyles, and quirky trends. However, beyond these things, there were also a couple of questionable ‘80s practices that, if we think about it, are pretty unconventional and uncommon today. From the lack of seatbelts and car seats to smoking in indoor spaces, these are the top ‘80s norms we don’t usually do today!

Smoking Indoors and in Public Spaces

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If you’ve lived through the ‘80s, then you know that smoking indoors—and basically anywhere and everywhere—was completely the norm. It wasn’t until the late 1990s and early 2000s that some states started implementing smoking bans, which prohibited smoking in most offices and all public spaces. These laws began encompassing previously exempted establishments, such as bars and restaurants.

Popping in Uninvited

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Today, showing up to someone else’s home unannounced is considered not just weird but also rude and intrusive. We take for granted the convenience of calling or texting before a visit. However, in the ‘80s, popping into friends’ houses—even without prior notice—was completely acceptable and sometimes even enjoyed.

Engaging in Unrestricted Phone Usage in Public Areas

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It’s hard to imagine today’s phones not having features to text, send photos, video call, and more. However, in the ‘80s, people had no choice but to call each other because phones back then didn’t have screens and didn’t have the feature that would allow them to text. Additionally, many people didn’t have personal phones, pushing them to talk with friends and family in public spaces using public pay phones!

Publicly Spanking Your Kids

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According to the Harvard Graduate School of Education, “Spanking alters children’s brain response in ways similar to severe maltreatment and increases perception of threats.” Because of this, laws have been enacted to ensure that even if parents discipline their kids, they won’t go overboard and turn it into abuse. Unfortunately, in the ‘80s, such laws weren’t available, and parents would spank their kids in public to discipline them. There have also been accounts where it was stated that public spanking or discipline was not only accepted but expected by other adults during this time.

Drinking “Just a Little” and Driving

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Since the ‘90s and until today, a zero-tolerance policy regarding drinking and driving has been implemented. Because of this, anyone found driving with any level or trace of alcohol in their blood could be apprehended and charged with DUI. However, back in the 1970s, the legal limit for alcohol consumption while driving was .15. This was lowered to .10 in the 1980s.

Going Helmet-Free

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Wearing helmets while biking, skiing, snowboarding, and more is normal today. However, it wasn’t the same in the ‘80s. Some who grew up during this period still find it weird or uncomfortable to wear helmets today simply because they aren’t used to it.

Not Wearing a Seatbelt

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Wearing seatbelts is a norm today, but it wasn’t the same in the 1980s. In fact, wearing a seatbelt only became law in California on January 1, 1986—38 years ago! When other states started adopting laws regarding wearing seatbelts, many citizens didn’t want to conform. They felt they had no freedom and that it should be their choice to wear a seatbelt or not.

Absence of Car Seats

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The first child restraint or car seat law was implemented in 1979 in Tennessee, and it was only in 1985 that other states passed the law requiring its use. Even with these regulations, though, only 80% of children used car seats in 1987.

Conducting Manual Work Without the Right Protective Gear

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Today, manual workers are equipped with all the protective gear they need. Though accidents and injuries have lowered because of this, they are still not completely nonexistent. So, imagine how bad it was in the ‘80s when workers often lacked the proper protective gear; what’s more, safety measures and rules were not properly implemented most of the time. Tower Supplies explains, “This led to higher rates of accidents and injuries in workplaces across various industries, as well as long-term health problems that the older generation are still coping with today.”

Stigmatizing Mental Health

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While platforms for mental health discussions have been becoming more and more open nowadays, there’s no denying the fact that some people are still hesitant to discuss their conditions with others. If this is happening today, imagine how hard it would have been for people struggling with mental health issues in the ‘80s. An article from the World Health Organization bulletin explains, “Those who are admitted to mental hospitals are usually taken there by others—by police or by the family—often because of continuing behavior that disturbs others, regardless of whether and how much it disturbs the patients themselves.”

Perpetuating Rigid Gender Roles and Misogyny in the Workplace

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Before the 1980s, especially during the 1950s and 1960s, women were told to stay home to care for the kids and do household chores. However, slowly but surely, there have been efforts to get them into the workplace. Even so, there’s no denying the rigid gender roles and misogyny they faced in the office.

Carrying Firearms Publicly

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Gun-related crimes are some of the most common in the United States, and perhaps people being allowed to carry one basically at all times is one of the main reasons for this. According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, “Gun-related crime peaked in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Since that time, the United States has made steady improvement in reducing gun-related violence.”

Promoting Unhealthy Diets as Normal

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If there’s one thing that has remained consistent throughout the years, it’s that humans love to eat. In the ‘80s, some of the most popular food items included Sloppy Joes—an indulgent, messy comfort food, and beef stroganoff—gravy, beef, and noodles packed with flavor. These are undoubtedly some of the tastiest food items ever, but they aren’t the most healthy or well-balanced. For example, a typical Sloppy Joe contains high levels of fat and calories.

Absence of Recycling Initiatives

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In the ‘80s, recycling was the least of people’s priorities. However, when the landfill crisis of the 1980s hit, more and more people started to become increasingly aware of the importance of segregation, proper waste disposal, and recycling as a whole.

Apathy Toward Environmental Protection

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Climate change is a big thing, and it’s one of the most critical issues we, as a people, need to solve. However, though much more conversation and effort is put into it today, it was almost nonexistent back in the day. Only in the 1980s did authorities start drawing up global rules to limit the destruction of our planet’s ozone layer. Sadly, until 1988, many major firms contributing to ozone pollution firmly opposed the new regulations.

Social Stigmatizing of Divorce

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Today, there’s little to no stigma regarding divorce in the US. In fact, books, movies, TV series, and more all normalize it as part of the culture. However, in the 1980s, divorce was a big taboo. The “Free Love” movement in the ‘60s and ‘70s significantly contributed to the number of people getting divorced, but still, it was a big thing for people to get divorced in the ‘80s.

The Prevalence of Homophobic and Racist Jokes

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Those who grew up in the ‘80s have turned to public online forums to share some experiences they had with homophobic and racist jokes when they were kids. Some shared that bullies said Black people were bad-smelling, welfare-sucking people. Then, some shared that there was a similar set of jokes about gays, especially when the topic of AIDS got more and more popular. Sadly, this crass sense of humor was pretty rampant in the ‘80s.

Excessive Racial Discrimination

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According to Amistad Digital Resource, “Millions of White Americans had become convinced that ‘too much’ had been given to Blacks in recent years. Middle-class African Americans also encountered more subtle yet unmistakable patterns of racial discrimination that severely restricted their upward mobility.” Sadly, this occurrence, though a bit less prevalent today, still is common. While many people are becoming more open-minded and accepting of others, a vast majority of Americans are still living with a view clouded by hate.

Lack of Accessibility for People With Disabilities

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The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into the Constitution by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990. This allows persons with disabilities to be more mobile and independent when leaving their houses, such as visiting establishments, parks, and more. However, before this, there were no federal laws that prohibited private sectors and establishments from discriminating against people with disabilities.

Attitudes Toward Public Littering

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People who grew up in the ‘80s are not new to littering. In fact, some people even remember roads being lined with litter literally everywhere! From empty bottles, cups, wrappers, tissues, and even dirty diapers—everyone throws everything everywhere!

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Poorly educated individuals may exhibit certain noticeable characteristics that set them apart from others. On the flip side, some may also compensate for their lack of education by pretending to be knowledgeable in certain areas. This behavior is often a way for poorly educated individuals to maintain their self-image and self-esteem.

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20 Behaviors and Traits That Are Dead Giveaways of Having Low Intelligence

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Speaking loudly, being overly confident, or even gossiping can all be signs of someone having low intelligence. However, by recognizing these markers, people can become more proactive in addressing their limitations and weaknesses, eventually improving their overall mental and emotional capacity. Read on and learn more about the top 20 dead giveaways of low intelligence!

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20 Things You’re Doing That Make You a Bad Neighbor

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People have different personalities; that’s a fact. When you move somewhere with a tight-knit community, you will get to know many people who will either clash with your personality or make you feel like you’ve found a new friend. However, no matter what it is, remember to establish boundaries. If you don’t, you might soon see a lot of bad blood between you and other people in the community!

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20 Signs You Have Little to No Emotional Support in Your Relationship

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Navigating a relationship without enough emotional support can feel like being caught in a storm without shelter. Constant feelings of isolation, misunderstanding, and loneliness indicate a loss of balance in the emotional aspect of your relationship. Thankfully, it’s not too late to get help because we’ve gathered the top 20 signs that can help you determine whether or not you’re receiving the emotional support you need for a healthy, thriving relationship.

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20 Christian Practices That Confuse and Puzzle Others

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All regions differ in some way. Catholics collect saint cards and plan their vacations around religious sights, and Buddhists believe in karma and reincarnation. Like them, Christians also practice some things that are simply unheard of or puzzling for others. They practice tithing, cast out demons, and more!

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Author: Karen Danao


Karen is a writer and also a marketing and advertising professional. Beyond the keyboard and the screen, she is someone who’s out to enjoy every bit that life has to offer!

Poetry, philosophy, history, and movies are all topics she loves writing about! However, her true passion is in traveling, photography, and finding common ground to which everyone from different cultures can relate.