Pop Culture In Review for the Year 1981

1981 was a very important year in many ways. It paved the way for several events that still have importance today. Here are just a few of the highlights that make us sit up and take notice:

International News

  • The Royal Wedding

Royal weddings, especially those that take place in the British Royal Family, are usually events of international interest. In the year 1981, many people enjoyed the grand wedding of Charles the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer. Since Lady Diana was considered to be a grounded person who related to the masses, the excitement was at an all-time high. The bride was attractive and charming, while the groom was an actual prince. Whatever happened after the wedding, this event seemed like a fairy tale come to life.

The wedding itself was held in London at St. Paul’s Cathedral and drew massive crowds number in over 600,000. There were 3,500 official guests who were mostly celebrities or royalty. All over the world, around 750 million people watched the historic event on their television sets.

  • The First Speedcubing Championship was Held

It was in March 1981 when the first speedcubing championship was organized by the Guinness Book of World Records in Munich, Germany. Speedcubing is an activity or sport wherein people compete on who will be able to solve a Rubik’s Cube the fastest. The Rubik’s Cube is a puzzle toy that was invented in 1974 by a sculptor and professor of architecture named Ernő Rubik.

The inventor originally created the cube as a teaching tool for architecture students to have a better understanding of how parts can still move without compromising the structural integrity of the mechanism that keeps them together. Rubik eventually realized that he created a puzzle when he struggled to put the pieces back to their original place after jumbling their positions. Read about The Fascinating History of the Rubik’s Cube to learn more about this interesting puzzle toy.


  • Debut of “Raiders of the Lost Ark

“Raiders of the Lost Ark” debuted in June 1981 and was viewed in cinemas all over the United States. It was a massively popular film, being a mixture of comedy, action, and adventure. The directors were none other than George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. This movie was also the first one with the character Indiana Jones.

Harrison Ford portrayed this character, which then went on to become a major pop culture figure. The story was riveting, with Indiana Jones being an archaeology professor who protected some highly precious artifacts. Moviegoers were instantly attracted, which resulted in this film being the highest grossing work in the whole year. It’s still one of the most successful and popular movies of all time.


  • The Reuniting of Simon & Garfunkel

Simon & Garfunkel, a highly popular folk-rock band in the 60s and 70s, were also known for the problematic relationship between the two members. They had a series of number-one hits, but their last studio album together was in 1970. However, the duo would frequently get back together for a certain song or to perform for their fans.

One of the most significant reuniting events for this duo was in 1981. This was simply called ‘the Concert in Central Park’. Their performance attracted a huge crowd of above 500,000, which is still largest number of concert attendees in the history of music.


Various Achievements

There were several technological advancements in 1981 that are worth mentioning here. These include the identification of the AIDS virus, the launch of the first PC by IBM (which used Microsoft Software), and the first mention of the word ‘Internet’.

Another interesting technological feat seems to be the launch of Post-It Notes by 3M Corp. they may not seem like much now, but the stickiness and convenience of these notes was a breakthrough back then.

Finally, we also saw China successfully cloning a golden carp. However, perhaps a more important achievement was the production of genetically engineered protein. This helped people to control the diabetes and has probably saved many lives to this day.

Space News

  • Launching of Spacecrafts

The Space Shuttle Columbia had two passengers, John Young and Robert Crippon. This first flight occurred in April 1981. The mission’s purpose was to test out the spacecraft’s stability in order to launch it safely into space. The design was also such that the craft could return to Earth and be reused.

The Venera 13 Spacecraft was launched on October 30th, 1981, by the USSR. This was created with the venera 14 spacecraft. One part was for dropping on Venus so that it could conduct experiments. The other part was for carrying the letters and being a source of data to Earth as well.


  • The Retirement of Mohammad Ali

Starting out as Cassius Clay, the Muslim boxer Mohammad Ali finally retired in 1981. He reached this point in his career after an impressive record of 55 wins and only 5 defeats. Ali had his fair share of discrimination and intolerance when he converted to Islam during a successful boxing career. However, his boxing talent was so undeniable that he was nicknamed ‘The Greatest’.

Even after his boxing career, Mohammad Ali remained a prominent and influential figure. He was focused on Islam, wrote two autobiographies, and also contributed to several charities. His catchphrase, ‘float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’, is still in use today.



  • The Launching of MTV

1981 was the year when MTV was officially launched. This stands for Music Television; this was among the first channels of its kind in America.

The original format of MTV was to show music videos guided by video jockeys or VJs. The videos were mostly original. Many music lovers still remember the original format of MTV, as the channel is now less focused on music and more on programming reality shows for teenagers and other young demographics.


  • The Straight-Legged Trouser

During the 1980s in general, women’s pants were made with long inseams. In 1981, though, the transition from the flared look of the 70s had been upgraded to straight-legged trousers.

In addition to this change, one could also see accessories for women getting thinner in the early part of the 80s.

Fashionable accessories included round-toed shoes, thick-heeled shoes, small watches, thin necklaces, jelly shoes, kitten heels, thin belts, etc. Jelly bracelets were also popularized by the likes of Madonna, with other celebrities also providing fashion updates and clothing ideas.

A Craze for Aerobics

The 80s also saw a fashion craze coming in, with the wardrobe of female changing alongside new expectations. This led to a newfound interest in aerobics for many people. Since many women would hit the gym almost every single day, they started wanting their clothes to be suitable at all times. This led to the introduction of ripped sweatshirts, elastic headbands, leg warmers, tracksuits, tights, sweat pants, etc.

Athletic accessories were also rising in popularity. The wide belts, elastic headbands, and athletic sneakers are much appreciated as well.

Professional Fashion

In 1981, many women had started working in earnest. In order to look more equal to the men in their workplaces, office girls would wear formal shoes, wide-legged trousers, a blazer, etc. Formal shoes were also becoming more comfortable in order to accommodate the working woman more. Luckily, the pointy-toed toes and spiky heels are no more.

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