Pop Culture In Review for the Year 1988

At the tail-end of the 80s, the music and movie industry of the 80s were still going strong. Several other aspects of life, such as fashion, sports, and technology, also had many iconic events happen in this year.

Let’s take a brief look at them now:


The Land Before Time

The animated film series ‘The Land Before Time’ released its first installment this year. It was produced by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. The series would go on to spawn several sequels, computer games, and various items of merchandise.

Oliver and Company

Another famous animated film of this year was ‘Oliver and Company’, which was about a cat searching for his home. While the movie itself was a treat to watch, it was also unique in one essential aspect. It was the first animated film from Disney that included products from the real world. There were about 30 official logos plus several brand names seen in the film.

Rain Man

This road comedy plus drama film starred Tom Cruise. It also had characters that were based on real-life people. The film turned out to be the highest-grossing movie of the year. It won four Oscars, and the crew got four more Oscar nominations.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit 

Who Framed Roger Rabbit was another classic 80s movie, spanning both the comedy and mystery genre. It presented a Hollywood version where real people and cartoon characters occupy the same world. The movie was one of the highest-grossing works of the year. It’s also instrumental in renewing interest in animation. The Disney Renaissance and modern animation weren’t too far off.

Coming To America

This romantic comedy film was based on an original story by Eddie Murphy. It’s the first installment of the ‘Coming to America’ series.


Roll With It

The biggest song of the year was possibly ‘Roll With It’ by Steve Winwood. It topped the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart for four weeks during the summer and was also No.1 on the adult contemporary chart for a couple of weeks straight. It was nominated for two Grammys, while the album of the same name was also nominated for Album of the Year.

First Recording of Jon Bon Jovi

Jon Bon Jovi, now known for the band Bon Jovi, had his first professional recording in the Star Wars-themed Christmas album entitled ‘Christmas in the Stars’. The title of the song was “R2-D2 We Wish You a Merry Christmas’. This was when Bon Jovi was just 17 years old and had yet to become a legendary rock and roll star.


Resuming the Space Shuttle Program

The United States Space Shuttle program went back into operation around 2.5 years after the Challenger tragedy occurred. The resuming started in September by lancing the Space Shuttle Discovery on the mission STS-26. It was soon dubbed the ‘Return to Flight’ mission. Its main purposes were resuming flight and also releasing a NASA satellite. The mission was a success, with a veteran crew and a journey of around 1.7 million miles into space.

The First Transatlantic Fiber Optic Cable

The first-ever transatlantic fiber optic cable was laid in 1988. It had the potential to transfer 40,000 calls at the same time.

The First Computer Virus

The first known computer virus started infected computers that were connected to the Internet. It was called ‘Brain’ and infected 5.2-inch floppy disks.

The Unveiling of the US Stealth Bomber 

While the first flight of the US Stealth Bomber was still several months in the future, the first public display of this machine was in November 1988. The unveiling was at the United States Air Force Plant 42 located in Palmdale, California. The Stealth Bomber was also assembled in that area. While there were strict restrictions on the actual viewing, editors of Aviation Week found that the presentation area had no restrictions above it. They took several aerial photos of the rear section.

Laser Eye Surgery

Laser eye surgery or LASIK surgery started getting attention in America. The data for this procedure dates back to 1988.


A Brief History of Time

Stephen Hawking published his book entitled ‘A Brief History of Time’. This was for audiences who were not familiar with the concepts of the universe or those who just wanted to learn something new. The work covered the structure, development, origins, and several other aspects of the universe in non-technical terms. It was a great step forward in helping the masses understand such concepts.



The Release of Prozac

The antidepressant medicine Prozac was introduced in 1988, and soon led the market in treating depression symptoms.


Olympics in Canada

The XV Olympic Games were in Calgary, Canada. They were held in February during the winter season. This was also the first time that the Winter Games were held in Canada.

The Self-Taught Ski Jumper

‘Eddie the Eagle’, a self-taught athlete, was also part of these Winter Olympics. He was the first-ever British ski jumper to take part in this even in over 60 years.

Canada Without Medals

Canada had previously hosted the Summer Olympics in 1976. They made a record for being the first country who didn’t win any gold medals on their home soil. In the 1988 Winter Olympics, the same feat was repeated.

A Medal for Sportsmanship

A Canadian soldier by the name or Larry Lemieux took part in the 1988 Olympics. He was just about to win the silver medal in a race when he saw two competitors being capsized. He abandoned his efforts in the race to rescue his competitors. He was then awarded the Pierre de Coubertin Medal, which is an award for sportsmanship.


Acid Washing

The trend of acid-washing jeans and jackets made of denim was becoming quite popular with both males and females. This was a process through which the fabric was chemically bleached, giving a varied effect to the original color by breaking down the material’s fiber. The white streak and spots were in style and also associated with the trend of heavy metal fashions.

Hair Metal

Heavy metal trends were called ‘hair metal’ due to the huge frizzy hairstyles spread by men and women alike. Those permed puffs were teased and sprayed until the required look was achieved; it was nearly impossible to brush them.

Queen of the 80s

Madonna continued to influence the fashion world in 1988. She was known as the Queen of the 80s both for her music and for her outrageous styles that were still fairly easy to copy.


One of the major Madonna influences was gloves. Fashionistas would often don a pair of gloves with any kind of outfit, though the colors were usually black or white. The gloves might even be fingerless at times.

Hawaiian Shirts

A popular trend for males in 1988 was wearing Hawaiian shirts. These might be brightly colored and have unique patterns for casual wear. However, Hawaiian shorts also resemble dress shirts with short sleeves, collars, and buttons. If you wanted to wear them in a business setting, the colors would usually be just gray and white. Plus, you could also wear these shirts informal settings without the need for a tie.

Leather Jackets

Leather jackets were worn by just about every icon in the late 80s. Think Uncle Jesse, aka John Stamos from ‘Full House,’ Michael Jackson, and characters from movies such as ‘The Lost Boys’.

A Messy Look

A certain level of disarray was considered trendy in those times. If you were wearing a leather jacket, it should be left open and preferably have some suds on the material. Slouching shoulders, oversized coats, and puffy sleeves also contributed to the somewhat untidy trendy look in 1988.

Aviator Jackets

The late 80s saw aviator jackets come back in style. The most common kind were the plain brown jackets, though other colors were available as well. The style of these jackets was modeled after the fighter pilot jackets from World War II.

Aviator Sunglasses

With Tom Cruise donning the Aviator Ray Bans earlier in the 80s, this sunglasses style also became very trendy. You can get one now at Humps Optics and be as cool and confident as the Top Gun star. Other forms of sunglasses were also in vogue, so much so that some people would even wear their shades at night.

Earrings for Males

Females already had a wide variety of earrings to choose from. However, 1988 was also a time when it was acceptable for even heterosexual males to get their left ear pierced. It soon became a part of mainstream fashion, with many celebrities sporting an earring in their left ear. A piercing in the right ear, though, was taken as an indication of homosexuality.


Tattoos were also starting to become more mainstream than usual. More and more young folks, as well as the older generations, were starting to get tattoos in order to commemorate an occasion, preserve a memory, or just to establish their own identity.

Ripped Jeans

Along with the acid-washed style, ripped jeans were also a trend in the late 80s. These rips were either manufactured within the jeans themselves or were done on purpose by the owner. This popular trend was carried over from the glam metal acts, such as the band Poison.

Urban Communities

Some urban African-American communities started shunning their traditional styles, including bright colors like red, yellow, and green. Instead, they chose to unlace their sneakers, wear loads of shiny jewelry, and wear head wraps.

The Outdoor Look

Many people in the 80s liked to go for the outdoor look. This included flannel shirts, jeans, and large hiking boots even if they were nowhere near the mountains.

Worries About Fashion Styles

With piercings, tattoos, and ripped, bleached clothing becoming common styles, parents of teens started worrying about how these choices would affect their kids’ futures. This worry wasn’t unfounded, as many organizations might refuse employment due to the piercings, tattoos, or unprofessional dressing or any candidate.


The Removal of Scrappy-Doo

Scrappy-Doo, Scooby-Doo’s nephew, was finally omitted from television altogether. The annoying catchphrases and behavior of this character received a lot of negative feedback from audiences, resulting in the omission of the character altogether.

Steps Against Racism

Jimmy’ The Greek’ Snyder was fired from CBS due to his racist remarks about breeding practices in slavery making blacks superior athletes. Before this, Snyder was a regular on the “NFL Today’ show since 1976.

Teaching Responsibility

Harvard Medical School joined hands with various TV and film studios with the intent of instilling the concept of staying safe while drinking. They focused on inserting the idea of the designated driver, one who didn’t have any drinks, into the popular mainstream consciousness. The project was a success.

The End of an Era

1988 saw the series finales of several popular TV shows and sitcoms. These included ‘The Facts of Life’, ‘Punky Brewster’, ‘What’s Happening Now!’, and the original series of ‘Magnum, P.I’.


Second Bosphorus Bridge Completed

The Second Bosphorus Bridge, also called the Faith Sultan Mehmet Bridge was completed in July 1988. Its location was in Istanbul, Turkey, and the bridge itself was the 5th-largest suspension bridge ever at that point. It’s one of the three bridges in Istanbul that connect Asia and Europe.

8888 Pro-Democracy Protest in Burma

The 8888 uprising was held in Burman in August 1988. This was a pro-democracy demonstration with people participating from all over the nation. Students were the planners of this uprising, though there were over a million participants in the capital city alone. Aung San SuuKyi was appointed as the leader of the opposition during these protests and eventually became a non-violent symbol for pro-democracy efforts in Burma.

Hasbro Acquired Cabbage Patch Kids

It was in 1988 when Hasbro acquired the license to produce and sell Cabbage Patch Kids dolls after the original licensee, Coleco, filed for bankruptcy in the same year. Cabbage Patch Kids are a popular line of cloth dolls that have birth certificates and adoption papers. To learn more about these cloth dolls, read The Interesting Origins of Cabbage Patch Kids.

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