Why We Still Love Neon
A peek into Neon’s colorful history and why its seasonal revivals are here to stay.
The neon color trend has seen its ups and downs over the decades, but now it’s having a moment. In the 1980s fluorescent crop tops, bright leggings and colorful kicks ruled the runways and spilled over to the streets. Today, fashion insiders are predicting blazing neon as one of the trends that will dominate your closet this year, along with metallics and tie dye—what’s old is most definitely new again. Bursts of bright pink in particular are rising up the ranks as something we’ll see a lot of this year. Fingers crossed you didn’t toss that hot pink tee impulse buy from three years ago.
From accents to accessories, neon continues to be an invading trend. Neon is consistently reinvented and repurposed by designers, showcased in new mediums as people find ways to express themselves. Last year, neon eyeliner became the biggest beauty trend, and this year neon nails are on tap to be hugely popular. Finding your own unique ways to incorporate bold neon pieces is the easiest way to inject some personality and fun into your day. “I think we gravitate towards bright neon colors because they are daring, empowering, and have the ability to restore confidence,” says Michelle Briggs, Sr. Design Manager, Color & Trends at Reebok. So, whether you’ve been rocking this trend for years or you’re curious about where it started, Briggs breaks it down for you. From bright and flashy in the 80’s, to bold moments in the 2000’s and beyond, read on for how the neon trend remains alive and well today.
How It Started
In the 80’s you couldn’t stop the neon train, and Briggs says the media industry is what set it all off. “I think when you first think of neon, it takes you back to the 80’s when neon made its way into clothing. This trend was largely driven by the youth and entertainment at the time, especially through the popularity of music videos on TV.”
Beyond TV and music, the fitness industry was also taking over wardrobes, and suddenly workout clothes were a must-have. Vibrant colors were what set you apart in the studio. “Simultaneously, there was a fitness and aerobics boom during the 80s, which means we also saw a lot of neon lycra, leg warmers, and footwear, like the Reebok Freestyle.” It wasn’t just neon clothing, but bright kicks were and still remain a big selling point in the footwear industry. Briggs says as the 80’s died down, another new era ramped up and neon was reinvented again and again. “From there, this trend evolved into the 90s rave scene and, eventually, became a staple in sportswear, especially running gear, as a functional attribute for safety and visibility in the 2000s and 2010s.” In 2018, neon colors saw a resurgence on the runways and continue to grace us with their presence in unique ways today.
The Style Shift
Just as the neon trend has evolved and grown over time, so has the way people wear it. “The way we see the neon trend today is a bit different. It’s less about function and more about expressing oneself, being daring, bold, or energetic.” Briggs says picking specific statement pieces, specifically sneakers, can be just enough to turn heads. “Instead of neon colors from head-to-toe, it is more prescriptive and thoughtful, drawing attention or highlighting one component of your look. We call this focal point color application, where one piece, often footwear, is popped in a bright color, and the rest of your outfit is toned down or neutral to allow that piece to stand out and make a bold statement.”
If you’re up for testing out this styling technique you’re in luck because there are newly released colors of Cardi B’s Reebok Club C in neon hues. “The allover white and bright Cardi sneakers are great for defying the darkness of cold winter months by injecting a burst of energy and excitement to a traditionally more muted season,” says Briggs. The sneakers come in bright white, neon green and hot pink. “Similar to Cardi herself, these colorways are impossible to ignore. They were made for those who want to stand out, be bold, and be noticed.” What could be better to help you stand out than sneakers designed by Cardi?
While celebrities make wearing bright, bold colors look easy, it can be intimidating for the rest of us. Briggs says don’t let that stand in your way. “Color is emotional and has the power to make people feel a certain way, whether it's to excite, relax, energize, etc.” There’s actually a theory called “dopamine dressing” that states wearing bright colors can actually help lift your spirit and boost your mood. Neon colors give off energy and can help you express yourself unlike pastels or neutral tones.
We can all admit that a thumb-stopping scroll on our phone is usually because a bright color catches our eye. Briggs says if it makes you stop and you can’t stop thinking about it, it’s probably worth it. “People have been spending more time interacting through screens and shopping online, and these neon colors (or digital brights, as we like to call them) allow people and products to stand out on-screen and IRL.” Whether it’s statement-making sneakers or a standout vibrant crop, you’ll always be on trend because neon is here to stay.