The 80’s went crazy for paint-splattered, Jackson Pollack-influenced fashion, as painter’s caps, pants and overalls left the weekend work wardrobe for a place in the limelight. Painter’s pants experienced a quick vogue in the late 70’s as a part of casual chic fashion (see teen idol Shaun Cassidy), and the 80’s paint trend revived the affection for the plain white cotton clothes. Fashion designer Willi Smith (not the Fresh Prince) introduced the graffiti-style print in his early 80’s collection, and before long everyone was making homemade versions of paint-splattered clothing, or dusting off their old painting duds.
Painter’s pants, bibs and caps were originally functional garments to be worn when painting. The inexpensive cotton clothes protected the wearer during messy chores and were considered the ‘grubby’ clothes in the back of the closet. Painter’s pants were favored by workmen because of the many roomy pockets (for holding brushes and rags) and the ingenious ‘hammer loop,’ a twisted loop of fabric sewn to the upper outer thigh for secure and easy placement of your hammer. The painter cap had a simple soft round crown and flexible bill that protected the hair and eyes from drips.
Painter’s clothing became fashionable as a walking canvas for the mainstream. While some left their painter’s clothes white as a minimalist style, most preferred to decorate. Pants were paint-splattered, with colorful bandanas hung from the hammer loop or from pockets. Painter’s caps were personalized with pins and buttons, the brim flipped or turned to the side of the head.
Working man’s function made it to the mall, and the colorful fashion infused a pastel world with shocking splashes of clashing colors. While you may not be Matisse or Picasso, most everyone felt comfortable with the Pollack-esque style of splattering. Like spin-art masterpieces from the carnival, a couple of colors and a little spinning created a one-of-a-kind work of art.
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