The Shorts That Screamed Summertime – Terrycloth

By Lori Ferraro

In going through old photo albums the other day, I couldn’t help but smile whenever I got to the summer months in the early 80s, with my brother, Mike, and I wearing a whole lotta these:

Lori wearing terrycloth shorts in the 80s                    Lori's brother Mike wearing terrycloth cloth shorts in the 80s

Terrycloth shorts were part of the summertime uniform back in the day – everybody was wearing these comfortable, elastic-waist, absorbent towels on their bottom halves.

Red terrycloth shorts

Besides shorts, the ladies also wore these sleeveless terrycloth “jumpers” or “rompers,” which were quite fashionable.

Terrycloth romper          Terrycloth romper


These rompers looked especially good with the addition of a headband, knee-length athletic socks, a gold lightning bolt necklace, or a pair of roller skates.

The shorts came in a rainbow of bright and pastel colors. They were finished off with piping in white or a contrasting color. These were certified “short” shorts, waaay before we started wearing long board shorts and Jams.

Terrycloth shorts came in a rainbow of colors

Here was the trouble with terrycloth – it didn’t wash very well. After many summertime spins through the wash cycles, it would become stiff—the complete opposite of the fluffy towel texture it once had.

So, each summer new terrycloth shorts were purchased, worn to death, became threadbare and starchy, and were tossed away, allowing for a new wardrobe of shorts the following summer.

Though I never had one, I guess some people wore terrycloth shirts as well, see?

Terrycloth shirt

So you could have an entire outfit based on something you should be drying yourself off with! Add a sweet headband/wristband combo and you’d be ready for a triple-threat-terrycloth takeover!

I’m not too sure I’d want to rock the terrycloth trend today. But, looking back at the pictures gives me a warm fuzzy (like terrycloth) feeling that transports me back to those lazy, banana seat bike riding, long summer days of the early 80s.

Author: Lori Ferraro

Lori is a writer and actor living in Portland, OR. Her website, Drawn to the 80s, is where her 5 year old draws the greatest music hits of the 1980s. She is a blogger for The Huffington Post and her own blog, Once Upon a Product, is where she writes about important things like beauty products, music, her obsession with Mick Jagger and of course...the 80s.

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  1. Came across this article looking for 80’s fashion. So funny! Thanks for the laugh and the stroll down memory lane.

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  2. I had a pair of these back when I was in kindergarten. Pale yellow with white trim. I remember them because of this article. Thanks for posting it.

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  3. I spent many years living in Terrycloth! I even had a Terrycloth dress (grew up in South Florida). What better to jump into straight from the pool before riding bikes with a friend to get slurpees at 7-11? The jumpsuits were awesome until puberty hit and boobs could pop out with one wrong move!

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  4. Oh my…I owned all of the above! Thanks for the chuckle and the walk down memory lane!

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  5. To be honest, I associate these with the 70s.

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  6. OMG, my mom had one of these tarry cloth short shorts back in the 80s.Hers was either black and dark navy blue. I was born in 1982 and grew up as a little kids in the 80s. One of the things i remember my mom wearing were these short shorts in the terry cloth and rainbow flip flops. Of course my mom wore her short shorts in the summer time. Most of time she wore it as pull over shorts to wear over her bathing suit when we were at the at the camp ground camping, or at the beach or at the pool during the summer. Yeah just one of those funny little memories from early childhood.

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  7. I got red terrycloth shorts with white trim for Christmas in 1980. I was 13. My very trendy auntie asked me if I’d seen board shorts before and showed me hers – they were very cool. I used my Xmas money to get a yellow pair of board shorts

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