The most visible area of '80s revivalism has been clothing. The last two fashion seasons have witnessed the return of power suits, loafers and linens a la "Wall Street."
Pete Waggoner, who heads sales at Julian's on Franklin Street, sees a correlation between the economy and high-end fashions reminiscent of the '80s.
"Now that the dot.com era is ending," he said, "folks are returning to the art of dressing."
"People who really want to feel at the top of their profession are starting to dress better on a regular basis."
Julian's recently started carrying an '80s throwback: Izod shirts, the kind with little alligator appliques.
'80s styles aren't just popping up in boutiques, though. From Britney Spears' Super Bowl outfit to Jay Z's videos, the trend is equally evident in the media and popular culture.
"I like the '80s style, but I'm a little bit conservative with it," said Romelia Perez, a freshman from Puerto Rico whose fashion sense sometimes harks back to her grammar school days.
"I guess it is a fun way to dress," said senior Robin Yamakawa. "Because you can be trashy without being too trashy."
Bangle earrings, bracelets and print tops are choice items for women. But few of the more extreme trends have reappeared.
"As far as guys," said senior Jarrett York, "I don't think the comeback is that strong."
"You see the denim wear, but it's not like you'll be seeing graffiti jackets and flattops anytime soon."
Though he eschews the garb of the "Top Gun" era, Geoff Baldwin, who decides which movies play at the Carolina Union Auditorium, is happy to see movies from the '80s back on the screen.
"Some of the more successful noncurrent films we've done recently have been '80s movies," he said.
"They're doing even better than many of the current releases," he noted.
Baldwin observed that the return of the "Star Wars" series and the recent success of action hero movies like "Gladiator" has helped to spark '80s interest among studios and spectators alike.
"It's cool to look back on some of those movies and remember how you wanted to be Rambo or Indiana Jones," said Brad Byers, a junior from Akron, Ohio.
"The '80s were just a fun time."
Of course, no one could expect a movie hero to fight the forces of evil without some top-notch theme music.
And the most pervasive element of the '80s revival has been in music. Across the nation, radio stations are including '80s days in their programming, and some are focusing entirely on that decade, such as Star 102.9, Raleigh's new station. The former smooth-jazz station converted to its new all-'80s format in January. An all-'80s station recently began broadcasting in Greensboro, too.
Isaac Trogdon, station manager of UNC's WXYC-FM, feels that the New Wave revival is reaching its second peak.
"Now we're beginning to see a second wave of the revival," he said. "You hear a lot more early hip hop in the mix now."
That's great news for sophomore Torin Martinez, a DJ who spins at parties around the area.
"The part of the '80s that I liked the most was the hip-hop self-expression element," Martinez said.
"I like the fact that people felt that they could express themselves more freely."
In some eyes, contemporary artists like Puff Daddy and Will Smith are leaning too heavily on the past, freely borrowing from '80s classics.
"People are not just sampling but completely remaking songs," argued York, himself an aspiring hip-hop artist.
"Musically, I think the '80s comeback speaks to a lack of creativity."
And York is not alone in his disdain for the sounds of New Edition and Ah-Ha!
"I just don't like '80s music," said sophomore Jeremy Burke. "The only reason it is coming back is because people are lazy and recycling (old material) is easy."
"I hope that the trend dies down soon."
But Trogdon doesn't believe that will happen in the near future, and sees the '80s movement in a positive light.
"A lot of people didn't really grow up with this music and are hearing it for the first time," he observed.
Sandwiched between the valium-laced pop of the '70s and the gangsta rap and grunge of the '90s, Trogdon believes that the more upbeat sounds of the '80s provide a nice balance.
Byers echoed those sentiments.
"I love '80s music," he said. "It puts a smile on my face."
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