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20 smells that will zap you right back to the 1980s

Out of all our senses, smell is most closely linked to memory. At least, that is what the smarty-pants scientists say.

So, if you want to travel back in time, you need only to huff, whiff and sniff. The scent of a beauty product can summons the feelings of first dates. Perhaps you remember the smell of certain toys. And there are those trendy foods you haven't tasted in ages.

Let's go back in time like Marty McFly to remember some strong smells of the Eighties. These stuck out in our mind. Which smells do you associate with the 1980s?


Drakkar Noir

Those who dreamed of being Gordon Gecko liberally splashed this fragrance from Guy Laroche Paris in locker rooms. Citrusy and floral, Drakkar Noir was a Ferrari poster in a bottle, the odor of aspiring Yuppiedom. It launched in '82, and was the top-seller three years later.


Salon Selectives

The sweet, fruity scent lingered in your head like the catchy commercial jingle. 

Image: Helene Curtis


Burnt Hair in a Crimper

Flat hair was a no-no in the '80s. But careful with that crimper! Hold the Conair closed for too long, and you were left with the scent of singed hair. 

Image: Sears /



If your sister or daughter happened to burn her bangs on the crimper, you could simply pop open the Renuzit Adjustable. The egg-shaped plastic pots could be found on end tables in every apartment.

Image: The Drackett Co. / Gregg Koenig


Strawberry Shortcake Dolls

People were so concerned with the smell of their hair, the act of sniffing follicles turned into a popular toy. Launched at the dawn of the decade, Strawberry Shortcake (along with her raspberry and apricot pals) reeked of synthetic fruit and plastic.

Image: Kenner


Plastic Halloween Masks

The chemical odor of the plastic was just as strong as the cutting sensation from the sharp edges that dug into your face.



Scratch 'N Sniff Stickers

A true academic motivator. Image work productivity if your boss gave you a "Scooper Dooper" chocolate ice cream sticker on a spreadsheet.



Chocolate Diet Drinks

Speaking of artificial chocolate smells, diet chocolate drinks were all the rage for the aerobics-crazed masses of '80s. Canfield's Diet Chocolate Fudge soda and Slim-Fast shakes were chocolate-ish, and that was close enough.


Sweaty Spandex

Look, it's gross, but it's the true. With all the Jazzercize, Jane Fonda tapes and hair metal bands, there was a lot of sweaty spandex going around.

Image: Sears /


Aqua Net Hairspray

It was not just for women. Not only did groups like Poison and Cinderella sport spandex, they went through can after can of Aqua Net.

Image: Aqua Net


Lip Smackers

The taste of so many, many first kisses, from Dr. Pepper to watermelon.

Image: Bonne Bell



Sorry for repeatedly bringing back the memory of burning hair.

Image: Nair


VCR Head Cleaner

Look, it was probably just simple rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover, but VCR Head Cleaner seemed like a magic potion for clearing up the picture on your Ghostbusters tape.

Image: Amazon


Warm video game cartridges

Cruddy pictures would sometimes plague your Ataris and Nintendos, too, at which point you would pull out the cartridge and blow the dust out of the inside. Holding the games up to your face, you would get hit with the smell of warm silicon circuit boards.


Dot Matrix Printer Paper

The dzzzzt-dzzzzzt-dzzzzt sound certainly still rings in our ears, but the zig-zagging stacks of dot-matrix paper had a distinctive scent, too.


Cinnamon dental products

First hitting grocery shelves in the late-1970s, Big Red blew up in the '80s thanks to its infectious jingle. ("So kiss a little longer…") Cinnamon flavors were all over the place in the toothpaste aisle, too, with Close-Up at the peak of its popularity.

Image: Wrigley


Big League Chew

Inspired by the wads stuffed in baseball players' cheeks, this shredded treat hit you with the scent of bubble gum or artificial grape when you ripped open a pouch. Like candy cigarettes, but for chewing tobacco.

Image: Wrigley


Microwave Popcorn

The miracle of nuking food took off in the early 1980s, mostly thanks to the new wonder of microwave popcorn. Pillsbury sold its bags in the frozen food section, with the TV dinners and whatnot. That warm butter odor… Mmm.

Image: Pillsbury


Cool Ranch Doritos

Introduced in 1986, Cool Ranch Doritos seemed like a radical idea. Now, ranch is everywhere, and overseas these chips are known as the "Cool American" flavor.

Image: Doritos


Oxy, Stridex and Noxzema

All that candy and junk food meant one thing — you had better stock up on your acne medicine. Oxy and Stridex pads could be found in most teenage medicine cabinets.

Image: Bayer


SEE MORE: 20 smells that will take you right back to the 1970s

Time for another dose of nose-talgia. READ MORE

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