Throwback Thursday: 1980s Vintage Baby Names

The designers are returning to the 1980s, the era of neon, acid wash and big, big hair, for their inspiration. And even ABC is going back to the age of materialism, with the 1980s-set sitcom, The Goldbergs. So maybe it’s worth heading back in the time machine to find some vintage 1980s names, to search for hidden gems that aren’t quite so popular today.

Michael and Jessica topped the charts in the 1980s. Michael’s still a mainstay, currently at #8, while Jessica has not fared so well—it’s fallen to #138.

In fact, most of the top names for boys are still top choices—Matthew, James, Anthony, and Daniel wouldn’t seem out of place on the playground today. The girls haven’t fared as well. Names like Tiffany, Jennifer, Amber, Crystal and Stephanie, all in the top 20 back then, only belong to the moms on the playground now. (The one top 20 exception for girls? Elizabeth, which still in the top 10, now and seemingly forever!)

Still, there are some names on there that maybe deserve a second chance at the spotlight. Here are my picks for names that had their heyday in the 1980s:

For Boys

Robert was a top 10 name back in the 1980s, but it’s fallen out of favor since and it’s now at #61. This is a time-honored classic with a cool meaning—famous—and a few cool nicknames. (We’ll pick Robb over the more dated Bob.)

Brian got lost in the rush toward other Celtic names like Connor, Aidan and Liam. But this lovely name, which means strong and virtuous, deserves another look. And since it has fallen from the top 20 to #139, you’re likely not to find another Brian on the playground.

Gregory was #45 in the 1980s, but is now slouching its way down below the top 300 mark. It’s a saint’s name, and won also worn by classic actor Gregory Peck and dancer/singer/actor Gregory Hines. Consider it in lieu of Gabriel.

Wesley means meadow, and it’s a lovely classic that’s been in the top 200 since 1880—though it hit its prime in the late 1970s and early 80s. A couple of cool characters—Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Wesley Crusher and Buffy/Angel‘s Wesley Wyndham-Pryce—sported the name, and the swashbuckling hero of The Princess Bride wore its soundalike cousin Westley.

Shane has a bit of cowboy cool, thanks to the classic Western flick—plus it was the name of a good-guy-gone-bad in red-hot series Walking Dead. But this variant of Sean has been on a downward slide since the 1980s. Is it ready for its comeback?

For Girls

Amy seems to be the one Am or Em name that hasn’t made it to the top of the charts (though some could argue that this top 1980s name already had its day in the sun, and helped bring Emma, Emily and the like to everyone’s attention). Still, if you’re looking for something like Amelia, Emme or Emma, but less popular, this name may be just what you need.

Erica may mean “eternal ruler,” but the name is no longer lording over the popularity list. It was #36 back in the 1980s, and it’s now fallen below the top 500. Consider it in place of Kayley or Chloe.

The only reason I can come up with for the decline of the beautiful name Cynthia may be a hangup with the dated “Cindy” nickname. So skip Cindy in favor of Thea or Cici, and give this name, often connected with the Greek goddess Artemis, a chance.

I adore the name Veronica—think smart-ass girl detective Veronica Mars, Elvis Costello’s 1990s song “Veronica,” or even the Biblical wiper of Jesus’s brow. Veronica, which means “true image”—was the 70th most popular name back in the 1980s, but has since fallen to #316. I love the nickname Vivi for it, if Ronnie feels a little too 80s for you.

Diana was the 75th most popular name back in the 1980s, spurred in part by the glamorous new princess across the pond. But even if Princess Di is still a popular figure years after her death, her name hasn’t fared as well—it’s just fallen below the top 250. My money’s on a comeback for this goddess name that dates back to ancient Rome.

What do you think of these names? Are there any other 1980s names you think deserve a second shot at the top? If you need help finding the perfect name for your baby, check out Parents’ Baby Name Finder, or email your question to lamilbrand@gmail.com.

Image: 1980s girl, by eurobanks/Shutterstock.com

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