Boombox on Shoulder: The Quintessential 80s Trend

Boombox on Shoulder: The Quintessential 80s Trend

Spread the love

The 1980s was a magical time, and people who lived in that era truly enjoyed life. There were lesser worries, no social media pressure, and music was the center of the universe for most folks. Ask anyone from that era what trend they miss the most, and you are most likely going to hear the boombox on shoulder trend.

Carrying around a boombox on your shoulder, walking around the neighborhood and playing it loud was what life was all about. That trend does not exist anymore today, sadly. Music has become digitalized and miniaturized.

Everyone has music on their phones or iPods, and all these devices that hold music have become palm-sized. For this reason, we have decided to take a step back and visit the 1980s to let the kids of today know about this great invention that is the boombox.

The Boombox

Back in the 80s, the boombox was possibly the most visible form of music entertainment on the streets. These boomboxes were huge and had a throbbing bass. They were extremely popular all over the United States, and they played analog music.

Some of the top boomboxes of that era were the JVC RC-550, Sharp GF-1000, Conion C-100F, and SANYO MR-X20. It was mainly Japanese brands that were known to manufacture these boomboxes and introduced all of them to the market in the 80s.

It goes without saying that these boomboxes were massive in size because their speakers were particularly designed to be extremely loud. This meant that it had a large amplifier along with extra space for about eight to 10 batteries. It was a known fact that a bigger boombox meant bigger sound, and of course, a bigger rep on the streets.

The History of the Boombox

If you were a kid or a young adult in the 80s, you knew at least one person who carried around a boombox on their shoulder as they walk the streets of the neighborhood. There was also that one lady who used to scream out the window to “turn that noise down!”.

So, let’s go back in time and talk about the history of the boombox briefly.

  • 1969: It was this year when the boombox was first invented by Philips in the Netherlands.
  • 1977: The invention of the boombox heads to Japan, which went all out with its production.
  • 1980: The massive production led to its popularity in the United States.
  • 1983: By this year, the boombox becomes mainstream, appearing in Sears and K-Mart, and in several top music videos.
  • 1986: Sony became the first brand to introduce a boombox that played CDs.
  • 1997: Saehan Information Systems became the first to launch the MP3 boombox.
  • 2018: In the present day, the classic boombox from the 80s have now become a collector’s item and can easily fetch close to $1000.

Boombox on Shoulder: The Trend that Started it All

Boomboxes back then are the modern-day equivalent of a portable music player. They had several aliases. Some of them included:

  • Boombox
  • Jambox
  • Ghetto Blaster or Ghetto Briefcase
  • Boomblaster

The boomboxes that were introduced in the early 80s only came with a cassette player, AM/FM radio, amplifier, speakers, and a fold-down handle. One of the earliest boomboxes had an eight-track player or even turntables. It goes without saying that these were considered to be super cool.

Every single model of the boombox projected a solid mix of bass, treble, and midrange. Some of them even came with double cassette drives. This gave the user the ability to record songs off the radio or through a microphone.

Yes, you got it right. This is how people in the 80s started making mixtapes. Some of the boombox’s speakers could also be detached, which allowed them flexibility in positioning. One of the biggest reasons why these became so popular, especially the iconic carrying-the-boombox-on-the-shoulder trend was because they were that generation’s portable player.

It may seem absurd to lug around such a massive player on your shoulder today, considering how small all our electronic devices have become, but back then the boombox was a technological marvel. The ability to carry around such a player with a loud sound and an excellent bass was a big deal. The boombox allowed people to start a party absolutely anywhere.

Furthermore, the media only pushed this trend forward. Several famous music artists featured boomboxes in their music videos, and people replicated that in their regular lives. When K-Mart and Sears started selling these boomboxes in their stores, it became mainstream all across the streets of America.

With Sony introducing the CD-playing boombox, it entirely changed the game. For the urban youth, the boombox became a status symbol.

The Boombox Trend Today

Today’s boomboxes are nothing like what they used to be in the 80s. Most boomboxes today are portable and quite light in size. Very few of them will have the ability to play audio CDs or cassettes.

The boomboxes today come equipped with Bluetooth capabilities to allow seamless connectivity with all devices. They may also include playback from SD cards or USB flash drives.

To give that classic 80s boombox style and design, several companies are creating boomboxes to resemble exactly that. They give the boombox the look and feel of the past but with the technology of the modern day. However, these boomboxes are not as heavy as how they used to be.

Then again, not everyone is into these 80s-looking, modern-day boomboxes. There are people who are diehard collectors of the original boombox from that era. One of the most sought-after boomboxes for these collectors is the JVC RC-M90. This is because this boombox was featured on the cover of LL Cool J’s very first album “Radio”.

Even if you do manage to find this particular boombox, be ready to shell out a minimum of $800 to $1000 for it. However, people within the boombox connoisseur community unanimously agree that this boombox is worth every penny you spend on it just for the look and sound alone.

If you like to read more about the JVC RC-M90, The Boombox Wiki has a nice article with pictures of this iconic boombox.


The boombox on shoulder trend most likely won’t come back anytime soon, but it goes without saying that it is one of the most beloved inventions during that era. It does not matter what kind of music you are into, if you are looking to bring back some nostalgia in your life, a boombox is something that will definitely do the trick.


Hey there, my name is Scott and I am the creator of this site. Being a kid from the 80s, I have a soft spot for boomboxes and want to let everyone know how cool they still are today.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Jon - March 8, 2019

If you asked 100 people what they missed most about the 80’s, literally no one would say “the boombox on the shoulder trend.”

Leave a Reply: