Stonewash jeans, shoulder pads and leather jackets

This weekend, in cinemas across the US, a reunion not seen since the heady days of the Planet Hollywood launch will take place. Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the governor of California, will join fellow muscle-tastic action heroes Mickey Rourke, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts and Jason Statham in the tongue-in-cheek action film The Expendables.

By poking quiet fun at the genre, these latter-day action heroes have crossed the boundary from kitsch to become cool again. In honour of them, we celebrate the recent style items that have likewise made the journey from neglected to selected.

Shoulder pads

The Sylvester Stallone of fashion, the shoulder pad as worn by Dynasty’s Alexis Colby may have required synthetic inserts to beef up her Giorgio Armani jackets but Sly could rely on muscle alone. Returning to fashion as part of a 1980s power dressing revival last year, shoulders on simple cotton tops and boyfriend jackets suddenly received the Rambo effect. This season they linger still, via peaked shoulders at Comme des Garçons, armadillo arms at Jean-Charles de Castelbajac and on encrusted dresses at the puffy-armed pioneer, Balmain.

Stonewashed jeans

It’s no coincidence that 1980s heart-throb Mickey Rourke made his comeback at the same time that the decade returned to the catwalk. As The Wrestler received critical acclaim, stonewashed denim – and even double denim – won the style arbiters’ hearts, not to mention being embraced by the public. Slowly dying out this season (are we sorry? Probably not), examples still linger at Diesel Black Gold for men and MIH jeans for women.

The lumberjack shirt

Bruce Willis may have preferred a combo of vest, trousers and no shoes for Die Hard, but were his character John McClane to throw on a shirt in between disposing of crazed megalomaniacs, it probably would have been the rugged lumberjack. No longer the domain of wood cutters, this shirt has flirted with fashion for years, but never as energetically as it has this season when the men’s catwalk at Just Cavalli, Margaret Howell and Duckie Brown were full of them.

The leather coat

Watching the leather coat- and glove-clad models at Philip Lim’s men’s show you would have been forgiven for thinking the display was an ode to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator movies. And yet the sinister coat style best suited to fictional baddies is evident at all the darkest autumn men’s collections, notably at Gareth Pugh, and in shiny patent at Calvin Klein and Alexander McQueen. In the words of Arnie: they will be back.

The unitard

With the same slim odds as Dolph Lundgren’s character He-Man finally making it into the cool gang, unitards – or tight-fitting one pieces – somehow made it not only on to the runway this year but on to actual people, too. (OK, they were Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Jennifer Lopez, but who’s counting.) Still available at the one-stop Lycra shop American Apparel, expect a re-run when head-to-toe Spandex makes its way into the Olympic stadium in 2012.

The cardigan

The men’s cardie is as tenacious as Jason Statham, the hardest working action man in the business. The cardigan refuses to let go of fashion, despite its unavoidable connection to Val Doonican and retirees. Chunky at Thom Browne or sleek at Lacoste, patterned at Marc Jacobs or plain at Tommy Hilfiger, rest assured it’ll fight its way into the shops this winter.

The rucksack

Much like watching Eric Roberts go head-to-head with bigger stars from the 1980s as the villain in The Expendables, who expected to see the rucksack on the runway? Well, after the resurgence of bum bags, anything was possible in the wild world of designer accessories. At Louis Vuitton, Hermès and Rag & Bone, the accessory beloved of ramblers and the gap year finally made it on to the platform of high fashion. In soft-as-cashmere, paper-thin calf leather, naturally.

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