80s Flashback Names for Boys: Rockwell, Lloyd, and More

August 30, 2015 Abby Sandel
1980s baby names

By Abby Sandel

What defines the 1980s?

There’s breakdancing and the Rubik’s Cube, legwarmers and Pac-Man, Prince William instead of Prince George. But how about the names?

Thirty years ago, the most popular baby names for boys included Jason and Joshua, Michael and Christopher, Andrew and Ryan – the dad names of 2015.

But rewind that VCR in your head to the names of movie characters, popular singers and actors, and more. A surprising number of those names have become among the most stylish choices for boys born today.

Take Lucy Liu’s new son: Rockwell Lloyd. The new mom hasn’t shared how she chose the name, but Lucy graduated from high school in 1986. That’s two years after Rockwell scored a major hit with the single “Somebody’s Watching Me,” and three years before a young John Cusack won our hearts as the boombox-holding Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything

Did all of those Tiger Beat magazines and re-runs of our favorite movies influence the names we chose for our sons?

Let’s take a look at nine baby names from the 1980s that are making headlines in 2015.

Rockwell – Singer Rockwell’s real name is Kennedy Gordy, the son of Motown founder Berry Gordy. His stage name was meant to imply that the young singer could “rock well,” and for his smash hit 1984 single, he certainly did. Today the name fits right in with other surnames like Maxwell, as well as names like Rocco and Rocky. It was given to 68 boys in 2014 – a new high. With a celebrity birth announcement, chances are we’ll hear more of Rockwell.

Lloyd Clyde is back in the US Top 1000. Howard, too. What other early 20th century favorites are ready for a comeback? I nominate Lloyd, as in Lloyd Dobler. The image of Lloyd holding up a boombox outside of Diane’s window is among the most romantic and iconic of 1980s images. It’s definitely time for this name to make a comeback.

Westley – Few movies have as devoted a following as 1987’s The Princess Bride. A young Cary Elwes played the farm boy Westley, who was madly in love with the beautiful Buttercup. You probably know the rest. As a given name, Wesley – hold the ‘t’ – was big in the 1970s, thanks to a television miniseries. But Wesley has been climbing again in recent years, showing remarkable resilience for a name that once seemed like a pop culture phenomenon. Credit to the fractured fairy tale? Maybe.

Elliott E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was a 1982 blockbuster. It made more money than Star Wars, and held the record for eleven solid years. Elliott would have been an unusual choice for a ten-year old boy in 1982. But in 2015? Elliott is leaping up the popularity charts. When combined with the one-t Elliot, it’s becoming a very familiar name indeed.

Knox – Before Brad and Angelina were household names, Robin Williams starred as an unconventional teacher at an elite New England prep school. The year was 1989, but the movie was thirty years earlier, in the 1950s. One of the students was named Knox Overstreet. While the name seemed like an overnight sensation after the arrival of the JoliePitt twins, there was a rise in boys named Knox throughout the 1990s.

Maverick Knox, Lloyd, and Elliott were all the given names of fictional characters. But in 1986’s Top Gun, Maverick wasn’t a name at all. It was the call sign of naval aviator Pete Mitchell, played by Tom Cruise. There were 19 newborn Mavericks in 1986, 44 in 1987. And the numbers have gone straight up ever since then, with more than 1,800 boys named Maverick in 2014.

Teddy Stand By Me was a stand-out coming of age movie in a decade known for coming of age movies. Young actors Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Jerry O’Connell, and Corey Feldman played four friends in 1950s Oregon. Their names were just right for the era: Gordie, Chris, Vern, and Teddy. While Gordie, Chris, and Vern are in style limbo today, but Teddy – full name Theodore – is quite stylish. After sliding through the 1980s and 90s, Theodore is just outside the US Top 100 today.

River – Speaking of Stand By Me, the 1986 classic was the first big role for actor River Phoenix. By 1991, Phoenix had scored an Academy Award nomination. And two years later, he died of a drug-induced heart failure. Despite the young actor’s tragic end, the name River has become a favorite for boys, reaching Number 287 in 2014.

Wyatt Wyatt tends to lean cowboy cool, thanks to Wyatt Earp. But back in 1985, Wyatt was one of the nerdy teenagers longing for a girlfriend in Weird Science. The movie remains a favorite all these years later, and it’s rumored that a remake is in the works. As for Wyatt, the name rose all through the 1980s, and then was catapulted into the Top 200 by a Wyatt Earp biopic in 1994.

What are your favorite boy names from the 1980s?

About the author


Abby Sandel is nameberry's Senior Editor and resident Name Sage. Look for her baby name news round-ups every Monday, and her Name Sage columns on Wednesdays. Abby is the creator of the baby name blog Appellation Mountain and mom to Alex and Clio. For a chance to have your questions answered, contact Abby at

View all of Abby's articles


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