Style Tips From Nineties Movies
A still from Mallrats, 1995. Photograph by Gramercy Pictures/ Photofest
Zip-up track tops, layering and a laidback attitude are the keys to 1990s cool, as seen in these classic films, and the AW16 collections.
It’s a happy moment in a man’s life when the great wheel of style turns another revolution and he realises that his misspent youth might not have been entirely as misspent as he previously thought. At least, that is, in the wardrobe department. Yes, weirdly, this summer, both Teenage Fanclub and Dinosaur Jr are about to release new albums, Ms Winona Ryder is all over our screens in Netflix’s Stranger Things, and everyone’s about to buy a pair of coloured Adidas Originals Gazelles. In short: the early 1990s has re-emerged into the pop-cultural consciousness, and all the yelping millennials on the MR PORTER team couldn’t be happier about it. Seeing all the zip-up track tops and grunge-inspired distressed sweaters at the AW16 shows made us think warmly of simpler times, when you listened to albums more than once, thought toasted paninis were the most exotic food ever invented, and had an extra 20 hours of your life each week, because Facebook and Instagram hadn’t been invented yet. Many of these fuzzy feelings, of course, also extend to the cinematic treasures of the era, which, on second glance, look distinctly more stylish than we remember. Here are some key sartorial take-homes from these forgotten gems.
Ms Winona Ryder and Mr Ethan Hawke in Reality Bites, 1994. Photograph by Universal/ Allstar Picture Library
In the early 1990s, it was particularly important to have long, floppy hair with a centre parting. People who were born with the kind of tresses that makes it possible to achieve such a look were revered as demigods and plastered, mandala-like, all over the walls of every teenager’s bedroom. Which is a long way of saying, it must have been nice being Mr Ethan Hawke circa 1994, when he starred alongside Ms Winona Ryder in the Mr Ben Stiller directed Reality Bites. As Troy Dyer, Mr Hawke is the ultimate troubled-but-talented-slacker-with-a-heart-of-gold, and dresses the part in a range of baggy brown shirts, distressed T-shirts, and this rather attractive knitted polo shirt, above. Slip on something similar and add Big Mountain’s “Baby, I Love Your Way” to your Spotify – one of the few post-1990s innovations we unreservedly welcome.
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MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO
Messrs Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix in My Own Private Idaho, 1991. Photograph by The Kobal Collection
They may have ended up on a somewhat unfortunate career path, but boy, did Messrs Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix’s Seattle-based hustlers in My Own Private Idaho (1991) know how to dress. Key to the look of this film was both male leads’ dedication to piling on layers of jackets and sweaters – Mr Phoenix is always in at least two pieces of outerwear, while Mr Reeves throws in some sweats to mix it up. But also pleasing is Mr Phoenix’s autumnal colour palette, which echoes the golden-toned shots of the Pacific northwest landscape and highways with which the film opens. Almost makes us want to give up our jobs and… wait, no, it doesn’t.
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Mr Jason Lee, Ms Shannen Doherty, Mr Jeremy London and Ms Claire Forlani in Mallrats, 1995. Photograph by Gramercy Pictures/Photofest
In Mr Kevin Smith’s sophomore slacker farce Mallrats (1995), style is at the core of the action. Mr Jason Lee’s comic-book-loving protagonist Brodie (representing every other sensitive-but-emotionally-stunted slacker male of the 1990s) discovers that his girlfriend, Rene (played by Ms Shannen Doherty) has taken up with Mr Ben Affleck’s Shannon Hamilton, a smooth, odious suit-wearing employee of a high-end menswear retailer (we like the film, so are prepared to overlook the negative connotations of this for the MR PORTER team). Guess who wins out? Yes, in the 1990s, for a brief glimmer of a moment, it was cool to be uncool – or rather, alternative – and few people wore this look better than Mr Lee, with his oversized corduroy jacket, layered long-sleeve T-shirts, stubble and messy, un-gelled hair. Mr Jeremy London, meanwhile, playing TS Quint, does a nice job here of reminding us that it used to be OK to wear a plaid shirt as outerwear. Let’s make it so again.
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Messrs Vincent Cassel, Saïd Taghmaoui and Hubert Koundé in La Haine, 1995. Photograph by Photoshot
Long before Parisian buzz-brand Vetements brought the sartorial language of the city’s banlieues to its rarefied fashion runways, director Mr Mathieu Kassovitz gave us a glimpse of this tough existence via his 1995 film La Haine, starring Messrs Vincent Cassel, Saïd Taghmaoui and Hubert Koundé. If feels a little strange to reflect that this outraged, politically charged drama – a visceral protest at impossible living conditions and sustained police brutality on the outskirts of Paris – might contain any pointers as to how to dress. But the fact that the above image now looks rather stylish says a lot about how far streetwear has made an impression on the wider fashion vernacular in the past two decades (the zip-up track top, for example, is very much on the agenda this autumn). Plus, that shearling coat: a thing of beauty.
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Mr Christian Slater in True Romance, 1993. Photograph by Warner Bros/ courtesy The Neal Peters Collection
“Heartwarming superviolence”. This could have been the tagline for the 1994 film True Romance, written by none other than Mr Quentin Tarantino and directed by Mr Tony Scott. But there’s more to the film than that – winning performances from Ms Patricia Arquette and Messrs Christian Slater and Christopher Walken, a lot of great marimba music, and some particularly good outfit choices by Mr Slater’s Mr Elvis Presley-obsessed protagonist, Clarence Worley. We’ve already praised the look in The Journal, in our musings on the Rise Of Thrift-Shop Style. And we’ve probably said enough about Hawaiian shirts this season. So let us just leave you with the above image and your reminiscences (and perhaps recommend that you click through to see the latest offerings from Japanese brand Neighborhood, which are very much in this vein).
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