5 Styles That Defined Entire Eras (Were Made Up by Movies)

#2. Wall Street Brokers

The Image:

Greedy and ruthless businessmen who will exploit the system, ruin lives and even naked-wrestle their own grandmas if it means they get to wear fancy suits and slick their hair back with the fat from endangered polar bears. The sort we gladly blame for the recent recession, and occasionally spit on.

It's OK -- they can afford the dry cleaning. Plus, they're hardly people.

Totally Stolen From:

Wall Street.

Since the premiere of Oliver Stone's Wall Street in 1987, countless people have told Michael Douglas that his portrayal of the movie's antagonist, Gordon Gekko, is why they got into the broker game. As Michael Lewis notes, hedge fund wunderkind Seth Tobias "gave an interview for Wall Street's DVD bonus reel, in which he said, 'I remember when I saw the movie in 1987. I recall saying, That's what I want to be. I want to start out as Bud Fox and end up as Gordon Gekko.' "

When Tobias was found dead in his Florida swimming pool soon after delivering that commentary, he became the first person to have ever fatally misread a movie. See, Gekko was supposed to be a villain, and you were supposed to hate him! He was a caricature of the "greed" culture of the 80s, a cartoonishly evil human-shark.

The 80s had their share of greedy stock-market assholes, but nobody made it look as good as Gordon Gekko. In fact, Gekko looked so much better than anyone looked on the real Wall Street that according to Ellen Mirojnick, the film's costume designer, it almost got her in trouble. Stone warned Mirojnick that, "My friends tell me that on the Street no one looks like that." But she persisted with her vision to make Gekko dress like an old-school movie star, and soon enough the actual bankers followed.

"It became all the rage -- the whole idea of it from his slicked back hair ... to the horizontal striped shirt. It became the language of power-dressing for men." Of course, Stone was right. According to Mirojnick, "I later went on to discover ... the Street ... was very conservative at that time."

The rest of Gekko's character wasn't exactly authentic either. Stanley Weiser, who wrote the movie with Stone, spent a few weeks doing research before realizing that most of these guys were boring as, well, businessmen. To help add some glamor, he chose to incorporate other nonbanker characters into what became, "an amalgam of different personalities that I had studied" both on and off Wall Street.

The strangest part is that, according to the writer who created him, "Gekko's dialogue actually was inspired by Stone's own rants. Listening to Oliver's early morning cajoling and sarcastic phone calls exhorting me to work (provided) the precise varnish with which I needed to coat Gekko." So the banker whom everyone on Wall Street thought they were imitating was actually a pinko lefty filmmaker who wanted to make America hate bankers. And he would have succeeded if he wasn't so creatively gifted at being an asshole.

Something like this. Only millions of people lose all their money 20 years later.

#1. Cowboys

The Image:

"The cowboy" is probably the most iconic character in the history of the U.S. Everyone immediately recognizes them by their cowboy hats and fancy belt buckles, riding their horses while shooting at each other or, as was more often the case, at Native Americans.

Go back to whatever country you came from, Indians!

Totally Stolen From:

Wild West shows and silent Westerns.

We've already mentioned how the "Wild West" saw less gun violence than Amish daycares, and we've also challenged the common misconception that there was ever any significant difference between a cowboy and a hobo. Both myths were started by Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. These late 19th/early 20th-century vaudevillian spectacles were about as representative of the real West as porn movies are of the pizza delivery business. It was those shows that created the template for the "Western look," including, among other things, the "10-gallon hat" invented by Buffalo Bill specifically for his performances.

It's a hat! It's a bucket! Nope! It's pure bullshit!

Despite what the movies taught us, a silly hat and unironically ending each sentence with "partner" doesn't make you a real cowboy. An uneventful life of working for minimum wage and poor personal hygiene are way closer to the mark. In reality, the only real difference between a typical cowboy's attire and a burlap sack was the occasional presence of buttons. The colorful cowboy look created by Buffalo Bill survived thanks to stupid people who brought it with them from the East and whose only interaction with the Wild West was the shows they'd seen. This would be like making assumptions on African culture in the outback based on the way lions interact with lion tamers at the circus. Stupid, right? Well, everything you think of when you picture the Wild West is just that ridiculous.

The style was later immortalized by silent Western actors such as Tom Mix. After launching his career in 1917, Mix appeared in a number of movies sporting the 10-gallon hat, silver buckles and clothes full of fringes, popularizing the made-up look among later "cowboys" who just didn't know any better. In their defense, the notion that movies can lie to you must have been new at the time.

They had no way of knowing.

The modern image of "the cowboy" was completed with silent films starring G.M. "Broncho Billy" Anderson, who defined the stereotypical cowboy personality: cordial to the ladies, deadly with a gun, presumably hated by his horse for constantly putting it through dangerous stunts. In reality, however, most cowboys were dirty, underpaid farmhands with insanely boring lives.

And really, if someone started making your shitty job look awesome in the movies, you'd probably go with it too ...

Accounts Receivable just got real.

Cezary Jan Strusiewicz is a freelance online journalist and Japanese-English-Polish translator. Contact him at c.j.strusiewicz@gmail.com.

And learn how future authors will be imitating us by picking up our new book!

For more bullshit from Tinsel Town, check out 5 Ridiculous Gun Myths Everyone Believes (Thanks to Movies) and 5 Things Hollywood Thinks Computers Can Do.

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