6 Movies You Won't Believe Started Iconic Fashions
Every so often, a trend will take off with a force so powerful that consumer demand drives manufacturers to rush knockoffs into production, like how every person wore a "Thriller" jacket in 1983, no matter how ridiculous they looked.
Hollywood has always had a hand in shaping popular culture and taste, so it should come as no surprise that its influence on the fashion decisions people have made throughout history has been enormous. But with so much pop culture to consume and content being churned out at such a fast pace these days, it's doubtful these super trends will ever have as much sway as they did in the past. Unfortunately, that means we'll probably never again experience moments like when ...
Tom Cruise Almost Single-Handedly Kept Ray-Ban in Business
Back before he became a full-time shill for the world's most annoying cult, Tom Cruise was known more for his bankability as a movie star than his relationship with Xenu. His very first leading role as the privileged high school kid with an overabundance of First World problems in the hit teen comedy-drama Risky Business not only launched a 21-year-old Cruise into superstardom, but kept one of history's most iconic fashion brands from dying off.
And gave lazy teens an easy Halloween costume for the rest of the decade.
In the film, Joel (Cruise) is super stressed about getting into his college of choice, but also overwhelmed by the newfound freedom of being left home with no parental supervision. Dilemmas ranging from "Should he drive his dad's Porsche?" to "Should he turn his home into a temporary whorehouse?" arise, and Joel deals with every single one in the exact same way: By doing adorable things while wearing Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses.
He most famously puts them on right before uttering the film's catchphrase (and the '80s version of YOLO), "Sometimes you gotta say what the fuck." That he dons those particular shades at that moment is no happy accident.
In the 1980s, sales of Ray-Ban's Wayfarer sunglasses had sunk to an abysmal 18,000 a year. In an effort to turn things around, the company offered the producers of Risky Business $50,000 to feature the Wayfarer model in the teen comedy and, just as importantly, on the movie poster.
Sales of Wayfarers immediately took off. By 1989, Ray-Ban had sold more than 4 million pairs of the now-iconic model, a pretty sweet return on their investment. But the Cruise promotional juggernaut had just gotten started.
Three years after Risky Business, Ray-Ban and Cruise struck product-placement gold again when he and Val Kilmer battled it out for king douche of the sky and the sand in the box office hit/Navy recruitment propaganda film Top Gun. Cruise, Kilmer, and co-star Anthony Edwards all sported Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses in the movie.
"The Top Gun rules of fashion are for your style and for that of your team. They are not flexible, nor am I."
Once again, the partnership was a resounding success. Sales of Ray-Ban Aviators rose 40 percent in the seven months following the release of the film. To this day, they remain the eyewear of choice for anyone looking to inject a little "Hot Cop" flair into their wardrobe.
Flashdance Made Everyone Want Collarless Sweatshirts
Acid-wash jeans, parachute pants, leg warmers -- the '80s were chock-full of WTF fashion, and the collarless sweatshirt borne of the summer blockbuster Flashdance was no exception. Flashdance follows the story of Alex (Jennifer Beals), a young woman who spends her days working as a welder in a Pittsburgh steel mill and her evenings underneath the dance shower at her local dive bar performing elaborately choreographed routines, just like you'd see at your favorite blue-collar watering hole.
In one of the film's most memorable scenes, Alex carries on a conversation with a male suitor while reaching inside a ridiculously loose-fitting sweatshirt to remove her bra.
The sexy off-the-shoulder style apparently resonated with the masses, because the "ripped apart and ready to dance" casualwear look has been with us in one form or another ever since.
Interestingly enough, it all happened by accident. The gray sweatshirt, which Beals had brought from home, shrank in the dryer, so she cut out the neckband to make it fit more easily over her head.
That's not nearly as interesting as the story of how Beals landed her breakthrough role: According to Hollywood legend, executives at Paramount Pictures wanted to cast an unknown. After a nationwide search, producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson and director Adrian Lyne had narrowed it down to three actresses: Demi Moore, Leslie Wing, and Jennifer Beals. Unable to decide, Simpson reportedly showed pictures of all three women to a group of teamsters on the studio lot and (in a move that most likely wouldn't pass HR muster today) asked them "Which of these women do you most want to fuck?"
This method was last used when Maggie Smith beat out Judi Dench for Downton Abbey.
Flashdance became one of the highest grossing films of 1983, leaving a pile of torn sweatshirt collars in its wake.
Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier Stole Coonskin Caps from the Indians
Walt Disney, famed animator and communist hunter, was one of the greatest marketing geniuses and revisionist historians of all time. So it's no surprise that when Disney decided to open an amusement park in the '50s, he used these skills to great effect. Disneyland was a huge success, and the effort ultimately resulted in one of the biggest (and stupidest) fashion fads of the 20th century.
At the time of the project, Disney was low on cash, so he struck a deal with fledgling television network ABC. In exchange for financially backing the new park, ABC execs were given the rights to Disney's first weekly television series.
"How about something with a kooky pirate?"
"Eh, no one's gonna watch that shit."
Because national pride moved lots of units during the Cold War, Walt and company wanted an all-American historical hero to kick off the first season. They found one in Davy Crockett, the Tennessee congressman who died at the Battle of the Alamo.
Predictably enough, Davy Crockett: Indian Fighter was wildly popular.
As they always do when they have a hit on their hands, Disney marketed the hell out of every piece of Davy Crockett merchandise possible. One item in particular, the coonskin cap worn by actor Fess Parker, surpassed all others. Although it originated with Native Americans, thanks to the magic of Disney marketing the coonskin cap now belonged to a newly minted legion of armchair "Indian Fighters."
Fortunately, the replica smallpox comforter set never made it out of marketing.
If your grandparents had the foresight to invest in raccoon hide at the show's inception, your family is probably still living off the resulting financial windfall. At the height of the show's popularity, an estimated 5,000 coonskin caps were sold each day, driving the price of raccoon fur from 25 cents a pound all the way up to $8.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High Made Everyone Dress Like Skateboarders
Fast Times at Ridgemont High set the gold standard for coming-of-age teen comedies. It perfectly captured the melodrama surrounding life from the perspective of a suburban teenager. From a high school cafeteria blow job tutorial to what's arguably the most uncomfortable climax to a masturbation scene ever, the movie skillfully blended lowbrow comedy with poignant depictions of teen angst.
It's also chock-full of future stars, including eventual Oscar winners Forest Whitaker, Nic Cage, and Sean Penn. The most surprising breakout star didn't have a single line of dialogue, though. I'm speaking, of course, about Jeff Spicoli's checkered Vans.
So cool that they'll make you forget about how much of a douche Sean Penn is.
How they ended up in the movie was kind of a fluke. Sean Penn purchased a pair of the black-and-white checkerboards at the Vans store in Santa Monica and liked them so much that he decided to keep them on when filming started. The studio felt that one pair would not be sufficient footwear coverage for the entirety of the production and asked the company to send more. It was an action-packed film, after all:
Vans were already popular with skateboarders thanks to the vulcanized rubber soles and their super-strong grip, but the movie introduced the niche footwear to an international audience and anyone looking to emulate the Southern California surf culture. (Posers, as they might be called by people who care about that kind of thing.) And there were a lot of them. Vans was a $20 million company before the movie came out; once Spicoli sported the slip-ons, profits more than doubled to a staggering $45 million in no time at all.
Annie Hall Made Menswear OK for Women
Critics of Woody Allen claim that his feature films are all populated by self-centered upper-middle-class characters obsessed with the minutia of their own existence. His fans say the same thing. No matter which camp you fall into, you'd most likely cite Annie Hall as the quintessential Woody Allen film to make your point. Not only is Annie Hall infamous for being the film that beat Star Wars for Best Picture at the Academy Awards; it was also the driving force behind a fashion movement in the mid-'70s thanks to quirky co-star Diane Keaton.
"I was inspired by a fellow Keaton."
Keaton's kooky character, the eponymous Annie Hall, brought androgynous chic into vogue and had legions of women sporting the tomboyish style. But it almost didn't happen. When Keaton arrived on the set dressed in her signature menswear look, wardrobe stylist Ruth Morley initially vetoed the outfit. However, Allen, who was Keaton's boyfriend at the time, stepped in, saying, "Leave her. She's a genius ... Let her wear what she wants."
Both the movie and Keaton's style were huge hits. Women started wearing men's ties, slouchy jackets, vests, and wide-leg pants. The masculine look for women became a '70s staple. So yeah, Annie Hall not only beat Star Wars in the race for Best Picture, but also trumped them in the fashion game, judging by the dearth of cinnamon-bun hairstyles and turtleneck kaftans at the time.
Miami Vice Made Womenswear OK for Men
Television crime fighting used to be a rugged, manly undertaking that required no-nonsense attire, but things loosened up a bit after Miami Vice hit the air in the mid-'80s. Detectives dressed like gigolos even when they weren't undercover and apprehended criminals accompanied by pulsing Jan Hammer beats. Miami Vice not only upended the detective drama, but also paved the way for the metrosexual male to go mainstream in the real world.
Before you laugh, remember that we live in the era of skinny and drop crotch jeans.
TV detectives weren't the only ones released from the oppressive shackles of traditional men's fashion. Thanks to Crockett and Tubbs, men across the nation began mimicking the Easter parade dandy style.
Prior to the '80s, men's suits were tailored, fully lined, and worn with a dress shirt and tie. Thanks to the fashion influence of Miami Vice, slouchy unconstructed suits paired with pastel T-shirts (and sporting a 5 o'clock shadow every day, all day) became the look for men.
Be careful where you point that thing.
And retailers took notice. After Six offered a line of "Miami Vice" dinner jackets, Kenneth Cole debuted the "Crockett and Tubbs" shoe collection, and Macy's opened a store-within-a-store "Miami Vice" section for fashion-conscious young men. Before long, every Chess King in any respectable mall was filled with the just-rolled-off-the-cigarette-boat Miami chic look. That is, of course, until they had to make room for the MC Hammer pants.