The link between street and urban wear and the music industry is well documented, enough so to say with certainty that the rise of hip-hop and urban wear were parallel. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about the way movies have influenced street wear throughout the years.
This post is the first of a series that will examine how the American film industry has influenced street and urban wear throughout the years. Naturally, we’ve decided to start at “the beginning,” the tail end of the golden age of Hollywood: the 1950’s.
While Cary Grant, Gray Cooper, Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor may have been the fashion icons of their times (not to mention Marilyn Monroe who influences fashion still today) they were also symbols of elegance and class. Their style — much like their fame — can be seen as the stuff dreams are made of and something to aspire to. Then James Dean came along and starred in one of the most iconic films of his time, “Rebel Without a Cause.” The film, which addresses the unrest of three California teenagers and their struggle to find their place in the world, continues to speak to teenagers today.
It’s no surprise that Dean’s style was also one of the first and greatest inspirations for modern streetwear designs. Dressing down, rather than up, became fashionable for the first time. Wearing jeans, a white t-shirt, and the iconic red blouson jacket that influenced other stars for generations, Dean defined a new kind of cool that the kids could relate to. The red jacket became the “must have” item in every young man’s wardrobe. Although it looked simple, the outfit was meticulously created by Warner Bros.’s head costume designer, Moss Mabry.
“Even though the jacket looked simple,” Mabry says, “it wasn’t. The pockets were in just the right place; the collar was just the right size.”
James Dean may have been perfect for the role of Jim Stark, but he was also the perfect vehicle for selling teenage fashion due to his own personal style being closer to the laid back, everyday streetwear trends of middle America rather than the glitzy glam of Hollywood.