Teen Spirit

John Hughes, director, mentor and 80s teen movie king, passed away a few weeks ago of a heart attack, seemingly impossible for one so young at only 59, and so youthful in spirit.

By Stephanie Rivers (Fashion)

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Published: Fri 28 Aug 2009, 9:57 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 8:17 AM

His passing takes with him a celluloid generation of teen angst and a spirit of Neverland in the movies. Hughes’ movies lived out loud the amalgamation of teenage feelings — insecurity, difference, awkwardness, geeky, pimple ugliness and the rest, at least by American standards. He showed his viewer on screen in technicolour what it was like to not fit in, to want to be one of the ‘in crowd,’ to want the pretty girl, the jock or to be a free spirit. But more than that, he showed his audiences it was okay to be different, creating a club of sorts out of the not-cool-enough, ogling, note-passing, skipping-class personas. The movies invited you to join in on the revelry, even if only for a few hours. Hughes’ movies always seemed personal, as though he was reliving his own teenage angst, making right what had been wrong. The audience embraced his movies because somewhere deep inside, everyone had experienced some of what they were seeing on screen, perhaps feeling it was a little like pay back to those who had maybe wronged them, even if they were not aware that they had.

The characters, as with any character in a movie, showed who they were through emotions and their clothing. Who can remember the 80s and not think of movies like The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Sixteen Candles? Hughes was an unlikely auteur of fashion, yet his movies set off many trends for their generation. Reviving motorcycle jackets, oversized blazers with pushed up sleeves, jeans, thrift shop finds (think vintage), piled on layers, mixed textures and frizzy teased hair. All of which made their comeback on the F/W 2009 runways. Mark Jacobs mined the Club Kid aesthetic, which also nodded toward Molly Ringwalds’ hair and look in both Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles. Who could forget John Cryer, now on the show Two and a Half Men, in his acid yellow boyfriend blazer from Pretty in Pink? That pompadour hairstyle, multicoloured vest atop of a bold patterned shirt with the yellow jacket. Another trend that Jacobs used for his F/W collection.

The movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off set off mega trends in fashion in its own right, mining a few older ones along the way. There was the white T-shirt, bold print novelty vest (very Missoni), saddle shoes and khaki-inspired pants, that Matthew Broderick’s character, Ferris Bueller, wore through out, topped off with a beige and black bomber jacket (very Bottega Veneta S/S 2010).

The outfit was perfect for the character who was a free spirit, who lived to irk his angry younger sister Jeanie and his principle. The pants were a relaxed fit, the jacket sporty and strong, the chapeau whimsical and the shoes, deceiving, just like Ferris. Jeanie herself, played by Jennifer Grey, had the oversized men’s blazer (so Marc Jacobs, Alexander Wang F/W 2009), high-waisted pants (a strong S/S 2009 trend) with rolled cuffs (think Current/Elliott’s boyfriend jeans), suspenders and a patterned shirt, each speaking measures about her anger, frustration and the need to control.

Charlie Sheen’s character in the same movie, the ‘too-cool-for-school’ teenager in the principle’s office at the end, depicted his bad boy persona with the high hair, leather jacket, tee and jeans. The style was very Westside Story, very James Dean. A coincidence, perhaps, but not likely as these are the movies that John would have seen growing up and movies that equally influenced their generation. What bad boy persona could you see in any 50s American movie that did not have a motorcycle jacket, jeans and a white tee? None. Even before that time, the style was prevalent. On the Waterfront showed a young Marlon Brando rocking a cap and leather jacket to portray his tough boxer character working on the union-run docks, Elvis Presley championed a similar style, sans leather jacket, in Jailhouse Rock and, of course, the grandfather of the look, James Dean, was never without either. Molly Ringwald, star and muse of many of Hughes’ movies, gave us that effortless ‘I don’t care image’ in Pretty in Pink. Her character’s vintage clothing, intentional layering and mixing of textures and styles, still prominent today in fashion, spoke volumes about individuality, the need for self-expression and flair.

In the same film, Annie Potts wore body-con vinyl over a white tee with spiked hair and long black earrings, a rocker meets punk aesthetic that would be as at home on the Lower East Side of Manhattan today as it was on any numerous designer runways this past F/W fashion season. In The Breakfast Club, the dynamic ensemble cast wore many looks that are prominent for Fall 2009 runway today. Judd Hirsch’s plaid shirt layered over a white tee (very DSquared, among others); Molly Ringwald’s character’s long diagonal-fold skirt with side closure (oh so Carolina Herrera-inspired in texture and colour and very Donna Karan with the folds, soft pleating); Emilio Estevez’ letterman bomber jacket over jeans (a staple in one variation or another on a DSquared line-up, at Hilfiger, and a chic alternative from time-to-time at Emporio Armani). What better way does one have than through the clothes we wear and how we wear them to express who we are, or who we would like to be?

I’m sure Mr Hughes would have liked to have been remembered for many things, fashion probably not one of them, but this oeuvre to his films seemed like the fitting tribute to the secondary characters in all of his movies, the clothing. Thanks for the memories John, thanks for the fashionable memories.


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