The Androgynous Womenswear of Cyber Crime
90s hacker fashion reemerges on the runway and among subcultures – from Rick Ownes, Gareth Pugh, and Alexander Wang to cyberpop and seapunk.
It’s 1995, after the dawn of punk rock and right in the middle of grunge. It’s here that we meet Angelina Jolie’s character in Hackers, Kate Libby, in a clean white, one-piece suit with a mock turtleneck and chunky, strappy boots, while she stares intensely at a video game screen and is surrounded by cyber imagery. There’s something uniquely futuristic about her appeal – her choppy helmet hairstyle with baby bangs and a monochromatic outfit – because until this time, we hadn’t understood women to be much a part of the cyber world and had no idea what they looked like. She was a hacker girl, and with the territory came a new fashion statement.
Hacker girls are a hybrid kind. When it comes to style, they are partially archaic tropes – the wounded soldier, the redeemer of the unknown lower class – and part evolved intelligent cyborgs, free from the constraints of mainstream style categories. They are lone wolves, consistent in one key pragmatic aesthetic: They choose armor. Leather jackets from motorcycle gangs, army cargo, tight black vinyl like superheroes, heavy boots, piercings. Every piece of clothing is chosen for its service or its message.
The style of women in hacker roles often reflects the definition of the word “hack.” Both “rough” and “cut” are close in reference and each give insight into the traditionally unpolished look and attitude that embody the hacker identity. Characters who have established the persona in TV and movies, most recently in 2011’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Lisbeth Salander, and previously Trinity in The Matrix (1999) and Angelina Jolie as Kate Libby in Hackers (1995), among others, have invariably defined the hard exterior of the hacker archetype. Lisbeth is an odd path punk kid with facial piercings; icy-eyed Trinity (Matrix, 1999) is forever associated with slicked-back short black hair, black sunglasses pinned to the face, and all-black, all-leather outfits; even 12 year-old Erica Dansby in Ghostwriter (1993) has a certain hostility backing her boyish style.