Getting Dressed for Drugs
Fashion inspiration from drug-ridden 90s cinema.
In a hazy, morning-after light, piles of teenagers lay sprawled over one another, half-naked and asleep. Hands are tucked into bubbled-out boxer shorts strapped midway by loose belts and even looser skater jeans. They’re near perfectly unkempt: a vision of adolescent comfort and disarray. In the final line of Larry Clark’s 1995 cult classic, Kids (1995), a topless teenaged boy wakes up, saying “Jesus Christ, what happened?”
In the mid-90s, drugs happened. Or, at least, we had become so used to them that witnessing drug-addled teens on film was possible. This newfound acknowledgement of teen rebellion not only brought on revelations of their lifestyle choices –signaled in films by raging parties, morning blur, and bad-influence friendships –but also their way of dress. It was an era for the alternative teen clad in unflattering jeans, hooded flannels, FILA sweatshirts, branded streetwear head-to-toe, and Converse All-Stars. It’s like Cher said in Clueless (1995) of the boys of her generation: “I don’t get how guys dress today. I mean, c’mon, it looks like they just fell out of bed and put on some baggy pants, and take their greasy hair […] and cover it up with a backwards cap…” These pothead adolescents were the same examples seen in movies like Mallrats (1995) and Clerks (1994): bed-headed teen boy characters like Jay and Silent Bob with haphazard looks characterized by oversized clothes and questionable hygiene.
Come the early 2000s, the drug-induced sartorial expressions that birthed these pothead skater boys were everywhere in mainstream culture, along with heroin chic, club kids, and 70s-era cocaine cowboys. Decades of uninhibited substance abuse gave rise to genres of dress that extended beyond preppy, punk rock, or even avant-garde. Club kids created their own brand of a neon-clad punk rock fantasy fashion; drug lords chose the Miami Vice appeal with Liberace suits and crisp, collared shirts left unbuttoned around the neck. For the latter, it was clothing that revealed their unadulterated cash and power. Think Milo in The Pusher Trilogy (1996-2005), Frank White in King of New York (1990), and Nino Brown in New Jack City (1991). Between the early 90s and 2000s, movies about drugs inspired generations of explorative, delirium-induced fashion choices.