Since Levi’s Dungarees made their debut over a century ago, denim has staked its place in the fashion world through its versatility and comfort. Originally worn by workers, denim made a name for itself by being the go-to fabric in toughness and longevity. With such a tough nature, it inevitably drew the attention of rebellious teenagers, and by the 1950’s it was donned by every rebel on the block— including on screen (James Dean sported them in Rebel without a Cause). By the 60’s, denim was everywhere in fashion and not just limited to jeans and jackets. In the 80’s, Calvin Klein’s jeans took off with the help of those timeless Brook Shields ads, and in the 90’s grunge wouldn’t have been grunge had it not been for the endless supply of destroyed denim. Fast-forward to 2012 and denim is still going strong and shows no signs of going away; It always manages to evolve with the trends (dip-dyed, fringed or bleached stars and stripes comes to mind).
I could rave endlessly about denim and the moments in fashion that put the spotlight on it, but right now all I want to talk about is the one denim look that will not escape my mind. One of my favorite rebel-denim moments is when Helen Slater sported the outlaw look in 1985’s The Legend of Billie Jean. In this cult-classic, Billie Jean (Slater) becomes a martyr in the fight for “fair is fair” after a series of unfortunate events causes her to be on the run from the law with her brother and a few friends. She chops off her beautiful blonde locks in a heroic, Joan of Arc move and has gotten girl power written all over her from that moment on. Throughout the film, her style rises well beyond her circumstances (which goes to show, you can have style no matter where you are, or who you are): cut-off denim jackets, Navaho accents, slouchy button-down dresses and bootlace ties. Her cropped ‘do sets off her attire to create one powerful look. High style runs in her family too with her brother (Christian Slater) in his zebra print baseball cap and plaid vest.
To translate Billie Jean’s look into the now, I took my thrifting endeavor more directly than usual— because her look is so wearable right now! I grabbed a Levi’s boyfriend denim jacket, a denim button-down shirt, a bandana (to wear as a neck scarf), some lace-up denim shorts and a rolled-brim hat. I even threw that chunky braid in my hair (couldn’t resist!). To get the look for yourself, have these pieces on your list:
- Oversized denim jacket or vest
- Pastel or denim button down shirt
- Gaudy silver dangle earrings
- Bootlace tie (cowboy’s necklace)
- Bandana (twist it and tie it around your neck)
- Keds or leather boots
- Faded cotton button-down dress
No matter how you mix these pieces, you’ll be welcomed into Billie Jean’s crew, no doubt. Now, to complete the look, who’s brave enough to dye their hair that gorgeous bleach blonde? And if you’re already rocking it, I salute you.
By Whitney S Williams
Photos by Gabriel Gould and TriStar Pictures