It’s no secret that one of the things that caught my interest when I started watching Hawaii Five-O was the fashion. Sure, our team is typically dressed in conservative suits, but their personal and undercover fits are a sight to behold. Not to mention that you’re dealing with an island vacation spot in the late ’60s and throughout the ’70s. So many bright colors, bold patterns, and a broad assortment of people wearing them.
It’s a glorious time capsule.
In fact, it covers the end of one decade, the entirety of the next decade, and the very beginning of a third decade, which shows off the evolution of fashion during that particular time period. In that time span, dresses are going from short shifts to waist-defined and below the knees; the skirts go from minis to maxis; bell bottoms grow and waist-lines lower; even the suits change, with the widths of lapels and ties changing.
Not only that, this is Hawai’i fashion. In addition to what you might find on TV at the time, the standard styles and the styles indicative of certain groups like hippies, you also got island fashion, both residential and vacation. Yes, there are a lot of Aloha shirts and matching Aloha outfits and other threads common to vacationers and required of those working in the tourist trade. And the colors and patterns are glorious. But there’s also what the average, everyday people wear while working in the markets or on boats or doing their shopping. And there are muumuus. So many glorious muumuus.
That’s what’s so great about Rerun Fashion: it tells us so much.
Iris Apfel once talked about fashion as being a sort of record for history. You can tell what was going on in the world at the time by what people wore.
I feel that way about TV fashion as well (however I’m not nearly as cool or as well-dressed as Iris Apfel). We’re not only getting a glimpse into the fashion and styles of the time, which provides its own little insight into what the world was like, but we’re also getting that all filtered through the characters that are wearing it.
Obviously, Steve McGarrett is my favorite example of this.
While the Five-O team wore their conservative suits at work, they’re off-duty attire was much more relaxed for the most part, polos and Aloha shirts. And then there was Steve. Conservative, by-the-book Steve had an affinity for ascots, whites suits, pops of color, and some pretty fab hats. You never would have thought it from a man like him, but he was a bit of a fashionista. While some hard-nosed cops have a softer side off-duty, Steve McGarrett had a stylish side.
There’s something especially fab about characters you’re used to seeing in uniform in their street clothes. When the guys at Station 51 on Emergency! change into their street gear, you not only get a glimpse into their off-duty personalities, you also get a glimpse into their off-duty personalities as filtered through the ’70s. That’s why Johnny Gage is sporting these patchwork jeans. Of which I had a similar pair in high school in the ’90s when some ’70s styles had a resurgence.
I would wear them again today, no hesitation.
Speaking of out of uniform, given how infrequently everyone on Stargate Atlantis gets to don street clothes, it feels particularly monumental when they show up in those duds of the aughts.
If you want to look for character definition through wardrobe, look no further than The A-Team. Each character is defined by their clothes. Hannibal with his safari jacket, Face with his leather jacket, BA with his gold chains and perpetual lack of sleeves. A ball cap, bomber jacket, and pair of Chuck Taylors is Murdock. You can see that from space.
There was a similar situation on the ’60s Dragnet. Joe Friday and Bill Gannon wore the same suits every episode.
One other thing that I find fun to look out for is how the wardrobe department of shows not only dress characters for their personalities, but also how they coordinate the characters with each other.
One of my favorite things about CSI:Miami is that starting in the second season, wardrobe started doing a little color matchy-matchy between characters. Calleigh’s shirt matching Frank’s tie. Delko and Speed wearing similar colored shirts. By the fourth season, it was full-tilt coordination. It seems like at least one character in each episode is guaranteed to match Frank’s tie. And there are some episodes when there’s obviously a color theme. Everybody sporting a shade of one color. It’s glorious.
On the flip side of that, wardrobe on The Golden Girls did their best to make each woman stand out on their own. Not much in the way of matchy-matchy unless there was a specific reason. There’s one episode that sticks out in my mind in which Dorothy, Rose, and Blanche are sitting on the couch looking like a stoplight -red, yellow, green.
Just like the plots and slang, the fashion of reruns can either be dated or timeless, however it never fails to deliver some sort of statement.
Just pay closer attention to the threads.