11 Times Movies And TV Shows Changed Real-World Fashion

Movies and TV shows don't just have the power to entertain; they also have the power to inspire. Throughout history, they've fueled cultural movements, influenced political thought, and helped usher in greater acceptance of minority groups, most notably the LGBTQ+ community, through positive portrayals. Films and shows have also made a major impact on fashion. When the characters have just the right style, audiences sit up, take notice, and think, "How can I look like that, too?"

The following movies and TV shows all launched significant fashion trends. As a sign of how potent they were, the mere mention of their titles will immediately cause you to envision the costumes worn on-screen. What springs to mind when you think of Tom Cruise in Risky Business? Wayfarer sunglasses, right? When you hear something about Miami Vice, you automatically envision pastel shirts. These are just two examples. A combination of the right actors, the right clothes, the right material, and the right time made viewers alter the way they dressed.

These movies and TV shows changed real-world fashion in an undeniable manner. 

Photo: Bonnie and Clyde / Warner Bros.-Seven Arts

  • Bonnie and Clyde made a powerhouse impression upon its release in 1967. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway magnetically played one of the most notorious criminal couples in history, Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. The duo famously went out in a hail of bullets after a lengthy crime spree. The intensity of the story combined with the skill of the performances to create a film that immediately established itself as a classic. Boundary-pushing violence was another element that got people talking.

    Because it was set in the 1930s, costume designer Theadora Van Runkle got to dress the stars up in the high fashion of that era. Dunaway, for example, often sported a beret in the movie. The real Bonnie Parker was a bit on the drab side. Given that Dunaway was a glamorous newcomer, the decision was made to give the fictional Bonnie an upgrade, with a bold wardrobe to match her personality.

    That approach worked. Audiences were so infatuated with the actress's performance that they began purchasing berets in record numbers. In France, production of the trendy hats more than doubled after Bonnie and Clyde hit cinema screens, as reported by The Herald. Sure, it was a little weird that people were emulating a notorious crook, but that's just how potent the movie was.

  • Risky Business is widely, and rightly, considered one of the best teen movies of the 1980s - a decade that has more than its fair share of classics. It made Tom Cruise a star. The actor displayed his blinding charm as Joel, a high school senior whose parents leave him home alone for a few days. After managing to wreck his dad's beloved Porsche, Joel raises money for repairs, turning his house into a brothel with the help of working girl Lana (Rebecca De Mornay).

    One of the big jokes in the movie is that Joel begins as kind of a nervous kid, then becomes much slicker as his confidence grows. The classic black Wayfarer sunglasses he wears in multiple scenes are an indicator of how comfortable he's becoming in his newfound hustler role. 

    Ray-Ban, the company that made those shades, thrived during the '50s. By the '80s, though, the company was in a much more dire state. According to CBC, Ray-Ban was about to discontinue the Wayfarer line altogether. Once Risky Business was released, sales skyrocketed by 50%. Cruise ended up inadvertently saving the company as a result of his on-screen sunglasses.

  • Woody Allen's Annie Hall is the definitive romantic comedy of the 1970s. It's the tale of Alvy Singer, a neurotic New Yorker who enters into a passionate, and occasionally volatile, relationship with the free-spirited woman whose name gives the movie its title. She's played by Diane Keaton. One of the ways we know Annie is a nonconformist is that she has her own unique fashion sense. Men's khaki pants, vests, and neckties are a regular part of her ensemble, as well as bowler hat. 

    The uncommon look worked because of the utter charm Keaton brought to the role. Interestingly, Allen allowed her to choose her own clothing for the film, so the selection was very organic. Although noted fashion designer Ralph Lauren supplied the clothes, he credited the actress for conceiving what Annie would wear. Lauren said, "Annie’s style was Diane’s style - very eclectic. Oversized jackets and vests, floppy men's hats, and cowboy boots. We shared a sensibility, but she had a style that was all her own. Annie Hall was pure Diane Keaton."

    Ladies, entranced by the modern-woman vibe, scrambled to copy the androgynous style. That paved the way for future stars like singer Annie Lennox and actress Tilda Swinton, who took the idea to the next level.

  • When you think of wardrobe in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, the first thing that likely springs to mind is that red bathing suit Phoebe Cates famously wears in one scene. The second thing you think of, though, is Vans sneakers. They're the shoes worn by Sean Penn's character, perpetual stoner Jeff Spicoli. His preferred pair has a black-and-white checkerboard design.

    Vans had been around since the 1970s. Thanks to the rubber soles that made them extra grippy, they were popular among skateboarders, and were therefore a regular component of that culture. The public at large had little to no knowledge of them. Until Spicoli, that is. As detailed in the Hollywood ReporterFast Times sent Vans into the mainstream, kicking off a trend among young people. Even kids who had never set foot on a skateboard scrambled to obtain a pair. 

  • Flashdance is about as quintessential an '80s movie as you'll find. It's got a high concept, slick editing, and a soundtrack full of pop songs. In other words, it's a 95-minute music video. Jennifer Beals plays Alex, a Pittsburgh welder with an ambition to dance ballet. The story follows her progression as she works toward this lofty goal.

    During those rare occasions when Alex is lounging around, she is seen wearing a gray sweatshirt that hangs off one shoulder. Beals herself is responsible for the look. Per Time magazine, the actress said, "When I was in high school, I had a favorite sweatshirt that had remained in the dryer for too long, so the hole for my head was too small, I couldn't get my head through. So I cut around the hole. I wore it to one of the auditions, and they liked it.” 

    When Flashdance became a box-office hit, fans went into overdrive copying the look. Gyms and aerobics classes were filled with women sporting the off-the-shoulder look, and non-athletic clothing designers embraced the aesthetic, too. For years, bare shoulders were a hot trend, all thanks to Beals's shrunken sweatshirt.

  • 'Miami Vice' Encouraged Men To Try Pastels
    Photo: NBC

    Miami Vice was always intended to be a different kind of cop drama. The hit show came out during the heyday of MTV, a cable channel that revolutionized both television and film by making music videos a dominant art form. Whereas cop shows had traditionally been on the grungy side, Miami Vice was sleek and colorful. Pop songs were prominent in every episode. And as for the clothes? Instead of the typical business suits or, for undercover officers, blue jeans, heroes Crockett and Tubbs wore white suits and pastel shirts and ties. 

    Stars Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas looked so good in those pastels that they inspired male viewers to also give the lighter colors a try. As Details editor Dan Peres put it, Miami Vice helped kick off "the cultural moment that allowed men to embrace their vanity a little more openly." Colors that had once been the domain of golfers and caddies were now embraced by all kinds of men seeking to radiate Miami Vice cool.