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Wayne’s World: window on a rock fashion transition

FILM FASHION REVIEW What: Wayne’s World Run time: 1 hour, 38 mins Who: Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Tia Carrere, Rob Lowe Where, when: Streaming on Stan Rating: Excellent early-’90s inspo

When it comes to 1990s rock fashion, grunge probably comes to mind – think Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain.

Grunge was the biggest counterculture of the decade, but that’s not the whole story – a lot of early-’90s rock music was an extension of ’80s hair metal. As rock shifted towards grunge and alternative, there was a transitional period, and Wayne’s World is an insight into what this period looked like.

Wayne's World: window on a rock fashion transition

Motley Crue in all their 80s hair metal glory.

The movie follows Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers), who runs a public access television show with his best friend, Garth Algar (Dana Carvey). This is the concept of the Wayne’s World sketches Myers and Carvey performed on Saturday Night Live, and the film expands it in true ’90s comedy fashion.

When a TV producer named Benjamin Kane (Rob Lowe) takes interest in their show, these guys are given the opportunity to film professionally, at the cost of their dignity and authenticity.

Wayne's World: window on a rock fashion transition

Cassandra (Carrere) and Crucial Taunt in their rocker clothes.

Wayne falls in love with Cassandra Wong (Tia Carrere), the bassist and lead singer of an up-and-coming local band. Unfortunately, Benjamin woos her, and it’s up to Wayne to fight for his love, while navigating the new status of his show.

Evidenced by their famous “We’re not worthy” routine with Alice Cooper, Wayne and Garth are huge rock fans, but they can’t afford the over-the-top outfits that their favourite musicians wear. It’s also impractical to put on shiny fabrics and tease your hair for a trip to the donut shop. They need something more casual.

A new fashion trend arrived around the same time. The band Soundgarden, pictured above in 1992, is an example of the grungy direction ’90s rock fashion was headed, even if metal styles of the previous decade lingered.

Leather jackets, long hair and jewellery were still the thing in rock, but the slick, shiny image of the ’80s was about to be overtaken with ’90s grit and dirt. It makes sense – given that the original SNL sketches started in the late 1980s and continued into the ’90s – that the characters would dress in a manner that evokes both styles.

Wayne's World: window on a rock fashion transition

Wayne (Myers) and Garth (Carvey) filming their show in Wayne’s basement.

Wayne and Garth sport long hair and T-shirts, as do many of the other men in their local metal bar, The Gasworks. They also have their signature accessories: Wayne’s trucker hat and Garth’s thick-rimmed glasses. These characters favour metal, but their style isn’t totally divorced from grunge; their dirty, black Converse high-tops and Garth’s flannel shirt are staples of the scene. Additionally, some fashion elements in metal and grunge overlap, and the movie shows clothing that makes sense in whichever style, such as Wayne’s and Garth’s ripped jeans.

As for the other characters, they have different styles to our main two. Grunge is such an important countercultural movement that it can be difficult to remember that it was precisely that: a counterculture.

Many people, such as Benjamin, wore corporate suits, and there were also rockers who weren’t involved in grunge, such as Cassandra and her band Crucial Taunt. Their style is closer to the metal gods that Wayne and Garth worship, with tight pants, lace, stompy boots and leather galore. 

Overall, Wayne’s World is worth revisiting for its 30th anniversary on Valentine’s Day. It works as both one of the better SNL movies and a time capsule of an interesting transitional period in fashion. Although it’s not quite as good, Wayne’s World 2 is also worth checking out. 


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