30 years on from the coming-of-age film’s release, the senior girls look as effortlessly cool as ever. To celebrate the landmark anniversary, we unpack the enduring appeal of the 70s styles
Has any film so perfectly captured the unreachable yet relatable coolness of the older girls at school quite like Dazed and Confused did? In their tube socks and ‘senior’ sweatshirts, yelling “air raid” and covering the freshman girls in flour and ketchup. Discussing the male pornographic fantasy at the heart of Gilligan’s Island while touching up their make-up and smoking in the bathroom. Cruising around after dark with their friends, looking for beer, boys and parties. The senior girls of Lee High School encapsulate that effortless grown-up glamour that feels so far away when you are a young teen just starting on your own high school journey.
For a film that was created to be an “anti-nostalgia” movie, as director Richard Linklater put it, Dazed and Confused sure does make those hormone-drenched, hazy dog days of summer look charming, while still capturing so many of the universal growing pains of being a teenager. The 1993 cult classic, which this month celebrates its 30th anniversary, follows the students of a suburban Texas high school on their last day of school. As with all great movies about teenagehood, nothing happens and everything does. They drive around, get wasted, hang out aimlessly, hook up – an endless, meandering pursuit of looking for the party, for something to do, for something cool.
Set in 1976, the fashion and beauty looks are true to the era. The film is filled with the long, streaming, flaxen, waxen hair that was a holdover from the free-love days of the 60s. Slater, the pothead dealer and alien conspiracy theorist, rocks the longest hair – “Slater, you fucking hippie, give me drugs, man” – but to varying degrees, all the boys have hair on the shaggy side, from Pink and Don’s surfer bobs to Wooderson’s Brylcreemed blonde hair and moustache. The girls too wear their hair long, loose and flowing. Milla Jovovich’s character Michelle adds two small braids framing her face to complete the hippie girl look of fringed vest over a bandeau top with bell bottoms and many rings.
While the looks are accurate to the period, there is also a timelessness to the beauty that makes it still feel relevant today. Cynthia’s baby blue eyeshadow, which perfectly sets off her ginger afro, is just as on trend today as it was in the 70s. Flushed, fresh-faced cheeks have been all over TikTok FYPs recently thanks to tomato girl make-up and Rare Beauty but could be the cheeks of the girl-next-door from any era, as could the long, shiny hair the senior girls flip around as they make the freshman fry like bacon. There’s an effortlessness to these looks that will always be read as cool and chic and breezy – that older girl je ne sais quoi that will never lose its enduring appeal.
Below we unpack the ultimate 70s beauty styles of those dazed and confused kids.
There are plenty of long-haired freaky people at the high school, most notably Slater, Michelle and Kevin who spend the entirety of the movie smoking weed, thinking about weed and talking about weed. All wear their hair long and flowing, while Michelle adds little plaits to frame her face, as well as purple eyeshadow to march her tube top and plenty of rings.
Cliques have come to dominate teen movies, so much so that scenes where the different social groups are pointed out in the cafeteria have become much-parodied cliches. While there are definitely social dynamics at play in Dazed and Confused, however, the boundaries are not as defined as they will become. Kids from all the groups mix and hang out with each other, and equally the styles are not strongly delineated.
The jocks, whether the senior football players or freshman baseball players, wear their hair almost as long and shaggy as the stoners. Mitch’s unstyled shoulder-length hair screams middle school student trying to emulate the older kids and also too lazy to cut it, while the more conscious surfer cuts of Don and Pink fit perfectly with their flared jeans and puka shell necklaces.
Although Cynthia, Tony, and Mike see themselves as outcasts they spend most of the movie interacting with the other characters, cruising around town and going to the parties just like everyone else. Similarly, their looks are just as informed by the times as the others. The boys have long, shaggy hair – Mike’s curls are verging on a full mullet – while Cynthia’s ginger afro is pure 70s. As is the blue eyeshadow she pops on to drive around and flirt with Matthew McConaughey.
THE SENIOR GIRLS
The beauty looks for the senior girls of Lee High School are easy and natural. A bit of blush, shiny healthy hair, pale eyeshadow either in blues or greys and some peachy lipstick. This is paired with striped tube socks, denim shorts and slogan sweatshirts when hazing, or embroidered peasant blouses, lots of silver jewellery and bell-bottoms so tight they need to be zipped up with pliers for when you are going out.