Why be good when the best looks are bad
Over the last couple of weeks, the internet has been taken over by a few things. Excluding that one very obvious thing which we will not mention in this article, also crashing over us like an enormous cultural wave was the can’t-look-away-car-crash Netflix docu-series, Tiger King, from which one key figure somehow amassed a cult-like following despite his endless wrongdoings.
Enter: Joe Exotic. Although he allegedly hired a hitman to kill his arch-nemesis Carole Baskin and quite obviously abused animals, the GW Exotic Zoo proprietor’s bizarre and often chaotic aesthetic has come to be lauded across the internet. Rocking custom graphic hoodies, Vetements and Gucci-esque ensembles, and more than a little classic Western-wear, these strange times really do call for strange style icons.
It’s not just Joe Exotic who demonstrates wild style alongside villainous tendencies, however: in fact, he’s just the latest chic baddie, fictional or otherwise, to land on our screens.
In the world of cinema and TV, villains are often the most fashion-forward characters. While protagonists are largely portrayed in mundane clothes to make them appear more normal and therefore relatable to viewers, the bad guys run a fashion riot: just take Villanelle from Killing Eve as an example. Sure, the idea has been subverted, most notably by the likes of David Lynch, but most of the time, the most evil characters are hypnotically and alluringly chic.
With that in mind, and as we continue to replace socialising with cultural intake via a screen, here we look to explore some of the most stylish villains there are.
MA ANAND SHEELA: WILD WILD COUNTRY
Ma Anand Sheela stormed into our lives in 2018 through the hugely popular Netflix documentary Wild Wild Country. Following the story of a cult which landed in the small town of Antelope in Oregon in the late 70s, the show was all anyone could talk about. And this wasn’t just for its gripping story line. There was also one particular character, who became the anti-hero and villainess of our hearts: Ma Anand Sheela.
In case you can’t remember, Sheela was secretary to cult leader Rajneesh, and as the story goes was later arrested for attempted murder and bio-terriosm within the cult. She was tough talking, no-nonsense, and malign. But she was also incredibly chic. In her orange, purple, and red colours of the rising sun monochromatic looks, Sheela’s take on cult-fashion was next to none. Infused with the bohemian style of the era, Sheela was often spotted in oversized glasses, chunky accessories, and wide-shouldered blazers. Named one of our style icons of 2018, if you disagree, what else can we say? ‘Tough titties’.
SUZANNE STONE-MARETTO: TO DIE FOR
“Is she a villain or is she just a woman who knows what she wants?” was the way Suzanne Stone-Maretto, the violently determined TV weather person, was described by our Fashion Features Editor. Not untrue. Suzanne is the ultimate career woman who will stop at nothing to get what she wants, and will stop anyone who gets in her way. Played by Nicole Kidman, Maretto knows that TV is really all the matters in America, because “what’s the point of doing something good if nobody’s watching?”
Obsessed with personal image, this seeps through in the film’s fashion, with the clothes worn by Maretto akin to a more sinister Clueless wardrobe. Dressed in candy-coloured dresses and Jackie O-style suits, her aesthetic sits in stark contrast to her deeply evil character. After all, there truly is nothing more terrifying than a TV journalist climbing their way to the top with perfectly coiffed hair, severe pink lipstick, and a floral mini skirt with a matching blazer (trust us).
JEAN-BAPTISTE EMANUEL ZORG: THE FIFTH ELEMENT
If you thought that a half-bald-headed-goatee-sporting Gary Oldman wouldn’t make it on to this stylish list, then you have found yourself bitterly mistaken. Starring in the time travelling film The Fifth Element, Oldman plays Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg, one of the film’s main antagonists. Speaking in a deep Southern accent, Oldman is the wicked industrialist Bruce Willis has to beat to save humanity – get it?
Sporting an array of stereotypical evil business mastermind looks, the film, which had its costumes designed by none other than Jean Paul Gaultier, sees Oldman dressed in a high collared pin-stripped suit and an iridescent PVC top. True style: sorry, but we don't make the rules.
MADAME BLANC: SUSPIRIA
From its surreal and evocative visuals, which sees scenes bathed in hot red light, to its eerie Goblin-provided soundtrack, arthouse horror film Suspiria has amassed a huge cult following since its release in 1977. Recognised as one of the most influential horror films of all time, and later re-imagined by Call Me By Your Name director Luca Guadagnino in 2018, the movie follows the story of Suzy Bannion, who enrolls at a dance school in Germany. With strange things happening to the academy's students, the film goes on to reveal the school is actually run by a coven of murderous witches.
And one of these witches comes in the form of the elegantly dressed Madame Blanc, the school’s deputy Headmistress. Decked out in either pearls or diamonds, Blanc could quite easily be mistaken for a character from Dynasty. With her poofed up hair and impeccable make-up, Madame Blanc is our most timeless fashion villain. A notion proved again when the role was coolly taken on by Tilda Swinton.
CATHERINE TRAMELL: BASIC INSTINCT
Catherine Tramell is a cool, cold killer. A crime novelist who becomes a suspect in a murder case, and then goes on to seduce the detective investigating said muder case, Tramell has become a part of our collective conscious as one of the most notable femme fetales in cinema.
This is mostly due to that interrogation scene, which has come to represent the entire movie. Wearing a turtleneck white dress and white coat, there are, however, plenty more looks to choose from. From her slouchy beige knits, to slinky silk dresses, and casual Hermès scarfs, Tramell oozes rich bitch drenched in a minimalistically stripped back and muted wardrobe.
SPIKE: BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER
A vampire who was originally a wildly unsuccessful poet in the Victorian era and ends up all the way in Sunnydale, a fictional US town, in 1997, Spike is a key villain-come-anti-hero in the cult TV series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. With his ice blond hair, leather trench coat, and bad attitude the character is undeniably cool. Tbh, every outfit in Buffy the Vampire Slayer is worth writing about, which is why we wrote an article about the looks featured in the series: see here.
DEBBIE JELLINSKY: ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES
Killing her parents after they bought her the wrong type of Barbie for Christmas, Debbie Jellinsky, played by Joan Cusack, is the uber-glamorous antagonist in the dark comedy Addams Family Values. Also going on to kill several of her husbands and then running away with the money, Debbie feels like a walking, talking Lana Del Rey song, and her wardrobe does nothing to prohibit this idea.
Think silk headscarves, low-cut 1950s-style dresses, and OTT chiffon nightgowns, then add some costume-like diamond necklaces and you’re basically there. An evil sugar baby after our own hearts.
MAY DAY: A VIEW TO A KILL
A View To A Kill may be considered one of the worst Bond films of all time, but that doesn't mean it can’t be celebrated for its killer looks, which largely come courtesy of Grace Jones's character, May Day. Playing the bodyguard to a former KGB-operative, Day is a welcomed subversion to the typical homogenised Bond Girl that is problematically featured throughout the cinematic series.
Known for her notable strength, Day is dressed in a series of androgynous looks, coming in the form of pin-striped suits with OTT shoulder pads, and a succession of skin tight dresses, such as the iconic bandage dress created in collaboration with Azzedine Alaïa. A fashion legend off screen, we would expect nothing less from Grace Jones, even if she is starring in what is arguably one of the worst films in recent history.
O-REN ISHII: KILL BILL
Played by Lucy Liu, O-Ren Ishii is the deadly assassin and head of the Japanese Yakuza in Quentin Tarantino's 2003 film, Kill Bill. Dressed in minimalist black and white traditional kimonos, Liu battles the film’s protagonist, The Bride, played by Uma Thurman, after she tries to kill The Bride’s unborn child. Understand?
All in all, it’s as Tarantino as Tarantino gets. And, whether you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing in terms of cinema, the movie’s fashion is certainly up to scratch with the rest of the famed director’s back catalogue. With this, the film has gone on to inspire countless Halloween costumes. Again. we will leave that one up to you to decide if this is a good thing or a bad thing.
DAVID: THE LOST BOYS
We finish off this list with a mullet. You wouldn’t be alone in thinking the once-mocked hair style has had something of a comeback in recent years – with the likes of Miley Cyrus and... well, Joe Exotic rocking the look. Anyway, it has become a certified trend, and with that we celebrate the mullet-toting Kiefer Sutherland, who plays the villainous head vampire David in The Lost Boys. Punk to his very core, the motorcycle riding bloodsucker casually sports an oversized black trench coat, black t-shirt, black jeans, black boots, and a delicate dangling earring to terrorise the Santa Clara boardwalk. It is a style that has transcended time and space, with this very look haunting the streets of East London for sometime now. Thank you, David, for your service.