It’s no accident that every look in Jonah Hill’s directorial debut, Mid90s, is 100% authentic to the time – it’s all down to Heidi Bivens
Heidi Bivens is fast becoming one of the most iconic costume designers of our time. Most notable for mixing bikinis and balaclavas in Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, her portfolio also includes Spike Jonze’s legendary 2016 KENZO World fragrance film, not to mention her upcoming contribution to The Beach Bum – she’s the one responsible for putting Matthew McConaughey in that pink, feather-trimmed robe you saw in the trailer. Heidi’s latest work involves fewer ski masks and sequins, and more super covetable skate brands, as you’re about to see in Jonah Hill’s Mid90s.
“It’s funny, because I’ve been getting so much love for the authenticity of the looks and the brands in the film,” says Heidi. “But to the average person who doesn’t know the references of the time, it all just looks like jeans and t-shirts. The ArcLight in Hollywood is displaying the costumes, and I’ve always wanted my costumes at ArcLight, but it kinda made me laugh, because they’re jeans and t-shirts.”
However, as we go on to discuss, the costumes in Mid90s are far from just any jeans and t-shirts. They have those specific big, baggy silhouettes that are synonymous with the skate clothing of the time. Then there are the brands – not all of whom are still operating today – which only added to the challenge of encapsulating the era.
“Menace was a skate brand that was around in the 90s in LA; there’s another brand called Menace that exists now, but it’s not the same people who started the original skateboarding company,” says Heidi. “That brand was important to Jonah because it was very specific to LA. There’s a guy called Tim Anderson who runs a skate history website, bobshirt, and he actually had some original Menace we used for the film. The Menace pieces are some of my favourites in Mid90s.
“Then there’s a t-shirt that Ray (Na-kel Smith) wears by a brand called Kools, which was founded by Mark Gonzales and was very short-lived, and I like that it’s a real nod to the people who were involved in the West Coast skateboarding scene at that time. My favourites are less about how they look on camera, and more about insider-y they are.”
Unlike Tim Anderson, most of Heidi’s skater friends threw out their ‘fits before the 00s hit, so her quest to borrow from their archives proved unsuccessful. “We ended up contacting a lot of brands and having them send over files of the original art and graphics from that time, and then we recreated stuff,” she says. “Some of the pieces in the film are real, because we were able to find them on eBay or Etsy, but a lot of it we had to recreate.”
With almost too many brands she wanted to feature, Heidi thought about the specifics of each character’s style and story to help her narrow it down. “Fourth Grade (Ryder McLaughlin) wears a lot of Toy Machine and Alien Workshop. Ray and Fuckshit (Olan Prenatt) wear a lot of Girl and Chocolate, and that’s partly because Ray is trying to go pro and wants to ride for those teams. There are subtle influences in the brands that were chosen for each character, and I think anyone who knew about the skate world at that time will be able to notice those details, which I love.”
Then there’s leading man Stevie, aka Sunburn, aka 13-year-old actor and skateboarder Sunny Suljic. He liked his Mid90s wardrobe so much he kept some of it, with the vintage t-shirts and Levi’s altered to fit his smaller frame, his teenage growth spurts during production just another thing for Heidi to consider.
“He still wears the jeans to skate in, and I’m so happy to see that,” says Heidi. “He’s a young, really talented skateboarder and now he’s bringing back the style of an era beforehand. It feels really nostalgic to me.”
Mid90s is released in US cinemas on October 19