STYLE AND CULTURE
Style icon: River Phoenix
By Libby Banks, 7 May 2015
Looking for someone who nails early-90s nonchalance? River Phoenix is your guy. Labelled Hollywood's ‘vegan James Dean’, River Jude Phoenix was raised by bona fide flowers-in-their-hair hippies – although you probably worked that out from the name.
The media storm surrounding the 23-year-old’s untimely death in 1993, when he collapsed from an overdose outside the infamous Viper Rooms on Sunset Strip, has done much to overshadow River’s influence in life.
During his career the precociously talented actor achieved icon status thanks to his skulking good looks, Dean-esque delivery and a knack for picking cult classics. He first achieved acclaim aged 14 in 1986 coming-of-age flick Stand By Me opposite Kiefer Sutherland and Corey Feldman, and at 18 he received an Oscar nomination for his performance in Running On Empty. He later went on to star opposite Keanu Reeves in My Own Private Idaho, a love story about gay street hustlers. True to his roots, River regularly spoke out on animal rights and environmental issues – in fact he was a trailblazer for the kind of activism that’s now so in vogue amongst A-listers.
Style and attitude for River were one and the same – angsty, effortless and just a bit offhand. The actor once recalled his earliest sartorial memories – "rich kids gave us their old clothes, which were the best clothes we ever had". It’s fair to say he never strayed too far from his thrift-store past. In fact, his 'F you' attitude to dressing paved the way for grunge in the years to come.
Whether he was rocking up to the Oscars in a tuxedo with Martha Plimpton on his arm or heading for band practice in a T-shirt and jeans, it was River’s blue eyes in round wire-rimmed glasses, or peering through his stray locks of long matted hair, that made his image indelible on the 90s style landscape.