Cult classic The Warriors, released 38 years ago today, is not just a gritty depiction of real-life 70s New York gang culture. In fact, it’s not that gritty or realistic at all. Among other arty indulgences, director Walter Hill clads his warring factions in easily-identifiable ‘colours’ – ranging from the highly coppable (the hip-hop-ready souvenir jackets of the Electric Eliminators) to the more, erm, fashion-forward (the Hi-Hats’ traditional French mime look). Here are five of the film’s key sartorial takeaways.
STYLE LESSONS FROM THE WARRIORS
By Matt Glazebrook, 10 May 2017
Not only are our hapless heroes forced to bop their way across the whole length of New York, pursued by every gang in the city, they have to do so wearing one of the least practical getups of anyone in the film. Still, what the Coney Island set’s leather vest/bare chest dress code lacks in warmth or versatility, it makes up for in interesting detailing – beads, belt buckles and a brilliant back patch.
Customised, illustrated outerwear offers a strong SS17 refresh of the classic biker jacket template. Vic Mensa’s punky take reimagines the motorcycle gang staple in icy-cool monochrome denim, while sleeves and a T-shirt layered underneath make for a more versatile day-to-night alternative to The Warriors’ standard style.
The misleadingly named Punks have one of the most distinctive – yet oddly wearable – uniforms in the movie. Despite dwelling in the new-wave mecca of the East Village in the late 70s, these rollerskating tough guys rock a kind of hillbilly-meets-90s-hip-hop look (dungarees, block-colour sweatshirts and Converse high-tops). Punchy.
Dungarees have made a surprising comeback of late, with the workwear staple being rescued from the kids clothes ghetto and embraced by the skate steez set. NBA street-style star Jordan Clarkson’s contemporary refit isn’t far removed from Walter Hill’s OG vision – with a white graphic hoodie layered up in place of the Punks' more varsity-flavoured tops, and Vans standing in for Cons.
The Rogues may be the homicidal wildcard of Hill’s imagined NYC gangland, but their steez is surprisingly solid. Basic biker gear is the order of the day for the Hell’s Kitchen hoodlums – black leather jackets, crew-cut tees, black jeans – which never doesn’t look good. Leader Luther has the freshest look (a layered grey hoodie and a bandana in place of his buds’ slightly S&M-y leather caps) as well as the dopest catchphrase ("Wa-arriors, come out to pla-ay").
Luther’s leather look is rooted in the 50s rather than the 70s, and it has been incorporated into the wardrobes of cool kids of every era since. Aaron Paul sticks closely to the tried-and-true formula, softening the vibe with shopping bags, lest we thought he might start using a spare hand to clink bottles together menacingly.
The Baseball Furies
Ask anyone to name a Warriors gang uniform and the first look that springs to mind will probably be that of the Baseball Furies. The group’s pairing of full baseball uniforms with spooky face paint is arguably the most intimidating getup in the film. Which is a good job, as the baseball bat-wielding Furies’ fighting performance – getting comfortably turned over by four unarmed Warriors – is rubbish.
Justin Bieber’s troublemaking days are happily mostly behind him, so it makes sense that his take on classic North American sportswear is a gentler, friendlier affair. Yankee pinstripes are replaced with a minimal white-and-blue Toronto Blue Jays jersey (who’s ever been beaten up by a blue jay?), while the powder-blue and white accompaniments (vest, shorts, hair) make the whole thing ice-cream fresh. Accessorise with a 99 cone instead of 40 inches of wood this summer.
The Orphans are the lowliest of the groups we encounter in The Warriors – they’re not even invited to the big gang summit at the start, and are easily scared by fire. But they can console themselves with being the most fashion visionary of the bunch. These days, oversized khaki T-shirts and distressed denim don’t signify a down-on-its-luck street clique from the Bronx, but someone with the inside line on the latest Yeezy season.
No one’s done more for the elevation of worn-out army surplus than Kanye West. From his personal wardrobe – where he pairs washed-out khaki sweats and tees with more high-end pieces – to his full post-apocalyptic-chic Yeezy lines, Ye’s championing of the military drab colour palette has seen it finally conquer the streets of New York (and most other cities in the Western world).