STYLE AND CULTURE
STYLE LESSONS FROM SPIKE LEE FILMS
By Lakeisha Goedluck, 27 July 2019
As far as cult directors go, Spike Lee has an oeuvre to stack up against anyone's. From She’s Gotta Have It to BlacKkKlansman, Lee’s cinematic exploration of the African-American experience has made him one of the most beloved and instantly recognisable filmmakers out there. It's 30 years since Lee released perhaps his most iconic work – 1989's Do The Right Thing – so, in a homage to the director, we’ve decided to take a look at his most stylish movies to date.
She's Gotta Have It
The first ‘Spike Lee joint’, She’s Gotta Have It was released back in 1986 to critical acclaim. Filmed in black and white, the comedy-drama is centred on the sexual experience of its black female protagonist, Nola Darling, as she navigates 80s New York as a polyamorous painter.
Jamie Overstreet, Greer Childs and Mars Blackmon – the latter played by Lee himself – all vie for her affection. In the recent Netflix TV adaptation, Anthony Ramos plays Mars – complete with the original character’s signature cap (peak flipped to better rep Brooklyn), oversized glasses and penchant for punchy logo sportswear. To emulate his style, copy those key pieces and throw in some relaxed trews and a fresh pair of kicks.
Do the Right Thing
Set in 80s Bed-Stuy, Do the Right Thing is a vibrant portrait of a long, hot summer day in the 'hood that nevertheless simmers with themes of police brutality and racial tension. Lee portrays Mookie, a disinterested pizza delivery guy whose equilibrium is shattered when his boss Sal (Danny Aiello) gets into a confrontation with Mookie’s loud-mouthed friend Buggin’ Out (Giancarlo Esposito) over the lack of black celebrities on the restaurant’s Wall of Fame.
Featuring a heady R&B and hip-hop-heavy soundtrack, music is an integral part of the film. Samuel L. Jackson’s role as Mister Senõr Love Daddy – the resident commentator-cum-pacifist – is vital to the narrative, and his wardrobe choices match his strident personality. To mirror the man who knows his music, don an in-your-face Hawaiian shirt and throw in an equally conspicuous bucket hat if you're feeling ostentatious.
Lee's next treatise on contemporary race relations, 1991's Jungle Fever, hasn't dated nearly as well as its predecessor, but is still worth checking out. The slang term's used to denote when a white person is attracted to a black person, and this is the premise of Lee’s flick. Soundtracked by famed musician Stevie Wonder, Wesley Snipes plays Flipper Purify – a married architect who begins an affair with his Italian-American temp secretary, Angie Tucci (Annabella Sciorra).
Both Samuel L. Jackson and Wesley Snipes return in this film/musical that sees Teyonah Parris star as Lysistrata opposite Nick Cannon, who plays the title role of Demetrius, AKA Chi-Raq. Based on the work of the ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes, the plot sees the women of Chicago’s Southside come together to enforce a sex strike in order to incentivise the men in their lives to cease their violent behaviour.
Lee handles topics such as the Black Lives Matter movement, gun violence and black female agency with deftness, applying comedy where the opposite is usually employed. If you’re a fan of streetwear, make like Chi-Raq who routinely rocks a white vest, utilitarian accessories and something baggy on his bottom half.
You’ve probably gathered by now, but Lee has an aptitude for condensing weighty issues relating to black America into entertaining 120-minute-or-less packages. For his latest venture produced by Jordan Peele (the brains behind the hugely successful Get Out), the director decided to tell the real-life story of Ron Stallworth – an African-American police detective who masterminded a plan to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan.
Starring John David Washington (who appeared in Lee’s 1992 biopic Malcolm X alongside his father Denzel Washington), the dramatisation is set in 70s Colorado. It should come as no surprise then that Stallworth rocks the heck out of retro logo sweatshirts, denim jackets and suede and shearling coats teamed with roll necks. Jump on his 70s style and go for a sturdy denim jacket teamed with a vintage-style tee of your choice.