Of all the iterations and reinventions of the classic vampire narrative, there’s only one near and dear to my heart—Joel Schumacher’s The Lost Boys. Far from the cliches of the traditional Dracula aesthetic, this film ushered in a new age of the undead, in a full embrace of culture clash that defined the 80s. From the punks, to goths, to yuppies, to the new romantics, and valley girls, the microcosm of California coast culture in the 1980s America was the ultimate crucible to set this hyper-styled warped Peter Pan. One of the elements I love most about this movie and the meticulous curated environment it’s surrounded by is the fashion that distinctly marked this movie away from the cloaks and cravats of the Transylvanian origin story to reframe the machismo bad boy. Just as the universe of Santa Monica was stratified among social groups, Schumacher’s and costume designer, Susan Becker’s, influence on the costuming mimes this reality among the film’s varying cliques in the most iconic display of 80s garb to make any other vampire eat their heart out.
Perhaps the most underappreciated group out of all of this are the Frog Brothers, played by Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander. They fully embody the 80s action antihero in full Sylvester Stalone Rambo iconography. From the muscle tees to the dogtags and red bandana adorning Feldman’s forehead, their hypermasculinized aesthetic reeks of toxic machismo and identity conflict. One of the best clothing bits we get from the brothers is a shirt with almost an Araki flair. It reads, “Why waltz when you can rock & roll” with a machine gun partly obscuring the text. Ignoring the rhetoric of a shirt like that, it’s easy just to see the counterculture rebel hero the boys try to emulate in their style. In the iconic fight scene, both brothers gear up in an almost comical revolutionist uniform of berets, airborne shirts, and ill-fitting ERDL camouflage as the true expression of the kind of man that takes no prisoners and kicks ass according to his own rules despite the boys being about 14 in the film. The obvious parallel to draw from their military depot couture is the vicarious reappraisal of Vietnam heroes as a reactionary measure against changing gender expressionality in the 80s.
Their embrace of ruggedness in respect to the lone wolf protagonist from the comics they read fully sets them apart from everyone else in the film, and most distinctly from Sam who represents the antithesis of their fashion’s ideology. Sam looks like he just stepped off a WHAM music video set with his visually assaulting devotion to the ‘mall fashion victim’ aesthetic of incoherent patterns clashing on top of each other. He’s a fish out of water in this new environment and is recognized in his own way for standing out. There’s definitely a queer reading to Sam who literally had a ‘Born to Shop’ t-shirt and semi-nude photos of men adorning his room, but we’ll save that for another time. I’d also go into more detail about a particular iconic outfit he wears in the film, too, but honestly, everything he wears is just some variation of a primary color abstract pattern button down which you can pick up at your local thrift store. Sorry, Sam 🙁
And then there are the vampires–the men that shaped my taste in boys and incidentally have left me disappointed ever since. First things first: those mullets are luxurious and voluminous which is a must when you need your hair to flow through the wind on your motorbikes as you terror your community. Kiefer Sutherland’s in particular stands out because of its peroxide platinum blondness almost as a signifier of the artificiality of the western coast atmosphere. More than what Sutherland’s character wears, it’s how he wears it. His outfit specifically is rather understated, opting for the all black, but nevertheless he has a distinct coolness in his long leather overcoat, leather pants, leather boots, AND leather gloves…I’m sensing a pattern here and I’m loving it. The contrast between his ultra white hair and his all black attire is such a bold contrast, and he has a definitive English Travelever look about him that’s ultra slick with a layer of grime, making his trashiness ultimately sexy.
The other vampires opt-in for more distinctive looks that speak more than the characters actually do. Paul, Dwayne, and Marko definitely fit more into the West Coast Sunset Strip delinquents vibe, opting for the fitted ripped jeans, big hair, and jackets adorned with patches, studs, and safety pins. The tops underneath are something to behold in their own way; mesh tanks and crop tops under leather (my heart just can’t take it!). Just like Nic Cage in Wild At Heart, their jackets are a symbol of their individuality, and their belief in personal freedom–possibly; we honestly don’t know anything about these guys other than they’re hot and mean. Marko’s jacket in particular is alluring just because he himself has a Baroque style angelic face, and his jacket uses so many rich warm tones with all the patches and tapestry squares that look almost like an Italian church mural. Perhaps the best element of the vampires and their 80s makeover is the detailing of their blood. The special effects makeup artist totally transformed not only their faces but he specifically added glitter to the fake blood, heightening the glam element of these vanity vamps. This evokes a very new generation of expectations for the undead as they adapt to the world around them more than being isolated from change.
The Lost Boys presents the sexiest iteration of vampires of all time. Before the Cullens, before Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, there was Kiefer Sutherland with a cigarette behind his ear and my heart in his hands.