Jim Stark, played by James Dean in the 1955 film “Rebel without a Cause”, is an angst filled teen that became a “role model” of sorts for generations. He was cool, mysterious, and handsome. The film was nominated for academy awards but didn’t win, this is ironic because it later went on to be inducted into the U.S. National Film Registry and listed as one of the 100 Greatest American Movies by the American Film Institute. The movie has stood the test of time because most of us can relate to the rebellious spirit held by James Dean, even if the most rebellious thing we have ever done is stay out 30 minutes past curfew. The movie sadly features several deaths of young adults, and gained publicity for this fact when James Dean died in a car accident a month before the movie’s release.
The movie starts out in a police station where the three main characters cross paths, and it ends with a police standoff where one of those same characters dies. Jim is the new kid in town and has a way of getting into trouble without trying. He angers some sketchy characters that challenge him to a knife fight, stolen car chicken race, and a chain wielding altercation.
Jim decides to stand up for himself and face the gang in a dangerous challenge. This is where we see his iconic wardrobe change; he changes from slacks and button downs to Lee rider 101 blue jeans, a plain white t-shirt, boots, and a red nylon windbreaker (the windbreaker is often confused for a leather jacket). This is the look he is famous for and often related to the rebel image he portrays in the movie. In the movie it signified a choice to rebel and outside the movie it signified the rebellious spirit of a generation. The film is iconic for many reasons, but one of the main reasons is because of James Dean’s style. It was mimicked and became the uniform for cool teenagers. His windbreaker was created by Moss Mabry, and it is said that he made three of these jackets for the film. For years after the film Bob Dylan, John Belushi, and other celebrities decided they needed a jacket just like the one worn by Dean.
“Rebel without a Cause” continues to be an inspiration through the decades. Michael Jackson’s famous red leather jacket in Thriller music video is said to be inspired by James Dean’s from the film. Joseph Abbound, at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week for Spring/Summer 2013, showed a collection of menswear that was inspired by Jim Stark and Ryan Gosling’s character in Drive. During spring 2012 collection Michael Bastian honored James Dean’s style by created a collection of menswear that was inspired by how James would dress now. This film also inspired art, an exhibit at MOCA in LA curated by James Franco and sponsored by Gucci and Seven went on display in May 2012. These show the generational transcendence of this film’s style.