Vintage Style Special: Back to the Future

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Marty McFly, Back to the Future
Marty McFly, Back to the Future

As Secret Cinema launches at London's Olympic Park, we consider the enduring appeal of Back to the Future

With its outstanding one-liners and pimped-out DeLorean time machine, Back to the Future is undoubtedly one of the defining films of the 1980s. The cult trilogy broke the career of Michael J. Fox and is a milestone for cinematic visual and special effects. It is also the latest blockbuster to be reinvented by Secret Cinema, the immersive film company who have transformed London’s Olympic Park into a fully functioning 1950s Hill Valley, complete with 85 actors, a funfair, a school dance hall and a barber shop.

"Back to the Future is undoubtedly one of the defining films of the 1980s"

Released in 1985, the film broke the mould for the new wave of 90s science fiction, but looking back now, it is the fashion that really makes it. From Marty McFly’s stonewash double denim and red puffer gilet to Doc Brown’s (Christopher Lloyd) Hawaiian shirt and clinical radiation suit, BTTF’s costumes are as memorable as the epic soundtrack, which starts with Power of Love and ends in Johnny B. Goode.

Marty was largely kitted out by Guess for the film, in a Guess Marciano two-tone blue jacket and jeans, accessorised by a Casio watch, a HSP-02 portable cassette tape player and a red Eastpak rucksack which was reissued in Selfridges earlier this year. He is in love with Jennifer (Claudia Wellis) recognisable by her pastel pink jackets, rolling her socks up over her stonewash jeans. These items now all stand as retro milestones within 1980’s fashion. Then there is the Calvin Klein underwear, a waistband that practically defined the decade. “Why do you keep calling me Calvin?” Asks McFly at point, to which Lorraine Baines replies, “Well, that is your name, isn't it? Calvin Klein? It's written all over your underwear.”

Christopher Lloyd modelled eccentric mad scientist Emmett ‘Doc’ Brown on Albert Einstein and conductor Leopold Stokowski of Fantasia fame. His infamous DeLorean was actually the director’s third choice of transportation — Spielberg previously considered using a fridge and a tank. The fridge idea was scrapped however in fear that viewers may attempt to mimic the icy idea at home.

Then there are the 1950s throwbacks: the rockabilly braces, circle skirts, quiffs and petticoats. McFly is introduced to his parents as teenagers, dressed in Peter Pan collars, knitwear two-pieces, white prom tuxedoes and Ivy League haircuts.

And in the words of Doc Brown, “Great Scott!” – Nike announced earlier this year that the iconic self-tying power laces shown in Back to the Future II are tipped to launch in 2015, minus the cumbersome battery pack and wire used in the film. Nike previously released 1,500 pairs of the famous shoe (without the self-lacing system) in 2011 for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. Tinie Tempah bought the first pair for $37,500.

The bygone triology is ridiculous in theory, impossible in practice and at times mildly creepy – Lorraine Baines falling for her own son was a subplot too far for Disney who refused to back the film. There are also the blasé pre-terrosism references to plutonium. However its enduring appeal remains in its loveable characters, amusing eccentricities and the endearing attempts made in Back to the Future II (1989) to predict what 2015 might look like. However the irony is that it only takes a brief glance at the current catwalk collections of Moncler puffa jackets, Ralph Lauren stonewash denim, Prada Hawaiian shirts and the Nike Air cult to realise that 2015? Well, 2015 might still look a lot like 1989.

Text by Mhairi Graham