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How TV Influences Fashion


Fashion has a cyclical nature, and like a revolving door, trends are reinstated as popular thanks to a variety of influencing factors — pop culture being one. If we think back over the last couple of decades, fashion styles have evolved quite drastically — the 1990s was home to the iconic grunge phase, popularised by bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Or, think of the 1960s, where women dressed like Audrey Hepburn in baby doll styles with high neck blouses, shapeless shift dresses, and stockings.

Television series have been particularly influential on our fashion choices and effective at inducing feelings of nostalgia, with the iconic The Fresh Prince of Bel Air popularising printed Zubaz and Mad Men inspiring a resurgence in men’s suits. Especially with streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, many of us are bingeing box sets and being exposed to different aesthetics on demand.

Here, we’ll take a look at how bold fashion choices have been recycled in television shows in different periods, comparing to Google search data to see how this has influenced fashion in the real world.

The Shelby look

Google revealed that in the UK, searches for flat caps have increased steadily for the last few years, rising from 204,300 in 2017, to 254,000 in 2018, and 296,000 in 2019. The biggest monthly search volume was 27,100 in November 2017, when the fourth season of Peaky Blinders was released.

British period dramas rarely inspire the modern person’s wardrobe choices, and there are certainly very few shows over the last decade that have had as great an impact on British men’s style as Peaky Blinders. Comparable to the influence of Mad Men before it, this is a show that’s inspired how dapper men dress — a 20s-inspired aesthetic characterised by heavy fabrics like men’s tweed jacket, cropped trousers, sturdy boots, and flat caps. The dapper gangster Thomas Shelby continues to grip style both on the high street and across high fashion. Searches for tweed suits have also seen an increase year on year, with 228,700 in 2017, 245,000 in 2018, and 247,500 in 2019.

“TV shows like Boardwalk Empire and Peaky Blinders are giving men a reason to dress up,” commented Primark menswear designer, Lynsey Carroll, “Both the 1920s British gang of Peaky Blinders and the 1930s New York gang of Boardwalk Empire were suited and booted and demanded respect.”

Stranger fashion

Stranger Things heroine, Eleven, has been hailed as a style icon in Netflix’s spooky 80s-themed show. As well as offering a long list of Halloween costumes to tide us by for the next few years, Stranger Things has influenced what we’re wearing day to day. So much so, a specific pink Peter Pan collar dress extremely similar to one worn by Eleven was viewed by online shoppers once every three minutes when the fourth season was announced.

“These spikes may have been caused by repeated exposure to the fashion trends on-screen, sometimes as a result of binge-watching, strengthening long term memory of items, in turn, affecting what you want to buy,” says Barrie Gunter, psychologist and emeritus professor at the University of Leicester.

A friendly influence

Whether you like the show or find it unbearable, there’s no denying that Friends defined 90’s style, an influence that still exists today — normcore. Even as the series became more popular, the show’s budget rose enough to afford six $22 million annual salaries, but Marta Kauffman and David Crane decided not to overshadow the series with expensive designer clothing brands. No characters wore the likes of Gucci or Chanel throughout, maintaining a tight grip on reality which helped viewers relate to it — keeping it popular, relevant, and empathised with. Characters wore a gender-neutral aesthetic, with Monica appearing in college sport sweatshirts, plaid shirts, and grey marl, and Joey wearing buttoned up oversized Gap shirts over a T-shirt, styles that are still very much trendy to a whole generation.

Friends costume designer, Debra McGuire, said: “It always used to be Rachel’s wardrobe people would ask about. Now it is Monica’s. That is so funny to me because I never heard a word about her high-waisted pants and cropped T-shirts at the time. She was a working chef and her wardrobe was more straightforward and realistic.”

This iconic TV show even influenced hairstyles, with ‘the Rachel haircut’ one of the most popular hairstyles, swiftly being requested in hair salons.

TV is certainly a driving factor in the clothes we wear and see on the catwalk — what TV show do you think has the best fashion?




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