Le Freaks and Geeks c’est chic? Though the lovable outcasts of McKinley High may not have been sartorially savvy, their effortlessly authentic wardrobes were a large part of their charm. After re-watching this TV series (which aired for 17 excellent episodes from 1999 – 2000 and featured a stellar cast that included James Franco, Seth Rogan, and Linda Cardellini), I was inspired by how much the clothing said about each character.
Besides the freakiness and geekiness, this show, set in 1980, depicted high school archetypes of the era and beyond — jocks, preps, punks, and hippies. In the above photo, the main ‘freaks’ are sporting their typical scowls and slouches, along with shaggy hair, oversized jackets, and bland colors.
Lindsay Weir (Cardellini), in the center, wears that same green army jacket in almost every episode. My coworker and fellow F&G fan Lauren Matthews said it best when she described the iconic piece as “practically a character in and of itself.”
Other characters had their own signature styles, too. Bad girl Kim Kelly (Busy Philipps), shown at the left, wore her dark-rooted blonde hair long and parted down the middle, while often donning a blue ski jacket she boasted about scoring for a mere $10. Her partner in crime, Karen Scarfolli (Rashida Jones), wore a Journey concert tee, the likes of which we could only hope to unearth in a vintage shop somewhere.
The bad girls certainly dressed distinguishably, but so did their clean counterparts. Braided pigtails, Peter Pan collars, embroidered sweaters, and knee socks were trademarks for prim and polished goody-two-shoes Millie Kentner (Sarah Hagan), shown cringing at the top right, and crush-worthy cheerleader Cindy Sanders (Natasha Melnick), pictured below.
Set at the start of a new decade, the show’s style focused mainly in the 1970s, with little touches —like high-waisted jeans or slightly teased hair— thrown in to hint of the coming 1980s. As the characters struggled with evolving identities and experimented with new outlooks, it showed in their wardrobes.
When deeply devoted Millie’s faith was tested, she showed up in ripped jeans and a matching denim jacket.
When handsome rebel Daniel Desario (Franco) had a falling out with his girlfriend, he took an uncomfortable (yet adorable) foray into punk.
And when drummer-turned-disco-dancer Nick Andopolis (Jason Segel) got his groove back, he got a little funky and flashy with fashion.
What we love most about all of these teenagers is their awkwardness and earnestness, and how well it shows in their clothes. To quote my colleague Lauren again, “The fashion in Freaks and Geeks is subtle, which is what makes it great. It’s not like they’re wearing costumes; it feels authentic.” I couldn’t agree more!
Are you a F&G fan? Do you have a favorite fashionable TV show?