Fashion in Film: Freaks and Geeks

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?

About Cindy

Pun intended. Cindy loves dreaming up witty quips and groan-worthy wordplay. In fact, you could say this girl just wants to have puns. As an avid fan of the written word and a librarian at heart, she also loves used bookstores, especially ones that harbor cats. Vintage clothing, cocktails, and ephemera are a few of her favorite things.

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11 Responses to Fashion in Film: Freaks and Geeks

  1. Ali of Spinner's End 08/18/2011 at 12:06 pm #

    I couldn’t agree more with this post. Freaks & Geeks has been serious style inspiration for me for years. What an amazing show.. just look at all those famous faces way back when. Such a gem.

  2. Amanda 08/18/2011 at 1:31 pm #

    How come no one’s pointed out that both Freaks&Geeks and Glee are about a highschool called McKinley High? I mean anywhere, not just in this blog or on Modcloth…
    Maybe I missed it somewhere, but I certainly didn’t even realize it until I read this blog….

    • Becca 02/20/2013 at 3:02 pm #

      I noticed immediately per I started watching F&G…and my husband was like really? But I do appreciate Glee’s shout out to this awesome show.

  3. Kaylee 08/18/2011 at 4:20 pm #

    Always watched this show in Chemistry, it’s AMAZING. Great post! Wish it wasn’t canceled :(

  4. Erin 08/18/2011 at 4:56 pm #

    Don’t know why it only made it one season, but I guess that’s part of what makes it so great! I can’t really think of any fashionable TV shows, but I do love Pretty in Pink and Say Anything, both from the ’80s, for my fashion fix.

  5. Clementine 08/18/2011 at 7:18 pm #

    Love. that. show. Don’t forget Lizzie Caplan, shown in the last picture with Jason Segal! Everything about that show is excellent, and there’s something for everyone to love.

  6. Sophie 08/19/2011 at 8:44 pm #

    Oh Freaks and Geeks! I didn’t watch it when it was on the air, but I watched all the episodes a few months ago, and I loved it! It’s too bad it ended so soon, but I guess that adds to the mystique…

  7. Sarah 08/21/2011 at 3:51 pm #

    I love freaks & geeks! Its genius!

  8. Stephanie 08/22/2011 at 3:39 pm #

    The season had 18 episodes, not 17. Other than that, I loved this post- Freaks and Geeks is probably my favorite show ! I’m still yearning for Lindsay Weir’s army jacket… <3

  9. Stella 08/23/2011 at 1:04 pm #

    I definitely agree with this article and am a total Freaks and Geeks fan. I have practically searched every store for a Lindsay Weir jacket…with no luck :(

  10. Kim 01/21/2012 at 10:08 am #

    for those on the hunt for a Lindsay Weir jacket, have you tried army surplus stores? I think the jacket was a nod to Paul Feig’s childhood as his dad owned such a store when he was growing up. If you live near LA, American Vintage and Iguana in Sherman Oaks are almost next door to each other and a great stop for vintage shirts, I think I’ve seen the Journey one there before. Or, you know, eBay.

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