I’ll admit it, I’m intrigued by James Dean. Nothing contributes to the myth of an actor as much as an untimely death and this was never more true than with Dean. In my mind, as well as millions of others, he will always be the rebellious teenager, a cigarette between his lips. Millions of women fell for him; millions of men spent hours in front of the mirror trying to make their hair look like his. As a hairstylist, I come by my fascination with James Dean naturally.
Even today, I refer to pictures of Dean when I’m working on my clients. I’ve been doing this for 20 years and his hair cut is one that never goes out of style. It’s a little big, but not too big. It’s a little bit messy, but not too messy. It’s effortlessly cool!
His role as Jim in “Rebel Without a Cause” symbolized teenage disillusionment and it is this role that Dean is most identified with. People related to Jim in a way that no other generation before had identified with an anti-hero. Like Jim, their parents and society did not understand them, the music they danced to, the movies they liked, or the jeans they wore.
James Dean’s bright-red McGregor jacket, white tee and jeans changed fashion forever. These three everyday items of clothing worn together by Dean became one of the most iconic styles in film and fashion history. Even today, almost 60 years after his death, I myself, and millions of others, wear a version of this uniform on a regular basis.
There’s a photo of Dean wearing a Black and White striped t-shirt that shows how he could take a classic 50’s look and throw in a twist and make it work. His choice in glasses, jackets, shoes, jeans are all still relevant today. As a dude that speaks volumes. We don’t have too many options when it comes to style. It’s a fine line between working a look and looking ridiculous and he walked that line perfectly.
On September 30, 1955 James Dean died in an ambulance after crashing a new Porsche 550 Spyder on the way to a race in Salinas, California. Three years after his death, James Dean was still receiving more fan mail than any other living Hollywood star. In my mind, no actor before or after him has ever managed to become as big a symbol of an entire generation. The man had style!