Mutant Turtle villains are all the style rage for today’s misunderstood and malleable youth. You’re shaking your head no, but yes. Look around. Athleisure wear, tattered shirts, ripped slim jeans, gratuitous bangles, and yummy male rompers—they’re all TDF (to die for to the uninitiated in the slang of today’s youth).
To The 80’s
The inspiration wasn’t obvious at first. I had to travel back to the eighties, the mid to late eighties to be precise, to Saturday mornings, to the cartoon that defined my childhood—Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
I pride myself on having seen every episode. As such, I am a deep well of TMNT knowledge. I know all the characters, heroes and villains alike. And knowing what I know, I can safely say, these teens are posers. They have done nothing more than tear a page from the TMNT villain look book.
To call teens posers is aggressive. I’m sorry. They aren’t posers, rather rehabilitators, vintage style recyclers who elegantly revamp retro TMNT looks to suit modern sensibilities.
There is to be no guilt in this. All creative work from fine art to street fashion is copy and the fashion choices of the villains of TMNT are worthy of copy—Baxter Stockman with his prep school bow tie, Rat King with his mummy rags, Bebop with his punk-cool cut-off battle vest—it’s understandable our teens should take their fashion cues from these street chic pioneers.
Now you might think I’ve exaggerated by comparing the style choices of our teens to that of cartoon villains. I have not. The following characters will serve to sober your sense of reality. For in examining these characters we notice an undeniable channeling—the semblance is there, it mustn’t be denied.
Let’s start with The Neutrinos. OK, OK, they aren’t villains, but given their impact on teen fashion, they can’t be ignored.
The Neutrinos are best described as extraterrestrial teenage elves who joy rode the multiverse in a flying Cadillac. It was a pretty bad ass whip and from the looks of these guys, it’s safe to assume they did not come by said whip legally. Even in the “anything goes” outer reaches of space, no discerning adult would give these imps a flying car. I speculate in some cantina a middle age man with a buzz blabbers on and on about the time he went to the driveway and found his mint condition Caddie missing. But that’s beside the point we are talking fashion.
Neutrino fashion is cyberpunk with a fifties googie homage. The pointed shoulder guards paired with cinch belts evoke a Jetsons meets Mad Max vibe. The apparel is accentuated and surpassed in audacity by what is easily the most recognizable aspect of Neutrino style—their flamboyant hairdos. Looking back it’s clear they copped their swirlydoos from Dr. Seuss’ lovable Whoville residents. Do the adolescents of Whoville mature to become joyriding Neutrinos? I don’t know, but our teens can’t get enough of their interstellar style.
Guess who this is? It’s not Kanye West—although the shutter shades might have led you to believe such. Nope, its Bebop (a mutant pig). Bebop was one-half of the duo of Bebop and Rocksteady (a mutant rhino) and a lieutenant in Shredder’s gang of ne’er do wells—the Foot Clan.
Bebops choice of shutter shades, punk vest, old school Chuck Taylors and bangle belt completed a well-coordinated marauder look. Bebop is an inspiration for teens on the fringe and those whose music tastes skew toward The All American Rejects. He’s also responsible for the resurgence of the rat tail (a la Shia Lebouf) and the rise of the deep vee.
This is Baxter Stockman. Baxter was a scientist who did experiments on animals subjecting them to growth mutagen. One day it went wrong, now he’s a giant man fly.
Look past the fly. What you will see is the father of preppy chic. After the accident, Baxter was forced to innovate to compensate for his hideous disfigurement. With all those legs and claws he simply couldn’t pull off pencil jeans any longer. So, he went up a couple sizes, added the bow tie and sported a cardigan creating the preppy slouch look. This look is great for teens, dads, and victims of mutation—giant flies and what not.
Activewear for all hours is all the rage. But did you know that Titanus masterminded the active wear all the time look long before stay at home moms and sedentary teens? He did. His look was a cross between a body suit and a Patagonia puffer and teens eat it up.
The athleisure fad satisfies the need for simplicity in the teen wardrobe. In athleisure teens find a lazier way to show apathy. No ironing and no tricky buttons, now they can huddle down for a couple more minutes of sleep and roll out of bed still looking their best.
Who is this bald beauty? It’s Lug Nut.
Lugnut was a man with a knack for accessorizing and it was he who popularized the trend with teenage males. Prior to Lugnut, the most bling teen males sported was a watch, maybe a ring. Post Lugnut, teens can’t accessorize enough. Many try to do too much and it is never socially acceptable to use padlocks for neck garnishment.
I’d be lying if I said that I don’t understand the allure of chains—they are strong, cold, and evoke a sense of power—all man. But, it’s delusion.
In high school, I wore a silver chain. I blame the chain on my identity crisis. I thought it made me like someone I wasn’t—Usher. And the ladies? They thought I was something else altogether—-a creeper.
If you don’t subscribe to my experience believe the data. Studies show that teenage males who wear a chain longer than a period of 3 months are 100% more likely die single. As adults, they are doomed to wonder why women never take interest in them. It’s not their personality but this talisman acting as a ward, repelling women like evil spirits. The exception to the rule is if you live in New Jersey—girls in NJ like chains. Outside of New Jersey don’t wear them.
Some teens prefer a disheveled, just woke up look. A look that says I’m here but don’t expect much. A look that says I’m here but I don’t care to be, and I don’t care about what you’re saying.
The Rat King was the same way. He was a deranged rodent whisperer who wandered the sewers in tatters—surprise, surprise—commanding a troop of rats. Teens don’t like rats for the most part but they can’t get enough of the Rat King’s shabby-chic street style. He is the inspiration for the ripped tops and pants. Much of Michael Jackson’s wardrobe was inspired by the fresh and timeless looks of Rat King—not bad company.
The fact these mutant styles are at the forefront of fashion 30 years later show our teens know timeless style when they see it. TMNT was a fashion game changer. It’s likely the creators never envisioned the impact they would have in inspiring the fashions sensibilities for generations of youth.
Parents would do themselves a service by freshening their look in adopting the subtle styles of teens. These elegant fashions simplify life, what parent couldn’t use a little more simplicity. Throw on a comfy romper, zip it, meet your day. No more buttons or belts—freedom.
Also published on Medium.