Bill and Ted
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Credit: Orion Pictures

Look of the Week: Bill and Ted's excellent outfits

Contributed by
Feb 24, 2019

Welcome back to Look of the Week! Celebrating the best in TV and film sartorial excellence, past and present across sci-fi, horror, fantasy, and other genre classics!

It has been 30 years since Bill (Alex Winters) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) first unleashed their signature air guitar riffs on the world. This summer, Winters and Reeves will reunite to shoot a third Bill and Ted adventure, but in the meantime let’s take a look back at the quintessential slacker styling of Bill S. Preston Esq. and Theodore “Ted” Logan. 

Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure

Source: Orion Pictures // De Laurentiis Entertainment Group.

Caught between ‘80s metal and ‘90s grunge, Bill and Ted straddle two different eras of music as they dream of rock star success. Their attire is a mash-up of the two periods, not quite landing in one or the other. In an interview with The Guardian last year, Winters noted the ex-hippies and skate punks of his Venice Beach neighborhood that informed Bill’s costuming: “I pulled lots of stuff from the local community. The backwards baseball cap thing with the giant shock of hair through the front was a direct lift from a kid who used to be on my street: it had always cracked me up.”

Costume designer Jill M. Ohanneson — her recent work on Preacher includes SYFY FANGRRLS style fave Tulip O'Hare (Ruth Negga) — was behind the cropped sweatshirt, but Winters explains that it was his idea to draw the Wyld Stallyns symbol on the back using a magic marker.

Movies are not the only thing that constantly seems to be getting rebooted; fashion draws on the past as much as pop culture does. Cropped sweatshirts and hoodies are back on trend and on TV; resident Queer Eye style expert Tan France is a big fan, as are his co-stars Jonathan Van Ness and Antoni Porowski. France knows this look isn’t for everyone, but did explain how versatile it can be: “I do think a crop top hoodie is appropriate for most young guys. If they layer. Or if they've got the confidence to wear it on its own.”

France gets a professional to crop his top, but Bill is more inclined to do some clothing DIY. Not only are the hemline uneven and sleeves hacked off, but the shirt is on inside out. Bill’s name can be read — in magic marker, of course — on the collar line. He’s also colored in one seam with a red pen because why the hell not?!

Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure

Source: Orion Pictures // De Laurentiis Entertainment Group.

Bill’s jeans also get the graffiti treatment, with a giant question mark on one thigh. Instead of doodling on a notepad, it would seem that Bill passes the time in class by drawing all over his clothes. High school is a time in which you can really play with your style identity while rebelling against how you are told to dress by authoritative figures. Bill has found a way to ensure he doesn't look the same as everyone else by adding these little flourishes. I wore a school uniform until I was 18, but even with this restriction, there were ways to individualize garments, whether it was adding buttons to blazers or picking the thread from my striped tie. Magic marker, biro, staples, and white-out also came in handy. Plus, these are all items you could find in your school bag.

Ted doesn’t have the same level of penmanship on his outfits, but he does have an interesting take on accessories. A shoelace hangs through the buttonhole of his orange shirt, a “Save the Humans” bumper sticker and smiley-face logo adorn his black shorts. And in case Ted gets cold later, he has a pair of gray sweatpants rolled up beneath his shorts, which is the kind of costume detail you might not initially notice, but then when you do spot it, it is all you can think about.

Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure

Source: Orion Pictures // De Laurentiis Entertainment Group.

In 2019, audiences are more accustomed to seeing Keanu Reeves sporting a vest as part of John Wick’s flawless tailoring; however, the signature Ted items are, of course, his Van Halen band tee paired with a black vest. The latter is taking a garment that is often considered formal attire and giving it a slacker spin.

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure is a movie that is free from cynicism, which is reflected in their costuming. They are not trying too hard, and pretty much every item looks like it has probably been scooped up off a bedroom floor rather than carefully chosen from a closet. They are definitely not pulling a Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) when picking out what to wear to school. But this isn’t to say they aren’t delivering A+ adolescent sartorial styling, ready for whatever history throws at them. Sure, ripped jeans and a shirt tied around the waist aren’t time-period accurate for a trip to medieval England, but Bill does branch out with some armor. The latter doesn’t really go with his whole low-slung denim aesthetic.

Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure

Source: Orion Pictures // De Laurentiis Entertainment Group.

The cropped sweatshirt and black vest aren’t trends everyone will want to get on board with, but even though it has been 30 years, there is a lot about Bill and Ted’s looks that still resonates. Converse “Chuck Taylor” high-tops are always in fashion, and jeans go through cycles of bagginess and boxer-revealing low-riding.

However, considering how many holes their costumes had in the first movie, it is unlikely these garments have survived, nor do most people wear the exact same clothes they had in high school, no matter how cyclical fashion is.

Bill and Ted 3 Keanu Reeves Alex Winter

Source: EW

But Reeves and Winters did give a sneak peek of what we can possibly expect from Bill and Ted when they return as part of a reunion for Entertainment Weekly last year. And yep, they haven’t really changed at all. This was prior to any filming, so these are not necessarily their new costumes, but it is a good indicator that Bill and Ted will be leaning toward band tees once again.

Plus they still have to save the world -- the new film is called Bill & Ted Face the Music, in which they will find out exactly what Rufus (George Carlin) was talking about in the first movie. And there is no doubt that Bill and Ted will somehow make the aging wannabe rock star vibe seem more excellent than bogus.

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