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Credit: Sony Pictures 

Look of the Week: Zombieland's style rules

Contributed by
Oct 5, 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! 

Sartorial excellence is probably far down on the list of concerns during a zombie apocalypse. You don’t have to pay for a new outfit when all stores have a "take what you need" policy, but items such as food and weapons are a priority. Nevertheless, just because there are herds of flesh-eating monsters stalking the streets, it doesn’t mean you have to completely ignore your wardrobe — even if you no longer have a physical closet to store these clothes in. A show like The Walking Dead has shown characters looking through random drawers for suitable attire, but clothes are still ascribed meaning as denim shirts and cowboy hats act as a memorial for loved ones. 

Zombieland has just turned 10 years old and to celebrate this milestone and its impending sequel, Zombieland: Double Tap, we are going to take a page out of Columbus’ (Jesse Eisenberg) rule-following book with a list of style rules for surviving in the United States of Zombieland. Function is (probably) more important than fashion in a time of crisis, but this doesn't mean you can't look good while surviving. 

zombieland

Credit: Sony Pictures 

Rule One: Keep it simple.

At the start of Zombieland, it has been two months since a strain of mad cow disease mutated resulting in “mad zombie disease.” Before all this, Columbus was just a regular college student — which is reflected in his rotation of hoodies, long-sleeve tees, and Oxford shirts. He looks like he borrowed his costume from the set of The Social Network when Eisenberg played Mark Zuckerberg.

As this similarity demonstrates, a great thing about this look is how simple and timeless it is. It could be 1999, 2009 or 2019 and no one would blink an eye at this outfit. Columbus is pretty unassuming, as a loner before this outbreak he is used to blending in. The bold yellow hoodie featured in his flashback has been replaced by eggplant and grey because he doesn't want to attract the gaze of the undead. Muted stripes, sensible New Balance sneakers, and a quilted body warmer are all part of his rotation of zombie fighting attire.

Zombieland

Credit: Sony Pictures

The ubiquity of this particular style is part of a visual gag in the trailer for Zombieland: Double Tap trailer, in which Columbus and Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) meet their clothing (and personality) doubles. Pretty much everything about his 2019 outfit mirrors his style of the previous decade. Sure, he’s got a new jacket, but everything else from the hoodie to the Oxford shirt is in place. Another key to style in the zombie apocalypse era is to keep it classic. In fact, the majority of the outfits designed by Magali Guidasci for the first movie fits this visual narrative.  

Rule Two: Always wear layers.

As the youngest member of the group, Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) has had to grow up fast. Before the zombie outbreak, she was part of a grifting team with her sister Wichita (Emma Stone), so she was already accustomed to the harsh realities of the world. She is also very good at adapting to different scenarios and her costuming plays into this aspect. Layering is important when sleeping arrangements are unpredictable and it might turn cold. Mixing a striped tee with a plaid shirt is playful, the fleece and jacket worn on top are sensible. You never know when a zombie might try and grab you, so layers will also help with wiggling out of these tricky situations. Cargo pants have plenty of pockets for much-needed supplies and boots are ideal for running or kicking zombies. The knitted hat is also an ideal addition for these trying times. Plus, it is cute. 

The leap between 12 and 22 is big, so it is hardly surprising to see Little Rock with a slightly more mature look in Double Tap. Tights, a denim mini, tank top, and black boots are an outfit relatable to many. Her fleece has been switched out for a hoodie, which is layered with another jacket, and a pair of fingerless gloves. A fundamental accessory for brandishing a weapon against hoards of zombies (and untrustworthy humans).

Emma Stone Zombieland

Source: Sony Pictures

Rule Three: Take a page out of Jessica Jones' lookbook.

A leather moto quilted jacket, jeans, and boots are an effortless combination that manages to look cool af and acts as armor against the world. They're the main ingredients of Jessica Jones’ signature style, but they're also Witchita’s go-to outfit. Sure, Zombieland came before the Netflix version of this Marvel character, but it is a pretty standard sartorial direction for a badass with trust issues. In The Walking Dead, leather is a clue that someone is shady af or the villain — see Negan — and while Witchita is the master of the con, she just needs to realize family goes beyond blood relatives. In a flashback, we see her in a pair of (likely fake) Louboutins using this status shoe as a way to signify her wealth, as part of her scam. The United States of Zombieland no longer has much need for designer pumps, boots are the way to go.

The only inexplicable thing about her entire outfit is her slightly oversized white T-shirt (that she wears every single day) somehow doesn’t end up covered in zombie bloodstains or dirt. Does she have a stash of white shirts in her bag that she switches when one gets ruined?

The heavy bangs and eyeliner of 2009 have been toned down and there has been a slight update to her outfit, but the concept is the same. Her v-neck has been switched out for a crew, she’s now tucking her white tee in, and somehow it still looks just as clean. When placed side-by-side, the posters of both movies underscore the costume design similarities. Not everyone fell into the late '00s low-cut jeans trend.     

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Credit: Sony Pictures 

Rule Four: Lean into an aesthetic (fashion can still be fun in a zombie apocalypse).

Columbus, Little Rock, and Witchita all stick to muted tones and classic attire, never straying too far from clothes that won’t go out of style. Meanwhile, Tallahassee is fully committing to the whole cowboy vibe. Tallahassee’s rule (Number 32) is to “enjoy the little things,” which includes his endless hunt for Twinkies and extends to his wardrobe. His flashback reveals a closet featuring Hawaiin shirts and shearling denim jackets as he plays with his son, a son he is grieving. Again, it makes sense to stick to a neutral color palette in dark tones but he is also mourning this profound loss. The cowboy look is a persona to distract from the pain. To help sell this image he’s got the boots, hat, and holster. Later on, he lets some of his exuberance show through in a snake print jacket as they tear up the zombie-filled theme park. When you could die at any minute taking a fashion risk is encouraged. 

As with the rest of the original cast, Tallahassee hasn't strayed too far from where we last left him. And as with Columbus, he is about to encounter someone with similar taste. Every zombie hunting team needs their very own cowboy. 

Zombieland: Double Tap will kill zombies in style on October 18.

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