Times Square and the dearth of denim

In the Anchor Bay DVD commentary track of Times Square (2000), director Allan Moyle asks Robin Johnson (Nicky Marotta) if she likes the film’s costumes as “they seem like kind of clichéd now”. Johnson replies, “No! I don’t think any of the stuff we wore could seem clichéd. No, it was really original. It was really original stuff.” I have to defer to Robin Johnson here, as the costuming is one of the unique aspects of the “look” of Times Square.

In his contemporary review of Times Square, Roger Ebert writes that Robin Johnson plays “a tough-talking, husky-voiced Brooklyn kid who wears jeans and leathers and carries a loud cassette player wherever she goes.” But Nicky, in fact, does not wear jeans. This marks what is perhaps the most singular aspect of the Times Square costuming.

The nineteen-seventies was perhaps the heyday of denim jeans. Changing techniques of denim production made the highly-desired consumer item more affordable than ever. What had been a relatively expensive piece of durable clothing had become more popular in the nineteen-sixties but had not yet reached its period of high designer fashion in the eighties. At the time of the film’s production and release, denim, and especially denim jeans, was a near-ubiquitous wardrobe staple for young people and especially teenagers in the western world. As a teen at the time, I didn’t have a huge amount of clothing, but I had over a dozen pairs of jeans. The crowd scenes in Times Square demonstrate the widespread popularity of denim during this period. In the picture above, for example, we have denim jeans, shirts, jackets, “double denim” (denim jeans and denim jacket), Pammy in denim bib-and-brace overalls, and even a dude in denim hotpants.

With their unique fashion choices, Nicky and Pammy eschew the contemporary teen uniform of jeans and a t-shirt. This is the only t-shirt that either Nicky or Pammy wear (Nicky’s “Your Daughter is One” shirt, which doubles as part of her jimjams); it’s hardly a stock-standard seventies teen t-shirt.

Nicky and Pammy share a pair of overalls (the zipper-flap bib-and-brace overalls look to me like a pair of sixties Dee Cee brand, but more specific identification is of course welcome!). The costuming denim-dearth separates Nicky and Pammy from the other teenaged characters depicted in the film. For example, in the scenes in which extras hear the news of Nicky’s Times Square concert being announced on the radio, they typically wear denim. When they change to their “Sleez Sister” attire, none of the teenaged women wear denim, instead wearing striped or coloured tights or trousers, etc, with their Sleez Bags. The costuming, therefore, and Nicky and Pammy’s divergence from typical contemporary teen attire, is a signifier of their difference, their rebellion from normative society and social values.

While Nicky never wears jeans, Pammy does wear a pair. Although she is seen wearing them once in the film (when she is moving furniture and other items into their Pier home with Nicky), she wears them in the final few scenes of the film, perhaps indicating her desire to return to a life where she does “normal stuff.”

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About DefeatedandGifted

If you have any comments, anecdotes or images regarding Times Square fandom, please email me at defgif@gmail.com
This entry was posted in Allan Moyle, Cultural Studies, Fandom, Nicole "Nicky" Marotta, Pamela "Pammy" Pearl, Queer Spectatorship, Robert DeMora, Robin Johnson, Times Square (1980) movie. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Times Square and the dearth of denim

  1. Pingback: Times Square and the dearth of…

  2. Joseph Wegesa (Kitale) says:

    Another great article. You always find a different angle to comment on the great Times Square. I don’t know anything about fashion but I love your illustrated description of Nicky and Pammy’s fashion sense.

    Looking forward to more writings from you.

    • My next post will go into Nicky and Pammy’s outfits in more detail. For this one, I just wanted to note the lack of denim: I’m a real denimhead, and always watch for it in films. For the period, and especially for a film with teenage leads, it’s most unusual. Thanks again for your kind comment, Joseph!

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