In life’s most tiresome moments, most of us have considered jumping in a car – ideally a vintage convertible – and hitting the open road in search of new horizons. But few of us have ever done so, which perhaps accounts for the timeless appeal of the road movie: a chance to watch characters more daring (or possibly desperate) than ourselves embark on journeys of awakening, escape, adventure, misadventure or all of the above. The genre as we now know it emerged in late 60s America, when a new generation of counter-cultural audiences began clamouring for more transgressive viewing and a break from prudish Hollywood convention, thus sparking the seminal New Hollywood era of US cinema.
And what better format for free-spirited filmmaking than the road movie: the perfect framing device for a character’s transformation, as they voyage from A to B across an ever-changing landscape, encountering new faces and situations at every turn. The fact that many of the best road trip films also provide a plethora of fabulous fashion references is a very welcome bonus. Here, we showcase three of our favourite cinematic journeys, noting their lessons in travel, style and substance.
Paris, Texas (1984)
No one captures the extraordinary visual power of the American road quite like director Wim Wenders in his 1984 film, Paris, Texas, with its breathtakingly evocative shots of the western desertscape and iconic depictions of roadside Americana, spanning gas stations, diners and dilapidated motels. The film centres around melancholic wanderer Travis (Harry Dean Stanton), who is found roaming the desert in a tattered suit and state of confusion, and is subsequently reunited with his estranged young son Hunter. Determined to locate the boy’s mother Jane (Nastassja Kinski), Travis departs on the long drive to Houston, Hunter in tow. When he finally tracks her down she is working as a hostess in a peep-show booth, looking positively radiant in the low-backed pink mohair sweater now so synonymous with the film’s inimitable aesthetic. The visual impact of their first encounter, during which Jane is unable to identify Travis behind the peep show’s one-way glass, is equalled by the emotional weight of their second, when Travis reveals himself to Jane via the booth’s telephone, with heart-wrenching results.
Always pack a pink mohair jumper to ensure picture-perfect holiday snaps, and fill a Panama Writing Folder (in Fuschia, naturally) with plenty of writing paper to keep contact with those you treasure the most.
Thelma & Louise (1991)
The ultimate testimony to female friendship, Thelma & Louise took the box office by storm upon its release in 1991 for its feminist spin on the couple-on-the-run movie. Geena Davis is Thelma, a nervous southern housewife with an overbearing husband, who decides to throw caution to the wind and join her fun-loving, waitress friend Louise (Susan Sarandon) on a long-talked-of fishing trip. They set off in Louise’s Ford Thunder convertible in search of a few days’ fun, but when Louise kills an attempted rapist, their trip becomes a frenzied game of cat and mouse as they hot-foot it through the sun-drenched desert towards Mexico, police in close pursuit. Along the way they trade their floral prairie dresses for high-waisted jeans and grungy, tucked-in tees, adopting a gleefully anti-establishment attitude to match – one which gives way to fearless gun toting and the seduction of a young Brad Pitt before bringing our auburn-haired heroines to their climatic, unforgettable end.
For empowered adventuring, travel with a friend and a killer pair of jeans. Store your Polaroid camera safely in a large Panama Trinket Case for the inevitable selfie moment.
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
Bonnie and Clyde was in many ways the original road movie, and represents a landmark moment in film history for its unprecedented depiction of crime, violence and nudity on screen, as well as its experimental realisation inspired by the French New Wave. It tells the real life story of Depression-era outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, played by a smouldering Faye Dunaway – blonde-cropped and beret-topped – and a dimple-cheeked Warren Beatty. Parker is a bored waitress on the lookout for adventure, which promptly appears in the form of the cocksure Barrow, whom she catches trying to steal her mother’s car. Instantly smitten, the pair hit the road, forming a gang and conducting a string of increasingly elaborate heists along the way. Police chases, bloody hold-ups and a fatal betrayal ensue, leading to one of the most controversial endings of all time – but even in death, the indelible duo proves devastatingly stylish.
Love is of paramount importance, with a well-judged beret coming in at close second. While a Grosvenor Top Handle bag offers a chic alternative to Bonnie’s black doctors’ case, with plenty of room for hand mirror, hairbrush, pistol et al.
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