The first time I saw the trailer for Spring Breakers in a theater, I remember being completely mesmerized—and overcome with laughter—at this completely debaucherous, insane nightmare/good time. There was neon, James Franco with cornrows and a flat Floridian twang, teenage Britney Spears sing-a-longs, and guns. Everything about it was outrageous to me, and I can’t be positive of the timeline, but I think after that my taste changed.
At the time, I was working at an accessories label that was all about good taste—subtle color palettes, leather, and minimal fonts. Spring Breakers exploded in my face as an alternative to quiet and neutral. I didn’t want to hold up convenience stores, per se, but I did want to wear more neon bikinis. Aside from my own personal come-to-Jesus moment, the crazy thing about the film is that it predicted so much of the coldness, of the neon, of the balaclavas, that now shapes what we consume and wear.
Image via A24
Heidi Bivens, who’s been interviewed a lot recently, was the designer for the film. It’s a curious thing that’s happened with both The Beach Bum, out March 29, and Spring Breakers—they are films of-the-times and ahead of them. With The Beach Bum, at first paparazzi shots on-set of Matthew McConaughey wearing flame-print suits and Uggs seemed extreme and hilarious. Then, as GQ pointed out, we started seeing Uggs coming back, Prada showing flame-print suits, and the rise of scumbro.
The Beach Bum effect unfolded over a more condensed amount of time, whereas Spring Breakers seemed to have a slower ripple effect. In 2012, the year the movie came out, I remember thinking that the Kinfolk aesthetic was peak-cool—lattes, wood, cream-colored everything, twine, a few plants, geometric shapes. It was, in various incarnations, the prevailing Instagram aesthetic.
Spring Breakers was pre-maximalism, a design mood that’s received increasing attention. It also might be singlehandedly responsible for what’s trendy now: neon, balaclavas, snake print, early-2000s nostalgia, even unicorns (remember that brief halcyon period in 2018 where everything was unicorn-themed?). Bivens explained to Fader in 2013 the scene where the girls, clad in balaclavas, gather around Franco (aka Alien) as he serenades them with a warbly version of Britney Spears’ piano ballad “Everytime”.
Image via A24
“There’s a memorable set of costumes: monokinis with tiger faces and black sweatpants worn low on the hips,” she says. “I had DTF in silver block letters put on the butt: Down to Fuck. Topped with bright pink ski masks. Harmony wanted a unicorn head put on the masks, so on their foreheads there’s a unicorn. Not incredibly complicated, but visually fun.”
Six years after the release of Spring Breakers, fashionable balaclavas were dubbed “Fall 2018’s Hottest Accessory” by almost every magazine. The popularity of neon colors—green, in particular—have been a sticking point over the last year, whether it was Marine Serre’s acid-green sweaters or Instagram brands that specialize in their own sort of fast-fashion with DayGlo-hued, Fashion Nova-esque trends.
Image via A24
Even the basic symbology and mood of the film has stuck around—weed leaves, Florida, a certain kind of cultural iciness, from ice cream cones to the last few years of nihilistic rap music shaped by the death and music of Lil Peep and the lean-and-xanax flavored music of Young Thug and Future.
Of course, there are other cultural forces driving these trends, but somehow so many of them go back to a film about four girls (two previous Disney stars) robbing a convenience store for the best spring break, ever. And if I can end on a cheesy note, I’ll say this: I think we’re still singing Britney and searching for some sort of spring break vibe six years later.