It’s strange to remember that The Matrix had begun challenging our perception of reality in the last century. The sci-fi film that made us all ‘think’ about learning kung-fu is among the most widely referenced today on social media, and in that regard The Matrix really is all around us. But just how did one movie have such a strong impact on fashion over the past 24 years?
“The Matrix is a fashion film, actually,” stated Natalie Michie while writing for Fashion Magazine. The notion that such an action-packed movie can be so heavily associated with fashion isn’t as churlish as it may seem, either.
At its core, The Matrix oozes cool. Even when characters aren’t fighting Agents within dilapidated city hellscapes, they all look extremely well-dressed in their cyberpunk attire.
Because of the notion that The Matrix is a simulation, and merely a digital rendering of the real world, the film’s characters had the freedom to wear a pristine wardrobe any time they entered–giving costume designers the freedom to create iconic looks for each character throughout.
The world of fashion couldn’t believe its luck. Even today, with The Matrix more than two decades old, we’re seeing Matrix fashion remain as strong as ever among the world of celebrity.
Even high fashion hasn’t been able to leave the aesthetics of the film alone, with Balenciaga launching a 2019 campaign that showcased a range of Matrix-inspired fashion alongside a video loosely-based on the plot of The Matrix.
The Style that Never Dies
The Matrix has captivated the world of celebrity for decades, and its black leather looks have been adopted by global superstars like Rihanna, Dua Lipa, the Hadids, Kanye West, and Chloe Bailey among many other household names.
Recently, Hailey Bieber, who would’ve been two years old at the time of the released of The Matrix, was pictured sporting a Matrix-chic leather jacket along with a pair of small sunglasses that closely resembles the style worn by the film’s protagonists.
The look caused a stir, but it’s certainly not the only time that celebrities have consciously sought to follow the styles introduced in The Matrix.
Kanye West famously emailed Kim Kardashian in 2018 imploring his then wife to change her looks to better accommodate the styles made famous in The Matrix. “You cannot wear big glasses anymore. It’s all about tiny little glasses,” Kanye explained.
Celebrity interest in Matrix clothing has certainly been cyclical, and it appears that we’re embarking on another cycle today, with Depop noting that it experienced a 222% increase in searches including the term ‘Matrix’ over the final quarter of 2021. “The Noughties nostalgia of the iconic original Matrix films will surely continue to proliferate as the franchise is resurrected,” predicted Lizzy de Bruin, Depop’s Strategic Inventory Lead, at the time.
But what is it about The Matrix that has enthralled fashionistas over the years? The late 1990s was filled with fashion-conscious films, so why did The Matrix stand the test of time? The answer could be the conscious rebellious tones of the franchise, and how it pits individuals against ‘the system.’
What ‘the system’ actually is can be more debatable for the film’s advocates. The distorted interpretations drawn from the film may be inaccurate, but it also helps others to adopt the ‘us against them’ attitude that could see its lead characters become stronger idols for viewers–thus making their styles more iconic.
Unmissable Fashion to the Finest Detail
Everything about the styles shown in The Matrix is eye-catching. The attire of the characters evokes thoughts of cyberpunk, and beautifully bleak iconography, but it’s to the credit of the film’s wardrobe department that every detail of the characters is perfect.
From the heavy metal boots worn by Neo to Trinity’s unmistakably slick hair, The Matrix didn’t put a foot wrong when dressing the characters, though it’s through their choice of sunglasses that really captured the imagination.
Sunglasses were a central component of the film, and every character that knew the truth about The Matrix wore glasses as a means of upholding some form of anonymity. According to Perspex writer Hannah Schmidt-Rees, every character had three pairs of glasses custom-made for them, and had to have a plaster cast made of their heads to ensure that their glasses were created as a perfect fit.
Matrix glasses have been an enduring staple of fashion, and many have adopted the style to create their own eye-catching looks. We recently saw Bella Hadid wear sunglasses that wouldn’t look out of place in The Matrix sporting small-frame shades that loosely resemble Banana Republic’s smaller range of shop online styles.
As ever, the world of celebrity plays a key role in driving the fashion cycles of movie-inspired looks. With this in mind, it’s clear that the recent rise of celebrities coveting Matrix-style trends is helping to bring the movie’s iconic styles back into the public consciousness.
Despite the franchise now being 24 years old, we’re still enjoying the cyberpunk looks of Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus as much as we’ve enjoyed watching them fight the system. Although many of us still distort the messages conveyed within the movies, our shared love for its fashion is unwavering.