Suburban Escapism and 80s Style in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

One of my all time favorite FEEL-GOOD movies is the 1986 classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It is a must watch while we’re all in quarantine, because we can fondly remember being allowed in large crowds during that epic parade scene. It holds up decades later as one of the most iconic 80s movies by John Hughes, the king of tongue-in-cheek 80s high school situational romcoms.

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I have witnessed people continue to dress up as the iconic misfit Ferris for Halloween, or just model his everyday wear. So let’s jump into a sunny day in the suburbs of Chicago and look at the day where three high schoolers cut class to have the best day of their lives.

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There are many hidden easter eggs all throughout the film that are iconic to John Hughes films that most viewers wouldn’t normally catch. Not to mention the stellar cast from the Shermer High School (the same high school as The Breakfast Club) faculty including Jeffrey Jones (eh, creepy) as Ed Rooney and Eugene Levy as the teacher calling roll that has forever been referenced throughout pop culture. “Bueller… Bueller….”

Ferris explains his life philosophy while getting changed nine times for his epic day playing hooky

With his over trusting parents out of the picture, the day is young and the city is beckoning. From singing in the shower to spewing John Lennon philosophies Ferris’s opening monologues transition into a series of dialogues (and outfit changes) over the phone with his neurotic best friend, Cameron. From bathrobe to Hawaiian shirt and converse, swim trunks and tiki drinks, to picking up Sloan in a mobster father getup, to his final form:

Screen Shot 2020-04-12 at 9.50.13 PMTwo of the most iconic looks in 80s film history: Sloan Peterson and Ferris Bueller 

Hot take, Ferris and Sloane are King and Queen when it comes to best dressed couples in film. Ferris finally comes out in his three piece getup, which will remain an iconic 80s outfit solidified in cinema history. Completing his Perry Ellis suit is the patterned (looks a bit like Fendi, no?) sweater vest, which was originally a cardigan, says costume designer, Marylin Vance.

Screen Shot 2020-04-12 at 10.20.13 PMCameron in his very non-Chicago Redwings Jersey and Ferris’s infamous vest

The weirdly geometric, animal-like print cardigan had its sleeves slashed to create the iconic vest. Sounds like something I would do, a DIY grandpa sweater vest. The cardigan was found at Chicago’s major department retailer, Marshall Fields. Costume designer Vance then slashed the sleeves off to complete the look to make it youthful and functional for the major dance number during the Von Steuben Day parade in downtown Chicago. Also, note: why was there a huge parade on a weekday?

Screen Shot 2020-04-12 at 3.36.19 PMThe custom made for Ferris Jacket that has been recreated over and over again over decades. 

Ferris is Ferris. He doesn’t fall into any particular high school stereotype. When costume designer Vance was styling the look she took this into consideration. He’s not a jock, so he wouldn’t be seen in a full letterman, nor a leather jacket like the bad boy Charlie Sheen’s character:

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So she went with something totally customized and fitted to his character ethos. A little Member’s Only style with some beige and muted accents of green and black. It somehow worked with his whole look and it continues to be a highly sought after vintage piece of film history.

Cool girl Sloane and her epic white fringe leather jacket

IMG_7366The most coveted white fringe leather jacket there ever was.

With a name like Sloane you are effortlessly the most stylish girl in school.

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Clearly anticipating her get out-of-class free card, the first shot of Sloane is when she gets called out to the nurse’s, throws on her jacket and skips almost too happily to receive news of the “dead grandmother” which Rooney is quick to call the bluff. It is unknown to me where the original jacket came from or who designed it, but many replicas have been remade for costumes. I even came across one similar to Sloane’s at one of the many flea markets out here in Austin. Authentically from the 80s, the vendor told me and it was selling for a pretty penny, as it was recovered from an estate sale.

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Best friend Cameron, the neurotic hypochondriac

Screen Shot 2020-04-12 at 4.00.29 PMAhead of his time, it just goes to show a graphic tee and some thin suspenders can be timeless.

Uptight Cameron comes up with every excuse in the book to avoid going out it in public. How apropos for our current daily life. He would have cut class just the same as Ferris, except he would lay in his morose state of fear within that gorgeous $2.3 million dollar  steel and glass house. Soon enough he let’s Ferris coax him into taking Dad’s Ferrari (a 250 GT California Spyder) out of suburban Highland Park to downtown Chicago.

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The untold story of Cameron’s jersey (and what was inherently wrong with him) continues to baffle viewers. Since the Second City is full of sports fanatics you would think at least one of the characters would have merchandise from either the Cubs, White Sox, Blackhawks or Bulls. Cameron instead has a Detroit Redwings jersey, which was never explained. Evidently John Hughs had a backstory to it, that illustrates Cameron’s father-son tension:

“John [Hughes] had spent some of his boyhood in Detroit. [Hughes] had decided that Cameron had a horrible relationship with his father, but a great relationship with his grandfather, who lived in Detroit and would take Cameron to Red Wings games. That’s all it was, and it was never explained in the movie.” –Den Of Geek

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The infamous moment where Cameron reaches the epiphany that he and the crying child are one and the same. Is this not one of the most visited paintings in the United States?

Though the jersey backstory never made it into the film, it lies beneath the surface as Cameron’s little secret.

Sassy sister Jeanie and her 80s Pink Lady look

Screen Shot 2020-04-14 at 4.13.02 PMThe long shot inner monologue: “Screw ’em”

I think it’s in common agreement that Jeanie is all of us with siblings who get the better of us. She is relentless in her scorn at everyone in school who comes to her to give condolences for her brother’s presumed ill state. Her whole look has an air of youthful Pink Ladies vibe as if she led her own clique in the 1986 school year. Pink jacket, open colored shirt, black capris, white Nikes with athletic socks slouched around the shins, stylishly functional and probably due for a comeback. Enraged and on a mission, she goes home to expose Ferris only to be surprised by her over zealous principal, Rooney and his own dark agenda of exposing Ferris himself.

Screen Shot 2020-04-12 at 5.13.53 PM“Look it’s really great your worried about my brother, but I need HELP!” “Speak any English?! DICK-HEAD!” 

Also it’s worth mentioning the quirky John Hughes-specific movie secrets that are picked up in the crowded school hallways:

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At least two people in the background are carrying boom boxes. I know it’s the 80s, but damn that’s a load to carry for a full day of school. What if you were skateboarding too? You gotta carry a skateboard too?

Screen Shot 2020-04-12 at 3.55.32 PMA YELLOW BOOMBOX.

Ferris’s bedroom is another topic of interest as he points out his rigged up, fool-proof sleeping dummy machine, which is used as a decoy for his unannounced visitors: mom, Rooney and Jeanie. On his wall is a Simple Minds poster, which only John Hughes fans will pickup being from The Breakfast Club closing credits.

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It’s a pretty cool room with endless posters and a Union Jack flag covering the door, it would give any teenager room inspiration. Also the mannequin in his room is dressed in the jacket / hat combination, for which he uses to pickup Sloane incognito.

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So friends, even though we are quarantined still in this pandemic limbo state, I can be grateful that I have my health and time to revisit some of my favorite reading, games and movie classics. In a way, we are all Ferris on a mission to skip school or work, but not to just stay home sick, but to break free and have the most epic day ever.

He said it best:

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

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