Deceptively great: fashion’s the real hero in Spaced series

Spaced cast
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Spaced (1999-2001) is a masterclass in recognisable live-action character design. In the first of a three-part series, Genevieve Nardella takes a closer look
Deceptively great: fashion's the real hero in Spaced series

Puffy sleeves, bell bottoms, hair flicks, off-the-shoulder sweatshirts and even corsets.

They’ve all had their moments in the fashion sun, thanks to our desire to emulate the style of great film and TV shows.

In the 1930s it was all about bright-eyed Shirley Temple, with mothers dressing their daughters in smocked shift dresses, puffed sleeves and cutesy collars to imitate her style.

In the ’70s it was recreating Farrah Fawcett’s voluminous hair flicks and stepping out in John Travolta’s Saturday Night Fever bell-bottoms and bedazzles.

Films like Top Gun and Indiana Jones saw the commercial popularity of bomber jackets increase, while Flashdance contributed to the ’80s style of off-the-shoulder sweatshirts and the migration of dancewear to streetwear.

Netflix series Bridgerton, a period drama set in regency-era England, has seen the rise of “Regencycore” with fans appropriating elements of the era like empire waistlines, corsetry, and pearl detailing into their 21st-century wardrobes.

But the TV series Spaced was little different – the clothing had immediate recognition because audiences were already dressing like the characters.

Spaced ran for two seven-episode seasons during the late ’90s and early 2000s. Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes co-wrote and starred in the series, directed by a young Edgar Wright.

The trio later worked together on the Cornetto Trilogy: Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007) and The World’s End (2013).

Spaced follows Tim Bisley (Pegg) and Daisy Steiner (Hynes), a comic artist and an aspiring writer who pretend to be a couple in order to get a good deal on a flat.

While Spaced is a funtime series worth watching, it is an often-neglected aspect of the show that holds significance. While the humour, performances and pop culture references are all stellar, it’s the costumes that are deceptively great.

Deceptively great: fashion's the real hero in Spaced series
Jessica Hynes, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and co

The statement might seem laughable when stacking Spaced against shows awash with designer brands and on-trend fashions, like Sex and the City and Gossip Girl. However, Spaced’s strength isn’t in its ability to forecast fashion or drive sales of certain items, but in its costuming to character.

In a later interview, Wright recalled how a fan once told him the Spaced characters were “all really easy to draw”, in terms of their costuming. The comment might suggest the characters, like cartoons, only wear one outfit, when in actuality they just have consistent styles.

Tim is a skater living through the height of the X Games popularity, an extreme sporting event that saw Tony Hawk rise to fame with some iconic skateboarding achievements. Tim’s skate-inspired style is a consistent fit with his interests and fashion trends of the time, opting for baseball tees, beanies and baggy cargo pants.

Daisy has a more modest and casual wardrobe, including lots of layered shirts, hoodies and full-length pants. Her style is a comfy uniform for procrastinating on writing articles in the flat.

Tim’s childhood friend Mike Watt (Nick Frost) sports a wardrobe heavily influenced by his time in and out of the Army. Mike wears a lot of camo print, berets, and military jackets paired with his signature yellow-tinted sunglasses.

The other cast members also have memorable, character-driven looks, but Daisy’s friend Twist Morgan (Katy Carmichael) is the character who really stands out.

Twist claims to work in fashion—she actually works at a dry cleaner—and prioritises her clothing choices, even if her outfits turn out to be comical takes on already difficult-to-pull-off early 2000s styles. Her costumes are full of pink, faux fur and fun hair accessories.

Deceptively great: fashion's the real hero in Spaced series
Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester) and Serena van der Woodsen (Blake Lively)

Sure, Gossip Girl and Sex and the City were also excellent at giving characters a consistent style. Blair’s preppy ensembles and Serena’s boho-chic are still recognisable over a decade later, and no one can even mention Manolo Blahnik without thinking of Carrie Bradshaw.

Spaced, however, creates that same character-costume association without being tuned-in to all the current trends. The show’s fans are already in that pop-culture-obsessed outsider crowd and have been wearing similar styles to the characters ever since the rise of casual wear and minimalism in the ’90s.

The characters, like their audience, are regular people who geek out over movies and TV, so they’re costumed perfectly for the show’s mundane acts and wild pop culture-heavy fantasies.

Ultimately, Spaced proves TV can costumes characters in cheaper, less glamourous items and still make memorable fashion moments. It’s an example of good costuming not being flashy.

Set aside a weekend and give Spaced a watch for plenty of laughs and surprisingly great costumes.