In the canon of American culture, Easy Rider is far more than just a film. Inducted in 1998 to the Library of Congress National Registry, Easy Rider is long recognised as a potent marker of 1960s counterculture. Coming to summarise a period of hippies, communal living and drug use, alongside major changes to the American social landscape, Easy Rider sparked a new era of American filmmaking and began to question the true values of the American dream.Easy Rider, directed and starring Dennis Hopper, alongside Jack Nicholson and Peter Fonda, chronicles the story of two bikers (Fonda and Hooper) as they travel through the American South in a quest for greater freedoms. The pair exude an alternative lifestyle, smuggling cocaine, living in communes and taking LSD. Like the films of the French New Wave, the end of the film is bleak – the two main characters dead after an attack by hillbillies. Their quest for freedom is cut short. As Fonda declares to Hooper ‘we blew it.’
The costumes add to the films iconic value. It is small town Americana at its very best, and has long inspired designers and stylists since. Perhaps the most recognised item of clothing is Hooper’s leather jacket, with an American flag emblazoned on the back. Alongside his American flag helmet, Fonda’s character has the fitting nickname, ‘Captain America.’ His style is pure road movie – leathers, battered jeans and sunglasses.Hooper, on the other hand, wears Native American style garb. It is another knowing reference to America’s tense history, Hooper wearing tasseled suede jackets, chunky jewellry and sporting long hair and a head band. His style also references 1960s hippie fashions, a rejection of a growing conservatism in the USA.
Easy Rider is an American classic. Exposing the realities of the American Dream, this is a film that demands to be watched. Visually, it is just an important, the costumes as iconic as the film itself.