No New Fashions in the Future
Sometimes creators of works of speculative fiction make up all kinds of futuristic machinery and even architecture, but do not bother to create futuristic-looking fashions
for their characters, instead opting to use contemporary styles. This creates an effect similar to that of Zeerust
, in which the style of the work seems dated not because they were trying to look futuristic, but because they couldn't see beyond their own contemporary looks.
Sometimes it is justified in some specific things, like how many modern hairstyles have been around for centuries (often pointed out in movies), and how men's suits have changed remarkably little in over 140 years
(albeit going from casual sporting wear, to business dress, to the most formal thing many men will ever put on). More specifically, within the past 60-70 years, styles in suits have entered a more or less cyclical pattern (one decade wide tie, one decade skinny tie, one decade more colors, one decade fewer colors, one decade wide lapel, one decade narrow lapel...) as decades borrow from past ones (witness the Mad Men
influence on contemporary fashion). On top of that, jeans have been the youth's casual trousers of choice in North America for some seventy years now (almost a trope of its own). But this isn't the case once enough time has passed. Just compare how different medieval and Roman styles looks from each other; logically fashion two hundred or so years from now on will be just as different. Or just compare women's fashions of 1900
Anyone who thinks "but fashions don't really change that quickly, so why bother?" needs to take a look◊ at the◊ history of fashion
Compare Popular History
, Twenty Minutes into the Future
, Fashions Never Change
, Modern Stasis
, Sci-Fi Bob Haircut
. Contrast Space Clothes
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Anime and Manga
- The original Bubblegum Crisis anime, released in 1987 and set in the year 2032, features clothes and hairstyles that are so stereotypically 1980s that you'd almost think it was a parody.
- Megazone 23 suffers from extreme 80's fashion as well, complete with a pop-music idol singing a cheezy dance ballad.
- Justified in this case, as the characters believe it actually is the eighties.
- Most series in the Gundam franchise tend to suffer from this, as the writers are constantly trying to make their respective series be analogue to modern times. Thus, the original series went by 1970s fashions, Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ, Char's Counterattack and Mobile Suit Gundam F91 had 1980s wear (ZZ especially), Mobile Suit Victory Gundam, Mobile Fighter G Gundam, Mobile Suit Gundam Wing and After War Gundam X are all 1990s based, and anything made after the turn of the century follows along with that decade and beyond. Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn, despite being made in The New Tens, follows UC's general late-80s-to-early-90s trend to blend in stylistically.
- One of the very few series that breaks this trend is ∀ Gundam, which being more Fantasy oriented than previous series, had a general Victorian era setting; as a result, characters tended to wear styles based anywhere from the Industrial Revolution to World War I.
- Both Cosmic Era series also count as at least partial aversions — while civilian clothes of the characters aren't unreasonable and wouldn't look really out of place on the modern streets, they are nevertheless quite unlike any previously observed trends — especially visible in the case of Kira Yamato, whom fanon perceives as a notorious dandy. His penchant for complex flamboyant leather jackets with detached sleeves and lots of belts and zippers makes him look less like a Gundam character, and more like a video game character by Tetsuya Nomura.
- The Second volume of Osamu Tezuka's Phoenix series actually gives a pretty brilliant (and tragic) justification for this. People living in a Crapsack World that has seen the near complete destruction of Earth's ecology and the apparent failure of a space colonization program that was supposed to save the human race have given up hope for the future and spend their lives trying to relive the past. This trope is taken to truly ludicrous levels in the manga, where not only do people wear mostly ordinary looking modern clothes of various fashion eras as well as more classical Victorian finery and even togas, there are also people who dress up in medieval armor or wear animal skins like a caveman. Since this book was written in the late 50s/early 60s, the Space Clothes that the officials wear also look anachronistic to modern eyes, which gives their constant bemoaning of people's nostalgic tendencies a layer of irony.
- Everybody in Cowboy Bebop looks vaguely 70s. They also listen to music that was fashionable in 1970s, and much of the technology is designed by the aesthetics of the era, as well, even though it's vastly more advanced. And the time it's set in? 2070s. The show seems to play with the idea of fashions going in circles.
- The main characters and motorcycle gangs in AKIRA all wear clothing that is very reminiscent of The Eighties.
- In Tokyo Crazy Paradise, 90's fashion has apparently remained dominant for a good 30 years.
- Justified in Legend of the Galactic Heroes, at least for the inhabitants of the Reich, whose fashions range from the 18th to early 20th Century. Those in the Free Planets Alliance, on the other hand, wouldn't look too out of place in modern-day America, while many on Phezzan seem to like The Eighties.
- The clothing in AKB0048, despite being set way in the future, are exactly like the clothes worn in the 00-10's. Fans of the real life AKB48 may notice some of the casual wear of the girls are actually reused by the characters in the show.
- Lily C.A.T. has most characters wearing casual 80s clothes in the 23rd century.
- Most of the regular citizens in Judge Dredd wear either Space Clothes or weird punk-inspired getup; indeed, Max Normal is seen as odd because he wears an 80s business suit. However, the gangsters in the first few years tended to wear stereotypical 80s gangster gear - pinstripe or corduroy suits, and trilbies.
- A strip in Gotlib's Rubrique-à-Brac depicts the projected evolution of fashion starting from the Nineties: going back to Renaissance, then medieval, then Roman armor, then Gallic clothes, then cavemen furs.
- In The Man Who Fell to Earth, the characters grow from youth into old age, but it's always the 70s in terms of clothes, hair, music, cars, etc.
- Logan's Run, set in a hi-tech far-future city where the inhabitants — those who are wearing clothes — look as though they've just stepped out of a '70s-era disco. This is probably the most depressing aspect of the movie's dystopian society.
- Don't forget RoboCop (1987), although that was, in many ways, a parody of contemporary society made in the 1980s.
- 2010: The Year We Make Contact:
- The film was made in 1984, and is dated, but the clothing worn in the film is pretty similar to what people wore (space suits aside) in the Real Life 2010 so it's justified for the most part. The American space suits were even designed to look more like space suits used todaynote rather than the ones from 2001.
- Helen Mirren's perm is an example of '80s Hair, and seems unusual for a colonel in the Soviet Air Force.
- Dave Bowman's wife Betty wears a Flashdance-style off-the-shoulder T-shirt, which actually came ''back'' into fashion in 2010.
- There are people in the 2000s and 2010s who still wear glasses like Dr. Chandra's.
- In Meet the Robinsons, which takes place only 30 years from when the film was released, people have flying cars and robot buddies... but kids still wear jeans, t-shirts, and Converse All-Stars. Since these fashions had already been in style for so long, it's certainly not unlikely that they will be at the story's time.
- Largely averted in Back to the Future Part II's overblown and very tongue-in-cheek vision of 2015, but early in the movie Doc Brown gives Marty a set of modern clothing...which looks almost exactly like his regular clothes, except that it's electronic and automatically adjusts its size. One size fits all, indeed!
- The original Rollerball and Death Race 2000. Very 70s look in the Game of Death future.
- Aliens has this, with the curly hairstyles of Ripley and Newt's mother. Also, In The Future business suits are worn with the shirt collars turned up.
- Soylent Green is so '70s it hurts.
- Star Wars has this on some planets. While many people wear robes or bulky Space Clothes, there are many that wear something that resembles our clothing. Dexter Jettster, the diner owner in Episode II, wears something you'd expect a diner owner today to wear, albeit with an extra pair of sleeves. Otherwise, Star Wars is pretty good about averting this trope with clothes, although the characters' hair is incredibly 70s/80s in the Original Trilogy.
- The clothes of Obi-Wan Kenobi were inspired by samurai costumes, with a dash of robed wizard. (Since it was essentially a fantasy "long long ago" and it's not really supposed to be futuristic, this makes some sense; there were also characters who did not wind up in the finished film wearing cloaks and carrying magic swords ... err, lightsabers.) Jedi characters who turned up later all followed a similar trend to Obi-wan. However, Amidala's extravagant costumes in the newer trilogy are pretty original, and young Obi-wan even lampshades this by remarking that her wardrobe is the most valuable thing on their spaceship.
- Applies to the humans in Avatar, set in 2154. Apparently, progress stopped after 2003.
- This also applies to military uniforms. Apparently, modern military fatigues are still standard 150 years from now, even though, historically, uniforms can change pretty fast.
- In a post-apocalyptic future of Steel Dawn, people still have mullets.
- This is at least somewhat plausible, as mullets were a common hairstyle as far back as Ancient Greece.
- The Running Man. It's set in 2017, but the clothes scream 80s (not that that's a bad thing). Just look at the leotards worn by the dancers at the beginning of the game show. Then there's the earrings on some of the female audience members, the sweater on Killian's make-up guy...
- Star Trek is generally good at averting this, but there are two notable exceptions: Kirk's brother wearing 2009 era skinny jeans and, in what is most likely an example of the Grandfather Clause, Sixties era miniskirts for female Starfleet uniforms.
- The civilians shown in Star Trek Into Darkness however, have clothes that have touches of 2013 in them, but much more high fashion like.
- Somewhat averted in Bicentennial Man, which clearly shows fashions change over its 200-year timeframe. Granted, suits, jeans and tuxedos seem largely preserved in that time, which can look jarring compared to the more futuristic styles.
- There's a movie version of The Picture of Dorian Gray that was made in the early 1970's, set in the early 1970's, and which features the title character living agelessly over the span of about 20 years. Somehow the fashions never seem to evolve during that time.
- In Time takes place at least one hundred years in the future. While cops ("Timekeepers") now dress like they're in the Matrix, and there were some unusual outfits worn by the rich women, but the lower class dresses like it's 2011. If anything, the elite and the local gangsters have become more retro with their fashions, probably indicating that fashion has stagnated among the immortal set.
- Looper Lampshades this when the crime boss (from the future of the 2070s, sent back to the 2040s) played by Jeff Daniels tells Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who dresses in standard Sci Fi-noir clothes) to try a "new" look, and that "You know those movies you're copying are just copying other movies, right?"
- Prometheus plays around with this trope. Space Clothes show up aboard the ship itself, though their purpose is justified and well shown. On the other hand, most fashions seemed to have weathered the century of change from the present more or less unchanged. In fact, the flashbacks of Dr. Shaw's childhood, which are set in India sometime around the 2060s-70s can easily be mistaken for the 1960s-70s from the clothes used. While the Scotland 2089 scenes wouldn't look out of place in 2012.
- The Hunger Games has people in the Capitol wearing garish, flamboyant outfits that are somewhat reminiscent of modern-day clothing.
- Gattaca is set in some undefined point in the future, but the clothing, hairstyles, and cars people have look like they came out of the 1950s and 1960s.
- Lampshaded in Margaret Peterson Haddix's novel, Turnabout. The two heroines, who have been reverse-aging since they were centenarians in the year 2000, are now in their mid-teens hanging out in a club in the 2080s when the book begins. One of them remarks how fashion seems to continuously go through the same 40-year cycle, and that currently, 1970s fashions are back in style again.
- But that would suggest that '70s fashions were remarkably like that of the 1930s, and that was not so.
- Averted (oddly) in Swallowdale, the sequel to Swallows and Amazons, when the children leave a time capsule and specifically mention that "it probably won't be found for many years...when people wear quite different sorts of clothes".
- Walter Jon Williams' 1986 cyberpunk novel Hardwired:
Her sculpted face is pale, the Florida tan gone, her eyes black-rimmed. Her almost-black hair is short on the sides and brushy on top, her nape hair falling in two thin braids down her back. Chrome steel earrings brush her shoulders. Firebud has broadened her already-broad shoulders and pared down the width of her pelvis; her face is sharp and pointed beneath a widow’s peak, looking like a succession of arrowheads, the shaped-charge that Cunningham demands. She wears black dancing slippers laced over the ankles and dark purple stretch overalls with suspenders that frame her breasts, stretching the fabric over the nipples that Firebud has made more prominent. Her shirt is gauze spangled with silver; her neck scarf, black silk.
- In the early chapters of Dragon's Egg, the book takes the time to highlight the fact that main female protagonist in the year 2020 is so odd that she doesn't usually wear skirts! *gasp*
- Return from the Stars averts this - in the future, all clothes are made from foam that is sprayed onto the body and hardens quickly. They're also completely expendable, since you can rip off your garment whenever you're bored with it and spray on a new one (though there are also professionals who spray fashionable clothes onto you with expertise.) The clothes also have a whole lot of exotic decorations - feathers, sparkles, animated eyes, etc.
- Artists in the 1900s depicted a future of personal flying machines, X-ray surveillance, moving walkways and weather control. The people, on the other hand, most notably the women, are still wearing 1900s fashions. See these postcards, for example.
Live Action TV
- Babylon 5: Steered between this trope and Space Clothes: human civilian clothes were obviously derived from modern-day fashions, but were just different enough, with men wearing suit coats with no lapels over band-collared shirts with no tie. The suit coats were often purchased at a second-hand store, with the costume department removing the lapels, and the band-collared shirts actually were in style during a brief period when B5 was on the air, but the effect still manages to look "futuristic" without looking too goofy. (There's still some Zeerust, as the costume designers extrapolated from some 90s fashions that were kind of odd, like printed formal shirts for men; women's fashions, on the other hand, looked a lot more timeless.)
- Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined):
- Played with. Despite being set A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far Far Away..., with no apparent historical connection to Earth, Colonial fashion is almost identical to that of 2000s Earth. The motif was chosen partly to make the characters easier to relate to, and partly since buying from thrift stores is cheaper than designing original costumes.
- The prequel Caprica, despite having some Post-Cyberpunk level technology features 1950's clothing. Interestingly, it's set about 50 years before the 2000s-fashioned Battlestar. Word of God says this is deliberate.
- The 1940's and 1950's fashions (and certain other aesthetics like cars, radios and cigarette lighters) also seem to coexist with Punk Punk fashions in the V World. Whether this is limited to the V World or not remains to be seen, but flashbacks to life on Caprica from Battlestar sometimes feature alternative fashions for religious groups and other subcultures. And by BSG's 4th season, the contemporary fashions were giving way to Mad Max-style refugees in the fleet.
- Doctor Who:
- Though the old favoured Space Clothes, the new series seems to have some rather mundane clothes for the future. Case in point: the 2005 series finale, set in the year 200,100, features office drones identical to today's.
- Defied Trope in The Ark with those streamer outfits.
- In The Dalek Invasion of Earth, made in 1964, set about 200 years in the future, humans in Dalek-occupied London wear '60s clothes. But they wear work clothes, as befits these grizzled survivors, not trendy suits or hippie clothes or anything, so it's a lot less dated.
- Firefly: Went the other direction with this trope, using old west fashions for most of the characters, with only occasional futuristic or contemporary twists. On the other hand, upper-class Persephone used a distinctively Regency-esque set of fashions, down to tight pants for the men at formal occasions (which annoyed Mal to no end).
- Mystery Science Theater 3000:
- The episode "Riding With Death" (a "movie" cobbled together from episodes of Gemini Man) supposedly takes place ten years after it was made in the mid-70s, but all the characters look like they are getting ready to go to the Bicentennial.
- You've also got "Time Chasers," where, as Tom snarked, "So, fifty years from now, it'll be three years from now."
- Revolution: Justified Trope. No electricity means no factories, and thus no mass production of clothes. Whatever the characters are wearing was either manufactured before the blackout in 2012, or stitched/sewn by hand after the fact, which makes wardrobes an odd combination of early 21st century and a few centuries prior.
- Space: 1999: The Andersons made a big selling point of the fact that Rudi Gernreich designed the Moonbase Alpha uniforms. The unisex versions used in the first season, however, look distinctly mid-'70s today, especially when you can see the glam-rock high-heeled boots everyone's wearing with them.
- Star Trek: The Original Series:
- The page picture comes from this show, wherein women all across our futuristic Federation wear gogo boots, mini-skirts, and beehives that could trap small children as their work clothes. Ironically, the hairstyles were intended to be timeless, although they turned out to be anything but. As we get further and further away from The Eighties, there's no doubt that Star Trek: The Next Generation's outfits will eventually look just as awful.
- They look awful now. Those shoulder pads - yeck!
- ironically some of their attempts to portray the fashion of the far future actually look like what 70s fashion would become.
- Star Trek: Enterprise tries to avert this, for the most part. Apparently, Starfleet officers still wear modern Navy-style uniforms in the 22nd Century.
- Star Trek has always been hit and miss with civilian clothing. The TOS movies, excluding The Motion Picture, had some distinctive uniforms which didn't look 70's or 80's and the civilian clothes weren't too set in the era. Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager's uniforms were fine, but the civilian clothes... oh god the some of the outfits were just awful. At least for the humans. The choice to make clothing culture specific for DS9 worked well for the distinctive styles of the Bajorans, Cardassians, Ferengi, etc, and so they don't look like 90's clothing.
- Star Trek: Similarly with the civilian clothes of human characters in II, III, IV and V. The burgundy jacket looks like a formal uniform and has realistic "field" variants, and the civilian clothes that the main crew wore were interesting but wouldn't seem too out of place today, even Uhura's traditional African clothes in Star Trek III.
- The Twilight Zone: Featured a lot of speculative stories set in the near and distant future. Although they sometimes got creative with the clothing (space jumpsuits, shiny leotards, etc.) the hairstyles were usually mired in the buzzcutted, beehived, wave-permed styles of the 50's and 60's.
- Wild Palms: Going quite the other way, this 1993 miniseries, set a decade into the future, depicted the prevailing fashions as Edwardian.
- The Gothic fashions amongst humans in Warhammer 40,000 appear to be part of the game's visual appeal.
- Averted in White Wolf's Trinity game, where much of the artwork featured speculative fashion and architecture.
- Cyberpunk 2020's fashion looks pretty much the same as contemporary 80s fashion.
- The same goes for Shadowrun, which is set even farther in the future (2050s onwards). Obvious in the drawings of female corporate characters wearing their powersuits, with shoulder pads and big, angular accessories.
- Mass Effect's clothing style is "just future enough" to feel future-y without heading into silliness. Even if the colors were a bit eye-straining on some of the outfits.
- In addition, whilst onboard the Normandy, Shepard, Ashley, and Kaidan wear an outfit consisting of a T-shirt, cargo pants, and boots. Judging from the second game, this is essentially military utilities.
- Men's business suit has gained a wider, square collar with a high-collared shirt, the tie has been lost altogether and the colour schemes have become a lot more variable than in the present day.
- "The Kid" from the beginning of Mass Effect 3 is intended to, according to Word of God, have an outfit, of a hoodie, jeans and a somewhat futuristic-looking shirt in order to have a somewhat advanced yet recognizable look.
- Flashback. Conrad wears jeans, a brown leather jacket, sneakers, and an undershirt that is pink in-game but changes to white during cutscenes. The game takes place in 2142.
- Tragically played with in the Fallout series, most notably Fallout 3. It's been 200 years since nuclear Armageddon, but most of the townies you encounter are still wearing pre-Great War fashions, mostly held together with darning thread and good intentions. Wastelanders, Scavs and Raiders, on the other hand, tend to wear cobbled-together but functional attire (long sleeves, cargo pants, boots, wide-brimmed hats — the latter to protect you from that post-ozone sunshine), and the non-armored members of the Brotherhood of Steel wouldn't look out of place at a Renaissance Faire. Justified in that the Brotherhood is heavily based in knightly legend, and the rest of civilization is presumed to have more or less stopped in the heavily 50's-flavored period of 2077.
- Some comments indicate the NCR is beginning to have actual fashions by 2241, as part of being well on their way to restoring the standards of living of the 50s. Fallout 2 not having all that much graphical detail, and Fallout New Vegas taking place in the wild frontier outside the NCR's main territory, just how different the fashions are from the rest of America's cobbled together/stuck-in-the-50s fashion is uncertain.
- Deus Ex: Clothes are still pretty much modern, although the MJ12 troopers and UNATCO troopers have battle armor from Twenty Minutes In The Future.
- Halo: Reach had some pretty cool designs for civilian fashion◊ during pre-production. But this is what they look like◊ in the final game. This carries over the UNSC uniforms as well. While their troops' armor looks reasonably advanced, their uniforms are virtually identical to those of the United States military today.
- Tiberian Twilight is the first game in the series that contains FMV of its civilian world...which includes footage of people cladded in 20-century clothes walking among streets that is obviously shot right outside of the studio.
- "It's gonna look like Whore World: like a whore-world. But it might only LOOK like a world of whores. Unfortunately."
Chimmy-Chummy on the fashion of the future, from Brad Neely
's web animations.
- The residents of 31st Century New New York in Futurama wear clothes very similar to 20th Century New York - as Fry, originally from 1999, doesn't look that out of place. There are subtle differences however, but not too obvious.
- This may be due to cyclic fashions: at one point the Planet Express crew go to a club where everyone wears glowing rings because they used to be fashionable but they aren't anymore. Fry is shushed when he admits he thinks they look cool.
- Or is more likely a parody of this trope- the retro-futurist setting of Futurama is essentially advanced technology and aliens inserted into a largely present-day society, a deliberate parody of that tendency in older science fiction.
- Also of note: A Past-O-Rama cast member mistakes Fry for a coworker because of his "ridiculous costume".
- Also, women's clothing of the 31st century appears mainly to have become a bit more stripperiffic than the 21st century (which is already more stripperific than the early 20th and early 19th centuries). The authors may be demonstrating a "Law of Fashion": that as history drags onward, the only constant is women showing more cleavage.
- Futurama in general averts this, save for the episode Teenage Mutant Leela's Hurdles. The normally over-one hundred Professor Farnsworth is at first simply 50-something with no particular fashion change, but after a Phlebotinum Breakdown that causes the cast to de-age even more, he rapidly goes through stages of fashion and speech that correspond with the 70s, the 60s, the 50s etc. Works okay.
- Averted by the early-90s mecha series Exo Squad. Practically all humans of the late 21st century, men and women alike, have at least part of the sides of their head shaved, and often in a manner far-removed from any current-day style.
- This was probably to partly express the fact that most human characters were military or partisan to begin with. In many cases, they wouldn't have been too out of place on a US military installation back in the 90s. For the civilians, an easy explanation as well...parasite control. It was done somewhat, to show just how much a Crapsack World it was there.
- Half-averted in Batman Beyond. Most fashions seen aren't too varied from what we see now - for instance, Nelson Nash still sports a classic high school letterman's jacket - but as can be seen in this screenshot◊, there's been at least a slight shift. Commonplace colors are different, like brighter blues and oranges for everyday working citizens. And then there's the subtle-but-big change, which is that almost all men's suits are streamlined to the point of having no extraneous parts or flaps. Bruce Timm himself lampshades this in one of the DVD special features, saying that their big fashion statement of the future was "a world without lapels".
- The one notable exception to the lapel rule, in fact, is Terry McGinnis, whose regular brown jacket sports a little lapel/collar on it.
- Averted in the episodes of The Simpsons that take place in the future. Most of the older versions of characters wear clothes similar to their normal outfits, but with subtle changes for some i.e. upturned collar, rings on the shoulders, Homer's shirt looks like George Jetson's, etc.