Style Style in The Matrix. How deep is the rabbit hole?

Style in The Matrix. How deep is the rabbit hole?

Andrea Tuzio

“Your clothes are different. The plugs in your arms and head are gone. Your hair has changed. Your appearance now is what we call ‘residual self-image’. It is the mental projection of your digital self”.
If we leave out the plugs issue, this could be a sentence that a Metaverse regular might address to us on our first visit to the virtual reality created by Mark Zuckerberg and his new company Meta. 

But no, it is the unforgettable quote of Morpheus addressed to Neo inside Structure, the loading and training program that simulates the programmed reality of The Matrix.
On January 1, 2022 is scheduled to be released in Italian theaters Matrix Resurrection, the fourth installment of the franchise created in 1999, the year of release of the first film by the then brothers Andy and Larry Wachowski, but which today are Lilly and Lana Wachowski after the transition of both – this last film was directed by Lana alone, unlike the other 3 films in the saga.

The Matrix is not only a cyberpunk style science fiction film/saga, the Matrix has been and still is a watershed within the cinematic universe not only for special effects – see the use and evolution of bullet time and time-slice – but it must also be credited with having had a strong cultural and stylistic impact and with having influenced creatives, artists, designers, directors, screenwriters, and so on, all over the world at all levels. 

Here I will delve into the part related to the style of The Matrix that, despite its 22 years, seems to be more contemporary than ever. 

The first chapter of this immortal saga was released in theaters on March 31, 1999 and tells the story of human beings who rebel against the machines that have suppressed humanity within a simulated reality. It counted a crazy and apt cast: Neo, the protagonist, the chosen one, the one who will be destined to save humanity from slavery and the lie of the machines, played by Keanu Reeves, simply perfect; Carrie-Anne Moss is Trinity, in love with Neo and with whom he will bind in an indissoluble way, but at the same time algid and ruthless in his being the right hand of Morpheus, one of the leaders of the rebels who will devote his life to the search for the chosen one and free from slavery Neo, played by Laurence Fishburne. The first two will also be found in Resurrection while the young version of Morpheus will be played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. 

The costumes of the saga are simply iconic, immortal. 
The long black leather coat down to the feet worn by Neo and his buckled boots, the strictly black PVC catsuit sported by Trinity, Morpheus’ suits with leather coat with crocodile pattern, Niobe’s (Jada Pinkett) Bantu knots, Agent Smith’s perfect and anonymous suits are some of the main aesthetic references that have characterized the franchise.
A sort of stylistic time stamp that established a canon that has propagated over time and has never gone out of fashion.

References to the film in the fashion world began immediately after the release of the first chapter. 
John Galliano wore PVC dresses, micro-glasses and very tall leather boots on the runway for Dior’s Fall ’99, an obvious reference to the film’s costumes that also represented the progressive content that made up the film’s subtext and still constitute the most important themes in contemporary fashion.

Speaking of contemporaneity, Demna with his Fall ’22 by Balenciaga has created a haute couture collection that is almost nostalgic at first glance, but which actually reflects the taste of Gen Z and the latter’s attraction to 90s and Y2K fashion – made of monochromaticity, rave inspirations, sunglasses, crop tops and very long leather coats – of which the Matrix is an example, as The Cut wrote: “High Fashion Is Just The Matrix Cosplay Now”

It is very interesting to consider the words of the costume designer of the first 3 films, Kim Barrett: “I chose silhouettes that had a visual impact. These characters move through the world of the Matrix having to try to be invisible, they have to hide, but at the same time they blend in with their surroundings”,the two-dimensional journey between the two worlds that characterizes the film is reflected in the looks of the characters.

Today, more than ever, the entire Matrix saga, including Resurrection, seems much more “familiar” to us than perhaps it might have been in ’99 and 2000. The man/machine relationship is something we live every day and can easily relate to.

The boom of digital fashion, of garments designed exclusively to be “worn” in a virtual context, in the Metaverse to be clear, changing your outfit when you want and with respect to the situation you are living, reflects exactly the words quoted at the beginning of this article by Morpheus. Our virtual life is slowly acquiring more and more importance, in fact it already has a significant relevance – regardless of whether this is a bad thing or not from an ethical point of view, this is not the place to talk about it – and in fact contemporary fashion is investing significant resources to meet the demands of a market that proceeds in stride towards immateriality and extreme digitization.

Fashion is identity, it has always been and the enormous possibilities that a virtual/digital space offers us are endless, of course, but are we sure that this immersion doesn’t make us lose touch with our reality and our real identity, the physical one I mean?

It is very likely that the answer to these questions will not come in the immediate future and therefore I leave it to posterity to try to answer by placing on this virtual table a red pill and a blue pill, the choice is yours. Are you ready to tumble down the rabbit hole?

Written by Andrea Tuzio
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