“Your Car is Uglier Than I Am” – The Style of American Graffiti

Long before he created one of the most famous film series of all time, George Lucas was just a teenage boy growing up in Modesto, California during the 1960’s.  As a teenager Lucas took part in the dying art of “cruising,” in which he and his friends would drive around town picking up girls.  This car-centric culture is remembered in Lucas’ 1973 film, American Graffiti.  Through the style of this film Lucas captures the attitude of a period that was all about looking cool.

The film captures the final night of the summer of 1962, and as most of the film takes place in and around the road, and the characters are always presented in a way that compliments the custom cars that fill the streets.  Amongst the sea of bold paint jobs and loud engines, the style of the characters reflects the personality of their given ride.  From the tee-shirt and black jeans greasers driving hot rods, to the colorful surf inspired teens in sedans with massive fenders, American Graffiti explores a time period where of great cultural, and stylistic change in America.  1962 California represents a strange period in style, a time between the emergence of Rock music during the 50’s and the dominance of counterculture movement in the late 60’s.  This was a time where no one dominant style prevailed, where a white teed street racer, an Oxford wearing Beach Boys lookalike, a gang member in an embroidered car jacket, and a plaid wearing kid could all seemingly hang out together and it wouldn’t be considered out of the ordinary.  In American Graffiti, Lucas depicts change in every sense of the word, and this is epitomized by the blend of styles created by each characters unique outfit.

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3 comments
  1. Never seen American Graffiti but I’ll be sure to check it out. The style and characteristics of that time period have come full circle.

  2. I wonder how today’s teens would be like cruising? Hey what’s up ladies can I get your Facebook info, no this is not my mom’s Prius, no I will not race your Civic for pink slips. Tying a chain to the rear axle of a cop car would result in a felony for endangering officers lives, destruction of federal property, destruction of public property (telephone pole) and so on.
    No wonder kids just play video games all day about messing with the cops and street racing.

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