Are you one of the few people who can claim to have watched the very first episode of Friends when it aired twenty years ago?
I am a devoted Friends fan but I wasn’t aware of it from the start. In fact, I only watched it because my friend Sara mentioned it and so when I came across it whilst channel surfing one evening, I thought I’d give it a go. I switched it off at the ad break.
For me Friends was a slow burner, I don’t remember how I became addicted but like any addiction I soon couldn’t imagine life without it. Although the writing for the show is always brilliant, what drives the sometimes flimsy plots and keeps the audiences coming back for more, is the characters. Ross, Chandler, Joey, Rachel, Monica and Phoebe are at times ridiculous, often schmaltzy, but always loveable and that’s why the series has endured. Even now, ten years after the final episode aired (I watched it with friend Sara who got me into it in the first place and our boyfriends – there were tears) it continues to be shown daily on the Comedy Channel. It appeals to all ages – despite the main characters starting off in their twenties – and to both sexes. I once met the actress Kristin Davis (Charlotte York in Sex and the City) who guest starred in a Friends episode as a Joey love interest. She was positively high pitched about the experience and admitted to being a huge fan of the show herself. How we all swooned when Brad Pitt showed up as a disgruntled friend of Rachel’s and tried to decide if we too found the more ‘mature’ Tom Selleck attractive when Monica dated him. With these two exceptions, the male love interests are consistently low rent while the female versions are usually gorgeous (the afore-mentioned Kristin Davis, Sherilyn Fenn, Julia Roberts and Elle McPherson to name but a few). However it is usually the male characters who end up with egg on their face. Or lotion mixed with powder in the case of Ross and the sweaty leather trousers. My boyfriend turned his nose up when I mentioned the watching of Friends as a relationship deal breaker and yet even he laughed during the scene where Ross, Rachel and Chandler attempt to lift a sofa up a staircase. Whoever thought the word “pivot” could have so much comedy mileage? I have yet to meet a human being who can remain poker-faced while that scene plays out.
So why am I writing about a telly programme in a style blog? Well, twenty years is a long time in fashion terms and this anniversary got me thinking about the clothes and of course the haircuts on this popular multi-award winning sit-com.
The character with the biggest career journey, Rachel starts off as a waitress and ends up climbing the ladder at Ralph Lauren. Jennifer Aniston might have looked cute in the mini skirts and aprons at Central Perk but she really came into her own during the Bloomingdale’s / Ralph Lauren storylines with the more corporate New York look. Rachel is the only one of the three female characters to really represent high maintenance New York style. The ‘Rachel’ hairdo became the most asked for style almost overnight and with it came the lucrative endorsements for Aniston. Those studios in L.A. must have been ferociously air conditioned because it’s not just the Rachel cut that steals scenes regularly.
Monica’s O.C.D. tendencies mean more often than not the character is kitted out in jeans and questionable jumpers and sporting a severe hairdo. And if you look really closely some of her footwear is very odd but then Monica is a chef and I don’t suppose marinara sauce is easy to get out of suede. Perhaps the costume department knew what they were doing. I always feel disappointed with Monica’s eventual wedding look – it’s simple but her hair is hippyish which doesn’t add up. However NOTHING can beat the scene where Monica is doing the washing up in Emily’s as yet unworn wedding gown, thanking her imaginary guests: “No, thank YOU for coming!” Comedy gold. But probably only for the female of the species. If only I had my own wedding dress I would wear it in front of the telly with a pizza. No brainer.
The scenes where Phoebe looks the most disturbing are those where she is dressed in a downbeat and sombre way. They are few and far between but they do happen – meeting Mike’s parents for example – she has a bizarre British accent then too. All of the female characters are seen in wedding dresses at least twice but only Phoebe wears one whilst heavily pregnant, apparently from a shop called ‘It’s Not Too Late’. Oh let it be true! Phoebe overloads the hair accessories and rings most of the time and rarely wears heels. Her clashing look brings to mind the children’s television presenters of the seventies. She’d be a street style star at New York Fashion Week if she was a real person. ‘Nuff said.
So no, Friends wasn’t heralded for its style or its glamour like Sex and the City or Mad Men and it tends to look a bit dated if you pay too much attention to the clothes. We can forgive Chandler’s dodgy ‘sweater vests’ and Ross’s oil slicked hair because they are what make the characters real. And also because after all, that’s what friends are for.