Cinema Style: The Warriors

The Warriors

Walter Hill's "The Warriors."
Photo: Paramount Pictures

Warriors, come out to playayyyyy! It's officially VMA week, y'all! In just a few days, MTV will be taking over Brooklyn's Barclays Center with a night of music video celebration and a deluge of major performances: Lady Gaga, Kanye West, and soooo many more! You've probably seen a VMA promo spot or two on TV by now. Miley popping into a subway party or Katy Perry emerging from a steam tunnel sound familiar? What you may not know/realize is: those ads, especially Katy's, are highly influenced by the 1979 film The Warriors, based on Sol Yurick's 1965 novel of the same name. Sure, Miss Cyrus had "white trash and Chanel" and KP gave her best Liv Tyler circa Empire Records, but the Warriors (and the Riffs, and the Rogues, and the Baseball Furies) have highly stylized gang-sembles courtesy of the film's wardrobe team: Bonnie Mannix and Mary Ellen Winston.

The Warriors, if you haven't seen it (and are OK with spoilers—WARNING: this piece is full of them), is a kind of film rendition of whatever the comic book/graphic novel version of Anabasis by Xenophon would look like—taking place mostly over the course of the Warriors' long trek from the way inland Bronx to their BK-based Coney Island home. Set in a dark, dystopian NYC teeming with gangs, the film starts with Cyrus (Roger Hill), the leader of the Gramercy Riffs which just happens to be the most powerful outfit in the city, calling a summit at Van Cortlandt Park in the middle of the night. Nine unarmed delegates from over 100 New York gangs are invited, and the opening credits play over footage of the representatives assembling.

The Warriors

Walter Hill's "The Warriors."
Photo: Paramount Pictures

There are dudes in matching metallic purple vests with wine-colored felted hats, polka-dotted neck ties, and pleated slacks.

The Warriors

Walter Hill's "The Warriors."
Photo: Paramount Pictures

There are yellow satin bomber jackets with embroidered gang logos. #membersonly

The Warriors

Walter Hill's "The Warriors."
Photo: Paramount Pictures

Also, there are mimes. Jury's out on what turf they're reaping. With our luck, probably Times Square.

The Warriors

Walter Hill's "The Warriors."
Photo: Paramount Pictures

But let's talk about the Warriors. On the left is Cleon (Dorsey Wright), the Warriors' "warlord," and on the right is Swan (Michael Beck), the Warriors' "war chief." They, as is customary Warriors dress, are shirtless save a teensy, brown leather vest with contrast piping and "WARRIORS" in all caps and a skull with giant wings embroidered on the back.

The Warriors

Walter Hill's "The Warriors."
Photo: Paramount Pictures

Aside from the occasional statement necklace or head/neck scarf, the Warriors' uniform is pretty consistent, extending to tight-ish jeans (black or light wash) and a sturdy belt. On the grooming tip, all the Warriors are clean-shaven, opting instead for longer, wilder hair.

The Warriors

Walter Hill's "The Warriors."
Photo: Paramount Pictures

At the summit, Cyrus (above, pictured in a plushy velvet robe) reveals his master plan to band the gangs together under a truce and team up against the NYC police. A kind of "the city is under new management" moment, if you will. It'd probably work out pretty well for the gangs, but unfortunately, mid-way through his speech, Cyrus is shot by Luther (David Patrick Kelly), leader of the Rogues. He gets away with it relatively unseen and uses that advantage to pin the crime on the Warriors.

The Warriors

Walter Hill's "The Warriors."
Photo: Paramount Pictures

After the summit is broken up by the police, the robe-clad (mostly inmate orange save a few vaguely chinoiserie-ish fabrics) Riffs assemble separately to plot their vengeance. Their plan? Send all the gangs out against the Warriors who still have to make it from The Bronx to Coney Island before they're out of any other gangs' turf. *GULP*

The Warriors

Walter Hill's "The Warriors."
Photo: Paramount Pictures

These guys—glittery robes, aviator shades, Hammer pants, and all—don't mess around.

The Warriors

Walter Hill's "The Warriors."
Photo: Paramount Pictures

On their journey home, the Warriors, of COURSE, encounter several other gangs. First up: the Turnbull ACs. Their group dress is largely shaved heads and cut-off vests, and they spend much of their moment with the Warriors in a graffiti-laden bus. Our Coney Island heroes narrowly escape the T. ACs, before making it onto a homeward bound subway train. Unfortunately, the tracks at the next stop have ~somehow~ caught fire, so the Warriors are forced to travel by foot again. Dropped off in Tremont (still in the Bronx), they meet the Orphans, a grubby-looking lower-tier gang in olive tees and sandblasted denim who was not invited to the summit and takes immediate offense. Somehow, though, Swan and the Orphans' leader Sully (Paul Greco) hash things out in a way that allows the Warriors to pass through peacefully. Well, almost.

The Warriors

Walter Hill's "The Warriors."
Photo: Paramount Pictures

Enter Mercy (Deborah Van Valkenburgh), the film's leading lady. Unwilling to let the BK boys leave without a fight, Mercy mocks Sully with chicken noises and demands to have a vest of her own. Though, like, if the rest of her closet looks anything like her current outfit—head-to-toe pink—she probably doesn't have anything to wear it with?

The Warriors

Walter Hill's "The Warriors."
Photo: Paramount Pictures

Mercy's styling is in sharp contrast to the film's other major female characters: the Lizzies, a girl gang a few of the Warriors encounter in the Union Square subway station. (Also, I know the radio DJ is played by the lovely Lynne Thigpen, but we never see anything but her mouth.) The Lizzies rep for natural hair (the more unruly, the better) and boyish outerwear (flannels, hoodies, work shirts) cloaking gradient rainbow tees. Costume designer Bobbie Mannix ALSO went on to dress a different kind of girl group: working on the Spice Girls' "Spice Up Your Life" music video wardrobe which sets the British girl gang group flying some sort of hovercraft throughout a post-apocaplyptic world. (Unscripted, IRL foreshadowing??) Actually, the whole dressing for a dystopian universe thing became a kind of specialty for Mannix after The Warriors as she also styled for Puff Daddy's "Victory" video and The Fugees' "Ready Or Not." But I digress.

The Warriors

Walter Hill's "The Warriors."
Photo: Paramount Pictures

The most terrifying gang of the entire film, in MY opinion, has to be the Baseball Furies. Mannix and Winston knew pinstriped baseball uniforms weren't enough to instill fear in any adversary. Even if they were wearing leather ball caps. So, the style duo went A Clockwork Orange and took it up, like, eleven notches with color-blocked, full face and neck makeup, mostly with black eyes and lipstick. O_O I'll never look at a baseball the same way again. #nightmares Also, it was while watching the scene wherein the Furies and Warriors duke it out in Riverside Park that I wondered why the Warriors didn't wear at least a LITTLE more protection. Just a vest when everyone else is packing knives and blunt objects?? You've gotta at least go full-sleeve. Maybe even take a cue from the Furies' athletic leanings and go for a football theme, so you get some padding and helmet action. IDK, just a suggestion.

The Warriors

Walter Hill's "The Warriors."
Photo: Paramount Pictures

About par in scariness would be the Punks. The Warriors also encounter them in the Union Square subway station, and the Punks are introduced to the film audience with one really tall, linebacker-wide dude with feathered hair, wearing a rugby shirt and full-pant overalls, and weaving from side-to-side on four-wheel roller skates. With a name like "The Punks," honestly, we were expecting a legion of Sid Viciouses (Sid Vici?), but I GUESS we'll take Punky Brewster. And, OK, we'll give them points for being on-trend with the dungarees. (Right, Rihanna? Man Repeller?) The two gangs throw down in a men's bathroom in the station, and obviously the Warriors win or else the movie would end there. Finally, they're able to hop on a train and head back to safety in Brooklyn.

The Warriors

Walter Hill's "The Warriors."
Photo: Paramount Pictures

Or so they thought. The Rogues, leery of the Warriors tipping off the Riffs that they weren't actually responsible, head into enemy territory, driving into Coney Island to ambush our vested leading dudes. Luther ushers in their grand entrance (one of the most famous scenes of the movie) tapping three glass bottles together and whine-screaming "Warriors come out to playayyy." It's equal parts bewildering, annoying, and terrifying. But would expect any less from a group that denotes their leader with a heather gray sweatshirt and braided head scarves?

The Warriors

Walter Hill's "The Warriors."
Photo: Paramount Pictures

The two gangs meet up on the Coney Island sand (poor Mercy who had to walk through that in heels), and Luther and Swan agree to go head-to-head. Before the fight escalates, though, the Riffs emerge from the inland horizon line, letting the Warriors go after being tipped off that it was really the Rogues who killed Cyrus and assuring Swan & co. that they would take care of Luther. *throws handful of sand into the air and walks off into the sunrise toward the Q train to Barclays Center*

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