Matrix Mania: Why Are Fashion Designers So Obsessed With Neo?

Who is your faithful teen-to-adult crush? Mine – Keanu Reeves.

I am a nervous flyer: sweaty palms, deep meditative breaths, chewing gum (I’m told this is relaxing). However, on a recent long-haul flight I watched the circa ’94 action-thriller Speed and immediately felt more relaxed. An odd choice, one might think, for a panic-induced passenger to watch what is essentially 116 minutes of explosions and Dennis Hopper getting uppity and Keanu Reeves playing an L.A cop in a life-or-death situation. The truth is, I find watching the latter very soothing; a powerful combination of moody, protective and gentle.

Oh, and he has a great smile and nice eyes.

The internet seems to agree on this one. Google ‘Keanu Reeves’ and you’ll get over 67 million results.

I’d wager that a large portion of that content is dedicated to life-affirming memes of the actor and a vintage photo album chronicling his Nirvana-esque grunge years, poster boy floppy hair (perfection) and talent for breathing fresh life into a simple black blazer with every outfit (so slick). 

Undoubtably, Mr Reeves’ most long-lasting sartorial footprint exists in the cinematic universe. Playing the role of Neo – aka The One – in revolutionary ’99 sci-fi, The Matrix.

Sexy (vegan) leather? Dark and dangerous attire? Skinny shades? Floor-length overcoats? The style reverberation can be felt, even 20 years later.

With the fourth Matrix film officially headed into production in 2020 – bringing back Keanu Reeves as Neo and Carrie-Anne Moss as no-nonsense sidekick Trinity – we are fully prepared for more Keanu memes and leather-clad #throwbackthursday posts to fill up our feeds.

And as an extra bonus, also serve up plenty of autumn/winter 2019 style inspiration.

It is a truth universally known (come the end of September) that Matrix mania will do a fashion merry-go-round. The billowing dresses and cotton blouses take a sixth month hiatus, in favour of darker hues and lots of layering in; with variations on the tough-guy-girl-in-dystopia look.

This season, designers more than ever have gone hell-for-leather and embracing a new kind of cyber-punk meets utility wear to nail Neo 2.0.

Speaking to ELLE UK, Ida Petersson Womenswear and Menswear Buying Director at Browns Fashion, says: ‘Bottega delivered the most updated and sleek looks in my opinion, I was basically salivating as they walked down the runway.’ She continues, ‘their cropped leather jacket with the quilted skirt is a great all leather look that is giving the Neo look a more feminine yet edgy touch. Or the amazing square neck leather dress.’

‘I would also love for people to recreate Neo using vegan leather,’ Ida adds. ‘New Georgian brand Anouki is an easy investment and Materiel has the most amazing pieces.’

Like The Matrix, fashion oft entangles itself in new technologies and becomes re-formed by events of generations past, present and future.

This trend taps into a particular cultural phenomenon in 2019. In a time of political uncertainty; where fantasy blurs into reality (*waves to Instagram); where switching on the morning news sounds like a series of apocalyptic events, it is perhaps less surprising Neo-inspired garms are making a comeback. 

The clothes represent something more than an attitude, they embody an armour of sorts – ready to free the world from the control of machines.

Let’s face it: that’s something we all could use a little more of these days.

This article first appeared on ELLE UK.