French filmmaking has significantly influenced contemporary cinema, providing a trove of magnetic style references for filmmakers and designers alike. In particular, French New Wave cinema, a movement that insisted on critiquing and rejecting Tradition de qualitié (the status quo), has impacted cinema and clothing style, creating a vivid cinematic legacy that reaches well beyond France. These films are iconoclastic, full of youthful rebellion and are conscious that the way people look and dress affects how they interact with their social environment. In this kind of cinema, clothing style is a visual feature of youthful revolt, which has the effect of imbuing characters and the clothing they wear with the exciting appeal of countering cultural norms.
Focusing on three seminal French films—Jean Luc Goddard’s Pierrot Le Fou (1969), Claire Denis’s Beau Travail (1999) and Mathieu Kassovitz‘s La Haine (1995—we see how altough stylistically varied, each film maintains the French New Wave’s penchant for displaying contemporary social criticism through the representation of rebellious, outsider characters. In these romanticized portrayals of youth, clothing is used specifically as a marker of the characters’ personal rejection of the status quo.