In honor of Netflix’s July 31 release of the miniseries prequel Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, we went back to the source and found a few of the original film’s greatest style hits. The year was 1981 and all the expected “campy” delights were on full display. Think men’s cutoffs with Puka shell necklaces, knee-high socks and leftover peasant blouses from the summer of love. Hair was braided, moussed and with curls aplenty. Though Camp Firewood may only exist in our hearts, we are excited to revisit the early 1980s look book, when hairspray was king and style was a cross between free-spirited hippie vibes with preppy new money slickness. In truth this film was all about summer comfort and ease. Besides, when/where else could you rock a wristband sweat guard without a hint of irony other than at a 1980s camp?
For an in-depth look at what made Wet Hot American Summer feel so stylishly on point for an early eighties spoof, check out our style guide below.
Beth, played by the incomparable Janeane Garofalo, did her best as Camp Director, and no one can take that away from her. Though her eyes may have been distracted by her budding romance with neighbor Henry Newman, Beth was the camp’s voice of reason. While she may not have quite received the respect she deserved, Beth made sure each and every one of her campers and counselors had the best summer of their lives. Peasant blouses, face-framing hippie braids and bellbottoms were most certainly Beth’s go-to, even after Katie tried to “mousse her up!”
Nothing says Camp Director more than a flowy peasant blouse. Try the Annick top from Anthropologie to be more than just Ruth Buzzi standing there.
Photo via Anthropologie
Oh, Henry Newman. Little did you know when Beth traipsed over to your yard you would be wrangled into spending the day with the “indoor kids” and save earth from a loose piece of NASA’s Skylab hurtling towards earth in the process. Dressed in the quintessential associate professor off-duty garb, the over-the-knee cargo shorts and plaid button-down shirt complimented smartly a pair of kneepads for gardening and oversized glasses. Henry may have been an odd duck, but it was no surprise when he and Beth finally connected that they were never to leave each other’s side.
For an off duty astrophysicist, a pair of over-the-knee beige cotton shorts like this pair from H&M is comfort done smart.
Photo via H&M
Victor may have bandied himself about as the ultimate camp Casanova, but, as has been proven time and again, those who talk a big game are usually exaggerating a tad, or in Victor’s case 100%. Though he may not have gotten his wish from resident loose girl, Abby, he did redeem himself, at least in Neil’s eyes, by saving a raft full of campers about to go off the side of a waterfall. With cutoffs, knee-high striped socks and that all too popular Puka shell necklace, Victor embodied the classic bad boy turned good.
Be more than just a notch on someone’s bedpost with these multicolored sweatbands.
Photo via Suddora
Quite possibly two of the most important characters to the Wet Hot American Summer iconography, Susie and Ben, theater producer and director/choreographer of the Camp Firewood Talent Show, they put their hearts and souls into the show’s rehearsals and made sure everyone showed up in appropriate movement pants. 1980’s prep to the core, Susie and Ben epitomized the cool kid look of the time with their Lacoste polos, matching track jackets and pastel hues. Don’t be fooled by their perfectly coiffed hair, these two are a force to be reckon with.
Channel your inner 1980s diva with an Adidias Originals track jacket ideal movement garment.
Photo via Shopbop
Every summer love story is bound to have a resident bad boy, and Andy was just that. Played to a tee by Paul Rudd, Andy had a two-track mind: food and women. He was the ultimate hot and cold boyfriend to Katie as well as Mr. Bad Attitude when it came to cleaning up after his cafeteria tantrums. Still, in denim on denim with aviator shades and a red bandanna tucked in his back pocket, Andy was the classic bad boy du jour at Camp Firewood.
Don’t forget to sharpie your favorite band names across the front of your worn-in denim jacket to get the full tough-guy effect.
Photo via Levi’s
Nurse Ratched, she was not. No, Nurse Nancy ran her infirmary with a softer touch. Though usually seen knitting with a wide-eyed stare, one could say Nancy was the brains of the operation. She was a fix-it queen, sending Beth and Henry to the library when they needed to do so much needed research on common interests, as well as was always good for a solid one-liner. A touch underrated, Nurse Nancy was one of our style favorites with her barrel-rolled curls, acrylic earrings and red-hot mini-shorts.
These leopard print acrylic earrings are just wild enough to suit Nurse Nancy’s needs.
Photo via Overstock.com
With stick straight brown hair pulled back off her face with tortoise shell barrettes and a Hang Ten striped shirt, beaded belt and denim shorts, Katie had all of Camp Firewood wrapped around her finger, well, everyone except her boyfriend, Andy, that is. Still, on the last day of summer, she flirted with the idea of being with good guy Coop. In the end, though, her heart—or self-admittedly another stronger urge—won out in the end and she remained with Andy. No matter how you dice it, as Beth said when in search of a little primping advice: Katie, you’re a hot girl right?
Keep your lashes going strong through the dog days of summer and into night with Topshop’s Party Proof Mascara.
Photo via Topshop
Molly Shannon’s Gail, though a bit of a train wreck, only had the best of intentions when it came to overseeing the art department and decorations for the talent show. Armed with one brown crayon and the help of her attentive campers, one boy in particular, Gail worked through some of her recent divorcée trauma and came out on top, with a new—though a tad creepy—romance to boot. Her Barbie pink ruffle headband, glossy pink lipstick and penchant for polos were all she needed to get through her first summer on her own.
No summer camp experience is complete without a Lacoste polo wearing counselor and divorceé tears.
Photo via Lacoste
Neil may be a bit of a goober. He may have been a bit harsh when Victor confessed his little known secret about being a virgin. Neil may also be the most high-strung camp counselor Camp Firewood has ever seen, but all of these facts do not negate the awesomeness of his curly mullet and red, Big Bird-esque aviators, or the gym uniform he rocked during the rafting trip. No, Neil might have been a supporting character, but his style was definitely lead cast.
Neil may not have stolen the show but these vintage shades are the perfect accessory when chasing down a co-counselor named Vic.
Photo via Sunglass Museum
A love struck puppy dog, we all know a Coop from our summer days. Head over heels and unafraid to put his feelings on display, Coop’s energy and bright optimism shine from within even as Katie stomps on his heart and good intentions during the end scene. Though his heart’s desire may ride off in the back of her boyfriend’s dad’s black Caddie, it is safe to assume Coop will survive. Jeans and baseball tees, flannel jackets and a Turk’s Head Sailors bracelet all help create the obvious guy-next-door wardrobe.
Embrace the classic “good guy” uniform in a raglan tee from American Apparel.
Photo via American Apparel
Gene was a special one. Always muttering under his breath and tormenting his sous chef, Gary, with behind the back sneak attacks, asking for fondue and cheddar or wait, was he going to fondle his sweaters? Either way, Gene taught Coop the new way to deal with women and though his days in ‘Nam still haunted him, Gene’s skills from the jungle helped him thrive at Camp Firewood. In tattered tanks, the same unwashed bandanna and stained apron, Gene was most certainly a character to be remembered and never forgotten.
Capture Gene’s crazy-eyed sparkle in this lilac bandanna.
Photo via Wholesale for Everyone