Icon: River Phoenix
There’s something to be said for having paid your sartorial dues and consistently proving yourself as a bastion of style over a long, Newman-esque lifetime. But sometimes extenuating circumstances force our hand, and we must forego those criteria.
Case in point: River Phoenix never had the opportunity to cultivate a collection of well-tailored suits. Nor did he have decades to commit to a definitive flair, or the time to define a look as “River-ian” or “Phoenix-esque.” And that doesn’t bother us in the slightest.
In fact, we’d like to take this minute and pay our respects to a Kempt Icon cut short…
Born River Jude Bottom, he relocated along with his family to Caracas, Venezuela, as missionaries of the Children of God new Christian movement. He spent his childhood playing guitar on the streets with his sister, Rain, to help support his struggling parents. And cultivate his artistic image early.
It’s only when the family moved back to Los Angeles that he formally began acting (and growing his signature locks). By the way, that’s his brother Joaquin on the left.
After initial success with Stand by Me, his status as a “teen idol” was cemented. His denim-centric—and thankfully neon-free—late ’80s style came to define the term at the turn of the decade.
Proving his acting chops with My Own Private Idaho and his Oscar-nominated role in Running on Empty, Phoenix was in pole position to dominate the ’90s.
The star died of a drug overdose at 23. We can’t guess whether he would have kept up his penchant for daring looks and flippantly tossed hair into the twilight of his life.
But we can hope.
- — Stephen Praetorius