Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes
“Okay, three, two, one…let’s jam!”
Combining a dystopian space setting and a Western with film noir vibes, the 1998 anime series Cowboy Bebop is a pop culture touchstone that needs no introduction. From its jazzy opening sequence to its action-packed yet melancholic ending, the anime series never lets up as it follows the lives of three space bounty hunters in search of cash and some sense of purpose, even as their past threatens to catch up with them. Hitting hardest often when it’s at its breeziest, Cowboy Bebop is at turns funny, vicious and sad — not to mention always stylish, thanks to the trio’s iconic fashion that ranges from tailored cool to cowgirl glam to strictly utilitarian.
With the Cowboy Bebop live-action remake about to hit Netflix soon, now is the perfect time to pay homage to the series’ trio, whose keen survival instincts are matched only by their killer dress sense. If you’re looking for a costume guide or cosplay ideas, you’ve come to the wrong place. But if you’re looking for style inspo that gets to the heart of what makes each character tick, read on!
1. Spike Spiegel – The Space Dandy
In a series shot through with existential dread, Spike Spiegel is the character who offers the most fitting response by being nonchalant in the face of every crisis. Clad in an iconic blue suit (complete with a yellow shirt and tie) worn with a carefreeness usually reserved for tee and jeans, Spike infuses a smart casual staple with cowboy attitude. The secret to his sartorial success? He never tries too hard, which pretty much sums up his life philosophy.
I’ve created a look in womenswear that nods to Spike’s debonair charms. The outfit is anchored by an oversized plaid blazer layered over a cropped turtleneck, and paired with sky blue corduroy pants. Androgynous yet still elegant, it’s the perfect weekend casual ensemble. Keep in mind that a few rough edges are what lifts an outfit from snazzy to iconic, so seal the deal with irregular hoop earrings, scuffed canvas sneakers and chipped nail polish in black that harks to 90s style. Before heading out, sling this canvas tote over your shoulder – everyone’s favorite space cowboy would approve of its impactful lettering, which advocates paring down to the minimum and traveling light.
2. Faye Valentine – The Femme Fatale
Faye Valentine enters the scene as an amnesiac con artist with a cartoonishly sexy wardrobe, but she’s way too smart and self-aware to be a run-of-the-mill sex kitten. Faye struts through the series in a red and yellow ensemble that wows to this day: a cropped vest with a plunging V-neck, ultra-short shorts that skim the thighs, and a jacket forever tied around her waist. Into this mix, she adds delicate thigh-high stockings, a gold-tone anklet and white cowboy boots, an unlikely combination that speaks volumes about her spunky yet sexy style. Tough girl? Femme fatale? A jaded survivor? Faye is all of the above, and also endearingly human, with a tendency to act recklessly when her survival instincts kick in. It’s this wild card element that makes her such a breath of fresh air on the Bebop team.
Taking a page from Daniella Pineda’s eagerly anticipated live-action interpretation of Faye, I’ve toughened up her iconic outfit for the F/W season while remaining true to her sassy vibes. I also play around with the original palette by amping up the red, toning down the yellow, and introducing more black. The result is a streamlined take that combines a sexy, midriff-revealing cropped sweater and a pleated mini with an oversized pleather jacket. This dramatic yet wearable ensemble is complete with shiny white boots referencing our heroine’s iconic pair. A yellow utility belt and red resin hoops provide eye-popping touches to an outfit that’s part action girl, part pin-up.
3. Jet Black – The Philosopher
The most traditional and justice-driven member of the Bebop team, Jet Black boasts combat skills that are matched only by his passion for bonsai. With his gruff presence, gentle core and words of wisdom, Jet is the closest to a father figure for a ragtag crew whose members are all essentially out for their own gain. His iconic costume of a burgundy tee and gray flight suit – utilitarian in contrast to Spike’s space dandy – is the perfect get-up for a peripatetic life amongst the stars.
To channel the austere yet edgy vibes of this bounty hunter’s signature costume, I’ve opted for grungy separates predominantly in black, but rendered in different fabrics. This chunky sweater pairs well with two-toned jeans in faded denim, especially when a classic utility jacket is thrown into the mix. To extend the 90s vibes but in a bolder, quirkier direction, go for combat boots in faded red before putting on silver-tone studs in the shape of bars. Seal the deal with a boxy pleather backpack that hits the sweet spot between sleek and utilitarian. As far from Cowboy Bebop cosplay as it can possibly get, this Jet-inspired ensemble is a must-have for the action-ready amongst you.
Edward – The Goofball Genius
Who can resist the goofball charms of teen hacker Radical Edward (full name: Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky IV)? Despite her eccentricities and love of the absurd, she (along with “data dog” Ein) is often the most clued-up member of the Bebop team, coming up with solutions to problems while the adults fight and sulk. This final outfit pays homage to Edward’s gender-fluid uniform of a crop tee and biker shorts, and updates the look in a sleeker direction. Basic but never boring, the ensemble is a pared-down alternative to the rest of the crew’s flashier wardrobes.
See You, Space Cowboy.
Cowboy Bebop takes place in a world without moral certainties, and it’s the murky tone that gives the series its moody aesthetic, from fight scenes accompanied by big band sounds to cityscapes in a faded, almost grimy palette. Most of all, the series is driven by themes of loneliness and nostalgia, as exemplified by the melancholic ending theme song “The Real Folk Blues.” On the bright side, Cowboy Bebop also celebrates the possibility of chosen family while highlighting the need to confront the past, even if it comes at a cost. As Spike Spiegel’s story arc suggests, “you’re gonna carry that weight,” but do so in your own style – whether that leans hard-edged or dapper is up to you.