Southern Comfort: Shag The Movie, 1989

“Take Ivy” is full of students wearing shorts, untucked oxfords and Weejuns without socks. This begs the question: Did the look originate on Yankee campuses, or did the practice originate in the South, with Southern students taking the look North with them when they headed off to college?

Made in 1989 and set in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in 1963, “Shag” shows guys staying cool in the humid Southern summer dressed in such trad fare as short-sleeved madras shirts, t-shirts, canvas sneakers, chinos and oxfords. Not to mention Weejuns, the perfect shoe for shaggin’ with a waitress on roller skates, as the guy in the yellow button-down does in the screenshot above.

“Shag” stars Annabeth Gish, who’s previously appeared on Ivy-Style, and Phoebe Cates, dream girl of any boy who came of age in the ’80s. There’s also Bridget Fonda, whose figure will not escape your notice.

With its Southern setting, “Shag” is more conservative than the New York-set “Dirty Dancing,” which was made two years earlier and also set in 1963. But whereas “Dirty Dancing” features a post-’60s inversion of values in which the Yale-bound med student is the villain, while the leather-clad greaser is the hero, the leading man in “Shag” is a bit of a n’er-do-well, but still bound for Yale, making him bad boy and husband material all in one. What a catch.

The movie’s soundtrack draws on that carefully edited mixture of R&B and doo-wop known as Beach Music. — CC

4 Comments on "Southern Comfort: Shag The Movie, 1989"

  1. Annabeth Gish exuded Ivy in every 80s movie she was in. My personal favorite is a forgotten Jon Cryer vehicle called “Hiding Out”. A lovely creature in every way.

  2. Sockless WeeJuns supposedly were a Chapel Hill ’50s innovation.

    Haven’t seen the movie but there are reportedly two different DVD soundtrack versions – one more authentically Carolina’s beach R&B.

    Long sleeve OCBD & Madras shirts, with Bermuda shorts, were tucked and cinched with crocodilia even in mid-summer Ocean Drive Beach, SC – if you were collegiate of mind, if not age. Engine-turned monogram buckles were not rare. J&M Tassels – Aldens were a post law school pseudosophistication. Long sleeve Ban-Lon shirts with Smedleyish collars top-buttoned were a shagger’s quirk.

    Few t-shirts – no skating waitpersons. That’s American Graffiti.

    Ivy bound types were few on the ground in said Suthun subculture – those kids wern’t grinds or legacy Connecticut WASPS.

    The movie Dirty Dancing and Shag culture share Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs’ “Stay”. (Dirty Dancing was partially filmed at NC’s Lake Lure, posing as some Borscht Belt resort.)

    Old Dutch Root Beer & Coca-Cola? Gimme a break! Sweat dripping into a tepid PBR can in a dimly lit juke joint was stereotypical.

    Metallic blue Corvette convertible was the ne plus ultra transport of choice. Rare as a drunken basso profundo “boola boola”.

    Welp, gotta go feed the cows.

  3. I almost mentioned UNC in the post, as I’d also heard the look was popularized there.

    That’s where my sister went to school and she still lives in the area. Maybe I can talk her in to browsing the student newspaper archives.

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