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

11 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”.

    http://www.shagthebook.com

    Welp, gotta go feed the cows.

  3. My father, uncle, and their college buddies dressed like this at Washington U. (Saint Louis, MO) in the very early 60s.

    Best Regards,

  4. The guys and girls in the film look like an unsavory lot.

  5. Charlottesville | November 7, 2019 at 9:14 am | Reply

    Heinz-Ulrich – I just wanted to say how much I have been enjoying your blog. I have always enjoyed your comments and perspective here at Ivy Style, but only recently discovered your site. Good stuff!

  6. Heinz-Ulrich:

    From Wash U St. Louis they likely also sometimes wore Threadneedle Shoes from Boyds and pegged pants (not today’s skinny pants.) Mostly Weejuns by early 60s then though. I converted my Threads into golf shoes by the mid 60s. Started with Weejuns in the mid 50s when I was 15. Sportsmans Park and Kiel Auditorium reminded. The Billikens had good basketball teams then at St. Louis U. Would not be caught dead with a shirttail out; dead is what you would be if the coach caught you!

  7. In Britain, “shagging” is a common slang term for sexual intercourse. The Brits would say “shagging a waitress on roller skates” and they would not wear weejuns whilst performing that act.

  8. On the subject of shagging and sexual intercourse, I wonder if anyone at the producer or director level for the movie considered the meaning outside of the U.S. Or, perhaps they did . . . .

  9. Looking at this again, I’ll supplement my comment from 2019. My maternal uncle, a Sewanee man, also dressed like some of the fellows a little later in the 1960s based on the photos I’ve seen although he was more skilled in Latin and Greek than dancing due to a disability. Many of my late mother’s male and female cousins sprinkled across North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, and Maryland were similarly attired. Given her painting and sculpting studies at Wash U., ol’ Mom, by 1963, was more folkie-jazz beatnik in appearance than these girls however. More black turtle necks and paint-splotched 501s, Joan Baez, Kingston Trio, and Chet Baker. Probably what drew my father to her in the first place. By 1965, she and Dad were married, traveling around Mexico and Central America until I cam along the following year.

  10. The Earl of Iredell | July 10, 2021 at 2:53 pm | Reply

    Two things: (1) Outfits like those shown were commonplace in pre-apocalyptic Baltimore of 1963, and (2) The movie’s phony, put-on, Southern accents are nauseating to those of us who actually live in the South.

  11. @Elder

    Shag as a style of American dance somewhere between the Charleston and the jitterbug/lindy hop goes back to the ’30s. Today that form is referred to as “collegiate shag.”

    I’m not sure when or why the term was applied to the style of dance we now call Carolina Shag, a postwar form of swing dancing somewhat similar to West Coast Swing

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