On October 20, 1995, Empire Records was released in the world (Happy Birthday, Empire!). I, myself, discovered it one to two years later in high school on the shelf of a video store in all its VHS glory. I wanted to work at the Empire, I desired to know these people, and I totally crushed on all of them. I think this is why the film, despite negative reviews by critics, is a cult classic. As a teen in the 90s, we understood the people from their small issues to the big ones. We also felt music could make everything better.
For those who are unaware, the movie takes place over the course of one day (I love one day movies!) and follows the lives of an eclectic group of record store employees - teens trying to find themselves while trying to save the record store they love from turning to a chain store.
The catalyst for the story is Lucas (Rory Cochrane), who, when closing the shop the night before discovers the owner's plot to sell the Empire to Music Town. He dashes off to Atlantic City with a poor attempt to turn the money from the safe into a larger sum of cash to save the store. The next day the Empire's manager Joe (Anthony LaPaglia) discovers what happens and the day's hijinks ensue: A.J. (Johnny Whitworth) decides he is going to tell fellow employ Corey (Liv Tyler) he loves her, Corey in turn wants to lose her virginity to a washed up singer named Rex Manning - it is Rex Manning Day, after all - (Rex is played by Maxwell Caulfield - yes the male lead from the best Grease movie), Deb (Robin Tunney) reveals a bandage on her wrist, and the store encounters a shoplifter by the name of Warren. Not to mention: comedic moments thanks to Mark (Ethan Embry) and Eddie (James 'Kimo' Wills), drama thanks to Gina (Renée Zellweger), music thanks to Berko (Coyote Shivers), and a potential new relationship thanks to Jane (Debi Mazar).
Once they get their lives sorted, at least for the day, they are able to focus on their rallying cry: "Damn the man. Save the Empire." Who doesn't love rooting for an underdog rag tag crew against corporate big business?
However, let us go back to Lucas. Earlier when I say I crushed on all of them... Lucas is the one that has lasted the longest. Who knew a turtleneck could look so good? Yes, he lost tons of money and this should be a negative thing, but he still has his job. His actions, though reckless, came from the heart. Before, we get to the casual cosplay, let's look back at three reasons Lucas is the crush worth following well past your teen years.
1. He can pull off a chase scene and be victorious
Joe grounds Lucas to the couch while he tries to figure out a solution to the money problems. After a while Lucas realizes he can take the couch with him - ala the sofa cushion - and he is able to catch Warren in the act. Plus, who does not love a chase scene in music store movies (remember the one in High Fidelity?)
2. Mr. Miyagi - wise quotes
Lucas seems changed by his recent situation. He is full of quotes and reflective wisdom. As A.J. asks: "What's with you? Yesterday you were normal and today you're like the Chinese guy from the Karate Kid. What's with you today?" This guy really knows how to sell a movie, because in the end he is still optimistic everything will work out. It makes us feel optimistic too.
3. Not afraid to let loose and have fun
A guy who can be a goof-ball, rock out, dance without fear - that, my friends, is someone you have to have in your life. Maybe just one of the reasons Lucas, along with Joe, are the glue keeping the Empire together.
And he does all of this while wearing a turtleneck! A piece of clothing not many men can pull off. In my approach to Lucas' look, I decided to keep it very similar: black turtleneck, jeans, and navy sneakers, but instead of carrying a sofa cushion around I used a scrap piece of leopard print fabric and some safety pins to make a quick cuff bracelet. Simple and, hopefully, effective.