You’re watching the 2009 film Jennifer’s Body. The eponymous cheerleader turned succubus (Megan Fox) walks down her school’s hallway, wearing a pink velour zip-up hoodie studded all over with red hearts. She’s smiling with satisfaction, fresh from killing a football jock — she is a flesh-eating demon, after all. The feminine outfit, the deadly threat; it’s a subversive scene. And it encapsulates the film’s first line of dialogue perfectly: Hell is a teenage girl.
It’s only onscreen for 10 seconds — but for some, Jennifer Check’s hoodie was as memorable as Audrey Hepburn’s black Givenchy gown from Breakfast at Tiffany’s or the white cocktail dress Marilyn Monroe wrangled on that subway grate in The Seven Year Itch. And 12 years after Jennifer’s Body came out, the hoodie has taken on a life of its own. Vintage editions are all but impossible to find, replicas have proliferated all over the internet, and TikTok is obsessed with DIY’ing it.
The hoodie was part of a 2008 Valentine’s Day collection from Gap’s children’s line, and a descendant of the infamous velour tracksuit of the early aughts. Popularized by brands like Baby Phat and Juicy Couture, the polarizing glamleisure uniform was favored by celebrities like Paris Hilton and J.Lo and captured for posterity by the paparazzi. Katia Stano, the costume designer for Jennifer’s Body, accessorized the jacket with matching pink heart earrings and dark hip-hugging denim — a popular combination for those who weren’t quite up for the full tracksuit look. Ellen Anderson, who worked as an assistant costume designer on the film, told BuzzFeed News that the outfit had a Lolita vibe. “It was sweet and girly, sort of the wolf in sheep’s clothing,” she said. “You’ve got a vicious killer hiding behind those soft and cuddly velour hearts.”
Screenwriter Diablo Cody once described the film as an homage — “It’s just a throwback to the movies I loved in the ’80s: teenagers in peril, blood and fun” — so the costume team threw in leg warmers, colored fishnets, puff-sleeve prom dresses, and teddy bear keychains. And because they wanted everything to look shrunken and cropped on the 5-foot-4 Fox, they sourced many of her pieces at Gap Kids. “It was challenging because everything was a bit oversized back then, so it was either building a bunch of stuff or shopping at Baby Gap. Who does that for a grown woman? But it really did work for our purposes,” Anderson said.
During an interview with the New York Times shortly after the film’s release, Fox said that it was expected to be a hit, but she had her doubts. “The movie is about a man-eating, cannibalistic lesbian cheerleader, and that pretty much eliminates middle America,” she said. “It’s obviously a girl-power movie, but it’s also about how scary girls are. Girls can be a nightmare.” When Jennifer’s Body came out, it was deemed a flop, placing fifth at the box office and grossing $31.6 million worldwide on a $16 million budget. The film, Cody’s follow-up to her Oscar-winning debut, Juno, was viciously ripped apart and misunderstood by critics. (Roger Ebert referred to it as “Twilight for boys.”)
Fans considered Jennifer’s Body ahead of its time, hugely underrated upon release; it’s now thought of as a cult classic that portrays the sometimes cruel, codependent, and complex relationships between teenage girls with dark humor. In a 2018 interview with BuzzFeed News, Cody and director Karyn Kusama recounted how its marketing was completely off, using Fox’s status as a sex symbol and a trailer that teased a kiss between the two leads to pander to horny teenage boys instead of the young women who might connect with the film.
One of those unimpressed reviews from 2009 declared that the chances of Jennifer’s Body being “somebody else’s pop culture reference 27 years from now are slim to none.” But the movie has experienced a renaissance, with various critics arguing that it wasn’t given a fair chance. In the post-#MeToo era, when a feminist revenge film like Promising Young Woman can earn Oscar gold, Jennifer’s Body has a new life thanks to Gen Z fans, including the young women it was actually written for.
The hashtag #JennifersBody has over 150 million views on TikTok. Many of the videos feature reenactments of key scenes: You might see a young woman in a white prom dress lip-syncing the line “I am going to eat your soul” or someone holding a lighter flame close to their tongue, just like Jennifer does when she casually announces, “I am a god” — dressed in that pink-and-red hoodie.
Nostalgia has played a huge part in resurfacing the Jennifer’s Body hoodie. Perhaps “lovecore,” which Nylon describes as a pink-and-red “internet aesthetic,” had something to do with it as well. Spencer Williams, the founder of the Art of Costume, suggested an even more quotidian cause. “Life has an impact on fashion, and this grim pandemic has been no exception,” he told BuzzFeed News. “As people lost their jobs or began to work from home, we quickly moved toward comfort and athleisure wear.” Early last year, interest in the hoodie began to skyrocket online, with Reddit and Twitter users asking how to find the original Gap edition, which is now considered vintage. “This heart jacket from Jennifer’s Body, anyone??? I’d literally kill in order to buy this,” wrote one redditor. “Switch out the mona lisa at the louvre tbh,” a Twitter user wrote in response to a photo of the actual garment used in the film, which went up for auction in 2017. It sold for $250, mere pennies compared to what it might be worth these days.
“If we were to offer this in one of our live auctions I would estimate it at $800–$1,200 and I feel that it could sell for $2,000,” Darren Julien, president and CEO of Julien’s Auctions, told BuzzFeed News in an email. Some shoppers have scored original versions of the Gap hoodie on resale sites like Poshmark. One seller told BuzzFeed News that she had sold her daughter’s old one for $15 at least three years ago; one TikTok user shared a listing that offered the hoodie for as high as $300.
But as sartorial sleuths tracked down the few remaining items, those who came up empty took matters into their own hands and crafted their own versions, even if that meant doing it haphazardly with red Sharpie and heart-shaped stencils.
Soon enough, trendy Gen Z and millennial clothing brands were enlisted to make the internet’s dream a reality. According to Shaudi Lynn, cofounder of online boutique Dolls Kill, the brand received “what felt like a million Instagram DM requests” for the hoodie in October 2020. “It was a cute idea and something we were excited about,” Lynn told BuzzFeed News in an email this month. Dolls Kill’s version of the hoodie and matching pants first went live on its website on Jan. 11. “When we launched, we sold out in a day, and this latest restock, which was on April 15, sold out in a few hours,” Lynn said. Dolls Kill is planning a third restock this summer, along with a four-piece collection based on the heart print.
Fine Girl, a ’00s-inspired fashion brand cofounded by two sisters, 20-year-old Sadé Amari and 19-year-old Najja Iman, also debuted its version of the hoodie in January, though Amari told BuzzFeed News it had been in the works since 2019. (Both Fine Girl and Dolls Kill have experienced success with their versions of the hoodie, but there has been contention between the companies about which came up with the idea first.) “I feel like if you are a connoisseur of the 2000s, you had to be a connoisseur of that movie, and we wanted to do a collection based on the main character, Jennifer, because she was so intriguing,” Amari told BuzzFeed News over Zoom last month. When pre-orders opened this January, the response was intense. “We knew it was gonna be big, but it was different for us,” Amari said. There were 300 units in stock; they sold out in 10 minutes.
The buzz around the hoodie was exciting, but re-creating it was also important to Amari for another reason: representation. There are no people of color in the movie, except Ahmet, the Indian exchange student who becomes Jennifer’s first victim. “We wanted to pay homage to Megan Fox while simultaneously paving the road for Black women to live their Black Megan Fox/Jennifer Check fantasy,” Amari said.
Afterward, the sisters received hundreds of emails, DMs, and comments, begging them to restock the hoodie. They hadn’t planned to — but once they decided to go ahead, they made sure to have three times the original inventory. Every single one was gone within five minutes. “People were camping out on the site for hours before we dropped it, refreshing the browser. And people who still didn’t get the chance to get the jacket were really mad at us, telling us that they were crying and that they couldn’t sleep,” Amari said.
It makes a lot of sense that both Dolls Kill and Fine Girl would reincarnate a cult ’00s item over a decade later. Dolls Kill has long been known for carrying ’90s- and ’00s-inspired clothing. The brand has released collections inspired by a variety of retro pop culture favorites, like the 1996 film The Craft, Bratz dolls, Hello Kitty, and Holly Hobbie; in 2018, the company resurrected the beloved ’90s catalog brand Delia’s. Meanwhile, for Iman and Amari, Fine Girl was not only a way to modernize the iconic velour tracksuit of the aughts — theirs comes in a more cropped and fitted style — but also to reclaim an era that many associate with white fashion. For example, the velour tracksuit itself is often credited to casual luxury brand Juicy Couture rather than Baby Phat, Kimora Lee Simmons’ women’s streetwear brand, which actually released its version first. Then there’s the nameplate necklace, often associated with Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw rather than its long history in Black and Latinx culture. “As Black women, we’re often excluded from conversations about 2000s style,” Iman said.
More broadly, the ’90s and ’00s have trickled into mainstream fashion in the past couple of years. Trends from the ’90s like slip dresses, chokers, fanny packs, and bike shorts came first, making room for the more over-the-top styles of the ’00s that followed. As seen on social media and on the street, Gen Z has fully embraced aughts style, including a few of the more controversial trends, like Frankenflops (aka platform flip-flops), tramp stamps, and low-rise pants. Even the style sin of wearing a dress over jeans is apparently back.
With the decline of minimalism, normcore, and other understated styles that deemphasized individuality, the stage is set for the rise of flamboyant, playful ’00s fashion. It’s everywhere we turn: Rihanna wore high-heeled thong sandals on a recent night out, while Bella Hadid frequently opts for low-rise jeans. Trucker hats, which were worn by everyone from Ashton Kutcher to Britney Spears in the aughts, are now available at Palm Angels and Clare V. Forever 21 has featured collaborations with Juicy Couture and Baby Phat in the past year. Even the visible thong, aka “the whale tail,” has been spotted on brave Instagram influencers, though Hailey Bieber, who wore a pink Alexander Wang thong to the camp-themed Met Gala in 2019, had already brought it back from the fashion grave.
The Jennifer’s Body hoodie is just one example of this ’00s comeback. “The amount of love we’ve received from Gen Z showcasing iconic Gap styles from the late ‘90s to the early 2000s era has been phenomenal and super nostalgic for the brand,” a Gap spokesperson told BuzzFeed News, citing the renewed popularity of the brand’s “arch logo” hoodie, a ’90s throwback. The spokesperson added, “Throughout the last year, we’ve seen these trends go viral across TikTok and Instagram with influencers like Emma Chamberlain.” Tradesy, a luxury resale platform, told BuzzFeed News there’s been a significant uptick in Y2K-era search terms in the last two years, including “baby tee” and “low-rise jeans,” as well as a steady increase in revenue from such aughts favorites as the Prada nylon bag, the Fendi baguette bag, and Juicy Couture apparel.
“As Gen Zers on TikTok discover styles that the rest of us remember from the ’90s and early aughts, thredUP data is starting to show that these trends are on the rise among thrifters,” Kesha Linder, a merchandiser for the online consignment store, told BuzzFeed News. Linder said the interest in nostalgic trends like low-rise jeans and tie-dye has been steadily increasing since January. She added that the site has more recently seen a spike in searches for “velour.”
On Instagram, countless nostalgia accounts are devoted to fashion and pop culture moments from the aughts. Take @2000sfashionista, run by KJ, a 25-year-old based in Toronto (she’s on the Gen Z/millennial cusp). The most popular posts reference Mean Girls, Clueless, and Legally Blonde. “Besides the iconic fashion, and how quotable the movies are, I think what really resonates with people are the characters,” said KJ. “The ultrafeminine character that was villainized or looked down on in the past has now been turned around and has become celebrated by people and deemed as iconic.”
One particular post on her page, featuring a style of sequin butterfly crop top worn by Anna Faris in the 2008 film The House Bunny, Mariah Carey, and Salma Hayek, garnered over 28,000 likes. KJ thinks that Gen Z’ers identify with the decade’s style mindset and attitude. “If you look back at celebrities during that era, like Ashley Tisdale’s iconic red carpet outfits, it was less about stylists and more about having fun and experimenting with fashion. I think Gen Z is all about individualism, and through the ’00s fashion trends you can really be expressive. You can mismatch different pieces and patterns, but as long as you own your style, it’ll look good, and I think that really shines through on social media.”
“Every generation has an innate fascination with the era preceding their own,” fashion historian Raissa Bretaña told BuzzFeed News. But she added that Gen Z is able to feed that interest much more easily than past generations could because pop culture and media archives are so accessible now. She pointed to the plethora of TV shows available on streaming platforms, like Lizzie McGuire, Moesha, and The Nanny. “They are (re)discovering style icons that they would have previously missed out on,” she said. For instance, numerous Instagram accounts are dedicated to Fran Drescher’s fashion in The Nanny, which was the work of costume designer Brenda Cooper.
Social media has become a harbinger of modern fashion trends, so it’s not surprising that ’00s looks have seeped into the style of Gen Z shoppers who aren’t interested in the neutral palettes and bodycon dresses popularized by Kim Kardashian in the 2010s. Before platforms like TikTok and Instagram made it easy to share visual inspirations, the public often found out about fashion trends through magazines and television. Now, between the influencers, nostalgia accounts, and celebrities’ own accounts, there’s no real waiting period. However, fashion trends also cycle in and out more quickly. “It usually took about 40 to 50 years for styles to become fashionable again,” Bretaña said. “With the current Y2K trend in 2020, we see that the length of the fashion cycle has been cut in half.”
Mona May, a costume designer who worked on Clueless, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, The House Bunny, and Never Been Kissed, said she loves Gen Z’s creativity. “I’m so happy that kids are wanting to have fun with clothes. Gen Z is just much more open to playfulness,” she told BuzzFeed News. “I feel like they are so much more individualistic, and they’re being authentic and expressing themselves.” May identified another factor spurring Gen Z’s interest in ’00s fashion: sustainability. “Kids are passionate about having fun and also being sustainable. They go on Poshmark or Etsy and find a vintage designer bag and mix it up.”
Jessica Lynn Hellgeth, cosplayer and Chicago-based owner of Underground Costumes, began making and selling her version of the Jennifer’s Body hoodie after a customer requested it. Before that, her most popular item was a replica of another movie costume: the pink velvet spaghetti strap dress seen in My Date With the President’s Daughter. Hellgeth also has Jennifer’s cheerleading uniform on deck, as well as looks from Clueless, Heathers, Freaky Friday, Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century, and Lindsay Lohan’s prom dress from Mean Girls. She attributes Gen Z’s interest in this era of fashion to the comfort that nostalgia brings, especially from a time that seemed fun and carefree. Staying home this past year and watching these movies has likely helped propel that even more, she said. “I mean, the iconic fashions from the ’90s and ’00s were pretty awesome, so who wouldn’t want to wear these clothes?”
Ultimately, the popularity of the heart hoodie can be attributed to a confluence of factors: the resurgence of aughts fashion, the era of streaming, a rejection of minimalism, and the tools we have as consumers and individuals to create, or re-create, almost anything we want. And, of course, it’s a tribute to a film that didn’t get its due, as well as a character who unforgettably weaponized beauty and girlhood. Ellen Anderson, who is costuming the second season of The Baby-Sitters Club on Netflix, said that if she had known the Jennifer’s Body hoodie had been reproduced by so many fans and brands, she probably would have used it for one of the girls in the show as a sort of Easter egg. “Oh my god,” she said. “I loved it then, and I love it now.” ●