It's chic to be a Gleek: Why everybody wants to join the Glee club circuit
The American TV hit is taking the UK by storm with pupils joining choirs and styling themselves on the show's geeky stars
Sunday 28 March 2010
We have taken their television series to top ratings, their albums to permanent residence in the charts and their stories of high school loserdom to our hearts. Now we want their musical lifestyle and the clothes off their backs.
After gaining an army of fans (known as Gleeks) since hitting our screens in January, the quirky characters of the all-singing, all-dancing phenomenon Glee are enthusing schoolchildren and inspiring the launch of show choirs across the UK. The internet is also awash with viewers replicating their looks.
Mandy Miller, chair of the Scottish Association for Music Education, said Glee had created a "surge" across Scotland, with schools setting up musical groups and pupils joining existing choirs. "It was the same when High School Musical came up, but more so this time, I think."
E4's American hit has also had a positive impact on Sing Up, the national programme for singing in primary schools, because parents and music teachers find it "positive and motivating". The children are too young to watch Glee, said a spokeswoman, but "perceive it as something cool".
The Golden Globe winner is the fastest-selling TV show in Zavvi's history, with fans placing more than 7,000 orders for the T-shirt and soundtrack package in the first hour of it going live on the website.
Five is tapping into the popularity by launching Don't Stop Believing, an X Factor-style show for musical groups. Alongside the competition, the public can audition to represent the UK on the American glee club circuit. Tomorrow's Glee episode, "Sectionals", sees McKinley High School compete against rival choirs.
The show's geeky diva Rachel Berry and mysophobic school guidance counsellor Emma Pillsbury are also unlikely new style icons. Even the acerbic cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester's wardrobe of tracksuits is attracting admirers.
Ali Hall, editor of the fashion magazine Look, said people were "as bothered about what someone is wearing on the set of Glee as they are about what Posh is wearing".
Fans are using the online trend barometer Polyvore's virtual styling tool to pick products from online stores to create Glee-related collections, called "sets", with Rachel, Emma and cheerleader Quinn Fabray topping searches related to the show.
Maryam Ahmed, 18, from Manchester, said Glee was influencing her dress sense. "Now, instead of just pairing my cardigans with T-shirts, I'd wear a nice blouse with them or add a vintage brooch for a more vintage look, like Emma," she explained.
"When I go shopping, I see something and think 'Rachel would wear that' ... Since I've started watching Glee, I'm more open to wearing brighter colours."
The show's styling earned the costume designer Lou Eyrich a Costume Designers Guild Award last month. Ms Eyrich said she wanted to reflect the glee club's ethos of embracing individuality by showing each personality's uniqueness through their clothes.
With 14 principal characters each requiring at least 12 costume changes per episode and every episode taking eight days to shoot, Ms Eyrich said the team was "constantly shopping, constantly fitting". "So it's really a bit of a jumble to be honest, so the fact that it's caught on and people want to mimic it, that definitely surprises me," she added.
Fox TV is launching a Glee merchandising line in the autumn. However, online retailers such as Shop Glee are already cashing in.
Krista Madden, founder of the beauty and fashion ezine Beauty and the Dirt, said Glee was a "junior version" of the style inspiration created by the TV series Mad Men.
"For a younger audience I think it's very aspirational because the girls are quite wholesome-looking and the glee members are all different shapes and sizes and different looks," she said. "There's someone for everyone to feel quite connected with."
And, according to Ms Eyrich, the styling gets even better. The second half of the series, which begins on E4 on 19 April, sees glee club teacher Will Schuester returning "a bit more sexy, a little more Gene Kelly".
Too cool for school? Get the Glee look
Rachel Berry (Lea Michele)
The geeky wannabe diva sports a preppy look. "One of the scripts called it toddler meets grandmother, so it's very adolescent yet she's trying to be a grown-up," said Glee's costume designer, Lou Eyrich. "She's a cross between Ali MacGraw in Love Story and Tracy [Flick, played by Reese Witherspoon] in Election."
Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer)
Self-proclaimed fashionista and soprano Kurt is bullied by the jocks. He has a rigorous beauty regime and impressive collection of designer threads by the likes of Marc Jacobs. "I love putting together all the fashion-forward, quirky ideas for him and taking risks in the way he dresses," Ms Eyrich said.
Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith)
The quarterback commits social suicide in joining the glee club. "Finn's a jock so he's going straight to Abercrombie & Fitch or American Eagle or Gap, places where boys would tend to shop because they are basically T-shirts, sweatshirts," Ms Eyrich said. "They don't really tend to think about their clothes that much."
Emma Pillsbury (Jayma Mays)
The wide-eyed teacher mixes enviable vintage pieces with high street finds. "Because of her OCD habits, everything's perfectly tailored, perfectly fit, put together very prim and proper," Ms Eyrich said.
Check out teacher Danielle Bruno's What Would Emma Pillsbury Wear? blog for inspiration wwepw.blogspot.com
J. Crew, one of the stores used to dress Emma, will be accessible to UK shoppers for the first time from May through the website Net-a-Porter.
Real-life club brings together singers of all ages
Glee gave singing and piano teacher Richard Whennell, 39, the impetus to launch the community choir he had been planning.
After four sessions, Bracknell Glee Club boasts more than 160 Facebook fans, with 40 people – aged 13 to 70-plus – turning out to sing harmonies to tunes such as Take That's "Shine".
Mr Whennell said the club's members tend to be "people who love to sing in the shower or the car".
"We are not out to do handsprings and pyramids and all that kind of stuff, but we are out to have a good time singing songs and do some dancing as well," he added.
High school choir boosts its ranks
At Dunfermline High School, the choir has welcomed 10 new members since Glee started, boosting its ranks to 35. "What I am hoping is once the other people have heard the choir singing 'Don't Stop Believin' [at the school awards ceremony] it might encourage them a bit more to join it," said music teacher Fiona Miller. She hopes to rename the choir as a "show choir" after the summer.
Fifty pupils will learn routines from the show, while others are practising an instrumental arrangement of 'Don't Stop Believin' in class.
Famous fans... and foes
Think High School Musical for adults. Created by Ryan Murphy, who was also behind plastic surgery drama Nip/Tuck, the show follows optimistic McKinley High teacher Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) as he resurrects the school's glee club – a show choir – with an eccentric bunch of pupils.
A-list fans include the First Lady, Michelle Obama, who has invited the cast to perform at the White House's annual Easter Egg Roll, guest star Jennifer Lopez, and Madonna, who has allowed the show access to her musical catalogue.
The band Coldplay, however, have refused to let their hits feature on the show.
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