It took me a while to figure out which one of the two basically indistinguishable white guys on Beverly Hills, 90210 Luke Perry was. They both had hair swept up and back and both had sideburns, the latter of which was the feature that distinguished the teen idols of 90210 from the cohorts that had come before. No one had worn sideburns since the Sexy Men of the 1970s had buttoned up their shirts and gone away. Was it time to wear sideburns again? (No, but—)
Eventually my eye adjusted and I recognized that Luke Perry was the one with the better sideburns, longer and sharper ones, to go with his longer and sharper bone structure, which made him the handsome bad-boy love interest, Dylan McKay. These were the sideburns Brady Anderson would borrow when athletes started wearing sideburns again. The ’80s were over. Teen idols were the signposts.
Signposts aren’t supposed to move. But a person could shift around inside that confined space, if they tried, just enough to be seen. Luke Perry made a movie, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in which he played a handsome bad-boy love interest, Oliver Pike. Buffy the Vampire Slayer would be eclipsed in the public imagination by the TV show spun off of it, but it was a funny and well-wrought movie. You had to have been there to appreciate it as it was, at the time.
Late in the movie, Luke Perry—as Oliver Pike, who looked exactly like Dylan McKay—stood in front of a mirror, his cheeks and jaw all lathered up, and shaved off his sideburns. People magazine ran an item warning readers that it was going to happen. There went the razor, and there went the sideburns. It was metatextually hilarious, charming and disarming. He grew them right back afterwards.