Recreating Joel Goodsen’s Iconic Look: Your Guide to Risky Business Costumes

Recreating Joel Goodsen's Iconic Look: Your Guide to Risky Business Costumes

Few movies have left a mark on pop culture as memorable as 1983’s coming-of-age comedy Risky Business Costumes. While the film explored many themes around adolescence, privilege, and rebellion, the most iconic moment came when Joel Goodsen, played by a young Tom Cruise, danced in his underwear and sunglasses while lip-synching to “Old Time Rock and Roll.”

That scene has lived on in the cultural consciousness for 40 years now. Joel’s ratty white shirt, boxer shorts, and Ray-Ban Wayfarers have become shorthand for carefree abandon. As a result, Risky Business makes for one of the most recognizable and popular risky business costume party getups year after year.

Recreating the Risky Business look is easy, fun, and guaranteed to get a reaction. With a few simple pieces, you can pull off a versatile costume for individuals or couples. Here’s everything you need to know to embody Joel Goodsen on your next costume occasion.

The Origins of Joel Goodsen’s Iconic Risky Business Costume

The Origins of Joel Goodsen's Iconic Risky Business Costume

To understand Joel’s outfit, it helps to look back at the context within the film. Joel is a high school senior living in an affluent Chicago suburb, looking forward to a profitable future at Princeton University. His straight-laced parents go away for the weekend, leaving Joel home alone for the first time.

Joel’s friend convinces him to take advantage of his newfound freedom by hiring a sex worker named Jackie. But when her pimp runs off with his mother’s valuable Steuben glass egg, Joel finds himself owing a large sum of money.

Desperate, Joel transforms his parents’ home into a brothel for the night. As prostitutes begin to arrive, a freed Joel dances in reckless abandon to “Old Time Rock and Roll,” clad only in his underwear, dress shirt, and sunglasses.

Director Paul Brickman has said this sequence represents Joel’s liberation from the pressure and expectations weighing on him. The costume perfectly encapsulates that freedom – Joel stripped down to a few essentials, unencumbered and wholly himself.

How to Create the Signature Joel Goodsen Look

Recreating Joel’s iconic ensemble is simple and relatively inexpensive. Here are the essential items you’ll need:

The White Dress Shirt

Joel wears a billowy white dress shirt and boxers, so start by finding a similar loose button-down. You’ll want it to look slept-in and a bit big on you. Check thrift stores or your closet for a baggy white dress shirt.

Leave several buttons undone, and consider lightly spritzing the shirt with water and letting it air dry for a rumpled look. Roll up the sleeves for Joel’s signature half-tucked style.

Boxer Shorts

Look for some plain white boxer shorts- the baggier, the better. If you don’t already own a pair, you can find cheap multi-packs. Make sure they fit loose so they’ll billow as you dance.


Don’t forget Joel’s tall tube socks! Any plain white socks will work. You can roll them down or scrunch them up haphazardly like Joel.

Ray-Ban Wayfarers

No Joel costume is complete without his iconic black Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses. This is likely the only part you’ll need to purchase, but you can find affordable knock-offs. Make sure the frames are large and distinctly tapered like Wayfarers.

If you own dark sunglasses, those will also work in a pinch. Just channel your inner Tom Cruise and slide them up and down while dancing!

Costume Ideas for Couples and Groups

One of the best parts of a Risky Business costume is that it works perfectly for individuals and groups. Here are some fun costume ideas to try with your partner, friends, or family:

Couples Costume

One person dresses as Joel for a couple’s costume, while the other can rock Jackie’s look. For Jackie, wear a short black wig, flashy jewelry and makeup, and a black cocktail dress and heels. An optional clear rain jacket completes her infamous drowned rat look.

Stand together, holding a glass egg prop for an instantly recognizable duo costume!

Father and Son(s)

For a fun family or father/son(s) ensemble, dad can dress as Joel while the kids emulate his preppy Princeton-bound look—outfit kids in collared shirts, sweaters, slacks, and loafers. Include a notebook prop for extra authenticity.

High School Friends

Get a group together to recreate Joel’s party scene. The lead person dresses as Joel, while friends play the role of his raucous high school buddies. Outfit them in 80s styles like pastel polos or sweater vests, miniskirts, off-the-shoulder tops, and big hair.

Hand out props like cassette tapes, landline phones, and boom boxes for a fully 80s effect.

The Princeton Pals

Here’s a clever friend group costume idea: dress as characters from the film’s imaginative Princeton dream sequence. In it, Joel pictures himself and his friends as successful Ivy League grads.

Outfit your crew in caps, gowns, sweater vests, pearls, blazers, and ties or scarves. Carry books and pipe props. One friend, Joel, can still be the leading man in his signature shirt and shades.

Tips for Accessorizing Your Risky Business Costume

Accessories and props can bring your Risky Business costume to life. Consider incorporating a few of these for an authentic 80s vibe:

  • Cassette tapes or CDs
  • Old cell phone or receiver prop
  • Feathered 80s hairstyles or wigs
  • Oversized jewelry
  • Sweatbands
  • Neon or pastel clothing
  • Leg warmers
  • Boombox Stereo
  • Sunglasses
  • Ray-Ban logo tee
  • Princeton memorabilia
  • Rubik’s Cube
  • Cigar and bourbon prop
  • Briefcase, papers, calculator

The right song is key, too. To get into character as reckless Joel, cue up “Old Time Rock and Roll” or make a mixtape with popular 80s hits.

DIY Risky Business Costumes

DIY Risky Business Costumes

If you’re handy or strapped for cash, you can easily DIY most of the Risky Business costume components.

Here are some quick homemade solutions:

  • If you can’t find an old white dress shirt thrifting, cut one up. Dye an oversized T-shirt with RIT whitener.
  • Sew or pin a pair of boxer shorts from white fabric or an old sheet.
  • Make socks out of rolled-up white fabric secured with elastic bands.
  • Use cardboard and duct tape to fashion fake “Wayfarers.”
  • Buy a cheap dark pair of sunglasses and pop the lenses out.

Cutting corners works perfectly for this costume. Joel’s supposed to look undone and rumpled anyway, but splurge on the actual Ray-Bans if you can since they really define the look.

Become Joel Goodsen: How to Act the Part

Once your Risky Business outfit comes together, it’s time to get into character as teen rebel Joel Goodsen. Here are some tips on how to sell the costume:

  • Crank up “Old Time Rock and Roll” and recreate the infamous underwear dance scene with abandon.
  • Overact, being refined and sophisticated when posing for photos in your “Princeton grad” attire.
  • Walk around carefully, holding a glass egg prop before suddenly pretending to trip and drop it.
  • Improv a “phone call” using a prop phone in an exaggerated concerned voice regarding the egg.
  • Lip sync and dance to “Old Time Rock and Roll” or other 80s hits with exaggerated motions.
  • Impromptu air guitar or drum solo, preferably on the floor or furniture.
  • Shake your head and fist at an imaginary pimp named Guido.
  • Moonwalk or breakdance spin on your knees.
  • Offer friends “bourbon” from a prop bottle before guzzling it recklessly.
  • Quiz friends obscure 80s trivia to seem knowledgeable.
  • Make constant Princeton references as you mime smoking a pipe.
  • Say “Whoa, killer toga” to someone in ancient garb.

Ham it up, channeling Joel’s sheltered yet rebellious nature for a fun and memorable costume experience.


What exactly does Joel wear in the famous scene?

Joel wears a white Oxford button-down shirt, white boxer shorts, white tube socks, and black Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses. The shirt is partially unbuttoned and untucked.

What if I can’t find Ray-Ban Wayfarers?

You can use any dark, large-framed sunglasses. Non-branded knock-offs also work well for achieving the overall look. Even blue blockers or oval-shaped sunglasses can make a fine substitution in a pinch.

Should I wear dress shoes with the costume?

Joel is barefoot during the musical scene, so dress shoes don’t make sense. You can wear socks or go barefoot like Joel to nail the character. House slippers or loafers could also work for a more pulled-together look.

Is this an easy last-minute costume I can make?

Absolutely! With just an oversized white collared shirt, white underwear, and sunglasses, you can easily throw together a recognizable last-minute Joel costume. It’s affordable and comfortable enough to wear to any laid-back costume party.

What if I’m a woman – can I still do this costume?

Women can rock Joel’s signature shirt and shades look. Pair the white men’s button-down with shorts, leggings, or underwear of your choice. Accessorize with heels instead of socks for a femme twist.

What props go well with a Risky Business costume?

Great props include a Steuben glass egg, 80s memorabilia like cassette tapes, fake money to be “bribe” money for Guido, Princeton pennants or gear, and pretend booze like bourbon or cigars. You can also set up 80s music to dance to.


Risky Business makes for a nostalgic, comfortable, and easy costume for individuals, couples, or groups. Exploring low-cost business ideas with high profit potential is akin to recreating Joel Goodsen’s iconic look: the pieces are affordable and straightforward to find or even DIY, yet the iconic outfit is instantly recognizable and guarantees to deliver a fun 1980s vibe perfect for any laidback, risky business costume party or event.

Whether you’re a Tom Cruise fan or want a conversation-starting costume, channeling reckless prepster Joel Goodsen and his impromptu dance scene is always a hit. Follow the tips above to recreate Joel’s signature button-down, boxers, and Wayfarers look from the legendary movie moment. Then cue up “Old Time Rock and Roll,” slip on those shades, and unleash your carefree dance sequence this Halloween or costume season.

Thomas Taylor

Thomas Taylor

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