Riverdale characters are a diverse lot, just like the characters on other CW TV shows executive produced by Greg Berlanti. The Riverdale cast includes everyone from teens to senior citizens; single, married and divorced folks; African-American, Asian, Caucasian and Hispanic people; blondes, brunettes and a lot of red-headed characters.
Disclosure: Media Medusa receives a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you purchase something through the affiliate links on this post.
These Riverdale characters are much more diverse than the characters in the original Archie comic books, on which the TV show characters are loosely based. The main characters retain a similar look and attitude as their comic book counterparts, but their personalities have only a hint of their original selves.
Archie is still a girl-crazy do-gooder; Jughead is still the off-brand anti-hero, ready with an insightful quip; Betty is still the quintessential girl-next-door with a blonde ponytail; and Veronica is still the raven-haired mischief-maker. But these characters have secrets, which make them quite different. Each of them has something they’re hiding (until [gasp!] everyone else finds out) for different reasons. Some do it to protect someone else; some do it to protect themselves; and some do it for much more nefarious reasons.
The Riverdale characters are Sweet Valley High simple and Twin Peaks dark at the same time. One way Riverdale helps the audience define characters is through a consistent, and in some cases extreme, use of color. The characters have a unique color palette that reflects their personalities. Their color palettes are so extreme, that they manage to make the cast stand out in a TV show with highly stylized settings, props and lighting.
Let’s take a look at who’s wearing what color, and what it means, in Riverdale.
Comic book Archie is a very recognizable character. Naturally, the CW kept his iconic red hair for Riverdale. (Actor K. J. Apa has to die his hair and eyebrows every one to two weeks.) For better or worse (more worse), TV Archie is just as recognizable for his russet hair.
Moving past his hair, Archie generally wears solid prime colors. His shirts and his Bulldogs jacket are a saturated royal blue with yellow, red and green highlighted in his jacket’s piping or collar of his shirt. Riverdale dresses him in the same color palette that superheroes usually wear, which emphasizes the audience’s impression that he’s the hero of the story. Riverdale is an ensemble show, but Archie is the center of the ensemble, so it’s appropriate that he stands out in his Superman-like colors.
Betty has a reputation for being the nice girl, so her color palette has soft pastels and creams. Sometimes her clothes have an extra-girly touch, like embroidery on her collar. Not only are her clothes a soft color, they’re also just soft. She mainly wears sweaters or leggings that look smooth.
Betty’s entire family is usually dressed in similar colors and tones. Occasionally, her mother Alice (Mädchen Amick,) who has a hard edge to her personality, wears something with a black trim, to contrast her otherwise muted palette.
Veronica is the bad girl who’s looking to turn over a new leaf. She’s ferocious in her loyalty to her friends, yet crumbles under pressure from parents. She’s full of paradoxical personality traits. And she’s continually fighting an instinct to be a mean girl.
Veronica’s wardrobe is elegant, fitted and dark. Seriously, she looks like she’s stepping out on Fifth Ave. in New York City, not the halls of Riverdale High. (That makes sense, since she just moved to Riverdale from the Big Apple.) Most of the time she wears an all-black dress or blouse and skirt combo. Sometimes she wears a dress with retro lines in deep purple or midnight blue. And if she isn’t wearing her signature pearl necklace, she has something glittery around her collar.
Her entire wardrobe screams money, glamour and haughtiness.
Jughead is from the wrong side of the tracks. He and his family hail from a trailer park. His dad has a blue-collar job, when he’s not committing crimes with the Southside Serpents.
You can’t get much more down-to-earth than Jughead, which is why he and his father wear earth tones. Jughead’s clothes are drab grays and browns. Sometimes he dons a denim shirt in a washed-out blue. His iconic cap — not that Purple Pie Man deal from the comic books, but a more sensible knitted cap — is olive green. His wardrobe gives you the idea that he’s wearing hand-me-downs, thrift-store finds, or just doesn’t give a rat’s ass about how he looks.
Like Veronica, Cheryl Blossom is a mix of personality traits, swinging from sweet to nasty and back again, depending on how her day is going. Unlike Veronica, she’s not looking for redemption; she thrives on being the baddest bitch at Riverdale High. Lucky for her, her family has enough wealth to squash pretty much any upstart that might come along, like Veronica Lodge, for instance.
Cheryl and her whole family have flaming red hair. FLAMING. Red hair usually clashes with red clothing, but the Blossom family wears bright red almost exclusively. The only other color they really dig is black. Needless to say, Cheryl stands out in the crowd in those striking colors. Wearing a blouse with a plunging neckline or a backless dress doesn’t hurt.
There are only three times in Season 1 that Cheryl wears a lighter shade than her typical reds and blacks. On those occasions, she wears bright white, another eye-catching color. The first time she wears white is when she rows her twin brother, also in white, out onto the river. He winds up dead, the tragedy that kicks off the whole series. The second time she wears white is also related to her brother’s death. She marches down the aisle at her brother’s memorial service in a formal, white dress, in blinding contrast to the rest of the mournful crowd in black. It smacks of a wedding in the creepiest way possible. The third is also related to — you guessed it — her brother’s death. She’s in all-white when she tries to drown herself. Girlfriend is messed up.
Kevin is the sheriff’s son and the token LGBT representative on Riverdale. He’s fun and funny, but also earnest and forthright, just like a sheriff’s son should be.
Refreshingly, Kevin doesn’t dress flamboyantly, which is a tired stereotype in entertainment. Rather, he’s preppy, wearing classic sweater and shirt combinations with corduroys or chinos. Even when the gang goes clubbing, he looks more Esquire than Details. His square clothes reflect his square-ish personality.
Josie, the lead singer of the Pussycats, is tough. It’s her way or the highway when it comes to her band. She’s reluctant to trust anyone, let alone make friends.
Her animal-print clothing reflects her dangerous prowess on and off the stage. She also wears a lot of black, appropriate for her panther-like social skills. And yes, she and her band wear their signature cat-ear headbands.
Kudos to the wardrobe department for dressing the Riverdale characters in colors that define them so well. In such a stylized TV series, color is almost its own character.
Thanks for reading! Be sure to sign up for my newsletter to get my Guide to 75 Binge-Worthy TV Shows for free.