From the minute he appeared on Beverly Hills, 90210‘s second episode—which aired nearly 26 years ago on October 11, 1990, OMG—Dylan McKay became the bad boy heartthrob every tween and teen girl dreamed of. That eyebrow scar, that sexy, sky-high hair and those sideburns. At 13, I daydreamed of getting to high school and following in Brenda Walsh’s footsteps and finding my Dylan. I even went to a Luke Perry meet ‘n’ greet at my local mall that was shut down because screaming girls (myself included) rushed the stage and basically started a riot. And for the record, we were all chanting “Dylan”—not “Luke.”
You can keep your Johnny Depp and Ethan Hawke. As far as many of us are concerned, the ’90s were defined by Luke’s portrayal of Dylan McKay as the misunderstood bad boy and intellectual and caring boyfriend.
Here, 11 reasons why Dylan was everything we wanted in a man back then. And OK, maybe also today. (Though, let’s just be clear: We’re not counting the college years when he married the Noxema girl whose dad was a mobster or got his money stolen from those con artists or slept with Kelly Kapowski, and went on crazy, drug-induced past life regressions!)
1. That shower scene, though.
Dylan actually started out as Brandon’s intriguing new friend. They bonded while working on Brandon’s car together—and a dirty, sweaty Dylan just had to take a shower to clean up. It was kismet that Brenda walked in on him, catching a first glimpse of that surfer boy bod, solidifying his place in her heart—and ours. 4-ever.
2. He lived in the freakin’ Bel Age Hotel.
Dylan was like a bad ass Eloise! No parents, no curfew, unlimited room service, and no one thought it was really that weird. For Dylan, this was his life and for the rest of us, well, we were really borderline jealous of it!
3. He drove a motorcycle—and a Porsche!
Is there anything hotter than making out to “Losing My Religion” in a Porsche overlooking the Hollywood Hills? No, no there is not. When I was finally old enough to have a BF with a car to make out in—our scene was in a tiny Nissan Maxima overlooking a polluted lake in the suburbs. Not the same. At all.
4. He also surfed.
That wet suit and wet hair was too much for your raging, pubescent hormones.
5. He was so cultured, he really didn’t even need to go to West Bev.
During Brandon’s first ride in the Porsche, sitting on the passenger seat was Byron: The Collected Works. Dylan described Byron as “mad, bad, and dangerous to know.” I remember the goosebumps that line gave me—hell yes, Dylan was dangerous to know! And remember when Brenda went to Paris? He rattled off the top of his head everything Brenda needed to experience because he had been there done the City of Lights already. Like what high school junior is that worldly, even in Beverly Hills?
6. He didn’t pressure Brenda to do it.
There’s no denying that Brenda and Dylan were crazy in love, and while it’s unclear exactly how many girls Dylan (at 16!) had already slept with, the implication was a lot. Brenda was intimidated yet all about losing her V-card to him—eventually. And after a lot of foiled attempts, a lot of talking, and a lot of heavy petting, they finally did the deed during the Spring Dance. Sure, ultimately, it was too much for Brenda to handle (because, as legend has it, creator Darren Star & Co. were pressured to make teen sex look like a mistake). But nonetheless, Dylan was the poster boy for the patient boyfriend whose bones were worth jumping.
7. He supported Brenda through her pregnancy scare. And her breast cancer scare.
Dylan was so mature and rational and ready to do whatever he needed to support her. Nothing like what you see on 16 and Pregnant. And when it turned out that she was just late, he made the very sensible suggestion that perhaps she should go on the pill—which pissed Brenda off and caused her to storm out and even contributed to their devastating break-up later in the episode. (Which probably was the main reason “I Hate Brenda” clubs became a thing.)
8. He wasn’t afraid to cry.
Thanks to some major home life struggles, we saw Dylan shed a lot of tears throughout high school. But you really can’t blame him, and it just made his questionable upbringing all the more sexy. On his very first date with Brenda, he had a horrific fight with his father, exploded in a rage of anger, and chased a terrified Brenda down the street. And then, Dylan totally broke down in tears before passionately kissing her on the street. Ugh!
Also, who can forget years later, when he watched his dad blow up in front of his eyes! What high school senior goes through that and doesn’t cry and isn’t incredibly damaged afterwards? You had to feel for the guy.
9. He would just pick up and go to Mexico.
You know, the way some teens just pick up and head to the mall all day on a Saturday? Yeah, well, Dylan would just go to Baja. This was always NBD. Except for when Brenda lied to her parents and went with Dylan on a romantic weekend getaway and they got stuck at immigration while crossing the border back home.
10. He was super-mature (for the most part).
For instance, super early on, we learned he was in AA. Seriously, what kind of life did Dylan have before he met Brenda, Brandon, Kelly, etc. that he was drinking and partying that much? OK, the drinking part was not cool (drunk Dylan was never sexy), but the taking responsibility and bettering himself was hot as hell.
11. No, but really, those sideburns.
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