Vintage Hank Moody in NYC: The “In Utero” Flashback on Californication

David Duchovny and Natascha McElhone in New York City while filming

David Duchovny and Natascha McElhone in New York City while filming “In Utero”, the tenth episode of Californication‘s second season.

Vitals

David Duchovny as Hank Moody, aspiring novelist

New York City, April 1994

Series: Californication
Episode: “In Utero” (Episode 2.10)
Air Date: November 30, 2008
Director: David Von Ancken
Costume Designer: Peggy A. Schnitzer

Background

“In Utero” (2.10) is often cited as a favorite episode among Californication fans. It serves as an origins episode for Hank and Karen, popular in this era of reboots including Batman Begins and Casino Royale. Here, we see Hank as a young, struggling writer, having just met – and subsequently knocked up – Karen. The two are anything but ready for an unexpected pregnancy, as they’re both middling in their respective careers and dating other people. Adding to the couple’s problems, news has just broken that Kurt Cobain committed suicide, thus dating the episode’s setting to April 8, 1994.

Of course, the baby in question turns out to be Becca, the center of Hank’s life as we know it. Given that this is the artistic center of New York City in 1994, Hank and Karen are both younger, grungier versions of themselves. Hank hasn’t established his black shirt and jeans uniform, and Karen is much less mainstream than her 2000s-era self.

What’d He Wear?

While not as grunge-defining as Cobain himself, Hank’s 1994 look makes sense in context.

As always, Hank’s staple is a pair of jeans, although these are a lighter wash and baggier than we’re used to seeing. Luckily, they avoid the acid-washed trend of the era, although they are very distressed with frayed edges, a rip or tear here and there, and a faded seat area. They fasten with a button fly. All buttons and studs are silver in color.

Hank's jeans

Hank’s jeans

For the first and last time in the show’s timeline, Hank wears a belt with his jeans. Naturally, it’s not a traditional leather belt, but is a black canvas belt with a red accent repeating around the belt. I can’t tell exactly what pattern the red shape is, but it looks like it could be a golfer, a horse, or a lobster, so some further look may be required. The belt is worn through a silver-colored loop in the front.

Any idea what's on his belt?

Any idea what’s on his belt?

Hank’s boxers are also more in line with the flannel trend of early ’90s grunge. They are a dark red steward plaid in what looks like a lightweight flannel.

Even Hank’s boots are different. While he would eventually develop a taste for slip-on Chelsea boots, he wears desert boots here with heavy black rubber soles. They are also brown suede, but in a darker tone than the boots we’ve come to expect. We don’t see much of these boots in the episode, but the photo at the top of this post proves that they are a different pair than the Timberland Chelsea boots.

Naturally, Hank sports an array of t-shirts. His standard in these New York scenes is a charcoal short-sleeve t-shirt in his apartment and a dark olive green short-sleeve shirt on the street.

Hank's charcoal shirt in his apartment isn't unlike some of the t-shirts he would sport in the more recent scenes on the show.

Hank’s charcoal shirt in his apartment isn’t unlike some of the t-shirts he would sport in the more recent scenes on the show.

Once things are good with Karen, he graduates to lighter t-shirts, like a light gray or light blue, sometimes topped with a very light blue chambray button-down with button-fastened patch pockets.

While not as fashionable as his later black t-shirts, Hank looks just as home in these rumpled shirts.

While not as fashionable as his later black t-shirts, Hank looks just as home in these rumpled shirts.

The biggest difference, as all the other stuff is negligible, is Hank’s accessories. No ring or leather wrist straps, just a hat. A black short-brimmed pork pie hat, to be specific, more “Popeye” Doyle than Heisenberg. Being part of the subculture, Hank would certainly utilize the hat that’d been associated with anti-authoritarians dating back to “rude boy” culture in 1960s Jamaica through De Niro’s early turn in Mean Streets. According to Wikipedia:

The porkpie is the mark of the determined hipster, the kind of cat you might see hanging around a jazz club or a pool hall, maybe wearing a button-front leather jacket and pointy shoes. It’s a Tom Waits, Johnny Thunderbird kind of hat. It has a narrower brim than a Fedora and a flat top with a circular indent. Usually the brim is worn up. It is often worn with a goatee, soul patch, and/or toothpick.

Hank channels The French Connection on the streets of New York.

Hank channels The French Connection on the streets of New York.

Indeed, Hank does have a faded goatee in these scenes and wears the brim up with a feather stuck in the left side of the band. The hat shows a major difference between 1994 Hank and 2007 Hank. Back then, he was trying to be somebody with a look that wasn’t true to him. Once he and Karen are together, he becomes happy and comfortable with who he is and ditches the hat, instead sporting a pair of black-lensed Oliver Peoples sunglasses that appear to be David Duchovny’s personal pair.

Hank and Karen in New York as Duchovny wears his personal pair of OPs. Note that there's now a braided leather bracelet on his wrist, very similar to the one he wears through the rest of the show. Does it signify some sort of unbreakable tie with Karen? Just a guess.

Hank and Karen in New York as Duchovny wears his personal pair of OPs.
Note that there’s now a braided leather bracelet on his wrist, very similar to the one he wears through the rest of the show. Does it signify some sort of unbreakable tie with Karen? Just a guess.

Unlike the button-front leather jacket stated in the quote above, Hank opts for a warmer canvas jacket. It’s April in New York, which can be anywhere from winter to summer climates. This is the only time we see Hank in such a heavy coat as he spends the rest of his time in southern California, where it’s obviously warmer.

Hank where he belongs.

Hank where he belongs.

Hank’s coat is a black canvas jacket that zips and/or buttons down the front with a silver zipper and five black buttons, respectively. Hank, however, wears it open. The jacket has many flaps and zips all over the place, with a button-down epaulette on each shoulder, held down by a thin stationery flap. There are also large flapped hip pockets and button-tab cuffs. Interestingly, the hat and the coat are the only parts of Hank’s major attire that are black.

Go Big or Go Home

This was the era of grunge bands like Nirvana, which the show doesn’t let you easily forget. In fact, the episode’s title is Nirvana’s third and final album (for those of you who didn’t already know), a great album which lent the song “Heart-Shaped Box” to this episode’s soundtrack.

Pearl Jam also makes an appearance, with “Nothingman” playing over the end of the episode as Hank and Karen grow together in New York.

One of the reasons people love this episode so much, despite its lack of both California and on-screen fornication, is seeing the origins of the genuine love between Hank and Karen. He’s a struggling writer and she’s a music groupie, both far from the eventual success they would find across the country. Hank even notes, “We get along really well for a couple of virtual strangers.”

And for anyone on brand alert, Hank’s studio is filled with booze: Absolut, Ketel One (kept by the bed), Bombay Sapphire (surprisingly nice for a struggling artist), and – of course – his whiskey, including Jameson, Chivas Regal, and a re-labelled bottle of what appears to have once been Johnnie Walker Red Label.

How to Get the Look

Since this is a flashback to the ’90s – a decade I wouldn’t put in the fashion hall of fame – take Heisenberg’s advice and “tread lightly.”hank210f-crop1

  • Dark green lightweight crew neck short-sleeve t-shirt
  • Light blue wash distressed denim jeans
  • Black canvas belt with a red repeating pattern, fastened through a silver loop
  • Black canvas zip-up jacket with a 5-button front, 1-button standing collar, button-down epaulettes, large flapped hip pockets, and 1-button tab cuffs
  • Dark brown suede desert boots with heavy black rubber soles
  • Black short-brimmed pork pie hat
  • Dark red Stewart plaid boxers

Do Yourself A Favor And…

Buy the second season.

The Quote

Hank pens a letter to Karen when he worries that she’ll be walking out of his life. She reads it on the sly and, when she sees he works up the courage to actually mail it, she decides he may be worth something.

Dear Karen,

If you’re reading this, it means I actually worked up the courage to mail it, so good for me. You don’t know me very well but if you get me started, I have a tendency to go on and on about how hard the writing is for me. This, this is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to write. There’s no easy way to say this so I’ll just say it. I met someone. It was an accident, I wasn’t looking for it, I wasn’t on the make. It was a perfect storm. She said one thing, I said another. Next thing I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life in the middle of that conversation. Now there’s this feeling in my gut: she might be The One. She’s completely nuts in a way that makes me smile, highly neurotic, a great deal of maintenance required. She is you, Karen. That’s the good news. The bad is that I don’t know how to be with you right now. And it scares the shit out of me. Because if I’m not with you right now, I have this feeling we’ll get lost out there. It’s a big, bad world full of twists and turns and people have a way of blinking and missing the moment, the moment that could have changed everything. I don’t know what’s going on with us, and I can’t tell you why you should waste a leap of faith on the likes of me. But damn you smell good. Like home. And you make excellent coffee… that’s got to count for something, right? Call me.

Unfaithfully yours,

Hank Moody

2 comments

  1. Pingback: Californication – Hank Moody on a Plane (Season 1) | BAMF Style
  2. Pingback: Californication vs. Kalifornia – Hank Moody and Brian Kessler | BAMF Style

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