Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman, bored investment banker and possible serial killer
New York City, December 1987
Film: American Psycho
Release Date: April 14, 2000
Director: Mary Harron
Costume Designer: Isis Mussenden
“Aw man, I loved this blog until you called a serial killer a BAMF!”
Sorry, guys, but…
a) It’s Halloween.
2) There’s no denying that Bateman’s style was as classy as the late ’80s could get.
c) Some people think his killings were all just in his mind anyway. (They weren’t, but still…)
American Psycho has been criticized many times by the easily-offended and overly-shocked, but the film is both the perfect dissection of an era’s materialism and a showcase for the talents of Christian Bale. Before this, Bale was probably best remembered by audiences as a child in Empire of the Sun or Newsies. In 2000, Bale’s career made a 180 when he was cast by director Mary Herron in her adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ novel American Psycho.
Wikipedia describes the film as “satirical psychological thriller black comedy film”, which it undoubtedly is. When asked once why he’s never been in a comedy, Bale responded that he thought American Psycho was pretty funny. And it is! There are shocking scenes of horror, always undercut by humor and irony. Yes, Patrick Bateman is a monster, but is he also just a product of the materialistic times?
What’d He Wear?
After a few scenes of teasing, the turning point for the viewer is bearing direct witness to Bateman committing one of his atrocious crimes. Up until this point, it has just been hinted with mysterious stains, locks of hair, and a distant attack.
As “Marcus Halberstram”, a convenient alias of wrong association, Bateman strolls into Texarkana, a “cheap” Mexican restaurant in Manhattan, to meet Paul Allen. Bateman wears a dark charcoal flannel double-breasted suit with widely spaced white pinstripes. The suit has a very large ’80s-style fit, roomy throughout the jacket and baggy down the legs. We know that he often wears Cerruti clothing in the film, but Cerruti refused to allow their clothing to be worn in any scenes of Bateman’s kills, so this is obviously not their work.
The jacket, as per usual for double-breasted coats, has peak lapels. These lapels, however, are very wide and resemble those that came into fashion during the 1940s. The button closes with two buttons on the six-button front. There is a breast pocket and hip pockets. The slightly padded shoulders give the jacket additional heft.
We don’t see much of the trousers, but they have cuffed bottoms with a full break. If they are like his other trousers in the film’s suits, they have single pleats.
The contrast collar shirt is a very ’80s touch. Most famously worn by Gordon Gekko and a staple of the jerky ’80s businessman, the contrast collar shirt is exactly what it sounds like. Typically in blue, as Bateman’s is, the shirt is paired with a contrasting set of collars, usually white. Occasionally, the cuffs were also contrast. In this case, Bateman’s cuffs are the same blue as the rest of his shirt. The collar here is also white and fashionable for the ’80s with its wide spread and narrow size. The double cuffs are fastened with large round gold links.
Bateman wears a light red patterned necktie with small blue scratches intersecting small yellow scratches.
Interestingly, he later wears this same suit when meeting with the detective played by Willem Dafoe over lunch. For this occasion, he wears a different shirt with thin white and dark blue stripes. The tie is also slightly different, as commenter Roman pointed out, in maroon with dark circles separated by golden dots. I had initially wrongly identified the tie as being the same, but Roman helpfully noted the differences for me.
Since this is the ’80s, Bateman wears suspenders whenever possible. In this case, he wears a pair of vibrant blue suspenders broken up by a small off-white pattern. He will wear these suspenders with other outfits in the film as well. All of his trousers seem to have buttons on the inside of the waistline to attach braces, giving them a cleaner look when the jacket is removed.
Bateman’s shoes are black patent leather perforated cap-toe balmorals, shined to a mirror-like finish. These are naturally paired with a pair of black dress socks, barely seen beneath the full break of the trousers.
The expensive mixed metal watch on Bateman’s left wrist is a Rolex Datejust. The filmmakers notably wanted a Rolex for the production to use the book’s line “Don’t touch the Rolex,” but the Rolex people were naturally not supportive of the association.
When Bateman ventures out into the December cold, he adds a great but sinister-looking (likely due to the situation) black soft wool overcoat with notch lapels. It is single-breasted with a 3-button front, 3-button cuffs, a welted breast pocket, and jetted hip pockets. The long rear single vent blows behind him as he struts around corners, resembling a villainous cape. He pairs the overcoat with a pair of black leather gloves.
Of course, this isn’t the only topcoat Bateman wears with the suit.
“Is that a raincoat?”
Bateman’s initial choice of outerwear in this scene is a slightly less practical translucent snap-closing raincoat with large pockets on each hip that also close with a snapped flap. Bateman, who is usually so fastidious about his clothes, manages to get blood all over his! I know it was meant to get wet, but let’s hope you can be a little more responsible with your raincoat. Also, let’s hope you don’t have any axe murders in your future.
Go Big or Go Home
Branding is a very essential part of the universe built by Bret Easton Ellis in both American Psycho and its cinematic adaptation. Bateman makes it very clear what brands he wears, drinks, and uses. Upon his arrival for dinner at Texarkana, he orders “J&B, straight.” After enjoying the “outrageous” mud soup and charcoal arugula, Bateman joins the drunken Paul Allen in a Corona, soaking in the Mexican atmosphere. It would be very important for these image-driven men to be seen drinking an obviously Mexican beer (but not too authentically Mexican) when at a Mexican restaurant.
When he gets back, Bateman proudly shows off his knowledge of Huey Lewis & the News, playing “Hip to Be Square” while he prances around his apartment, adding a crescendo to his monologue by introducing an axe into the back of Allen’s head. He lights up his La Plata “50th Anniversary Dominican Selection” cigar, sitting back and listening to the rest of Fore, which he describes as the News’ “most accomplished album”.
And what kind of overnight bag does Bateman hide Allen’s corpse in? Jean-Paul Gaultier. Fuck Dexter’s Hefty bags, Bateman aims for class.
How to Get the Look
Bateman dresses every bit the part of the conservative but fashion-forward yuppie businessman:
- Charcoal pinstripe flannel suit, with:
- Double-breasted jacket with wide peak lapels, welted breast pocket, hip pockets, and a 6-button front
- Single-pleated suit trousers with cuffed bottoms
- Black soft wool single-breasted overcoat with notch lapels, 3-button front, 3-button cuffs, welted breast pocket, jetted hip pockets, and long rear single vent
- Blue dress shirt with narrow white contrast collar with a large spread, a front placket, and blue double cuffs
- Large round gold cuff links
- Light red patterned necktie with small blue scratches intersecting small yellow scratches
- Blue suspenders with a repeating white pattern
- Black leather perforated cap-toe oxfords
- Black dress socks
- White briefs (We see Bateman wearing Perry Ellis briefs during his “morning routine” and it can be assumed that this is a preferred brand for him.)
- Rolex DateJust 16013 in stainless steel and 18-karat yellow gold (with 36mm case) on two-tone “Jubilee” bracelet
- Black leather gloves
Do Yourself A Favor And…
Buy the film and develop your own theory: Is Bateman a killer or is it all in his imagination?
Do you like Huey Lewis and The News?… Their early work was a little too new wave for my tastes, but when Sports came out in ’83, I think they really came into their own, commercially and artistically. The whole album has a clear, crisp sound, and a new sheen of consummate professionalism that really gives the songs a big boost. He’s been compared to Elvis Costello, but I think Huey has a far more bitter, cynical sense of humor… In ’87, Huey released this, Fore, their most accomplished album. I think their undisputed masterpiece is “Hip to be Square”, a song so catchy, most people probably don’t listen to the lyrics. But they should, because it’s not just about the pleasures of conformity, and the importance of trends, it’s also a personal statement about the band itself.