Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby, eagerly romantic millionaire and bootlegger
Long Island, NY, Summer 1922
Film: The Great Gatsby
Release Date: May 10, 2013
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Costume Designer: Catherine Martin
Today in 1920, Prohibition went into effect, kicking off a decade-long party known to many as the “roaring twenties” and most famously coined “the Jazz Age” by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald would have certainly been the expert, having written the novel that defined the decade and, by extension, the entire country. That novel, The Great Gatsby, didn’t have much success at the time, and Fitzgerald himself considered his masterpiece to be a flop at the time of his death in 1940.
However, the book has been ubiquitous in both high school English classrooms and movie theaters since then, with film adaptations released every few years (1926, 1949, 1974, 2000, 2013) as well as looser adaptations of the main story such as a hip hop film (2000’s G), an operatic treatment, and even the second season of the Showtime series Californication, placing protagonist Hank Moody in the Nick Carraway role.
The most recent adaptation was released last May with imaginative Australian auteur Baz Luhrmann at the helm. Many, including myself, were worried about the Bollywood look of the trailers and the rap-infused soundtrack. I was very pleasantly surprised when I saw the film, with stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, and Tobey Maguire all delivering solid performances. In terms of a straight retelling of the story, the 1974 version starring Robert Redford will always be the most definitive, but the newest may be the most entertaining version.
About halfway through, loyal – if somewhat unreliable – narrator Nick helps reunite Gatsby with the love of his life, Nick’s cousin Daisy. The two have an awkward reconnection – funnier than the slightly corny reunion in Jack Clayton’s 1974 film – and soon set off to explore Gatsby’s massive estate. Still insecure, Gatsby insists that Nick comes along, allowing plenty of opportunities for Tobey Maguire to awkwardly chuckle.
What’d He Wear?
DiCaprio sports a very universally fashionable look for this sequence, which looks just as cool in 2014 as it would have in 1922. In the 1974 film, Redford’s Gatsby kept on his white three-piece suit for this whole scene, but DiCaprio’s sportier Gatsby seizes the opportunity to throw on a much more casual pullover sweater and slacks. This makes sense as the gang engages in plenty of summer fun including golfing, boating, and photo sessions. Also, since Gatsby gets rained on in his white suit, he would probably want to change out of it as soon as possible.
He wears a very comfortable-looking beige crew neck sweater. It is very soft – likely cashmere – and has wide tonal horizontal stripes. The cuffs are ribbed, but Gatsby wears the sleeves rolled up to his elbow anyway.
Of course, if you want a Gatsby-esque sweater, you could always go the completely literal route and pick up this little number. If you live in Brooklyn, I expect to see you wearing this in that overpriced corner bar while you nurse a PBR and discuss the relative merits of Bon Iver. (And by “expect to see you”, I mean I would avoid you.)
Gatsby wears a pair of equally comfortable cream-colored linen trousers. They are lightweight with a generous fit. Baggy trousers like these were a common casual style for men during this era, which suffered from exaggeration at its height – as all fads do – with the brief popularity of “Oxford bags“.
Gatsby’s trousers are flat front with frogmouth front pockets and rear pockets that button on a large pointed flap. The bottoms are plain-hemmed with a short break.
Gatsby continues the light earth tones through down to his feet, where he wears a pair of cream-colored leather laced shoes with brown rubber soles. Light brown ribbed dress socks carry the leg line from the pants into the shoes.
Gatsby wears a large silver ring on his right pinky. At first glance, the face of Gatsby’s ring appears to just be a plain black rectangular stone, perhaps onyx. A closer look reveals a teal center with intensity that varies in different light. Almost definitely intentional, the teal evokes the image of the green light on the end of Daisy’s dock.
Redford’s Gatsby had also worn a ring on his right hand, but it was the plain silver ring that Redford wore in nearly all of his films, so that was more likely an actor’s choice than a costumer’s choice.
Gatsby wears a wristwatch through the film with a stainless rectangular case and a white face with a sub-dial on a stainless steel bracelet. Some have speculated this watch to be a modern Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso. Modern or not, the Reverso is one of many anachronisms in Luhrmann’s adaptation as it was introduced in 1931, nearly ten years after the film is set. Still, it is a classy and fashion-forward look for Gatsby and a wristwatch would make sense for a young millionaire who had served in World War I.
Go Big or Go Home
To my delight, the whole scene was played much more for laughs (as was the whole film) than in any adaptation we’ve seen before. These weren’t cheap laughs we were getting, but legitimately fun ’20s-y laughs that gave the audience an occasional wink; Baz and Co. know this was done before, so why not make this one stand out?
For example, when Daisy suddenly begins sobbing as Gatsby giddily tosses his shirts around the room, her proclamation about the “beautiful shirts” comes off as a very convincing and genuine cover for an otherwise embarrassing moment. More power to Carey Mulligan here for not going the Mia Farrow route and declaring genuine admiration for the shirts to the point of tears.
Everything about the scene is more fun, in fact, from the gang actually dancing to the music to their aquatic adventures, Kramer-ishly knocking golf balls into the water. They even have cocktails! There was champagne in the ’74 version, but Baz’s crew embraces the ’20s innovation of mixology as Gatsby, Nick, and Daisy partake in orange juice-based drinks like the Mimosa or the Bronx.
What to Imbibe
Well, obviously Mimosas and Bronx cocktails. Since Mimosas are both obvious and everywhere, let’s talk about the Bronx, a very 1920s cocktail that F. Scott actually featured in the hands of Anthony Patch and his cohorts in The Beautiful and Damned.
In the film, Gatsby opts for a Mimosa, but he serves Nick an orange-looking drink in a martini glass that is most likely supposed to be a Bronx. Despite its ubiquity in the era, called the #3 most popular cocktail in 1934’s volume Burke’s Complete Cocktail & Drinking Recipes and even warranting a mention in The Thin Man that same year, the Bronx is hardly known today and certainly isn’t as popular in books or film as the Martini or the Manhattan.
The Bronx cocktail is basically a Perfect Martini with orange juice added, making it the ideal breakfast cocktail if you’ve got a sweet tooth. (If you have a salt tooth, the obvious choice would be a Bloody Mary.) The origins of the drink are disputed, but it was definitely invented sometime in the first decade of the 20th century, and it definitely wasn’t invented in the Bronx. The two theories are:
- Created by bartender Johnnie Solon at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan
- Created by Bronx-born restauranteur Joseph Sormani in Philadelphia around 1905
Given that Solon’s introduction of the drink has a more defined story, and that Sormani is said to have merely “discovered” the drink, I tend to believe that Solon created the drink, based on a story told me the Waldorf-Astoria historian Albert Stevens Crockett. Solon supposedly rose to the challenge of a customer and a waiter to create a new drink by introducing gin to the Duplex, a fairly popular vermouth-heavy cocktail.
The Bronx became a sensation and – when made correctly – can still be an enjoyable pre-dinner (or breakfast) cocktail. It is sweet and flavorful without being overly sticky like so many inferior Sex and the City-inspired chocoberrysyrupfruit-tinis that litter the menus of our world’s lesser restaurants.
Gary Regan and Mardee Haidin Regan, on their Amazon guide to drinking, describe the drink as:
Gin is the base ingredient, orange juice is the mixer, and sweet and dry vermouths are added almost as an afterthought.
While this is certainly inaccurate, I could never let you use only that as your guide to mixing such a delicious drink. The IBA, which knows a thing or two about mixology, prescribes the following:
Pour six parts of gin – Gordon’s if you follow Solon’s original recipe – into an ice-filled cocktail shaker, followed by three parts orange juice, three parts sweet red vermouth, and two parts dry vermouth. It’s important to have slightly more sweet vermouth than dry; this is, after all, a fruit-based cocktail. Shake the concoction well – to two-step time, as Nick Charles would suggest – and strain into a chilled martini glass. If you’ve got time, garnish it with an orange twist.
NB: Make sure you keep your vermouth refrigerated. Vermouth has a much shorter shelf life than the other items on your bar, and it will taste a bit off if you don’t refrigerate it. Of course, if you’re making a Martini the way Noel Coward, Winston Churchill, and I make them, you’re using barely a drop of vermouth that will not influence the drink too heavily. But with a vermouth-driven drink like the Bronx, you do not want 35% of the composition of your drink tasting “a bit off”. If you have some vermouth sitting out right now, and you don’t remember when you bought it, toss it out. Even if it’s a step up like Noilly Prat, you’ve wasted it. Luckily for us, vermouth is cheap. Go buy yourself new bottles of dry and sweet today. Since you want to refrigerate both before you forget, crack ’em both open and make yourself a Bronx tonight. If you hate it, chug it and just use the gin and vermouth for a classic Martini to cleanse your palate and make you a more interesting person.
How to Get the Look
This is one of the few combinations that you can wear in both 1922 and 2014 and look stylish. It’s a refreshing look for summer that will keep you feeling cool and comfortable while on the water or romancing some other guy’s wife.
- Beige cashmere crew neck sweater with wide horizontal tonal stripes and ribbed cuffs
- Cream-colored flat front linen casual trousers with frogmouth side pockets, button-flapped rear pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Cream-colored leather lace-up shoes with brown hard rubber soles
- Light brown ribbed socks
- Stainless wristwatch with a rectangular white face and single sub-dial
- Some have suggested that Leo is wearing a Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso here, which may be anachronistic, but it is stylish
- Large silver pinky ring with a rectangular onyx stone accented with a teal-colored center
Do Yourself a Favor and…
I knew it was a great mistake for a man like me to fall in love…