Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash, badass but troubled country rock musician
Los Angeles, January 1968
Film: Walk the Line
Release Date: November 18, 2005
Director: James Mangold
Costume Designer: Arianne Phillips
Tailor: Pam Lisenby
Columbia Exec: Your fans are church folk, Johnny. Christians. They don’t wanna hear you singing to a bunch of murderers and rapists, tryin’ to cheer ’em up.
Johnny Cash: Well, they’re not Christians, then.
The terrific 2005 biopic Walk the Line features a great scene of Cash rebooting his career as a prison performer (and reformer) when he confidently strides into Columbia Records and announces his plan to record an album live from Folsom Prison. He dudes himself up appropriately in all black and is the most self-assured as we’ve seen him throughout the film.
To honor Johnny Cash’s birthday (he would have been exactly 83 years old today), here’s a look at Joaquin Phoenix’s take on “the Man in Black”.
What’d He Wear?
Columbia Exec: And what’s with the black? He looks like he’s going to a funeral!
Johnny Cash: Maybe I am.
…although some may consider this look a bit too badass for a funeral.
Cash suits up for his meeting by donning his trademark attire, black from head to toe. His three-piece wool suit is black with very thin tonal stripe that shine under certain light.
The suit jacket is single-breasted with a fashionable late ’60s cut. The slim notch lapels glide down to the single button closure at his waist. There is a welted breast pocket and the flapped hip pockets, including the right side ticket pocket, slant backwards.
His suit jacket has roped sleeveheads, 1-button cuffs, and long double rear vents. The lining is only briefly seen when he is putting on his jacket, but it is a very bright red silk that contrasts heavily with the rest of the outfit.
The suit has a matching waistcoat, although not much is seen of it as the low-fastening garment is mostly covered when he wears the jacket buttoned. It has slim notch lapels like the jacket. The same bright red silk lining on the inside of the jacket also adorns the back of the vest.
Cash’s flat front suit trousers have plain-hemmed bottoms with a very short break over his feet. His shoes are a very mod pair of black calf leather plain-toe loafers. They are very simple with no perforations, cap toes, side gussets, etc. Naturally, he wears a pair of black dress socks. This is no time for a “hint of color”.
I’ve found an affordable pair of similar loafers from Cole Haan; the Copley 2 Gore Loafer in black leather is currently offered from Jos. A. Bank’s site for only $148 if you’re looking for a reasonable pair. They also come in brown leather, but what color do you think Johnny would pick?
While he wears a white shirt for the eventual Folsom Prison performance, he wears a black silk shirt here. Like the suit, it has a thin tonal stripe, although this stripe is spaced further apart than on the suit. The shirt has a large collar, which he wears open, and no front placket. The shirt’s French cuffs are fastened by silver square links. Naturally, each link has a large black raised square in the center.
To maintain his aloof appearance (and perhaps battle his withdrawal), Cash keeps his sunglasses on throughout nearly the entire scene. They are a pair of black acetate wayfarers with dark green lenses, likely a classic pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarers before they started placing the logo on the temples and lenses.
June Carter: You wear black ’cause you can’t find anything else to wear? You found your sound ’cause you can’t play no better? You just tried to kiss me because “it just happened?” You should try take credit for something every once in a while, John.
How to Get the Look
They didn’t call him the “Man in Black” for no reason.
- Black wool tonal-striped three-piece suit, consisting of:
- Single-breasted jacket with slim notch lapels, 1-button front, welted breast pocket, slanted flapped hip pockets, slanted right ticket pocket, 1-button cuffs, and long double rear vents
- Low-fastening single-breasted waistcoat with slim notch lapels
- Flat front trousers with plain-hemmed bottoms
- Black silk tonal-striped shirt with large collar, no placket, and double/French cuffs
- Silver square cuff links with raised black centers
- Black calf leather plain-toe loafers
- Black dress socks
- Black acetate wayfarer-style sunglasses
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Buy the movie and, for cryin’ out loud, listen to Johnny Cash!
If you’re ever in the Pittsburgh area, friends of mine host Johnny Cash Day at the Elks Club on the North Side every September. More information is available on their Facebook page, but I can personally say that it’s an incredible event that celebrates his life, music, and style… plus there’s cheap beer and awesome bands. Even if you’re not in Pittsburgh, you should come to Johnny Cash Day.
January 13. I’ll be at Folsom Prison with June and the boys. You listen to the tapes. You don’t like ’em… you can toss ’em.