Emile Hirsch as Clyde Barrow, amateur bank robber with “second sight”
Texas, Spring 1932
Series Title: Bonnie and Clyde
Air Date: December 8, 2013
Director: Bruce Beresford
Costume Designer: Marilyn Vance
Today would have been Clyde Barrow’s birthday. Whether it was 1909 (according to birth records) or 1910 (according to the Barrow family bible) is up for debate, but there’s no doubt that the jug-eared killer was only in his early 20s by the time he had led a group of misfits on a deadly crime spree across the Midwest and South.
Once the Depression-era crime wave – which saw guys like John Dillinger, “Pretty Boy” Floyd, and Alvin Karpis dominating daily headlines – was a distant memory, the saga of Clyde Barrow and his miniature girlfriend Bonnie Parker began to assume revisionist qualities. The manipulative hoodlum with an inferiority complex became a vulnerable young man who only packed a gun at the behest of his brassy, demanding gun moll. The “Romeo and Juliet in a getaway car” concept was too much for filmmakers to ignore and the Barrow-Parker story took on several filmed incarnations, most prominently the noir Gun Crazy in 1949, the Dorothy Provine vehicle The Bonnie Parker Story in 1958, and the now classic Bonnie and Clyde in 1967.
The latter film is most responsible for romanticizing the couple, portraying Clyde as a swaggering romantic hero who overcompensates for his vague sexual issues by setting out on a career of crime for the bored and beautiful Bonnie.
While Hollywood would never permit Bonnie Parker to be anything less than beautiful, the 2013 mini-series Bonnie and Clyde came a little closer to the truth, incorporating some more characters from their lives and showing the gang’s murderous ineptitude as criminals. Clyde is more of a born criminal, and Bonnie – though still somewhat manipulative – is shown to be more fragile and prone to delusions of grandeur, which the real Bonnie’s diaries certainly reveal.
The mini-series also offers a far more accurate depiction of the couple’s looks than the famous ’67 film. Emile Hirsch is the same 5’7″ as Clyde Barrow had been (as opposed to Warren Beatty’s stately 6’2″), and the 5’1″ Holliday Grainger is a fine choice for the cute, diminutive Bonnie who never stood taller than five feet.
While the story may have some narrative issues, and it certainly deviates from history more than a few times, the 2013 Bonnie and Clyde mini-series is certainly watchable fare for fans of the genre and especially Depression-era crime historians. (Don’t get me wrong, I love the 1967 Bonnie and Clyde film and consider among my top 10 – if not top 5.)
What’d He Wear?
Through most of his early criminal career in the film, Clyde dresses to impress Bonnie with an oversized charcoal chalkstripe three-piece wool suit. Compared to photos from the era, it’s a very accurate suit for the early ’30s and shows that costume designer Marilyn Vance was clearly doing her homework. The 1967 film incorporated contemporary fashion into its 1930s setting to make its romantic leads more appealing and relatable to 1960s audiences, but the 2013 miniseries thankfully chooses the route of historical accuracy in the costumes.
We first see Clyde’s chalkstripe suit in March 1930 when, flush with cash from a few recent heists, he escorts Bonnie out on a date to a local speakeasy, where he impresses her by whipping out his saxophone and joining the band in leading them with some raucous jazz. It’s hard to imagine the real Clyde Barrow – shy when not violently in control of a situation – doing something so extroverted, but it’s a nice nod to the historical Clyde’s preferred musical instrument.
He wears the suit through most of the gang’s early enterprises, including the famous photo session that led police to know their identities and led the public to believe that Bonnie smoked cigars. Now, let’s break down the suit itself.
The large-fitting jacket is single-breasted with notch lapels and a 3-button front, although the wide lapels roll over the top button to create a 2-button effect. The padded shoulders serve to create an even larger effect on Clyde. He has a welted breast pocket and jetted straight hip pockets. The jacket also features roped sleeveheads, 3-button cuffs, and a ventless rear.
The matching vest has six buttons that appropriately rise high on the chest, and he correctly leaves the bottom button unfastened. The vest has four welted pockets and a notched bottom.
Clyde’s trousers are one area where the large fit is most noticeable. Not only was such a baggy fit fashionable at the time, it makes sense that a budding but ultimately petty criminal like Clyde looking to impress would get an off-the-rack suit that doesn’t offer him a perfect fit. The trousers have a low rise, allowing the vest to fall above his waistline and his shirt to puff out between the two garments.
The trousers have a flat front and thin but high belt loops for Clyde’s thick leather belt. The side pockets are slanted, and the rear pockets are jetted without a button to close. The cuffed bottoms have a very full break, to the point where they may even get caught under his shoe once in a while.
Shirts and Ties
The first shirt Clyde wears with this suit is both a sign of the times and clearly part of his “dress to impress” campaign. The shirt itself is white with blue stripes of alternating thickness, and he wears it with a white detachable club collar. Despite the detached collar, his rounded button barrel cuffs are attached to the shirt. His tie for this scene (the aforementioned “saxophone” scene) is dark red with a large cream-colored fishbone pattern.
The series uses an image of Clyde in this shirt for his “DALLAS 6048” mugshot. In reality, this mugshot was taken four years earlier when Clyde was busted on a stolen car rap that may or may not have just been a rental misunderstanding exacerbated by Clyde’s impulsiveness and fear of getting into the trouble.
Detachable collars were standard for men’s dress shirts up through the early 1930s as it wasn’t until 1929 that Van Heusen popularized the attached-collar dress shirt. The timing was fortuitous as the Great Depression hit the same year, and men would not want to be dishing out extra dollars for both a shirt and a collar. Detachable collars were quickly phased out by all but the dandiest or most old-fashioned gentlemen.
Not being a dandy, an old-fashioned gentleman, or even any kind of gentleman, the rest of Clyde’s shirts all sported a slim attached point collar. Other details, such as a breast pocket, front placket, and button cuffs were also universal across Clyde’s dress shirts.
Shortly after breaking out of jail to join Bonnie – and during a chance encounter with his eventual hunter, Frank Hamer – Clyde wears a plain white dress shirt. To combat the Texas heat, Clyde removes his coat and vest and rolls up his sleeves.
The image of Clyde with his sleeves rolled up to reveal his tattoos up each arm is almost certainly inspired by a photo of the real Clyde doing the same, as found at Frank Ballinger’s excellent and thorough Texas Hideout site.
Clyde’s silk necktie with this shirt has a bright red silk ground and an abstract, art deco-style series of cream bubbles that you just have to see to understand. This shirt and tie combination was also used in most of the promotional photography for the series.
While out walking with Bonnie, Clyde wears a pale blue shirt that perfectly matches the pale blue pocket square poking out of his jacket’s breast pocket. It’s even possible that both are constructed of the same material. With this shirt, he wears a dark brown silk tie with a tan and gold “egg”-shaped motif.
During the gang’s notorious photo session, Clyde sports another striped shirt. This time, it’s a light blue shirt with red-shadowed white stripes. He wears another loud silk tie with this shirt; this one has an indigo ground and a pattern of maroon and cream swirls.
The early ’30s was clearly not a very conservative era for neckties; Pierce Brosnan’s Bond would have felt right at home.
Clyde wears two different fedoras this suit, each one indicative of his relative success at the time. His first hat is a cheaper-looking olive brown felt version with a thin olive ribbon.
As his criminal exploits become more lucrative, Clyde upgrades to a sharper gray felt fedora with a wide black ribbon that would have been equally at home atop the head of a successful businessman of the era.
For any of his sartorial faux pas, Clyde can’t be faulted for matching his belt and shoes… even if belts aren’t always the best with three-piece suits. The real Clyde favored a thick belt, though, and that is certainly reflected in the series with Hirsch’s wide black leather belt with stitched edges along the top and bottom and a large squared silver buckle. Proud of his heritage, Clyde’s belt clearly indicates the “Don’t Mess With Texas” spirit. Plus, it provides a fine stabilizer for his shoulder holster.
Clyde’s shoes are a pair of black leather cap-toe derby shoes, worn with black socks.
Given the Barrow Gang’s constant time spent in tourist courts and motels, it makes sense that Bonnie and Clyde would show us plenty of both Bonnie’s (yay!) and Clyde’s undergarments. Clyde favors a sleeveless white ribbed cotton undershirt and a pair of light blue cotton boxer shorts with a 2-button fly.
Go Big or Go Home
For all of their faults, Bonnie and Clyde certainly understood the value of a good photo. Unfortunately for them, so did the cops. It was the undeveloped rolls of film, discovered in the gang’s abandoned apartment in Joplin, Missouri after an April 1933 gunfight, that led to the couple’s positive identification… as well as their romantic followers in the newspapers. No matter how many people Clyde and his gang mowed down with BARs, the public still loved the couple for their “innocent” young love.
Despite this, Bonnie received an unwelcome reputation as Clyde’s brassy “cigar-smoking gun moll” that she took every opportunity to repudiate. After the killing of Constable Cal Campbell on April 6, 1934, the gang briefly kidnapped the local police chief, Percy Boyd. During the tense car ride, Boyd learned that the gang was less concerned with the murder of an upstanding policeman than they were with their reputation. Bonnie insisted to him that she wasn’t a cigar smoker, as “nice girls don’t smoke cigars”.
Bonnie was telling the truth, in this case, as her known smokes of choice were Camels. She had only been given the cigar by Clyde to give the photo some comical value. The mini-series correctly depicts her choice of Camels, earning it a few more points for accuracy.
But speaking of accuracy… the series did earn plenty of unwelcome shouting from car enthusiasts for replacing the Barrow Gang’s now infamous dark green 1932 Ford V-8 B-400 convertible sedan (as seen in all the authentic photos above) with a yellow “GLASSIC” replica of a ’31 Ford Model A 2-door Phaeton.
“Glassics” (or “Replicars”) were replicas of Model A Fords manufactured in Florida from 1966 to 1981. The GlassicAnnex site is a great resource for people curious about these cars. It’s understandable why a recent production, especially a relatively low-budget one, would use the newer Glassics… after all, 9 out of 10 people are going to see a 1930s-looking car with a Ford emblem and say “Hey, an old Ford!” However, swapping out such an iconic (for some of us) car during such a crucial scene is borderline heresy for crime historians.
However, anyone who has driven a Model A knows that it can be quite an ordeal for a non-expert to learn. Not only is starting the car a complicated process to those used to simply turning the ignition, but the process of driving – which includes double-clutching – can be frustrating for even someone who knows how to drive a manual transmission. My final ruling? The use of Glassics was justified in this production… but an original should have been used for this scene.
How to Get the Look
Due to constantly being on the road, it makes sense that Clyde would be wearing the same suit quite often. However, a fashion-conscious guy like him knows to switch up his shirts and ties if he wants to keep his stylish girlfriend happy.
- Charcoal chalkstripe wool three-piece suit, consisting of:
- Single-breasted jacket with wide notch lapels, 3-roll-2-button front, welted breast pocket, jetted straight hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and ventless rear
- Single-breasted 6-button vest with four welted pockets and notched bottom
- Flat front low-rise trousers with belt loops, slanted side pockets, jetted rear pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- White dress shirt with slim point collar, breast pocket, front placket, and rounded button cuffs
- Red silk necktie with deco-style abstract cream pattern
- Gray felt fedora with wide black ribbon
- Black thick leather belt with squared steel single-prong buckle
- Black leather 4-eyelet cap-toe derby shoes
- Black dress socks
- White sleeveless ribbed cotton undershirt
- Light blue cotton undershorts with 2-button fly
Although these scenes depict the start of his criminal career, Clyde doesn’t spend much gunplay in this suit. He is photographed crouching in front of his car with a pair of his BARs (Browning Automatic Rifles), as he was in real life. (All of these photos – and many, many more – can be seen at Frank Ballinger’s Bonnie & Clyde’s Hideout site.)
One famous photo, which I have framed in my home office, also shows Bonnie holding a shotgun on Clyde. The real photo showed Bonnie holding Clyde’s preferred shotgun, a semi-automatic 16-gauge Remington Model 11. The mini-series replaces the Remington with a pump-action Stevens Model 620 with a sawed-off barrel and stock.
Although not known to be favored by the Barrow Gang, the Stevens shotgun is still an accurate choice. It had been produced from 1927 to 1953 as an upgrade to the Stevens Model 520. It was indeed available in Clyde’s preferred 16-gauge, as well as an even smaller 20-gauge, but the version used in the mini-series is likely 12-gauge. A standard Model 620 can fit five shells in the tubular magazine under the barrel. The U.S. military eventually partially adopted the Model 620 for use during World War II, modifying a “trench gun” version with a perforated heat shield over the shortened barrels.
When Bonnie takes her infamous “cigar pose” photo, Clyde hands her a .38-caliber Colt Official Police revolver. Developed in 1927, the Official Police would have been accurate for the era… except the version shown in the film is the heavy-barreled variant not developed until after World War II.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Buy the series.