Sacha Baron Cohen as Борат Сагдиев (Borat Sagdiyev), oblivious, bigoted, and hapless “Kazakh” TV journalist
New York City to Hollywood, Spring 2005
Film: Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Release Date: August 4, 2006
Director: Larry Charles
Costume Designer: Jason Alper
Fewer people are more willing to look foolish in public than Sacha Baron Cohen, so it’s a very fitting tribute that he should follow Will Ferrell for BAMF Style’s annual April Fool’s Day post.
Baron Cohen had long been popular in England and among HBO viewers for his characters of wannabe gangsta Ali G, flamboyant and judgmental Austrian fashionista Brüno, and the pleasantly racist Kazakh TV journalist Borat Sagdiyev. Almost ten years after first introducing a version of Borat on England’s F2F, Borat (or Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan to be more accurate) hit American theaters by storm.
Below the obvious gross-out humor (ugh… hotel fight…), Borat presented an ugly side of America in a strongly satirical light. It’s easy to laugh at the oblivious reporter for blatantly stupid racist opinions, but it becomes harder to laugh when Americans willingly share his ignorance. While some people were antagonized for the sake of comedy, many – a car dealer, a gun shop owner, and a trailer full of frat guys come to mind – showcased their own prejudices. Although it led to a litany of legal issues against the movie, these scenes are important because they force the viewer to realize that only one of the racists on screen is an actor.
What’d He Wear?
From Da Ali G Show through the feature film Borat in 2006 – and most of its promotion – Sacha Baron Cohen dressed his alternate Kazahk persona in an ill-fitting, unfashionable gray suit with a striped shirt and gold tie. According to Baron Cohen, and doubtlessly confirmed by those around him during filming, the suit went unwashed for the duration of filming:
The smell is an added thing for people to believe that I’m from a country where hygiene wasn’t a necessity.
Borat’s cheap black not suit is a light stone gray with a white fleck pattern, possibly wool but a cheaper wool and polyester blend would also be in character.
The suit’s fit is very large on the already slim-framed Baron Cohen. The single-breasted jacket hangs baggily on his frame. The large notch lapels, low 2-button stance, and ventless rear indicate that it was likely made sometime in the late ’80s or early ’90s, when such a look was fashionable. In fact, the suit is very similar to the darker gray suit worn by Christian Bale in American Psycho, set in 1988. It makes sense that, in Borat’s slower part of the world, everyone dresses like it’s 1988.
The jacket has a welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, and 3-button cuffs that match the brown plastic buttons on the front. Roping is present on the sleeveheads.
For his trip to America, Borat wears two pins – one on each lapel. The right lapel carries his customary gold pin which appears to be a gold animal on a black enamel background under a narrow red enamel banner. The left lapel pin is more obvious, consisting of an American flag crossing the blue Kazakh flag.
The trousers are another opportunity for the suit to show its age and its poor fit. The already-baggy trousers have a low rise that increases the bagginess. The double-reverse pleated trousers have slanted side pockets, a jetted right rear buttoning pocket, and an extended front tab that closes on a single button. The bottoms are finished with one-inch turn-ups (cuffs).
Borat holds up his pants poorly with a cheap black leather belt that hooks through a brass buckle.
Borat’s shirt is another example of something you would’ve seen a dad wear in a ’90s sitcom. Constructed of lightweight cotton, it is a series of thick green stripes in shades of forest and olive. Each olive stripe has a thin orange stripe to its right and an equally thin maroon stripe to its right.
The shirt has black plastic buttons down the plain, placket-less front. The spread collar has short points, and the rounded barrel cuffs close on a single button.
Borat wears a narrow tie in “old gold” polyester with a self-colored paisley pattern.
Since Borat is the last person we’d expect to follow the belt/shoes matching rule, it’s not unexpected to see his brown woven leather four-eyelet split-toe derby shoes. The shoes are very well-worn, even before his adventure that has him trekking across America.
Borat wears a pair of very thin tan self-striped socks.
Because this blog tries to be as thorough as possible, it saddens me to tell you that we need to discuss Borat’s choice of undergarments. His undershirt is a white sleeveless mesh shirt… perfectly matched by his large mesh briefs. Thankfully, his “chrum” and “testes” are better covered by a solid piece of white fabric.
Borat isn’t one to shy away from accessorizing. He constantly wears a black cord around his neck with a brown pendant. On the third finger of his right hand is a thick gold ring with a shield etched into the surface.
Borat wears a cheap black wristwatch with a gold-colored crown on a black strap. The round white dial is embellished by some sort of blue cartoon figure.
If anyone can identify the image on the dial – or better yet, the watch itself – you’ll earn special BAMF Style Points (which don’t really exist!)
Borat’s pajamas, which you’ve seen much of in the last few screencaps, consist of a long-sleeve v-neck t-shirt with a red and white box pattern. The red trim on the collar, ribbed cuffs, and pocket top match the red sweatpants.
For special occasions like a society dinner or a Pamela Anderson book signing, Borat ditches his unwashed suit and opts for a similarly-styled dark brown suit and a bright red satin bow tie. The only notable difference in the suits are that the brown suit coat has 4-button cuffs as opposed to the gray suit’s 3-button cuffs. The brown suit coat also lacks any lapel buttonholes, and the gray suit coat has a buttonhole on the left lapel.
Although that isn’t the full extent of Borat’s attire, I’m not even going to address the green mankini bathing suit. The underwear was bad enough.
Go Big or Go Home
While none of Borat’s actions, attitudes, or prejudices are worthy of imitating, Sacha Baron Cohen’s dedication to the role and using it to expose hypocrisy is far more admirable than many gave the film credit for. Police activity is usually unwelcome on film sets, but – according to IMDB – the police were called at least 92 times during the production of Borat.
The movie was also the subject of numerous legal issues after its release from people who didn’t realize they were part of a satire. Some of the lawsuit subjects, like the underpaid Romanian villagers, had valid sentiments about their unwitting roles as incestuous, criminal Kazahks. Others, like the douchey USC frat guys, certainly deserved their international exposure as bigoted sexists.
And some of the participants of the film were even pleased to be part of it. The pleasant Mr. and Mrs. Behar, owners of the bed and breakfast from which Borat and Azamat escape after learning of their hosts’ Jewish lineage, expressed relief that the shady production inside the house turned out not to be pornography. According to Salon, the Behars believed the movie was “outstanding” and Baron Cohen himself was a “very polite… genius.”
Evidently, Baron Cohen originally based the character of Borat on an unintentionally “hilarious” Russian doctor he had met. After a few years playing Borat on HBO’s Da Ali G Show in the early 2000s, Baron Cohen turned the character into the centerpiece of a feature film. Despite fine-tuning the character on screen for nearly ten years, Baron Cohen chose not to strive for linguistic accuracy, instead adopting much of the Polish language for Borat’s dialogue, including “Jak sie masz!” (“How are you?”), “Dzien dobry” (“Good morning”), and “Dziekuje” (“Thank you”).
What to Imbibe
The most prominent brand of booze seen in Borat is a plastic flask bottle of Odesse vodka, which he whips out while learning how to drive. Odesse vodka, produced in the U.S. by the Sazerac Company, is as cheap as it looks… and it tastes as good as it costs.
How to Get the Look
The only real reason you should be dressing like Borat is for a Halloween costume. Of course, if you can think of any other reasonable reason, feel free to tell me!
- Light gray flecked polyester suit, consisting of:
- Single-breasted jacket with large notch lapels, low 2-button front, welted breast pocket, flapped hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and ventless rear
- Double reverse-pleated low rise trousers with belt loops, slanted side pockets, jetted right rear button-through pocket, and 1″ cuffs
- Green block-striped shirt with short spread collar, plain front, and rounded 1-button cuffs
- Mustard gold polyester necktie
- Black leather belt with rounded square brass single-prong buckle
- Brown woven leather 4-eyelet split-toe derby shoes
- Tan self-striped thin dress socks
- White mesh sleeveless undershirt
- White mesh briefs
- Gold crest pin with gold animal on black enamel ground under red enamel banner, worn on right lapel
- Crossed U.S. & Kazakh flag pin, worn on left lapel
- Gold ornate ring with shield-engraved face, worn on right hand’s 3rd finger
- Black analog wristwatch with blue cartoon-illustrated white dial
- Black neck cord with brown pendant
Do Yourself a Favor and…
I mention Borat’s suit as a potential Halloween costume, and now I’m putting my money where my mouth (and oversized fake mustache) is. My senior year of high school was the same year that Borat was released. I had gotten to see an advanced screening – as I was familiar already with Da Ali G Show – and took the opportunity to promote it in the halls of North Allegheny Senior High School.