James Dean as Jim Stark, confused suburban high school student and loner
Los Angeles, Easter 1956
Film: Rebel Without a Cause
Release Date: October 27, 1955
Director: Nicholas Ray
Costume Designer: Moss Mabry
Other than The Passion of the Christ and those of its ilk, few are able to name a film that takes place around Easter. Little realize that Rebel Without a Cause actually begins with James Dean’s drunken loner Jim Stark drunkenly making his way down a suburban street on Easter Sunday evening.
Rebel Without a Cause is groundbreaking in many ways. The story thrusted the issue of suburban moral decay into the faces of deniers that refused to believe their “safe” post-war communities were anything but pleasant. The film also marked the first and last top billing for James Dean, who would die in a fatal car accident less than a month before its release, a sad reflection of an incident portrayed in the movie.
What’d He Wear?
Disgusted by his parents, Jim sets out in the dark brown flannel suit he had evidently worn for the Stark family Easter celebration, eventually finding himself face-to-face with the pavement and a stuffed monkey. Rightly accused of “plain drunkenness”, he is hauled into the local police station’s Juvenile Division where he sprawls out over a chair.
His suit coat, which doesn’t stay on for very long, is very typical of the early-mid ’50s style with its single-breasted front, slim notch lapels, and single rear vent. The front is 2-button and there are three buttons on each cuff.
Jim’s trousers have a high rise with belt loops, on-seam side pockets, and cuffed bottoms with high turn-ups. Since they’re dark anyway and not often seen, I have to assume that they are pleated like his other trousers in the movie.
Jim wears an ecru lightweight cotton shirt which buttons down a plain front with no placket. The large point collar has permanent stays, and the right collar point remains flipped up throughout the duration of the scene; not as a style mark but as a reflection of his drunken state.
The shirt also has a breast pocket and barrel cuffs that close on a single button. After he removes his jacket, the shirt’s large fit can be seen billowing out over the top of his trousers.
Jim wears a brown wool knit tie a few shades lighter than his suit. The tie is straight, unwavering in width from the knot down to the flat bottom. A small gold tie pin fastens it into place halfway down his torso.
Like his clothing, all of Jim’s accessories are brown. His thin leather belt is light brown with wide notches and a wide rectangular gold buckle. He also wears brown leather shoes, although they are darker brown split-toe loafers with brown striped dress socks.
Jim wears a gold-cased wristwatch with a black dial on a black leather strap. He appears to wear the same watch when he goes to school, but he changes into a different stainless watch on a similar black strap when he dresses more casually.
Jim wears a gold-cased wristwatch with a black dial on a black leather strap, possibly Dean’s own 18-karat LeCoultre that he had purchased earlier in 1955 to celebrate his growing success (as sourced from Crown & Caliber and Timezone.) Throughout Rebel Without a Cause, he would alternative this watch with a less expensive stainless-cased Westclox timepiece worn with his casual attire.
When we next see Jim, he is adjusting to life at his new school and dresses in a similar outfit consisting of a brown fleck sport coat, contrasting brown trousers, and a brown silk tie with the same ecru shirt, brown belt, and brown loafers. The iconic red windbreaker that so many associate with Rebel Without a Cause doesn’t show up until much later.
Go Big or Go Home
Although the Library of Congress entered it into the National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant” in 1990, it wasn’t until 2003 when Rebel Without a Cause really made a significant impact on the future of film when eccentric, shady, and vaguely European millionaire Tommy Wiseau created The Room, his magnum opus and widely regarded to be the worst film ever made.
Rebel Without a Cause fans remember the scene where Jim, sitting in the police station, finally breaks down to his parents and screams, “You’re tearing me apart!” It’s a fine showcase of Dean’s acting ability, and a sad reminder of the career he could’ve had if he didn’t slam his Porsche 550 into an old Ford in September 1955. While Dean’s delivery is perfect, it isn’t until Wiseau “borrowed” the line for The Room that we can truly appreciate its impact when in the hands of a capable actor like James Dean… and a not-so-capable anything like Tommy Wiseau.
How to Get the Look
While not the look most associated with either James Dean or Rebel Without a Cause, Jim Stark’s brown Easter suit is significant.
- Dark brown flannel suit, consisting of:
- Single-breasted jacket with notch lapels, 2-button front, 3-button cuffs, and single rear vent
- High rise pleated trousers with belt loops, on-seam side pockets, and cuffed bottoms
- Ecru cotton shirt with large point collar, plain front, breast pocket, and 1-button cuffs
- Brown wool knit tie
- Gold tie pin
- Light brown thin leather belt with wide notches and wide gold buckle
- Brown leather split-toe loafers
- Brown striped dress socks
- Gold wristwatch with a round black dial on a black leather strap
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie, and have a Happy Easter!
Please, lock me up. I’m gonna hit somebody, and I don’t want to…