Ryan Gosling as Jerry Wooters, dapper LAPD detective-sergeant
Los Angeles, August 1949
Film: Gangster Squad
Release Date: January 11, 2013
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Costume Designer: Mary Zophres
Continuing BAMF Style’s recent string of neo-noir period film posts following a swaggering L.A. detective decked out in period attire, I decided to take another look at the recent movie Gangster Squad.
Described (by me) as L.A. Confidential for the video game crowd, Gangster Squad is loosely based on the true story of LAPD detectives John O’Mara and Jerry Wooters’ team that took a head-on approach to breaking Mickey Cohen’s rackets in the ’40s and ’50s. Although stylish, well-casted, and full of thrilling action pieces, Gangster Squad received some criticism for its lack of character development and condensing the multi-decade efforts of these detectives into just a few months in late 1949.
Facts were played with, narrative structure was ignored in favor of on-screen action, but the end result is still an entertaining, glossy look at the gangster-era L.A. we want to remember. Plus, I’ll never complain when a movie contains plenty of sharp vintage suits, alluring dames with dangling cigarettes, and nonstop Thompsons blasting away at each other.
Ryan Gosling plays Jerry Wooters, one of the real-life detectives assigned to the “Gangster Squad”. He is established early on as a Jack Vincennes-type, cynical about his police work, shifting his focus to getting laid and getting paid by any means necessary. This scene, set at Slapsy Maxie’s, establishes both of those end goals in the forms of Grace Faraday (Emma Stone) and Jack Whalen (Sullivan Stapleton), two of Cohen’s associates. Whalen was indeed a career criminal who worked as a mob contract killer and had actually served in the U.S. Army Air Force during WWII, but Grace was developed to give the film its needed femme fatale and give Gosling someone to hop into bed with.
What’d He Wear?
Mary Zophres has a fine reputation as a master of period costuming, accurately updating classic looks to convey both character-specific traits and modern appeal. With a resume that includes O Brother Where Art Thou?, Catch Me If You Can, No Country for Old Men, and True Grit, Zophres has transcended genres and eras to prove that she can nicely outfit a rough Westerner or a sleek ’60s con man with equal aplomb. Her inspiration for Jerry Wooters came from “classic but stylish” leading men of the era like Clark Gable and Errol Flynn, as she explained to Entertainment Weekly. Wooters is easily the most fashionable of the main cast, fitting for his personality. Josh Brolin and his character John O’Mara evidently both approach clothing with the same utilitarian view and just wear what’s needed for the job. The others are equally well-outfitted from Robert Patrick’s old-fashioned lawman wearing a throwback duster to the heavily made-up Sean Penn taking Mickey Cohen’s fashion obsession to a new level of vanity.
Zophres used vintage examples to create the men’s suits. As she told British GQ in an article from the film’s release: “If you use a real suit that has been around for 60 years that isn’t in great shape – you can’t put Ryan Gosling or Josh Brolin in a suit with holes in the pockets. So we found original suits from the time period to get the general silhouette – sometimes it was the trouser from one pant and the jacket from another – and then we would tailor it to the actors. We used Pae & Kim’s Custom Tailoring in LA, then we would duplicate it.”
Zophres continued, mentioning this suit and its specific role in Wooters’ evolution:
At one point early on, Ryan wears a three-piece double breasted. I was obsessed with that. At that point he has one foot inwith the gangsters and one foot as a cop. He is the only one of the Gangster Squad who wears double-breasted – but by the end, he’s wearing a three-piece single breasted suit. For Ryan’s sport coat, there was a couple of rolls of fabric we found in a store in LA called International Silk & Woolens. There were a couple of rolls of an old wool that was from the fifties, and we had enough for me to make six sports coats for Ryan.
The “three-piece double-breasted” suit mentioned is a sharp brown wool suit with a subtle blue pinstripe. Zophres created most of her suits with English wool, wisely telling British GQ that “you can’t find great wools in the United States”. Nothing thinner than a 10 oz. wool was used with 10 oz. and 12 oz. providing the majority of the suits plus some even heavier wools when texture and thickness were required. As cited in a People magazine article, Gosling himself told reporters at a Beverly Hills press event that: “The wool was quite itchy, so I had a rash… I channeled that irritation into my hatred for the gangsters.”
Wooters’ suit exemplifies the roomy, post-war fit that became fashionable as men broke away from the restricted (and restrictive) styles offered during the war; servicemen naturally had to sport their itchy uniforms everywhere while men at home were reduced to wearing old suits or the scanty, tight-fitting suits produced during the war’s fabric rationing. After the war and the rationing, men embraced long and loose jackets, vests, and pleated trousers. Hats grew larger while loud shirts, ties, and display handkerchiefs shouted out that the war was over and hedonistic comfort was in.
With casual attire also growing in popularity, men put much attention into the way they would dress up. Wooters’ suit jacket shows off the strapping profile that a man would desire with strong, padded shoulders with roped sleeveheads – emphasized by long peak lapels – a suppressed waist, and a long flared skirt for an athletic “hourglass” effect.
Zophres expressed her own appreciation of the post-war style in her interview with British GQ:
I also happen to think the shorter suit that is happening in men’s fashion right now is fine for the likes of Ryan Gosling but it’s not necessarily a look for the older gentleman. Maybe this movie will help make a little longer jacket come back – it’s a very flattering look.
Wooters’ brown pinstripe suit jacket has a low 6×2-buttoning double-breasted stance to accommodate both the length of the jacket and Gosling’s long torso on his 6′ frame. The three dark brown buttons on each cuff match those on the front. The jacket also has a welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, and a ventless back.
The large, wide peak lapels serve a double purpose of emphasizing the luxurious, sweeping fashions of a post-war suit jacket and emphasizing the strong shouldered silhouette. The lapels have slanted gorges on a seam that is relatively short given the length of the lapel points. There is a buttonhole on each lapel, and Wooters proudly pins a large white carnation on his left. “I miss that as I think it’s such a way to evoke confidence and romance in a man,” explained Zophres to British GQ. “You hardly ever see a guy with a boutonnière any more.”
Little of the rest of the suit is featured in this scene under the large jacket, but we get a few looks at the single-breasted matching vest with its five widely-spaced buttons with the lowest button correctly left open over the notched bottom.
The trousers are likely pleated with a roomy fit through the legs down to the full break cuffed bottoms. The only aspects clearly seen are the side pockets and the turn-ups, which are not only appropriate to the era, but they had also served a surprising purpose for the real life Sgt. Wooters, as Gosling explained to People magazine:
While researching, the actor met with the family members of the man he plays, and learned about some of his character’s quirks. “His kids came to the set and told me a lot of stories and a lot of great details. Like, when he would ash his cigarette, he would ash into the cuff of his pants,” Gosling explained. “Then at the end of the day, he would dump out his cuffs, dump out all the ashes.”
Appropriately for the luxurious-fitting suits of the era, we see little of the shirt and tie underneath; thus, a fashion plate like Wooters works to ensure that his shirt and tie get noticed despite the suit’s best efforts. Both the suit and tie were made for the film by Anto.
His sky blue silk dress shirt is printed with a distinctive geometric pattern that resembles a series of bird’s eyes. (NB: The shirt is not made of birdseye cotton cloth, which is much different.)
Wooters’ shirt also has a fashionably long point collar and rounded button cuffs.
Wooters’ rayon tie is surprisingly understated with a few sporadic white and blue floral spots on a russet brown ground.
Although most of the outfit was custom-made by Zophres and her team from period examples, the brown and cream perforated leather spectator shoes briefly featured in this scene were truly vintage according to a story that Zophres told British GQ:
There was a vendor named Ardis up in San Francisco who had these original shoes from the forties – he finds them in old estates. There was a pair of shoes that were two-tone, perforated, just beautiful. They don’t make shoes like that any more! And they just happened to be in Ryan’s size. He saw them and went “Oh my god, those are amazing.”
It’s good to know that Ryan Gosling appreciates fine style as much as his character does.
Wooters’ wide-brimmed fedora is another example of a true vintage product that made its way into production. The hat is brown felt with a thin, matching grosgrain ribbon and a pinched crown. It is unlined with the manufacturer’s silver logo printed on the underside of the crown.
Zophres worked hard to find and create the right hat for each character other than Wooters. Her interview with British GQ (which, as you can tell, was very helpful!) expands on that:
We made a lot of hats for everybody – it’s important to find the right one for each actor. Fit is so important. For Josh’s hat, he has a bigger head so we tried fifty hats on him. To tell you the truth, in the end we took the crown from one hat and the brim from another and had Optimo make his hats in the perfect medium brown. Whereas Ryan wore all original hats – we only made duplicates because he needed some doubles. Then we made Sean Penn’s at Optimo also, on a pattern of hat made in the Twenties.
As one might expect from a flashy celebrity cop who takes pride in his appearance, Wooters accessorizes on each hand. He wears a gold ring with a large dark brown stone on his right pinky, and a stainless dress watch with a yellow rectangular dial is fastened to his left wrist on a brown leather strap.
Zophres concluded her discussion with British GQ with:
Two things. Firstly, that tailoring is hugely important. If your waist is a little big, fix it. If your shoulders are drooping down, it can be fixed with an easy alteration. The second and the biggest thing is when wear a suit, don’t be afraid to dress up. I think it’s become cool to dress down, but there’s nothing more handsome than a man in a suit.
This is coming from a Hollywood costume designer, fellas. Suit up.
How to Get the Look
Wooters’ nightclub suit is a great example of updating classic fashion to appeal to modern men without sacrificing accuracy. Comfort and class – with hints of indulgence – defined men’s post-war style, and this is a good illustration of getting that combination right.
- Brown wool three-piece custom-tailored suit with subtle blue pinstripe, consisting of:
- Double-breasted long, loose jacket with wide peak lapels, 6×2-button front, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and ventless back
- Single-breasted vest with 5-button front and notched bottom
- Pleated trousers with side pockets and turn-ups/cuffed bottoms
- Sky blue geometric printed silk shirt with long point collar and rounded button cuffs
- Russet brown rayon necktie with white and blue floral spots
- Brown & cream two-tone perforated leather spectator shoes
- Brown felt wide-brimmed fedora with a narrow grosgrain ribbon
- Gold pinky ring with large brown stone, worn on right pinky
- Stainless wristwatch with yellow rectangular dial and brown leather strap, worn on left wrist
For his night out on the town, Wooters wears a large white carnation on his left lapel.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Buy the movie.
Grace: What’s your racket, handsome?
Jerry: I’m a bible salesman.
Grace: Want to take me away from all this and make an honest woman out of me?
Jerry: No ma’am, I was just hoping to take you to bed.