Emile Hirsch as Clyde Barrow, bank robber with “second sight”
Northeast Texas, Spring 1932
Series Title: Bonnie and Clyde
Air Date: December 8, 2013
Director: Bruce Beresford
Costume Designer: Marilyn Vance
As an amateur criminal historian with a special interest in Depression-era desperadoes, I’d be remiss to let a year go by without commemorating the end of Bonnie and Clyde’s crime streak on May 23, 1934 when the now-famous duo was gunned down by a squad of expert lawmen on a rural road in Bienville Parish, Louisiana.
Generations later years later, Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker have been romanticized to a level of fame that they never deserved in life. These Texan small-timers who have more confirmed kills than bank robberies made headlines due to the novelty of a woman’s involvement in the crimes, stimulating the boredom of a Depression-tarnished populace. Unlike John Dillinger or “Pretty Boy” Floyd, the two didn’t use their wit and wiles to get out of sticky situations, they relied on Clyde’s quick trigger finger and heavy leadfoot.
When Clyde and Bonnie drove their stolen Ford V-8 down that dusty Louisiana road 82 years ago today, they had no idea that they were driving into a police trap that would immortalize them forever, cementing their names as international symbols of illicit romance – Romeo and Juliet in a getaway car as Chicago crime writer Joseph Geringer dubbed them. Just when their story was finally losing momentum more than 30 years after their deaths, David Newman and Robert Benton were intrigued by their tale in John Toland’s encyclopedic The Dillinger Days and penned the screenplay that would become Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty as the outlaw couple. The film’s style – of which I’ve written plenty (1 2 3 4) – and the glamour of its stars revived and revised the tale to even further romanticize the sociopathic lovers as a beautiful, happy-go-lucky couple unfairly hounded by aggressive, fun-hating authoritarians.
In 2013, the legend was given a somewhat fact-based refresh with the two-part miniseries also named Bonnie and Clyde with Holliday Grainger and Emile Hirsch in the titular roles. More attention was paid to aesthetic detail with incidental names and details that had previously been ignored finally incorporated into the story and actual traits – like Clyde’s impulsiveness and Bonnie’s vulnerability – were reflected in the characterizations.
This sequence is set in the spring of 1932, early in Clyde Barrow’s criminal career after he was released from the Texas state prison. He returns to Bonnie, whom he’d met very shortly before his arrest two years earlier and assisted him during his first failed escape, and they kick off their two-year criminal streak. Clyde and Bonnie bring on the scrappy Ralph Fults for a nighttime jewelry store robbery, a reflection of an actual crime that involved Clyde and two other associates in late April 1932. The jeweler, John N. Bucher, obliged with the thieves and was withdrawing the contents from his safe when he was shot. Although Clyde likely wasn’t the triggerman, this was his first involvement in a killing outside of prison and one that he would continue to regret. In reality, Bonnie was not present during this crime.
What’d He Wear?
During both the aborted Hillsboro jewelry heist and a daytime bank robbery in Ponder, Texas, Clyde leads his gang while sporting this oversized navy blue three-piece suit with subtle light blue and tan hairline windowpane grid.
The suit has an almost comically large fit, reducing Clyde’s image to that of a little boy in his dad’s clothes. While also a slight reflection of the era’s style, this helps to make Clyde look smaller – both physically and metaphorically. At this point in his career, he was still a pipsqueak fresh out of jail and looking to get back at the world. He thought of himself as far bigger than he actually was and dressed the part.
Clyde’s single-breasted 3-button suit coat has large notch lapels with a buttonhole stitched through the left lapel. The shoulders are padded with roped sleeveheads and two buttons at the end of each sleeve cuff. The ventless jacket has a welted breast pocket and jetted hip pockets. The light brown lining can be seen as he raises his .45 when escaping the Ponder bank robbery.
Clyde wears a matching single-breasted 6-button vest. The lowest button is left open over the notched bottom. Like his other vests, it likely has four welt pockets.
The flat front trousers have a low rise, held at the waist with a thick dark brown leather belt with a solid steel rectangular single-claw buckle that looks more modern than a genuine early ’30s belt.
Due to their size, the trousers have a very full, loose fit on Clyde’s lower half and the cuffed bottoms nearly drag on the ground; it’s surprising that Clyde doesn’t trip over them during his getaway! The real Clyde certainly wore fully-cut trousers as photos from the era show, but these look more like they’re a few sizes too large rather than merely being full cut.
On his feet, Clyde wears a pair of black leather 4-eyelet cap-toe oxfords that are nearly engulfed by the trouser cuffs. Due to the full break of the pants, his socks remain unseen throughout this sequence.
During the crimes, Clyde’s dress shirt has thin, alternating stripes in navy and light blue. It has a spread collar and button cuffs. He wears two similar silk ties with a “brushstroke” motif on a dark navy ground. For the nighttime Bucher burglary in Hillsboro, Clyde’s tie has large gray strokes; for the daytime bank robbery, it has shorter, more staccato tan strokes.
For one of the couple’s famous photo sessions, he wears the earlier-seen light blue and white striped shirt with a white detachable club collar and a bright red silk patterned necktie.
Clyde’s wide-brimmed fedora is gray felt with a wide black grosgrain ribbon.
This post from the L.A. Daily Mirror uses the production’s released photo of Holliday Grainger holding a shotgun on Emile Hirsch to recreate the famous Bonnie vs. Clyde photo from 1933, comparing the detailed differences between the clothing on screen and the outlaws’ actual attire.
How to Get the Look
- Navy blue blue-and-tan hairline-windowpane suit, including:
- Single-breasted 2-button suit jacket with wide notch lapels, padded shoulders, welted breast pocket, jetted hip pockets, 2-button cuffs, and ventless back
- Single-breasted vest with 6-button front, notched bottom, and 4 weltpockets
- Flat front baggy-fit trousers with low rise, belt loops, side pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- Navy and light blue dress-striped shirt with spread collar and button cuffs
- Dark navy silk necktie with light “brushstroke” motif
- Dark brown thick leather belt with a steel rectangular single-claw buckle
- Black leather 4-eyelet cap-toe oxfords
- Dark dress socks
- Light blue cotton undershorts with a 2-button waistband closure
- Gray felt wide-brimmed fedora with wide black grosgrain ribbon
Clyde’s preferred sidearm is accurately shown to be a .45-caliber M1911A1 semi-automatic pistol, just as he carried in real life; the miniseries uses the anachronistic and more modern Colt Mk IV Series 70. A number of other popular Barrow Gang firearms are also seen during the photo session.
The famous photo of Bonnie playfully holding a shotgun on Clyde as she reaches for a stag-gripped revolver in his trouser waistband is recreated with surprising detail. (The recreation appears to be a behind-the-scenes one, as the on-screen version shows Clyde wearing his charcoal chalkstripe suit.)
In real life, the shotgun was one of Bonnie’s “whipit” guns – a Remington Model 11 semi-automatic shotgun in the relatively low 20-gauge. The miniseries uses a sawed-off Stevens Model 620 pump-action 12-gauge shotgun, which Fults is seen using in an earlier scene to kill John Bucher. The revolver doesn’t receive much – if any – screentime in the miniseries, but it’s meant to be the Smith & Wesson .44 Special “Triple Lock” revolver that had been taken in January 1933 from Springfield, Missouri motorcycle policeman Tom Persell.
Of course, Clyde is also photographed holding a Browning Automatic Rifle as the formidable .30-06 BAR was arguably Clyde’s favorite weapon.