Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood, ruthless and calculating U.S. President
Atlanta, July 2016
Series: House of Cards
Episode: “Chapter 48” (Episode 4.09)
Streaming Date: March 4, 2016
Director: Robin Wright
Costume Designer: Johanna Argan
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Tomorrow is Election Day here in the U.S. and hopefully the end of one of the ugliest campaign seasons in modern American politics.
In the political world of House of Cards, voters tomorrow would be choosing between Democratic incumbent Frank Underwood and Republican candidate Will Conway (Joel Kinnaman). In Chapter 48 of the series, Underwood notes about his opponent:
You’re a New York Republican. That’s an attractive fiction, isn’t it?
Chapter 48 spans the first three days of the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta from Monday, July 25 through Wednesday, July 27. (The actual 2016 DNC was held in Philadelphia, in case you’d forgotten, and was quite dramatic in itself… which I’m sure you hadn’t forgotten.) President Underwood’s team seemingly makes a play for Secretary of State Catherine Durant (Jayne Atkinson) to be chosen as his running mate while secretly working behind the scenes to secure the spot for the First Lady, Claire Underwood (Robin Wright, who also directed this installment.)
One of the episode’s more outstanding scenes finds the unlikely situation of both candidates meeting alone, sifting through the heavy haze of dirty politics permeating the air while channeling their opposition into a discussion of video games.
What’d He Wear?
President Frank Underwood wears a series of great suits during House of Cards‘ fourth season, but one particular stand-out suit is the attractive blue lightweight wool suit that he wears during the early days of the DNC, boldly channeling the color of his party into his wardrobe.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the show’s head costume designer Johanna Argan collaborated with a team of tailors and Hugo Boss’ head pattern maker to build a wardrobe of 45 impressive suits in various colors, patterns, and fabrics through the Hugo Boss made-to-measure program. “The great thing about Boss is they gave me access to their complete fabric library for all their suiting, all their shirting, all their silks to make ties,” Argan explained to THR. “It’s those subtle details that help Kevin step into his character… When you wear something that is made-to-measure, it automatically makes you walk a different way.”
Argan discussed the mechanics of this specific outfit with WWD: “I tend to do a dark navy suit and that burgundy tie when he needs to be taken seriously and he’s trying to provoke some sort of presence and power.” Working behind the scenes at the DNC and ultimately meeting with his opponent is certainly an opportunity for Underwood to evoke power.
Argan told GQ that the tailoring team in Hugo Boss’s made-to-measure program gave her plenty of power over the suit details, including the pick-stitched notch lapels of his single-breasted jacket with “the collars of his suit jacket being lowered to lay clean on the back.” The details of the jacket match Underwood’s usual style as well as details of presidential styling that extend back more than five decades in the executive branch’s storied history.
The two-button jacket has a welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, 4-button cuffs, double vents, and padded shoulders that emphasize his power. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Argan even worked with the Boss team to perfect where Underwood’s initials would be stitched into the jacket.
The flat front trousers have a medium-low rise with side pockets and plain-hemmed bottoms. Through the trouser belt loops, Underwood wears a black leather belt with a long rectangular steel single-prong buckle.
Underwood exerts his power during his meeting with Conway by presenting himself as a comfortable, homespun politician who cares so little for his opponent that he’ll take off his shoes in the middle of their meeting. Of course, his charming “good ol’ boy” act carries the undertones of disrespecting Conway not only by airing out his stinky feet, but also by showing off his brand new and likely expensive shoes. The shoes in question are black leather cap-toe oxfords, worn with black dress socks that Underwood thankfully keeps on his feet.
Underwood wear a light blue cotton dress shirt with a semi-spread collar, plain front, and rounded double/French cuffs that he fastens with gold cuff links emblazoned with the gold Presidential Seal on a black face. These cuff links can be found at The White House Gift Shop, which offers an array of Presidential accessories from cuff links and pins to bow ties and wristwatches.
“Kevin’s very particular about ties,” Argan told WWD. “He loves a thin tie in real life and I have to tell him, ‘You are the President of the United States. You are not going to wear a thin tie.'” Underwood naturally chooses a deep red silk tie for his power moment at the DNC as red ties have a long, storied connotation as power ties. A recent study, however, expressed that red “power ties” exude dominant aggression more than actual confidence… making it an even more appropriate choice for an unscrupulous, power-hungry politician like Francis Underwood.
In the wake of the evil but thankfully-ripe-for-parody beast that has been the 2016 presidential debates, Robert Roy Britt updated his 2009 article on LiveScience that delves into the history and importance of red vs. blue power ties on American presidents.
While the color of Underwood’s tie may change based on his situation, the rings on his fingers are more consistent. He proudly wears a yellow gold class ring on the third finger of his right hand, a symbol of his education at The Sentinel, a fictional South Carolina military academy inspired by The Citadel in Charleston. On his opposing hand, he wears a white gold wedding band.
During the fourth season, Frank appears to mostly abandon his habit of wearing a wristwatch, possibly a reflection of his post-shooting mentality that he doesn’t want to focus too heavily on time… or that he’s out of time… or just some commentary on time? Either way, this would have been a sad day for the folks at IWC, for whom Kevin Spacey is an ambassador.
This suit also particularly stands out to be as it reminds me of one of my favorite looks from the James Bond series: the blue mohair suit, light blue shirt, and red silk tie that Roger Moore wore as 007 in The Man with the Golden Gun.
How to Get the Look
Frank Underwood aims for power, confidence, and patriotism with his strong blue and red-driven outfit while vying for the presidency.
- Blue lightweight wool Hugo Boss made-to-measure suit, consisting of:
- Single-breasted jacket with slim notch lapels, 2-button front, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, 4-button cuffs, and double rear vents
- Flat front trousers with belt loops, side pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Light blue cotton dress shirt with semi-spread collar, plain front, and double/French cuffs
- Deep red silk tie
- Gold cuff links with U.S. Presidential Seal on black face
- Black leather 5-eyelet cap-toe balmorals/oxfords
- Black dress socks
- Black leather belt with polished steel rectangular single-prong buckle
- Gold “Sentinel” class ring
- Gold plain wedding band
- White cotton crew neck short-sleeve undershirt
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Do you know the main thing that separates a politician from the rest of the species? A politician is the one who would drown a litter of kittens for ten minutes of prime time.