Michael Douglas as Nick Curran, homicide detective with a troubled past
San Francisco, April 1991
Film: Basic Instinct
Release Date: March 20, 1992
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Costume Designer: Ellen Mirojnick
There have been a few persistent requests to analyze Michael Douglas’ tailored suits and sport jackets in the controversial thriller Basic Instinct, best known for what Sharon Stone wasn’t wearing on screen as opposed to what Michael Douglas was wearing.
Described in his book The Devil’s Guide to Hollywood as an exercise to create the lowest common denominator screenplay possible, writer Joe Eszterhas completed his script within two weeks all while reportedly listening to The Rolling Stones non-stop. Eszterhas sold the script three days later for the astronomical sum of $3 million, cynically reattaining his mantle as the highest paid screenwriter in Hollywood.
Eszterhas himself is apologetic about the film’s logical shortcomings, including the on screen investigation’s total ignorance of DNA evidence from the blood-soaked opening murder scene that would have probably solved everything in a few minutes. Oversights like that can be forgiven when recognizing the movie for director Paul Verhoeven’s intent of developing a more explicitly erotic update of pulp detective fiction and Hitchcock thrillers, which often showcased interesting characters, witty dialogue, and noir-esque tone before realistic plot complexities.
Basic Instinct found Michael Douglas pinning on a San Francisco homicide detective’s badge for the first time in nearly two decades since his early role as Steve Keller in The Streets of San Francisco, a Quinn Martin police procedural that ran for three seasons. Douglas’ character was an energetic young investigator paired with an older and wiser police mentor portrayed by Karl Malden.
Instead of the wise guidance of Karl Malden, this Douglas-played detective spends most of his time trading barbs—and then some—with Sharon Stone. So much, in fact, that she would later use the intense choreography of their sex scenes to refer to herself and Douglas as “the horizontal Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers of the ’90s.”
What’d He Wear?
Basic Instinct marked the fourth collaboration between Michael Douglas and costume designer Ellen Mirojnick, who had designed Douglas’ costumes previously in Fatal Attraction, Wall Street, and Black Rain. (Though there’s been an ongoing theory that Douglas’ suits were from Cerruti 1881, Mirojnick confirmed during a 2022 appearance on the From Tailors With Love podcast that none of the Cerruti tailoring actually worked out to be used on screen.)
Douglas’ character, Nick Curran, is certainly the type of hotshot who would wear designer suits despite the implications that it may be above the pay grade of his detective salary. Most of Nick’s suits and sport jackets are various shades of brown, including the fully cut taupe suit that he wears for his first appearance on screen. The lightweight high-twist worsted wool suiting is taupe with a subtle blue-gray and brown stripe effect and a silky finish.
High-twist worsteds were quickly gaining popularity by this time for the cool-wearing properties of the open weave, as sartorialist G. Bruce Boyer reported for the New York Times in March 1989, replacing the wrinkle-prone linen or less-accepted synthetic blends that had been the hallmark of lightweight summer suits through most of the century. ”We believe there’s something to be said for casual suiting, and like the look of the sophisticated ‘washed’ fabrics – the wool-cotton and silk-wool combinations – that have a special finish that gives them a slightly weathered look,” Murray Pearlstein, then owner and president of Louis, Boston states in Boyer’s article. “But for a crisp business approach, we favor the high-twist suitings.”
Nick’s suit jacket has notch lapels that roll to the top of the two-button single-breasted front. The details of the jacket are very minimalist for a strong, clean look from the well-padded shoulders down to the ventless back. The breast pocket has a slim welt, and the hip pockets are straight and jetted with no flaps. The breast pocket has a slim welt, and the jetted hip pockets are straight on his waist. Each sleeve is roped at the shoulder with two buttons on the cuff.
Nick’s suit trousers are double reverse-pleated with a medium-low rise that nicely meets the low stance of his jacket. He wears a slim black leather belt with a small steel single-prong buckle, likely wearing his black leather belt holster for his issued Glock pistol on the right side. The trouser bottoms are plain-hemmed.
Nick appears to be wearing a pair of brown leather oxfords with a high vamp and brown dress socks.
When we first see Nick, he is wearing a light blue-gray shirt custom-made for Douglas by Anto of Beverly Hills using end-on-end cotton. The shirt has a point collar, plain front, and button cuffs. His silk tie is complexly patterned with a brick red grid over a mustard gold ground with an ornate earth-toned design in each grid square.
Four days later, when he is suspended from duty, Nick wears a slightly different shirt and tie combination that had earlier been seen when he was dangerously tailing Catherine down to Mill Valley, wearing a brown flannel sport jacket and raincoat. This cornflower blue cotton shirt is styled similarly to his first, also made by Anto and featuring the same point collar. His silk tie consists of light brown patterns specked over a navy ground. He would later wear this same tie with his olive suede sport jacket.
Nick accessorizes with giant black thin-framed aviator sunglasses with brown lenses, similar if not the same as the pair he wore three years earlier in Black Rain… where he played another detective named Nick C. with questionable morals.
Nick’s steel wristwatch isn’t seen much in these scenes, but there are always bizarre timepieces like this if you really want the world to know about your Basic Instinct fandom.
How to Get the Look
It’s no wonder that slick hothead cop Nick Curran made so many enemies on the police forces, dressing sharply in fashionable Italian suits while his cynical peers show up to work in old sport jackets and ratty raincoats.
- Taupe subtly-striped high-twist worsted wool tailored suit:
- Single-breasted 2-button suit jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight jetted hip pockets, 2-button cuffs, ventless back
- Double reverse-pleated trousers with belt loops, side pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Light blue-gray cotton dress shirt with point collar, plain front, and button cuffs
- Red-and-gold grid-patterned silk tie
- Black slim leather belt with small steel single-prong buckle
- Brown leather balmorals/oxford shoes
- Brown dress socks
- Steel wristwatch with round white dial on steel bracelet
- Black thin-framed oversized aviator sunglasses with brown lenses
Are you more of a “cowboy cop” type? Nick’s partner, Gus, lives up to his nickname with a unique brown herringbone tweed sport jacket detailed with “cran necker” fishmouth lapels and Western-styled front and back yokes.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
Now, you tell I.A. I’m just your average, healthy, totally fucked-up cop… and let me outta here. Please.