Jimmy Stewart’s Green Sweater in Vertigo
James Stewart as John “Scottie” Ferguson, former San Francisco detective
San Francisco, Fall 1957
Release Date: May 9, 1958
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Costume Designer: Edith Head
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
San Francisco has always been a popular setting for detective movies. From 1940s film noir like The Maltese Falcon through the gritty ’60s and ’70s era with movies like Bullitt, Dirty Harry, and McQ, Hollywood has made the most of its picturesque neighbor to the distant north.
Though Alfred Hitchcock had filmed in the Bay area before, Vertigo was his first cinematic effort actually set in San Francisco and he makes the most of his setting.
One pivotal scene finds Jimmy Stewart’s ex-cop character Scottie Ferguson on the trail of “Madeleine” (Kim Novak), a mysterious beauty who he was asked to tail by an old college buddy who was concerned about his wife’s activities. Scottie’s surveillance leads him to the San Francisco Bay itself, where he arrives just in time to fish Madeleine out after an apparent suicide attempt.
Today’s post is the first of two this week to feature a San Francisco cop clad in a green V-neck sweater after a pivotal run-in with a blonde femme fatale…
What’d He Wear?
“Scottie, in a pair of grey trousers and an old sweater, is wandering about the room, trying to think things out,” describes Alec Coppel and Samuel Taylor in their original screenplay for Vertigo.
Scottie spends most of the film in suits or sport jackets with ties, but he chooses a more dressed down approach after fishing Madeleine out of San Francisco Bay, sporting a V-neck sweater in a peaceful, muted shade of green with a white shirt and dark gray pleated slacks. The sweater has a ribbed hem and long ribbed cuffs.
Scottie’s white poplin shirt appears to be one of his usual dress shirts with a front placket and two-button rounded cuffs. He wears it sans tie and open at the neck here, allowing the long point collar to flap over the neck opening of his sweater.
When not wearing a full suit, Scottie’s trousers of choice are a pair of dark gray pleated flannels. In addition to this scene, he also appears to wear them with his brown birdseye tweed sport jacket and the blue ribbed knit cardigan.
The dark gray pleated slacks have a full fit characteristic to the ’50s with double reverse pleats and cuffs (turn-ups) on the bottoms. The high rise keeps the waistband mostly concealed under his sweater, but he bends over to reveal a slim black leather belt around his waist. There is a straight pocket along each side seam and two jetted back pockets; only the left back pocket appears to have a button closure.
Scottie still wears his well-traveled cordovan brown leather oxford brogues with medallion perforated wingtips. His socks appear to be black.
Scottie’s wristwatch is yellow gold with a round case and a black ring on the white dial, worn on a black leather strap.
Go Big or Go Home
…and Scottie’s home is a swell one!
Scottie’s apartment is located in Russian Hill, one of the original “Seven Hills” of San Francisco. The exterior shots were filmed at 900 Lombard Street, placing his bachelor pad about a block away from the famous steep and winding thoroughfare claimed to be “the crookedest street in the world.”
Inside, Scottie’s abode is decked out to define masculine mid-century modern. The long, low sofa is upholstered in a flecked taupe fabric, there’s a burgundy leather chair and ottoman for reading important books, and the entire back wall is a window shaded with Venetian blinds and peach curtains battling for supremacy at perpendicular angles.
To read more about Scottie’s apartment, check out this well-researched piece from Reel SF.
Interested in putting together your own mid-century aesthetic for your own residence? Check out Primer’s Mid Century Modern on a Dime for tips.
How to Get the Look
Scottie takes a classic and comfortable approach to his casual attire for a night in, pulling together several menswear staples for a timeless ensemble.
- White poplin dress shirt with long point collar, front placket, and 2-button rounded cuffs
- Green wool v-neck sweater with ribbed cuffs and hem
- Dark gray flannel double reverse-pleated trousers with belt loops, straight/on-seam side pockets, jetted back pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- Slim black leather belt
- Cordovan leather 5-eyelet wingtip oxford brogues
- Black socks
- Gold wristwatch with round case, black-ringed white dial, and black leather strap
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
Many film costumes are unlikely to ever be replicated. I guess most men have worn something similar at some point. Few of us probably looked quite as good as James Stewart. Or had Kim Novak with us.
For what it’s worth (which may be very little), I’m not sure this is, strictly, a dress shirt. The collar looks like it is of a type which I think was known as a convertible collar. It lacks the separate collarstand of a formal collar and is a type of camp collar (albeit one designed to easily take a tie). This makes it a casual sports shirt, I think, rather than a dress shirt. This maybe what he wears with suit and tie elsewhere as this type of collar appears to have been designed to bridge the gap between those worn worn with tie and without in the days when people worried about such things.
Agreed on all points! I think there’s something to be said for using film costumes as inspiration without aiming for exact duplication. I certainly don’t have Stewart’s tall, lean frame or the athletic build of many traditional film stars, but seeing creative (or even just attractive) clothing combinations on screen has given me the freedom to explore my own existing wardrobe.
Interesting point about the convertible collar. I do believe that this is the type of shirt Scottie wears elsewhere with his suits (and often with a pinned collar). Clothing nomenclature can be tricky; I like to use “dress shirt” to indicate a button-front collared shirt that can be worn with or without a tie rather than the more formal British interpretation. Until only a few years ago, I had been among those influenced by ready-to-wear American marketers who refer to all button-front shirts as “button-downs” … which now makes me cringe. (Yes, I also used to refer to all odd jackets as “blazers” – the horror!)
You raise a good point about the Vertigo era and how it bridges the sartorial gap “when people worried about such things.” Very well said, sir!
I can’t wait to see a post about Stewart’s light grey/blue flannel suit he is wearing when following her and when she jumps in the Bay…
Great work ! Tall and skinny men had class back then.
Thanks! That suit is definitely on the list; I’d like to cover all of Stewart’s Vertigo attire over the course of the next few months/years/however long I’m able to keep BAMF Style alive 😉