Matt Bomer as Monroe Stahr, charming studio wunderkind
Hollywood, August 1936 through February 1937
Series: The Last Tycoon
– “Pilot” (Episode 1, dir. Billy Ray)
– “Eine Kleine Reichmusik” (Episode 5, dir. Gwyneth Horder-Payton)
– “A Brady-American Christmas” (Episode 6, dir. Stacie Passon)
– “Oscar, Oscar, Oscar” (Episode 9, dir. Billy Ray)
Streaming Date: July 28, 2017
Developed By: Billy Ray
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Amazon recently announced the disappointing news that they are discontinuing production of The Last Tycoon, the second of its F. Scott Fitzgerald-inspired series to meet that fate following the cancellation of Z: The Beginning of Everything days earlier.
In its brief, nine-episode life, The Last Tycoon was true to its “golden age of Hollywood” roots with an emphasis on style rather than substance… but oh what style it was, and with strong performances to booth with Matt Bomer, Kelsey Grammer, Lily Collins, Rosemarie Dewitt, and others rounding out the talented cast of characters.
The series also made the most of its dazzling period costumes, the creation of master costume designer Janie Bryant of Mad Men fame; an entire blog alone could be dedicated to the snappy menswear worn by Bomer, Grammer, and Enzo Cilenti.
Fitzgerald’s unfinished novel about wunderkind studio executive Monroe Stahr’s affairs and ambitions in 1930s Hollywood formed the basis for the series, but developer Billy Ray was clearly building a more elaborate world for his complex characters when the series was axed.
In addition to revisiting the novel, series star Matt Bomer told Vanity Fair in a June 2016 interview that he spent time researching Irving Thalberg, the MGM producer whose youth, ability, and congenital heart disease inspired Fitzgerald’s character. “The character was largely based on Mr. Thalberg, because Mr. Fitzgerald used to work for him,” explained Bomer. “He wrote underneath him at the studio system for a brief period and was really inspired by this man who had a complete understanding of the system and how that operated, and the fact that he was this young wunderkind, this genius at what he did.”
What’d He Wear?
The Last Tycoon‘s dashing titular lead, Monroe Stahr, trots out a debonair black tie ensemble in four of the series’ nine episodes, worn to a number of Hollywood parties whether to celebrate a professional achievement, the holiday season, or his own marriage engagement.
Monroe Stahr’s classic evening kit leaves nary a detail ignored, reflecting the growing popularity of double-breasted dinner jackets during the 1930s especially among the young and stylish like Monroe and his Hollywood set.
“It’s so fun to make suits during this period, I love it,” explained Janie Bryant to Fashionista during a July 2017 interview. “It’s all about those wide shoulder, nipped waist, double-breasted jackets. Wide leg trousers. It’s about everything being wide and big. It’s very different from Mad Men minimalist and everything skinny.”
Bomer was more than enthusiastic to wear the period-perfect clothes designed by Bryant. “Oh, I think Janie Bryant is a genius. I mean, I think she changed menswear almost single-handedly with what she did on Mad Men. Everything she chose, I just trust her implicity,” he told Vanity Fair. “I liked getting to do the double-breasted… the very specific tailoring done at that time was different for me and unique and definitely informs the way you move as a character in a way that I found really helpful.”
It was the Duke of Windsor – then the Prince of Wales – who brought double-breasted dinner jackets into fashion during the 1930s. As Black Tie Guide reports, the jacket had been “previously considered too informal for evening wear due to its lack of an accompanying waistcoat,” but this soon-to-be-called “semi-formal” approach caught on with wearers who followed the Prince’s example of wearing it with “a soft-front pleated evening shirt featuring attached turndown collar and French cuffs rather than the traditional starched front shirt with detachable wing collar and single cuffs.” Monroe Stahr follows the Prince’s template to a T, though his addition of a waistcoat would have satiated the critics that remained concerned with the lack of such a garment.
Monroe Stahr’s black wool double-breasted dinner jacket has the classic six-on-two button front with the six front buttons and the three buttons on each cuff all covered in black silk. The jacket’s wide peak lapels have straight gorges and black grosgrain silk facings rather than the shinier satin lapels that “were increasingly associated with ready-to-wear apparel.” (Source: Black Tie Guide).
For extra special occasions, Monroe wears the traditional white carnation pinned to his left lapel as a festive boutonnière, but he always wears a white pocket square – usually linen – in the jacket’s welted breast pocket. The straight hip pockets have a flap, a holdout from earlier decades that would be phased out on the best quality dinner jackets by the end of the 1930s.
The ventless jacket is tailored for a close, flattering fit with padded shoulders and roped sleeveheads.
Even during the more formal pre-WWII era, waist coverings – especially waistcoats – were considered unnecessary with a double-breasted dinner jacket given that garment’s full wrap around the wearer’s torso. For Monroe Stahr, however, dressing to the nines means leaving no stone unturned and that means wearing a black wool single-breasted waistcoat to match his dinner jacket and formal trousers. The waistcoat (or vest, if you must) has three buttons on the front, covered in black silk, with a notched bottom and two welted pockets.
The full back is also covered in black satin with a strap to adjust the fit. Traditional full-backed waistcoats were still the norm in 1936 America, though Esquire noted that the backless design sported by the Prince of Wales was now the preferred style in London and was gaining popularity in the U.S. (Source: Black Tie Guide)
Though Paul Muni wore a traditional white waistcoat under his black double-breasted dinner jacket in 1932’s Scarface, Esquire was reporting in its inaugural issue the following autumn that “the white waistcoat has at last been allowed to rejoin its lawful but long estranged mate, the tailcoat, and the new dinner jackets are matched with a waistcoat of the jacket material, with dull grosgrain lapel facing.” (Source: Black Tie Guide)
As Esquire‘s inaugural issue hit newsstands in the autumn of 1933, the concept of a formal waistcoat matching the color and cloth of a gentleman’s tuxedo would have been de rigeur three years later as the fictional Monroe Stahr makes the Hollywood rounds in an all-black three-piece dinner suit.
The distinctive “drooping” shawl collar of Monroe’s waistcoat would have also been quite fashionable. Introduced in 1921 according to Black Tie Guide, this unique wide-based lapel was a common sight during the ’30s. BTG also posted a portion of this Heller catalog from 1936 that includes several examples of dress waistcoats with lapels not unlike Monroe’s. Surviving vintage models also abound today such as this four-button waistcoat dated to 1938.
The black grosgrain silk facing of Monroe’s distinctive waistcoat lapel appropriately matches his dinner jacket lapel facings, his bow tie, court shoe bows, and the grosgrain side braid of his trousers for a cleanly coordinated and consistent look.
The black wool trousers rise high enough for the waistband to be correctly concealed under Monroe’s waistcoat. The full cut trousers have forward pleats, slightly slanted “quarter top” side pockets that follow the line of the grosgrain-braided side seam as it curves gently forward at the waist, and plain-hemmed bottoms (as cuffs are a no-no for formal trousers bottoms.)
Monroe wears black suspenders (or braces), the most traditional option for holding up trousers when wearing black tie. The suspenders’ gold adjusters are seen poking out the sides of his waistcoat armholes at the shoulders.
When dressed in black tie, Monroe exclusively wears white cotton “semi-formal” shirts with soft-pleated fronts and double (French) cuffs, following the most fashionable trends of the mid 1930s. As the series is set over the fall of 1936 and into the spring of 1937, it’s appropriate to note that Esquire reported in November 1937 that the once traditional wing collar had been virtually replaced by the turndown collar as the “standard for informal wear.” (Source: Black Tie Guide)
For the most part, Monroe’s white dinner shirts echo the styling of his business dress shirts with a fashionably long point collar. The 1/2″-pleated front of the shirt is elegantly accented with round gold-rimmed diamond studs. His sleeves are shirred at the wrist with four closely-spaced pleats, and the squared double cuffs are fastened with plain gold cuff links.
Monroe deviates from his usual semi-formal shirts in the fifth episode only. In “Eine Kleine Reichmusik”, he again wears a white cotton dinner shirt with a turndown collar and pleated front, but both the semi-spread collar (not a point collar) and the pleats on this shirt are considerably narrower.
Monroe’s standard semi-formal neckwear is a black silk butterfly-shaped (or thistle-shaped) bow tie made from the same duller grosgrain silk as his lapel facings, reflecting a level of coordination that was becoming increasingly accepted and expected by the mid-1930s.
Butterfly and semi-butterfly bow ties were most common for men during this era, but the diamond-pointed bow tie that Monroe wears in the first episode would have also been acceptable.
Despite the lessened formality of his double-breasted dinner jacket and soft-fronted, turndown collar shirt, Monroe Stahr appears to be wearing the most formal footwear option: black patent leather pumps.
The men’s dress pump traces its origins back to the Regency period when gentlemen would swap out their daytime boots for buckle-fastened pumps. It was naturally the influence of Beau Brummell that led to the silver steel buckle being replaced by the more genteel square grosgrain bow has distinguished the opera pump in essentially the same form for nearly 200 years.
Monroe also sports his opera pumps when wearing his most formal white tie and tails in the first and last episodes of the season, a context where opera pumps are more frequently seen than with the less formal black tie.
No matter what the context, Monroe always wears a gold signet ring on his right pinky. Though the etched “S.” most assuredly stands for his professional surname of Stahr, it could also designate his birth surname of Sternberg.
Monroe begins the series wearing a yellow gold wristwatch with a tonneau-shaped white dial and gold bracelet, a standard men’s dress watch of the era. By the end of the fourth episode, he’s received two brand new wristwatches as birthday gifts*; the first is a gold tank watch from Louis B. Mayer (Saul Rubinek) followed by a white gold Hamilton Piping Rock, a gift from Monroe’s own boss Pat Brady (Kelsey Grammer) in his attempt to “one-up” the legendary Mayer. It is this white gold watch with its minimalist white dial and black leather strap that Monroe wears for the duration of the season.
* The episodes featuring Monroe’s birthday are set in early-to-mid September, making him the second consecutive Virgo character to be featured on BAMF Style after Monday’s post about Tony Soprano.
How to Get the Look
Monroe Stahr exemplifies the perfect balance of fashion-forward formalwear and honoring black tie tradition with his tailored three-piece double-breasted dinner suit.
- Black wool double-breasted dinner jacket with grosgrain-faced peak lapels, 6-on-2 silk-covered buttons, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, silk-covered 3-button cuffs, and ventless back
- Black wool formal waistcoat with wide “drooped” grosgrain-faced shawl collar, three black silk-covered buttons, notched bottom, two welted pockets, and black satin-covered full back with adjustable strap
- Black wool formal pleated trousers with grosgrain side braid, “quarter top” on-seam side pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- White cotton dress shirt with long point collar, wide pleated bib, front placket, and squared double/French cuffs
- Gold-trimmed round diamond studs
- Gold cuff links
- Black grosgrain silk thistle-shaped bow tie
- Black suspenders with gold adjusters
- Black patent leather opera pumps/court shoes with square black grosgrain bows
- Black dress socks
- White ribbed cotton sleeveless undershirt/A-shirt
- Gold monogrammed signet ring, right pinky
- White gold wristwatch with round case and white dial on black leather strap
Monroe always wears a white linen display kerchief in his jacket’s breast pocket and, for extra special events, a white boutonnière in his left lapel.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check it out on Amazon Video.
Series star Matt Bomer is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, located just two miles from my home in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania!
If you’re interested in the history of formalwear, check out Black Tie Guide’s comprehensive history of vintage black tie. To learn more specifically about the pre-WWII Depression era depicted in The Last Tycoon, Black Tie Guide’s also got you covered.