Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles, groundbreaking R&B musician
Houston, Summer 1953
Release Date: October 29, 2004
Director: Taylor Hackford
Costume Designer: Sharen Davis
Jamie Foxx became only the second actor in history to receive a Academy Award for Best Actor, BAFTA, Critics’ Choice award, Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild award for a single performance when he played Ray Charles. Though it was released five months after the real Ray Charles died of liver disease at age 73, Ray had the blessing of the real Ray Charles who had received – and approved – a braille version of the original shooting script.
Fresh off the success of his first hit for Atlantic Records, the exciting “Mess Around”, we see Ray Charles’ career shooting skyward. He endorses a group called the Cecil Shaw Singers while on-air at a Houston radio station, resulting in a lunch date with the group’s tenor, Della Bea (Kerry Washington), who is amazed that he was able to pick out her voice.
Ray: I hear like you see. Like that hummingbird outside the window, for instance.
Della Bea: I can’t hear her.
Ray: You have to listen… Uh-oh. Did you hear that?
Della Bea: What?
Ray: Her heart just skipped a beat.
What’d He Wear?
Jamie Foxx’s Ray Charles has a vast wardrobe of outstanding period costumes, created by costume designer Sharen Davis who received one of her Academy Award nominations for Ray. (Most recently, Ms. Davis’ costume work can be seen in the second season of HBO’s Westworld, which premiered on Sunday.)
Though similar patterns had existed for decades, the 1950s was the height of fleck’s popularity with the phrase “atomic fleck” entering our lexicon sometime later to forever associate the suiting with the “atomic age” decade. Described by Hardy Amies in his 1964 enchiridion simply as “spotted or speckled material,” fleck isn’t easily defined but, to paraphrase Justice Stewart, one would know it upon seeing it.
Ray features the titular singer dressing to impress for his first date with Della Bea, wearing a navy blue twill wool sport jacket covered with a flecked windowpane check in a muted coral tone.
Ray’s single-breasted sportcoat has notch lapels that roll to a two-button front, patch pockets, three-button cuffs, and a ventless back. The fit is full, as was fashionable in the mid-1950s, without looking oversized.
Ray wears a pale blue cotton shirt with a point collar, front placket, and button cuffs.
Ray’s red jacquard silk tie nicely draws out the coral flecking of his jacket. The tie is covered in a tonal floral pattern with white floral vines that curve up the tie from the flared blade.
Sunglasses were a signature of Ray Charles’ look with many different sets of shades appearing over the course of Ray. He starts out with browline-framed glasses in the ’40s and ends up with his now-trademark wraparounds within two decades. In these few scenes from the early ’50s, he briefly sported this pair of brown translucent-framed sunglasses in the classic shape that Ray-Ban would popularize with their Wayfarer model. The sunglasses have small silver diamonds on the end pieces.
Throughout most of the sequences set in the 1950s, Ray wears a steel Raketa “Blindenuhr” watch designed and manufactured in Soviet Russia specifically for blind wearers. Pressing the crown flips up the crystal case to expose the tan dial, allowing wearers like Ray to “feel” the time based on the position of the black hour and minute markers. There is a raised cell at each hour marker with two cells at 12:00, 3:00, 6:00, and 9:00. Ray’s Raketa watch is worn on a brown leather strap.
The dark trousers, likely charcoal wool, provide little contrast against the jacket. They have a full fit through the hips and legs down to the turn-ups (cuffs) on the bottoms. Ray wears them with a black leather belt that has a long gold-toned single-prong buckle slightly rounded on the corners.
His black leather shoes are likely the same cap-toe derby shoes that he wore earlier with a brown suit while performing on the “Chitlin’ Circuit” through the South.
How to Get the Look
Ray puts a trendy twist on a timeless combination of a navy jacket and red tie with his flecked jacket and boldly patterned tie. The look worked in the “fabulous fifties,” and it could be just the inspiration you need to turn your lunch date style up to eleven.
- Navy wool twill (with coral flecked windowpane check) single-breasted 2-button sport jacket with notch lapels, patch breast pocket, patch hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and ventless back
- Pale blue cotton shirt with point collar, front placket, and button cuffs
- Red jacquard silk tie with white floral vine motif
- Charcoal wool pleated trousers with belt loops and turn-ups/cuffs
- Black leather belt with long gold-toned single-prong buckle
- Black leather cap-toe derby shoes
- Dark dress socks
- White ribbed cotton sleeveless undershirt/A-shirt
- Brown translucent-framed “wayfarer”-style sunglasses
- Raketa “Blindenuhr” steel wristwatch with flip-up crystal, tan dial with braille cells, and brown leather strap
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
I hear like you see. Like that hummingbird outside the window, for instance.