Brad Pitt as Max Vatan, Royal Canadian Air Force intelligence officer
Casablanca, Morocco, Fall 1942
Release Date: November 23, 2016
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Costume Designer: Joanna Johnston
On the eve of D-Day, when Allied forces landed on the beaches of France 74 years ago to turn the tide of World War II, I’m taking a look at a stylish wartime thriller that received plenty of attention for its sartorial sapience.
Allied begins as Wing Commander Max Vatan (Brad Pitt), an intelligence officer with the Royal Canadian Air Force, parachutes into Morocco. The first step in his mission to assassinate a German ambassador is to make contact with a French Resistance agent, Marianne Beauséjour (Marion Cotillard), who will be posing as his wife. After changing out of his khaki field jacket and into a snazzy suit befitting his cover and his warm surroundings, Max strolls into a nightclub to the tune of a boozy, contemporary take on “The Sheik of Araby” and meets his pseudo-wife.
Max: Heard a lot about you, saying you were beautiful… and good.
Marianne: Being good at this kind of work is not very beautiful.
Following some champagne with friends, Marianne escorts Max back to their home, where they are to live as Maurice Berne, a phosphate miner from Paris, and his wife Christine. Although the two “spouses” were strangers before that night, they quickly succumb to their mutual attraction on the rooftop of their apartment building.
What’d He Wear?
English costume designer Joanna Johnston deservedly received much praise for her work on Allied, including nominations from the Academy Awards, the British Academy Film Awards, and the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards.
After changing out of the military-inspired safari jacket and desert gear from his parachute entrance to Morocco, Max changes into a snappy beige Irish linen suit that would be just the thing a successful businessman would wear for a hot desert holiday.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Johnston hired tailor Michael Sloan to craft Max Vatan’s sharp suits. While in Casablanca, Max exclusively wears suits with peak-lapel jackets, even for single-breasted suits like this one. The wide peak lapels roll to the top of a two-button front with three matching buttons on the cuffs.
The ventless suit jacket is suppressed at the waist with padded shoulders, emphasized by the width of the lapels, that creates a strong, athletic silhouette. The jacket has a welted breast pocket and large, sporty patch pockets on the hips.
The trousers of Max’s suit have an appropriately long rise consistent with the era’s trends, with short double forward pleats on each side that rise only as high as the natural waist. A single button fastens above the straight fly with no extended tabs or belt loops on the waistband. Max wears a set of black-and-beige striped cloth suspenders with silver adjusters and hardware that connect to buttons on the inside of the trouser waistband with light brown leather hooks.
His trousers have side pockets, jetted back pockets (at least on the left side), and turn-ups (cuffs) on the bottoms.
Johnston’s costume expertise also led her to esteemed English shoemakers Crockett & Jones to craft Max Vatan’s sharp footwear from his black patent leather oxfords to wear with his tuxedo to the white bucks that accompany his summer suits. In the case of the latter, the company eagerly took on the challenge, as noted in a statement on its website announcing the partnership:
After some careful shoe making, Crockett & Jones have produced a selection of styles for Allied, featuring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard. We note ‘careful’ as 1940s styling ushered the use of Ivory Calf, Beige Burnished Calf and White Nubuck, not the easiest of materials to keep clean in a 19th century shoe factory. With ivory being a recognised colour-way of the time, we held our nerve and the shoes looked great!
As Johnston herself said, “The shoes for Allied had to serve a very specific brief which enabled me to push Crockett & Jones a little harder! Working with a shoe manufacturer who have stayed the test of time and have made shoes during these eras, makes them rarely falter. White nubuck and ivory calf oxfords were not a problem.”
Max wears the latter footwear in this scene, a pair of ivory calf leather oxford brogues with a medallion-perforated wingtip and five lace eyelets for the shoes’ ivory laces. His dark charcoal gray herringbone socks may be woven from a luxurious fabric like cashmere.
Max wears a complex striped shirt styled in the 1940s tradition with a long point collar, front placket, and double (French) cuffs that he wears with gold cuff links until he takes out the links and rolls up the sleeves to his elbows.
The cotton shirt pattern consists of a wide lilac stripe, shadowed with gray faded gradient on each side, on a white ground. The lilac stripes are split into three stripes by four thin purple lines.
Max’s silk tie injects some additional color into his outfit. The tie consists of a navy ground with a beige dotted grid that separates the tie into diamond-shaped sections, each of which containing a beige floral “burst” pattern.
As one would expect of a gentleman in the 1940s, Max rarely ventures outside in the city without his hat, a gray felt fedora with a black grosgrain band and gray grosgrain edges. This is his primary hat in Casablanca, and he also wears it with his pale blue pinhead three-piece suit and his light gray double-breasted suit.
Max’s bund-strapped military watch would never suit his cover as a fashionable Parisian businessman, so he wears a dressy tank watch with a large square yellow gold case on a dark brown leather strap.
Max also adopts other jewelry as part of his cover as a happily married Catholic: a white gold wedding band and a large silver crucifix custom-made by London jewelry designer Stephen Einhorn.
“Stephen sculpted and modeled the cross with a Christ figure. We then had to age it in order to make the piece look really old and worn – like a well-loved heirloom.” explains the Stephen Einhorn site. “We made two of these crosses, one with a magnetic catch that could easily be ripped off (without damaging Brad Pitt’s skin) during a bit of action, and one with a different catch to be worn all the time.”
Marianne gives Max the cross to wear the next morning, when he strolls around their apartment in a gold striped silk robe and his white “waffle-weave” sleeveless undershirt.
How to Get the Look
“You’re somewhat formal and reserved, but you like expensive clothes,” Marianne explains to Max as she walks him through the expansive wardrobe to fit his cover. “And your shoes are always polished.”
A beige linen suit is a must-have for warm weather, but the elegant, era-specific details and accompanying shirt, tie, and shoes set Max Vatan’s summer suit apart as he establishes his cover in Allied‘s wartime Casablanca.
- Beige Irish linen tailored suit:
- Single-breasted 2-button jacket with wide peak lapels, welted breast pocket, patch hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and ventless back
- Double forward-pleated trousers with side pockets, jetted back pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- Lilac-on-white complex-striped cotton shirt with long point collar, front placket, and double/French cuffs
- Beige-on-navy floral printed silk tie
- Ivory calf leather medallion perforated wingtip 5-eyelet oxford brogues
- Charcoal gray herringbone cashmere socks
- Gray felt short-brimmed fedora with wide black grosgrain ribbon
- White “waffle-weave” sleeveless undershirt
- Silver crucifix necklace
- White gold wedding band
- Yellow gold tank watch with square gold dial on dark brown leather strap
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.