Alain Delon as Tom Ripley, charming American con artist and sophisticated sociopath
Maronti Beach, Italy, September 1959
Film: Purple Noon
(French title: Plein soleil)
Release Date: March 10, 1960
Director: René Clément
Costume Designer: Bella Clément
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
As I’m currently out of town on my annual beach vacation, I wanted to get into the spirit of the summer holidays by looking at swimwear from the movies, beginning with Alain Delon’s classic toweling blazer and swim trunks in Plein soleil, known to English-speaking audiences as Purple Noon.
When Patricia Highsmith’s psychological thriller The Talented Mr. Ripley was first adapted for the big screen in 1960, the author praised the visually appealing cinematography and Alain Delon’s performance as the charismatic sociopath Tom Ripley. However, one of Highsmith’s most strident criticisms of the French film was the ending, which she called “a terrible concession to so-called public morality.” (I’m going to try to be vague here even though I warned about spoilers above!)
His dastardly deeds safely tied up, Tom Ripley is now free to enjoy the life that he stole for himself. Ever the altruist, Tom takes it upon himself to help Marge (Marie Laforêt) move on after the deceptions and death of her paramour Philippe, whose “suicide” had been confirmed weeks earlier. The two embark on a romantic day of swimming and lazing about on the picturesque Maronti Beach on the picturesque Italian island of Ischia in the northern end of the Gulf of Naples. Of course, there’s something in the water that may interfere with Tom’s idyllic new life.
What’d He Wear?
His troubles ostensibly over, Tom Ripley settles into his new life of leisure. As living with Marge means having a beautiful Italian beach practically in his own backyard, this hedonistic existence means plenty of days spent in the sun.
Perhaps triggered by the sunburn incident on Philippe’s yacht, Tom ventures out to the beach wearing the ideal garment that would protect him from the sun while still keeping in tact his image of a luxurious playboy: a navy blue French terry toweling blazer.
What gets wetter as it dries? A towel.
There’s a reason that dads have passed on this riddle, which also happens to be incontrovertibly true. Terry cloth is woven with cross loops designed to absorb water. Wikipedia tells us that there are two kinds of terry: towel terry and French terry. As its name implies, the former is often used to make towels while the latter is a more wearable fabric used in the construction of clothing.
Thus, the development of the toweling blazer, a comfortable and classy alternative to a beach shirt that helps a swimmer dry off after a dip in the water while enveloping them in ultra-soft cotton that encourages one to simply lay back and enjoy the day.
Tom’s navy toweling blazer resembles a cross between a traditional blazer and a cardigan with its unstructured fit and its single-breasted front with three gold shank buttons. Each cuff also fastens with a single gold button, though Tom often just pushes the sleeves of his toweling jacket up to his elbows. There is a single patch pocket on each hip with a straight-top opening.
Tom wears a pair of black swim trunks with bold red stripes with a gradient red fade on one outer side of each stripe. These short-inseam trunks are evidently fitted or have a hidden inner drawstring as there is no visible method for tightening them around the waist… which could lead to some very embarrassing mishaps for the less careful swimmer.
Tom spends the entirety of the scene barefoot, not sporting his usual plain slip-on loafers sans socks. His sole accessory is a thin gold necklace with a round gold pendant that he wears throughout the film.
How to Get the Look
No shirt, no shoes, no problem.
Alain Delon’s Tom Ripley shows how a simple garment like a toweling blazer can upgrade your summer swimwear to a whole new level of both class and comfort.
- Navy terry cotton toweling blazer with notch lapels, three gold shank buttons, single-button cuffs, and patch hip pockets
- Black-and-red gradient-striped short-inseam swim trunks
- Gold pendant necklace on thin gold chain
One brand that I’ve encountered that guarantees the toweling blazer’s place as a current style staple is Busbee McQuade, a Los Angeles-based company specializing in “formally informal” clothing for all. Their signature items, The Busbee and the heavier-weight The Busbee OG, takes styling cues from classic toweling blazers with its French terry cotton material, slim notch lapels, and patch hip pockets.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Only the best.