Robert Redford’s Plaid Shirt in Brubaker

Robert Redford as Henry Brubaker in Brubaker (1980)

Robert Redford as Henry Brubaker in Brubaker (1980)

Vitals

Robert Redford as Henry Brubaker, idealistic warden of Wakefield state prison farm

Arkansas, Spring 1969

Film: Brubaker
Release Date: June 20, 1980
Director: Stuart Rosenberg
Costumer: Bernie Pollack

Background

Happy birthday, Robert Redford! The legendary actor, who turns 82 today, recently announced that his upcoming film, The Old Man & The Gun, will likely be his last.

In addition to being one of the most popular and prolific actors of the last half-century, Redford was also a talented director, winning an Academy Award for his directorial debut Ordinary People in 1980. That same year, Redford also starred in Brubaker, a rough prison drama about an idealistic warden who goes undercover in a corrupt Arkansas prison.

The role of no-nonsense prison warden Henry Brubaker would be Redford’s last on-screen performance until stepping behind the plate for The Natural four years later.

What’d He Wear?

After Brubaker’s first appearance in civilian clothes, wearing a Black Watch plaid flannel shirt, chore coat, and corduroys, we catch up with the warden as he handles some administrative duties. One of the first is a visit from crooked C.P. Woodward (M. Emmet Walsh), who isn’t used to the new honest way of conducting business at Wakefield as Brubaker negotiates with him for a new roof.

“I ain’t in the construction business for my health,” Woodward says, trying to hardball. “Or anyone else’s, it seems.” Slowly but surely, Woodward eventually gets around to his point: “don’t fuck with tradition.”

The shirt pattern consists of a base red shadow plaid on a black ground, though criss-crossing stripes in green, blue, white, and yellow provide a complex and colorful effect. (Thanks to BAMF Style reader Chris for correctly identifying this particular pattern as a modern Stewart Black Tartan plaid.)

Brubaker's plaid shirt pattern is made up of at least six different colors.

Brubaker’s plaid shirt pattern is made up of at least six different colors.

The shirt has a large point collar as was fashionable from the end of the 1960s through the following decade. Redford wears the shirt with the top few buttons undone and the rest of the clear plastic buttons fastened down the front placket. Each cuff also closes with a single clear plastic button. The shirt has two chest pockets that each close with a slightly pointed flap that buttons through the center.

Brubaker takes an immediate stand to corrupt bureaucracy. Dressed as such, he looks far more a man of the people with the common good in mind.

Brubaker takes an immediate stand to corrupt bureaucracy. Dressed as such, he looks far more a man of the people with the common good in mind.

Brubaker cycles through two pairs of corduroy trousers – one in navy blue and the other in dark brown – with his dressed-down civilian attire, worn with a thick black leather belt that has a large brass single-prong buckle through the pants’ tall belt loops. Both pairs are made from a standard wale cotton corduroy cloth and have side pockets that slant inward toward the waist, jetted back pockets, and slightly flared plain-hemmed bottoms.

BRUBAKER

Brubaker’s daily footwear is a pair of russet brown leather work boots with derby-style open lacing.

BRUBAKER

When he oversees the digging in the prison yards, Brubaker re-dons his earlier seen tan chore coat and black knee-high boots. The waxed cotton four-button coat has an olive pinwale collar, set-in sleeves, and three flapped patch pockets: one on his left breast and two larger ones on his hips.

An advantage to Brubaker's casual everyday clothing is that he doesn't need to change when putting on work outerwear for a day digging up the grounds.

An advantage to Brubaker’s casual everyday clothing is that he doesn’t need to change when putting on work outerwear for a day digging up the grounds.

Briefly, just briefly, Brubaker wears a dirty white straw cowboy hat with a slim black band while kicking back in his quarters.

BRUBAKER

Robert Redford often wore a Rolex Submariner in his real life throughout the 1970s, though a simpler steel wristwatch with a plain round dial was chosen for his role in Brubaker. He wears the watch on a steel bracelet around his right wrist.

Don't talk to Henry Brubaker until he's had his coffee.

Don’t talk to Henry Brubaker until he’s had his coffee.

Though Redford’s real-life watch didn’t make it into the film, the actor still wears the engraved silver ring that he received as a gift from the Hopi Tribe in 1966 and has worn on the third finger of his right hand in most of his films since then,

The Gun

Though he doesn’t have a writ for a rat on hand, Brubaker echoes John Wayne’s iconic gesture in True Grit by drawing his revolver on a rat. While Duke’s Rooster Cogburn may have waylaid his rat with a single-action .45 revolver, Brubaker carries a more modernized weapon in the form of a Smith & Wesson Model 10 revolver that he had evidently inherited from the previous warden.

As True Grit was released in June 1969, it's more than likely that Brubaker would be familiar with the scene... though he could have also read Charles Portis' book from the previous year.

As True Grit was released in June 1969, it’s more than likely that Brubaker would be familiar with the scene… though he could have also read Charles Portis’ book from the previous year.

Smith & Wesson first introduced its .38-caliber Military & Police revolver in 1899, and it quickly gained favor as a service revolver for American police departments and peace officers for its reliable mechanism and ability to chamber the new and powerful .38 Special cartridge. Five decades later, Smith & Wesson standardized the nomenclature of its models and the Military & Police became the Model 10. With production figures at 6,000,000 and growing, the Smith & Wesson Model 10 earned its standing as the most popular centerfire revolver of the 20th century.

A classic example of the double-action revolver, the Smith & Wesson Model 10 is still produced today more than a century after its introduction in a variety of barrel lengths, weights, and finishes, though Brubaker’s revolver is the quintessential police six-shooter with its blue steel finish and 4″ barrel.

Robert Redford as Henry Brubaker in Brubaker (1980)

Robert Redford as Henry Brubaker in Brubaker (1980)

How to Get the Look

Although Brubaker is set in 1969 as it was based on the experiences of former prison administrator Thomas O. Murton, who also served as technical adviser, the film’s fashions are contemporary to the time of its production in late 1979 and early 1980. Four decades later, Brubaker’s go-to casual ensemble of a plaid long-sleeved shirt, corduroy trousers, and work boots remains ruggedly fashionable.

  • Red-and-black multi-colored Stewart Black Tartan plaid cotton shirt with large point collar, front placket (with clear plastic buttons), button-flapped chest pockets, and button cuffs
  • Navy blue or brown flat front standard wale cotton corduroy trousers with tall belt loops, slightly slanted side pockets, jetted back pockets, and slightly flared plain-hemmed bottoms
  • Wide black leather belt with large brass single-prong buckle
  • Russet brown leather derby-laced work boots
  • Silver Hopi ring with black imprint, worn on right ring finger
  • Steel round-cased wristwatch with light-colored dial on steel bracelet

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Check out the movie.

The Quote

I hate prunes.

Footnote

Brubaker was directed by Stuart Rosenberg, who had made his major studio debut 13 years prior helming the classic prison flick Cool Hand Luke… starring Robert Redford’s pal and occasional co-star Paul Newman.

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