Robert Redford as Bob Woodward, investigative journalist for The Washington Post
Washington, D.C., Summer 1972
Film: All the President’s Men
Release Date: April 9, 1976
Director: Alan J. Pakula
Costume Supervisor: Bernie Pollack
In the spirit of the U.S. midterm elections tomorrow, I’m exploring one of my favorite political-themed movies, the 1976 thriller All the President’s Men based on the real-life investigative reporting of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward during the Watergate scandal that led to Richard Nixon’s resignation as U.S. President.
June 18, 1972: Woodward had only been at The Washington Post for nine months when he was assigned to cover the arrest of five burglars who had been caught breaking into the DNC office at the Watergate hotel complex the previous evening. As Woodward continued to investigate with fellow Post reporter Carl Bernstein, the once-minor story connects the break-in to campaign contributions for Nixon’s Committee to Re-Elect the President (aptly nicknamed “CREEP”), revealing then-unprecedented levels of political corruption.
Woodward and Bernstein’s investigative assignment, fueled by McDonald’s and Oreos, leads the two men on a maze across Washington, DC, from the glamorous homes of prominent political fundraisers to darkened parking garages, where Woodward secretly meets with W. Mark Felt (Hal Holbrook), then the associate director of the FBI.
Woodward: The story is dry. All we’ve got are pieces. We can’t seem to figure out what the puzzle is supposed to look like. John Mitchell resigns as the head of CREEP, and says that he wants to spend more time with his family. I mean, it sounds like bullshit, we don’t exactly believe that…
Deep Throat: (sarcastic) No, but it’s touching. Forget the myths the media’s created about the White House. The truth is, these are not very bright guys, and things got out of hand.
Woodward: Hunt’s come in from the cold. Supposedly he’s got a lawyer with $25,000 in a brown paper bag.
Deep Throat: Follow the money.
Woodward: What do you mean? Where?
Deep Throat: Oh, I can’t tell you that.
Woodward: But you could tell me that.
Deep Throat: No, I have to do this my way. You tell me what you know, and I’ll confirm. I’ll keep you in the right direction if I can, but that’s all. Just… follow the money.
Felt, whose identity was confirmed to the public in a May 2015 Vanity Fair article, was nicknamed “Deep Throat” by Post editor Howard Simons after the Linda Lovelace skin flick of the same name. The sobriquet was also a better disguise for the source’s name than “My Friend,” the shorthand that Woodward had been using in his notes that unfortunately shared its M.F. initial letters with Felt’s actual name.
During one of their late night meetings, Deep Throat is shown advising Woodward that his and Bernstein’s lives are in danger, illustrating the very real danger to American journalists that extends more than 180 years into history when Elijah Parish Lovejoy, the pro-abolition editor of the Alton Observer, was killed at his printing press by an Illinois mob that supported slavery. Lovejoy – who was killed on November 7, 1837, two days before his 35th birthday – has been memorialized as the first name on the Journalists’ Memorial in Washington, D.C.’s Newseum and has been called the “first casualty of the Civil War” despite his death occurring nearly a quarter-century before the conflict officially began.
In the decades since Lovejoy’s death, scores of American journalists have been targeted and killed for their reporting – often of political corruption – and it’s with this knowledge that a worried Woodward shows up at Bernstein’s apartment, insists of silence, turns up the Vivaldi on Bernstein’s hi-fi, and types out his latest findings in one of the most gripping sequences from the movie.
What’d He Wear?
The Corduroy Suit
Although he occasionally wears other sport jackets or odd trousers, Bob Woodward’s workhorse suit in All the President’s Men is a light brown pinwale-corded cotton suit. Pinwale, also known as “pincord” or “needlecord” is on the finer end of the corduroy spectrum with a count of approximately 16 wales per inch (as opposed to 11 wales per inch in standard corduroy), with wales referring to the tufted cords that give the fabric its name.
Compared to heavier, warmer-wearing wide-waled corduroy, Woodward’s finer pinwale corduroy suit is a wiser choice for the hot, humid summers of Washington, D.C. Lighter-wearing fabrics like linen or non-corded asset may have been more comfortable, but the durability of corduroy would be a strong asset for a tireless reporter constantly on the move; if Woodward had to wear corduroy, he made the right choice.
The single-breasted, 3/2-roll suit jacket has wide notch lapels consistent with the era’s fashion trends. The three front buttons and the two spaced buttons on each cuff are brown woven leather. Woodward’s jacket also has a welted breast pocket, flapped patch pockets on the hips, and a long single back vent.
Woodward’s flat front suit trousers, which he sometimes orphans to wear with a navy odd jacket, have wide belt loops and slightly flared plain-hemmed bottoms. The side pockets are slanted, and there are two jetted back pockets though only the left back pocket closes through a button.
Redford’s Bob Woodward appears to wear only one belt with all of his outfits in All the President’s Men, a wide brown leather belt with a squared single-prong brass buckle.
In addition to orphaning his light brown corduroy suit trousers to wear with other jackets, Woodward also makes a habit of orphaning his corduroy suit jacket to wear with other trousers, such as a pair of dark brown corduroys. Apart from the different color, they appear to be the same as the suit trousers with a similar cut and styling.
Like his belt, Woodward appears to wear only one set of shoes, a well-worn pair of walnut brown leather derbies, almost invariably worn with black socks.
Shirts and Ties
“Very few ties in this film are knotted with any authority,” wrote Andy Wright for Atlas Obscura in September 2016, also remarking on the ubiquity of “rolled up sleeves and enormous, disarrayed collars.”
Woodward arrives at the courthouse on the morning of June 18, 1972, to cover the indictment of the five burglars who were part of the “White House Plumbers”, a covert unit established to “help the President stop some leaks” as Nixon aide David R. Young told his grandmother. The five men under arrest – Bernard Barker, Virgilio Gonzalez, Eugenio Martínez, James McCord, and Frank Sturgis – left many clues that helped Woodward in the early days of his investigation, including Barker’s address book and bank account information.
This outfit, Woodward’s first of the film, consists of a light blue oxford cloth button-down collar shirt and a wide-bladed navy necktie with a field of blue teardrop-shaped patterns that create the effect of a repeating zig-zag pattern. (Woodward would later wear this outfit with a navy blue sport jacket and this suit’s trousers when he and Bernstein make a return visit to the home of former CREEP treasurer Hugh Sloan.)
One of Woodward’s most frequently worn shirts with this corduroy suit is the same multi-checked shirt that he wears with his beige cotton sport jacket, worn here with a thick black textured knit tie. The shirt is checked with dark navy, blue, and mustard gold on a white ground, and it has a long-pointed spread collar, front placket, breast pocket, and single-button rounded cuffs with a gauntlet button that he often leaves undone.
Another Woodward favorite shirt is the blue-and-white striped cotton shirt that he wears with a bulky navy knit tie. Like his other button-down collar shirts, this has a front placket, breast pocket, and single-button rounded cuffs with a gauntlet button over the wrists.
For days in the newsroom with Bernstein and late nights meeting with Deep Throat, Woodward also wears a light mini-checked shirt with a large point collar, front placket, breast pocket, and button cuffs. In the office, he wears it with the same navy textured tie seen earlier, and the color coordinates with the blue check pattern.
Occasionally, Woodward and Bernstein’s investigative interviews took them no further than the Post‘s newsroom, such as when the pair is depicted interviewing Sally Aiken (Penny Fuller), based on real-life national staff reporter Marilyn Berger who had shared drinks in her apartment with Ken Clawson, the married deputy director of White House communications who didn’t want to lose his “wife and a family and a dog and a cat” after the circumstances of their conversation came to light.
When Woodward talks to Sally, he wears a light taupe hairline-striped oxford-cloth cotton shirt with a button-down collar, front placket, breast pocket, and single-button rounded cuffs, as well as a brown tie covered in a field of beige patterned dots.
By the time Woodward and Bernstein compare notes at McDonald’s, we’re seeing plenty of realistic repetition in their wardrobes as Woodward wears the previously seen blue-and-white striped button-down shirt with the brown pattern-dotted tie. This is one of the instances where he orphans the light brown corduroy suit jacket by wearing with a pair of darker brown corduroy trousers.
The navy tie with the blue teardrops returns with another checked shirt, this one with a subtle navy mini-check, a large ’70s point collar, breast pocket, front placket, and button cuffs – undone and rolled up. With this shirt and tie combo, Woodward orphans the corduroy suit jacket by wearing it with a pair of navy slacks.
Under all of his shirts, Woodward typically wears a white cotton V-neck undershirt.
Robert Redford didn’t let the fact that he was playing a real person get in the way of wearing his usual accessories. On the third finger of his right hand, he wore the silver imprinted ring that he received as a gift fro, representatives of the Hopi tribe in 1966 and has appeared in most of his movies.
Redford also wore his own stainless steel Rolex Submariner 1680 that he wore in many of his 1970s films, including The Candidate (1972), another politically themed film. While I don’t believe that Woodward’s watch at the time was a Rolex (just from looking at contemporary photos), he certainly adopted wearing what appears to be a two-tone DateJust later in life.
Little seen under his shirt due to his penchant for ties (loosely worn though they may be), Redford also wears his usual silver necklace, best seen during the tense sequence typing out his notes from a Deep Throat meeting in Bernstein’s flat.
How to Get the Look
Robert Redford’s wardrobe as reporter Bob Woodward in All the President’s Men is anchored by a rumpled corduroy suit that adds preppy flair.
- Light brown pinwale-corduroy cotton suit:
- Single-breasted 3/2-roll button single-breasted jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped patch pockets, spaced 2-button cuffs, and long single vent
- Flat front trousers with tall belt loops, slanted side pockets, jetted back pockets, and slightly flared plain-hemmed bottoms
- White/navy/gold-checked shirt with large spread collar, front placket, breast pocket, and button cuffs
- Dark navy or black knit tie
- Light brown leather derby shoes
- Black socks
- White cotton V-neck undershirt
- Silver Hopi ring with black imprint, worn on right ring finger
- Rolex Submariner 1680 stainless steel wristwatch with black bezel, black dial, and steel “Oyster”-style link bracelet
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Most importantly, all Americans should be sure to vote in tomorrow’s midterm elections! Uber and Lyft have both announced that they’re offering free rides to local polling stations in response to 29% of young adults telling a Tufts University study that lack of transportation prevented them from voting in the 2016 election.
If you’re gonna do it, do it right. If you’re gonna hype it, hype it with the facts. I don’t mind what you did. I mind the way you did it.