James Stewart as John “Scottie” Ferguson, former San Francisco detective
San Francisco, Fall 1957
Release Date: May 9, 1958
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Costume Designer: Edith Head
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
In the spirit of yesterday, March 12, being deemed Alfred Hitchcock Day, not to mention being one week away from the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, even if the weather itself can’t make up its mind…
For those whose offices call for jackets and ties, dressing for work during these transitional weather periods can be a challenge, balancing professionalism with comfort in the context of an uncertain weather forecast. As San Francisco detective “Scottie” Ferguson in Vertigo, James Stewart provides a solution.
Scottie works and lives in San Francisco, a city famous for its mild climate with little seasonal variation, thus our hero establishes for himself a rotation of flannel and serge business suits in traditional colors like blue, gray, and brown. Flannel suits are particularly fortunate assets to have in one’s closet when the morning air is still cool but hardly worthy of packing a topcoat and scarf for the day.
After spending the introductory scene with his friend Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes), Scottie is summoned to the office of his college pal Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore), a shipbuilding exec who goads the reluctant detective into agreeing to follow his wife Madeleine, setting the plot of this classic thriller in motion.
What’d He Wear?
Scottie arrives at Gavin’s office at the San Francisco shipyard wearing a spring-friendly blue-gray two-piece business suit made from a flannel cloth just weighty enough to provide comfort in the cool weather without requiring an additional layer.
The blue-gray flannel suit is tailored and styled to be consistent with his other suits with a single-breasted, three-button jacket that flatters and balances Jimmy Stewart’s height. Unlike his sportier suits with patch pockets, this suit jacket has the standard welted breast pocket and straight set-in hip pockets typically associated with business suits.
The jacket also has three-button cuffs. It is Scottie’s only suit jacket with a vented back, as both this blue-gray flannel suit jacket and his birdseye tweed sports coat have a single vent in the back.
Like Scottie’s other suits, the blue-gray trousers have single reverse pleats, a long rise, and a wide fit through the legs to the turn-ups (cuffs) on the bottoms. Per his habit of matching his belts to his suits—rather than to his shoe leather—Scottie wears a slim textured belt in dark navy leather with a long silver-toned single-prong buckle.
Under the wide turn-ups (cuffs) on the bottom of his trousers legs, Scottie also appears to be wearing his usual cordovan wingtip oxford brogues with a pair of dark navy socks. In this case, the navy socks coordinate with the color of his suit trousers, but he tends not to be very discerning in this case with his other suits as he wears the navy socks with almost everything.
Despite the variance in his suits, Scottie always pulls from an army of white cotton poplin dress shirts, almost always worn—at least at first—with a gold collar pin under his tie knots. His shirts have front plackets, breast pockets, and two-button cuffs that, like his three-button suit jackets, balance his long arms.
When he’s visiting Gavin Elster’s office and getting his assignment, he wears a royal blue tie with a motif of gray diamond shapes organized in rows and columns down the tie blade. Scottie holds the tie in place with a silver tie bar at mid-torso, just above the buttoning point, and he wears it with the back slightly longer than the front blade.
Many scenes later, Vertigo climaxes with Scottie’s realization that his recent acquaintance Judy (Kim Novak) was actually Elster’s mistress posing as his own wife Madeleine to distract Scottie during their plan to kill Madeleine by faking her suicide. (The two talk about a night out at Ernie’s, but we shouldn’t be surprised when they don’t end up going as Scottie isn’t wearing his royal blue “go-to-Ernie’s” suit!)
During this segment, Scottie again wears his blue-gray flannel suit from the beginning, perhaps as a symbolic recognition that his story is starting again from scratch… just as it had when he wore it to Elster’s office and was first instructed to follow the woman he believed to be Madeleine. Instead of the blue patterned tie, though, Scottie wears a shiny gray shantung silk tie with alternating dots in black and white.
He may have a belt for almost every suit, but Scottie wears only one hat throughout Vertigo, a chocolate brown felt fedora that is likely the same headgear that Jimmy Stewart wore in many of his films from the decade. Discussion at the online forum The Fedora Lounge has suggested that Churchill Ltd. made Jimmy Stewart’s Vertigo hat and thus was the maker of his tried-and-true brown fedora throughout his 1950s career, though the forum also suggests Borsalino, Cavanagh, Dobbs Fifth Avenue, and Stetson among the possible brands that the actor preferred.
Scottie wears his gold dress watch on a black leather strap, fastened high on his left wrist.
How to Get the Look
Fight the late winter blues with a springtime business suit in blue-gray flannel that brings comfort, professionalism, and warmth to your office wear.
- Blue-gray flannel suit:
- Single-breasted 3-button jacket with notch lapels, patch breast pocket, patch hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and single vent
- Single reverse-pleated trousers with belt loops, side pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- White poplin dress shirt with long point collar, front placket, breast pocket, and 2-button rounded cuffs
- Gold collar pin
- Royal blue tie with gray diamond-patterned motif
- Slim navy leather belt with wide single-prong buckle
- Cordovan leather 5-eyelet wingtip oxford brogues
- Dark navy socks
- Gold wristwatch with round case, black-ringed white dial, and black leather strap
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
You shouldn’t keep souvenirs of a killing. You shouldn’t have been that sentimental.