Richard Gere as Julian Kaye, high-price L.A. escort
Los Angeles, Spring 1980
Film: American Gigolo
Release Date: February 8, 1980
Director: Paul Schrader
Costumer: Bernadene C. Mann
Costume Coordinator: Alice Rush
Richard Gere’s Costumes: Giorgio Armani
Strut into spring like Richard Gere’s confident Julian Kaye, the titular American gigolo of Paul Schrader’s 1980 thriller.
We follow Julian through the streets of Beverly Hills as he’s being followed by Michelle Stratton (Lauren Hutton), a state senator’s wife who has grown considerably interested in him. Aware—and amused—that Michelle is tailing him, Julian strides into Tower Records where he allows her to bump into him, sparking a flirtatious conversation to the tune of John Hiatt’s “Take Off Your Uniform”.
The song was no doubt chosen to score the scene with something trendy and new, but it’s a significant choice as we hear it while watching Julian “out of uniform”, not wearing his usual sport jacket, slim tie, and slacks as he isn’t professionally on the make, instead pursuing a more serious personal relationship as he charms Michelle while “slumming it” in casual open-neck shirt and jeans.
What’d He Wear?
Julian Kaye spends his working days and nights decked out in a Giorgio Armani wardrobe of luxurious linen, silk, and wool crepe sport jackets, suits, and ties. He’s rarely off the clock, but his leisure hours are typically devoid of elegance with ill-advised pieces like a long-sleeve polo with slim shawl collar or Daisy Duke-style denim shorts.
The most significant occasion where Julian manages to dress down without losing the dapper panache of his Armani pieces is his confident stride down the sidewalks of Westwood, comfortably outfitted for the warm afternoon in a pale blue cotton shirt with the sleeves rolled past the elbows, tight jeans, and a stone-colored sport jacket tossed over his shoulder.
Despite the many pieces in his sartorial collection, many of Julian’s sports coats are indistinguishable in color, all falling somewhere on Armani’s signature “greige” spectrum in gray, taupe, tan, and beige. This double-breasted jacket is no exception, colored in a tan-leaning shade of stone gray lightweight wool crepe. The ventless jacket is styled with the unique combination of a double-breasted front with notch lapels, a formation that has remained primarily a relic of 1980s trends though it remains somewhat more common on women’s suit jackets and blazers. The notch lapels roll above the single-button closure of the four-button front.
The jacket has a welted breast pocket, patch hip pockets, and three-button cuffs. Though structured at the shoulders with its roped sleeveheads, the looser fit of the jacket connects the Armani “second skin” profile to the boxy power suits that would become a hallmark of men’s fashion in the ’80s.
For the more iconic portions of the sequence, notably Julian’s sidewalk strut that leads him into the record store, he keeps the jacket slung over his shoulder, showing off his physique through his lightweight cotton shirt.
The pale blue hairline-striped shirt has a point collar that is noticeably larger than the collars on shirts he wears with ties. The shirt has a plain front, two set-in chest pockets with non-buttoning flaps, and rounded single-button cuffs that, when he’s out and about, Julian unbuttons and rolls up neatly past his elbows.
Julian’s striped waxed cotton web belt is similar to a surcingle belt, though it lacks the leather pieces in favor of a single lightweight band that connects in the front with a gold-toned squared single-prong buckle. The belt itself is tan with a dark navy center stripe.
It’s difficult to find belts like this that lack the signature leather of the surcingle belt, though this belt from Amazon keeps the leather piece considerably small.
Julian’s light blue high-rise jeans differentiate this outfit the most from his earlier sport jacket-and-slacks ensembles. With their tight fit through the hips and lack of front pockets, these high-rise jeans are clearly “fashion” jeans rather than the traditional offerings of workwear brands like Lee, Levi’s or Wrangler, indicating of an era when jeans were evolving from utilitarian to a symbol of trendy informality.
Almost certainly made by Giorgio Armani, Julian’s jeans have patch back pockets and slightly flared legs to accommodate the shafts of his light brown leather boots with raised heels. Roots has been credited with Gere’s footwear and belts in the movie, though the brand seems to have evolved away from the dressier offerings showcased in American Gigolo.
Julian accessorizes with his go-to set of oversized Armani sunglasses with large round gradient lenses. The tortoise frames are closer to a golden orange than the traditional brown.
Amazon offers a few similar inexpensive frames for shoppers looking to channel the Julian Kaye look, such as this pair from Union Accessories or this more wayfarer-inspired pair by SOJOS and currently enjoying its position as the #1 new release in men’s sunglasses as of May 2019. Either way, don’t be afraid to hunt for unisex pairs as this type of frame has also been popular for women.
For those with a substantially higher budget, you could always see what Armani has in its current men’s sunglasses lineup, including these Pilot sunglasses in black on yellow Havana acetate that, save for the double bridge, could be a spiritual successor to Julian’s distinctive frames.
Julian wears a luxurious yellow gold tank watch, fastened to his left wrist with the rectangular blank dial facing inward. Cartier and Omega have been suggested as likely brands for the sleek watch as some eagle-eyed viewers reportedly sighted the latter’s distinctive Greek letter logo on the watch’s gold single-prong buckle.
Dressing It Up…
The stone-colored crepe double-breasted jacket makes another reappearance later when Julian is pulled in for a police interrogation. When not in the denim duds issued to him for the lineup, he wears the jacket more dressed up than before with a light blue shirt, striped tie, and pleated slacks.
Though it’s a light blue long-sleeve shirt with two flapped pockets, this deeper sky blue shirt has a narrow spread collar and bellows pockets—rather than set-in pockets—with button-down flaps that close through white buttons matching those down the plain front and on each cuff.
Julian wears a navy-on-blue “uphill” pencil-striped knit tie by Basile, the same boutique designer that provided most of Lauren Hutton’s fashionable costumes.
Julian wears his usual taupe leather belt with a rounded gold single-prong buckle through the slim belt loops of his pleated khakis, which have side pockets, button-through jetted back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms. He also wears his gray leather cap-toe oxfords with dark navy socks.
After Julian returns to his apartment to discover that Leon’s “boy” has been there, likely framing him for the murder, he ditches the jacket and tie in favor of a beige windbreaker that he dons to search his car for Judy Rheiman’s missing jewels before he goes on the run.
The blouson-style windbreaker has a long point collar, patch pockets with slanted openings, and knit cuffs and hem.
How to Get the Look
Julian Kaye looks cool, casual, and comfortable as he dressed down pieces of his fashionable Giorgio Armani wardrobe with jeans and sleek accessories.
- Stone-colored lightweight wool crepe double-breasted 4×1-button sport jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, patch hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and ventless back
- Pale blue self-striped lightweight cotton long-sleeve shirt with point collar, plain front, two set-in chest pockets with flaps, and 1-button rounded cuffs
- High-rise blue denim jeans with belt loops and back pockets
- Tan-and-dark navy striped waxed cotton web belt with squared gold single-prong buckle
- Light brown leather boots with raised heels
- Gray jersey-knit cotton short-inseam underwear
- Gold tank watch with a black dial on smooth black leather strap
- Light tortoiseshell large-framed Giorgio Armani sunglasses with brown gradient lenses
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
Anything for a friend.