Alain Delon’s Black Linen Shirt in Purple Noon
Alain Delon as Tom Ripley, charming American con artist and sophisticated sociopath
on Mediterranean Sea off Italy, August 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 leave for my annual week at the beach tomorrow, I’ll be hoping to channel the style—if not the discomfort and petty cruelty—of the idyllic-looking, sun-drenched Mediterranean voyage where sociopathic American con man Tom Ripley (Alain Delon) forms an uncomfortable seagoing trio with the brash, arrogant playboy Philippe Greenleaf (Maurice Ronet) and Philippe’s demure girlfriend Marge (Marie Laforêt).
After one of Philippe’s “pranks” leaves him with a bad case of sun poisoning, Tom retreats to his bunk on the boat for endless rounds of solitaire when Philippe attempts to apologize for his prank-gone-wrong… and Tom solidifies his plan for revenge.
Marge returns to the Italian shore after discovering evidence (planted by Tom) of Philippe’s infidelity, leaving an uneasy tension between the two men who continue sailing and agree to bury the hatchet (so to speak) over a poker game. The stakes rise quite dramatically as Tom breezily admits to the plan he has concocted to murder Philippe and steal his identity. Once he realizes he can’t dismiss Tom as joking, Philippe panics and offers his former friend a substantial sum to stay away from he and Marge. Tom appears to accept the offer… until he pulls a Bowie knife and stabs Philippe to death!
For anyone who hadn’t read Patricia Highsmith’s original 1955 psychological thriller novel, the murder is shocking. We knew there was some tension between the two men, but the film had established Tom as its central character… surely he wouldn’t brutally murder a “friend” in cold blood? And yet, thanks to Patricia Highsmith’s compelling narrative, René Clément’s masterful direction, and the chillingly charming performance of 24-year-old Alain Delon, we buy it… and we can’t help but to root for the wily Tom to evade justice.
What’d He Wear?
When Tom Ripley first sets sail with Philippe and Marge, he spends a pleasant day at sea wearing a pink linen shirt with his usual cream jeans, feeling so carefree that he falls asleep in the sunlight… until Philippe sets the sleeping Tom loose in a dinghy, overexposing him to the sun and leaving Tom with a bad case of sun poisoning.
As Tom recovers back on Philippe’s yacht, he’s already shifted toward villainy, symbolized by his rejection of the brightly colored pink linen as he sits alone, now clad in a black linen long-sleeved camp shirt. Black clothing is traditionally symbolic of evil (consider Darth Vader), but the choice of a black shirt is also practical for Tom as it protects his sun-poisoned skin while the lightweight linen material allows the air to flow through and prevents him from overheating.
Tom’s black shirt is constructed of slubbed linen or a linen and silk blend, a comfortable and luxurious material for summer shirts. The shirt has a plain front with horizontal button holes for the five large off-white plastic 2-hole sew-through buttons with a loop on the left side of the camp collar that fastens an unseen button under the right collar leaf.
The long-sleeved shirt also closes with a single button on each cuff and has two button-through chest pockets. The shirt’s straight hem allows Tom wear it fashionably untucked, which he does.
Tom’s cream cotton twill jeans are the same that he has worn throughout the first half of Plein soleil, held up with a black leather belt that closes through a squared steel single-prong buckle. These button-fly jeans are configured with the traditional five-pocket layout of two in the back and two in the front plus a coin pocket on the right side.
Cream, beige, or light khaki have been stylish alternatives to classic blue denim jeans since the beginning of the latter half of the 20th century, thus some of the most prolific jeans manufacturers have expanded their lines to include offerings in this color spectrum.
Philippe does not allow Tom to wear shoes on his boat, so Tom discards the navy-and-white rope-soled espadrilles he had worn when boarding and walks the decks barefoot with the bottoms of his cream jeans cuffed up.
Tom wears his usual gold necklace with a round gold pendant.
On his left wrist, Tom wears his usual plain steel wristwatch on a navy strap.
Let’s Go Shopping
(All prices as of June 26, 2019.)
- Basic Rights black Tencel long-sleeved camp shirt with white buttons, set-in breast pocket (Basic Rights, $130)
- 28 Palms black linen long-sleeved guayabera with camp collar, smoke buttons, four pockets, alforzas (Amazon, $45… also available in short-sleeve)
- Cubavera black linen/rayon long-sleeved guayabera with point collar, black buttons, four pockets, alforzas (Amazon, $59.05)
- H&M black linen long-sleeved shirt with point collar, white buttons, breast pocket (H&M, $49.99)
- Island Importer “Amalfi Shirt” in black linen with “Roma” spread collar, black buttons, straight hem (Island Importer, $60)
- Isle Bay “slim fit” black linen long-sleeved shirt with point collar, white buttons, breast pocket (Amazon, $28.90)
- Isle Bay “standard fit” black linen long-sleeved shirt with button-down collar, white buttons, flapped pocket (Amazon, $19.50)
- J. Crew Factory “deep harbor” slim linen long-sleeved shirt with button-down collar, white buttons, breast pocket (J. Crew Factory, $29.50)
- Lucky Brand “Havana Linen” long-sleeved shirt with point collar, brown buttons, and two flapped breast pockets (Lucky Brand, $79.50)
- Short Fin linen long-sleeved shirt with point collar, white buttons, breast pocket, and roll-up sleeve tabs (Amazon, $26.50-$32.50)
- Dockers Straight Fit Jean with zip fly in “new British khaki” 60% cotton/37% polyester/3% elastane stretch fabric (Amazon)
- Levi’s Men’s 502 Regular Taper Jean with zip fly in “true chino/bull denim” 98% cotton/2% spandex (Amazon)
- Levi’s Men’s 541 Athletic Taper Fit Jean with zip fly in “timberwolf/cruz twill” 65% cotton/33% polyester/2% elastane (Amazon)
- Lucky Brand 121 Slim Jean with zip fly in “saddle” 98% cotton/2% elastane (Lucky Brand)
- Signature by Levi Strauss & Co. Gold Label Straight Jeans with zip fly in “British khaki” 99% cotton/1% elastane (Amazon)
- Wrangler Classic Relaxed Fit Jean with button fly in “khaki flex” 99% cotton/1% spandex (Amazon)
- Timex Weekender TW2T29200 with round silver-toned brass case, cream dial, and blue nylon strap (Amazon, $38.84)
How to Get the Look
Despite the bright sun shining down on them, Tom Ripley (Alain Delon) dresses for a dark day at sea in Plein soleil with a black linen shirt balanced by his go-to cream jeans for a classic casual summer look.
- Black slubbed linen camp shirt with looped camp collar, plain front, two button-through chest pockets, and button cuffs (all with large white plastic 2-hole sew-through buttons)
- Cream cotton jeans with belt loops, button-fly, five-pocket layout, and self-cuffed bottoms
- Black leather belt with squared steel single-prong buckle
- Gold pendant necklace on thin gold chain
- Steel watch with round silver dial on navy blue strap
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
I might not look it, but I’ve got lots of imagination.
Hey, your article is very helpful. I have a cotton/linen blend fabric and was just wondering whats the best way to take care of it.