Gregory Peck’s Checked Summer Shirt in The Snows of Kilimanjaro
Gregory Peck as Harry Street, expatriate writer and former newspaper reporter
French Riviera (Côte d’Azur), Summer 1936
Film: The Snows of Kilimanjaro
Release Date: September 17, 1952
Director: Henry King
Wardrobe Supervisor: Charles Le Maire
As I spend this week on vacation, I reflect on how my birthday buddy Ernest Hemingway—born 120 years ago this week on July 21, 1899—would have spent his daiquiri-soaked summers. A brief vignette from Henry King’s The Snows of Kilimanjaro, an adaptation of Papa’s short story of the same name, may shed some light on the life of a bored writer spending the warm season in the French Riviera.
Gregory Peck stars as Hemingway surrogate Harry Street, an adventurous and accomplished American author who’s living with his flighty lover, Countess Elizabeth (Hildegard Knef), and spending his days in front of one of the typewriters that she had offered to entice him, writing “an interview with myself on the subject of success.”
Harry’s writer’s block is interrupted by a visit from his urbane and witty Uncle Bill (Leo G. Carroll) who advises him to “Marry her, my boy. It’s the surest cure.” Of what, we wonder? His love for the glamorous Cynthia? Before we can find out, Liz herself strides into the room and quickly brings an end to their meeting, though Bill leaves with the very Hemingway-esque parting advice to see that Harry hunts more as “a man should never lose his hand at hunting.”
What’d He Wear?
For a day spent in front of a typewriter and taunted by the alluring scene outside straight out of Jacques Henri Lartigue, Edward Quinn, or Slim Aarons, Harry Street dresses down in a checked cotton camp shirt, silk scarf, and pleated pants, a comfortable and classic ensemble perfectly suitable for a decade when casual sportswear was becoming more modernized, acceptable, and accessible.
As Alan Flusser writes in Dressing the Man, “the neckerscarf folded in a four-in-hand knot adds a spot of flair to the unattended neckline… elevating a simple shirt-and-trouser outfit into an ensemble of surprising stylishness.”
Gregory Peck’s long-sleeved shirt is patterned with a blue mini-grid check on a white ground. The particularly long-pointed camp collar (with left-side loop) is worn open at the neck to accommodate the royal blue printed silk scarf that Harry wears around his neck. The shirt buttons up a plain front with a single button to close the breast pocket and button cuffs, though Harry wears them undone to roll his sleeves up to the elbows.
The blue grid check has endured as a timeless men’s shirting pattern in the decades since The Snows of Kilimanjaro was set and produced, though it’s much easier to find in modern dress shirts from companies like Charles Tyrwhitt and Mizzen+Main than in this vintage-inspired long-sleeve camp shirt more ideal for a slow weekend afternoon. With its line of wool and cotton board shirts, Pendleton Woolen Mills is one company that still specializes in this style of shirt with the closest equivalent (as of July 2019) being this brushed cotton flannel board shirt in blue and gray plaid.
Harry’s gray flannel trousers rise to Gregory Peck’s natural waist, a long rise that may look high by modern standards but is classically proportioned. The trousers have double reverse-facing pleats flanking the fly, on-seam side pockets, jetted back pockets, and turn-ups (cuffs) on the bottoms. Through the trouser belt loops, Harry wears a blue striped surcingle belt with a light blue stripe directly through the center of the blue canvas web body, fitted with tan leather ends and closing through a gold-toned single-prong buckle.
Canvas belts are particularly popular in the summer as a fitting accompaniment for the lighter-weight trousers that gents wears to stay cool during the hotter months. A number of retailers offer canvas belts detailed with various blue stripe patterns, including this D-ring buckle belt from Polo Ralph Lauren (and a budget version by Faleto) though, curiously, it’s Abercrombie & Fitch and Under Armour that (as of July 2019) offer more screen-accurate updates of Peck’s belt with its brown leather ends and metal single-prong buckle.
Harry’s two-tone wingtip shoes appear to be at thematic odds with the rest of the outfit, constructed of black leather with gray fabric vamps. He wears them with light gray socks that harmoniously continue the trouser leg line into the shoes.
Harry’s steel watch with its steel link bracelet is a bit more contemporary to the film’s early 1950s production than this scene’s setting of the mid-1930s, a time when leather bands were the prevailing wristwatch bracelets for men, though bonklip and Milanese metal bracelets were certainly in use in the years immediately following World War I. By the late 1940s, Rolex would patent its now-iconic Jubilee and Oyster link bracelets that would forever change the face—or more accurately, the bands—of men’s wristwatches.
How to Get the Look
Harry Street dresses for leisure and luxury for his summer days spent fighting writer’s block and romantic boredom on the French Riviera.
- Blue-on-white mini-grid check cotton long-sleeve shirt with large camp collar (with loop), plain front, button-through breast pocket, and button cuffs
- Royal blue printed silk scarf
- Gray flannel double reverse-pleated high-rise trousers with belt loops, straight/on-seam side pockets, jetted back pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- Blue striped canvas surcingle belt with tan leather ends and gold-toned single-prong buckle
- Black-and-gray two-tone wingtip lace-up shoes
- Light gray socks
- Stainless steel wristwatch with steel link bracelet
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie and Papa’s original short story. The film’s years in the public domain led to an abundance of low-quality prints available on home media and streaming, but the best way to enjoy the stunning Oscar-nominated art direction and Technicolor cinematography is with a restored version as available on The Ernest Hemingway Classics Collection DVD box set offered by 20th Century Fox, the very set sourced for the screenshots in this post.
How did I get in the habit of getting involved with women who always open my mail?
I love the attention to detail, and the links, in your article. Good eye!