Robert Redford’s Turtleneck in The Way We Were
Robert Redford as Hubbell Gardiner, privileged college student turned Hollywood screenwriter
Upstate New York, June 1937 and
Malibu, California, September 1947
Film: The Way We Were
Release Date: October 19, 1973
Director: Sydney Pollack
Costume Design: Dorothy Jeakins & Moss Mabry
As students are settling back into school after Labor Day, let’s make the acquaintance of Hubbell Gardiner, a privileged college student in 1930s America for whom “everything came too easily to him… but at least he knew it,” apropos his short story “The All-American Smile”. Hubbell’s scribbling earned the young man literary attention not only from publishers willing to pay for his work but also from Katie Morosky (Barbra Streisand), a radical classmate who puts the “active” in activist.
Arthur Laurents based his screenplay on his own experiences at Cornell, where he was introduced to political activism by a fiery young woman in the Young Communist League whose outspoken fervor and passion remained with him long after the two had lost touch. Adding his own Jewish heritage to the character, Laurents crafted the script with Streisand in mind, having worked with her in his 1962 musical I Can Get It For You Wholesale, and basing the character of Hubbell Gardiner on a number of men he had met in the entertainment industry as well as a college acquaintance known only as “Tony Blue Eyes”.
The movie’s famous opening song introduces Hubbell and Katie at “Wentworth College”, a fictional “Little Ivy”-type college portrayed on screen by the picturesque Union College in Schenectady, New York. While the politically motivated Katie busies herself organizing rallies and strikes to protest fascism around the world, the charming, popular Hubbell focuses his laidback attention on sports and girls, finding easy success in both arenas.
It isn’t until Katie hears “The All-American Smile” in her class with Hubbell that she recognizes that there may be greater depth to Hubbell than his persona of just an easygoing WASP whose “decadent and disgusting” friends tease her as she works at a campus diner. One evening shortly before their graduation, she’s returning from her second job—working the newspaper linotype—when she spies Hubbell enjoying a solitary beer, celebrating the recent sale of his short story. Katie tries to avoid him by crossing the street, but he spies her out walking and invites her to join him for “one sip…one sip of beer?” She’s not a drinker—yet—but still affects nonchalant annoyance as she crosses the street and prompts him with “Well?”
Hubbell: Why do you carry your books all the time?
Katie: That‘s what I crossed the street for?
Hubbell: No, I’m celebrating.
Katie: What are you celebrating?
Hubbell: I got you to cross the street.
Oh, that did it! After months of resisting the golden boy’s charisma and his “dirty co-ed humor,” Katie finds herself swiftly won over by Hubbell’s charms as the track star and fledgling writer listens to her sharing her experiences and opinions with more earnest curiosity than she would have expected. As their short but significant conversation comes to a close, he delicately ties her shoe and issues parting words of encouragement:
Go get ’em, Katie.
A decade later, Katie is likely more surprised than anyone to find herself married to Hubbell. The two had lost touch after an intimate, wordless dance at their commencement celebration until a chance encounter seven years later at New York City’s iconic El Morocco nightclub. A beer-drunk Hubbell, asleep at the bar in his Navy summer whites, staggered awake to find Katie Morosky standing before him with a Dubonnet in her hand and her hair “ironed”. After a sloppy night together, Katie’s persistence and Hubbell’s enthusiasm for her optimistic, idealized vision of him leads to an on-again, off-again relationship that briefly stabilizes when the two are married after World War II and spirit themselves to southern California. Per usual, Hubbell finds an easy path to success—this time as a Hollywood screenwriter adapting his own material—while Katie subdues her more radical urges, focusing on homemaking and dreaming of living the expatriate life with Hubbell in France.
What’d He Wear?
When not decked out in the classic World War II-era naval uniforms, Robert Redford’s Hubbell Gardiner strides through The Way We Were dressed in a stylish wardrobe that transcends the film’s “golden age” setting as well as its early ’70s production, from comfortable casual attire to the über-formal white tie and tails.
“Sort of miss the neck brace, it was like a powerful turtleneck. You looked like Robert Redford in The Way We Were,” Sharon Horgan’s character tells her husband played by Rob Delaney in a second season episode of Catastrophe, referencing Hubbell’s collegiate look.
Hubbell’s “powerful turtleneck” is first seen as he and Katie share a late night beer on the evening of June 3, 1937, the same day that Edward VIII defied expectations by marrying Wallis Simpson… perhaps foreshadowing Hubbell’s own defiant romantic gestures of bringing the outspoken Marxist Katie into the “sophisticated” world of his Beekman Place pals.
Hubbell wears an ivory turtleneck sweater in a soft knit material that suggests cashmere. Not too bulky but not skin-tight, the sweater flatteringly hangs on Redford’s frame and gently follows his movements whether he’s raising a mug of beer or collapsing onto beach sands.
The knitting pattern on the body of the sweater, which resembles the scales of a fish, appears to be a tight trinity stitch or bramble stitch, though I would defer to a knitting expert. The long turtleneck, cuffs, and waist hem hem are knitted in wide ribs.
Slung over the back of Hubbell’s chair appears to be a gray tweed sports coat that goes unworn throughout the seen but may be the same large-scaled herringbone 3/2-roll jacket that he would wear when working as a Hollywood screenwriter a decade later.
Hubbell wears this turtleneck untucked with the hem covering the top of his taupe brown pleated trousers, finished on the bottoms with turn-ups (cuffs).
Hubbell wears a pair of burgundy penny loafers, a style of shoe that was increasingly popular after G.H. Bass & Co. first introduced “weejuns” to the American market in the mid-1930s, thus it’s realistic that they would have been sported by affluent students like Hubbell on campuses by the spring of 1937. (That said, the film the film isn’t above sartorial anachronism, as Patrick O’Neal’s super-’70s wardrobe as director George Bissinger in “1940s Hollywood” illustrates.)
College students soon embraced the popular slip-on shoe with its slotted strap across the vamp, often decorating it with a penny in the slot that led to the shoe’s “penny loafer” moniker. Hubbell thankfully foregoes the penny-in-the-slot tradition in the burgundy moc-toe weejuns that he wears with his cream-colored wide-ribbed socks.
The turtleneck gets an on-screen reprise during a brief vignette set 10 years later as the “happy” couple, now living in Malibu, walks along the beach at dusk as they laugh over potential baby names, which include her father’s suggestions of Thomas Jefferson Gardiner, Solomon David Gardiner, and Eugene V. Debs Gardiner.
It’s one last moment of bliss for Hubbell and the now-pregnant Katie, both feeling nostalgic as they wear significant clothes from their past: he’s outfitted in the turtleneck from their first night bonding over beers and writing, and she’s sporting his Navy-issued blue chambray work shirt under a white collegiate cardigan emblazoned with a blue “W” for Wentworth College with matching stripes on the arm.
Both outfits are items from the past, but more accurately his past; Katie never served in the Navy, and her pride was in her school work rather than the school itself… not to mention that she is dwarfed by the larger clothes. In this happy vignette, they’re both living Hubbell’s concept of an ideal life, taking the relatively “easy” path to success. The once-outspoken individualist Katie has allowed her identity to be completely wrapped up in his (as she is completely wrapped in his clothing) compromising her ambitions, her political ideals, and—most importantly—her principles.
It makes sense that Hubbell would dig out a comfy old sweater from his college days, still a normal practice for folks only a decade removed from their collegiate years who often don the same baggy sweatshirt that warmed its wearer while studying for finals or nursing hangovers. Hubbell’s sweater is showing some age, fraying at the cuffs, but this broken-in quality makes it all the more comfortable for an intimate sunset stroll through the surf.
Southern California has always led the country’s casual style revolutions, so it’s not surprising to see Hubbell embracing blue jeans for informal occasions like this barefoot walk on the beach, though his denim looks more like a product of the early ’70s, tight through the legs and thighs and slightly flared on the bottoms, which Hubbell cuffs to avoid sledging them through the sand.
During his Navy tenure, Hubbell wore a sterling silver curb-chain ID bracelet on his left wrist that he continued to wear in his civilian life following the war.
Hubbell’s other piece of jewelry is the silver ring that Robert Redford wore in almost all of his movies after he received it as gift from a Hopi tribe in 1966. While it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Hubbell Gardiner would wear a ring, it would perhaps be more consistent with his character if it were a class ring, a large shining symbol of his glory days gleaming from his right hand.
Dorothy Jeakins and Moss Mabry shared costume design credit for The Way We Were, though IMDB also reports the uncredited contributions of Richard Bruno, Marie Osborn, Shirlee Strahm, and Bernie Pollack, who often collaborated with his director brother Sydney as well as Robert Redford on their projects over the following decades from Three Days of the Condor to Havana.
How to Get the Look
It’s no surprise that looking stylish comes so easily to Hubbell Gardiner, as most other things in his life do. Simple, casual, and comfortable, his elegant ivory turtleneck keeps our aspiring writer looking dashing from campus bar to California beach.
- Ivory bramble-stitched cashmere turtleneck sweater with set-in sleeves and ribbed-knit turtleneck, cuffs, and waist hem
- Taupe brown pleated trousers with turn-ups/cuffs
- Burgundy calf leather penny loafers
- Cream ribbed socks
- Silver tribal ring
- Sterling silver curb-chain ID bracelet
Putting on an ivory knit turtleneck won’t transform you into Robert Redford, but it’s a worthy piece to have in your wardrobe! Hubbell-style sweaters are available at The Irish Store, Aran Sweater Market, and DRUMOHR (one cable-knit, and one square-patterned).
For a more dressed-down day on the beach, lose the shoes and swaps and swap out the slacks for an old pair of jeans ready to take on the salt and sand.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
The trouble with some people is they work too hard.