Dustin Hoffman as Benjamin Braddock, nervous and aimless college graduate
Los Angeles, Summer through Fall 1967
Film: The Graduate
Release Date: December 22, 1967
Director: Mike Nichols
Costume Designer: Patricia Zipprodt
Dustin Hoffman’s Ivy style mastery in The Graduate has been a frequent request from BAMF Style readers including Kyle, Ryan, Zubair, and more, so—in the spirit of the “back to school” season—let’s take a look at one of the most iconic outfits that Hoffman wore as the listless Benjamin Braddock.
Benjamin is getting tired of his wordless, emotionless trysts with Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), the sultry and troubled wife of his father’s law partner. One night in their usual room at the Taft Hotel, Benjamin suggests that the two talk more. In the words of Simon and Garfunkel, “We’d like to know a little bit about you for our files / We’d like to help you learn to help yourself…”
Between her chain-smoked Carltons, Mrs. Robinson begrudgingly agrees to his request, resulting in her forced admission that she had only married the mundane Mr. Robinson as she was pregnant with their daughter Elaine. Benjamin continues to pry into who Mrs. Robinson was at the time—a college student pursuing an art major—and it’s the first time we see her dropping her confident, seductive façade as he forces her to reflect on the missed potential of her life, indicating a much deeper and more complex character than is initially presented to us. His needling and her increasing sensitivity on the topic hits a crescendo when he jokes about a date with Elaine, striking a final nerve with her as she insists that Benjamin never pursue her daughter.
Benjamin explodes at her insistence, calling her a “broken-down alcoholic” that he perversely sleeps with out of pure boredom. The two trade barbs during their “first fight” before apologizing to each other as Benjamin admits that their affair is “the one thing I have to look forward to” and joining her back in bed. When Mrs. Robinson presses him on the issue of never dating Elaine, he changes his tune about conversations in bed:
Let’s not talk about it. Let’s not talk at all.
What’d He Wear?
Benjamin Braddock spends his summer dressed in a tour de force of classic Ivy style , including button-down collared shirts with repp ties and knit ties, layered under trad staples like gray tweeds, lightweight seersucker, and a navy blazer, though it’s his tan corduroy jacket that is featured in some of the film’s most iconic imagery as Ben stands before Mrs. Robinson, dwarfed by the frame of her semi-stockinged legs.
The single-breasted, two-button corduroy sports coat has notch lapels, a welted breast pocket, patch hip pockets with flaps, two-button cuffs, and a single vent.
When the corduroy sport jacket makes its first appearance in Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson’s room at the Taft Hotel, he is wearing it over a light blue oxford cloth cotton shirt with a button-down collar that holds in place his untied navy-and-copper block-striped repp tie, the colors unifying his earthy-toned jacket and blue shirt. In an interesting sartorial inconsistency, Benjamin wears an all-gold watch in this scene that differs from his usual steel watch on a black leather band. His frustration as he re-dressed also meant he slid the watch over his right wrist as opposed to the left wrist where he usually wears his timepieces.
Benjamin wears his dark gray flat front trousers with zip fly, side pockets, no back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms. His belt is black leather with a dark gunmetal single-prong buckle.
The nature of Benjamin’s association with Mrs. Robinson leaves no part of his outfit unseen, giving plenty of screen time to his white-and rust railroad-striped cotton boxer shorts and charcoal socks.
Months later, after the fallout with the Robinson family, Benjamin proudly presents himself to his parents and declares that he’s “going to marry Elaine Robinson”, despite her not having talked to her since she threw him out of her family’s house for the unarguably valid reason of his having slept with her mother (see above). The Braddocks are overjoyed as he announces that he’ll be going up to Berkeley to pop the question… until they realize that Elaine doesn’t even know that he plans on asking her to marry him and, in fact, doesn’t even like him (a considerable understatement given the terms of their falling-out.
Mr. Braddock: Ben… this whole idea sounds pretty half-baked.
Benjamin: Oh, it’s not. It’s completely baked.
Ben is dressed casually for the announcement and his subsequent reunion with Elaine at Berkeley, again wearing the sport jacket that costumed his argument with her mother but with the more casual underpinnings of a black polo and jeans.
The black short-sleeved polo has two off-white plastic two-hole buttons and a gold-embroidered chest logo, indicating that it’s likely the same polo he would later wear with his beige windbreaker during the film’s climax.
With his blue jeans, Benjamin wears a brown leather belt with a squared brass single-prong buckle that coordinates with his likely footwear, brown penny loafers.
Scored by Simon and Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair” is Benjamin’s drive to Berkeley and his lonely stroll onto the campus, where he wears the corduroy jacket over light, neutral, and unthreatening layers of a cream oxford cloth button-down shirt, worn sans tie, with beige chinos (possibly Bedford cord), brown belt, and brown penny loafers with dark socks.
This is Ben’s earthiest outfit to this point in the movie and—while still consistent with his penchant for Ivy style—it’s the first we see him abandoning any blues or grays in favor of a warmer palette that could indicate a Benjamin Braddock who is laying himself more bare.
Aside from the anomalous appearance of the all-gold watch during his hotel room argument with Mrs. Robinson, Benjamin tends to wear his usual steel wristwatch with its brown faded dial on a black leather strap.
By the following decade, Dustin Hoffman was known to favor a Rolex GMT Master that appeared in several of his films of the ’70s including Straw Dogs (1971), Marathon Man (1976), and Kramer vs. Kramer (1979).
What to Imbibe
While watching Elaine at Berkeley, Ben returns to his beer of choice, Coors Banquet, packaged in its distinctive yellow cans that were the first all-aluminum two-piece cans to be used by any American brewer.
At the time, Coors was still exclusively distributed and sold in western states, providing an allure that would grow to near mythic status after it drove the plot of Smokey and the Bandit (1977) with Burt Reynolds and Jerry Reed tasked with transporting a shipment of Coors from Texas to Georgia, where it was still not legally sold. The year after Bandit and Snowman brought their delivery back to Georgia, Coors Light was introduced as a low-calorie alternative. By the end of the 1980s, Coors (and Coors Light) expanded to nationwide distribution and the Coors Brewery in Golden, Colorado, remains the largest single brewery in the world.
How to Get the Look
Benjamin Braddock demonstrates the versatility of his corduroy sports coat, dressing it up with a blue or cream OCBD and slacks or dressing it down with a black polo and jeans.
- Tan corduroy single-breasted 2-button sport jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, flapped patch hip pockets, 2-button cuffs, and single vent
- Black short-sleeved polo with 2-button top and gold-embroidered chest logo
- Blue denim jeans
- Brown leather belt with squared brass single-prong buckle
- Brown leather penny loafers
- Steel wristwatch with brown gradient dial on black leather strap
- White-and-rust railroad-striped cotton boxer shorts with elastic waistband
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.