Matthew McConaughey as Rustin “Rust” Cohle, nihilistic Louisiana State Police homicide detective
Louisiana, January 1995
Series: True Detective
– “The Long Bright Dark” (Episode 1.01, aired 1/12/2014)
– “Seeing Things” (Episode 1.02, aired 1/19/2014)
– “The Locked Room” (Episode 1.03, aired 1/26/2014)
– “Who Goes There” (Episode 1.04, aired 2/9/2014)
– “The Secret Fate of All Life” (Episode 1.05, aired 2/16/2014)
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Creator: Nic Pizzolatto
Costume Designer: Jenny Eagan
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Time may or may not be a flat circle, but birthdays come around every year and today is Matthew McConaughey’s 50th!
Born November 4, 1969, in Uvalde, Texas*, McConaughey spent the first two decades of his career bringing a likable presence to movies that ranged from heavy drama (Amistad, A Time to Kill) to frothy rom-coms (How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, Failure to Launch) and plenty in between.
After a two-year acting hiatus following Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, the actor began focusing on more serious fare like The Lincoln Lawyer, kicking off what many—including Rachel Syme for The New Yorker—deemed “the McConaissance” with roles in Magic Mike, The Wolf of Wall Street, and ultimately his Academy Award-winning performance in Dallas Buyers Club.
* McConaughey shared his birthplace with Willis Newton, the real-life bank robber he portrayed in The Newton Boys.
It was on the heels of McConaughey’s Oscar win that he wowed HBO audiences as the nihilistic policeman Rustin “Rust” Cohle in True Detective, a role that would earn McConaughey even more deserved accolades including Emmy and Golden Globe nominations in addition to winning the Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Actor in a Drama Series. Also nominated for the Emmy was McConaughey’s co-star Woody Harrelson, who played opposite him as veteran Louisiana State Police detective Marty Hart.
Rust Cohle: This place is like somebody’s memory of a town, and the memory is fading. It’s like there was never anything here but jungle.
Marty Hart: Stop saying shit like that. It’s unprofessional.
McConaughey and Harrelson’s chemistry shone brightly as the two disparate personalities converge and diverge over two decades of a dark, twisted homicide investigation, with Cohle’s haunted solitude often serving as the foil to the gregarious good ol’ boy Hart, putting a new spin on the mismatched cop cliché. With its Lovecraftian mythology, bravura acting, haunting atmosphere and cinematography, and Pizzolato and Fukunaga’s boldly dedicated auteurism, the first season of True Detective remains a high water mark in what some have called the second Golden Age of Television… or at least the Golden Age of TV opening credits.
What’d He Wear?
After our introduction to a scraggly, aged Rust Cohle in 2012, we flash back seventeen years to his partnership with Marty Hart investigating homicides for the Louisiana State Police. According to a Costumer Designers Guild article, costume designer Jenny Eagan received guidance from a former Louisiana homicide detective who served during the show’s time-frame, incorporating the detective’s feedback with her own sense of Rust Cohle’s simple, gritty approach to dressing that contrasted with Hart, whose houndstooth sport jackets, striped button-down shirts, and paisley ties would have been straight off the rack in a 1995 Macy’s.
“Rust is a guy who doesn’t care about his look,” Eagan shared with Emily Zemler of ELLE magazine for an interview published in July 2014. “Marty cared a little more about himself–he had a wife and maybe his wife bought things for him.”
“Cohle was such a complex character, and yet I knew he’d be so simple in the way that he dressed. It was all about utilitarianism for him. That’s what made him comfortable,” Eagan told Slate in a March 2014 interview. “We certainly didn’t want to dress him toward a particular fashion. In the mid-’90s, men were wearing pleated pants. Suits were boxy and squared out. That was nothing that Rust was going to be interested in. He was going to want to go to one store and pick up one of each item of clothing and wear them all indefinitely.”
Eagan had the particular challenge of making sure that the costume design, while accurate, was subdued enough to match the show’s dark, gritty tone and avoid overpowering the nuance of the plot. For Rust Cohle, this meant a limited but frequently cycled collection of corduroy sport jackets, solid shirts, textured ties, and flat front trousers with a single belt and a well-traveled pair of boots anchoring them all.
The Navy Corduroy Jacket
Rust Cohle’s penchant for corduroy, a durable but admittedly hot-wearing fabric, would keep him toasty in Louisiana’s humid subtropical climate, but the bulk of the 1995 action is set across the wintry months of the year from January through early spring. There’s no snow on the ground, but the air would have likely been brisk enough to keep Cohle from overheating in his hard-wearing fabric of choice.
“Subconsciously, as a viewer, it didn’t hit me until recently that almost every investigative scene involving Matthew McConaughey’s emotional scrapyard of a character, had him donning a well-cut, tailored corduroy jacket, as if that was the only thing keeping him from seeping slowly into the dark world Rust Cohle had created for himself after the premature death of his only child,” wrote “Tomboy Tarts” in a Medium post published shortly after True Detective‘s first season concluded. Across the 1995-set scenes of the season, Cohle wears three similarly cut corduroy sports coats: two in earthy tones of olive and brown and one in navy blue, a slightly less common color for corduroy.
This dark navy corduroy sport jacket has notch lapels of moderate width that roll to a low two-button stance with the top button in line with the hip pockets, though Cohle wears the jacket open at all times. The low stance is contemporary with 1990s fashions, though Eagan explained to the Costume Designers Guild her rationale for eschewing the double-breasted jackets that were popular during the decade: “A double-breasted sport coat would have been far too flashy for a detective and could have hindered their ability to get to their weapon.”
Made by K&P Costume Company of North Hollywood, Cohle’s navy corduroy jacket has a welted breast pocket, jetted hip pockets, and a single vent. The number of buttons on the sleeve seems to vary; while the jacket tends to be seen with three-button cuffs, some shots (particularly of Cohle’s left sleeve while driving their car as Hart fights a hangover) show four buttons on the cuff instead.
Corduroy jackets in warm shades of brown and tan are an Ivy style staple. If you’ve already got one in your collection, consider putting a creative twist on it à la Rust Cohle with a sports coat in navy blue corded cloth:
- Brooks Brothers (Nordstrom Rack)
- Dolce & Gabbana (Amazon)
- J. Crew Factory “Slim Fit Thompson” (J. Crew Factory)
- Ralph Lauren Purple Label “Hadley” (Ralph Lauren… for $1,695!)
- Tommy Hilfiger (Amazon)
- Unlisted by Kenneth Cole (Amazon)
- U.S. Polo Assn. (Amazon)
Shirts and Ties
Costume designer Jenny Eagan expanded on the philosophy that drove her decision-making for Rust Cohle’s costumes in a July 2014 interview with Emily Zemler of ELLE magazine:
Rust is the kind [of guy] who knew there was a dress requirement. They had to wear a tie, they had to wear a shirt, they had to cover their weapon so they needed a windbreaker or a blazer. He knew that those were the rules he had to follow. I felt he walked into a store and said, “Give me two of those, two of those and two of those.” He’s not going to think about it. And then he’d mix and match every day. If you really watch the show, I just mixed and matched things. They each had maybe four different shirts and three blazers. I just rotated them around with ties.
These rotating shirts and ties that Cohle wears almost exaggeratedly, defiantly loosened were made for the series by Anto Beverly Hills. While Cohle tended to stick to blues and grays with his navy jacket and light shades of brown with his earthy corded jackets, there is a realistic degree of overlap across his wardrobe, which Eagan told Zemler she tracked with a comprehensive chart in the wardrobe trailer.
Consistent with Eagan’s recollection, I counted four different shirts and three different ties that McConaughey wears with the navy corduroy jacket; the four shirts are a slate gray mélange, ice blue, pale blue, and a heathered tan, while his textured ties are a slate gray stripe wool, taupe-on-charcoal grid-check wool, and brown grenadine. Eagan explained to Costume Designers Guild that she “made Matthew’s ties, because [she] couldn’t find any ties of the period that were subtle enough but with texture.”
“The Long Bright Dark” (Episode 1.01)
Given how long it’s taken for me to reconcile my nature, I can’t figure I’d forgo it on your account, Marty.
After identifying the murder victim from the macabre scene they encountered in Vermilion Parish as 28-year-old Dora Kelly Lange, Cohle and Hart make a disturbing visit to the coroner’s office before sharing their newfound knowledge in two briefings, first a comprehensive internal meeting with the rest of LSP CID followed by a press briefing.
Cohle takes off his navy corduroy jacket for his rides in Hart’s unmarked cruiser between each duty, sporting a slate gray shirt with a heathered stripe effect, similar to this cotton shirt by Tommy Hilfiger. The shirt has a point collar, plain front, breast pocket, and button cuffs. His textured tie, likely wool, is patterned in narrow balanced stripes of two alternating shades of gray, following an “uphill” direction.
The press briefing provides one of few times that Cohle actually wears his shirt buttoned to the neck with the tie fully tightened, aware that he must keep his appearance professional to be taken seriously… despite having just mocked Hart’s assumption that Cohle strives for professionalism.
Gray is the color of the day for Cohle, as he also wears a pair of dark gray trousers with a high waist. Eagan intentionally avoided the popular pleated style of the era, and Cohle’s flat front trousers are more flattering for McConaughey’s lean frame while also consistent with Cohle’s minimalist, non-trendy sense of style. These trousers have narrowly welted “frogmouth” front pockets, two button-through back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms.
“Seeing Things” (Episode 1.02)
Most of the time, I was convinced, shit, I’d lost it… but there were other times, I thought I was mainlining the secret truth of the universe.
The next episode begins with Cohle and Hart visiting Dora Lange’s headache-stricken mother, Mrs. Kelly (Tess Harper), as their investigation into her murder continues. Under his navy corded sports coat, Cohle’s ice blue (or “ice white”) shirt is a pale blue shade away from white. The shirt has a point collar—worn unbuttoned at the neck, of course—and a plain front and button cuffs. His charcoal wool tie is patterned with a subtle taupe grid-check, and he wears the same dark gray trousers seen in the previous episode.
After weeks of canvassing with few promising developments, Cohle and Hart’s boss Major Ken Quesada (Kevin Dunn) brings in a task force issued by Governor Tuttle. The proposed replacement team stirs resentment between Cohle and Quesada, though cooler minds prevail and Hart manages to squeeze two additional weeks out of Quesada, giving them until the end of the month to solve the case. Cohle and Hart follow a lead regarding a tent revival that lands them at a burned-out church in Eunice, Louisiana, that reveals itself to be chock-full of clues.
In addition to the navy corduroy jacket, Cohle wears a pale blue shirt—not as light as the icy shirt from the beginning of the episode—with a front placket, breast pocket, and button cuffs. The textured gray duo-tone striped tie returns from the first episode, and he wears a pair of tobacco brown flat front trousers styled similarly to the gray pants he’d been wearing with the navy jacket to this point.
“The Locked Room” (Episode 1.03)
World needs bad men. We keep the other bad men from the door.
The third episode picks up where the previous episode left off as Cohle and Hart’s investigation at the burned-out church continues into the evening with backup on the scene to gather evidence, thus they’re wearing the same clothes from the closing scenes of “Seeing Things”.
Cohle’s navy corduroy jacket doesn’t re-appear until more than halfway through “The Locked Room” as the lonely nihilist decides to “put [his] insomnia to good use,” spending his late nights searching through old case files until one evening’s investigation is interrupted by the alarm on his watch (despite the Lorus diver he wears not being equipped with such a function.) The alarm calls him to a double date engineered by Marty and Maggie at Longhorn’s, a C&W-themed bar, where Cohle talks synesthesia and getting drunk in front of Notre Dame with Maggie’s friend before leaving early to resume his gruesome research.
He appears to be wearing the same pale blue shirt as seen earlier in the episode, now paired with the taupe-on-charcoal grid-check wool tie and his gray flat front trousers.
The next day, when Hart is hungover from his late night of drunkenly attacking his mistress Lisa (Alexandria Daddario) and her new boyfriend, Cohle drives them two hours away to Pelican Island to meet with a lead, a grizzled fisherman whose granddaughter ran off with Reggie Ledoux. Their canvassing leads them to Light of the Way Christian Academy, where Cohle briefly talks to scar-faced groundskeeper Errol Childress (Glenn Fleshler) before he’s summoned back to Hart’s car to hunt down Reggie Ledoux, who just became the pair’s best suspect for the brutal killings.
Cohle wears the same navy corduroy jacket, charcoal checked tie, and dark gray trousers as he did the previous day, though he’s changed his shirt into the heathered slate gray shirt from the first episode.
“Who Goes There” (Episode 1.04)
They really should have a better system for this.
Cohle begins phasing out his navy corduroy jacket in the fourth episode, with its sole appearance in “Who Goes There” around halfway through the episode. Cohle and Hart have planned their gambit for Cohle, under the guise of a leave of absence, to re-infiltrate the Iron Crusaders biker gang where he used to work undercover. To do so, he needs drugs as bait for the bikers… and to get his hands on quality drugs, he takes the evidence room key from an unwitting fellow detective to swap out some high-quality product with mixed stuff that will languish in the evidence room.
Though Cohle wears his usual gray flat front trousers with the navy corded sports coat, he sports a tan shirt and brown grenadine tie that he typically reserves for his brown or olive corduroy jackets.
“The Secret Fate of All Life” (Episode 1.05)
I can say that I walked away from the experience with a greater respect for the sanctity of human life.
The navy corduroy jacket’s final appearance is brief, worn with the same tan shirt and the taupe-on-charcoal wool tie as he gives his deposition to the police shooting board after the death of Reggie Ledoux.
Rust Cohle keeps a truly minimalist wardrobe, seemingly wearing the same belt and boots with all of his outfits in these 1995 scenes. The black leather roper boots have a plain toe, low shafts, and a red branded rectangle centered on the bottom of each outsole. His trousers are gently flared at the bottoms to accommodate the boots.
Cohle’s plain black leather belt has a steel single-prong buckle, which he loads up with the tools of his profession. To the right of the buckle is his Louisiana State Police badge, a distinctive gold badge shaped like the state of Louisiana against a black leather holder. He also wears his radio and pager on his belt and, across the back, he wears his holstered Glock 17 (indeed the issued duty sidearm of the LSP), his handcuffs, and a spare magazine for the Glock.
Cohle’s stainless steel dive watch has been the subject of much speculation in the years since the show first debuted on HBO. Many brands are still tossed around as possibilities, including Citizen, Orient, Seiko, Timex, and even Rolex. However, the speculation all but ended when an e-true detective, “AJMc” on the WatchUSeek forum, reported that he received confirmation from the show’s property master Lynda Reiss that the watch supplied for Matthew McConaughey was indeed a Lorus dive watch from the mid-1990s.
Based on this information and the appearance of Rust’s stainless watch with its black bezel, black dial with cyclops at the 3:00 date window, and “Mercedes” hands, the model was deduced to likely be the Lorus Tidal LR 0021 diver.
One of the strongest arguments that Citizen proponents used was the fact that McConaughey is clearly wearing a ridged black resin Citizen PVC sport strap with the words “WIND VELOCITY” printed in white on the end of the strap with smaller measurements (m/sec in white, knots in yellow) further toward the inside of the wrist that help validate the theory. (See here.)
However, the word of the prop master and the fact that “LORUS” can be faintly read on the dial in some production stills and screenshots overrule theory, and we can all sleep well knowing for sure that Matthew McConaughey wore an era-correct Lorus dive watch on a resin Citizen strap for his role as Rust Cohle on the first season of True Detective.
One additional constant? Cohle exclusively wears white ribbed cotton sleeveless undershirts.
What to Imbibe
Rust Cohle was famous for his Lone Star beer, particularly in the 2012 sequences where he downs a six-pack of tall boys over the course of his interrogation with detectives Gilbough and Papania. In 1995, we see him drinking plenty—beginning with “Who Goes There” (Episode 1.04)—to steel himself for the re-infiltration of the Iron Crusaders. Like his partner Marty Hart, Jameson Irish whiskey fuels much of Cohle’s preparation and we also can spy him drinking a can of Schaefer Light beer at the bar with Marty.
How to Get the Look
Though his wardrobe was designed to accommodate the minimal thought that Rust Cohle would put into dressing, Cohle keeps his outfits relatively coordinated, saving the earth tones for his brown and olive corduroy jackets and using grays and blues to coordinate with this navy corduroy jacket.
- Navy corduroy single-breasted 2-button sport jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, jetted hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and single vent
- Light blue or gray shirt with point collar, front placket, and button cuffs
- Gray-toned textured tie with subtle pattern or stripe
- Dark gray flat front trousers with belt loops, narrowly welted “frogmouth” front pockets, button-through back pockets, and “bootcut” plain-hemmed bottoms
- Black leather belt with steel single-prong buckle
- Black leather plain-toe roper boots
- White ribbed cotton sleeveless undershirt
- Lorus Tidal stainless steel dive watch with black bezel and black dial (with 3:00 “cyclops” date window) on black resin Citizen “Wind Velocity” strap
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the first season of True Detective. While the series’ following two seasons were met with cooler receptions among audiences and critics, True Detective‘s landmark first season was universally praised. All eight episodes were directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, who is directing Daniel Craig’s final James Bond film, No Time to Die, set for release in April 2020.
You can also read more insight from costume designer Jenny Eagan regarding most major characters in True Detective‘s first season at these links that were cited throughout the post:
I don’t sleep. I just dream.