Brad Pitt as Benjamin Button, reverse-aging adventurer
Paris, Spring 1954
Film: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Release Date: December 25, 2008
Director: David Fincher
Costume Designer: Jacqueline West
As holiday shoppers are lining up (or logging in) on Black Friday this year, let’s take a look at a creative approach to wearing black as sported by Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
Benjamin looks just a little too dashing as he arrives at a Parisian hospital to visit the childhood friend he has grown to love, Daisy Fuller (Cate Blanchett), who is convalescing from a car accident that crushed her leg and thus ruined her dancing career.
What’d He Wear?
The first thing that Daisy notices when Benjamin visits her is just how much younger he looks since the last time their paths had crossed, and the difference really is notable thanks to Greg Cannom’s Academy Award-winning makeup and the Oscar-winning visual effects team of Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton, and Craig Barron, though sartorial enthusiasts may have been more drawn to Benjamin’s slick attire of a dark suit and polo shirt accented by a brown leather belt and brogues.
Costume designer Jacqueline West received a deserved Academy Award nomination for her work in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which she told Variety in 2008 was inspired by popular actors across the decades of Benjamin’s life, from Gary Cooper in the 1940s to Steve McQueen in the 1960s, paying particular homage to the latter’s famous casual style with pieces like his navy shawl-collar cardigan, brown leather flight jacket, and tan Baracuta G9 “Harrington jacket”.
Ms. West also suggested Marlon Brando as her muse for Benjamin’s style during the 1950s, and there’s a photo taken by Virgil Apger of the then 28-year-old actor in a dark striped suit, dark polo, and lighter-colored belt and brogues that had to be a direct inspiration for this outfit. Brando even wears a pair of lighter-colored socks that clearly contrast with the rest of his dark outfit, as Benjamin does.
While Ms. West didn’t mention it to Variety as a direct inspiration, Paul Newman’s wardrobe in Paris Blues (1961) shares undeniable similarities with Benjamin Button’s attire for his visit to the hospital, right down to the camel coat that Newman occasionally wears over his dark flannel suit and charcoal knit polo as jazz musician Ram Bowen.
You can read more about Newman’s style in Paris Blues at Style in Film and, I’m sure, my own eventual post about it!
Given the timing of this post on Black Friday, lets’ start by looking at the only piece of Benjamin’s wardrobe that’s actually black: his black polo shirt that appears to be knit in a soft material like cashmere or merino wool. Likely long-sleeved, this shirt has a three-button top though Benjamin only wears the lowest button fastened.
Rather than a completely funereal black suit, Benjamin achieves a similar cool effect by wearing his black polo with a dark charcoal gray woolen flannel suit. The single-breasted suit jacket has a generous fit characteristic of the 1950s with wide, padded shoulders. The ventless jacket has notch lapels that roll to a likely two-button front with a welted breast pocket and sporty patch pockets on the hips.
Benjamin’s suit trousers have reverse pleats that contribute to their full fit, finished at the bottom with turn-ups (cuffs). Like Brando above, Benjamin wears a slim brown leather belt that contrasts against the dark suiting and shirt.
Benjamin coordinates his belt to his dark brown wingtip derby brogues, the ideal shade of brown to harmonize with the dark outfit while contributing just enough of a colorful contrast to make the overall look more interesting. His pale gray socks look vintage, detailed on the outer ankles with an indigo-stitched pattern.
The adventurous Benjamin struts up to the hospital’s main entrance wearing a pair of gold-framed aviator sunglasses with dark gray lenses and additional bridge support with what Ray-Ban called an “enhanced brow bar” when marketing their Outdoorsman frame that is similar to what Benjamin wears here. You can still purchase the Ray-Ban Outdoorsman (from Amazon or Ray-Ban), an evolution of the original “Skeet Glass” frame introduced for sportsmen by Bausch & Lomb 80 years ago in 1939.
Benjamin wears a broad-fitting camel coat, a holdout from the boxy fashions introduced with the “Bold Look” in 1948, with the wide, buttressed shoulders that defined trendy men’s fashions into the 1950s. The single-breasted coat has notch lapels with a three-button fly front, straight flapped hip pockets, and roped sleeveheads.
How to Get the Look
If Black Friday doesn’t inspire you to try channeling Benjamin Button’s dark and dressed-down suit, consider the fact that black is considered a slimming color…and many of us have bellyfuls of turkey, mashed potatoes, and pie that we’re trying to recover from.
- Charcoal woolen flannel suit:
- Single-breasted 2-button suit jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, patch hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and ventless back
- Reverse-pleated high-rise trousers with belt loops, side pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- Black knit long-sleeve polo shirt with 3-button top
- Dark brown leather belt with small steel single-prong buckle
- Dark brown calf leather wingtip derby-laced brogues
- Light gray vintage socks with indigo ankle stitching
- Camel wool single-breasted 3-button overcoat with notch lapels and straight flapped hip pockets
- Gold-framed “brow bar” aviator sunglasses with dark gray lenses
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Sometimes we’re on a collision course, and we just don’t know it. Whether it’s by accident or by design, there’s not a thing we can do about it.