Peter Lawford as Jimmy Foster, resentful profligate heir and 82nd Airborne veteran
Las Vegas, New Year’s Eve 1959
Film: Ocean’s Eleven
Release Date: August 10, 1960
Director: Lewis Milestone
Costume Designer: Howard Shoup
Tailor: Sy Devore
“I made a cardinal rule never to answer the telephone during the month of December,” the urbane Jimmy Foster tells a masseuse deep at work in fixing his back in a Phoenix hotel suite he shares with his wartime pal. “One December, every time I picked up the phone, they’d send me out in the snow to play with my little friends,” he elaborates. “That was at the Bulge.”
Arguably the most famous film featuring the infamous Rat Pack, Ocean’s Eleven starred Frank Sinatra and his celebrated pallies Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, and Peter Lawford among a group of eleven veterans from the 82nd Airborne who gather in Las Vegas after Christmas “to liberate millions of dollars” from five major casinos as Sin City rings in the new year.
Lawford had first heard the idea for the plot from director Gilbert Kay, in turn relaying a story he hard heard from a gas station attendant. The actor then bought the rights to what would become Ocean’s Eleven in 1958, originally envisioning William Holden for the lead, until he shared the story with his new pal Frank Sinatra who would take the leading role of Danny Ocean. The Vegas setting was ideal for Sinatra and his cronies, allowing them to work in the early morning, sleep into the afternoon, perform one or two shows each evening at their respective casinos, then show up on set again ready to work until sunrise.
What’d He Wear?
While Peter Lawford hasn’t achieved the immortal fame of his talented fellow Rat Packers like Frank, Dean, and Sammy, the London-born actor was a stylish fashion plate who showcased a fine sense of dress both on and off screen. Unlike the principals in Ocean’s Eleven, Lawford’s Jimmy Foster rarely wears a suit or odd jacket more than once, the sole exception being a dark gray business suit with a single-breasted, notch-lapel jacket that he wears both in Phoenix and while reconnoitering the Flamingo in Las Vegas.
For the night of the heist itself, Lawford wears arguably the dressiest suit from Jimmy Foster’s wardrobe, a dark navy blue lounge suit with a single-breasted, peak-lapel jacket, likely tailored for Lawford by the Rat Pack’s usual tailor Sy Devore, though Lawford was also a Chipp customer around the same time. Al Castiel III reported for Town & Country in 2017 that Chipp was responsible for Lawford’s clothes on the NBC series The Thin Man, which aired its final episode in June 1959, six months before the release of Never So Few (1959) firmly established Lawford as a member of the Rat Pack.
Lawford’s single-breasted suit jacket is one of two that he wears rigged with peak lapels in Ocean’s Eleven, reviving a style that emerged in popularity during the roaring ’20s into the 1930s “golden age of menswear”. Per the trending taste of 1960, Lawford’s lapels are of a moderate width, styled with a straight gorge and a collar almost as wide as the lower section of the lapel. The lapels roll to a low two-button stance. A lavender paisley silk pocket square dresses the welted breast pocket of the jacket, which also boasts straight flapped hip pockets, spaced two-button cuffs, and a single vent.
His white cotton shirt has a semi-spread collar, front placket, and double (French) cuffs that he fastens with a set of flat gold rectangular links.
Lawford wears a sleek slate gray satin silk “skinny” tie, arranged with a half-Windsor knot filling the tie space.
The medium rise of Lawford’s trousers is complimented by the lower button stance of his jacket, lengthening the actor’s torso to create more of a laidback “lounge lizard” effect. The double forward-pleated trousers are finished with turn-ups (cuffs) on the bottoms. As we see during Jimmy’s massage during the opening scene, the trousers have buckle-tab side adjusters on the waistband and side pockets, though no back pockets.
While Jimmy wears a pair of comfortable tan ribbed socks when relaxing in his hotel suite for his massage, he appears to wear black socks when out in Vegas for New Year’s Eve, more tonally appropriate with the full suit and his well-shined black leather oxfords.
Jimmy’s jewelry includes a gold necklace worn on a thin gold chain and a gold ring on his left pinkie, an affectation shared by fellow Rat Packers Frank and Dean. Peter Lawford wears two different wristwatches in Ocean’s Eleven, the first being a slim all-gold wristwatch with a round case, champagne gold dial, and a black leather strap.
Later, Jimmy spends his nights in Las Vegas wearing a gold tank watch with a white square dial, also worn on his left wrist via black leather strap.
The maker of this latter watch isn’t easily discerned by what’s seen on screen, though Lawford’s third wife Deborah Gould recalled that, upon first meeting their actor three weeks before their July 1976 wedding, he commented to her that “You can’t be all that bad. You’re dressed in black, you have a gold Quaalude, and you have a Cartier tank watch.”
What to Imbibe
While the interesting-sounding drink unfortunately never featured on screen in Ocean’s Eleven, some Googling informs us that Peter Lawford supposedly enjoyed the Preview cocktail in real life, talking several Vegas bartenders through the process of making them.
According to Cocktailians and Chuck Taggart at Gumbo Pages, begin by swirling a quarter teaspoon of pastis—preferably Ricard though Pernod and Herbsaint are also acceptable—around the inside of a chilled cocktail glass to coat it, then pouring out the excess. Next, shake 1.5 ounces of gin and an ounce of Cointreau with cracked ice in a cocktail shaker and, once chilled, strain it into the pastis-coated and still-chilled cocktail glass with “a long, curly twist of orange peel” to garnish.
How to Get the Look
Peter Lawford’s dark blue lounge suit, just a shade lighter than midnight blue, is a tasteful alternative to a dinner suit, particularly when appointed for evening wear with a white shirt and a solid yet subdued tie. In an era where even the most well-made tuxedo often looks out of place, an evening-friendly suit like this can’t fail for a New Year’s Eve celebration.
- Midnight blue tailored suit:
- Single-breasted 2-button suit jacket with peak lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, spaced 2-button cuffs, and single vent
- Double forward-pleated trousers with buckle-tab side adjusters, side pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- White cotton shirt with semi-spread collar, front placket, and double/French cuffs
- Gold flat rectangular cuff links
- Dark slate gray satin silk tie
- Black leather cap-toe oxfords
- Black dress socks
- Thin gold necklace
- Gold pinky ring
- Gold wristwatch on black leather strap
- Lavender paisley silk pocket square