Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc, “a private investigator of great renown”
Massachusetts, November 2018
Film: Knives Out
Release Date: November 27, 2019
Director: Rian Johnson
Costume Designer: Jenny Eagan
Happy birthday to Daniel Craig, born 52 years ago today on March 2, 1968! While Craig is likely best known as the most recent actor to portray James Bond, one of his most celebrated recent roles has been his Golden Globe-nominated performance in Knives Out as Benoit Blanc, an idiosyncratic detective who describes himself as a “respectful, quiet, and passive observer of the truth.”
A deserved winner of Best Original Screenplay at the 92nd Academy Awards this year, Knives Out serves as a modern tribute to classic mysteries like the works of Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle, dripping with atmosphere and injected with plenty of twists, turns, and tongue-in-cheek fun thanks to Rian Johnson’s clever, original, and inspired direction and writing as well as a top-notch cast headed by Craig as the Southern-fried private eye Benoit Blanc.
Considered “the last of the gentleman sleuths” in a New Yorker profile (and a once-referenced Tweet to said profile), Blanc is called to the estate of the recently deceased mystery novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) at the behest of an anonymous member of the household to probe further into the mysterious circumstances of the 85-year-old man’s violent death, which would have otherwise been ruled a likely suicide by local authorities.
“Something is afoot with this whole affair. I know it, I believe you know it too,” Blanc confides in Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas), the deceased author’s loyal caregiver who becomes Blanc’s de facto Watson once he recognizes her “regurgitative reaction to mistruths.” The Craig-de Armas teaming provides an entertaining screen chemistry ahead of their next pairing in No Time to Die, Craig’s fifth and final film as James Bond, scheduled for release next month.
While Craig may be hanging up his Tom Ford dinner jacket after a record-breaking 14 years as the reigning 007, Rian Johnson has confirmed that we haven’t seen the last of Benoit Blanc.
What’d He Wear?
Benoit Blanc was clearly written in tribute to classic fictional detectives like Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot, though he bucks the modern trend of updating these sleuths as “men of action” i.e. Downey and Branagh, instead allowing our ostensible protagonist to settle into the grand tradition of the “armchair detective” who relies more on his observational prowess and dogged attention to detail when it comes to solving cases. He’s well-attired for sure, but in a manner that’s more lived-in than elegant, more reminiscent of Peter Falk’s rumpled raincoat as Colombo than Poirot’s fussy neo-Edwardian suits. We get the sense that Blanc dresses more for his own comfort than to satisfy any obsessive urges, acknowledging professional decorum with a jacket and tie but adhering more to a quirky and individualistic personal dress code that’s neither trendy, timeless, or anachronistic; instead, Blanc appears to be a product of his own time, having emerged from a unique slice of 2018 when eccentric private detectives still solve murders in grand country estates.
Costume designer Jenny Eagan explained to Digital Spy that casting Daniel Craig in the role meant revisiting Rian Johnson’s original vision of the stereotypical Southern gentleman in his white linen suit, instead opting for an outfit that would allow him to effectively blend in as much as a private detective would need to while still distinguished from the rest “little touches” such as his suspenders and pocket squares and the floral flourishes in his ties and socks. “It pushed it into that world of the Southern gentleman, but keeping him sort of discrete, so that he could move freely and not be noticed or detected as something other than a normal person on the street.”
Indeed, the audience benefits from spending three consecutive days with Benoit Blanc, and a pattern emerges for his creative sense of dress. His well-chosen jacket and trousers never change, providing a neutral yet defined palette that harmonizes with his habit for gently frayed and subtly patterned point-collared shirts, floral ties, and contrasting pocket squares, a daily uniform that allows him to look professional and yet completely at home as he reclines astride a piano in the shadows of Harlan Thrombey’s great room.
“You’re fulla shit. I don’t trust this guy in the tweed suit,” Richard Drysdale (Don Johnson) exclaims after growing impatient with Benoit Blanc. Richard is not an unfashionable man, finding comfort in knit quarter-zips and horsebit loafers as he and his family deal with the aftermath of his father-in-law’s death, but he’s perhaps tellingly inaccurate in his generalization of Blanc’s attire.
While neither tweed nor a matching suit, Blanc’s outfit still presents a “tweedy” image with his woven odd jacket and low-contrast trousers. It may indeed be easily mistaken for an albeit lighter-weight tweed two-piece suit until one looks closer, requiring an attention to detail worthy of the detective’s own observational skills. It’s no surprise that this was lost on Richard, whose own impatience in the field of observation would lead to his own demise in the film’s denouement.
So if not tweed, then what? Blanc appears to wear a dark gray woolen sports coat constructed of basket-woven hopsack, an underused open weave that adds a coarse and rugged tweed-like sensibility but is more breathable and cooler-wearing and thus makes a more fitting “three-season” jacket for Benoit Blanc, whose “gentlest of Southern lilt” as described in Johnson’s Oscar-winning screenplay screenplay suggests a home base in the humid subtropical Mississippi Delta. (Craig evidently patterned his accent on Mississippi-born historian Shelby Foote, though Johnson has joked that it became “Shelby Foote by way of Foghorn Leghorn”.)
While the hopsack weave can be patterned in large and loose gages, Blanc opts for tighter, smaller-scaled gages resembling “an appearance of minute squares” as described by Hardy Amies in ABCs of Men’s Fashion. Combined with the sober, businesslike overall dark gray color, the more structured appearance of the tight-gage hopsack weave creates a more professional air.
The roping on the jacket’s sleeveheads builds up Daniel Craig’s shoulders, a detail commonly but not exclusively seen on more formal or structured jackets. In addition to its less structured, sack-like cut, Blanc’s single-breasted jacket is dressed down with sporty details like black woven leather buttons and patch pockets. The notch lapels roll to two buttons on the front which match the three on the end of each sleeve.
Blanc’s style is one that can be easily adapted rather than strictly copied. Hopsack jackets can range in price from this affordable Buttoned Down charcoal wool jacket (via Amazon) to this charcoal wool/silk blend from Ermenegildo Zegna (via Neiman Marcus) at nearly $2,600.
A professional-looking hopsack jacket like Blanc’s gray sports coat provides a versatile layer appropriate for many climates and contexts, able to be dressed down or dressed up with a selection of your preferred type of shirt and tie pattern.
We don’t see how Benoit Blanc packed for his trip, but—judging from the fact that he had one day to prepare—he seems to have made the laudable decision of finding a relatively neutral palette of an unchanging jacket, trousers, and shoes that could host a rotation of easier-to-pack shirts, ties, pocket squares, and (ostensibly) underwear.
Blanc chooses his most colorful of his screen-worn shirts for his initial meetings with most of the Thrombey family, dressed in a sky blue diamond-textured shirt. Like all of Blanc’s shirts seen on screen, the shirt has a long point collar, front placket, breast pocket, and rounded single-button cuffs, all gently frayed along the edges to that lends a broken-in quality. His khaki melange cotton pocket square, folded into triple peaks, is the first of three creative pocket hanks Craig wears in Knives Out, a delightfully jaunty contrast to the professional, TV-folded white and blue pocket squares he wears as 007.
Blanc also establishes his penchant for floral ties, wearing a black tie that spices up its staid ground with a field of duo-toned blue flowers covering the cravat. (At least one set photo suggests that the ground is actually a dark brown, though the same photo features Blanc wearing both belt and braces, an uncharacteristic sartorial redundancy corrected in the film and thus nullifying the screen-accurate veracity of the photo itself.)
If you’re in the market for floral neckwear à la Benoit Blanc, you’re in luck given their relative ubiquity among current menswear outfitters, including:
- Express “Narrow Floral Printed Silk Tie” in turquoise (via Express)
- Original Penguin “Lemongrass Floral Tie” in navy silk (via Amazon)
- The Tie Bar “Southey Floral Tie” in printed navy wool (via The Tie Bar)
- The Tie Bar “Walnut Street Tie” in navy cotton (via The Tie Bar)
- Twisted Tailor blue textured jacquard poly-blend tie (via ASOS)
The following day, having pressed Marta into service as his ostensible “Watson”, Blanc dials down his tie and lets his pocket square claim the loudest pattern in his outfit, sporting a white-and-dark blue bengal-striped cotton pocket hank, unevenly tucked into his breast pocket in the manner of one attempting a straight TV fold under nervous duress. Of course, such a rigid, businesslike fold would be almost as uncharacteristic for our creatively dressed Blanc as a plain white pocket square, so the unevenly creased kerchief is more likely the product of Blanc’s pleasantly mild brand of sprezzatura than a failed attempt at formality.
Blanc’s white shirt is densely patterned in narrowly spaced horizontal rows of broken dark burgundy lines indented into the shirt for a seersucker-like texture that adds a hint of a pale lilac hue when the shirt is observed from farther away. Apropos the subtlety of the shirt pattern, Blanc also wears a more subdued floral tie, printed with downscaled burgundy flowers against a dark navy ground.
For floral ties in this subdued color scheme, check out these alternatives:
- Banana Republic “Floral Geo Tie” in navy-and-red woven polyester (via Banana Republic Factory)
- Michelsons of London large floral navy-and-red polyester tie (via KJ Beckett)
- Tommy Hilfiger “Classic Floral Tie” in navy-and-red woven silk (via Macy’s)
On the third and final day of his investigation, Blanc wears an ice white melange shirt with a faded pale blue grid check that outlines the shirt into half-inch squares, each detailed with a pale blue-trimmed, white-filled dot in the center. The shirt is otherwise detailed like his others, with a long and soft point collar, front placket, and a breast pocket with a mitred-cornered bottom and a pointed yoke.
Blanc’s navy pocket square has taupe-sewn edges. A similar hank can be found from Budd Shirtmakers in navy silk with copper brown hand-rolled edges (via Budd).
This floral tie is the most objectively colorful of Blanc’s trio given the variety of shades present in the pattern, though the tie itself is relatively subdued with its red, gold, white, and green stenciled flower and leaf motif against a solid navy ground.
When his investigation reaches a climax, Blanc removes his coat, rolls up his sleeves, and tucks in the blade of his tie, providing the longest extended look of Blanc without his jacket on and revealing more of his trousers and suspenders than we’d seen up to this point.
The dark navy elastic suspenders (braces) are patterned in neat rows of seven widely spaced white pin dots, with silver hardware and black leather hooks that connect to buttons hidden along the inside of the trouser waistband. Albert Thurston has confirmed that they made the braces Craig wore in Knives Out; their site describes the color as black rather than the pin-dotted navy braces most prominently seen, though it’s possible that Craig wore solid black elastic braces in other scenes.
Blanc delivered a suit-like effect by wearing dark gray trousers that barely contrast against his hopsack jacket, differentiated only by being a slightly warmer shade of gray woolen flannel. Like Richard, I had assumed that Blanc was wearing a matching suit when I first saw Knives Out in the theater, but reviewing it at home with the luxury of pausing to take Blu-ray screenshots proved that Craig indeed wears an odd jacket and trousers. “Slapdash suits” of low-contrast jackets and trousers are rarely advisable, but one could argue that Blanc salvages the integrity of the outfit by wearing contrasting fabrics that still harmonize due to coarser textures.
The trousers have a higher rise and a fuller fit than the tighter Tom Ford trousers that Craig has worn in his James Bond films of the 2010s, Skyfall and Spectre, though set photos from No Time to Die show Craig’s 007 enjoying retirement in Italy, clad more like Blanc than Bond in a looser-fitting corduroy suit with trousers held up by Albert Thurston braces.
Blanc’s dark gray trousers have belt loops that go unused to favor the navy suspenders and are fastened at the waist with a pointed waistband tab that closes through a single visible button. A shallow, single reverse-facing pleat flanks the fly on each side. The trousers have gently slanted “quarter top” side pockets and jetted back pockets with a button to close through the left pocket. The bottoms have a full break and are finished with turn-ups (cuffs).
Blanc wears unique black oxford brogues with leather perforated wingtips, five-eyelet panels, and heel counters, though the vamps appear to be constructed from a napped cloth.
Being who he is, Blanc embraces his hosiery as yet another opportunity for colorful self-expression, even if his socks are rarely seen. A flash of azure from his ankles during the first day of the investigation hints at his sky blue socks which appear to be patterned with navy-and-white branches.
You’d think Blanc may have gotten a little thrill when the investigation of Thrombey’s upstairs hallway provided him with the opportunity to kick off his shoes and show off his socks, but Blanc seems to dress solely for his own satisfaction with little interest in whether or not Marta or the excitable Trooper Wagner (Noah Segan) would take notice of his colorful hosiery. In this scene, he wears black socks with bright blue toes and heels, patterned with what appears to be large sunflowers.
Searching for sunflower-patterned socks yields more results tailored for women then men, though there are a few sharing similar details with Blanc’s socks such as these from Autumn Socks (via Poshmark), Gearfrost, PanPacSight (via Amazon), and TyQuii Socks (also via Amazon).
Likely the only actual tweed in his screen-worn ensemble, Blanc’s heavy tweed raglan coat is characteristically nonrestrictive and comfortably soft, constructed from a fuzzy, large-scaled brown-and-beige herringbone tweed. Thanks to a tip from BAMF Style reader “J”, this distinctive coat has been identified as a Brooks Brothers Golden Fleece® product still available as of April 2020.
The hip-length coat has notch lapels that roll to a four-button front that Blanc only buttons up when enjoying an evening cigar outside. The coat has a single vent and set-in side pockets with flaps that are invariably tucked inside the pockets themselves. The raglan sleeves are finished on each cuff with a squared-end semi-tab that closes through a single button.
Thanks to the research of the fantastic @whatsdanielwearing Instagram account and confirmed by the current VIP Fan Auctions listing, we know that Blanc wore Cutler & Gross 1303-05 optical glasses with honey-colored tortoise Italian acetate “D” frames with shiny titanium lugs and temples.
Although out of stock as of this writing in February 2020, these handsome frames are still listed on the Cutler & Gross site.
Worn most prominently on the third day of his investigation, Blanc’s sunglasses are the same Cutler & Gross frames but with amber-tinted lenses.
Blanc wears a gold wristwatch on a textured dark brown leather strap, theorized by some Redditors to be a vintage Omega given Daniel Craig’s role as an ambassador for the brand who has frequently worn Omega watches both on and off the screen over the last 15 years.
How to Get the Look
Benoit Blanc dresses in less elegant clothing than audiences may be used to seeing Daniel Craig wear as James Bond, but the idiosyncratic detective looks ultimately more comfortable than 007 in his hopsack sport jacket, broken-in shirts, and tweed coat, all detailed with creative flourishes like floral ties and socks and a rotation of pocket squares.
- Dark gray hopsack wool single-breasted 2-button sport jacket with notch lapels, patch breast pocket, patch hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and single vent
- White or light blue subtly patterned shirt with long point collar, front placket, breast pocket, and 1-button rounded cuffs
- Navy floral-patterned tie
- Dark gray woolen flannel single reverse-pleated trousers with belt loops, pointed-end extended waistband tab, slightly slanted “quarter top” side pockets, jetted back pockets (with button through left), and turn-ups/cuffs
- Dark navy pin-dotted suspenders with silver-toned hardware and black leather hooks
- Black leather-and-cloth 5-eyelet wingtip oxford brogues
- Blue floral socks
- Brown-and-beige large-scaled herringbone tweed 4-button hip-length topcoat with notch lapels, flapped set-in hip pockets, raglan sleeves with single-button semi-tab cuffs, and single vent
- Cutler & Gross 1303-05 honey tortoise “D-framed” glasses with titanium lugs and temples
- Vintage gold wristwatch with round gold dial on textured dark brown leather strap
While many screen-worn items from Knives Out are available at the VIP Fan Auctions site now through March 31, it’s unfortunate that the only item from Blanc’s wardrobe appears to be his eyeglasses and sunglasses. (However, fans of Chris Evans will be delighted to see his famous Aran sweater—a product of French retailer The Kooples—among most other pieces from Ransom’s screen-worn wardrobe.)
Do Yourself a Favor and…
I also enjoyed reading Ethan M. Wong’s observations of the menswear in Knives Out for STREET x SPREZZA, which includes an extended focus on Benoit Blanc’s daily attire.
A donut hole in a donut’s hole. But we must look a little closer, and when we do, we see that the donut hole has a hole in its center. It is not a donut hole but a smaller donut with its own hole, and our donut is not a hole at all!