Gary Cooper as Frank Flannagan, wealthy playboy industrialist
Yvelines, France, Summer 1957
Film: Love in the Afternoon
Release Date: May 29, 1957
Director: Billy Wilder
Costume Designer: Jay A. Morley, Jr. (uncredited)
April 23 is celebrated as National Picnic Day, an observance that can still be observed in relative isolation for those willing and able to safely venture outdoors. The word “picnic” derives from the late 17th century French word pique-nique that had originally described restaurant diners who brought their own wine, essentially an early form of BYOB. In the years following the French revolution, the word took on its more familiar connotation as the country’s royal parks were opened to the greater public, who would spend hours and even days preparing lavish luncheons for outdoor dining. Given this French association, let’s check in on two classic film stars enjoying a picnic near Château de Vitry in the 1957 romantic comedy Love in the Afternoon.
Gary Cooper plays Frank Flannagan, an unrepentant playboy bachelor whose reputation precedes him due to incidents like “an episode in Stockholm involving twin sisters…” as private detective Claude Chevasse (Maurice Chevalier) almost admiringly reports to one of many husbands who Frank has cuckolded. Aware of Frank’s seductive prowess, Claude warns his curious daughter Ariane (Audrey Hepburn) that the man is “utterly no good”, but she remains fascinated by Frank, observing with more genuine admiration that “he’s got such an American face, like a cowboy or Abraham Lincoln!” Overhearing a plot by the aforementioned husband to murder Frank, Ariane steps in to save his life and allow herself a brief flirtation.
In the year since Frank and Ariane’s first meeting, she continues to follow his notorious sexploits around the world from catfights between stewardesses to a post-appendectomy party and, of course, Frank being named as correspondent in yet another divorce case. When he returns to Paris that summer, Ariane more aggressively responds to his overtures of courtship, first with one of his characteristic dates in suite 14 at the Hôtel Ritz, followed the next day by an afternoon picnic… attended to, of course, by a butler serving chicken legs and champagne while being serenaded by a gypsy string quartet.
What’d He Wear?
Though it spends a portion of their picnic hung on a tree branch, Frank wears a tasteful dark navy blazer for an afternoon of rowing with Ariane. The napped flannel cloth suggests doeskin, a tightly woven woolen fabric that, as Hardy Amies assures us in his 1964 tome ABCs of Men’s Fashion, is “not really the skin of a doe, but a woolen cloth made to look like it by felting,” further commenting that its “smooth, almost velvety finish” makes for attractive blazers, though Alan Flusser expands its defined utility to include slacks and sportswear.
Frank’s single-breasted blazer has three silver-toned shank buttons, and Gary Cooper’s lean 6’3″ stance includes him among the gents for whom a full three-button front is not only balanced but flattering. The cuff of each sleeve is dressed with two smaller silver-toned buttons, scaled down in size from those on the front. The blazer has double side vents, appropriately sporty patch pockets on the hips, and a welted breast pocket where Frank wears a folded white pocket square.
Should the pocket hank not be enough, Frank wears a white carnation in his left notch lapel, serving as a boutonnière to communicate to Ariane that he values their time together as a special occasion… even if his behavior immediately following doesn’t quite communicate this point as strongly.
Frank’s navy silk scarf with its white polka dots provides an additional rakish touch. Often misnomered as an “ascot”, Alan Flusser calls this particular neckwear a “neckerchief” though the appellation “day cravat” may serve as a more specific differentiation between the paisley cotton neck-scarves one associates with cowboys or bandits.
“With the explosion of modern sportswear in the 1920s, the novelty of the open-necked sport shirt inspired a variety of new ways to appoint the neck,” explains Flusser in Dressing the Man. “Long a popular fashion at European watering holes, the sports scarf was, and still is, closely identified with Riviera high style.” Though Flusser warns the look could be regarded as fussy or even feminine at the time of his writing in the 1990s, it was also contemporarily in practice by Pierce Brosnan’s natty 007 in his freshman outing, GoldenEye, while motoring through the mountains over Monaco. You can also read more about the day cravat in this entertaining guide from Dress Like A Grownup!
Frank wears a light blue shirt with irregular slubs and a noted sheen when exposed to sunlight sans blazer that suggests a blended construction of linen and silk. He wears the top button undone to reveal his neck-scarf, fastening the rest of the buttons on the plain front and the single button on each rounded barrel cuff.
When Frank insists that Ariane “put away” the chicken leg she’s been gnawing on, she sticks it in the breast pocket of his shirt… a charming moment for some, though it may have inspired waves of shudder among sartorial enthusiasts.
Blazers and khakis may go together like peanut butter and jelly as a go-to pairing for modern men, though I favor the traditional partnership of a classic navy blazer with gray flannel trousers (or off-white, light-wearing slacks for warmer, seaside locales.) Frank wears dark gray flannel trousers with an appropriately long rise and double forward pleats that provide a generous and flattering fit through the hips and legs.
In lieu of braces or belt, Frank’s elegant trousers are suspended with buckle-tab side adjusters (seen here), rigged just toward the back on each side of the waistband. They have side pockets, jetted back pockets, and turn-ups (cuffs) on the bottoms.
Frank’s shoes are a pair of well-worn brown penny loafers, a bastion of men’s casual wear since venerated New England shoemaker G.H. Bass & Co. first introduced its “Weejuns” to the market in 1936. While Frank cuts a fashionable form for his continental travels, these classic slip-ons are a decidedly American element of his garb, favored by contemporary Ivy style icons like JFK and Paul Newman as well as the more rebellious crowd like James Dean and Elvis Presley.
Frank’s loafers are fashioned with a flat strap rather than the distinctive “beefroll” stitching found on some weejuns. Similar pairs offered today include the Bass “Logan Flat Strap Weejuns” (via Amazon and G.H. Bass), these synthetic Dockers for budget-minded shoppers (via Amazon), the Nunn Bush “Drexel” (via Amazon), and the Sandro Moscaloni handsewn penny loafer (via Amazon).
Frank wears a simple yet elegant watch with a round white dial on a shining metal bracelet. It’s likely Coop’s own timepiece, though it’s decidedly not the Cartier Tank that he famously favored in real life.
What to Imbibe
What’s a picnic without refreshments? Frank caters his afternoon date with Ariane with the same Moët & Chandon Imperial Brut champagne that he orders when entertaining dates at the Ritz. (After all, it is said that white wine pairs well with chicken.)
The Moët & Chandon champagne house was established by French vintner Claude Moët in 1743 and remains one of the largest and most prestigious champagne producers more than 275 years later. The Imperial Brut champagne was first bottled in the 1860s and quickly became Moët’s best-selling brand.
How to Get the Look
Frank Flannagan builds upon the tried-and-true outfit of a navy blazer and gray flannels by sprinkling in American casual staples like his penny loafers, a dash of continental charm via that neck cravat, and characteristically elegant comfort through lush, quality fabrics like silk and doeskin flannel, creating the perfect ensemble for a laidback but luxurious picnic by the water.
- Navy blue doeskin flannel single-breasted 3-button blazer with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, patch hip pockets, 2-button cuffs, and double side vents
- Light blue linen-silk shirt with spread collar, plain front, breast pocket, and 1-button rounded cuffs
- Navy blue (with white polka dots) silk day cravat
- Dark gray flannel double forward-pleated trousers with buckle-tab side adjusters, side pockets, jetted back pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- Brown leather penny loafers
- Dark brown thin ribbed socks
- Wristwatch with round white dial on metal bracelet
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
You talk too much!