Dustin Hoffman as Benjamin Braddock, nervous and aimless college graduate
Los Angeles, Late Spring 1967
Film: The Graduate
Release Date: December 22, 1967
Director: Mike Nichols
Costume Designer: Patricia Zipprodt
The myriad impacts of the worldwide COVID-19 epidemic has included a halt on college graduation ceremonies, which would typically be occurring around this time; indeed, my own commencement was on April 30, nine years ago today.
The Graduate provided Dustin Hoffman with his breakout role as Benjamin Braddock, a recent graduate suffering from the ennui of balancing one’s achievements and desires with what’s expected of them. After a humiliating 21st birthday party where his parents forced him to scuba dive into the family pool in front of their friends, Benjamin asserts himself by arranging his first assignation with the seductive and unsatisfied Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) at the Taft Hotel (in fact, L.A.’s famous Ambassador Hotel), where he chain-smokes Parliaments and nurses a highball while waiting for her in the hotel lounge. At her prompting, he nervously reserves a room for them under the unconvincing alias of “Mr. Gladstone.”
The two find themselves in room 568, where Benjamin shrouds the room in darkness and clumsily tries to act smooth to conceal his nervousness as Mrs. Robinson gets undressed, but he still has trouble coming to terms with their prospective affair.
Benjamin: Mrs. Robinson, I can’t do this… this is all terribly wrong.
Mrs. Robinson: Do you find me undesirable?
Benjamin: Oh, no, Mrs. Robinson, I think you’re the most attractive of all my parents’ friends.
She continues to needle him, suggesting that he may be insecure about his potential inadequacy if this is his first time in the situation, perfectly triggering his pride as he takes the bait and initiates their summer-long liaison.
What’d He Wear?
Given his family’s wealth and East Coast education, Benjamin Braddock’s wardrobe is an unsurprising assortment of smart Ivy League staples for every season, from summer-weight seersucker to fall-friendly corduroy and plenty of OCBDs and striped repp or knit ties to complete the ensembles. (It’s no surprise that The Graduate has been the subject of several requests from BAMF Style readers like Kyle, Ryan, and Zubair!)
For his inaugural tryst with Mrs. Robinson, Benjamin steels himself for the encounter in the sophisticated armor of a classic black-and-white herringbone woolen tweed sports coat, a curiously warm-wearing choice for this late spring evening in Los Angeles, but a stylish one nonetheless.
The single-breasted jacket has a shorter fit contemporary to the late ’60s, with two black plastic sew-through buttons on the front echoed by two on each cuff that appear to be functional “surgeon’s cuffs”.
The edges of the jacket, from the notch lapels to the patch hip pockets, are detailed with a pronounced “swelled edge”, a signature of Ivy style originally designed to keep woolen jackets in shape when wet as described by G. Bruce Boyer for Ivy Style in the 2013 article “The Swelled Edge, A Quarter-Edge of Distinction”. It’s perhaps significant that Boyer’s informative article is headed by a 1962 illustration from Brooks Brothers of their prototypical herringbone tweed jacket with swelled edges, detailed very similarly to what Hoffman would wear a half-decade later in The Graduate.
The aforementioned patch pockets on Benjamin’s hips are covered by straight rectangular flaps, and the jacket also has a welted breast pocket where Benjamin keeps not a pocket square but his red toothbrush.
Like seersucker suits, knitted ties followed the “reverse snobbery” route to stardom, with its origins as a durable, hard-wearing neckwear for poorer populations during the early 20th century before it trended worldwide during the ’60s, worn by style icons from Sean Connery’s James Bond (in Goldfinger) to Marcello Mastroianni. Of course, it was also an Ivy-trad staple and thus secured a place in Benjamin Braddock’s wardrobe, particularly this dark navy knit silk tie worn with his OCBD, a reliable pairing that Benjamin also calls into service with his seersucker jacket for his date with Mrs. Robinson’s daughter Elaine. (Fans of Kolchak are undoubtedly familiar with the virtues of a seersucker jacket, light blue OCBD, and dark knitted tie!)
Benjamin wears a pale blue oxford cotton shirt with a button-down collar, an American Ivy staple since Brooks Brothers first popularized the look after John L. Brooks observed English polo players fastening their collars to the bodies of their shirts to keep them controlled during play. Benjamin’s shirt has a front placket and rounded cuffs that each close through a single button.
Benjamin balances his neat Ivy-trad top half with a pair of plain dark gray slacks worn with a black leather belt that has a gunmetal single-prong buckle. He later wears the same light blue shirt, gray trousers, and belt with his corduroy sports coat and striped tie for a later tryst with Mrs. Robinson.
Little is seen of Benjamin’s dark cordovan derby shoes, and I entertain my own theory that Benjamin subconsciously chose these to provide the nervous young man with one more potential obstacle to romance as lace-up shoes can’t be removed as easily as loafers. His charcoal socks effectively continue the trouser leg lines into his shoes.
Benjamin also wears his usual steel wristwatch with its brown gradient dial and black leather strap.
What to Imbibe
“May I have a drink?” Mrs. Robinson asks as she takes her seat next to Benjamin in the Taft Hotel lounge. “A drink? Of course!” he nervously tries to flag down the waiter but fails, prompting Mrs. Robinson to order her own martini.
Benjamin, on the other hand, appears to be drinking a highball. While the word “highball” refers to any mixed drink with an alcoholic base and a non-alcoholic mixer, most traditionally a whiskey and soda thought other popular highballs include a rum and Coke, gin and tonic (or vodka tonic), and whiskey and ginger ale.
How to Get the Look
Other aspects of the evening aside, Benjamin Braddock dresses very well for his first appointment with Mrs. Robinson, neatly pulling together quintessential Ivy staples like his gray-toned tweed jacket, blue OCBD, and dark knit tie together for a date night ensemble that’s both classic and contemporary.
- Black-and-white herringbone tweed single-breasted 2-button sport jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, flapped patch hip pockets, 2-button cuffs, and single vent
- Pale blue oxford cotton shirt with button-down collar, front placket, and button cuffs
- Dark navy knitted silk tie
- Dark gray flat front trousers with belt loops, side pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Black leather belt with dark gunmetal single-prong buckle
- Dark cordovan derby shoes
- Charcoal socks
- Steel wristwatch with brown gradient dial on black leather strap
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
Well, I am a bit nervous, it’s pretty hard to be suave…