Goodbye, Columbus: Neil’s Corduroy Blazer
Richard Benjamin as Neil Klugman, listless library employee and Army veteran
Radcliffe College (Cambridge, Massachusetts), Fall 1968
Film: Goodbye, Columbus
Release Date: April 3, 1969
Director: Larry Peerce
Costume Designer: Gene Coffin
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Based on a novella by Philip Roth, Goodbye, Columbus marked the first major screen appearances for both Richard Benjamin and Ali MacGraw, who would receive a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer and a Laurel Award for Female New Face.
Goodbye, Columbus was released two years after The Graduate (though Roth’s source novella was published four years before Charles Webb’s The Graduate), and the similarities invited comparison between the two, with some critics like Dennis Schwartz favoring Goodbye, Columbus though it would be far lesser-known in the decades to follow. Both films cast dark-haired, dark-featured actors in the leading roles of the somewhat awkward and naive young man who spends his summer romancing a “princess”-type against her parents’ wishes—though the Patimkins’ objections are considerably more relatable than the Robinsons had—all scored by a popular contemporary band; in this case, The Association.
Following his performance as the somewhat listless Neil Klugman, Richard Benjamin would again play a Philip Roth surrogate in the lesser-received 1972 adaptation of Portnoy’s Complaint. Benjamin, who turns 82 next week, continues to act in movies and television though he shifted his career in the early ’80s to focus primarily on directing.
What’d He Wear?
Like his cinematic predecessor Benjamin Braddock, Neil Klugman finds comfort in Ivy style staples, particularly when visiting a suddenly estranged Brenda at Radcliffe. Their estrangement is exacerbated into a full-blown breakup when a shaken Brenda reveals that she needs to reevaluate the consequences of their relationship after just learning via letter that her mother had found her diaphragm.
Neil appropriately dresses for his journey to a New England college in the autumn in a tan corduroy sports coat not unlike Dustin Hoffman would famously wear in The Graduate, though Neil’s corded jacket is finished with gilt shank buttons like a blazer. At a tall, lean 6’2″, Richard Benjamin benefits from the balance of a three-button jacket, though his notch lapels just begin to gently roll over the top button for a variation of the classic 3/2-roll that has been colloquialized by some as a “3/2.5 roll”.
The jacket has a welted breast pocket, patch hip pockets with flaps, a long single vent, and two decorative gilt buttons on the cuff of each sleeve.
Made in a thin-waled corduroy also known as “pincord” or “needlecord”, Neil’s jacket has sporty welted stitching along the edges, though the distance between the stitch and the edge appears to be slightly longer than the traditional ¼”.
Like the familiar Benjamin Braddock outfit featured in iconic photography from The Graduate, Neil also wears the Ivy classic light blue oxford cotton button-down shirt under his corduroy jacket, though he swaps out Hoffman’s striped repp tie in favor of a very dark brown knitted tie with the traditional flat, squared bottom.
While knitted ties are best-served when knotted in a four-in-hand or the like, Neil appears to be getting away with a tight half-Windsor that suggests the section of the tie that’s been knotted is tapered to a slimmer section than the rest of the tie’s approximate three-inch width.
Neil wears dark charcoal flat front straight-leg trousers, likely wool or a woolen flannel, with plain-hemmed bottoms that break high over his derby shoes. His shoes and belt are appropriately coordinated in similar dark brown leather.
Neil completes his outfit with a khaki raincoat that he wears with the collar turned up like a shadowy noir hero as he covertly checks into the hotel with Brenda. The fly-front coat has pointed half-tabs on each cuff that close through a single button.
Though it gets little screen time in this sequence, Neil wears his usual steel wristwatch on its expanding bracelet.
How to Get the Look
Neil Klugman dresses for his destination when arriving on a New England campus in the fall, comfortably sporting timeless Ivy favorites for a new spin on the corduroy sport jacket and blue OCBD exemplified by his cinematic contemporary Benjamin Braddock.
- Tan corduroy single-breasted blazer with 3/2.5-roll gilt buttons, notch lapels, welted breast pocket, flapped patch hip pockets, 2-button cuffs, long single vent
- Light blue oxford cotton shirt with button-down collar, front placket, breast pocket, and button cuffs
- Dark brown knitted wool tie
- Dark charcoal wool flat front trousers with belt loops and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Dark brown leather belt with brass-toned single-prong buckle
- Dark brown calf leather derby shoes
- Black socks
- Khaki polyester-shell raincoat with fly front, single-button pointed half-tab cuffs, single vent
- Steel watch on expanding bracelet
I can’t begin to say just how much I hate Phillip Roth and his writing.
FWIW, John Mulaney’s character hilariously lampoons Roth’s persona and literary approach — particularly Portnoy’s Complaint — with his character George St. Geegland and his fictitious “Rifkin’s Dilemma”