Leonardo DiCaprio as Rick Dalton, washed-up TV actor
Los Angeles, February 1969
Film: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Release Date: July 26, 2019
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Costume Designer: Arianne Phillips
Years after his glory days on the Western serial Bounty Law, proto-cowboy actor Rick Dalton fears that he’s “a has-been” as he’s relegated to dwindling, often villainous roles in Westerns and crime shows. Each one presents the opportunity to either impress audiences or remind them that he isn’t the star that he once was, so it’s with considerable apprehension—and a killer hangover—that he’s driven to the set of Lancer to film his walk-on role as the sinister Caleb DeCoteau opposite James Stacy (Timothy Olyphant).
“You’re Rick fuckin’ Dalton… and don’t you forget it,” encourages his stunt double and best friend Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), calling out from the cockpit of Rick’s Cadillac as the actor makes his wheezing walk onto the set. Rick is met by the gregarious Sam Wanamaker (Nicholas Hammond), the Chicago-born actor and director who had indeed directed the Lancer pilot, “The High Riders”. In yet another touch of QT’s revisionist history, this episode aired in September 1968, six months before this movie depicts it being filmed on Sunday, February 9, 1969.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood makes no secret of ensconcing its characters and revisionist history into the actual world of movie and TV production during that era, including Bruce Lee, Steve McQueen, James Stacy, and—of course—Sharon Tate. The fictional Rick Dalton was inspired by the careers and personalities of late 1960s contemporaries such as McQueen, Pete Duel, and Burt Reynolds, whose real-life friendship with his stunt double and eventual director Hal Needham would be reflected in Rick’s brotherhood with Cliff Booth.
As an homage to Reynolds, the actor had actually been cast in the small part of real-life rancher George Spahn, though Reynolds’ death in September 2018 resulted in Bruce Dern taking over the role. While sharing less in common with Rick Dalton, Dern had also been a rising star in the late ’60s who was primarily seen in Westerns and crime shows before his star-making roles in the ’70s including The Cowboys (1972), The Great Gatsby (1974), and Family Plot (1976).
What’d He Wear?
Lancer‘s costume designer Rebekka (Courtney Hoffman)—wearing a “Sock it to me” button personally chosen for her by Tarantino—is delighted about dressing Caleb DeCoteau in a fringed Custer jacket befitting Wanamaker’s “1869 meets 1969” vision, though it could be argued that Rick Dalton has already embraced this sartorial direction in his own life. Sure, it may be unfathomable to picture Wyatt Earp riding through Dodge City in an orange leather sports coat, but details like the pointed yokes and decorative embroidery on Rick’s jacket as well as his oversized belt buckle and raised-heel boots point to a Western influence informed by his chosen vocation starring in TV Westerns.
Cut and styled like a traditional lounge jacket, Rick’s orange leather coat has full-bellied notch lapels that roll to well above the two mixed brown urea four-hole sew-through buttons on the front, echoed by the three decorative buttons on the cuff of each sleeve. The jacket has wide shoulders, roped at the sleeveheads.
The only external pockets are two large patch pockets on the hips, each detailed with a Western-style pointed and embroidered yoke that echoes the coordinating pointed yokes on the shoulders, also embroidered in the Western tradition. The back of the jacket is similarly detailed with a double-pointed yoke across the shoulders, which—as on the front—has long vertical seams running the length of the coat from yoke point to hem. The single vent neatly bisects these two seams, set apart by a short horizontal seam that runs between the two vertical seams just above the top of the vent.
Rick’s trousers are a rich, dark chocolate brown likely made of polyester or a polyester blend consistent with the emerging menswear trends that would more fully take hold during the following decade. These flat front trousers have belt loops where he wears his usual dark brown leather belt, finished with a gold-toned single-prong buckle with a silver extended piece decorated with a gold “R” monogram.
The trousers are just slightly flared at the plain-hemmed bottoms to accommodate Rick’s chosen footwear, a pair of dark brown leather cowboy boots complete with slanted heels and the classic Western “bug and wrinkle” medallion stitching over the pointed toes.
If graphic tees, blue jeans, and moccasin boots are Cliff Booth’s style staples, Rick Dalton could be crowned king of the turtlenecks for his winning back-to-back jumpers worn under leather jackets for the first two days in the film’s narrative. Both colors, the previously seen rust brown and this mustard yellow, are specific to the emergent style of the following decade (though the brown jumper is a mock-neck rather than a full roll-neck.)
Tarantino had cited Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969) as one of the contemporary works that inspired Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. In Paul Mazurky’s 1969 sex comedy, we see both Robert Culp and Elliott Gould—as the titular Bob and Ted, respectively—wearing turtlenecks colored on the mustard spectrum, among other colors, though Culp’s and Gould’s jumpers are more of a brown mustard while Rick Dalton’s bolder knitwear evokes French’s yellow mustard. Likely constructed from merino wool, Rick’s sweater has raglan sleeves with a ribbed-knit roll-neck, cuffs, and hem.
Costume designer Arianne Phillips detailed the background of Rick’s gold jewelry, specifically his double-sided pendant and the chunky ring on his right pinky, in a July 2019 interview with Fawnia Soo Hoo for Fashionista:
That gold pendant was custom-made for our film by a wonderful jewelry designer Stuart England. Stuart makes these wonderful medallions and pendants. I wanted to use his work for a long time in films. I almost did in Kingsman: The Golden Circle. I just felt like Rick should have some kind of masculine jewelry and Steve McQueen was famously photographed with a medallion and I always loved that. I always thought it was sexy. So I thought Rick needed one, and Leo and Quentin responded to it. It actually is monogrammed with a little “R” on it.
The lion pinky ring was a collaboration with Chris Call, our property master, Leo and Quentin. It’s just a really cool piece of jewelry that looked right on him.
Phillips also explained to Haleigh Foutch of Collider in a December 2019 interview that the reverse of Rick’s necklace was etched with a Tudor rose-inspired design.
As opposed to Cliff Booth’s more distinctive (and slightly anachronistic) “bullhead” Citizen watch on its unique custom bund strap by Red Monkey Designs, Rick Dalton wears a more subdued classic timepiece that has been identified by Esquire Middle East as a Chopard Classic with a 36mm 18-carat yellow gold case, mechanical manual-winding movement, and brown alligator leather strap that closes on a gold-covered steel buckle. The watch has a round white dial with gilded hour markers with Roman numerals at the 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions. (See more of the Chopard Classic collection here.)
Of relative interest to some may be a visual comparison with a similar watch from the era owned by Burt Reynolds, a gold-toned 1960s Timex Electric with a plain white dial on a black leather strap that was auctioned in June 2019 alongside a 1980s quartz Seiko watch.
Rick also wears a pair of light brown plastic-framed sunglasses with pink-tinted lenses, though our hungover hero is hardly seeing the world through rose-colored glasses as he gloomily stumbles out of his Cadillac and toward his fateful day shooting his life-changing Lancer pilot.
For a price-efficient alternative to Rick’s sunglasses, I’d suggest this pair of SOJOS plastic-framed shades available for under $15 via Amazon as of June 2020.
What to Imbibe
Tarantino-world is famous for its pantries of fictional products, from the Wolf’s Tooth dog food that Cliff Booth’s pit bull downs voraciously to the Red Apple cigarettes enjoyed by all from Winston Wolf, Mia Wallace, and Butch Coolidge to Esteban Vihaio, John “the Hangman” Ruth, and Cliff himself. (Despite endorsing Red Apples in the commercials that accompany the closing credits, Rick himself seems to enjoy the equally fictional “Capitol W” brand also preferred by Butterfly in Death Proof.)
On the other hand, QT tends to give his characters real-world booze such as Stuntman Mike’s Four Roses or the Rémy Martin that Joe Cabot offers to a recently paroled Vic “Mr. White” Vega in Reservoir Dogs. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood breaks this pattern with the triumphant introduction of Old Chattanooga beer, evidently QT’s Southern-fried spin on contemporary budget brews like Old Milwaukee or Old Style.
Period-aesthetic advertising developed by Columbia Tristar Marketing in conjunction with the film’s release establishes this “Tennessee lager” to pack a punch at 7.4% ABV, considerably higher than what would have been filling most drinkers’ beer mugs at the time.
How to Get the Look
With more than a dash of his own Western flair, Rick Dalton’s wardrobe embodies the increasingly fashionable autumn color palette of the following decade, a phenomenon comprehensively explored by The Artful Codger on Reddit.
- Orange leather single-breasted 2-button sport jacket with notch lapels, Western-style pointed and embroidered front-and-back shoulder yoking, large patch hip pockets with pointed-and-embroidered yokes, non-functioning 3-button cuffs, and single vent
- Mustard yellow merino wool raglan-sleeve turtleneck sweater
- Chocolate brown polyester flat front trousers with belt loops and slightly flared plain-hemmed bottoms
- Dark brown leather belt with oversized gold single-prong fitting and silver “R”-monogrammed extension
- Dark brown leather cowboy boots with decorative-stitched shafts and “bug and wrinkle”-stitched pointed toes
- Gold “R”-monogrammed/Tudor rose pendant on thin gold necklace
- Gold chunky lion-motif pinky ring
- Chopard Classic 18-carat yellow gold wristwatch with round white dial on brown textured leather strap
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.