Pierrot le Fou: Belmondo’s Striped Shirt by the Sea
Jean-Paul Belmondo as Ferdinand Griffon, runaway husband
French Riviera, Summer 1965
Film: Pierrot le Fou
Release Date: November 5, 1965
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Five years after their collaboration in À bout de souffle that established many of the unconventional conventions that would define French New Wave, director Jean-Luc Godard reteamed with charismatic star Jean-Paul Belmondo for a surreal and colorful classic with its scenes and themes of seclusion that make it feel all the more relevant during this strange summer that still finds many in self-isolation.
Life may always be sad, but it’s always beautiful.
After a larcenous journey from Paris, Ferdinand Griffon (Belmondo) and Marianne Renoir (Anna Karina) finally arrive in the south of France to make a go at the seaside life they dreamed about. While he seeks to “just exist”, the end goal for Marianne is to live the high life, perhaps with a little help from her gun-smuggling “brother” Fred. When Ferdinand chides Marianne aloud for her obsession with fun, she questions who he was addressing. In turn, he smashes a brick through the fourth wall by assuring it was only “the audience”, to which she looks back to make sure we’re still with them in the backseat of that sharp silver Ford Galaxie.
“The best plot summary of Pierrot le Fou is probably the simplest: ‘Two fictional characters move through space,'” wrote Evan Kindley in his 2008 review of the film’s DVD release for the Criterion Collection, adding “And that space is arranged and conducted as well as a mid-century French aesthete steeped in the classical Hollywood tradition could manage. Which is to say, about as well as humanly possible. In Pierrot, Godard, working with godlike supergenius cameraman Raoul Coutard, is mercifully free of the distraction of significant content and can construct little window-boxes of pure beauty.”
Ferdinand and Marianne spend their days idling—him writing, her singing—while surrounded by various wildlife and nothing but their own thoughts, feelings, and scattered discussions about both. It’s these scenes that present Pierrot le Fou at some of its most philosophical, as our titular fou attempts to scribble out his wisdom by the sea when all his muse wants to do is live the kind of life that comes with spending money.
Once Marianne tires of “playing Jules Verne” and insists they go into Nice, the two raise money by staging a bizarre “play” about the Vietnam War much to the delight of American tourists. Their new dollars net them some new duds, a dress for her and a light blue summer suit for him, but the two are hardly back in “civilization” long before she’s plunging yet another pair of scissors into a gangster’s neck and he’s being waterboarded in a bathtub.
What’d He Wear?
Clad in a businesslike glen plaid suit for the first portion of Pierrot le Fou, Ferdinand’s attire takes a renegade shift as he solidifies his involvement in his life of “free-spirited” crime with Marianne. He dresses in a navy pinstripe double-breasted suit of mysterious origins with a striped neckband shirt and pork-pie hat for the heist of their new Galaxie, then finally arrives at their destination in a colorfully avant-garde casual ensemble of a rainbow-striped shirt with black velvet jacket, dirty off-white jeans, and penny loafers.
The first of Ferdinand’s new threads to go is an unseasonably warm black velvet single-breasted jacket with padded shoulders and piped trim along the edges of the notch lapels.
Once Ferdinand ditches the velvet jacket, we’re introduced to that colorfully striped shirt in all of its glory, patterned in bold varieted vertical stripes in blue, tan, taupe, red, gray, burgundy, magenta, gold, and teal, to name a few, likely made from a high-twist cotton.
If Ferdinand’s look is one you aspire to, let’s start with the bad news: I can almost guarantee you won’t find this exact shirt anywhere. The good news? This releases you to embrace the free-wheeling spirit of Pierrot le Fou and find your own special shirt, unique to you, be it one of these ’90s-vintage shirts from a semi-premium designer like Nautica or Tommy Hilfiger (and I’m almost positive my dad had that Nautica shirt), an inexpensive online buy like one of these (one, two, or three), or—best yet—a unique vintage find like this to lightly clothe your back during sun-soaked days on the Baie des Anges.
Aside from its unorthodox color scheme, Ferdinand’s shirt is otherwise styled similar to the traditional OCBD sport shirt with its large, shapely button-down collar, of which he typically fastens either one or none of the collar leaf buttons in addition to the button through the back of the collar. The buttons fastening the collar, rounded cuffs, and the front placket are all white, possibly mother-of-pearl, and white-threaded to the body of the shirt. The shirt also has a box pleat running down the center of the back and a single pocket over the left breast.
Based on the black branded patch sewn along the top of the back right pocket, Ferdinand’s cream cotton sateen jeans appear to made by Lee, specifically part of their “Westerner” line of sanforized jackets and jeans in a wheat-colored alternative to the classic blue denim. Originating in the late 1950s, the Westerner line was Lee’s attempt to capture the demographic of male and female urbanites, cashing in on the increasing leisure-wear trend by branding these “Westweave polished cotton” jacket and jeans as mix-and-match “Lee-sures”. While perhaps unstylish to the modern eye, Sidney Poitier made both jacket and jeans look good in the opening (and closing) scenes of Lilies of the Field (1963).
Though marketed as “slacks” for the non-jean wearer, these creamy beige jeans are styled like most classic denim across the back half of the 20th century with five pockets (including right-side coin pocket), rivets at the corner seams, and belt loops that go unused by Bébel.
Ferdinand sheds his hosiery and goes sockless in his dusty dark brown leather moc-toe loafers. These slip-on shoes appear to have a self-strap across the top of the instep, though this strap appears to lack the signature slot that would classify them among the penny loafers that had been an American campus favorite ever since Massachusetts manufacturer G.H. Bass & Co. introduced its now-iconic “weejun” in the 1930s.
If I were looking to crib Ferdinand’s look, I’d probably start with a pair of brown moc-toe drivers for their malleable construction, though I’d still opt for a penny-style strap like one of these pairs of moderately priced slip-ons: Clarks “Ashmont Way”, Cole Haan “Grant Canoe”, Cole Haan “Howland”, Florsheim “Jensen”, Florsheim “Oval”, Marc Joseph “Union Street Driver”, or Massimo Matteo “Florencia”.
On his right pinky, Ferdinand wears a gold signet ring that appears to have been the actor’s own affectation.
Ferdinand’s new pale blue cotton suit that he wears into Nice consists of a single-breasted jacket and darted-front trousers. The short three-button jacket has notch lapels, sporty patch pockets on the breast and hips, a single vent, and no buttons on the cuffs. The trousers have a fitted waistband that closes through a single white button on the extended tab, side pockets, button-through back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms that break high.
After he loses track of Marianne and loses himself with a familiar face at the movies, Ferdinand keeps his wrinkling suit trousers and worn-in shoes but swaps out the striped shirt and suit jacket for a navy ribbed jumper and drab jeep cap.
#CarWeek may be officially over, but I can’t resist a few words in appreciation of that silver 1961 Ford Galaxie Sunliner with the lush red-and-white leather interior that Marianne had so wisely talked Ferdinand into thieving…
Marianne: Look, Pierrot, a Ford Galaxie.
Ferdinand: My name is Ferdinand. (looks up) Yeah, a ’62.
Marianne: Show me you’re a man.
Once he finishes his reading, Ferdinand prepares to make Marianne proud with a gambit that secures them the Galaxie convertible, though IMCDB‘s eagle-eyed experts have identified it as a 1961 model rather than the ’62 Ferdinand claimed, evident by the horizontal bar across the grille that was removed to make way for a “flat face” grille for the 500 models and up for 1962. (Still close, Pierrot!)
Other than the fact that the Galaxie was reportedly owned by Godard himself, there is little on record about the screen-used car or the engine that powered it, which could have ranged anywhere from Ford’s “Mileage Maker Six” base motor up to the powerful 390 cubic-inch V8 mill introduced for ’61. No matter what was under the hood, it was certainly the first to get drenched when Ferdinand impulsively steers the Galaxie into the Mediterranean.
What to Imbibe
While performing his “play”, Ferdinand—in the blue service dress of a U.S. Navy lieutenant—takes a long pull from a bottle of Long John whisky, which he also enjoys on the rocks while “in character”.
The story of this blended Scotch dates back to the 1820s when notorious bootlegger Long John Macdonald began operations at the Ben Nevis distillery outside Fort William in the Scottish Highlands, producing Long John’s Dew of Ben Nevis, which would become one of the first marketed single malt brands according to scotchwhisky.com. More than a century later, the brand name had been passed along from London merchant W.H. Chaplin & Co. to gin distiller Seager Evans, who was currently using the Long John name to market its blend. Several more mergers and acquisitions over the course of the 20th century landed Long John in the hands of the French liquor giant Pernod Ricard in 2005, where it has enjoyed its most steady market in France ever since… making it all the more interesting that Long John’s arguably most prominent cinematic exposure was forty years earlier in that most French of French nouvelle vague cinema.
Later, when at the Bar Dancing de la Marquise in Hyères, Ferdinand orders two beers “so when I finish one, I’ll still have one left,” but our hapless hero barely has a chance to make a dent in his first when he gets the call from Marianne.
How to Get the Look
Jean-Paul Belmondo’s vibrantly striped shirt in Pierrot le Fou echoes the colorful chaos that follows him and Anna Karina through France, balanced by contemporary Ivy favorites like his trendy neural-toned jeans and worn-in weejuns.
- Multi-striped cotton long-sleeved shirt with large button-down collar, front placket (with white buttons), breast pocket, and 1-button rounded cuffs
- Black velvet single-breasted jacket with piped-edge notch lapels and padded shoulders
- Cream cotton sateen Lee Westerner jeans with belt loops, five-pocket layout, and straight leg with plain-hemmed bottoms
- Dark brown leather moc-toe vamp-strap loafers
- Gold signet pinky ring
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
Good news for Pierrot-heads… Criterion just announced that it will be re-releasing this classic in October 2020!
It’s a good thing I don’t like spinach, because if I did, I’d eat it, and I can’t stand the stuff.
I thought this was a bamstyle on the character Pierrot le Fou from Cowboy Bebop.
What da ya mean by those jeans are “unstylish to the modern eye”. The Lee Westerner
‘s go for big bucks when you can find them. J Crew did a collaboration with Lee a few years ago too.
I agree with you, though some have criticized the matching Lee Westerner jacket and jeans as leaning too far into proto-leisure suit territory. All about how you wear it, I suppose! I plan on covering Poitier sporting both in the next weeks.
Thanks, I’ve been waiting for Lilies of the Field