Richard Gere’s Dark Purple Beach Shirt in American Gigolo

Richard Gere as Julian Kaye in American Gigolo (1980)

Richard Gere as Julian Kaye in American Gigolo (1980)

Vitals

Richard Gere as Julian Kaye, high-price L.A. escort

Malibu, California, Spring 1980

Film: American Gigolo
Release Date: February 8, 1980
Director: Paul Schrader
Costumer: Bernadene C. Mann
Costume Coordinator: Alice Rush
Richard Gere’s Costumes: Giorgio Armani

Background

American Gigolo, which provided Richard Gere with his breakout role as a leading man, numbers among the many movies that felt appropriate to this year’s surreal summer. Set against the backdrop of high fashions and low tides in sun-drenched southern California, the noir-influenced circumstances that follow our hustler protagonist Julian Kaye add an increasingly eerie mood to the proceedings. Of course, being framed for murder and living through a global pandemic are two different sets of circumstances, but both make it hard to enjoy the high life no matter how beautiful one’s surroundings or wardrobe may be.

“The whole movie has a winning sadness about it,” wrote Roger Ebert in his contemporary and complimentary review. “Take away the story’s sensational aspects and what you have is a study in loneliness.”

Looking ahead to Gere’s 71st birthday on Monday, let’s explore one of Julian’s more dressed-down ensembles from a brief, beach-set scene.

What’d He Wear?

After the police have searched and ransacked his home, Julian drops in on his former madam and mentor Anne (Nina van Pallandt) to confide that he thinks he’s being framed for murder. Though he maintains a state-of-the-art wardrobe of sport jackets, suits, and ties, Julian proves that he can just as adeptly put together a fashionable and casual outfit of half-buttoned shirt and slacks for his visit to Anne’s beachside home.

While Giorgio Armani famously provided many of Gere’s costumes, I believe the shirt in this scene is the same Basile shirt spotted earlier when Julian is evaluating his vast wardrobe before a “date”. Specializing in ready-to-wear fashions for men and women, Basile was one of several Italian fashion houses—including Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, and Versace—that contributed to Milan gaining a foothold on the international fashion map during the 1980s. In fact, Lauren Hutton wore primarily Basile clothing as American Gigolo‘s female lead.

Note Basile's distinctive tag sewn against the neckband of his purple shirt. The Italian brand's logo has remained unchained in the 40 years since American Gigolo was released.

Note Basile’s distinctive tag sewn against the neckband of his purple shirt. The Italian brand’s logo has remained unchained in the 40 years since American Gigolo was released.

Julian’s shirt is a rich dark purple summer-weight fabric, prone to wrinkling with enough near-sheer and near-sheen to suggest linen, silk, or a blend of both in its construction. He wears the shirt have buttoned up the plain “French placket” front, leaving the soft, untethered point collar and dual chest pocket flaps to flutter in the beach wind. Gere wears the shirt’s long sleeves rolled up to his elbows.

Julian finds Anne unsympathetic to his cause after he seemingly abandoned her to work for rival Leon.

Julian finds Anne unsympathetic to his cause after he seemingly abandoned her to work for rival Leon.

Some men prefer one style of trouser fronts over another, but Julian’s trousers in American Gigolo range from flat fronts to single and double sets of pleats, alternately facing forward or to the rear. These beige linen trousers, with their flattering rise to the natural waist, are fitted with double forward-facing pleats. In addition to the straight side pockets, there is a button-through pocket over the back right, and the bottoms are finished with plain hems rather than cuffs.

Julian’s tan leather belt with its gold round-ended single-prong buckle coordinates with his shoes while also harmonizing against the tonally similar trouser fabric.

Note that Anne is reading an issue of New West, Clay Felker's short-lived periodical that premiered in April 1976 as a West Coast-oriented offshoot of New York magazine. Famous for its exposes of Jim Jones and Jerry Brown, the general interest magazine would be redubbed California in 1980 and would survive for more than a decade before finally ceasing publication in the summer of 1991.

Note that Anne is reading an issue of New West, Clay Felker’s short-lived periodical that premiered in April 1976 as a West Coast-oriented offshoot of New York magazine. Famous for its exposes of Jim Jones and Jerry Brown, the general interest magazine would be redubbed California later in 1980 and would survive for more than a decade before finally ceasing publication in the summer of 1991.

For such a conspicuously branded movie, it may be incongruous that we never see Julian’s gold tank watch clearly enough to positively identify its maker, not helped by his habit of wearing it with the rectangular black dial on the inside of his left wrist.

Some have suggested Cartier and Omega as the likely manufacturers of this luxury wristwatch, though BAMF Style reader Chas pointed out that what appears to be a gold circular “C” on the gold single-prong buckle suggests Concord.

AMERICAN GIGOLO

Roots Footwear provided all of the footwear that Gere wore in American Gigolo, including this pair of sandy tan suede lace-up shoes with hard dark brown leather soles.

AMERICAN GIGOLO

How to Get the Look

Richard Gere as Julian Kaye in American Gigolo (1980)

Richard Gere as Julian Kaye in American Gigolo (1980)

Much of what makes Richard Gere’s costuming in American Gigolo significant is how much it augured the prevailing menswear for the ’80s, though certain outfits transcend the era specificity of the “Armani revolution” with sartorial approaches like this simple yet elegant and ultimately timeless shirt and trousers, perfect for a late summer afternoon on the beach be the year 1940, 1980, or 2020.

  • Dark purple linen-and-silk long-sleeve shirt with point collar, plain front, and two flapped chest pockets
  • Beige linen double forward-pleated trousers with belt loops, gently slanted side pockets, button-through back right pocket, and plain-hemmed bottoms
  • Tan leather belt with rounded gold single-prong buckle
  • Sand-colored suede lace-up shoes
  • Gold tank watch with a black rectangular dial on smooth black leather strap

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Check out the movie.

The Quote

Things are different… I’m more than what I’m used to be.

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