Burt Lancaster as Steve Thompson, larcenous armored car driver
Los Angeles, Summer 1948
Film: Criss Cross
Release Date: January 19, 1949
Director: Robert Siodmak
After directing the actor’s debut screen performance in quintessential film noir The Killers (1946), Robert Siodmak reteamed with Burt Lancaster three years later for Criss Cross, a quick, moody thriller that begins in media res with Steve Thompson (Lancaster) in the evening shadows of a nightclub parking lot, embracing his ex-wife Anna (Yvonne De Carlo).
As De Carlo makes her plea to the camera that Film Noir Foundation founder Eddie Muller called “noir’s defining moment”, we learn that the former spouses are forced into secrecy to avoid detection from Anna’s slick gangster boyfriend Slim Dundee (Dan Duryea), with whom Steve is planning a six-figure “chance of a lifetime” heist the following day.
In addition to Daniel Fuchs’ script that lives up to its name as these cops, chicks, and criminals double-cross each other at any opportunity, Criss Cross cements itself among the pantheon of noir cinema thanks to Franz Planer’s cinematography.
What’d He Wear?
If my #Noirvember posts have taught readers anything, I hope it’s that noir heroes don’t need a trench coat or fedora to claim their rightful place in this shadowy subgenre (though there will be plenty of those to come in posts to follow!)
As with the Great War decades earlier, the post-World War II years hastened more informality in menswear, popularizing sporty casual clothing to the extent that gents were leaving the house in untucked sport shirts, often worn sans tie or hat, especially in warmer and more laidback bergs like L.A.
One sartorial innovation to emerge during this period was the loafer jacket, alternatively known as the “Hollywood jacket” for the town with which it would become most associated. Considered a precursor to the safari-inspired leisure suits and jackets of the 1970s, these loafer jackets of the ’40s and ’50s crossed elements of classic sportswear with then-contemporary casual sensibilities for a piece that could be dressed up with collar and tie or, as Burt Lancaster wears it in Criss Cross, dressed down over a simple turtleneck jumper.
Per their informality, it wasn’t unusual for loafer jackets to be two-toned, often with the body of the coat in a fabric or pattern differing from the collar and sleeves as seen in this Dreem Co. example or as worn by Howard Hughes for his famous “Spruce Goose” flight in November 1947.
Lancaster’s Criss Cross jacket presents a variation on the usual with the body of his loafer jacket constructed from a dark suede while the collar, sleeves, and the horizontal front and back shoulder yokes are checked in an alternating two-up, two-down houndstooth weave against a light napped wool ground, resembling the Scottish-originated gun club check. Even these checked areas are accented with dark suede, such as the elbow patches and the triangular shooting patch against the front right shoulder that nods to this jacket’s sporty origins.
The jacket has a full self-belt in dark suede that, when seen in tandem with the wide shoulders and roped sleeveheads, emphasizes former acrobat Lancaster’s athletic silhouette. In addition to the belted waist, the jacket has four woven leather buttons up the front. The left breast is detailed with a set-in pocket, covered with a short flap that more resembles a ticket pocket than the traditional breast pocket, the top of the flap aligned with the bottom of the shoulder yoke. The jacket also has flapped hip pockets and a flapped ticket pocket on the right side. The cuffs close with a single button.
In these scenes at the start of Criss Cross, Steve wears his loafer jacket over a dark-colored turtleneck with a full, folded-over rollneck. Lightweight enough to be tucked into his trousers, the jumper appears to be an early example of a cotton turtleneck rather than wool.
At the start of Criss Cross, Lancaster wears the turtleneck tucked into a pair of dark (though not as dark as the jumper or the suede of his jacket) long-rise trousers with double reverse pleats that provide a fashionably voluminous fit through the legs down to the bottoms, finished with turn-ups (cuffs). These trousers have side pockets and back pockets with only the left back pocket closing through a button. Lancaster’s belt is a narrow strip of brown leather with a darkened square single-prong buckle.
We may spot a continuity error with Steve’s shoes, as he wears dark leather cap-toe oxfords inside the club but these seem to transform to moc-toe casual shoes—not unlike boat shoes—by the time he has stepped outside.
In the flashback to the gang planning the heist, he wears a medium-colored rayon gabardine long-sleeved sports shirt under his loafer jacket, detailed with a fashionably long point collar with a loop-closure when he fastens the plain “French placket” up to his neck. The shirt has two rounded-bottom patch pockets over his chest, each covered with a non-buttoning flap, and button-fastened cuffs.
With this sport shirt—or with just the white sleeveless A-shirt he wears under it—Lancaster again wears double reverse-pleated trousers and what’s likely a slim brown leather belt, though these trousers are a darker shade than his earlier pair, matching the darkness of the suede portions on his loafer jacket.
Steve wears a square-cased wristwatch with what appears to be a plain-looking off-white square dial (though it may have two sub-registers), worn on a dark leather strap nearly as wide as the case itself.
How to Get the Look
Burt Lancaster’s wardrobe in Criss Cross signals the mid-century shift in men’s fashions that embraced dressed-down sportswear more than ever before as Steve Thompson spends more of the film in casual pieces like his loafer jacket, sport shirts, and pullover jumpers than he does in suits and ties.
- Houndstooth gun club-style check and dark suede-paneled 4-button loafer jacket with full self-belt, straight flapped hip pockets with right-side ticket pocket, short flapped breast pocket, and button cuffs
- turtleneck or sports shirt
- Dark wool double reverse-pleated high-rise trousers with belt loops, side pockets, back pockets (with button-through left pocket), and turn-ups/cuffs
- Brown narrow leather belt with darkened square single-prong buckle
- Dark leather cap-toe oxford shoes
- Dark socks
- White ribbed cotton sleeveless undershirt
- Square-shaped wristwatch on dark leather strap
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
The way you know everything…