Chris Evans as Hugh “Ransom” Drysdale, arrogant “trust fund prick”
Massachusetts, November 2018
Film: Knives Out
Release Date: November 27, 2019
Director: Rian Johnson
Costume Designer: Jenny Eagan
Released a year ago this week, Knives Out offered a fresh spin on the classic “whodunit” genre, complete with an idiosyncratic detective—in this case, Daniel Craig as the observant Benoit Blanc—and a dysfunctional family plunged into a murder mystery at their palatial country estate. It’s that dysfunctional family element that inspired me to write about Knives Out today, on the eve of a Thanksgiving that’s sure to look different than usual for most households.
The last member of the Thrombey household to be introduced on screen is Ransom Drysdale—or Hugh to “the help”—the spoiled grandson of the late mystery writer Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer). Even before Knives Out reached theaters, the internet was ablaze with preview images of Chris Evans lounging in Ransom’s moth-eaten fisherman’s sweater, reintroducing the classic Aran knitting technique to a new generation.
In the year since Knives Out has been released, the cultural impact of Ransom’s sweater has been chronicled ad nauseam, though perhaps most effectively by Rachel Syme for The New Yorker in her December 2019 article “The Curious Case of Chris Evans’s Sweater in Knives Out“ that explores the role of costuming in whodunits.
Before continuing on, I wish all of you a happy, healthy, and safe Thanksgiving, and I hope that many of you can find more forgiving attitudes toward your loved ones than Ransom “Fuck my family” Drysdale.
What’d He Wear?
The only thing I will say about Knives Out is that, upon seeing Chris Evans in a sweater, the girl next to me gasped and said very softly and tenderly, “Sweater.”
— Anna Menta (@annalikestweets) November 7, 2019
Of course, who wouldn’t want to inspire a reaction like that? While few of us look like Chris Evans, a timeless Aran knit sweater can still turn heads… and maybe even evoke the occasional gasp of admiration.
When Syme spoke to costume designer Jenny Eagen for The New Yorker‘s piece, Eagen wasn’t able to initially recall the brand of the sweater or whether it was new or vintage, but she did offer that “she chose to swaddle Evans in eggshell because it was the color of leisure, of a man who has never had to work a day in his life. He can wear a color that must stay pristine, because he’s not doing the kind of labor that would invite stains (or any labor, really).”
The irony of an idle loafer like Ransom wearing this sweater is that these hard-wearing jumpers were originally developed for the hardworking fishermen of Galway Bay off the western coast of Ireland. The lighter-weight wool of guernsey knitwear that inspired these jumpers was unavailable to western Irish knitters, so thicker báinín yarn was sourced from local sheep’s wool. Unwashed and undyed, this now-familiar creamy shade of off-white wool also contained natural sheep lanolin with water-repellent properties that added considerable value at sea.
The practice originated around the turn of the 20th century, shrouded in the mythology that unique designs were knitted on each sweater to identify drowned fishermen who may have otherwise been too disfigured to be recognized. While a romantic—if morbid—theory, the more likely truth is that these criss-crossing cable-knit patterns represented the villages and regions where these fishermen originated. Many cable patterns reportedly carried meanings such as ropes suggesting “good fortune at sea” according to Esquire‘s Handbook of Style or a lucky honeycomb stitch representing abundant yields. You can—and should—read more of the Aran sweater’s history in Julia Brodsky’s definitive history for ShamrockCraic.
While cable-knit techniques have been applied to sweaters in every color and every style from cardigans to vests, the most traditional Aran knitwear remains the natural-colored pullover jumper. While I’m no knitting expert (and welcome any corrections), I believe that Ransom’s bulky cable-knit sweater incorporates three different cable patterns: Patons Honeycomb Aran down the center of the torso and sleeves, then panels alternating between double coiled rope stitches and a four-yarn cascade cable rib.
Months after Knives Out was released, an array of screen-worn costumes and accessories were auctioned. Most of Chris Evans’ attire was included, including the famous sweater that he had reportedly swiped from the set! Produced by French fashion retailer The Kooples, Ransom’s sweater was made from a blend of 90% wool and 10% cashmere that suggests a piece made for luxury rather than labor. So why the distressed look?
Rian Johnson explained to Vincent Boucher of The Hollywood Reporter that he had asked Eagen to put holes in the sweater as “the character has really nice clothes that he kind of treats like trash.” Thus, Eagen and her team got to work adding holes and fraying to the ribbed crew neck and cuffs as well as the body of the sweater, prominently over the right side of the chest.
“He’s buying expensive things,” Eagan explained of Ransom to Syme. “But he doesn’t respect them.” She added in an interview with People that “giving it little nicks or little holes here and there, meaning he didn’t take care of it… the holes and the tatter gave him a touch of that disrespect. It was a disrespect to the family, a disrespect to the name, a disrespect to his clothes.”
Despite—or perhaps enhanced by—the added damage, Chris Evans’ lived-in Aran-style pullover became one of the most talked-about men’s costumes in recent movies, inspiring dozens of articles and hundreds of tweets that ranged from pure admiration to the occasional thoughtful exploration behind this classic piece of knitwear and its ironic place in Ransom’s closet.
While retailers like Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue have been sold out of The Kooples sweater like the one worn by Chris Evans, an enterprising knitter named Caryn Shaffer worked hard to recreate the unique sweater’s patterns for what she appropriately calls “The Handsome Chris Sweater” as chronicled and outlined on Ravelry. If you’re not a knitter but still want to see if the look works for you, the resurgence of interest in Aran-style jumpers means you have a wide array of options available for every budget:
- Aran Crafts Irish Soft Cable Knitted Crew Neck Sweater in 100% merino wool ($59 to $78, via Amazon)
- Aran Knitwear Traditional Hand-Knit Sweater in 100% merino wool ($165, via Blarney Woollen Mills)
- Aran Sweater Market Cabled Sweater in 100% merino wool ($179.95, via Aran Sweater Market)
- Aran Sweater Market Heavyweight Merino Wool Sweater in 100% merino wool ($99.95, via Aran Sweater Market)
- Aran Sweater Market Lightweight Traditional Wool Sweater in 100% pure new wool ($64.95, via Aran Sweater Market)
- Biddy Murphy Irish Fisherman Sweater in 100% merino wool ($118.64 to $152.55, via Amazon)
- Blarney Woollen Mills “Fionn” in 100% merino wool ($119, via Blarney Woollen Mills)
- Blarney Woollen Mills “John” in 100% merino wool ($129, via Blarney Woollen Mills)
- Carraig Donn Irish Wool Sweater in 100% wool ($89.95, via Amazon)
- The Irish Store Blasket Honeycomb Stitch Aran Sweater in 100% merino wool ($89.95, via The Irish Store)
- The Irish Store Lightweight Crew Neck Aran Sweater in 100% wool ($74.95, via The Irish Store)
- The Irish Store O’Connell Aran Sweater in 100% merino wool ($99.95, via The Irish Store)
- L.L. Bean Irish Fisherman’s Crewneck Heritage Sweater in 100% wool ($179, via L.L. Bean)
- SAOL Irish Traditional Cable Knit Sweater Pullover in 100% merino wool ($96.60, via Amazon)
- Amazon Essentials Midweight Fisherman Sweater in off-white cotton, nylon, and wool blend ($25, via Amazon)
Prices and availability current as of November 2020.
Barely glimpsed under the ribbed crew-neck of Ransom’s sweater is his undershirt, a drab olive-colored cotton crew-neck pocket T-shirt, also with fraying edges.
Ransom keeps his soon-to-be-famous sweater concealed for his first appearance on screen, layered for the fall morning in an unstructured thigh-length topcoat made from a soft napped light brown wool, possibly cashmere or a cashmere blend. A loafer like Ransom would have little need for a formal overcoat, so shorter and more versatile coats like
Ransom’s single-breasted topcoat has notch lapels and a single-breasted fly front that would cover the three faux-wood buttons if we ever saw him wear the jacket closed.
The unstructured, unlined coat has narrow natural shoulders and set-in sleeves with a seam down the length of each down to the plain-finished cuffs devoid of buttons, vents, or any decoration aside from some hard-worn fraying characteristic to Ransom’s clothing. The Theory coat also has side-entry hand pockets and a single vent.
Similarly to Ransom appropriating a sweater associated with rugged labor and hard work, he also chooses trousers with a deceivingly professional chalk stripe like one would associate with a successful businessperson, lawyer, or other professional… rather than a ne’er-do-well who spends his idle hours loafing and conniving.
Ransom’s navy pure wool single reverse-pleated trousers from Suitsupply are patterned with a faded white chalk-stripe and the usual gently slanted side pockets, jetted back pockets, plain-hemmed bottoms, and… elastic waistband with a drawstring?
The untucked sweater covers enough of the trouser waistband to make these presentable enough for a more formal occasion like a will-reading, and—were it not for the auction listings after the film’s production—one may not have even been able to tell that Ransom was wearing drawstring-waisted pants. The trouser model worn on screen appears to have been discontinued, though the Amsterdam-based apparel company Suit Supply still offers drawstring-waisted trousers like these pleated “Ames” trousers in navy chalk-striped wool.
While there’s little to admire about Ransom Drysdale, I do appreciate his trouser selection for their “business on the bottom, party on the top” approach as their drawstring closure makes them the ideal dressed-down dressy bottoms whether you’re in the market for “Thanksgiving pants” or just looking to give your waistline a break when returning to the office after months spent working from home.
In keeping with the rest of his wardrobe, Ransom’s Gucci loafers have a prestigious heritage but reflect years of his careless wear as Jenny Eagen had a member of the costume department wear them down to the point that the taupe brown leather uppers had begun peeling.
Aldo Gucci had innovated his famous loafers in 1953 with gold horsebit detailing across the insteps which ultimately became their defining feature. “There are very few items of footwear that can be worn to both the office and the beach, but this loafer, in its many guises, is one such shoe,” explained British GQ fashion pundit Teo van den Broeke to The Rake, and this sort of versatility would no doubt appeal to Ransom as a style of shoes he could wear for any situation, regardless of its formality, with the added bonus of conspicuous branding.
Ransom adds plenty of colorful flash to his look by way of a lightweight scarf printed in an avian and floral motif that a Reddit user identified as the 2018 iteration of the Drake’s “Bird and Flower” scarf. According to the listing at eHaberdasher (and a slightly different colorway at Paul & Friends), this Italian-handmade scarf measures 70 by 180 centimeters and is composed of 70% wool and 30% silk.
The scarf has a green frayed edge, then a border row arranged in alternating triangles with all the “stalactite” triangles in beige while the “stalagmite” triangles alternate between coral and bronze. Further in is a wider row of colorful flowers against a bronze ground and then a repeat of the alternating triangle border row. The interior of the scarf is a plum-colored ground, printed with colorful earth-toned birds flying among a field of green vines and falling blue, coral, and bronze leaves.
Ransom arrives at the Thrombey household wearing his retro-styled Ray-Ban RB3447 Round Metal sunglasses with gold frames and green “Classic G-15” lenses (color code 001). Given his disregard for the family, it’s a surprise he takes them off even after he’s inside the house. “A curved brow bar, adjustable nose pads, and thin metal temples with plastic end tips rest comfortably behind the ears,” describes the Ray-Ban site, where they’re still available for $154; also available on Amazon.
Ransom’s only piece of jewelry is a gold pinky ring, which he seems to absently switch from one hand to the next. For example, he wears the ring on his left hand when he’s introduced at the Thrombey estate and berates his family until it’s switched to his right pinky for the following scene when the will is read. It’s back on his left hand when he and Marta confer at a local restaurant, but then he switches it over to his right pinky again the following day (most clearly seen after Marta produces the visceral evidence of her dishonesty.)
When not covered by the frayed cuffs of his voluminous sweaters, Ransom’s stainless steel watch can be glimpsed on his left wrist, detailed with a red-and-blue “Pepsi” bezel around the black dial arranged with luminous non-numeric hour markers and a bubble over the 3:00 date window.
Nicknamed for its resemblance to the soft drink brand’s red-and-blue logo, the 24-hour “Pepsi bezel” debuted on the first run of Rolex GMT Master navigational watches when they were introduced in 1954 via Rolex’s collaboration with Pan Am. The original Pepsi bezel, ref. 6542, was a red-and-blue bakelite insert, though bakelite’s penchant for cracking led to Rolex swapping it out with aluminum later in the decade before eventually switching to ceramic bezels with the GMT Master II generation in 2007.
In addition to the Pepsi bezel, the GMT Master was offered with the “Coke” (dark red and black), “Root Beer” (brown and gold), and even “Batman” (blue and black) bezel inserts, though the Pepsi colorway has arguably been the most influential with other watchmakers like Orient, Seiko, TAG Heuer, and Tudor in the decades since. You can read more about the history of the GMT Master at by Oakleigh Luxury Watches.
Whatever his actual watch may be, Ransom wears it strapped to his wrist on a smooth brown leather bracelet.
Far less celebrated but still stylish are Ransom’s clothes for the day Benoit Blanc concludes his investigation. He stays true to his sartorial approach, pulling his favorite brown topcoat over a crew-neck sweater and trousers with those beaten Gucci loafers. Ransom’s single reverse-pleated trousers are patterned with a mini black-and-white check and detailed with side pockets, jetted back pockets (with a button to close the back right pocket), and plain-hemmed bottoms, though the untucked sweater hem prevents us from discerning if this is yet another pair of drawstring-waisted pants.
The eagle-eyed contributors at Spotern identified Ransom’s speckled slate blue sweater as a product of Scotch & Soda, a Daniel Craig-approved brand that he had worn frequently in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Though it also has a ribbed crew-neck and long-ribbed cuffs and hem, this pullover has a more subdued knit.
If Ransom Drysdale doesn’t take care of his clothes, at least he takes care of his car, motoring through New England in a sharp silver 1972 BMW 3.0 CSi. Decades after BMW introduced the popular E9 series, the 3.0 CS and CSi models continue to be celebrated among the most collectible BMWs, with Ryan DeBaun writing for CNBC that the 3.0 CS was touted as having rich and famous owners, including celebrities and ‘even a dash of royalty,'” exactly the sort of pedigree that would appeal to a conspicuous materialist like Ransom.
BMW introduced the E9 range of two-door coupes for the 1968 model year, an evolution of the successful “New Class” line that revived BMW’s reputation and finances. The 2.8 L straight-six engine was borrowed from the E3 sedan for the 2800 CS coupe, though the model would be bored out for a larger engine in 1971 with the introduction of the 3.0 CS and 3.0 CSi.
Both models were powered by a 2986 cc straight-six M30 engine; the 3.0 CS has a 9:0:1 compression ratio and twin Zenith carburetors that produce 180 horsepower while the fuel-injected 3.0 CSi has a 9:5:1 compression ratio and a higher output up to 200 horsepower.
The 3.0 CS, CSi, and new-for-1972 CSL continued in production through the 1975 model year, though BMW also responded to consumer needs during the gas crisis by adding a smaller, less-demanding engine option for 1974 and 1975 with the 2.5 CS that would be sold in limited numbers to the European market only.
Just over 30,500 E9 cars were produced during the 1968 to 1975 manufacturing timeline, with 1972 seeing the highest production numbers. Of these 6,777 produced in ’72, less than half were the 3.0 CSi, including the 1972 BMW 3.0 CSi that Chris Evans drove in Knives Out, mated to a four-speed manual transmission.
1972 BMW 3.0 CSi (E9)
Body Style: 2-door coupe
Layout: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive (RWD)
Engine: 182 cu. in. (3.0 L) BMW CSi straight-six with Bosch D-Jetronic electronic fuel injection
Power: 197 hp (147 kW; 200 PS) @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 201 lb·ft (272 N·m) @ 4300 rpm
Transmission: 4-speed manual
Wheelbase: 103.3 inches (2624 mm)
Length: 183.5 inches (4660 mm)
Width: 65.7 inches (1670 mm)
Height: 53.9 inches (1370 mm)
You can read more about Ransom’s BMW 3.0 CSi from Knives Out and see photos of it at Copley Motorcars. As only the 3.0 CS model was originally sold in the United States, the screen-used 3.0 CSi—serial number 2260962—had been delivered new to Milan and wouldn’t be imported to the U.S. until the 1990s, where it was refurbished and repainted.
What to Imbibe
In addition to what appears to be a Manhattan on the rocks with a maraschino cherry, Ransom spends Marta’s “confession” drinking several varieties of the local Nantucket-brewed Cisco Brewers beers, including Grey Lady Ale, Gripah (a grapefruit IPA), and Indie Pale Ale.
Founded in 1995, Cisco Brewers remains Nantucket’s first and only craft brewery as it celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. According to its website, the brewery “prides itself on celebrating a deep-rooted New England-island heritage through its portfolio of approachable, sessionable, and coastally inspired beers.”
The Grey Lady Ale and Gripah varieties seen on screen are among Cisco’s year-round offerings, the crisp Grey Lady a 4.0% ABV wheat ale while the tarty and tropical grapefruit-infused Gripah IPA offers a little more kick at 5.5% ABV. The now-discontinued Indie Pale Ale was an American IPA that also had a fruity nose and the highest ABV of Ransom’s selected beers at 6.5%.
How to Get the Look
The epitome of lazy leisure, the spoiled Ransom Drysdale (Chris Evans) dresses solely for his own comfort in an incongruous blend of styles including his soft, unstructured brown topcoat, colorful lightweight scarf, drawstring-waisted chalk-stripe trousers, broken-in Gucci loafers, and the pièce de résistance: that much-abused but supremely flattering Aran-style cable-knit sweater.
- Cream cable-knit wool-and-cashmere crew-neck Aran-style fisherman’s sweater
- Olive green cotton crew-neck short-sleeve T-shirt with chest pocket
- Light brown soft wool single-breasted thigh-length topcoat with notch lapels, three-button fly front, set-in sleeves with plain cuffs, side pockets, and single vent
- Drake’s “Birds and Flowers” wool/silk lightweight scarf with colorful avian and floral print against a plum ground with green frayed edges
- Navy chalk-stripe wool single reverse-pleated trousers with elastic-sided drawstring waist, gently slanted side pockets, jetted back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Taupe brown leather Gucci horsebit loafers
- Black socks
- Ray-Ban RB3447 Round Metal gold-framed sunglasses with round green lenses
- Gold signet pinky ring
- Stainless steel watch with red-and-blue “Pepsi” bezel and black dial (with 3:00 date window) on brown leather strap
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie, released on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, and streaming services. I also recommend listening to the episode of the marvelous podcast From Tailors with Love in which host Pete Brooker and his guests including Matt Spaiser of Bond Suits discuss the film’s clothing.
You know what they say… never work with children and animals. Well, I survived playing the mother of both Frodo Baggins and Harry Potter, and held my own with a Beverly Hills Chihuahua but now I am upstaged by a SWEATER! @KnivesOut @ChrisEvans #ChrisEvansInASweater
— Jamie Lee Curtis (@jamieleecurtis) December 6, 2019
Eat shit! Eat shit, eat shit… definitely eat shit.