Robert Redford as Hubbell Gardiner, Hollywood screenwriter
Malibu, California, September 1947
Film: The Way We Were
Release Date: October 19, 1973
Director: Sydney Pollack
Costume Design: Dorothy Jeakins & Moss Mabry
Don’t take any crap…to the both of us… and all the absent friends, class of ’37.
Navy pals-turned-Tinseltown teammates Hubbell (Robert Redford) and J.J. (Bradford Dillman) cynically reflect on the decade since they graduated from college together, one world war and sold-out script later.
I always liked this brief scene in Hubbell’s office as the erstwhile novelist struggles with the changes he needs to make to his magnum opus in order to satisfy the whims of his Hollywood superiors, but it took on a new resonance for me during my most recent rewatch as this weekend will mark ten years since my own college graduation. What would that insecurely confident 21-year-old in 2011 think of the confidently insecure 31-year-old I am today?
While I’m over here thinking about the way I was, let’s turn back to The Way We Were. In a plot inspired by the plight of the real-life “Hollywood Ten”, the cautious J.J. tries to warn Hubbell about Katie (Barbra Streisand, who celebrated her 79th birthday last week) and her radical coterie planning to challenge the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), but Hubbell tries to seem unaffected, instead concerned with everyone from the director to the actors weighing in on the screenplay he’s adapting from his own debut novel, A Country Made of Ice Cream. The conversation takes a nostalgic turn as Hubbell and J.J. recall their “glory days” of athletic scholarships and service in the South Pacific, before the stress of spouses and scripts.
What’d He Wear?
Playing a well-to-do Ivy leaguer-turned-Hollywood hotshot, the always-stylish Robert Redford waltzes through The Way We Were in a parade of fashionable fits that straddle the line between “golden age” accuracy and contemporary trends of the early 1970s. Among his celebrated sweaters and service uniforms, Hubbell slips in some more subdued styles like this navy long-sleeve shirt layered under a tweed jacket that stands out as a comfortable template for dressing casually at the office.
Hubbell’s navy pullover shirt has a stretchy cotton construction, likely made with some synthetic fibers that add extra cling to flatter Redford’s athletic frame. The long-pointed collar presides over the V-neck opening, devoid of buttons unlike the traditional polo shirt and similar to the style colloquialized as the “Johnny collar”. Though the neckline is relatively conservative, it’s just deep enough to show the chain of Hubbell’s gold necklace that he wears under his shirt.
Though he tucks in the shirt by the time he gets home, Hubbell relaxes around the office with the shirt’s straight hem untucked over the waist line of his gray flat front trousers, which have slanted front pockets and are finished with turn-ups (cuffs) that were fashionable in the postwar years.
Wearing the shirt untucked covers his black leather belt, hiding the fact that the leather doesn’t match his gleaming smooth brown leather monk-strap loafers. He wears these with a pair of gray ribbed socks that, while a few shades lighter than his trousers, still effectively continue the leg line.
Hubbell wears a trio of jewelry and accessories on his hands. The sterling silver curb-chain ID bracelet on his left wrist was likely issued to him during his Navy service, and he continues to wear it in civilian life after the war. Famously a southpaw, Robert Redford typically wears watches on his right wrist, from which Hubbell’s all-gold watch flashes on a gold bracelet. On the third finger of his right hand, Redford also wears his own etched silver ring, which he had received as a gift from a Hopi tribe in 1966 and has worn in almost all his movies since then.
As he returns home at dusk, Hubbell balances a pair of silver-framed aviator sunglasses on the bridge of his nose. American Optical and Bausch & Lomb (as Ray-Ban) had been producing these distinctive frames for U.S. military pilots for a decade by the time World War II ended, so it’s likely that Hubbell had been introduced to this style during his war service.
Hubbell also now wears the black-and-white twill-weave tweed sports coat that had been slung over the back of his office chair. Though excess was in during this postwar age when Esquire gleefully ushered in the “Bold Look”, the shape and style of Hubbell’s wide, welted-edge notch lapels suggests a trend that would have been more fashionable during the ’70s than the ’40s, similar to the famous tweed jacket the actor would wear two years later in Three Days of the Condor. Under the lapels, the three black woven leather buttons present in a “3/2-roll” with two vestigial buttons adorning the cuff of each sleeve.
Hubbell dresses up the jacket when he wears it again for a disappointing screening of his movie, made all the more disappointing when the evening devolves into an argument between Hubbell and Katie about his infidelity with his former college fling, Carol Ann (Lois Chiles)… perhaps taking his earlier-seen sense of nostalgia a bit too far.
For the screening, he wears a red polka-dotted tie loosened under the open collar of his beige shirt. The long point collar may be meant to represent the extreme “spearpoint”-style collars that were briefly fashionable during this era in the late ’40s, though it’s more likely a contemporary shirt from the ’70s, perhaps made for Redford by his usual shirtmaker Nat Wise (now Anto Beverly Hills.)
What to Imbibe
Hubbell fuels his and J.J.’s trip down memory lane with pours from his office bottle of rye labelled “Atlantic”, rather than the I.W. Harper that he had so definitively declared “best bourbon” during one of their many rounds a decade earlier. I’m not sure if “Atlantic” was an actual whiskey brand or a prop label made for the production, as Googling “Atlantic rye whiskey” merely yields images of the admittedly excellent WhistlePig rye as well as a 2014 article that appeared in The Atlantic about the rye-naissance.
Hubbell continues imbibing after returning home, pouring himself a glass of Seagram’s Seven Crown on the rocks. Introduced after Prohibition to help Seagram’s regain its American foothold, this budget-priced blended whiskey was bolstered in the 1970s by Seagram’s marketing it as the more intoxicating half of the simple 7 & 7 highball.
What to Write With
Hubbell battles writer’s block with a period-appropriate Royal typewriter in his office. While I recognized the model as one from the era, I asked my friend Eric Tidd—the Magic City superfan and typewriter enthusiast who runs the marvelous @MiramarPlaya Twitter account—to provide a little more background about the model and contextualize it in the scene:
The Royal KMM was produced from 1939 through 1948 and was a workhorse of a desktop machine. The cool little portable typewriter that Katie gave Hubbell would be much more accommodating to a lifestyle of living in the sunshine and driving around in a convertible because the KMM weighs over 30 pounds, although it looks perfectly at home on the desk of a successful screenwriter.
More great insight from Eric:
Now Hubbell is not the only war hero in the film; Royal halted production from around 1942-1945 when they re-tooled their factories to build aircraft parts, bullets, machine guns and rifles for World War II. Ironically, this coincided with the years when their product was most in demand due to the constant communication required for the war effort. Because of this, there was a significant push to get citizens to donate their typewriters to the U.S. government to support the war. This article by Robert Messenger has some great photos of actress Maureen O’Hara collecting typewriters from Hollywood screenwriters to add to the 600,000 that were needed to help the U.S. win the war. I’ve attached an advertisement from Royal from the article showing a Royal KMM and pronouncing it as an Engine of War! The ad goes on to say how important typewriters were for the Navy… perhaps Hubbell used a KMM during his war service and kept it during his civilian life.
How to Get the Look
From the Ivy-inspired tweed sports coat to the “California casual” pullover shirt, slacks, and strap loafers as well as his military-inspired accessories, Hubbell’s laidback attire for a day at the office communicates his life story as a privileged college student now working in Hollywood after his Navy service.
- Black-and-white twill-weave woolen tweed single-breasted 3/2-roll sport jacket with wide notch lapels, welted breast pocket, flapped patch hip pockets, 2-button cuffs, and long single vent
- Navy cotton-blend long-sleeve “Johnny collar” pullover shirt
- Gray wool flat front trousers with belt loops, slanted side pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- Black leather belt with squared silver single-prong buckle
- Brown smooth leather single monk-strap loafers
- Light gray ribbed socks
- Silver-framed aviator sunglasses
- Silver tribal ring
- Gold watch with round case, gold dial, and gold bracelet
- Sterling silver curb-chain ID bracelet
- Gold necklace
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
Do you realize this is the first job we’ve ever had?