On George Clooney’s 60th birthday, I’m delighted to present a guest post contributed by my new friend, Ken Stauffer, featuring one of Clooney’s most stylish roles to date.
George Clooney as Jack Foley, charismatic bank robber
Miami, Summer 1998
Film: Out of Sight
Release Date: June 26, 1998
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Costume Designer: Betsy Heimann
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Happy Birthday, George Clooney! Today, the actor/director/writer/producer/activist/Italian villa owner/father of twins turns 60, and to celebrate we’ll be looking at his first costume in Steven Soderbergh’s underrated 1998 crime comedy, Out of Sight.
Following the success of Get Shorty, screenwriter Scott Frank and producer Danny DeVito set out to bring another recent Elmore Leonard novel to life. The resulting film sees our birthday boy as the ever-charming Jack Foley, a thrice-incarcerated bank robber who “robbed more than anyone in the computer.” Eventually sentenced to 30 years, Foley cleverly breaks out of a Florida prison with the help of his best friend, Buddy (Ving Rhames), planning to pull one last job and retire, though quietly doubting his chances of success. He falls in love with a shotgun-wielding U.S. Marshal (Jennifer Lopez in her pre-J.Lo days) at literally the most inconvenient time… and that’s just the first 20 minutes!
Coming off the disappointing Batman & Robin and nearing the end of his tenure on ER, Clooney was looking for a meatier film role that would play to his strengths, and Foley fit the bill. Leonard’s novel described the character as 45 years old (with a newspaper seen on screen describing him as 41), requiring the 36-year-old actor to physically “age” himself by actually shaving back his hairline, including his prominent widow’s peak. The illusion works well until you learn that fact, after which you can’t un-see the 5 o’clock shadow at the top of his forehead. Nevertheless, it shows his commitment to the role!
The film begins as Foley descends the steps of a Miami office building, rips off his tie, and angrily spikes it to the ground. Within moments, he spots a SunTrust Bank branch across the street and immediately sets out to rob it. Everything goes smoothly as Jack exits with a few thousand in a manila envelope, until his aging orange Honda POS refuses to start, and a pair of cops flank him with their weapons drawn.
As flashbacks build Out of Sight‘s story, we eventually learn that Foley was in Miami to interview for a job with weaselly corporate raider Richard Ripley (Albert Brooks in one of his many overlooked performances), whom he previously protected in prison. Offered only a lowly security guard position, Jack blows a gasket, storming into Ripley’s office before getting the bum’s rush from a pair of uniformed goons. Moments after getting thrown out of the building, we watch him rip off his tie and straighten his hair… and we’re back where we started.
What’d He Wear?
For his interview-turned-impromptu bank robbery, Jack Foley dresses in a one-button, unvented suit in a crisp black-and-white glen plaid that produces an overall light gray effect. Consistent with the ’90s trend of more fabric signaling a more luxurious fit, the suit fits Clooney generously. In fact, Jack even notes to one of Ripley’s employees that he’s a size 42R… while Clooney himself was recorded as a 40R at the time Out of Sight was made.
The jacket’s gently slanted hip and breast pockets are all finished with a thin welt, a very rare sight. The shoulders have some puckering at the seam, traditionally a sign of being hand sewn, and are built with padding that allow them to extend a bit past Clooney’s own shoulders, nicely complementing his frame. The sleeves are finished with three black buttons on each cuff.
The suit jacket has some truly unique lapels that harken back to the heyday of fashionable Carnaby Street. At the top, an ultra-slim collar angles downward (almost like an Ulster) instead of up, met at the gorge by an equally skinny and very round lapel that tapers to the single black button positioned at his natural waist. The shape created looks almost like a shawl lapel with a divot, a very offbeat design that oozes a ’60s mod sensibility.
As she explained to Pete Brooker and Chris Laverty during a recent episode of From Tailors with Love, costume designer Betsy Heimann imagined that Jack—like the gang she dressed five years earlier in Reservoir Dogs—would have limited funds as he frequently cycled in and out of prison. Thus, the character would shop secondhand at thrift stores, where he would have come across this novel vintage suit. Of course, in reality, Heimann designed the suit and had it custom made specifically for Clooney. In what she called “a tribute to tailors everywhere,” the designer furnished the suit jacket with a bright red lining that really catches the eye when Clooney struts with it open.
The suit’s matching flat front trousers have an extended waist tab that threads through a single loop and fastens with a single black button. Continuing the minimalistic mod approach, there are no belt loops or side adjusters, and the bottoms are plain-hemmed. The side pockets are angled, and the buttonless back pockets have thin welts mimicking those on the jacket.
As Jack struggles to start his jalopy of a getaway car, we get a good look at his feet. He wears a pair of vertically ribbed black socks that sag to his ankle, and his black leather shoes are simple, five-eyelet plain-toe derbies with black rubber soles.
Jack’s white cotton shirt was also designed by Heimann and made specifically for Clooney, styled with a modest button-down collar, round button cuffs, and a lower-slung chest pocket. The plain (or French) front fastens with white plastic buttons. Like the suit, the shirt has a fuller fit than what’s typically seen today, as seen with the cuffs so wide that they can slide down Clooney’s hands even when buttoned.
While at Ripley’s office building, Jack completes the outfit with a navy repp tie in a traditional width with balanced sets of repeating red and white “downhill” diagonal stripes. The fact that he rips it off within seconds of his unceremonious exit tells us that the character views it as a symbol of corporate constraint, part of an unfulfilled compromise he’s made to avoid spending the rest of his life in prison. As soon as he’s rid of it, he’s back to living life on his own terms… at least for his next 10 minutes of freedom.
According to Betsy Heimann, George Clooney was a joy to collaborate with in the costume design process and ended up loving the gray glen plaid suits she created for him.
This definitely seems the case as it appears the actor took this suit home with him when shooting wrapped and wore it in his personal life. Shortly after filming Solaris with Steven Soderbergh—their third collaboration—Clooney came out to support his director friend at the premiere of his film, Full Frontal, in Los Angeles on July 23, 2002.
Maybe out of a sense of nostalgia, he wore the same gray glen plaid jacket from this first movie of theirs. This time, he paired it with an un-tucked, un-ironed, light blue pleated shirt and a pair of loose-fitting faded jeans.
Given its relatively small audience during its theatrical run, Out of Sight didn’t yet establish Clooney as one of Hollywood’s A-list. However, it did show just how well George could wear a custom suit, particularly in a later scene when he seduces Karen Sisco. The film also helped establish Clooney’s on- and off-screen persona, one that would be cemented in his next collaboration with Soderbergh, Ocean’s Eleven: a well-tailored, smooth-talking rake with a heart of gold!
Go Big or Go Home
During the bank scene, Foley carries a classic brushed chrome Zippo lighter with polished sides. As the film progresses, his predilection for Zippo tricks actually becomes a defining character trait, and Jack is introduced into a later scene with the lighter’s signature click.
How to Get the Look
Tailored for the ’90s but inspired by mod ’60s minimalism, Jack Foley’s attire for the opening bank robbery in Out of Sight illustrates how small details like a unique lapel shape, unusual pocket openings, and self-suspended trousers can add complexity to an otherwise conventional outfit like a two-piece glen plaid suit, white button-down shirt, and repp tie.
- Black-and-white glen plaid suit:
- Single-button suit jacket with narrow dog-eared rounded lapels, thin-welted breast pocket, slanted welted hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, ventless back, and bright red lining
- Flat front self-suspended trousers with extended single-button waistband tab, slanted side pockets, thin-welted back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- White cotton shirt with button-down collar, plain front, breast pocket, and 1-button rounded cuffs
- Navy (with red and white diagonal stripes) silk repp tie
- Black leather 5-eyelet plain-toe derby shoes with thick rubber soles
- Black ribbed socks
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Take a time out, watch the movie, and teach yourself some Zippo tricks. Just leave your hairline alone!
This your first time being robbed?… You’re doing great. Just smile, Loretta, so you don’t look like you’re being held up.