Ryan Gosling as Holland March, unscrupulous private detective and single dad
Los Angeles, Fall 1977
Film: The Nice Guys
Release Date: May 20, 2016
Director: Shane Black
Costume Designer: Kym Barrett
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Released five years ago this, week, The Nice Guys has been long overdue for some appreciation on here for its depiction of disco-era style and refreshing sense of humor.
The Nice Guys was directed and co-written by action cinema vet Shane Black, who explained to IndieWire that he wanted to make a playful tribute to the hardboiled detective thrillers he had grown up, choosing the ’70s to capitalize on the exuberance of the era and the “sense that we are all in it together… instead of all this divisiveness that we see now.” Anthony Bagarozzi, who co-wrote the script with Black, explained the irony of its title to Variety: “You know they’re two not-very-nice guys. One breaks arms for a living and the other cons old ladies out of money. It was literally the two worst people that we could think of and then trying to make that fun.”
The “guys” in question are down-and-out private eye Holland March and burly enforcer-with-a-heart-of-gold Jackson Healy—played by Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe, respectively—who team up in late ’70s L.A. in the wake of the death of porn star Misty Mountains (Murielle Telio).
I’m not buying this nice guy act, pal.
The pair’s reluctant partnership begins in a bowling alley bathroom, where Healy confronts March in media cacatus. The .38-wielding March is hardly eager to join forces with the brute who broke his arm, but the new teammates follow their first leads from an anti-pollution protest group to a burnt-down house, eventually learning that Misty had been working on “a porno where the plot is the point?” as a bewildered March asks. That night, March’s precocious daughter Holly (Angourie Rice) follows the duo to a party at the porn financier’s home, which turns up the dial of debauchery, disco, and deceit.
What’d He Wear?
Holland March begins the day dressed not for crime-solving but instead his daughter’s birthday party at a bowling alley… though it may speak to the nature of his character that the same outfit is just as appropriate—if not more-so—for that evening’s more adult-themed party full of drugs, drinking, and disco.
March’s short-sleeved sport shirt is patterned in brick-red, off-white, and sage-green, swirling together all over the shirt like melted ice cream. Likely made by Anto Beverly Hills, this shirt’s slimmer fit further flatters Gosling’s celebrated physique, pulled in at the waist and accented at the chest and shoulders thanks in part to the long point collar that was consistent with the trendiest—and tackiest—fashions of the ’70s. The shirt also has a breast pocket for March’s cigarettes (the fictional “Island Reds” brand, if you were curious), and the front placket closes with faux-wood four-hole buttons up the front.
Dressing for the evening party, March pulls on a hip-length ivory leather jacket with a collar of even more exaggerated width. The silhouette echoes his shirt beneath it, the waist pulled in and detailed with a half-belted back similar to some “action back” sport jackets of the ’30s, a decade often revisited by fashions of the ’70s.
Large rectangular flaps cover each of the two patch pockets over the breast, with a long pleated strip running from the top of each pocket under the flap down to the waist hem. An additional hand pocket is set-in along each side, the entry hidden by the vertical pleat. The sleeves are finished with a short tab to close through a single mixed tan-and-cream plastic four-hole button that matches the four large buttons on the front of the jacket.
Expecting some danger at the party, March packs his nickel Smith & Wesson snub-nose revolver in a brown leather shoulder rig, holstered just under his left armpit.
March’s beige polyester twill pants appear to be a contemporary evolution of the Westerner-branded “Lee-Sure” suit that Lee had introduced at the end of the ’50s.
Styled like jeans, these have belt loops, slanted front pockets, and back pockets detailed with Lee’s signature “lazy S” arcuate stitch in a low-contrast beige thread as well as the yellow-on-black “Lee” brand embroidered patch sewn onto the top of the back right pocket.
March holds his trousers up with a unique belt, comprised of rectangular pieces of well-worn brown leather that are laced together like a corset through six sets of holes lined up along the end of each piece. Despite this offbeat construction, the belt’s gunmetal buckle is the traditional squared single-prong style.
The plain-hemmed trouser bottoms have a long, full break, often bunching over the instep of March’s boots. These light brown leather plain-toe boots have a vertical-zip closure along the inside of each, and the soles are brown hard leather.
March keeps most of his shirt unbuttoned to show his undershirt, a white ribbed cotton sleeveless “A-shirt”. Wearing his undershirt so exposed communicates a degree of sleaze we know to be consistent with March’s character, though this also shows off the thin gold ring he wears on a thin gold necklace.
This necklace isn’t March’s only prominent jewelry, as he also flashes a filigreed gold signet ring from his right pinky. On the same hand, he wears a plain gold watch with a round white dial—detailed with non-numeric hour markers—on a gold-plated expanding band.
Thanks to flamboyant stars like Elvis Presley and Elton John, sunglasses transcended from functional eyewear to fashionable face accessories during the ’70s. For example, Holland March’s 23-karat gold square-framed Randolph Engineering aviators may have originated as a mid-century style for military pilots, but the pink-tinted lenses are purely an eye-catching detail… perhaps to communicate to his gullible clients that March is the type of guy who sees the world through rose-colored lenses.
When the Smith & Wesson Model 36 was originally introduced as the Smith & Wesson “Chiefs Special”—so named by a vote held at the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) convention in 1950—it was hailed for its celebrated balance of concealment, power, and reliability. The concept wasn’t exactly novel, as Colt had introduced its Detective Special a quarter-century earlier, but the five-round cylinder made the Model 36 (as it would be eventually designated) even smaller and thus easier to conceal, its standard two-inch “snub-nose” barrel cementing it as the ideal backup “belly gun” for cops and crooks alike.
Enter Holland March, an unscrupulous private detective with his feet straddling the worlds of larceny and law enforcement. For the kind of guy who may need to draw his .38 while on the can without even having time to stub out his cigarette, the easily concealed Smith & Wesson Model 36 is a wise choice.
The steel-framed Model 36 has been available in both blued and nickel finishes throughout its decades of production. The Smith & Wesson catalog from 1976 (the year before The Nice Guys was set) lists prices for the Model 36 as $110 for the blued model and $121 for nickel, suggesting that even a cheapskate like March was willing to dish out an extra Hamilton for a flashier revolver.
How to Get the Look
Dressing exactly like Holland March will likely make you look more like a sleazy ’70s private eye than it would make you look like Ryan Gosling. That said, there could be some lessons (in moderation) from March’s wardrobe for your transitional spring-to-summer fits, such as embracing atypical leather jackets, loud-printed shirts, and pink-tinted shades… though perhaps not all at the same time.
- Ivory leather jacket with wide collar, four-button front, large-flapped breast pockets, set-in side pockets, 1-button cuffs, and half-belted back
- Brick-red, off-white, and sage-green swirled short-sleeve shirt with long point collar, front placket, and breast pocket
- Beige polyester twill Lee “Westerner” jeans with belt loops, slanted front pockets, patch back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Brown leather laced-piece belt with gunmetal squared single-prong buckle
- Brown leather shoulder holster, for 2″-barrel revolver (right-handed draw)
- Light brown leather plain-toe zip-up boots
- White ribbed cotton sleeveless “A-shirt” undershirt
- Gold square-framed aviator sunglasses with rose-tinted lenses
- Thin gold necklace with thin gold ring
- Gold signet pinky ring with filigreed band
- Gold watch with round white dial on gold expanding bracelet
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
I had to question the mermaids. What were you doing while I was working?