Richard Jenkins as Nathaniel Fisher, Sr., recently deceased funeral director
Los Angeles, December 2000
Series: Six Feet Under
Episode: “Pilot” (Episode 1.01)
Air Date: June 3, 2001
Director: Alan Ball
Creator: Alan Ball
Set Costumer: Josephine Willes
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
The pilot episode of Six Feet Under aired 20 years ago today on HBO, introducing viewers to the Fisher family. The first episode begins with the death of the family patriarch, funeral director Nathaniel Fisher.
Cigarette in hand as he cruises through L.A. to pick up his son on Christmas Eve, Nathaniel fields a phone call from his concerned wife Ruth (Frances Conroy), specifically warning him against smoking so that he may avoid “a slow and horrible death” from cancer. With an eye-roll, he hangs up, flicks his Zippo to light another… and is promptly killed when a bus rams into his hearse, setting the tone for a series that would unflinchingly navigate dark issues—specifically death—through a darkly comic lens.
Despite being one of my favorite shows, Six Feet Under doesn’t present many opportunities for style writing as it centers around an ordinary—if extraordinarily dysfunctional—middle-class family that lives a far from glamorous lifestyle, the men typically clad in off-the-peg suits, worn-in T-shirts and button-ups, and digital watches as they balance the drama of their personal lives with running the Fisher and Sons Funeral Home.
All that considered, it wasn’t hard to determine which outfit from the show I was most compelled to write about after a long-overdue revisit…
What’d He Wear?
Presumably clad in his signature black three-piece suit throughout life as a funeral director, Nathaniel awakens his more lively side when “visiting” family members after his death, most spectacularly in this summer-ready ensemble when he appears to his conflicted daughter Claire (Lauren Ambrose) during his own funeral.
Claire: You’re really lucky, you know that?
Nathaniel: You kidding? It was over in a second. I didn’t have to be afraid of it, I didn’t even have to think about it!
Few garments communicate leisure as instantly as a Hawaiian shirt and sandals, and Claire’s vision of her father suggests a man “enjoying death”—to crib a phrase from 007—no longer bound by the responsibilities of a business owner and father of three. Indeed, his lifeless spectral form seems more full of life than she’s ever seen him as he raises that pineapple-garnished coconut cocktail for another sip.
Nathaniel’s short-sleeved shirt consists of a frantic all-over pattern of red duo-tone leaves and blue pineapples with brown crowns against a sage-green field. The cut and style suggest vintage, from the wide, flat camp collar to the twin flaps over the chest pockets.
Nathaniel illustrates that rules are meant to be broken in the afterlife by wearing socks with sandals, in this case a pair of calf-high stone-gray socks with a pair of brown leather multi-strap walking sandals. His short-inseam navy shorts may indeed be swim trunks.
He tops the look with a short-brimmed dark gray paper straw trilby with a black, beige, and black block-striped band with a series of thin black, white, navy, and rust stripes through the beige stripe.
What to Listen to
Several flashbacks from Nathaniel’s life feature Peggy Lee’s 1961 recording of “I Love Being Here With You”, the kind of hedonistic anthem that may be best associated with the apparition of his afterlife of leisure.
Lee originated the song, which she co-wrote with Bill Schluger, and it would eventually become a jazz standard performed by Ella Fitzgerald, Diana Krall, and Bette Midler, to name a few.
How to Get the Look
I just can’t advocate for socks and sandals together, but I’ll always advocate for a retro-themed tropical-print shirt and shorts whether you’re looking to beat the summertime blues or bring a festive spirit to enjoying the afterlife.
- Sage-green (with red floral and blue pineapple print) short-sleeved Aloha shirt with wide camp collar, plain front, and two flapped chest pockets
- Navy blue short-inseam shorts
- Dark brown leather walking sandals
- Stone-gray socks (eek!)
- Dark gray paper straw short-brimmed trilby with multi-striped black band
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the series.
No more boredom!