The Little Drummer Girl: Gadi’s Gold Beach Shirt
Alexander Skarsgård as Gadi Becker, aka “Peter”, mysterious Mossad agent
Naxos, Greece, Spring 1979
Series: The Little Drummer Girl (Episode 1)
Air Date: October 28, 2018
Director: Park Chan-wook
Costume Design: Sheena Napier & Steven Noble
Today marks the start of my beach vacation, an annual getaway that finds me clad almost exclusively in tropical-printed or terry cloth shirts as I laze about in the sun and sand with tequila in hand, trying not to think about the hundreds of emails amassing to greet me when I open my inbox exactly one week from now.
And then there are those lucky enough who actually get to do this for a living, particularly the globe-trotting super-spies penned by the likes of Ian Fleming and John le Carré, whose 1983 novel The Little Drummer Girl was recently re-adapted for the screen via a stylish six-part miniseries starring Florence Pugh and Alexander Skarsgård.
The eponymous “drummer girl” is twentysomething radical Charmian “Charlie” Ross (Pugh), a struggling London actress who we follow as she joins her friends and fellow thespians for a spring holiday in the Greek islands.
“He’s back… Action Man!” Charlie’s friend Sophie (Bethany Muir) teases—not without some admiration—of the mysteriously scarred man who seems to go everywhere their coterie goes without ever acknowledging or even looking at them. Sophie attempts to engage him in conversation, while Charlie’s obnoxious boyfriend Al (Max Irons) suggests they invite the stranger for a drink. Only Charlie remains unimpressed: “Can you not see his schtick? International man of mystery?”
The man indeed seems to quietly revel in the rumors that have circulated around him, sitting quietly as the actors attempt to guess his vocation, anything from fireman and actor to, well, spy. “He’s Joseph… can’t you see? With his coat of many colors,” concludes Charlie, pinpointing the chameleon-like charisma of the Israeli intelligence officer sitting before them. He corrects his name as Peter, then responds to her own suspicious—but arguably intrigued—aggression by quipping “So you’re Charlie? I thought that was a boy’s name.” Growing impatient with the swaggering stranger, Charlie abandons the conversation and warns her friends: “Don’t come crying to me when he cleans out your traveler’s cheques.”
Of course, it’s Charlie and not her friends that Gadi Becker has his eye on, having been tasked by his superiors to seduce and ultimately recruit the impressionable young idealist into their service.
What’d They Wear?
John le Carré describes the mysterious Gadi’s entry onto the Mykonos beach as observed by Charlie in the third chapter of his 1983 novel:
Wearing a pair of prim monk’s bathing trunks, black, and carrying a tin water-bottle from which he occasionally took frugal sips, as if the next oasis were a day’s march off. Never watching, never paying the slightest heed, reading his Debray from under the shade of his baggy white golf hat. Yet following every move she made—she knew it, if only by the pitch and stillness of his handsome head.
For the 2018 adaptation, the production team—perhaps thankfully—did away with the oft-referenced golf hat while keeping the Debray paperback as Gadi’s selected beach read. The black bathing trunks were lightened to a brighter shade of royal blue, likely a blend of nylon and spandex. The tight shorts have almost no inseam, fitted around the waist and detailed with white contrast stitching around each thigh hem and along the non-functional fly. The front pockets are piped in white along the slanted tops.
Gadi wears browline-style sunglasses with dark tortoise frames and gold rims along the bottoms of the brown lenses.
The browline frame was launched by Shuron Ltd. in 1947, defining a look for the ’50s through ’60s as popularized by the likes of Lyndon B. Johnson, Vince Lombardi, and Malcolm X. The look had generally fallen from vogue by the time The Little Drummer Girl was set in the late 1970s, but browlines would be revived as hot eyewear for the ’80s, thanks to their appearance in movies like Rain Man, Reservoir Dogs, and Top Gun as well as the introduction of Ray-Ban Clubmaster sunglasses.
After accepting the invitation to join Charlie’s friends, Gadi buttons up the goldenrod camp shirt that he had initially been wearing as a beach cover-up, illustrating the wisdom of choosing a versatile wardrobe that can transfer effectively from beach towel to bar stool.
Skarsgård may have kept the shirt following the production (as Bustle‘s Megan C. Hills suspects he did with the green suede jacket) as he wore it for the press event and photo call introducing the series during the TCA summer press tour in Beverly Hills in July 2018, months after filming wrapped.
Although the series was set in 1979, Gadi eschews fashion trends like excessively wide collars, as seen with this shirt’s more moderate camp collar (also known as a “revere collar”, among other names.) The short-sleeved shirt has five flat bronze-colored plastic two-hole sew-through buttons, buttoning up the plain “French placket” front to the chest and falling short of the neck, meant to be worn open.
The shirt has a uniquely crimped texture, the result of the lightweight cotton woven into a series of neat rows of mini-triangles. A patch pocket is positioned against each hip, just above the seam that runs along the straight bottom hem that has a short vent on each side.
Once the “family” (as le Carré calls them) welcomes “Joseph” to their table at a beachside taverna, Gadi changes out of his swim trunks and into a pair of light beige cotton flat front chino trousers. The bottoms are cuffed, though we don’t see them closely enough to tell if they have permanent turn-ups or if Gadi cuffed the bottoms himself to keep them out of the sand.
As with the rest of his wardrobe, Gadi wisely wears a pair of shoes appropriate for each situation he finds himself in. These tan leather slip-on shoes have open-woven uppers, similar to the traditional huarache but structured like a penny loafer for extra support, detailed with a braided strap across the vamp. The quarters and side panels are smooth leather, though the sides are perforated with open-weave braiding that extends back from the toes up to the solid heel quarter pieces. (To see the shoes in more detail, zoom in on the photo used at the bottom of this post.)
It was Gadi’s gold watch that we saw first catching Charlie’s attention at the beachside taverna a few days earlier, a distinctive Omega that we the audience would have recognized as the same model worn by the Palestinian bomber Salim Al-Khadar, aka “Michel” (Amir Khoury), during the opening scenes.
Though he hasn’t yet started wearing Michel’s other affectations like necklace and ring, Gadi indeed wears the same 18-karat yellow gold Omega Constellation ref. BA 368.0847 watch, which Omega had introduced in 1969 as the latest addition to the Constellation line. Powered by a 20-jewel automatic movement, this wristwatch has a light gold squared dial with rounded edges, gold non-numeric hour markers, and a 3:00 date window.
What to Imbibe
In her attempt to make Gadi’s acquaintance, Sophia approaches him with a bottle of white wine labeled “Peteina Retsina”, from which he cautiously accepts a cup. (He later shares that his preference is for Boutari, which Terlato Wines currently touts as the world’s best-selling Greek wine.)
While I couldn’t find any parallels to real-life brands—indeed, all the liquor labels in The Little Drummer Girl seem to be fictional—my brief research did shine a light on what exactly retsina is. Mark Squires penned a brief article for Wine Journal, “Retsina: Can We Never Mention It Again?”, criticizing the process entirely and suggesting that the word “retsina” not even be used in the same sentence as “wine” (sorry, Mark!) given the damage it has already done to the reputation of the Greek wine industry. Squires informs that retsina refers more to the process than the libation itself, a white wine with pine resin added to mimic ancient Greek wine tradition.
Given its disregard from an expert like Squires and the reluctance with which the well-traveled Gadi accepts his cup, the inclusion of retsina seems fitting for a group of penniless thespians looking to stretch their bucks while experiencing local “flavor”.
How to Get the Look
Gadi Becker’s head-turning beach garb blends comfort and classically inspired aesthetics for a versatile cabana-to-cafe ensemble that avoids the excesses of the era’s fashions. His short blue trunks provide eye-catching contrast on the beach, easily transferred into a more understated boardwalk-ready look by buttoning back on his textured camp shirt and pulling on khaki chinos (possibly over the tight trunks!)
- Goldenrod textured cotton short-sleeved 5-button camp shirt with hip pockets
- Beige cotton chino flat front trousers with side pockets and turn-ups/cuffs
- Royal blue nylon/spandex short-inseam swim trunks with white-piped front pockets
- Tan open-woven leather loafers
- Tortoise-framed browline sunglasses with gold-rimmed brown lenses
- Omega Constellation BA 368.0847 yellow gold square-cased automatic watch with squared gold dial (with non-numeric hour markers and 3:00 date window) on integrated five-piece link bracelet
Even before I had watched The Little Drummer Girl for the first time, I already had many similar pieces from Gadi’s beach-going wardrobe, thanks in part to my regard for the leisure-inspired offerings of the California-based outfitter Dandy Del Mar, from which you can build almost all of Gadi’s outfit yourself:
- Tropez Terry Cloth Shirt in Burnt Sienna
- Brisa Linen Pant in Vintage Ivory
- Riviera Trunks in Seagrass
- Huaraches in Natural Leather
Click to see my take on Gadi’s beach look
Far from the sun-soaked beaches of the Greek islands, yours truly put together a simple and comfortable beach outfit inspired by The Little Drummer Girl:
- Dandy Del Mar "Tropez Terry Cloth Shirt" in burnt sienna (Dandy Del Mar)
- Dandy Del Mar "Riviera Trunks" in seagrass (Dandy Del Mar)
- Sunsteps "Barclay" leather huaraches in dark brown (Amazon)
- Persol PO9649-S sunglasses with "Havana" acetate frames (Amazon or Persol)
- Stührling Grande Veloce T960S.4 gold-finished steel chronograph
My travel duffel is the J. Crew Abingdon Weekender Bag, made of khaki waxed cotton. I received the bag in 2013, two years before it would be used by James Bond's MI6 allies to transport weapons in SPECTRE (2015), as identified by Bond Lifestyle. While I don't have any experience loading up the bag with as much artillery as 007 and his cronies needed to battle Blofeld, I can testify firsthand that this is a first-rate weekend bag which has held strong for eight years.
For le Carré purists, Dandy Del Mar even offers a white terry bucket hat, perhaps similar to the white golf hat that the author suggests as Gadi’s go-to headgear.
If you’re looking for a more conventional take on the camp shirt, check out these selections from Abercrombie & Fitch and Brooklyn Tailors, available as of July 2021.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the series, described by Troy Patterson for The New Yorker as “a chic, surreal adaptation… that approaches spy craft as a form of experimental art”, and read John le Carré’s 1983 novel.
Can you make a bamfstyle about the white suit wore by Don Fanucci in The Godfather part 2?