Night Moves: Gene Hackman’s Brown Suede Jacket
Gene Hackman as Harry Moseby, private detective and former professional football player
Los Angeles to New Mexico, Fall 1973
Film: Night Moves
Release Date: June 11, 1975
Director: Arthur Penn
Costumer: Arnie Lipin
Costume Supervisor: Rita Riggs
He may wear rollnecks and drive a green ’68 Mustang, but Harry Moseby ain’t no Frank Bullitt. Five years earlier, this type of character may have been styled in the manner of the cooler-than-cool Steve McQueen archetype, but the tumultuous half-decade that passed between the production of Bullitt and Night Moves saw waves of political assassinations, civil unrest, disillusionment in Vietnam, and post-Watergate paranoia that shifted the zeitgeist to a pessimistic cynicism that permeated much of ’70s cinema.
A decade after his career with the Oakland Raiders, Harry Moseby’s best days are well behind him as he continues eking out a living as a shabby Hollywood private eye, entertaining himself by playing chess on the passenger seat of his Mustang. Unlike the fast-quipping gumshoes of classic noir in their trench coats and fedoras, there’s little that’s aspiration about Harry’s life, which consists primarily of working cases for aged starlets or disappointing his wife Ellen (Susan Clark), whom he recently learned has been having an affair with the hobbling artist Marty Heller (Harris Yulin).
Averting a connection that might have tempted lesser movies, neither his latest missing-persons case nor his wife’s affair are related; instead, both merely co-exist to compose the moldy fabric of Harry Moseby’s sad life. In between following leads in search of the teen runaway Delly Gratsner (Melanie Griffith), Harry confronts Marty, but he isn’t looking to fight… he just wants to get a sense of the man his wife has chosen over him.
Meanwhile, the search for Delly leads him from a pestilent local mechanic, Quentin (James Woods), to a movie set in New Mexico, where he’s briefly the guest of stunt coordinator Joey Ziegler (Edward Binns). The search grows cold, so Harry returns to L.A. and Delly’s washed-up mother Arlene (Janet Ward), who sets Harry on track to visit the Florida Keys where her ex-husband—Delly’s stepfather—captains a charter boat.
What’d He Wear?
Aside from his tweed jacket and tie worn for Night Moves‘ earliest scenes, Harry Moseby dresses casually for his day-to-day casework, including this frequently seen suede jacket that anchors most of his wardrobe before he travels to Florida.
Made of a rich tobacco brown suede, the hip-length jacket has a large collar—consistent with trending fashions from the “disco decade”—and six large convex copper poppers (or snaps) up the front placket. The lightweight jacket appears to be self-lined with the smooth side of the leather. The edges are stitched with half-inch seams in a subtly contrasting tan thread.
The hip-length jacket follows a simplified approach to the military-inspired sensibilities of then-fashionable safari jackets, albeit without the extraneous shoulder straps, pleats, or belts that characterized the oft-criticized safari style of the ’70s. Most consistent with this quasi-military styling are the four inverted box-pleat patch pockets—two on the chest aligned with the horizontal yoke, two larger pockets over the hips—that each close with a gently pointed flap. The back is detailed with a single pointed yoke and double vents, and each set-in sleeve closes at the squared cuff with a single snap.
Harry’s forest green turtleneck coordinates the earth tones of his outfit while avoiding all-brown. Likely made from merino wool or an acrylic blend, the jumper has a ribbed roll-neck and raglan sleeves.
Harry’s next turtleneck is a similarly styled jumper in slate-gray, which we see tucked into his trousers when he leaves Joey Ziegler’s Winnebago, parked at the New Mexico film set. The flat-front slacks are khaki gabardine, styled with front pockets (but no back pockets) and straight plain-hemmed bottoms. He holds them up with a wide brown leather belt that closes through a rounded gold single-prong buckle.
With nearly every outfit he wears, Harry sports a pair of well-traveled light brown sneakers with soft leather uppers and thick rubber siped-bottom soles. He ties them on with flat brown laces, closed-laced through six sets of eyelets that taper toward the toes. He wears them here with tan socks that effectively continue the leg-line of his trousers into his shoes.
Harry doesn’t just wear turtlenecks with the jacket, arriving in New Mexico wearing a blue-and-white end-on-end oxford-cloth cotton shirt with button-down collar, front placket, flapped breast pocket, and button cuffs.
Back in L.A. for another visit to Arlene’s, Harry wears a different light blue shirt with his brown suede jacket, this one a melange cotton fabric with a wider point collar and a standard, non-flapped breast pocket. The shirt also has a front placket and button cuffs, and he tucks it into a pair of solid gray self-suspended flat front trousers of which we see little aside from the wide extended waistband tab (with a hidden hook-and-eye closure) and the slanted frogmouth-style front pockets.
Harry wears no watch or jewelry aside from the gold wedding ring on his left hand, symbolizing his unfulfilling marriage to Ellen.
The following year, another cinematic tough guy named Harry would wear a brown suede shirt-jacket Clint Eastwood pulled one on for the climactic finale in The Enforcer, the third film in the Dirty Harry franchise.
What to Imbibe
Harry tends to drink whiskey highballs, favoring Scotch when choosing for himself but his easygoing manner means he won’t protest when his latest acquaintance orders for him. He and Joey Ziegler are at a desert sawdust joint when a boorish kid knocks over their drinks.
“Rye?” the kid guesses, when informed him that the two men are owed refills. “And water!” Ziegler barks back, and “one for my friend!”
“Rye” has been used to refer to both American and Canadian varieties of whiskey, though the latter is more of a colloquial shorthand as there are no requirements for Canadian whisky to include rye grain as part of its process.
The flavor of true American rye whiskey shares some similarities with the corn-derived bourbon, though the law requires that it be made from a mash of at least 51% rye grain. Rye enjoyed its greatest popularity from the colonial era through Prohibition, with Pennsylvania and Maryland—specifically my home region of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, and the greater Pittsburgh area—driving most of the nation’s rye production well into the 1800s.
Rye had all but fallen out of fashion in the years following Prohibition as the U.S. had cultivated its taste for imported whisky, specifically from Canada and Scotland. By the ’70s, the cultural depiction of rye drinkers would have been old-school or harder-living types, both of which Joey Ziegler exemplifies.
Joan Holloway: Mr. Draper drinks rye…
Peggy Olson: Rye is Canadian, right?
Joan Holloway: You better find out.
Just as Mad Men inspired a renaissance in cocktail culture, so too did it drive a revival in whisk(e)y. In the pilot episode, smooth ad man Don Draper (Jon Hamm) has his drinking preferences explained to his new secretary Peggy, whose question may have muddled (so to speak) the existing confusion about what spirits actually constitute rye.
While many American bourbon distilleries have followed the zeitgeist to produce their own ryes—think Bulleit, Jim Beam, Wild Turkey, Woodford Reserve, or Pittsburgh’s own innovative craft distillery Wigle—to get a taste of the legit rye that guys like Joey Ziegler would have swilled in the ’70s, pick up a bottle of the venerated Old Overholt for little more than the cost of lunch.
How to Get the Look
As summer transitions into fall, light yet rustic layers like Harry Moseby’s suede jacket and turtleneck would make a stylish impression for smart-casual weekend dressing. Don’t forget the mustache.
- Tobacco brown suede hip-length jacket with large point collar, six-snap front, four inverted box-pleat pockets (with snap-down flaps), single-snap squared cuffs, and double vents
- Forest green merino wool raglan-sleeve turtleneck
- Khaki gabardine flat-front trousers with belt loops, frogmouth-style front pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Brown soft leather closed-lace 6-eyelet sneakers with siped rubber soles
- Tan socks
- Gold wedding ring
As of September 2021, Banana Republic currently sells a tobacco suede trucker jacket that, per its marketed name, is a shorter alternative to the hip-length jacket Hackman wears in Night Moves but also features a shirt-style point collar, six front snaps, and four external pockets.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie, which Criterion Channel subscribers can watch before it leaves the service at the end of September.