Bing Crosby as Bob Wallace, Broadway crooner and World War II veteran
Pine Tree, Vermont, December 1954
Film: White Christmas
Release Date: October 14, 1954
Director: Michael Curtiz
Costume Designer: Edith Head
Merry Christmas Eve! One of my family’s favorite perennial movies to watch during the holiday season is White Christmas, the VistaVision that opened and closed with the iconic eponymous tune that Bing Crosby had introduced over a decade earlier in Holiday Inn.
Bing and Danny Kaye star as a pair of song-and-dance men—Crosby as crooner Bob Wallace and Kaye as comic Phil Davis—who find themselves unexpectedly spending the holidays in a quiet New England inn which coincidentally happens to be run by the popular general (Dean Jagger) who led their division during World War II. The holiday hijinks had commenced after the two were enticed to review a sister act at a Florida nightclub. Noticing the newfound sparkle in Bob’s eye when watching the older sister Betty (Rosemary Clooney), Phil engineered a gambit that found the two ladies indebted to them… as they all ended up on the same train heading to the wintry hamlet of Pine Tree, Vermont.
As Bob and Phil conspire to reverse the general’s misfortunes by bringing their boffo act to the inn, the reserved and responsible Betty finds herself growing closer to the similarly tempered Bob—also thanks to the conspiratorial urgings of Phil and her sister Judy (Vera-Ellen)—and a late-night stroll in search of a snack finds her sharing a cozy crooning session with Bob over sandwiches and buttermilk.
What’d He Wear?
Even in the most laidback moments, Bob Wallace embraces decorum while dressing throughout White Christmas, never seen dressed down in anything less formal than an odd jacket with an open-neck shirt or knitted polo. Venturing into the main building of the Pine Tree Inn, Bob pulls on a warm gray flannel jacket, likely tailored by his usual tailor H. Huntsman of Savile Row. (He later wears a similar gray flannel blazer, though that jacket visibly differs with its gilt buttons and sporty patch pockets.)
The single-breasted jacket blends American and English elements, respectively befitting Bing Crosby’s nationality and his Savile Row tailor. The Italian-influenced 3/2-roll button configuration had been popularized by outfitters like Brooks Brothers during the early 20th century in the United States, where it was elevated to an Ivy style staple by mid-century. The well-padded shoulders are another English tradition and, like the substantial breadth of his notch lapels, were also a predominant element of men’s tailoring by the 1950s.
The jacket’s single vent is characteristic of American styles, though the flapped ticket pocket—in addition to the straight flapped hip pockets—signals more English influence, though this detail would be co-opted globally over the decades to follow. The jacket also has a welted breast pocket, where Bing keeps his trusty pipe, and three cuff buttons at the end of each sleeve.
Bob wears a white cotton shirt with a spread collar, plain button-up front, and double (French) cuffs. There’s some incongruity in Bob wearing a French-cuffed shirt—complete with links, a pair of gold discs with blue stone faces—without a tie, but it’s possible he removed a tie he’d been wearing earlier in the day. Some sartorial gatekeepers might even say that French cuffs have no business being worn with anything but a full suit, so I can only imagine their horror at Bob’s choices.
Under the left cuff of his shirt, we spy Crosby’s personal wristwatch, the rounded gold case positioned on the inside of his wrist and secured to a tooled brown leather strap that closes through a gilt single-prong buckle.
Bob’s brown woolen trousers are likely the same slacks he’d sported with his powder-blue mini-checked sports coat in Florida, rigged with triple reverse pleats on each side, on-seam side pockets, and a self-belt that closes through a gilt-toned buckle.
The bottoms are finished with turn-ups (cuffs), which ride high enough when seated to flash his bright scarlet socks. White Christmas establishes Bing as a champion of colorful hosiery, mixing up his more conventional browns and grays with yellows and reds. His derby shoes have a pointed moc-toe and appear to be constructed with dark cordovan leather uppers.
What to Imbibe
As Bob Wallace would advise, your midnight snack should depend entirely on what you intend to dream about:
Bob: We got New England blue plate or the Vermont smorgasbord. Not as flashy as Toots Shor’s probably, but I think you’ll find the price is right… tell me what you want to dream about, I’ll know what to give you. I got a whole big theory about it. Different kinds of food make for different kinds of dreams. Now, if I have ham and cheese on rye like that, I dream about a tall cool blonde. Sort of a first sacker type, you know. Turkey, I dream about a brunette. A little on the scatback side, but sexy, sexy.
Betty: What about liverwurst?
Bob: I dream about liverwurst.
How to Get the Look
Bob Wallace’s serious demeanor and determination are consistent with his tasteful approach to dress, though he isn’t afraid to inject some subtly festive frivolity with the occasionally colorful accoutrement like the red socks that add holiday color to his otherwise subdued gray flannel jacket, white shirt, and brown slacks.
- Gray flannel single-breasted 3/2-roll tailored jacket with notch lapels, padded shoulders, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets with flapped ticket pocket, 3-button cuffs, and single vent
- White cotton shirt with spread collar, plain front, and double/French cuffs
- Gold-mounted blue stone cuff links
- Dark chocolate brown wool triple reverse-pleated trousers with self-belt, straight/on-seam side pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- Dark cordovan leather pointed moc-toe derby shoes
- Scarlet-red socks
- Gold wristwatch on tooled brown leather curved strap
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie, and have a very happy holiday!
Makes a fellow feel a little shaky to hole up there all alone on one of those bleached chargers.