Jake Gyllenhaal as Robert Graysmith, newspaper cartoonist and crusading crime investigator
San Francisco Bay Area, Fall 1975 thorough summer 1979
Release Date: March 2, 2007
Director: David Fincher
Costume Designer: Casey Storm
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
By the mid-1970s, active investigations for the infamous Zodiac Killer had cooled; the intrepid San Francisco detective Dave Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) had been urged to refocus his efforts, his partner Bill Armstrong (Anthony Edwards) had requested to move on, and investigative reporter Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.) was no longer writing about the case… leaving the burden of investigation in the surprising hands of San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist Robert Graysmith.
Knowing that David Fincher’s 2007 movie Zodiac was based on his non-fiction book of the same name informs audiences that, to some degree, Graysmith found success in his relentless private investigation, though the film also depicts the personal toll of Graysmith’s obsessive hunt for the truth, marred by paranoia and frustrating dead ends.
What’d He Wear?
Zodiac introduces Robert Graysmith to audiences as a soft-spoken, detail-oriented cartoonist who presents himself neatly in the casual environment of the San Francisco Chronicle newsroom, favoring a daily “uniform” of smart work shirts, buttoned up, tucked in, and often layered under a sports coat.
Graysmith’s obsessive attention to his own investigation into the Zodiac Killer’s identity takes a toll not only on his personal life but also his personal style, as he descends from these neatly tucked-in shirts to messily semi-buttoned shirts untucked over old undershirts and jeans. The one constant through Graysmith’s late ’70s wardrobe is his chosen outer layer: a blue quilted down jacket.
Puffer jackets had emerged during the interwar era through the separate efforts of adventurers like Australian chemist George Finch (in the 1920s) and American entrepreneur Eddie Bauer (in the 1930s), both of whom developed coats that used feathers to create an insulated “down” layer that traps and retains warm air. Down jackets became a quick favorite for offering protection against cold and wet elements in a relatively lightweight package, especially compared to heavier woolly outerwear like pea coats. As standards of sartorial formality relaxed throughout the 20th century, the practicality of puffer jackets made them a multi-season favorite even among city-dwellers and commuters.
Graysmith’s dark blue puffer jacket has a water-resistant polyester outer shell, quilted with air pockets that create a grid-like effect over the body of the coat, occasionally marketed as “box quilting”. The hip-length coat has a silver-toned front zipper that extends up from the waist hem to neck, where the flat, long-pointed collar is finished in the same quilted polyester as the rest of the jacket. The inside of the jacket shows a lighter blue quilted polyester side, suggesting that this may be reversible.
The vertical welted-entry pocket is positioned at hand-level on each side, and the set-in sleeves are finished with dark blue ribbed-knit cuffs.
Graysmith debuts the jacket on screen when he visits Paul Avery’s houseboat in the fall of 1975. By this time, Avery has drifted from the Chronicle to the Sacramento Bee… and a bitter life of darkness of booze. Avery insults Graysmith in response to his suggestion that he write a book about the Zodiac Killer, prompting Graysmith to take it upon himself to research and draft the volume.
As this is essentially the start of Graysmith taking up the mantle of investigating Zodiac, he still retains some of his fresh semi-formality from the Chronicle newsroom, layering a taupe-brown crew-neck sweater over a red, white, and blue checked shirt.
We see more of this type of shirt as Graysmith continues his work, running between Toschi, Vallejo PD sergeant Jack Mulanax (Elias Koteas), and Napa County detective Ken Narlow (Donal Logue) as he’s set on the trail on potential suspect Rick Marshall. As several of these scenes are set in the summer, Graysmith no longer needs the sweater he wore when calling on Avery… though this is San Francisco, so the jacket remains advisable.
The navy triple-check against a white grid with a narrow red double-line overcheck suggests red, white, and blue patriotic undertones driving Graysmith’s quest for justice. The shirt has a point collar, breast pocket, button cuffs, and a front placket with white plastic buttons sewn on with navy thread. He wears the top few buttons undone, showing the top of his white crew-neck undershirt.
The vignettes of Graysmith’s investigation include his arrival at Washington and Cherry streets in San Francisco on October 11, 1977, the ninth anniversary of when cab driver Paul Stine had been murdered at the northeast corner of the same location. Just missing Toschi during his annual stakeout of the site, Graysmith wears the jacket. zipped over what looks to be a light blue oxford cotton cloth shirt and his brown corduroy flat front jeans-style trousers.
Graysmith visits high-profile lawyer Melvin Belli (Brian Cox), where he’s served a plate of cookies as he waits for the attorney who had once dramatically inserted himself in the hunt for the killer. Another day, another plaid shirt: this time with a rust-and-blue check against a salmon ground, also long-sleeved with clear plastic buttons up the placket with the usual breast pocket for Graysmith’s pens. He wears the top button undone, showing the crew neck of a mustard-yellow T-shirt worn under it.
Around this point, Graysmith begins more typically wearing blue denim jeans, which appear to be Wranglers based on the occasional glimpses of a light brown leather patch against the back-right pocket. We also get a better look at his shoes, a set of functional if less-than-fashionable brown leather low shoes with a swelled moc-toe and three sets of derby-laced eyelets. His cotton lisle socks are chocolate brown, consistent with his hosiery in other scenes.
Graysmith’s investigation into potential suspect Rick Marshall lead him to a sinister exchange with the theater organist Bob Vaughn (Charles Fleischer). By this time, the stress and darkness of his self-ordered mission has so unraveled him that it’s reflected in how he wears his clothing: wrinkled, untucked, and barely buttoned.
These scenes feature a beige shirt, also plaid like the others with its light slate-colored, white, and burgundy check pattern. The long-sleeved shirt has button cuffs that he often wears undone and rolled up, a front placket with clear plastic buttons often only partially fastened, and a breast pocket that now droops from the constantly clipped pens and pencils rotated through it.
Graysmith is granted a meeting with yet another long-awaited lead, Darlene Ferrin’s sister Linda (Clea Duvall), who agrees to meet with him while she’s in prison—for an unrelated crime—more than a decade after her sister was killed by Zodiac. He arrives wearing a gold shirt with a subtle tonal check, following the same standard styling as his others with the front placket and breast pocket, worn over a white T-shirt and jeans.
His meeting with Linda again points in the investigation toward Arthur Leigh Allen (John Carroll Lynch), a theory that had been held by Toschi and which would form the foundation of Graysmith’s conclusions in his book Zodiac.
The film ends on December 20, 1983, said to be the eve of when Zodiac published and two days after Allen’s 50th birthday. Graysmith arrives at the ACE Hardware location where Allen now works to allow himself an eye-to-eye encounter with the man he’s prepared to reveal to the world as a serial killer.
Under his usual dark blue puffer jacket, Graysmith wears a sky-blue cotton shirt with red-on-white shadow stripes, again sporting a red, white, and blue color scheme which may suggest his return to a mental state at the start of his search for justice… and perhaps even implying that some degree of justice will come from his work. The return to relative sanity is also presented in his again wearing his shirt tucked into his jeans, buttoned up the plain front (no placket) with just the top undone.
The most significant timepiece in Zodiac is arguably the Zodiac-branded Sea Wolf watch worn by Arthur Leigh Allen, spotted by Toschi, Armstrong, and Mulanax to become major circumstantial evidence supporting Allen’s guilt.
Graysmith keeps time with a more commonplace watch, identified at Watches In Movies as a Timex Electric Model 84. According to Electric Watches, Timex introduced the simple but attractive Model 84 in 1965, making it very possible that our hero cartoonist would have been wearing one throughout the timeframe featured on screen. (Graysmith’s book Zodiac never refers to his own watch brand, though he does note that two Zodiac victims—David Faraday and Paul Stine—wore Timex watches, as well as the fact that Cheri Jo Bates’ killer left behind a broken Timex.)
Powered by a straight electric movement with moving coil, Graysmith’s Timex Model 84 has a gold-finished cushion case with a stainless steel back. The light gold dial has non-numeric hour markers, consisting of straight lines that are accented as larger squares at the 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions. He wears the watch on a steel expanding band that has a wide black-finished center.
How to Get the Look
Have the kind of job or lifestyle that finds you often on the move, meeting with various people, day and night, in all kinds of weather?
Robert Graysmith may not be a style icon, but he knows how to dress for this kind of work, in a lightweight puffer jacket that keeps him warm and dry without getting in the way, a shirt that can be buttoned up or tucked in for presentability with a pen always handy in the pocket, and a sturdy pair of shoes.
- Dark blue box-quilted polyester down-insulated “puffer jacket” with large collar, zip-up front, vertical welt-entry side pockets, and ribbed-knit cuffs
- Checked cotton long-sleeve shirt with point collar, front placket, breast pocket, and button cuffs
- White cotton crew-neck undershirt
- Blue denim or brown corduroy five-pocket jeans
- Brown leather moc-toe derby-laced work shoes
- Chocolate brown socks
- Gold analog wristwatch with simple gold dial (with non-numeric hour markers) on black-finished expanding bracelet
The practicality of puffer jackets ensures that they’ll never be out of style, with a range of men’s outfitters offering their takes in a Zodiac-style navy blue as of February 2022:
- Barbour Harrington Waxed Quilted Nylon Jacket in navy (Nordstrom)
- Climate Concepts Men’s Quilted Jacket with Stand Collar in navy (Walmart)
- Dobell Navy Quilted Bomber Jacket in navy (Dobell)
- Eddie Bauer StratusTherm Down Jacket in “dusted indigo” (Eddie Bauer)
- Goodfellow & Co. Lightweight Puffer Jacket in navy (Target)
- G-Star Raw Lightweight Quilted Jacket in “imperial blue” (G-Star Raw)
- J. Crew Box-quilted jacket with eco-friendly PrimaLoft® in navy (J. Crew)
- L.L. Bean Men’s Bean’s Down Jacket in dark marine blue (L.L. Bean)
- Lands’ End Men’s Insulated Quilted Jacket in “radiant navy” (Lands’ End)
- Nordstrom Men’s Shop Quilted Bomber Jacket in “navy blazer” (Nordstrom)
- Patagonia Men’s Down Sweater Jacket in “classic navy” (Patagonia)
- Polo Ralph Lauren Packable Water-Repellent Down Jacket in “aviator navy” (Polo Ralph Lauren)
- Shein Men Zip Up Quilted Coat in navy (Shein)
- Slate & Stone Quilted Puffer Jacket in blue (Nordstrom Rack)
- St. John’s Bay Men’s Water Resistant Lightweight Puffer Jacket in “signature navy” (J.C. Penney)
- SwissTech Men’s Puffer Jacket in dark navy (Walmart)
- Weatherproof Water-Resistant Quilted Puffer Jacket in “lunar blue” (Lord & Taylor)
Do Yourself a Favor and…
The Astro Zone
The outfit’s general timelessness during the excessively trendy era of the late 1970s testifies to costume designer Casey Storm’s understanding of Graysmith’s personality; such a subdued, analytical person would care less about buying new clothes and keeping up with fads than just having a rotation of practical and well-made clothing he could cycle through over more than a decade.
Given the titular killer’s moniker, it fells appropriate to point out that these are consistent with the traits one might expect of a Virgo like Robert Graysmith, who was born September 17, 1942.