George Clooney’s Double-Breasted Suit in Ocean’s Eleven
On George Clooney’s 61st birthday, I’m pleased to present another guest post contributed by my friend Ken Stauffer, who had also covered the actor’s plaid suit in Out of Sight and Clooney’s fashionable co-star Brad Pitt from this same scene in Ocean’s Eleven. You can learn more from him about the style of the Ocean’s film series on his Instagram account, @oceansographer.
George Clooney as Danny Ocean, recently paroled con man and casino heister
Los Angeles, Spring 2001
Film: Ocean’s Eleven
Release Date: December 7, 2001
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Costume Designer: Jeffrey Kurland
Tailor: Dominic Gherardi
Happy birthday to George Clooney, who turns 61 today! To celebrate, we’re looking back at one of his most striking tailored looks in Ocean’s Eleven, the movie which arguably made him a household name and cemented his image as a suave leading man.
The film opens with Clooney’s Danny Ocean being released from North Jersey State Prison on a frigid winter morning. After a shave and a wardrobe change, his first stop is Atlantic City’s Trump Plaza to find Frank Caton (Bernie Mac), a fellow career criminal currently eking out a living under an alias as a blackjack dealer. Within a handful of lines, we learn that Danny is on the hunt for Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt), whom he quickly learns is now “teaching movie stars how to play cards.” A day later, the parolee has flown across the country to rope in his felonious old friend at a Hollywood nightclub.
Drink in hand, Danny slips right past an unsuspecting Rusty, who’s momentarily entranced by the club’s dancers. Rusty is then taken aback to find his jailbird ex-partner lounging in his workplace—the club’s back room with a card table—and mingling with his high-net-worth clients: a pack of young TV stars paying him for poker lessons. While Rusty’s guileless students pepper Danny with questions about his checkered past, the pair of grifters quickly fall back into a comfortable rhythm, gently chiding each other like reunited brothers. They exchange knowing glances and wordlessly signal one another as they swindle the hapless actors with an old-fashioned stacked deck. Cash in hand, the two cheats take a short drive down Hollywood Blvd. to the iconic Musso & Frank’s Grill where, over coffee, Danny hints at the plan he’s been patiently perfecting for years in his prison cell, piquing Rusty’s curiosity.
Their next stop of the night is an architect’s office amongst the high rises of downtown L.A., specifically one that hosts the blueprints to the vault of the famous Bellagio casino in Las Vegas. Following a quick study, the gears are already turning in Rusty’s head as he contemplates who to recruit to execute the colossal caper. He just needs one more little nudge to coax him on board, and Danny’s all too eager to spring into a speech he’s been rehearsing for just this occasion.
What’d He Wear?
Having just regained his freedom, Danny Ocean is man on a mission and dressed for stealth on his first night back on the West Coast. While his dark outfit may at first glance appear all black, a closer look reveals the subtle and sophisticated choices made by the film’s costume designer, Jeffrey Kurland, and executed by tailor Dominic Gherardi.
The custom-made six-on-two double-breasted suit that the character wears here is a real standout from the film. The charcoal wool fabric is woven in a traditional herringbone, but with a thin copper windowpane pattern on top of it. It’s rare to see these two features combined in a single cloth, especially one this lightweight, but they work well together to create an intriguing fabric. The zig-zagging fibers of the herringbone give the cloth the illusion of depth, as well as a tone-on-tone vertical stripe effect from afar. Coupled with the windowpane, it visually adds height to the wearer, as windowpanes are always taller than they are wide.
This is actually one of three garments that Danny wears in a row incorporating a windowpane check, including his brown houndstooth sport coat with a red overcheck, and his sharkskin gray silk blend jacket.
The jacket’s peak lapels are quite wide, around 4.5”, and set at a 4.5” gorge height, with a Milanese buttonhole on each side, i.e. the fancy kind that’s done by hand.
These lapels have very little belly, which is to say they’re cut in a straight line from their widest point on the chest down to the buttoning point at the waist, without curving. If one looks at most contemporary peak lapels, you’ll find that they’re more rounded, belling out and creating sort of a tulip shape on the wearer’s chest. The more angular cut that Danny wears is more in line with the style of the 1940s, giving it some appropriately classic charm.
The jacket has a traditional length, extending to just below the bottom of the thief’s thumbs and more than covering his seat. (Apologies to all those hoping to see more of Clooney’s butt in this article.)
The shoulders are straight and well-padded, with a small amount of roping. They extend past the actor’s own shoulders to give him a strong silhouette, as noted in Jeffrey Kurland’s initial sketch.
The jacket is unvented, with a welted breast pocket, straight jetted hip pockets, and three working buttonholes at the end of each sleeve.
Many of these characteristics—including the lower gorge height—were common in both the “golden age” of men’s fashion as well as the late ’90s and early 2000s period when the film was made, but some have since fallen out of fashion in the last 20 years.
Beneath the suit jacket, the dapper con man wears a simple navy turtleneck with ribbed cuffs and hem. It’s likely made from a blend of cashmere and silk, given its slight sheen. While Danny Ocean is usually costumed in an open-neck dress shirt, he actually does pair a sweater with a suit in each of the three films; he even wears a dark turtleneck in each sequel, though admittedly the final time is part of an ill-conceived disguise.
The turtleneck sweater, also called a polo neck, roll-neck, or skivvy depending on where you learned English, has been a menswear staple for centuries. While it lacks some of the formality of a shirt and tie, it’s been widely accepted as an appropriate alternative with tailored clothing for many decades. This trend emerged in the 1920s before becoming a popular mainstay roughly 40 years later.
Since Danny never removes this jacket on screen, we don’t see much of the suit’s matching trousers. We can make out that they have a flat front, straight legs from the thigh to ankle, and a large break at the plain hem. We can also safely assume that they have a medium-high rise, on-seam side pockets, and button-through back pockets on both sides, as do all his other trousers elsewhere in the film. While the bottom of his sweater covers the waistband of the pants, we don’t see a bulge that would be created by a belt buckle, so it is possibly made plain like on both pairs of his tuxedo pants.
On his feet are the black calfskin Dolce & Gabbana cap-toe derbies that he wears throughout the film, polished to such a high glossy shine that they resemble patent leather. These shoes have four eyelets and tan leather soles. His socks are presumably simple and dark to coordinate with his outfit, but the full break of his pants makes them impossible to see on screen.
The dress watch that Danny sports throughout the film is a contemporary Hamilton Linwood Viewmatic, styled like a vintage piece. It has a complex silver guilloché dial and silver dauphine hands behind a sapphire crystal. The heavily polished stainless steel 38mm case is mounted on a 19mm black alligator-grain leather strap finished with a polished, branded pin buckle. The watch is powered by the 25 jewel ETA 2824-2, a real workhouse of a movement found in many mid-tier automatic watches, visible through the mineral crystal exhibition caseback. This particular model retailed for only $375 in 2001 but hasn’t been produced for at least 15 years now.
Danny’s only other accessory is his platinum wedding band, which in retrospect should have elicited some questions from his best friend. Rusty must have just been too preoccupied thinking about his next meal to notice.
How to Get the Look
When you’re going to meet up with your best friend to pitch an incredibly complex and risky heist, you really want to look your best.
Danny Ocean’s dark and classic outfit immediately establishes his quiet confidence amid the flashy backdrop of a trendy Hollywood club. His clothes are timeless, recalling the understated elegance of a bygone era, while not looking out of place in 2001.
- Charcoal herringbone wool suit with faint copper windowpane pattern:
- Double-breasted 6-on-2-button jacket with wide peak lapels, welted breast pocket, straight jetted hip pockets, 4-button cuffs, and ventless back
- Flat front medium-high rise pants with plain waistband, on-seam side pockets, button-through back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Navy cashmere/silk turtleneck sweater with ribbed cuffs and hems
- Black calf leather 4-eyelet cap-toe derby shoes
- Charcoal gray dress socks
- Hamilton Linwood Viewmatic wristwatch with a polished stainless steel 38mm case and silver guilloche dial on a 19mm black alligator-grain leather strap
- Polished platinum wedding band
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Treat yourself to a meal at Musso & Frank’s and check out the movie.
Rusty: I need a reason. Don’t say money. Why do this?
Danny: Why not do it? (Rusty shakes his head) Because yesterday I walked out of the joint, after losing four years of my life, and you’re cold-decking Teen Beat cover boys. Because the house always wins. You play long enough, you never change the stakes, the house takes you, unless, when that perfect hand comes along, you bet big, and then you take the house.
Rusty: (a beat) You’ve been practicing that speech, haven’t you?
Danny: A little bit. Did I rush it? It felt like I rushed it.
Rusty: No, it was good, I liked it. The Teen Beat thing was harsh.