Robert Redford as Wade Lewis, cheeky, charismatic, and closeted actor
Santa Monica, California, Fall 1937
Film: Inside Daisy Clover
Release Date: December 22, 1965
Director: Robert Mulligan
Costume Designer: Bill Thomas
Ahead of Robert Redford’s birthday tomorrow, let’s flashback to one of the actor and director’s earliest prominent roles. Redford had spent the early 1960s taking small parts in movies like Tall Story (1960) and War Hunt (1962), appearing occasionally on TV shows like Maverick, Perry Mason, Route 66, The Untouchables, and Alfred Hitchcock’s anthology series. His most significant performance at the time was on stage, originating the role of the hapless newlywed Paul Bratter in Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Park, which would provide Redford’s breakthrough big screen success when adapted by Gene Saks in 1967.
The movie adaptation of Barefoot in the Park launched a nearly 40-year stretch where charismatic Redford exclusively played leading roles, following a two-year period of supporting performances in mostly forgettable movies like Inside Daisy Clover, which Gavin Lambert had adapted from his novel of the same name. The Depression-era story chronicled the troubled rise of an ambitious teenage actress through the Hollywood studio system. The eponymous Daisy was portrayed by Natalie Wood, who would have been able to tap into her own experiences as an exploited child star.
Christopher Plummer starred as Raymond Swan, the domineering studio head who guided Daisy into a manipulative affair, while Redford co-starred as Wade Lewis, a fellow young actor and Daisy’s eventual husband. At the time that Daisy met him, Wade was already rendered cynical by the studio’s bastardization of his identity, from changing his name (formerly Lewis Wade) to hiding his sexual orientation. This latter aspect of his character dampened from the novel—at the urging of both Warner Brothers as well as Redford himself—but still suggested in the movie by Melora Swan (Katharine Bard) reporting to Daisy that “your husband never could resist a charming boy.”
Rectifying their rocky start when he had been rude to her in high school, Inside Daisy Clover began a brief professional association but longer friendship between Redford and Wood. She later recalled how he eased her nerves during a precarious situation filming in a small boat at the Santa Monica Pier, made even scarier by her fear of water. A gust of wind caused a rogue wave to cast the boat to sea, away from the crew and technicians. “There was no way we could get Natalie and Bob off the boat, and the lines to keep them in place were breaking right and left,” director Robert Mulligan recalled, as quoted in an article by Sam Kashner for Vanity Fair. Despite the danger, Redford maintained a sense of humor that kept Wood relatively calm, earning her trust and beginning an enduring friendship.
What’d He Wear?
On the day that Wade impulsively proposes marriage to Daisy—”Sunday, 17th of October”, as Swan dictates for a press release—the two spend an idyllic afternoon at sea, with Wade appropriately dressed in a Breton-striped jumper.
As suggested by their name, Breton stripes originated in the Brittany region of France, where fishermen had long worn long-sleeved jumpers with bold horizontal stripes that would be readily spotted if in need of rescue. The French Navy took notice and officially adopted this marinière in 1858. The style went vogue after World War I thanks to Coco Chanel, who had spied Breton-striped jerseys on the fishermen toiling below her Deauville balcony and brought the look mainstream to the point where both women and men were sporting the look by the early 20th century, often by the sea but more at leisure than labor.
Though Inside Daisy Clover was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Costume Design (Color), the movie has often been criticized for depicting more contemporary styles of the ’60s than true period fashions of 1930s Hollywood. Indeed, Wade’s seagoing style recalls Sanford Roth’s famous photographs of James Dean, taken a decade earlier in 1955. The choice could have been coincidental as Breton stripes have long enjoyed seagoing associations, or it could have been a way to subtly code Wade as a bisexual actor like Dean, communicating via costume to subvert the restrictions of the waning “Hays Code”.
Wade echoed this attitude in his long-sleeved jumper with its arrangement of navy-and-white balanced stripes. Unlike the wide boat-necked tops of traditional marinière jumpers, Wade’s loose, easy-wearing pullover shirt follows Dean’s shirt design with its soft “Johnny collar” and V-neck opening, though a blue looped thread extending from under the left side of the collar suggests that it may connect to a button hidden under the right collar leaf to close over the chest, if necessary. The raglan sleeves are finished with elasticized cuffs in a lighter marine blue that matches the blouson-style waist hem.
Wade wears pale-blue cotton trousers that tonally coordinate with the blue-striped shirt as well as his aquatic environment. Clearly seen when Wade pulls his clothes back on after a belowdecks tryst with Daisy, the flat-front trousers have a unique elasticized waistband that’s also rigged with belt loops, though these go unused. The nature of the scene also reveals the trousers’ zip fly—which existed in the ’30s but wasn’t quite mainstream yet—and a short button-tab inside the fly to support the hidden hook-and-bar fastener.
These trousers also have slanted quarter-top side pockets and two back pockets that each close with a scalloped flap that closes through a single white button. The trouser bottoms are plain-hemmed, breaking clean over the tops of his all-white canvas sneakers, worn with dark navy socks.
Despite their lasting association with athletics, modern sneakers can trace their origins to the late 19th century development of plimsolls, designed with rubber soles to keep wearers’ feet dry on wet surfaces. These comfortable and casual shoes gained traction—so to speak—with athletes seeking footwear on tracks and tennis courts, resulting in more sport-oriented shoes appearing through the early 20th century on both sides of the pond from makers like J.W. Foster and Sons, Converse, Spalding, and Keds. The mid-1930s saw additional advances for both sport and sea-oriented sneakers, with Adidas successfully outfitting athletes like Jesse Owens during the 1936 Summer Olympics and Paul Sperry developing the “Top-Sider” siped sole.
While they may lack the then-innovative siped soles intended for wet decks, Wade’s low-top sneakers have white canvas uppers, white rubber soles, and follow the circular vamp oxford (CVO) design with oxford-style lacing and a rounded vamp. Today, all-white canvas CVO sneakers remain a staple from footwear outfitters like Sperry and Vans.
Wade wears a simple yet elegant gold wristwatch with a flat round case and black exotic-scaled leather band. With its minimalist silver dial detailed only with gilt non-numeric hour markers, the piece resembles many contemporary dress watches from upscale brands like Jaeger-LeCoultre, Longines, Omega, and Tissot. Much like the rest of the style throughout Inside Daisy Clover, Wade’s watch better echoes styles of the ’60s than the ’30s, though it at least lacks any details like a date function that would make it undeniably anachronistic.
On the subject of watches… after attaining superstardom in the early ’70s, Redford acquired a Rolex Submariner that could be spied on his wrist in movies like The Candidate (1972), All the President’s Men (1976), and The Electric Horseman (1979).
How to Get the Look
Even early in his career, Robert Redford illustrated that he would be no stranger to great on-screen style, spending a day on the sea in Inside Daisy Clover wearing a classic—and contextually appropriate—Breton-striped pullover shirt with coordinated cotton trousers and canvas sneakers.
- White-and-navy Breton-striped cotton pullover shirt with “Johnny collar” V-neck, long raglan sleeves with blue elasticized cuffs, and blue elasticized waist hem
- Pale-blue cotton flat-front trousers with elasticized waistband, belt loops, quarter-top side pockets, scallop-flapped back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- White canvas oxford-laced sneakers with white rubber soles
- Dark navy cotton lisle socks
- Gold dress watch with round gold minimalist dial on black scaled leather strap
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
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