Tim Roth as Freddie Newandyke, aka “Mr. Orange”, member of an armed robbery crew with a deep secret
Los Angeles, Summer 1992
Film: Reservoir Dogs
Release Date: October 9, 1992
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Costume Designer: Betsy Heimann
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
This month marks the 30th anniversary since the wide release of Reservoir Dogs, Quentin Tarantino’s influential debut that introduced many of the director’s own cinematic trademarks and has been described as one of the greatest independent films of all time.
As we’ve come to expect from QT, Reservoir Dogs pays homage to classic noir and crime films, including Kansas City Confidential (1952), The Big Combo (1955), and—most specifically—The Killing (1956), with a plot centered around a gang of tough guys hired for a what should be a straightforward diamond heist… only to be stymied when it becomes evident that a member of their crew is an informant.
Suspicions abound, but few are leveled at the unfortunate “Mr. Orange” (Tim Roth) as the ocherously named bandit lays gut-shot in the gang’s rendezvous location; naming the crooks after colors was yet another homage, this time to The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 (1974). Slowly, the surviving members of the crew—the professional Mr. White (Harvey Keitel), the spastic Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi), and the crazily cold-blooded Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen)—desperately try to figure out what happened and what to tell Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney) and his track-suited son “Nice Guy Eddie” (Chris Penn), who had organized the caper and stood to profit from its success.
What’d He Wear?
Costume designer Betsy Heimann helped elevated Reservoir Dogs to its now iconic status by dressing the gang somewhat identically in their black suits, white shirts, black ties, and sunglasses, an image that gained staying power from the slowed-down opening titles as the gang struts out to their cars to the tune of George Baker Selection’s “Little Green Bag”.
In the spirit of the film opening at a diner, Heimann recalled to Esquire that her initial conversation with Tarantino was at Denny’s before they returned to the director’s home to watch the French New Wave films that had provided his initial inspiration, including plenty starring Alain Delon.
“Quentin wanted to pay homage to French New Wave films. He also wanted the robbers to have certain anonymity. When he showed me some film clips, I remarked that the men were all wearing dark suits with white shirts and dark ties. This provided the anonymity we were looking for,” Heimann explained to Clothes on Film.
Tarantino’s October 1990 screenplay mentions the men’s “black suits” on the first page, but Heimann expanded this idea by exploring who would wear suits… and which characters would need to improvise. As Heimann further explained, “In my mind, these guys had been in/were just released from prison, which would leave them without many choices of clothing. If their instruction was to wear the dark suit and tie, they could put that together easily and for very little money at a thrift store. That is how the concept came together.”
The experienced Mr. White wore a suit provided via French designer agnès b.’s professional relationship with Harvey Keitel while Mr. Brown (played by Tarantino himself) would also wear a suit. Mr. Blonde appears to wear a full suit, but both he and Mr. Blue (Eddie Bunker, a real-life bandit who had earlier written an autobiography called Little Boy Blue) instead sported mismatched black jackets and trousers. This left just Mr. Pink and Mr. Orange, who both wore jeans and boots with jackets sourced from “a cache of 1960s dark navy, charcoal, and black jackets” that Heimann had discovered and made good use of, given her $10,000 costume budget.
“If you went to a thrift store you’re not going to find a complete suit, so it’s a case of ‘here’s the jacket, here’s the pants.’,” Heimann later explained to Esquire. “I wanted different silhouettes for different characters—the collar stands, the length of the collar, the width of the tie, the type of shirt fabric, the style of the jacket—and that’s what creates the unique look of Reservoir Dogs.”
Mr. Orange’s thrifted black single-breasted jacket reflects the desired ’60s-style silhouette with its relatively fuller cut but narrower features like slim notch lapels. Tim Roth isn’t a tall man—I’ve read his height is somewhere around 5’7″—but his lean physique and angular features coordinate with the jacket’s shorter fit to ensure that he doesn’t look dwarfed by his three-button jacket. Likely once part of a suit, the orphaned odd jacket has the usual features of a welted breast pocket and straight, flapped hip pockets. The ventless jacket does have front darts that add shape, though it still provides a full fit… which also offers a tactical advantage to better conceal the full-size Smith & Wesson semi-automatic in Mr. Orange’s shoulder holster. The shoulders are padded, and the sleeves are finished with three-button “kissing” cuffs.
Mr. Orange wears the requisite white shirt, though it doesn’t stay white for very long. The shirt has a short semi-spread collar, breast pocket, and front placket. Mr. Orange never removes his jacket to prove this, but the fact that we never see his shirt cuffs leads me to suggest that he’s wearing a short-sleeved shirt, consistent with his persona as a scrappier member of the crew as opposed to its more established crooks like Mr. White. His skinny black tie reflects some slubbing under the florescent diner lighting, suggesting a silk like shantung (which has less dramatic imperfections than dupioni.)
Not only does Mr. Orange mismatch the suit jacket and trousers, he takes the additionally informal step of pairing his tailored jacket with black jeans! This was one of the happy costume-related character details that emerged from Heimann’s intentional planning… and limited budget.
Quentin now tells this story: I went to him and said, “I’m going to use these black jeans on Tim Roth and Steve Buscemi, and I’m going to put them with these really narrow, black, ’60s-cut jackets, and nobody’s going to know it isn’t a complete suit.” He said, “Well, she’d done a lot more movies than I had, so I believed her. And I guess she was right!” — Betsy Heimann to Nick Pope, Esquire
Though its history with black denim trousers dates back to shortly after the turn of the 20th century, Levi Strauss & Co. wouldn’t formally introduce black denim to its iconic Levi’s 501® Original Fit lineup until the 1980s. The gutshot Mr. Orange spends much of the film on his back, so we can’t see the arcuate stitch or red tab to be certain, though the cut, styling, and visible button-fly would suggest he wears the Levi’s 501 in black denim.
Mr. Orange holds up his jeans with a plain black edge-stitched leather belt that closes through a squared silver-toned buckle. Assuming that Mr. Orange wears the same type of shoulder holster as Mr. Blonde, with two wide black vinyl straps securing to each side of his waist, a strong belt would have been a must.
Mr. Orange wears a pair of black leather Chelsea boots, each detailed with a perforated cap toe that adds a distinctively dressier element borrowed from semi-brogue shoes. He wears black ribbed cotton lisle crew socks that rise high enough to cover the above-ankle shafts of his boots, which slip on with the aid of black elastic side gussets.
Though not as prominently featured as Mr. Blonde’s cowboy boots (and how!), these subtly detailed boots are one of my favorite costume aspects from Reservoir Dogs, as these versatile boots could be effectively executed with jeans as well as a jacket and tie, or—in Mr. Orange’s incongruous case—both.
Mr. Orange keeps his accessories simple, slipping a plain yellow-gold wedding band onto his left ring finger before going with the gang. On the same wrist, he wears a vintage-looking gold wristwatch with a round off-white dial and gold “twist-o-flex” expanding bracelet.
Mr. Orange may wear black jeans and a short-sleeved shirt with a black suit jacket and tie, but he does arguably earn back some style points with his choice of eyewear, shielding his eyes through a pair of Ray-Ban Clubmaster sunglasses with black “browline” frames, gold rims, and dark green lenses.
These specs recall the Shuron frame pioneered in the late 1940s and popularized through the ’60s thanks to wearers like Vince Lombardi, Malcolm X, and LBJ, then ultimately revived toward the end of the ’80s when Tom Cruise generously included Clubmasters as part of his Ray-Ban renaissance when he wore them in Rain Man. Clubmaster sunglasses as worn by Cruise and Roth suggest a retro cool that differs from their clear-lensed cousins, which carry a more conservative or old-fashioned connotation as sported by Kevin Costner in JFK, Harry Crane (Rich Sommer) through early seasons of Mad Men, and the reactionary businessman-gone-postal played by Michael Douglas in Falling Down.
A Redditor has pointed out that, of the main robbery crew, Mr. Orange differentiates himself by wearing these Clubmasters rather than Wayfarers or wayfarer-style shades. As is wont to happen on Reddit, a few commenters suggested this was likely mere coincidence (given the lack of glasses on the Cabots and Mr. Blue), though I’m always inclined to believe in costume-informed intentionality.
Joe Cabot armed his colorfully monikered heist team with nearly identical Smith & Wesson 659 pistols, likely a reflection of their fitness for the job as well as to provide additional uniformity that would make it more difficult for potential witnesses to differentiate the gang by their choice of weapons. (That said, the choice was likely made by Mr. White, the most senior and arguably professional of the crew, as he’s the only member to carry a second pistol—the similar Smith & Wesson 639—and a deleted scene includes a look at the rap sheet for “Lawrence Dimmick” that further describes his preferred pistol as a nine-millimeter Smith & Wesson.)
The history for this model dates back to the 1950s, when Smith & Wesson responded to the 1954 U.S. Army service pistol trials with the introduction of the Model 39. Though the trials were ultimately abandoned, the Model 39 was Smith & Wesson’s segue into the semi-automatic handgun market, in which it had only contributed modest offerings in earlier years. For nearly two decades, the Model 39 reigned as Smith & Wesson’s primary semi-automatic pistol until the Model 59 was introduced in 1971, made from an aluminum frame that allowed the weapon to feed from a double-stack magazine that carried 14 rounds rather than the eight rounds in the Model 39’s single-stack magazine.
The nomenclature evolved when the “second generation” of these pistols was rolled out across the early 1980s, with the single-stack “39” and double-stack “59” designations relegated to the latter two of the new three-digit model names; the first digit was reserved to distinguish whether the finish was blued alloy (“4xx”), steel-framed (“5xx”), or stainless steel (“6xx”), thus the Model 659 pistols as seen in Reservoir Dogs were stainless steel and fed from double-stack magazines.
The decade saw increased additions to the line, including the all-steel single-stack 539, the compact yet double-stack stainless 669, and the .45-caliber 645. The lineup continued to expand with the dawn of a new decade as Smith & Wesson introduced the four-digit “third generation” in the 1990s, in calibers ranging from the original 9×19 mm Parabellum through .40 S&W, .45 ACP, and the newer 10mm Auto.
Though these somewhat bulky steel-framed Smith & Wesson semi-autos continue to have proponents (including yours truly, who owns a third-generation 5906), their heft made them increasingly unpopular and obsolete as users grew accustomed to lighter-weight polymer-framed pistols like Glocks. By 2000, Smith & Wesson had mostly phased out these steel-framed semi-autos, first with the poorly received Sigma series and now the considerably more successful M&P (Military & Police) series.
How to Get the Look
This is a Reservoir Dogs character, so just a black suit, white shirt, black tie, and black shoes, right? Not so fast… Freddy Newandyke likely would have had access to a full suit but for his undercover persona as the youthful crook “Mr. Orange”, he—via costume designer Betsy Heimann, of course—cobbled together a vintage black suit jacket with black jeans to wear with the de facto white shirt and black tie, completing the look with browline-framed sunglasses, black boots, and a wedding ring.
Looking to make Mr. Orange your Halloween costume this year? Aim to make that white shirt more red than anything else!
- Black single-breasted 3-button suit jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, ventless back
- White short-sleeved shirt with spread collar, front placket, and breast pocket
- Black narrow tie
- Black denim jeans
- Black leather belt with silver-toned squared single-prong buckle
- Black leather perforated cap-toe Chelsea boots
- Black ribbed cotton lisle tube socks
- Black-framed browline-style sunglasses with gold rims and dark green lenses
- Gold wedding ring
- Gold wristwatch with round off-white dial and gold expanding band
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
Listen to me, Marvin Nash… I’m a cop.