Robert Mitchum as Jeff Markham, aka Jeff Bailey, laconic gas station owner and former private detective
Bridgeport, California, Fall 1946
Film: Out of the Past
Release Date: November 25, 1947
Director: Jacques Tourneur
Costume Credit: Edward Stevenson
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Today marks the 75th anniversary since the release of Out of the Past, often considered among the best of classic film noir, the shadowy sub-genre known for its murky morals, gat-toting gumshoes, and double-crossing dames.
We begin in the small northern California town of Bridgeport, where laconic gas station owner Jeff Bailey enjoys a quiet fishing date with his girlfriend Ann Miller (Virginia Huston) until he’s silently interrupted by his deaf employee, “The Kid” (Dickie Moore), signing for Jeff to return. Back in town, Jeff is greeted by Joe Stefanos (Paul Valentine), a mob torpedo sent to invite Jeff—whom we learn is actually an ex-private investigator named Jeff Markham—to Lake Tahoe to meet a mysterious figure from… out of his past.
What’d He Wear?
Jeff dresses simply but stylishly for his idyllic lakeside date with Ann, layered in a suede jacket over a V-neck sweater and boots that would still be natty autumn attire three-quarters of a century later.
Filmed in black-and-white with little color photography remaining today, we can only speculate as to the colors present in Jeff’s wardrobe, though this waist-length jacket was almost certainly made of brown suede, perhaps a curious fabric for fishing given the cloth’s Seinfeld-reinforced sensitivity to water.
The jacket has seven two-hole buttons that fasten up the front from the straight-cut waist hem to the neck. The back is semi-belted with fit-adjuster straps that tighten through a round ring toward the back of each side. The set-in sleeves are finished with half-strap cuffs that close through one of two buttons for adjusting the fit around his wrists. The sole outer pockets are the slanted-entry jetted hand pockets on each side, keeping his cigarettes in his right pocket.
To keep warm against the late fall chill, Jeff layers at least three shirts under his jacket. He appears to be wear a white cotton undershirt with a high crew-neck under a medium-colored flannel button-up shirt. The intermediate layer between this shirt and his jacket is a dark woolen V-neck sweater with long sleeves, ribbed at the cuffs.
Though rugged workwear trousers like jeans and khakis were increasingly popular by the mid-1940s, Jeff dresses for this casual outing in a pair of dark woolen flannel double forward-pleated trousers, with the bottoms self-cuffed for a high break to keep them clear of the water while fishing. Like his jacket, the lighter napped leather shade of Jeff’s derby-laced work boots suggests brown nubuck.
Jeff’s meeting with Joe Stephanos next has him dressing in his old raincoat and fedora as he returns to the proverbial trenches of his past life, called to account for himself to Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas) and into an unexpected—and undesired—reunion with Kathie Moffat (Jane Greer).
How to Get the Look
Before his past comes calling and ushers him into the standard issue noir hero trench coat, Jeff hopes to live the relatively simple life of a small-town gas station owner and dresses the part in a rugged suede jacket, layered shirts, and work boots.
- Brown suede waist-length jacket with 7-button front, shirt-style collar, slanted jetted hand pockets, set-in sleeves with pointed half-strap button cuffs, and half-belted back with side adjuster straps
- Medium-colored flannel work shirt
- Dark wool V-neck long-sleeve sweater
- Dark woolen flannel double forward-pleated trousers with on-seam side pockets and self-cuffed bottoms
- Brown nubuck leather derby-laced work boots
- Dark socks
- White cotton crew-neck undershirt
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
Ann: You’ve been lots of places, haven’t you?
Jeff: One too many.