Ethan Hawke in Before Sunrise
Ethan Hawke as Jesse Wallace, itinerant American
Vienna, June 16-17, 1994
Film: Before Sunrise
Release Date: January 27, 1995
Director: Richard Linklater
Costume Designer: Florentina Welley
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Happy Valentine’s Day! While I’ve occasionally used this holiday to feature style from movies depicting gangland violence (think Jimmy Hoffa’s February 14th birthday or the 1967 movie The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre about the real-life 1929 event), this marks my first Valentine’s Day as a married man, so I’m feeling romantic and thus wanted to write about one of my favorite romance-themed movies: Before Sunrise.
For his fourth feature film, director Richard Linklater took inspiration from his chance meeting with a woman in a Philadelphia toy shop that led to the two walking through the city and conversing well into the night. Linklater collaborated with Kim Krizan on a screenplay that would focus heavily on dialogue between a man and a woman who had just met, with their conversations realistically balanced between casual and deep as they get to know each other… and learn more about themselves in the process.
We begin on the train from Budapest, where a German couple’s increased bickering compels French student Céline (Julie Delpy) to change seats, fortuitously finding space near the young American tourist Jesse (Ethan Hawke), who was engrossed in his book until he spots his lovely new traveling companion. Jesse debates sparking a conversation until the arguing couple passes them and he finds his opening, asking—half out of curiosity, half to break the ice—”do you have any idea what they were arguing about?” She doesn’t, but she keeps their conversation going with a light but intriguing comment about how couples pretend not to hear each other as they age.
Their connection made, Jesse and Céline continue their first of many conversations, which threatens to be interrupted when the train stops at Vienna, where Jesse is scheduled to depart while Céline will continue riding to Paris. He impulsively asks her to join him:
All I know is, I have to catch an Austrian Airlines flight tomorrow morning at 9:30, and I don’t really have enough money for a hotel, so I was just gonna walk around, and it would be a lot more fun if you came with me. And if I turn out to be some kind of psycho, you know, you just get on the next train… think of it like this, jump ahead 10-20 years, okay? And you’re married, only your marriage doesn’t have that same energy that it used to have, you know? You start to blame your husband. You start to think about all those guys you met in your life and what might have happened if you picked up with one of them, right? Well, I’m one of those guys! That’s me! You know? So think of this as time travel, from then to now.
Ethan Hawke later explained to The Guardian that Jesse’s argument was developed during a “controlled improv” with Julie Delpy, who said Céline would only be impressed enough to get off the train by someone who demonstrated that he was funny and smart. “We finally came up with this idea that I was a time traveler,” Hawke said. “She was like, ‘Okay, that I would get off the train for.'”
Jesse and Céline make the most of their limited time and budget in Vienna, skipping the soon-to-be-closed museums and experimental plays about talking cows in favor of record stores, amusement parks, and graveyards, all the while discussing mortality and music, literature, love, and life.
What’d He Wear?
Before Sunrise is only the second of two total credits for costume designer Florentina Welley, who effectively dressed our two leads to reflect the fashions of the mid-’90s, as you’d expect of two attractive twentysomethings, while still incorporating a timeless quality—after all, what young man doesn’t own a simple gray T-shirt, pair of jeans, and cool leather jacket?
While on the train, Jesse cozily settles into a corner with his book while wearing a burgundy wool turtleneck. The ribbed roll-neck contrasts against the more smoothly knit body, which shows signs of being comfortably broken in with its pilled wool and tears along the shoulder seams.
After Jesse and Céline disembark in Vienna, Jesse presumably stashes the sweater in the train station locker with their bags, opting to roam the city in his T-shirt and leather jacket, occasionally removing the latter to keep cool in what IMDB reports was “one of the hottest summers in Austria” up to that point in time, with temperatures steadily near 90°F during the day.
Made from a soft, broken-in black leather, Jesse’s hip-length jacket appears to have once had a four-button front, with the lowest button totally gone and the second remaining brown woven leather button hanging by a thread. The ventless jacket has horizontal yokes across the chest and back, with a vertical seam extending down from the front yokes to the waist hem. The flapped side pockets slant gently toward the back. The cuffs are left plain, but the remnants of thread on each suggest that a single button once adorned each one.
Jesse’s base layer is a heathered gray cotton short-sleeved T-shirt, which he seems to alternate between wearing correctly and wearing inside-out, as evident by when the seams are exposed over the shoulders. Under the T-shirt’s standard crew-neck, Jesse wears a simple black leather-corded necklace.
Blue jeans are firmly rooted in American fashion, so it’s reasonable to see Jesse—the young American of meager means—wearing the same trusty Levi’s as he probably wears at home. Made from a light-blue washed denim, Jesse’s jeans have a roomy fit, classic five-pocket configuration and a button-fly that suggests the classic Levi’s 501® Original Fit. He wears them with a brown leather belt that closes through a squared silver-toned single-prong buckle.
Before Sunrise focuses on the power of conversing, so it’s significant to see our male protagonist strolling through the streets of Vienna in a pair of Converse sneakers, specifically the iconic high-top Chuck Taylor All Star model.
With the involvement of professional basketball star Charles Taylor, who had joined the company as a salesman and provided feedback about improving flexibility and ankle support, the Massachusetts-based Converse Rubber Shoe Company introduced its new basketball shoes in the early 1920s, capitalizing on the Taylor association with his signature on the ankle patch by way of endorsement. More than a century later, the shoe has maintained the same overall design with its contrast-stitched canvas “high-top” uppers and white rubber outsoles and toe cap. The shoes have eight sets of nickel-finished eyelets for the flat woven cotton laces, with the eyelets matching the two ventilation grommets on the inner side of each shoe.
Jesse’s Chucks follow the classic black-and-white colorway, with black cotton canvas uppers detailed with white contrast stitching that matches the laces and the rubber outsoles and toe cap, though the round white ankle patches echo the shoes’ red, white, and blue all-American origins with “CONVERSE” and “ALL STAR” in red text flanking a large blue five-pointed star that bisects Chuck Taylor’s blue-printed signature.
The long break of Jesse’s full-fitting jeans and the high tops of his sneakers cover his socks, though viewers hoping for more knowledge of his undergarments can catch a glimpse of his red tartan plaid boxer shorts as he and Céline move through the train on their way to the dining car.
What to Imbibe
“You think Old Milwaukee’s expensive here?” Jesse jokes with Céline after she offers to buy him a beer in the club. Based on the red-printed yellow labels on their green-bottled beers, they appear to be drinking Ottakringer, an Austrian beer established in Vienna in 1837.
After determining “no delusions, no projections, let’s just make tonight great,” the duo ducks into a local bar where Jesse talks an amiable bar owner into selling them a bottle of red wine—on credit—while Céline purloins a pair of used wine glasses from an unbussed table. We get a glimpse of the label, but I’m not well-versed enough in wines to determine any more detail than that!
How to Get the Look
Jesse tours Europe in a conspicuously American casual style, comprised of staples like a plain gray T-shirt, blue Levi’s, and black Converse sneakers and anchored by his well-traveled black leather jacket.
- Black leather hip-length jacket with four-button front, horizontal chest and back yokes, slanted flapped hip pockets, ventless back, and plain cuffs
- Burgundy turtleneck
- Gray heathered cotton crew-neck short-sleeve T-shirt
- Light blue denim Levi’s 501 Original Fit button-fly jeans
- Brown leather belt with squared silver-toned single-prong buckle
- Black-and-white Converse Chuck Taylor All Star high-top basketball sneakers with black cotton canvas uppers, white laces, and white rubber outsoles and toe caps
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie, the first installment in what would become the excellent “Before” Trilogy.
Before Sunrise evidently pulled some inspiration from James Joyce as well, following the example established in Ulysses of being set entirely in one city on June 16th, the same day that Joyce and his future wife Nora Barnacle met and is now celebrated by Joyce’s fans as “Bloomsday”.
I always think if I could just accept the fact that my life is supposed to be difficult… then I might not get so pissed off about it, and I’d just be glad when something nice happens.
Such a beautiful movie!!!! Ugh!!!,,,at the end when all of the spots they hung out at are shown in the early morning light…. So moving. I especially love peeping piano scene. Not totally sure how I feel about the the second and third but ya gotta respect them at least. Congratulations on your first married Valentine’s Day, it’s my third💪!