La Piscine: Alain Delon’s Ivory Open-Knit Sweater and Lee Jeans

Alain Delon in La Piscine (1969)


Alain Delon as Jean-Paul Leroy, moody ad agency writer

French Riviera, Summer 1968

Film: The Swimming Pool
(French title: La Piscine)
Release Date: January 3, 1969
Director: Jacques Deray
Costume Designer: André Courrèges

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!


Happy birthday to French screen and style icon Alain Delon, born November 8, 1935. One of Delon’s most popular films is the steamy 1969 thriller La Piscine, which reunited him on screen with former partner Romy Schneider.

La Piscine (released in English as The Swimming Pool) centers around the dangerous passion and possessiveness between four people spending their summer vacations at the same Côte d’Azur villa. Though their real-life relationship had been over for years, Delon and Schneider portray the romantically involved Jean-Paul and Marianne, currently struggling through their own tension when Marianne’s ex, the gregarious Harry (Maurice Ronet) arrives with his 18-year-old daughter Penelope (Jane Birkin).

A recovering alcoholic, Jean-Paul doesn’t appreciate Harry’s taunts or temptations, though he arguably gives in to the latter during a day spent in solitude by the sea with Penelope. Jean-Paul and Penelope return from the beach in time for a Chinese dinner prepared by Harry and Marianne. The detached Pen goes to bed early, followed shortly by the shifty Harry telling Marianne he’ll be leaving the next day on his way out the door.

Alain Delon, Romy Schneider, and Maurice Ronet in La Piscine (1968)

Jean-Paul, Marianne, and Harry during a tense dinner.

Once they’re alone, Marianne tells Jean-Paul that he’s “completely free,” elaborating that he can go upstairs—presumably to Pen’s bed—and that, as a Pisces sun with Aquarius rising, “you were born to be loved, but you don’t realize it.” (In real life, Delon was a Scorpio—a sign that would be more prominent to his character four years later in the 1973 action thriller Scorpio, starring opposite fellow Scorpio Burt Lancaster.)

As Jean-Paul drinks in solitude later that night, a drunk and distressed Harry crashes his Maserati through the gate and needles Jean-Paul as a “pathetic bastard” for his drinking and flirtation with Penelope. Harry’s insults culminate in him taking a clumsy swing at Jean-Paul that lands him in the pool. Darkened by the events of the evening, Jean-Paul sabotages Harry’s attempts to get out of the pool and even pushes Harry’s head under the water, drowning him and deepening Maurice Ronet’s 0-2 score when it comes to Alain Delon and secluded water scenes.

What’d He Wear?

Jean-Paul sits down for dinner in an ivory open-knitted sweater, its loose fit making him look especially relaxed when compared to Harry’s white voile shirt clinging to his midsection. The sweater shows signs of being a much-worn staple from Jean-Paul’s wardrobe, with its occasional pilling and fraying. The round crew-neck is edged with an olive band that matches the olive rings placed about a half-inch from the edges of the cuffs and waist hem.

Crafted with stitches spaced far enough apart to reveal the layer (or lack thereof) beneath it, the open-knit design allows airflow and breathability that make it a comfortable layer for evenings in the otherwise warm atmosphere of, say, summer in the French Riviera. Depending on the knitting patterns and yarns used, open-knit sweaters can range from delicate and lacy to chunky and rustic—the latter looking insouciant and masculine as modeled by Delon’s Jean-Paul.

Alain Delon in La Piscine (1968)

Jean-Paul smartly layers the bulky sweater over a fitted black T-shirt, its wide-ribbed fabric clinging tightly to Delon’s frame and thus not competing with the sweater’s heft. The shirt has short “muscle” sleeves that just cover Delon’s shoulders and a tall crew-neck opening that stands above the sweater’s neck.

He tucks the T-shirt into his regular blue denim Lee 101 Rider jeans, identifiably by the “lazy S” stitch across the back pockets and the yellow-lettered black logo tag stitched along the top of the back-right pocket. Though the Kansas-based Lee had introduced their 101-branded 9-oz. denim “Cowboy Waist Overalls” in the mid-1920s, it wasn’t until two decades later in 1946 when they modernized these as the five-pocket 101 Rider style—with its signature “lazy S”—as worn by scores of style icons through the decades to follow, including Alain Delon in La Piscine.

Jean-Paul holds up the jeans with his usual wide and well-worn black leather belt, which closes through a tall brass double-prong buckle with matching brass eyelets.

Alain Delon in La Piscine (1968)

Whether wearing denim or swim trunks, Jean-Paul’s usual shoes around the villa are black leather jute-soled espadrilles—always appropriately worn without socks. Though uppers can be made in a range of fabrics from cotton to leather, the rope-like jute outsoles are the defining characteristic of these classic, lightweight summer shoes.

Alain Delon in La Piscine (1968)

Jean-Paul wears a handsome stainless steel watch with a round silver dial on a steel five-piece link bracelet.

A watch enthusiast in real life, Delon had amassed at least one hundred luxury watches from Breitling, Cartier, Rolex, and more prestigious brands over the course of his career, eventually even releasing a collection branded with his own name. On screen, he wore two different Baume & Mercier watches (in Le Samouraï and Big Guns) and an Audemars-Piguet (in Comme un boomerang), though I’m not certain what brand we’re seeing in La Piscine, which was released during this same timeframe.

For what it’s worth, he does explain to Inspector Lévêque (Paul Crauchet) that it’s waterproof, which would surely have been reassuring after he soaks it while holding Harry underwater.

Alain Delon in La Piscine (1968)

What to Imbibe

Though he’d given up drinking, the circumstances of the evening—and their holiday as aw hole—send Jean-Paul back to the bottle as he drowns his sorrows in Johnnie Walker Red Label. He drinks dram after dram, poured neat into a highball glass and not letting one empty bottle stop him from cracking open another.

Alain Delon in La Piscine (1968)

Made from a blend of young and mature whiskies, Red Label is considered Johnnie Walker’s entry-level Scotch, often popular for mixing in cocktails or highballs, though Jean-Paul needs it straight.

How to Get the Look

Alain Delon in La Piscine (1969)

A sweater in the summer? In the ’69 scorcher La Piscine, Alain Delon models how to effectively stay cozy while avoiding overheating by layering his light open-knit sweater with typical warm-weather gear like a T-shirt, espadrilles, and jeans.

  • Ivory open-knit long-sleeved sweater with olive-banded crew-neck, cuffs, and hem
  • Black wide-ribbed crew-neck short-sleeved T-shirt
  • Blue denim Lee 101 Rider five-pocket jeans
  • Wide black leather belt with brass double-prong buckle and grommets
  • Black leather jute-soled espadrilles
  • Steel wristwatch with round silver dial on steel bracelet

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Check out the movie, remastered for a new Criterion Collection release this summer and also now streaming on the Criterion Channel!

The Quote

Some days, I get so sick and tired… I just want out.

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