Kevin Costner as Eliot Ness, honest and intrepid federal agent
Canadian border, September 1930
Film: The Untouchables
Release Date: June 3, 1987
Director: Brian De Palma
Costume Designer: Marilyn Vance
Wardrobe: Giorgio Armani
Eliot Ness joins the other “untouchables” on an action-packed mission to the Canadian border following a tip that Al Capone would be importing a shipment of booze. With the help of the Mounties who aren’t yet versed in “the Chicago way”, Ness and his band of three are able to successfully halt the shipment and get their hands on a nervous informant who’s willing to talk… once he stops “muckin’ with the G here,” of course.
The mission comes at the expense of Ness having to take a life in the line of duty. Following some counseling from his cop buddy Jim Malone (“He’s as dead as Julius Caesar… would you rather it was you?”), Ness is able to absolve himself of his guilt and returns home to discover that his wife has given birth to their son. Continue reading
Michael Douglas as Nick Curran, suspended homicide detective
San Francisco, April 1991
Film: Basic Instinct
Release Date: March 20, 1992
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Costume Designer: Ellen Mirojnick
The nylon bomber jacket has made a comeback in recent years with few knowing the story of its all-too appropriate name, developed as the “MA-1” in the 1950s for American bomber pilots to replace the older B-15 flight jacket. Two decades later, the bomber jacket hit the civilian market with manufacturers like Alpha Industries introducing it to new audiences in colors other than the standard military olive drab. It was further popularized in TV and movies, including the almost ubiquitous appearance of an Alpha Industries MA-1 worn by Steve McQueen in The Hunter (1980).
Though the MA-1 bomber jacket was being phased out of active military use by the early ’90s, it still remained a staple of men’s casual wear and was a fitting choice as the go-to off-duty jacket worn by Michael Douglas’ fashionably tailored homicide detective Nick Curran in Basic Instinct. Continue reading
James Stewart as John “Scottie” Ferguson, former San Francisco detective
San Francisco, Fall 1957
Release Date: May 9, 1958
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Costume Designer: Edith Head
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
San Francisco has always been a popular setting for detective movies. From 1940s film noir like The Maltese Falcon through the gritty ’60s and ’70s era with movies like Bullitt, Dirty Harry, and McQ, Hollywood has made the most of its picturesque neighbor to the distant north.
Though Alfred Hitchcock had filmed in the Bay area before, Vertigo was his first cinematic effort actually set in San Francisco and he makes the most of his setting. Continue reading
Steve McQueen as Eric “the Kid” Stoner, hotshot poker player
New Orleans, Fall 1936
Film: The Cincinnati Kid
Release Date: October 15, 1965
Director: Norman Jewison
Costume Designer: Donfeld (Donald Lee Feld)
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
“King of Cool” Steve McQueen could also be called the king of the cardigan, considering his role in re-establishing the sweater as a functional and fashionable garment for young rebels rather than as the staid staple of TV dads like Ward Cleaver.
Both on and off screen, the shawl collar cardigan was a McQueen favorite. Continue reading
Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank Abagnale, Jr., teenage con artist
Atlanta, Summer 1965
Film: Catch Me If You Can
Release Date: December 25, 2002
Director: Steven Spielberg
Costume Designer: Mary Zophres
Having made a fortune from passing his forged checks posing as a Pan Am pilot, 17-year-old Frank Abagnale Jr. is living the high life, hosting a fondue party in his swanky Atlanta condo full of era-specific goodies like The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” on the Hi-Fi and Nesbitt’s soda in the hand of every giggling go-go dancer present.
What’d He Wear?
Christ, Terry! This is Italian knit!
Jon Hamm as Don Draper, mysterious ad exec and suburban dad
Ossining, New York, July 1963
Series: Mad Men
Episode: “Seven Twenty Three” (Episode 3.07)
Air Date: September 27, 2009
Director: Daisy von Scherler Mayer
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant
“Why can’t you stare into the eclipse? I mean, what’s it gonna do, really? I stare at the sun every day,” wonders Carlton Hanson (Kristoffer Polaha), the philandering husband in Don and Betty Draper’s suburban social set.
After a few dismissive seconds staring through his sunglasses, Don merely responds by asking “You stare at the sun every day?”
Jean Dujardin as Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, suave French agent OSS 117
Cairo, Spring 1955
Film: OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies
(French title: OSS 117: Le Caire, nid d’espions)
Release Date: April 19, 2006
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Costume Designer: Charlotte David
Tailor: Joseph Kergoat
Our debonair protagonist spends most of OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies in one tailored suit or the other, but he briefly dressed down for an adventure in the desert, sporting a black long-sleeve polo shirt reminiscent of Sean Connery’s preferred covert casual wear in James Bond films like Goldfinger and Thunderball. Continue reading