Tom Hardy as Ricki Tarr, disillusioned British spy
Paris, Spring 1974
Film: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Release Date: September 16, 2011
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Costume Designer: Jacqueline Durran
With increasingly warmer weather as spring continues through the Northern Hemisphere, I’m swapping out wool coats for windbreakers at the front of my closet. Of course, on some recent climatically chaotic days that start at temperatures around freezing and then rise to over 70°F by mid-afternoon with the occasional burst of rain, I often rely on smart layers to effectively dress for this unpredictable weather.
One of my favorite examples of smart casual layering that illustrates versatility for different weather and situations is the combination of a Harrington jacket over a light sweater and open-necked shirt. William Claxton had famously photographed his friend Steve McQueen dressed accordingly in 1964, and these headshots are still used to illustrate the enduring style of both the jacket and the King of Cool himself.
Decades after his death in 1980, McQueen remains a seminal style icon whose blend of practicality and toughness has influenced scores of men from stars to schlubs (like yours truly)… and a few movie spies, as well. McQueen’s legacy seemed particularly prevalent on silver screen espionage fashions beginning in the late 2000s as Daniel Craig’s James Bond fully embraced Harrington jackets, shawl-collar cardigans, and suede boots as particularly seen in Quantum of Solace, his 007’s action-packed sophomore adventure.
Three years later, costume designer Jacqueline Durran also saw McQueen as her muse when dressing a fellow British agent, the more grounded—and cynical—Ricki Tarr, as portrayed by Tom Hardy in Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation of the John le Carré novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
“We very much looked to that kind of ’60s Steve McQueen look for all of them,” Durran explained to GQ of Ricki Tarr’s costumes, first dressing Tarr in a Belstaff shearling coat often associated with McQueen before pulling together the lighter layers as seen in McQueen’s MGM headshot shoot with Claxton as the film approached its conclusion with Tarr in Paris, working to flush out an MI6 mole. Continue reading
Brad Pitt as Will Colbert, commodities broker
New York City, Thanksgiving 2001
Episode: “The One with the Rumor” (Episode 8.09)
Air Date: November 22, 2001
Director: Gary Halvorson
Creator: David Crane & Marta Kauffman
Costume Designer: Debra McGuire
Whether it’s Ross fighting his way out of a pair of shrinking leather pants or Joey layered like a snowman in his roommate Chandler’s clothing, Friends isn’t exactly the first series that comes to mind when thinking of stylish menswear. On the other hand, the show’s female cast—particularly Jennifer Aniston as the boutique-obsessed Rachel—was a major influence on fashion of the ’90s, whether that meant an enviable wardrobe or an iconic, era-defining haircut.
From the beginning, Friends was meant to depict that period in people’s lives where we build our own “family” of chosen friends, particularly when living away from home. The first season’s Thanksgiving episode found the six leads enjoying Turkey Day together, the first time for many without their family, echoing the “Friendsgiving” traditions that would emerge among real-life groups of friends shortly after the series ended.
Thanksgiving episodes became a tradition on Friends as well, with memorable moments like the impromptu men vs. women football match in the park, Chandler telling Monica he loved her… while she was dancing with a raw turkey on her head, and Rachel’s revolting trifle that also included the ingredients for shepherd’s pie thanks to a sticky cookbook.
And then there was The One with Brad Pitt. Continue reading
Steve McQueen as LT Ferguson “Fergie” Howard, enterprising U.S. Navy officer
Venice, Summer 1961
Film: The Honeymoon Machine
Release Date: August 23, 1961
Director: Richard Thorpe
Costume Designer: Helen Rose
To commemorate Steve McQueen’s birthday 91 years ago today, let’s take a look at how the King of Cool incorporated some of his personal style into one of his earliest—and least popular—movies.
Based on Lorenzo Semple Jr.’s 1959 play The Golden Fleecing, The Honeymoon Machine belongs to that unique sub-genre of ’60s farce that made light of Cold War paranoia and seemed to end up with everyone throwing punches (executed suitably in The Glass Bottom Boat, poorly in the 1967 Casino Royale.)
The role of the mischievously ambitious, Nietzsche-quoting naval lieutenant Fergie Howard was originally intended for Cary Grant, however the middle-aged actor was nearing his retirement and turned the job down. Rather than casting another screen vet of Grant’s age and standing, the production went in the opposite direction and brought on Steve McQueen for what would be his third top-billed movie after The Blob (1958) and The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery (1959).
The Honeymoon Machine turned a profit but McQueen considered it a dark mark on his career, reportedly walking out of the first public screening and vowing never to work for MGM again. Don’t worry, Steve… The Great Escape is only two years away! Continue reading
Ryan O’Neal as Oliver Barrett IV, preppy Harvard student
New England, Winter 1966, and New York City, Winter 1970
Film: Love Story
Release Date: December 16, 1970
Director: Arthur Hiller
Costume Design: Alice Manougian Martin & Pearl Somner
Happy Valentine’s Day! In the spirit of the season of romance, it felt appropriate to explore the preppy style in one of the most famous cinematic love stories of all time… the perhaps uncleverly titled Love Story.
I went into my inaugural Love Story viewing this year familiar only with Larry Siegel and Mort Drucker’s Mad magazine parody and the movie’s reviled thesis that “love means never having to say you’re sorry,” so I was a little surprised to find myself non-ironically enjoying it more than I expected. Sure, my friend @berkeley_breathes had primed me to expect some standout Ivy-inspired style worn by Ryan O’Neal as our romantic hero Oliver, but I guess the half-century since Love Story has yielded considerably cornier products with the odd effect that this aged… relatively well? Or maybe I’m just speaking from behind the blinders of my enduring crush on early ’70s Ali MacGraw. Continue reading
Brad Pitt as Gerry Lane, former United Nations investigator
Philadelphia, Fall 2012
Film: World War Z
Release Date: June 21, 2013
Director: Marc Forster
Costume Designer: Mayes C. Rubeo
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
As Halloween approaches and witches, vampires, and zombies prepare their annual big screen takeover, there’s still talk in the air of a sequel to World War Z, the 2013 thriller starring Brad Pitt as a former U.N. investigator tasked with saving his family – oh, and the world – during a viral outbreak that spawns a zombie apocalypse.
The film is loosely adapted from Max Brooks’ innovative novel, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, that employed a docudrama-style narrative as “collected” by a U.N. commissioner, measuring the geopolitical impact of the plague and its subsequent conflicts. In fact, it was the geopolitical themes that drew Brad Pitt to the idea of a film adaptation, though they were dropped during the transition to the big screen in favor of more traditional “zombie film” elements.
- Ray Milland as Tony Wendice, conniving former tennis pro
- Robert Cummings as Mark Halliday, romantic American crime writer
- Anthony Dawson as C.A. Swann, opportunistic con man
- John Williams as Chief Inspector Hubbard, clever Scotland Yard detective
London, Fall 1953 and Spring 1954
Film: Dial M for Murder
Release Date: May 29, 1954
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Wardrobe Credits: Moss Mabry & Jack Delaney
WARNING! Spoilers ahead! Continue reading
Mahershala Ali as Remy Danton, former White House Chief of Staff
Washington, DC, December 2015
Series: House of Cards
Episode: “Chapter 38” (Episode 3.12)
Streaming Date: February 27, 2015
Director: Robin Wright
Costume Designer: Johanna Argan
WARNING! Spoilers ahead! If you haven’t finished the third season yet, then:
a) Go and do it, and
b) You’re bad at Netflix.
Though Kevin Spacey receives much well-deserved praise for his power suits and performance as ruthless politician Francis Underwood, I always try to find a good guy to root for even in a shadowy world like House of Cards‘ D.C. While a few exist outside the political world, the only character who proves any definite altruism by the end of the third season is Remy Danton, the ex-lobbyist and now ex-Chief of Staff for the Underwood administration. Continue reading