My Favorite Articles of Men’s Clothing From Cinema (Non-Science Fiction).
- Brad Pitt’s Red Pants (Fight Club, 1999)
We know very few things about Tyler Durden. He fights, he fucks, he’s funny, and he looks fantastic (even when his face has been slightly rearranged by some waiter/cage-fighter in a basement the night before). True, Durden might be entirely a figment of Edward Norton’s imagination (I would say Spoiler Alert but it’s been 2 decades) but as someone continually raging hard against the appearance-obsessed capitalist machine he rocks the kind of stylishness that sprouts naturally from truly not giving a damn about what people think of you…and from having Brad Pitt’s bone structure. It’s sad that even 20 years on it’s still somewhat daring for a man to wear red trousers…especially while occupying a leadership position in a crypto-fascist terrorist organization…but their crimson color also means that the frequent bloodstains they’re soiled with are well hidden. That makes these both a bold AND a sensible choice that will hopefully inspire frustrated Nietzsche reading freshman boys to expand their sartorial horizons for decades to come.
2. Gary Oldman’s Tinted Sunglasses (Bram Stoker’s Dracula, 1992)
He may have been a lovelorn & accursed acolyte of Satan who’d been dead for 500 years but as portrayed by Gary Oldman in 1992 Vlad Dracula was smooth AF. This is true even in the scenes where he looked like a exsanguinated ballsack wearing a parliamentary wig but it’s most palpable when he shows up in the slickest gray suit you’ve ever seen with a matching Abe Lincoln stovepipe hat and absolutely *luscious* curled locks. The only thing breaking up the tasteful monochrome ensemble are the deep blue steampunk spectacles he peers over. These are kinds of glasses that would make you want to punch a Tisch School freshman but somehow Oldman is able to style them with Transylvanian swagger. It’s a shame he’s kinda racist now but I’ll honor him for this and his roles in “The Professional” and “The Fifth Element” until the end of time.
3. Cuba Gooding Jr.’s Cookout Shirt (Boyz n The Hood, 1991)
You need to be one confident motherfucker to pull this look off, even in an early 90s South Central milieu of cross colors and oversized everything. Most guys lack the verve to even *want* to wear canary yellow, let alone the assuredness necessary to pull it off. The puffed sleeves, the black circle patch that looks both random and as if it was cosmically meant to be. Also I’m 95% convinced this design was inspired by Densie Huxtable’s iconic failed attempt to recreate a designer Gordon Gartrell shirt for her brother Theo. The addition of the beaded necklace is also a bold move that makes everything really pop.
4. Michael Douglas’ Green Sweater (Basic Instinct, 1992)
This might be the coolest article of 90s cinematic menswear that could also be copped easily at Nordstrom Rack. It’s not something I’d ever wear myself, but I’m not a white mid-40s Los Angeles police detective in 1992 and Michael Douglas totally pulls it off.
Bravery, I think, is the essential quality here. It’s brave for any man nearing 50 to rock bold-colored knitwear with a plunging v-neck, it’s brave to wear a sweater to a hot & packed nightclub without the safety net of an undershirt (pit stain much?), and it’s brave to do either of those wings while contemplating an affair with a mystery woman who you’re 95% sure murdered her most recent lover with an ice pick. In fact you *shouldn’t* wear this sweater if you don’t think you have at least a credible 25% chance of dying on a given night. It’s that middle finger (and exposed chest) thrown in the face of the Grim Reaper that gives this jumper most of its swag.
5. Ryan Gosling’s Scorpion Jacket (Drive, 2011)
OK this choice is basic as all Hell, I know it. Gosling delivers the goods in his performance as a comically taciturn stunt/getaway driver who gets into a one-man war with a low-level mob crew — but his arachnid jacket is practically the movie’s co-lead. Like a lot of utterly un-tough dudes I actually contemplated buying this while daydreaming of how hot & dangerous I’d look with it on. THANK GOD I actually saw a dude rocking one of these out in the wild while in the audience at a comedy show before I pulled the trigger on the purchase.
Before then I had thought it would make me look a man who would never flinch in a barroom stare-down, a guy who could carry a pack of cigarettes rolled in the shoulder of his t-shirt without looking like an idiot, a guy who actually knew how to drive a car with a stick shift…but the man I saw looked like a mid-40s divorcee who was trying way too hard to impress the gymnastics mom from cooking class that he’d asked out that night. I stared into the abyss, the abyss stared back, the abyss saved me $59.99 and a lame Halloween costume for the next 5 years.
6. Sylvester Stallone’s Sheepskin Jacket (Rocky IV, 1985)
I’ve never trained for a boxing match but I think a lot more people would do it on the regular if it meant you got to literally run up a mountain while dressed like a Milan runway model who’s taken a side gig as an extra in a Hollywood ‘50s period piece set at “the docks”. The boots and the nearly all-black color scheme accomplish a lot here but the anchor is the jacket without doubt. Rocky Balboa may have pugilistically defeated Soviet Communism in the ring against Ivan Drago, but he won the culture war by parading around the Russian countryside in shining example of the wardrobe wonders available on the free market.
7. Bruce Lee’s Yellow Bodysuit (Game of Death, 1978)
To dress is human, to accessorize is divine. To accessorize a tiger yellow one-piece tracksuit with matching nunchaku as you kick ass up three levels of a pagoda with a tougher video game boss martial artist waiting for you on each floor is the definition of style. The main cons of this outfit are the need to get help with the zipper every time you want to take it on or off, having to get damn near naked to shit, and the fact that it leaves exceedingly little to the imagination in the crotch. Pros include flexibility and every single opponet you’ll ever face not taking you seriously in this getup, thus giving you an advantage when the full extent of your martial arts skill is revealed. Also, Bruce Lee’s shoes match the suit and nunchuks as well. There’s a reason this has been so frequently imitated.
8. Gene Wilder’s Purple Coat (Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, 1971)
Imagine my surprise when I found out that Wonka’s knee length purple velvet coat was inspired by Super Fly, but no, the blaxploitation classic came out more than a year after Gene Wilder’s most iconic film. He lives in near total seclusion inside of a factory, he has a private watercraft that he uses to take children on terror-inducing psychedelic speed runs, and he runs an inter-state candy bar based lottery system right under the nose of every state and federal coming comission sothis coat is only like the 10th most bold thing he’s got going on at any given day but damn if it isn’t drippy. Did that German kid who got sucked up the chocolate tube die? Maybe. Are the Oompa Loompas slaves? Seems likely. But you’d still call Willy Wonka “Chocolate” if he asked you to while wearing this piece and that’s gotta count for something,