Baz Luhrmann‘s deafeningly-hyped interpretation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is many things. It’s excessive, it’s artificial and it is, indeed, visually arresting. And it’s a great study on a guy who works so tragically hard to acquire all the stuff – the house, the clothes, the cars, the parties, the fake friends – and still doesn’t get the girl. Money won’t save us, kids.
One of the most exciting things to look at in the film is undoubtably the clothes – on both the women and the men. Costume designer Catherine Martin and the team of hair and makeup artists must have been like kids in a candy store with a project that looked like the ultimate game of dress-up.
But unlike many other period films, the clothes in The Great Gatsby are actually quite wearable today (which explains the licensed and film-branded ‘The Great Gatsby Collection’ from Brooks Brothers). I’m no clothing historian, but I have seen some films and countless photos from the early 1920s. Ms. Martin seems to have remained reasonably faithful to the period while taking license with some modern twists, particularly with fit. I couldn’t help but notice the “Thom Browne Effect” on Tobey Maguire‘s trim thee-piece tweeds, for example. But the film does suggest the notion that modern men’s dress hasn’t changed all that much in the last century. Even much earlier, when Beau Brummell demonstrated restraint with a more sober mode of dress in the early 19th century, the modern dandy was born.
The suits, jackets, shirts, ties and hankies on the three male leads in Gatsby are exquisite, particularly on the “rich” characters Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton). From the moment Tom Buchanan shows up fresh off a horse in stunning, form-fitting polo wear to the moment we meet Jay Gatsby in a perfectly cut peak lapel tuxedo, and beyond, we are shown extraordinary detail in fabric, stitching and tailoring. The hankies and ties were beautifully chosen, too. These are men who give a good damn how they look, and they look great. Fabulous and restrained, without being gaudy.
I would put forth that The Great Gatsby might go down in film history as one of the great men’s (and women’s) style movies. Not since Marcello Mastroianni in La Dolce Vita has a movie star looked so good in a perfectly-cut ivory suit like the linen one worn by DiCaprio. Overall, there was a word that kept coming to mind as I observed the clothes in the film – a word that eludes a lot of popular men’s wear today. That word is glamour. Refined, masculine glamour. There’s a lot of it in The Great Gatsby, and it’s fun to see.