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With only 4 weeks left until the release of the five-months-delayed movie starring Michael Douglas and Shia LaBeouf (pronounced "shy-uh la-buff," by the way), it's time for a peek at what the film's stars will be wearing once it hits screens on September 24th.

But first, I'd like to suggest that you take a look at this excellent post at Clothes On Film for a refresher on the style of the original Wall Street. Remember the eighties: contrast collars, big suspenders, big pleats. And more importantly, remember the difference between Gordon Gekko and Bud Fox. As the linked post points out, Fox starts the movie as a very plain, conservative, Brooks-Brothers-type dresser. As he enters more fully into Gekko's world, he begins to emulate Gekko's flashier manner of dress, particularly with regard to accessories.

So too in the sequel we can see the contrast between Gekko and his new protégé, Jacob Moore. But here, the positions are reversed: Gekko is conservative and dresses like "old money," while Moore is contemporary and dresses like "new money." Just take a closer look at the movie poster up there. Gekko: three-piece suit, bengal stripe shirt, simple dotted tie, pocketwatch. Moore: single-breasted peak-lapel (SBPL) suit, white shirt, Hermès tie.

This nearly seems to be Moore's uniform, at least while he's wearing a suit. Always a SBPL suit, always a white shirt, almost always an Hermès tie. He also favours narrow trouser legs hemmed short with substantial cuffs, and appears to wear nothing but Gucci horsebit loafers with every outfit, including casualwear. And don't forget that white linen pocket square, with its artfully scalloped peaks. Much of Moore's clothing is extremely trendy, particularly the SBPL suits with the narrow legs and the cuffs. His wardrobe selections seem to have been made to reflect the Wall Street trader stereotype, the guy who buys new clothes constantly, ensuring that his wardrobe is both of-the-moment and certain to become dated. I don't want to speculate too much on what Moore's clothes mean for his character's identity without having seen the film. But I think it's worth asking whether he's dressing this way because he feels these clothes really belong to him, or whether he's trying to fit into a world where he doesn't quite feel he belongs. The $38,800 watch he apparently wears has to make you wonder a little bit about insecurity.

Gekko, by contrast, wears many more conservative pieces this time out. You might call it the "rich old white guy" look. In the HD trailer, for example, the sharp-eyed observer will spot a Canali label inside one of Gekko's jackets, a very traditionally-styled (and high-quality) line. And when Gekko walks side-by-side with Moore, the contrast becomes even more apparent: Gekko's jackets have a more conventional, slightly longer, length, with lapels of moderate width (generally notch, not peak), paired with shirts and ties of relatively muted colours and patterns. The pants are plain-hemmed, not cuffed, and fall to a normal length, while the shoes are understated lace-ups.

Gekko's wardrobe still has elements of pizzaz, of course, but they're subtler, and they seem to come out more strongly in his suits than his casual clothes. Photographed for Vanity Fair, he wears a three-piece suit with an unusual double-breasted vest, with even more unusually slanted rows of buttons. In the other photo for Vanity Fair and at right, he wears a chalk-stripe suit (with purple stripes!), purple large-foulard tie, and purple pocket square. The shirt, with its simple striping, anchors everything down and prevents it from becoming totally ludicrous (although I have to wonder whether outfits like this might be regarded in decades to come with just as much bemusement and curiosity as Gekko's eighties trainwrecks originals are today). We even see flashes of flair in suitings: right at the end of the trailer, Gekko is wearing a black suit with a strong but unidentifiable textured fabric. Essentially, Gekko tends to be conservative in the fit and cut of his suits, but brings in more contemporary (and ostentatious) elements in the choices of fabrics and accessories.

Maybe it's just because Gekko's personality is already a known quantity from the first Wall Street, but I think there can't be a doubt in anyone's mind that he absolutely owns his clothes. He takes what's already inside him and projects it outward, making his clothes match his inner self, expressing himself through his clothes. And, though he's saying it in different ways, he's saying the same thing in both movies: "I am in your face and I am bigger than you and I will destroy you if you cross me." But there's also the element of comfort there, the sense of being at home in his clothes.

The question I have about Moore is whether he's doing just the opposite of Gekko: putting clothes on on the outside, and then hoping that they can change what's on the inside. I don't get a sense of personalization from Moore's clothes; it seems like he could be thinking "this is what a trader wears and I need to look like a trader so I need to wear these clothes." It doesn't seem like it could be his personal uniform, so much as it's the uniform of an occupation that he happens to hold at the time. They're someone else's clothes, essentially. I'm interested to see whether this bears out in the plot of the movie itself.

I'd like to close by saying how amused I am that, where the filmmakers decided to ditch Gekko's classic slicked-back hairstyle, they appear to have replaced it with that of another infamous figure in the financial world: Bernie Madoff.

Left, Bernie Madoff; right, Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko.
(Or, at least, what Madoff would have looked like if he had as much hair left as Michael Douglas does.)

4 comments

4salcia said... @ August 28, 2010 at 12:41 PM

How many times did you have to repeat the trailer before you caught the Canali label? ;)

Actually I really enjoyed reading this. I think you should reflect on fashion in film more often - costume designers make specific fashion choices to say something about the characters, and it often seems to get overlooked. The characters' psychology as expressed in fashion is fascinating!

Anonymous said... @ March 30, 2011 at 1:58 PM

Real fine critique of Gekko style. I agree with your statement that Gekko/Douglas seems to "own" his clothes---whereas Lebouf seems to be "renting" his. Interesting look into fashion-deeper than I had ever considered. Congratulations on some fine observation. I will admit to being swayed by the Gekko look from 87 to the present day---and I am Douglas age.

Anonymous said... @ May 6, 2011 at 8:02 AM

This is a real good read, thanks a lot for this!

AJ Basu said... @ August 11, 2015 at 10:59 AM

Some fine, astute observations!

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