Alan Partridge the movie, now entitled ‘Alpha Papa’, has a teaser trailer. And it is a teaser so don’t expect to see much costume, yet what we do see is magnificent. Casual red shirt, biscuit varsity jacket, brown leather belt and pale blue denim jeans; the jeans of which perhaps we see too much.
It cannot be overstated how vital costume design is to the character of Alan Partridge. We know Alan so well by what he wears, we recognise him in society. He is that guy in a salmon pink Gabacci polo shirt and maroon Greenwoods cords. It is a very specific style that may look thrown together but takes an age to compile. His v-neck sweaters, zipper jackets, rollnecks, cardigans, snug jeans, pastel shirts; patterns that clash and colours that bleed. However most important is his blazer, usually in jade green, mustard or plum, and emblazoned with breast pocket crest. No blazer, no Partridge.
Alan Partridge is inadvertently trapped in another era, adopting early what Alan Titchmarsh would probably have worn on BBC’s Pebble Mill during his heyday, i.e. early 1990s. We call it hideous, Partridge calls it smart casual, or ‘sports casual’ if he’s modelling for a fashion shoot. The regional aspect is important as this is not London style, Alan would detest that as obnoxious, but instead his beloved Norwich style. He would shop locally too, somewhere with cravats in the window, somewhere he would still refer to as a ‘gentleman’s outfitter’.
Steve Coogan has worked with several costume designers over the years but likely Alan’s sartorial blueprint was created by Coogan himself, co-creator Armando Iannucci and costume designer Marcia Stanton, as she is credited with Alan’s first solo appearances as a sports pundit on The Day Today (1994) and then as full-blown chat show host on Knowing Me Knowing You (’94). Stanton has collaborated with Coogan many times since the early nineties – including all the Coogan’s Run characters – though not since Saxondale in 2007. Alpha Papa’s costume designer is Julien Day whose credits were previously television heavy though now comprise the Mod Brighton Rock remake, Berberian Sound Studio and Ron Howard’s upcoming seventies set racing drama Rush starring Chris Hemsworth.
Ever the most ironic thing about Alan Partridge is that he enjoys clothes. He really likes fashion; he does not understand it, but he would love someone to glance his way and perhaps say to themselves, “That man has classic style, elegant and refined, like an ad for Cinzano or Aramis”. Thankfully Alpha Papa already looks like a GQ editorial waiting to happen. We really don’t see enough biscuit these days either.
Alpha Papa, aka Partridge the movie, is released on 16th August.
© 2013, Christopher Laverty.