Throughout much of Wall Street (1987), Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko dresses as sharp as a tack, wearing perhaps two really great shirts: the renowned ‘Gekko shirt’ in blue with white contrast collars and cuffs and an appealing variation on the Gekko, a pink and white Vichy check – again with white collars and cuffs.
Both embody the corrupting authority of a 1980s power outfit: immaculate and comfortable, yet loud and in your face. Disrespectful. Douglas adopts the former signature look for his first big reveal as Gekko:
Med blue shirt with white contrast turn-down collar and white French cuffs. Two-tone blue narrow stripe braces.
It was costume designer Ellen Mirojnick who designed Gordon Gekko’s entire look, selecting Alan Flusser to tailor the suits and Alex Kabbaz to provide his distinctive, Tom Wolfe inspired shirts.
The Gekko shirt was a popular fad after Wall Street and remains so to this day for stylish city types and lovers of balls-out irony (Kevin Spacey wears one in A Time to Kill, 1994). Just by the by, does anyone think Gekko’s tie knot is too small for the spread collar? Looks like a Windsor might suit him better.
During the mid-section of the film Douglas wears a more playful variation on the Gekko. It is a dandyish look harking back to the origins of contrast collars/cuffs shirts in the 19th century:
Pink gingham shirt with white rounded pin collar and matching French cuffs. Gold tie chain. Dark grey and red ‘Brooks Brothers’ striped silk tie, black crush-folded silk handkerchief.
This is arguably the more chic masculine style, if not as identifiable as the ‘Wall Street look’. A plainer version recently popped up in the TV series Mad Men.
Notice the turn-back cuff on the jacket?
Gimmicky? Inspired? Neo-Edwardian? Perhaps all three. It is certainly a 1970s retro look for such a forward thinking character. Then again, Gekko is really just a City College boy done good; his style is influenced as much as it is influential.
In the context of the story, Morty Sills is acknowledged with making Gordon Gekko’s clothes, but it was Flusser who cut and fit the suits. Though, really, that instantly recognisable Gekko style was created solely by costume designer Ellen Mirojnick.
Charlie Sheen’s ambitious yet gullible trader Bud Fox begins the film dressed in muted suits and button-down shirts.
As his confidence and wealth grows; as he becomes the mini-Gekko he thinks he aspires to be, the red braces and horizontal stripe shirts come out. If truth be told they look even better on young Mr. Sheen than Michael Douglas.
Blood red and wide; these braces (or suspenders in the U.S.) are almost comically brash. Moreover one of Douglas’ later outfits in Wall Street is worthy of mention simply because it is so of its time regrettable:
Light blue four on two double breasted linen jacket with white buttons. Black short sleeved polo shirt with top button fastened. White loose fitting slacks.
This shocking ‘Casual Gekko’ get up makes him look somewhat like Don Johnson in Miami Vice. When Terrance Stamp’s Sir Larry Wildman strolls into the scene wearing a sharp Prince of Wales check single breasted jacket and white pocket square, he owns the room.
Gordon Gekko is suddenly reduced to the role of rich chump (despite his authority at this point in the story) while Wildman adopts a typically class orientated British arrogance. You cannot buy class either, as Gekko proves by dressing akin to a Rio nightclub owner.
Movies and television were highly influential on fashion during the 1980s. American Gigolo (1980) had Giorgio Armani’s flannel pants and deconstructed suits, 9½ Weeks (1986) had Kim Basinger in a tuxedo and black and white asymmetric jersey dress. The aforementioned Miami Vice TV show was probably the most influential of all.
Yet, just as it impossible to roll up your jacket sleeves without thinking of Johnson’s Crocket, you cannot wear stripes, contrast collars and cuffs nowadays without ‘doing a Gekko’. Ellen Mirojnick designed a look that not only defined Wall Street the movie, but also the place and a whole ethos too.
© 2010 – 2013, Christopher Laverty.