“I want the world to evolve, yet you want it to stay the same. Let’s face it – I’ve made you redundant.”
– Me in Safincore talking to Esquire Man Ethan.
Despite being someone who openly does
cosplay cinematic dressing of menswear genres, I’m honestly pretty wary of getting inspiration from pop culture. Granted, I’ve gotten a few quirky ivy-prep ideas whenever I watch Wes Anderson or a get a touch of sobriety (and Barbour-ism) when I watched The Crown, but it doesn’t take me the same way menswear illustration or a typical #menswear lookbook does. Even my casual, designer fashion-inspired fits still are approximated with “regular” pieces of classic menswear. Those things feel more natural to me, because these are things that I already own and can wear on a daily basis.
In my opinion, that applicability to the “real world” (which is totally subjective and relative) is what separates outfits into being “regular” and a “costume”. That line can be thin, as the difference between my fits and something worn by a Wes Anderson character is quite small to the typical viewer. On the flip side, a Jedi’s Japanese-inspired robes or even the cyberpunk fashion in Blade Runner aren’t going to find their way into my wardrobe, even if I think they’re cool. Those styles are just not applicable to me, though my newfound appreciation of designer clothing (thanks to friends like Marco and Silvia) does close the gap a bit more.
Maybe that’s why I was so taken by Safin in No Time To Die.
As I said in that blog post, I found Safin’s attire so compelling. It wasn’t just from the film– as a Bond fan, I’ve follow leaks, production photos, and concept art, which means that I’ve been exposed to his look for a long time. Honestly it was torture each time the film delayed its release.
Safin’s look is fairly simple and revolves around a uniform of sorts. In his short scenes, he typically wears a 3/4 length kimono style coat, worn over some sort of military shirt-meets-tunic that buttons to the top like a roll neck (in two scenes he wears a ribbed vest version). For pants he has some sort of donegal or flecked pleated trousers that taper (or are tucked) into military boots. We don’t get too much of Safin’s backstory other than the fact that he is of mixed Asian descent and operates a poison factory as well as a small army; I guess his clothes do communicate that mix effectively.
I can’t explain completely why Safin’s attire was so compelling for me. It’s got a different appeal than just seeing a sharp suit in a 1930s screwball comedy or variations on Americana in a 70s thriller. Safin’s look is also just different than traditional tailoring and menswear, but not too far out there when compared to the styles of sci fi or fantasy films. Perhaps it’s the fact that he’s a Bond Villain, where the bad guy attire is definitely meant to look over-the-top while remaining a bit familiar. The reason why they are effective is because they could walk among us. As a result, Bond Villains typically wear dark suits or military/tactical clothing. A few do hint at Asian vibes most likely due to villainy (I also suspect a bit of Yellow Peril is to blame) with mandarin collar shirts/jackets.
Safin’s loose kimono and designer-adjacent approach remains in the same vein as old Bond Villain Attire, but it stands out by being less formal and traditional. Perhaps this is the effect of kimonos and tunics as they lack typical [Western] conventions like a lapel or point collar respectively. These garments garments feel familiar as they remind me of the handful of designers that do [loosely] inspire my take on menswear: Evan Kinori, Lemaire, Visvim, Sillaj, and Issey Miyake (maybe a bit of Engineered Garments and Monitaly). It’s not surprising that Japanese designs factor into my appreciation of Safin. After all, I’ve always admired kimono style jackets and this was my way in.
I knew I could confidently add it to my menswear toolbox of aesthetics. It would sit nicely along with Esquire Man, ivy-trad, and whatever core I’ve made up or adopted over the years.
Obviously Mr. Lyutsifer Safin is not the only example of the vibe I’m after. Looking across films (villains seem to be wear where it’s at) as well as designer lookbooks, you can find that “Safincore” has always existed. Cloaks, tunics, and robes abound usually in dark colors, worn with big pants (or even skirts). I wouldn’t consider the look avant garde or overly designer (Safincore is not being Rick Owens gothninja), but it includes elements of both in a way that feels accessible and menswear adjacent. There is also an artistic as well as an elegant or sophisticated attitude to it that prevents Safincore from being comfy home wear. I don’t even think slouchy is the right word. Dramatic seems to fit.
Dressing for dramatic effect might be a bit of a novel POV for me as it’s a different approach than dressing as a “character“. You guys know that slouch has been my go-to theme to describe my own approach to menswear that feels all encompassing. Drama is on a similar wavelength: it should feel natural and easy but it includes a bit of confidence and elegance. It’s also not super edgy and doesn’t have the sleazy appeal of Going Out Attire. This is about drama and elegance in an unconventional way. Safincore doesn’t rely on the tried and true menswear shortcut to drama: wide lapels. In fact, this doesn’t even seem to need lapels at all.
Overall, Safincore, this vague term for a vibe that doesn’t mean anything, seems to describe my “method” for getting dramatic within menswear. And to be clear, this is about combining this vibe with my existing taste in classic menswear, not about replacing my existing style. It’s more about adding it to my list of references that I use to create my daily character’s attire It’s fun to have an aesthetic that is “new” yet still makes sense with what I already wear. Though as you’ll read below, I did buy a few new things to get the specific execution I wanted.
Even though Safincore is a new aesthetic for me to dip into when dressing, it’s important to note that I had approached this theme before I was ever aware of the character. It’s proof that the interest was always there but I just lacked the proper inspiration to truly get what I wanted to look like. I did see what I’d consider hints of Safincore through the few designers I followed, all of which revolved around similar themes of combining a work/home-wear Japanese aesthetic with Americana. It was a bit novel (compared to typical casual fare of classic menswear) and had a slouchy vibe, but the outfits were certainly not dramatic. By that metric, it wasn’t Safincore. Good fits, but not exactly what I wanted even if I had Japanese-inspired garments.
Those who have followed me for a while know that I’ve had such garments in my wardrobe for a while: a jinbei set, a noragi with a fun print, and a haori top. The lack of a lapel and loose fit were fun to lean into as a slight departure from trad tailoring, but I’m sure you’d think that some of the outfits were lacking, at least in the drama department. I think that my choice of accompanying pieces was too safe, making the more interesting top feel tacked on and incoherent with the rest of the outfit. I’d also argue that short sleeves and a shorter length also reduce the amount of drama involved; Safin wore a coat length kimono jacket.
Don’t get me wrong– the fits were good but in retrospect, just not what I was after. It’s funny for me to say that, since I don’t think I was fully exposed to the character. It’s still important to note that I was searching for a way to incorporate non-trad tailoring pieces in a way that got me excited.
At some point, I just got better at it. Maybe I just needed time to get confidence in approximating the loose, dramatic effect of designer fashion with my existing wardrobe. Previous iterations leaned on “casual = workwear/milsurp” instead of truly combining the slouchy effect of tailoring in tie-less (or even dress shirt-less) attire. It could also be that I embraced wearing black and committed to the full legged pant.
All of these elements all came to a head right around when the film came out in November 2021 after so many delays. I remember putting together the above fit and finally being proud. I don’t think it was anything too radical, but I think you can all agree that I got down whatever Safincore was. I brought the drama.
The outfit was simple: it was my beloved jinbei top worn over a black sport shirt; the trousers came from my double breasted suit and the loafers were my black tassel loafers. Again, nothing too major but the styling of it really came together. I made up for the short sleeves of the jinbei by keeping the sleeves long on my sportshirt. I felt like an open shirt would make this too louche, so I also made sure to completely fasten the sport shirt collar; I think Safin was onto something with his turtleneck-shirt. Keeping the jinbei fastened also made for a nice visual that I think was lost in the “open” fits of the past. This idea of taking something closed up with something slouchy makes for an elegant and dramatic vibe that is at the core of whatever this look is.
It feels different without actually being different. I’m basically wearing it (and treating it) like I would a navy sportcoat, but the design of the garment makes all the difference. This makes the combination with other classic menswear pieces interesting and familiar all at the same time. Novelty, drama, and familiarity is what Safincore is about.
With these ideas unlocked, it made it easy for me to do more Safincore looks. I even made the jump and bought an actual kimono top made of hefty black silk. The drape and jacquard pattern made it such a cool piece, perhaps bringing in a evening wear-adjacent vibe that ensures the elegance dimension of Safincore. Wearing it with other black or dark pieces was a no brainer as well, though those things admittedly don’t take up a lot of my wardrobe. The lack of pockets also made the garment limiting as pocket-fisting is one of the things I love to do (and actively contributes to a relaxed appearance). And of course, the short sleeves were also hindrance. The best part about wizards, Jedi, and Safin was the long and roomy sleeves.
I’m sure you’re wondering why I never just purchased Visvim if I was so dead set on getting the right garment for Safincore. And as you can see, I eventually did.
As someone who prefers a tactile way of handling clothes (especially for purchase), its hard for me to commit to designer clothing. Some of the stuff I’d be interested in (like Visvim) isn’t easily available whether its due to a lack of a physical store or literally not personally knowing someone who wears this type of garment; I’m not going to purchase something intriguing on Grailed without some security. It was a chance Visvim sample show where I finally tried on Visvim’s big kimono style coats, complete with pockets, long length, and long sleeves. I figured out I was a size 2 and kept my eye on Grailed for ones that matched what I was after; I wanted something blue (for versatility) and it had to be LA weather appropriate.
Surprisingly, my search was quick. I ended up grabbing a Ruunpe coat (which refers to additional fabric cutouts applied to a garment) in a wool-silk-linen (how #menswear of me) for about $700, a steal when compared to Visvim’s retail prices as well as the typical going rate on Grailed. And as you can see it was a perfect fit, not just on my body but for the exact look I was going for. I could finally go full Safincore.
Obviously I’ve honed in the look for myself, mainly using dark rayon sportshirts and knitwear to approximate the tunic looks of Safin; it just doesn’t make sense to have an open collar shirt. Don’t get me wrong, I could definitely see myself wearing the Ruunpe kimono coat or any of my Japanese garments with open shirts, but its doesn’t feel too Safincore. I do challenge myself by wearing jaunty scarves as well as neckties to put a more #menswear spin on it and I think it does work. The long coat, the lack of a lapel, and big sleeves help the trad menswear looks lean into the drama. The Ruunpe kimono simply walks a fun line, replacing the overcoat and blazer while being neither.
Ultimately, Safincore is just meant to be a fun term to describe a vague look in my head. It’s a way for my inner cosplayer (or designer-skeptic) to embrace drama and over-the-top styling in a way that still feels familiar to my classic menswear roots. The look is just another POV for me to step into, allowing for a different “uniform” to add to my arsenal of characters that have distinct choices but still feel like Ethan. It even allows me more leeway to incorporate moves that perhaps wouldn’t make too much sense in my other traditional menswear-minded looks. Things like doing the air tie (which I always found odd), band collars (I used to like them but I never liked doing the 1920s workwear look), or slippers outside of black tie. Safincore is my gateway to more “fashion” adjacent styling, all with using what I already own.
Because of its drama and elegance, Safincore can come off like occasion wear (like going to the symphony) but don’t be surprised if you see me wear it on random days. As I’ve said before, my goal is to make these styling choices to feel normal and wearable on any day of the week. Who doesn’t want to look cool and dramatic on any given day?
So don’t be surprised if you see Safincore at the boba cafe– or at a Star Wars themed bar.
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