Finally crossing this movie off my list made me want to wear black tie (more) and wear a grey fedora.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m the worst menswear enthusiast when it comes to movies. I either haven’t seen the film or avoided it because it wasn’t period accurate. Both of those things were quite true for The Sting, which I’d always see screencaps and production stills pop up on my Tumblr dashboard. This was a period where I was very detail aware and thought that if I was going to do the 30s look, it would be as fully period as possible. As a result, I thought this movie was no better than The Great Gatsby, Gangster Squad, or even The Untouchables for its “modern day does period” take on clothing. The fact that everyone raved about it also put me off watching it. If I wanted to watch a movie for strictly inspo (which I seldom did), I’d just watch a true period film.
But I couldn’t stay away for long. Spencer is that friend who is always getting people to watch movies; he’s my resident film bro. And ever since I met him, he wouldn’t stop talking about how great The Sting was. While he did coincide that the 70s-does-30s is obvious and may be slightly off putting to those in the know, the film was actually really good. I told him I’d give it a chance and when it finally hit Netflix (or someone pointed it out that it was there), I decided to give it a watch. After all, I’ve been enjoying watching old movies and even period flicks even if the costuming isn’t 100% accurate. Shocker, I know! I’d also like to blame the grifting episode of Community; I could now fully understand all the references.
To no one’s surprise, I really enjoyed the movie. It’s charismatic (Redford and Newman, duh) and incredibly entertaining. Makes me want to watch more buddy movies, especially with Redford and Newman. I can’t actually remember the last time we had one of these that wasn’t just the Rock and Kevin Hart! Hell, when have we had a good heist or grift movie?
Obviously, the costuming is really well done. I’ve definitely grown up in the past 8-10 years where I can fully appreciate a film’s period costuming merits. Not every film is good at it, but it’s nice to get kudos where it’s due; The Sting (mainly Edith Head) really deserves it here. The film is indeed very 1970s but they do their best to get the looks to feel as accurate as possible. It probably helps that 70s menswear already makes nods to the 30s! You’d be hard pressed to do this today with contemporary brands that aren’t Ralph Lauren).
You’ll see a lot of SB peak lapel suits which were quite en vogue in the 1930s. There’s also triple pattern mixing a la Esquire Man with striped shirts, geometric ties, and plaid jackets. We get nice wing collars and sharp tuxedos. Everyone gets a big coat and hat. There’s even some small 30s details that you seldom see, like jacquard or microprint shirts, a few homburgs, and a beltless polo coat. You’ve also got to hand it to them for pushing a few boundaries especially with black tie, namely with the two protagonists wearing fedoras and non-chesterfields with their tuxedos (something Spencer did for Jay’s black tie birthday). The 70s nods will be apparent if you’ve got a keen menswear eye for cut and other obscure details, but if you squint, it more than passes muster.
Overall, the film does a fantastic job at giving everyone a distinct look that is both period and classic. I don’t blame #menswear spamming my feed with photos of Redford in a newsboy cap or Newman in a nice fedora, as those moves are timeless. I’ve even been inspired: I want a wing collar tux shirt, a grey fedora, and even a few pinstripe suits. Only time will tell if I follow through on these potential purchases, but granted I’ve always wanted those garments— The Sting just reinvigorated that desire.
If you want a more in depth look at the film’s clothing, I suggest reading BAMF’s archives. Nick is the best person to go to for film fashion analysis and we can only hope to add to his already fantastic coverage of The Sting. That being said, all we have is our comments on the photos below and a fun bonus podcast about our experience watching the film (first time for MJ and I, who knows what number for Spencer).
You can listen to the first 15 minutes of the bonus pod below, but you’ll have to subscribe on Patreon to get the RSS feed of the full episode (as well as access to our Discord).
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EthanMWong | StyleandDirection
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It’s such a great movie that one overlooks the relatively innocent costuming inaccuracies.
A couple of historical points:
1) There is certainly period precedent for wearing less formal overcoats (even trench cats) with black tie.
2) Equally, “Kid” is dressed more in 20s style precisely because he is (or performing) a very formal, old-school chap, a bit like someone nowadays wearing a suit and tie.