I Finally Watched The Sting (1973)

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).

We first see Hooker in separates and a trademarked flat cap. The microcheck DB is a cool and reminds me of one my first Indochino purchases.
Before blowing his stolen cash on a misplaced roulette bet, he does get a new suit: a peak lapel SB in a bold chalkstripe.
His printed tie stripe+paisley tie is quite 70s, but it’s clearly trying to be reminiscent of early 30s brocade ties.
The pants are slightly flared, but that was the case for “cool” 30s suits aimed at the youth.
The 1970s did model themselves after the 30s after all. Probably made the costuming easier to do!

Hooker’s pale blue shirt has a micro pattern, which was also a 1930s trend (as well as a 1970s one).
Just see the shirts on the right!
He wears peak lapel SBs the rest of the film.
Even if the shirt collars are pretty 70s (there isn’t as much taper as a true spearpoint), the costumers still made it detachable! Super cool!
I should’ve added this to my grey suit blog post.
I like that the costumers keep him in the same suits but swap out the shirts and ties.
Husbands would be into this I think.
Gondorff wears a lot of fedoras and ribbed tanks when he’s gambling or planning.
It is a look, but probably not one to wear outside!
Of course, the grift master later shows that he can be an impeccable dresser. His Esquire Man-esque look contrasts against Hooker’s bolder outfits earlier in the film.
As they develop the con, Hooker starts to mellow out. Maybe this is due to Gondorff’s influence!
Look at how wide and thick these ties are! That’s pretty 70s.
Now enjoy some 30s SB peaks!
The black tie is extremely well done. Makes me want to get dressed up for no reason!
Great move to wear wing collars. Bad move for pre-tied bowties.
Hooker wears a peak lapel tux.
The movie has some fun moves with black tie, like wearing a fedora with a tux.
Or a brown herringbone overcoat.
Hooker uses a DB trench.

Polo coats are good with tuxes!
Lonnegan is almost always in a wide lapeled, pinstripe DB rolled down to the one. He also has a fondness for tie pins.
His suit is actually a pretty good repro of a few 30s DBs.

This 30s DB also has a higher gorge, but the buttons are just a tad wider.
Like Hooker, Lonnegan wears geometric print shirts. Also note that his enforcer in the grey fedora also wears DBs, though his are 6×1 (not rolled).
Lonnegan’s other man wears a brown SB suit. Note the slimmer and slightly flared leg.
A nice tonal shirt and tie combo that works well with the grey suit.
Lonnegan gets to wear a cool buttonless belted polo coat. This was a fun fad in the 70s as well as the 30s.

Nothing says rich guy like a jacquard dressing gown, ascot, and stick pin.
There’s also one golf look.
Lonnegan is a bit of an Esquire Man.
Lonnegan also wears homburgs.

Luther wears a cool striped suit, but his tie is definitely more late 40s and 50s than 30s. You’ll notice that this tie has a narrower knot and slimmer length compared to the rest of the 70s ties.
Luther’s suit immediately reminded me of this old photograph.
Lonnegan’s drop guy wears a houndstooth suit with a peak lapel. He definitely is meant to be well-to-do not just by the suit but by his two tone shoes.
He also wears a 40s/50s tie which again has a narrower knot.
Look at that shirt: stripes and geoemetrics!
Snyder gets in on the Esquire Man action with a striped shirt and small geometric print tie.
We don’t see much of the Gloved Bodyguard, but he looks nice too. Everyone looks nice and they’re all wearing suits!
Even the guy who sells the space to Kid Twist gets a great fit off.
Kid Twist himself is an incredibly dresser. He wears a dove grey suit, matching grey homburg, stiff collared shirt, and a narrow polka dot tie with a tie pin. Very fancy!
With this look, he ends up looking a bit more seasoned than Gondorff. While not uncommon in the 30s, the overall vibes feel more late 1910s or 1920s.

Kid Twist gets more contemporary (and trad at that) when he’s in disguise as a Western Union guy.
Like I said, everyone looks great, even bit parts.

Seemed like they had a fun time making this movie!

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 EthanMWong | StyleandDirection

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  1. JJ Katz · January 31

    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.


  2. Pingback: The Terrible Menswear In Live By Night (2016) | a little bit of rest

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