After reviewing the menswear in the The Sting, I said that I wanted to appreciate movie costuming on its own merit. Film wardrobes aren’t made to be a perfect lift from a period; it is still an art form that expresses the view of the costume designer and the filmmakers as a whole. We can still judge a movie’s costuming accuracy to the period it’s after but it obviously shouldn’t be the only thing we look at. Above all else, it should still be good.
Andthe prohibition menswear in Live By Night (2016) is neither accurate nor good.
Dec 2016 was an interesting time for me. I was nearing completion of my MBA with a focus in marketing (done because I couldn’t find a marketing job with my accounting degree). The blog was about to turn three. I was finally getting more into ivy as well as exploring more contemporary versions of the period look I was going for. In terms of movie style, I was already aware that contemporary movies were not going to give me the style inspo I wanted; I had already wisened up to the inaccuracies of The Great Gatsby and Gangster Squad.Esquire Man, old photographs, and tumblr posts from The Armoury and Drakes were good enough for me.
In other words, by the time Live By Night came out, I was ready to be snarky. To be fair, the vintage community was too. Every time a period movie is announced to start production, vintage heads (specifically the tailoring ones) get excited, presumably because they want the equivalent of the Gatsby flick to take the fashion world by storm an usher in a classic (or Golden Era) revival. But once the set photos came out, they were completely disappointed.
The movie was supposed to be set in the late 1920s and feature draped yet very waisted tailoring, but here Affleck was, dressed in boxy suits that looked more like Party City interpretation of a zoot suit. You might be inclined to forgive them as an artistic choice (maybe Affleck’s character wanted to hide his towering frame), but according to interviews, both he and the costumer definitely intended to have that built up, dramatic superhero silhouette from the 1930s. That is nowhere to be seen in the film.
Other characters get a few interesting ideas (and some even wear period pieces) that are better, but overall it looks like the film is meant to be a Golden Era malaise rather than a specific time in menswear history. Dropped loops and short abstract ties definitely call to mind styles from the 1940s rather than the late 1920s and early 1930s. This could be forgiven, but the characters don’t even wear the anachronistic looks well– they routinely wear their tie loose on their neck and wear the high waisted pants too low, resulting in pooling pant hems. There’s also the fact that a few characters are wearing tweeds and overcoats…while living in Miami, Florida. Everyone feels (and looks) like they’re at a costume party!
Oh and the movie isn’t even good. It’s long, melodramatic, and doesn’t have the same silly re-watch appeal that The Untouchables, Gatsby, and Gangster Squad have . Live By Night is a straight up mediocre movie with bad costuming that is a good example of inaccuracy in clothing as well as just bad styling in general, at least for most characters. To give the film some credit, there are some good ideas and stylish characters. Unfortunately, they’re mainly a blink-and-you’ll miss it thing. Most of the outfits that get the limelight suck.
After seven years of talking about how bad this movie is, I decided to watch it again. I also forced Spencer and MJ to watch it too (it was their first time). You’ll get the first five minutes of the bonus episode below (where we analyze the movie and the clothing) but in order to get the rest, you’ll have to subscribe on Patreon! You’ll also get access to our Discord community.
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