The Terrible Menswear In Live By Night (2016)

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.

And the 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.

Can’t be a “movie version of the early 20s” without tweed, a belted leather jacket, and a newsboy cap.
The costumers clearly wanted something like this.
His first tailored look has a semi cutaway-club collar in a cool horizontal stripe.
Band collar!
Once the movie transitions to the late 1920s and very early 1930s, Affleck’s tailoring takes a turn for the worst.
I get that people think that suits were “bigger” back then, but this just sucks.
I like that some of his suits were belted! They were a fun detail in that was semi-common the 1930s.
The silhouette of the late 1920s and early 1930s was still nice, not oversized or too bulky.
This is 1925, but you can see that the tailoring was quite moderate.

In the 1930s, things definitely widened (like the trouser) but the jacket had shape.
DB’s were especially waisted.
Hats also had a decent crown and medium brim that cut a sharp figure.
Unfortunately Affleck has none of these style moves. The pairings are also quite boring, despite him clearly being coded as a clotheshorse. And then there is the belt and braces combo…
Criminals did do that move though…
Coughlin (Affleck’s character) does seem to prefer tonal combos.
Patch pockets and a knit waist coat!
But good lord, the tailoring isn’t good. The narrow lapels and button spacing only emphasize how bulky the the suit is. Also an ivory suit surrounded by guys in overcoats? What weather is this??
The tie is nice! The hat looks off the dimples are too set in and the crown is tapered too short.
Is that a norfolk style overcoat? Also that tie is super 70s for no reason.
I do like this triple stripe combo though! This feels pretty 1930s.
This…feels like standard Styleforum #menswear fare.
A teal blue sportcoat and block stripe tie is cool, though the shape of the jacket (and the lapels) The bowler guy in the back has a great 3PC though!
The idea of a flecked peak suit isn’t bad, though the jacket just doesn’t fit.
A runaway collar was a typical casual move for 1930s menswear, but it just looks so bad on Affleck. It looks more like a 1940s charicature.
The guy on the right is nice though; a striped shirt and foulard tie is the Ethan special.

Both of these looks are pretty bad. Dion (left) looks like he’s going dancing in 1947 due to his big DB, dark shirt, and abstract swing tie, despite this being the early 1930s.
God, look at that fit!
The dreaded double pant holding combo.
A black shirt and off-white sprotcoat seems cool as fuck, but Affleck ends up making it look so bad. The guy in the navy jacket, white pants, and white bucks is doing work though!
A peach gab sport shirt seems more appropriate for Gangster Squad than this movie.
Vintage PJs are cool!
Imagine thinking this suit gives you the same silhouette as the original 1930s Superman.
Dio gets more period combos thanks to pattern mixing (and more spearpointy collars), but he seems to wear his pants at his hips, making him look pretty disheveled.
It’s almost shocking how a film’s wardrobe department thought these guys looked good like this.
I do think Dion had a few vintage suits. This one is white linen and has a belted back!
I like the brown socks and spectators.
A yellow shirt and white suit is cool.
For some odd reason, Dion wears a very 1950’s tie in 1926.

He wears it in a different scene.
Not too bad, apart from the use of a thin belt and suspenders at the same time.
I feel like the filmmakers wanted to approximate some casual Esquire Man vibes for Dio.
Chief Figgis, played by Chris Cooper, has a cool police blazer and horizontal bow tie.

He gets some nice 1930s “trad” (or normal) attire. Cool exture and lapels on this!
Thie one is really good: a flecky pinstripe, striped spearpoint, collar bar, and a tonal tie.
This suit also looks period. Great move with the western fedora.
Brendan Gleeson plays Affleck’s dad and he also looks great in trad attire, rocking a club collar, deco striep tie, and a nice pinstripe suit. Gleeson’s look is proof that they just made Affleck bad on purpose.
Gleeson’s suit seemed to be modeled after conservative 1920s suits.
In fact, it seems that side and background characters were consistently better dressed than the leads. Just compare this mobster’s clean silhouette to Affleck’s.
R.D Pruitt is evil, but his attire is probably the best. Using actual vintage, it looks like he’s meant to play up a Southern trad vibe. Though I’m curious how he survives the Florida humidity with tweed and sweaters.
Belt back too, complete with that center pleat.
Crazy 1920s bold stripe suit. Pairs well with a foulard bowtie and straw hat. Also love the boaters and summer suits outside.
Cool sweater vest!
His final scene has some rare attire.
He’s even wearing plus fours (though they don’t seem to be done up properly).
Esteban shows up for two scenes and definitely makes an impression by being the sharpest dresser in the movie.
His black tie attire, complete with mess jacket and single stud wing collar, seems to be a shout out to George Raft.

He later rocks a dark brown DB and a knit tee.
Albert White goes standard 30s with a pinstripe suit, pinned collar, and abstract tie.
He does a white tie shirt and bowtie with a tuxedo.
In his final scene, he seems to be wearing a 3PC linen suit. The costumers again seem to know what they’re doing (thanks to the DB waistcoat’s wide set buttons and short length), but that gets ruined thanks to actors wearing their high waisted trousers at their hips.
Why do some characters seem to not what to wear their tie properly?
Maso Pescatore getting fitted for a bespoke suit.
This is good.
Paisley dressing gown? Yes!
Floral smoking jacket in red (and worn over a regular shirt and tie)? This is what I like to see!
A Pescatore member in a blue tab spearpoint.
I rather like the cream shirt + cream tie combo. It does feel very “gangster” vibes. Shout out to the flapped chest pocket on the dancer here as well!
Maso’s son Digger has a great look too! His brown sport shirt and a brown plaid suit is really great and very 30s, especially with the hexagonal sunnies. He also seems to have la spalla camicia! I wanna know if his suit was custom or vintage.

Later he does a dark sportshirt (maybe the same one?) with a pinstripe suit. Man, I really want a pinstripe suit.
Gangsters in the 1920s. I like the use of club collars to make this scene feel older.
That’s a pretty wide horizontal stripe shirt fabric!

This banker wears a nice look, though the lapels on the shirt and the use of a tie bar does make this feel more 1950s than 1920s.
An extra in what is most likely a Palm Beach suit.
The church tent scene has some great looks!

A nice 1930s look; love those blunted notch lapels.
The whole movie I kept wondering why the gangsters were wearing overcoats in Miami, especially in scenes with characters wearing linen. This makes no sense!
Does Dion have a multi stripe ribbon on his fedora?
Overcoats worn among linen.
Good spearpoint on the left.
Again, overcoats in Miami. What world is this???

This is just Big Suits: The Movie.

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The Podcast is produced by MJ.

Always a pleasure,

Ethan M. Wong

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