The flicks
Style as Persuasion in Catch Me If You Can
By Charlie Thomas
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If you’ve yet to be convinced of the transformative qualities clothes can possess, watching Catch Me If You Can will surely change that. Featuring Leonardo DiCaprio at his cocksure best, his character Frank Abagnale is a con artist with a talent for impersonating others, forging checks and seducing virtually anybody who crosses his path. He’s also incredibly well dressed. Clothes play a big part in his antics, helping him to successfully bend people to his will, time and again.

At various points throughout the film Abagnale poses as a Pan Am airline pilot, a doctor, a teacher, a lawyer and at one brief point a secret service agent. For each of these guises his clothes play a big part, acting as the proof that he must surely be who he says he is. It’s often said that clothes can act as armour plating; they can give us confidence and make us feel better about ourselves. In Frank’s case they go as far as actually bringing his fictional characters to life.

Take his Pan Am uniform. Abagnale manages to secure one for free by calling the airline and asking for a replacement. His new double-breasted suit is then tailored to his body before being billed to the company. Naturally, the sleek navy suit, matched with a dark tie and pressed white shirt makes Frank look every bit the experienced pilot – why would anyone doubt a man that looked so sharp and wore it with such confidence? Clothes can do that.

Even if you’re not a clotheshorse like a young DiCaprio, plenty of Abagnale’s looks from the film are easily wearable. There’s the tan three button suit he wears as a lawyer, complete with white pin collar shirt and club tie. There’s his doctor’s uniform consisting of off-white blazer, stone tailored trousers and another, perfectly fitting pin-collar shirt. And then there’s his collection of Cuban collar shirts on top of these, which exude a certain carefree charm. These feature in a range of playful patterns including an orange and brown check, and another exploded check example, also in orange. In fact, orange is clearly a favourite of Frank’s – he also excels at the fondue party he throws in his Atlanta apartment. His look, made up of a V-shaped orange Italian knit, white frogmouth trousers and brown loafers, is perhaps the film’s best.

For further ‘60s inspiration, albeit on the more conservative side of things, Tom Hanks’s FBI agent character Carl Hanratty offers plenty. His Don Draper-esque white shirts fit well, and are accessorised with tie clips, Wayfarer-style sunglasses and a slick side parting. But it’s DiCaprio’s smooth-talking Frank that wins the style game this time around. His revolving, ever-changing wardrobe may not be attainable for most, but at the very least it shows just how powerfully clothing can change on people’s perceptions. That’s perhaps something to consider on your next Zoom call.

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