The flicks
The Art of the Button-Down in The Talented Mr. Ripley
By Charlie Thomas
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We’ve all tried to imitate someone at one point in our lives. Much of our clothing inspiration comes from seeing the way other people dress, taking elements from them and then making them our own. There are boundaries of course, and that last point is crucial. Personal style should be just that, personal. Entirely copying the way someone else dresses isn’t authentic and doesn’t represent who you really are.

Which is just one way Matt Damon’s character in 1999’s The Talented Mr. Ripley went wrong. He portrays Tom Ripley, a young American who becomes infatuated with Dickie Greenleaf, the charming, irresistibly handsome playboy played by an in-his-prime Jude Law. Tom is immediately taken by Dickie’s charms, and soon borrows his clothes, takes on his mannerisms and eventually murders him in a rage of jealousy and unrequited infatuation. But back to the clothes…

Ripley may be the most stylish film of all time. From the suits to the shirts, the tans to the haircuts, its attention to detail is impressive and the Riviera setting is the perfect backdrop. It’s a shame Tom was so set on becoming Dickie, because his style is the film’s most underrated. His wardrobe of Ivy League classics look as cool today as they did then: two-buttoned suits in navy and brown, and dusty corduroy jackets are paired with Oxford cloth button-down shirts, knitted ties and loafers. His shirts are big, billowy and often feature a single chest pocket, with plenty of collar roll on his button-downs. He’s smart, sophisticated and looks entirely out of place in sub-baked southern Italy. Which is where Dickie shines.

If ever there was a lesson in contextual dressing, Dickie’s style is it. Looking at the way Jude Law’s character moves, speaks and dresses, it’s easy to see how Tom becomes so transfixed. Dickie is effortless, behaving and looking like a local despite his home being across the Atlantic. This is in part due to his shirts. In contrast to Tom’s heavier fabric choices and more traditional cuts, Dickie’s shirts are light, flowy and short-sleeved. His Cuban collars are open, and he wears them untucked over shorts and espadrilles – a perfect summer look both now and decades from now. He wears striped knitted polos, a perfect quiff and a perpetual smile on his face, until things turn sour. Dickie is the man we all want to be when we travel.

Emulate Jude Law’s look by wearing a spread collar shirt in lightweight cotton or mesh and combine it with pleated shorts. Try wearing said shirt open over a tucked-in vest or updating the look with your favourite pair of vintage style running shoes and tube socks. Don’t though, like Tom Ripley, be afraid to make it your own.

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