On The Fashion Crimes Of The Ocean’s Eleven Series

Below, a conversation between two adult men.

Brad Pitt as Rusty Ryan in Ocean’s Twelve: Stop.

Matt Damon as Linus Caldwell in same: But.

Brad Pitt:

Matt Damon: The coat is for a woman.

Brad Pitt: Be quiet.

Matt Damon: It is a ladies’ coat, and it is white and it has a million buckles. Your co-star Catherine Zeta-Jones is seen wearing one later, in a scene which confirms both that the coat has too many buckles and ties, and that it is a coat for a woman. You are wearing a woman’s coat in this scene to no discernible purpose, do you know? It’s fine to like and want to wear this ladies’ coat, which is white and ugly and has too many buckles altogether, but it is not a style decision in keeping with the way your character is framed. The plot of this movie is famously thin and the dialogue is strange, but anyone familiar with the Oceans Eleven franchise would know that your character is not the kind of man who would be standing at a train station in France brandishing this kind of Look. Your role, in this franchise, is meant to remind the audience of a young Steve McQueen. I don’t understand.

Brad Pitt:

Matt Damon: Your trousers raise plenty of questions, as well. I am not a particularly fashionable man, either in this movie or in real life, but I can tell you that they are incredibly billowy in a way that makes me think of the word “cascading” whenever I have to look at you, and also that they are shiny in a way I didn’t know was allowed. They make me think about a full ashtray sitting on a table in the rain. I don’t know why. They’re also very long, but somehow not long enough to obscure the fact of your shoes, which are like thin boats and which go up at the end and which are both too square and too pointy. And your sunglasses: are you insane. Your hairstyle in earlier scenes–

Brad Pitt (in a quiet, numbed voice that makes me and Matt Damon think of what is going on in his personal life here in 2017): Please.

Me and Matt Damon: Okay okay, sorry.

For the sake of Brad Pitt’s health, I will turn elsewhere, to the clothing of the other cast members of the Oceans Eleven Eleven. God knows there are plenty of fucked-up outfits for it my steely and critical gaze to rest on, and God also knows that it is high time that we think about some of them again, it being 10 years since Ocean’s Thirteen was released. Ten years! Time for a retrospective.

Just kidding – we don’t need a reason. The clothes in these movies should have been part of the public conversation since the minute the first one came out. It’s important to admit upfront that I am in no way qualified to make any sort of objective assessment on very very expensive suits made for men. The finer points of men’s tailoring are and will remain obscure to me.

Some might say then that I am in no position to be making any sort of Calls. Counter-argument: my ignorance should act as a persuasive force. The whole point of the Ocean’s Eleven movies were that everyone was supposed to be glamorously and enviably well-dressed at all times. That’s what they were sort of about: Men Lookin’ Sharp. Smooth criminals. And yet if we revisit these movies more than ten years on, we find quite the opposite. The men do NOT look like smooth criminals. They do NOT.

And this isn’t in a way of sneering at certain embarrassing fashion trends ten years later. This is not to suggest that we give these outfits the same treatment as we did Anne Hathaway’s little newsboy cap in The Devil Wears Prada (ahahhaahaaha and also her stupid necklace in the same scene). The clothes in The Devil Wears Prada have not aged well because the fashion was energetically of its time. Of course Anne Hathaway in her sexy ruffly governess outfit is going to look stupid – stuff from ten years ago always does.

The point of the clothes in the Ocean’s Eleven movies were that they were meant to be timeless, to represent no particular epoch except the epoch of Men Lookin’ Sharp. Well then, fine. If the minds behind the franchise are going to make such wild implicit claims, then they must open themselves to the charge that many of the outfits in those movies are timelessly bad. They are bad in a way that entirely transcends the arch and self-aware tone of the whole exercise. Their badness is a slippery thing, one that escapes the filmmakers’ attempts to make a play on 70s fashion, Vegas tackiness, The Rat Pack, etc.

Not all of the outfits. I’m sure a lot of George Clooney’s clothes are fine. Elliot Gould’s glasses are incredible. Casey Affleck has some good stripey tshirts, and so does Matt Damon. The bucket hats that some of them wear from time to time are also perfectly acceptable, and I quite like them. Nothing much to say about Don Cheadle’s clothes except what I vaguely understand about ill-fitting leather trenchcoats being not the way to go.

As I say, I am not an expert. I understand men’s fashion crimes in a Justice Potter way – I know them when I see them. Here are a few, repeatedly committed by the men of the Ocean’s Eleven Franchise:

  1. Too Much Brocade

Wherever you turn in these movies, there is a man wearing a very snug waistcoat made all of lush brocade fabric. Why? I can’t think of a single good reason why anyone would want to wear a waistcoat of mahogany brocade, but I accept that I don’t live in Las Vegas. Maybe it’s fine, but I don’t think so. A brocade waistcoat makes the wearer look as if he has no common sense: my opinion.

  1. The Ubiquity of Brown

 More brown is worn in these films than any other color. I promise. You would think that the main color would be, I don’t know, black. Navy. Nope. Brown. There is not a scene goes without someone, usually B. Pitt, dressed in brown. A brown suit, a brown shirt, a brown tie. Brown-on-brown. Brown-on-ochre. A light brown shiny shirt that in certain lights looks mauve, paired with a walnut brown blazer. Brown, brown, brown. There is so much brown in this movie that it will make you forget that other colors exist.  You will google “Why would a man wear a brown suit,” because you don’t know anything about fashion, and you will note that even those recent editorials which come out very strongly in favour of the brown suit say stuff like “Here’s Yet Another Reason Why You Need a Brown Suit.” A brown suit. One. Note that these articles do not say: “Here’s Why You Should Have a Suit That for Some Reason Isn’t Brown,” which is apparently the angle you would need to take with the makers of the Ocean’s Eleven franchise.

  1. Too Many Huge Wide Ties Like What a Formal Clown Would Wear

I don’t think I need to say anything more about this.

  1. Everything is Shiny

I truly believed we were all on the same page regarding extremely shiny shirts for men. I thought we were past debate on this issue, but it seems I was mistaken. Brad Pitt is never ten minutes away from a shiny suit in these movies, and at no point is he arrested for it. No one even tells him it’s bad.

  1. Abuse of Pinstripe

I have nothing rude to say about pinstripe as a concept, but these films are in love with it in a way that is tiresome to the eye. Many tight black pinstripe shirts. Many royal blue pinstripe suits worn over Al Pacino’s nerve-wracking pink shirts in the third movie. At one point, poor old Brad comes riding in wearing a suit that is white-on-white pinstripe. I cannot be entirely sure of this last one. It could be that seeing so much of it has given me a condition where I see pinstripe in places that it doesn’t exist, but whose fault is that?