Film will always be a medium that people will look to for fashion advice. Whether it’s the effortless cool of protagonists completing monumental tasks to save mankind, or more understated heroes just looking to beat back everyday life – to even still the adversaries who make being bad look oh so good – these characters ultimately become the template for cool.
Nicolas Winding Refn’s genre-bending film, Drive, was released almost five years ago to the day and left audiences completely gobsmacked.
While most assumed it would be another car-centric film like Gone in 60 Seconds or The Fast and the Furious, instead, audiences were treated to a violent love letter to Los Angeles that came packaged in a format that was light on dialogue and heavy on style.
Ryan Gosling’s portrayal of “The Driver” not only rewrote the book on what it meant to be heroic, but people also couldn’t get over just how stylish he was. He wasn’t debonair like James Bond, but he also wasn’t some stock grease monkey. In fact, the fashion choices for Gosling’s character had relevance both to the film itself and even predicted several sartorial trends that would follow in the years following the film’s release.
If you needed any further proof that Drive is one of the most stylish films in the last 25 years, look no further than these examples.
In December 2015, Christopher Fisher, head buyer for oki-ni predicted a huge trend involving souvenir jackets. Not surprisingly, the trend became a certifiable phenomenon as it ran the gamut from affordable with Alpha Industries to luxe in the case of Valentino. As recently as August of this year, we continued to see souvenir jackets from the likes of HUF and PacSun thanks to the infusion of Japanese motifs into the aesthetics.
Drive‘s iconic scorpion jacket predated these trends by over four years thanks to the shared tastes of director, Nicolas Winding Refn, and titular star, Ryan Gosling.
“Ryan had been really inspired by these 1950s Korean souvenir jackets,” saidDrive costume designer, Erin Benach. “He had bought one on his own and was wearing it around. So we started to think, wow, that might be really cool. But the style and shape of them was definitely very fifties and slouchy. We felt like Driver was really buttoned-up, clean and streamlined and we didn’t want there to be much billowiness to him. So we built it piece by piece. We knew the collar had to be able to pop up, we wanted the knit around the wrists and waist to be 100 percent wool as opposed to stretchy nylon. We wanted every element to be perfect. We went through 15 or 20 iterations until we got it right. Which was down to the wire — about an hour before shooting!”
As for the reasoning behind the yellow scorpion on the back, in one of the last scenes of the movie, The Driver makes a phone call to his main antagonist, Bernie Rose, who is portrayed by Albert Brooks. During this exchange, Driver says, “You know the story about the scorpion and the frog? Your friend Nino didn’t make it across the river.” This references the 1950s fable of the same name which relied on the notion that two animals had to trust each other for a mutually beneficial outcome.
When asked about the significance of the scorpion imagery, director Nicolas Winding Refn said, “I wanted him to wear a white satin jacket so he would be visible at night. It also gave him a sense of armor. I said, ‘I would like a white or silver satin jacket.’ When you work with great actors, one of the most important things for them to build a character is to know what they wear. So Ryan found a jacket that he would feel comfortable wearing. I liked the jacket, it was an old military jacket. It wasn’t in satin, so we had to get it custom-made. But the old ones had these symbols on them, American symbols, like an eagle. And I thought it would be cool if he had an animal symbol on his. I was showing the costume designer Scorpio Rising, because we were talking about the clothes people would wear at the garage – I wanted it to be very fetish. Ryan was there, working on his car, because he was building a car to understand the DNA of the motor. Scorpio Rising starts with the famous scorpion coming into frame, and Ryan and I were looking at each other, going, ‘it’s a scorpion.’ So we constructed a huge scorpion on his back. So when we had to do some ADR for the scene on the roof, Ryan said, ‘Why don’t I tell the story of the scorpion and the frog?'”
In a later interview, Winding Refn doubled-downed on the notion that The Driver’s jacket was like his armor, while also making reference to the band, KISS.
“That jacket came out of me listening to the KISS song ‘I Was Made For Loving You,'” he said. “Driver had to have a satin jacket that was like an armor, and the image of a scorpion evokes that sort of protection, I think. And, for some reason, the jacket feels like it fits perfectly with that KISS song. I can’t really explain why.”
While they may not be as iconic in cinema or television as Marty McFly’s Nike Air MAG from Back to the Future II, Stacy Adams’s Madison Boots have been a tried-and-true silhouette whether in a period drama or in a more contemporary context.
Seen on the feet on Dr. John Thackery in The Knick, Nucky Thompson in Boardwalk Empire and Django Freeman in Django Unchained, Ryan Gosling’s character in Drive also favored the cap toe boots with genuine Goodyear welt construction and leather soles.
When the duo of Gosling and Winding Refn reunited for the 2013 film, Only God Forgives, his character was once again clad in Madison boots.
As with most heist movies, time plays a big role – as illustrated by The Driver’s own five-minute rule which dictates “you give me a time and a place, I give you a five minute window. Anything happens in that five minutes and I’m yours. No matter what. Anything happens a minute either side of that and you’re on your own.”
For the film, Gosling’s character opts for a one-of-a-kind Patek Philippe chronometer with white, luminous face and brown leather band that he would strap to the steering wheel of his getaway car.
While we’ve noted that a watch like a Patek Philippe is “normally reserved for oil tycoons or drug barons,” due to its high price, the ownership of the Swiss timepiece is a reflection of his character as described in the original source material.
“In the original book by James Sallis, Driver didn’t own an awful lot,” prop master Will Blount told GQ. “One of the things he did own was this beautiful watch that he had been given by his father. So it was an important for the character that it be something memorable, something iconic.”
It also is a valuable fashion lesson that while a lofty price tag will surely impress others, it’s the deep seeded meaning for one’s self that provides the greatest satisfaction.
“It’s a cool choice: classic, understated,” says Blount. “Modern-day stuntmen typically wear big diving watches – so it was a departure, a conscious choice.”
Much in the same way his scorpion jacket served as his armor, The Driver’s sunglasses are also a strong reflection of how his character interprets the world.
Produced by Selima Optics, the Auburn Tortoise silhouette of the Money 2 frames gives a wearer a timeless but updated appearance that fits all face shapes.
As we noted in December 2015, gloves might be one of the last things on your shopping list, but a good, high-quality pair will do you right for season after season.
According to The New York Times, Dorothy Gaspar – the maker of his driving gloves – had more inquiries about her work following Drive than she did after any of the more than 70 other films for which she designed gloves – including Titanic, The Changeling, Batman Returns, Charlie’s Angels and three X-Men films.
Made from genuine Italian hair sheep leather by specially trained craftsmen, The Los Angeles Times has referred to Gaspar gloves as “Louboutin stilettos for your hands.”
“While some say Drive is a film ‘about gloves,’ the gloves were not in the script,” said costume designer, Erin Benach, in the Costume Designer Guild’s Fall ’11 publication. “I thought about the elements of a race car driver combined with the nature of a killer (not wanting to leave his fingerprints behind) and it was a natural decision. The open knuckle driving gloves were not available in the rich chocolate brown we wanted so we died the six pair from Gaspar Gloves.”
What’s perhaps of greatest note is not necessarily that Gosling’s character opted for leather gloves, it’s that he and the director didn’t bristle at the fact that the gloves themselves were made and marketed for women.
While it probably won’t register as one of the most iconic, androgynous fashion moments ever, it does prove that the mixing and matching of clothing made for the opposite sex is completely viable and at times undetectable.
- All Photos: Via the Production