Even if you can’t recall the exact plot line of American Gigolo, the chances are that you will be able to conjure up Richard Gere’s wardrobe in said film. He doesn’t wear it in every scene, but the relaxed, undone pale Armani suit has come to define the film. This weekend, Paul Schrader’s classic will turn 35, and still the influence of that floppy beige silhouette looms large in menswear.
The American Gigolo suit has become the single item that defines the moment in menswear in the 1980s when tailoring loosened up. Giorgio Armani was at the forefront of this revolution, which removed a jacket’s internal padding, lightened the colour palette and introduced softer fabrics such as linen. When Richard Gere’s character took this silhouette to the mainstream via the cinema, he effectively put Giorgio Armani’s name up in lights. Fashion legend has it that the designer was so delighted that to this day Gere can take what he likes gratis from any Armani store.
On the catwalk, the slouchy undone vibe of the character Julian’s wardrobe can be seen this season at Bottega Veneta, an Italian brand that routinely focuses on the Gigolo palette of putty, grey and beige. At a moment, when undone, dishevelled ballet dancers such as Rudolf Nureyev have taken over the hackneyed mantle of “menswear style icon” from the usual parade of trussed up rock stars, the floppy American Gigolo suit feels fresh again. It’s a fair bet that when US label Rag Bone cast Mikhail Baryshnikov in their new campaign, stills from Schrader’s film were somewhere on the moodboard.
For some men on the red carpet, the 35-year-old suit is their default setting. Take Matthew McConaughey, who takes every non-tuxedo opportunity to wear the beige colour palette. Brad Pitt is another Gigolo chic acolyte. Tieless and playing up the slouch factor, he’s hard evidence of 2015 Hollywood looking a lot like 1980 Hollywood.