Effortless Italian flair, 1980s-style
Call Me By Your Name's perfectly retro costumes are just the thing for summer 2018 and beyond
By purely cinematic merits, the 1980 film American Gigolo makes an unlikely classic. It is not a great movie, despite starring Richard Gere as a high-class sex worker implicated in a murder plot and featuring an electro-chic soundtrack by Giorgio Moroder. Its dialogue is cheesy and its story meandering. Its costume design, however, would go on to transform the wardrobe of a generation of men.
Gere's silk-knit ties, wide-shouldered blazers and flowing Italian suits – all the creation of an up-and-coming designer named Giorgio Armani – were irresistible at the time, and they remain the movie's saving grace. Whether you like the film or not, everyone agrees that that gigolo looked good.
Luca Guadagnino's Call Me By Your Name couldn't be any more different as a work of cinema, as countless rave reviews and four nominations at the 90th Academy Awards this weekend attest. It may also prove just as influential.
Despite being overlooked by the Academy, costume designer Giulia Piersanti proves Armani's equal in her powerful (and on-trend) evocation of effortless Italian style. Set in 1983, Call Me By Your Name tells the story of Oliver (Armie Hammer), an all-American doctoral student, and angsty teen Elio (Timothée Chalamet), who fall in love over the course of a summer. Much of the film takes place on languid days spent lounging by swimming ponds or bicycling through the picturesque Italian countryside. Likewise, Piersanti's costumes are as relaxed as an August afternoon. Just as Armani's gigolo embodied the narcissistic hedonism of Los Angeles in the 1980s, so, too, do these clothes speak to the comfort and boho sensuality of the film's rustic Italian setting.
In recent seasons, menswear designers have shifted away from straight, slim tailoring and shrunken suits toward an altogether wider, looser-fitting aesthetic. Suiting stalwarts such as Boss, Ralph Lauren and, of course, Giorgio Armani have been leading the way with runways full of broad shoulders, narrow waists, billowy shirts and pleated trousers. Instead of a return of American Gigolo, however, suiting is giving way to a more casual men's uniform. Call Me By Your Name is just the right catalyst to translate these trends for the movie-going masses.
Like Armani, Piersanti is also a fashion designer, creating knitwear for the French luxury womenswear brand Céline. As such, she brings a keen understanding of colour, texture and proportion to the film's wardrobe.
Aside from Hammer and Chalamet, star billing should be given to the array of short, colourful swim trunks the actors sport throughout the film. Call Me By Your Name serves as a timely reminder that, after decades of being hidden beneath drooping hemlines, men's legs can actually look quite good – particularly if they have been baking in the Italian sun for a few weeks. While Piersanti got much of the film's wardrobe from vintage stores and her husband's closet, anyone wanting to cop the style can look to the contemporary swimwear brands Bather and Orlebar Brown, who offer similarly brief cuts in an array of bold colours.
When he is not basking in the sun, stripped to the waist under a pair of oversized Ray-Bans, Elio's shirt of choice is a Lacoste polo, usually paired with cuffed cutoff Levi's. This wasn't an official product placement by the French brand, but it does happen to coincide with a relaunch of their iconic crocodile-emblazoned top this spring. "The costumes in the film tell a great story of style evolution," says Grégoire Brasset, vice-president of Lacoste Canada. Lacoste's new Paris polo, he says, is a modernized version of Elio's, slightly shorter and slimmer but retaining the charm of the original. Just as in the film, it makes an essential piece of kit for summer nights, whether dancing at an outdoor Italian disco or dining al fresco in the city.
Hammer's Call Me By Your Name wardrobe, meanwhile, with its wide Ralph Lauren button-downs, Converse One Star sneakers and pleated khakis, is textbook prep. It's the ease with which he wears these country-club staples, however, that makes them stand out.
"The misconception is that classic preppy style has to be neat and tucked-in," says Lacoste's Brasset. "A relaxed fit with key pieces can convey an elegant yet classic dress code that's not only comfortable but stylish." Having perfect teeth and hair, and a body like a Roman bronze statue doesn't hurt either, of course, but that needn't stop a generation of men from doing their best to emulate his look. Regardless of a film's other merits, such is the power of a good costume.