Most of the time my aspirational gaze is set on the big screen rather than the small one when it comes to outfits I’d kill for, but over the years I’ve wished I could rock a handful of styles – Hawkeye’s side-parting, dog tag and army jacket player status (I carried a childhood preoccupation with ‘M*A*S*H’ after discovering I was named after the actor that played the sensitive Cpl. Walter Eugene ‘Radar’ O’Reilly, Gary Burghoff – my dad joked that he also considered the show’s occasional writer Thad Mumford as a possible inspiration too, but I think this is a lie) and ‘Howard’s Way’ ladies’ man Ken Masters who rocked a pastel and Sperry look that screamed baller status.
As US cable TV got the budgets and pilfered our underused character actors to elevate them to the status they deserved, albeit with faux US accents, the wardrobe departments seemed to have more pennies to spend.
And in the case of ‘Deadwood’, spend it they did. – I can’t vouch for what people were wearing in 1876, but what the show gave its leads and vast roll call of supporting characters was occasionally dapper and always interesting. Bowlers sported with braces without businessman stuffiness made me forget the nameless soak who previously took the title of televisual bowler champ on the beginning credits of ‘Cheers’ and despite ending up a greasy, sweaty failure in his appearance hotelier E.B. Farnum seems to at least attempt the moddish task of clean living in difficult circumstances. Much like his fellow old west residents.
Even ‘acid westerns’ like ‘Ride In The Whirlwind’ (shouts to Acyde for the recommendation) feature a cast dressed borderline camp, even Harry Dean Stanton, who would have made a fine addition to the ‘Deadwood’ camp, as a varmint doesn’t look cool. Deadwood is riddled with unintentionally strong looks.
No sooner was I pondering the whereabouts of Deadwood’s extensive and hugely detailed wardrobe – especially after the closure, as disappointing as it is, that the sets have been dismantled to kill rumours of Milch giving us the mooted double act of TV movies we were e-promised, than I spotted an online auction of the outfits.
And not just any old outfits – alongside Sol and Doc Cochran’s gear, only two of the best outfits in TV history. Arch rivals Cy Tolliver and Al Swearengen’s complete ensembles – outfits so good, they relegated the sale of Daniel Day-Lewis’s ‘Daniel Plainview’ suit to the back of my mind. If it had been his ‘Bill Cutting’ windowpane pants and stovepipe hat, that would’ve been a different story, garb that, I think, dates in the film, to around 1855 – 21 years before series 1 of ‘Deadwood’ – I guess those big city folks were more advanced than the people of South Dakota.
Cy, everybody’s favourite pockmarked Machiavellian, murderous misogynist’s outfit made him some kind of reptilian dandy gone wrong. Custom made, it consists of consisting of a white pleated dress shirt, black and navy brocade vest, brocade tie, turquoise tie pin, suspenders, purple pinstripe pants, burgundy jacket with velvet trim and two-tone leather boots.
Al, your favourite foulmouthed thug and merciful smotherer of clergyfolk rocked a grey and black striped, burgundy-lined three-piece suit, a red brocade-backed vest with, a “gold nugget” button, and grey distressed long johns (or union suit) – easily the best mix of the rugged and the smooth in the show.
The fancy-dress implications could have been huge. Ian McShane’s televisual upgrade from Lovejoy was a rise from leather blouson to bar-based bloodletting, but Powers Boothe was always pretty cool, from a name that rivals Homer Simpson’s ‘Max Power’ rebranding exercise to letting Pacino know the ‘ledge (“left side means ya give golden shower, right side means ya recieve…”) in ‘Cruising’, a manic but oddly iconic Jim Jones in ‘Guyana Tragedy’ to strong roles in ‘Southern Comfort’, ‘Red Dawn’, ‘Nixon’, ‘Tombstone’ and the dangerously underrated ‘Frailty’.
He looks cool. Sorry. I know Jim was a bad guy, but come on…
Then there’s Walter Hill’s ‘Extreme Prejudice’ – if you haven’t seen it, know that a John Milius scripted film with Boothe, Nick Nolte, Michael Ironside, Clancy Brown, Wiilam Forsythe and Rip Torn should be on the curriculum at schools globally. Forever.
Where was I? Oh yeah, the auction. I missed it in the end. Al’s suit went for $6000 and Cy’s went for $3500. Bargains the both of ’em.