By Marie Brammah.
On the surface, the costumes in Reservoir Dogs serve to affiliate the characters to their particular subculture. The heist members’ suits unify them, and indicate their separation from the outside law-abiding society. However, each suit is different, and I believe these subtle differences give us insights into the individual characters.
Mr Blonde’s suit is well-tailored – arguably the best tailored to the body of them all. This seems to work on a symbolic level for the character, as he seems to be the only member to fit the bill for the heist. This neat fit, alongside the narrow and pointed shoulders, suits his slick and smooth persona.
Contradictory to his well-pressed and fitted suit jacket, is his rather baggy and creased shirt. Perhaps this juxtaposition works to highlight the different sides of Mr Blonde that we witness, as he expresses a sense of coolness and collectedness, but also psychotic and wildness. The choice of a well-tailored outer appearance, which often evokes togetherness and professionalism, assists in the concealment and shocking reveal of Mr Blonde’s psychotic actions.
His wild side is however hinted at through the use of black cowboy boots, which alongside their typical connotations, are different to the plain black shoes worn by the other members. This tells us he is a character who doesn’t follow the rules and is instead confident in getting things done his own way.
The other well-tailored suit comes from Mr White. His fitted wool suit, crisp white shirt and silk tie complement his professionalism and the sense of this character being an experienced criminal. Perhaps the wealth needed for such a look was generated from previous successful heist missions with Joe? His well-kept clothes highlight the pride and confidence he expresses within himself and his appearance, which is also seen as he combs his hair throughout the film. Mr White, unlike other characters such as Mr Brown or Eddie Cabot, is a quietly confident professional.
We can see this not only in the natural shoulder line of his suit jacket (no need to over pronounce) and his accessories. His watch consists of a thin, black leather strap, which is much subtler than the bold silver watches worn by the others. His costume, and its presentation, could help to place him above the other members of the heist, bringing him more in line with Joe in this criminal hierarchy.
Another element of Mr White’s costume which highlights his closer affiliation with Joe could be his pants. His pants sit higher on the waist and have a wider fit – just like Joe’s. Perhaps this helps us view this character as the older, wiser and more experienced member of the team. Maybe Mr White’s dressing is similar to Joe because he looks up to him and strives to live up to his image?
If we compare Mr White’s and Mr Blonde’s suits to that of Mr Brown, there are many differences to be found, which speaks for the differences in character. Mr Brown wears an oversized suit jacket with pronounced shoulders, and with a close eye you can even see where his natural shoulder line ends.
In comparison to Mr Blonde’s sharply tailored suit which matches his smoothness and seemingly togetherness, it could be suggested that Mr Brown’s baggier style reflects his inability when it comes to the heist. I think choosing a larger jacket with heightened shoulders could also reflect his loudness and desire to appear tough and cool. He wants to look the part and be noticed.
Mr Pink’s suit jacket is also oversized, which seems to highlight different notions. The looser fit of his jacket and shirt emphasise his skinny physique, which could add to our surprise of witnessing him make it to the end – the last one standing. An ill-fit, especially when stood next to those in tailored garments, suggests he has bought this from a thrift store, and so highlights his lacking of wealth and need to become involved in the heist. It therefore highlights his desperation – he needs the money and will do whatever it takes to get it.
Perhaps this notion of shopping for a suit at a thrift store suggests a sense of frugality, which is complimented in the opening scene when he refuses to tip the waitress. Mr Pink is also wearing black denim jeans, not suit pants, which adds to the notion of him lacking the necessary wealth to purchase a new and full suit.
Betsy Faith Heimann was the Costume Designer.
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