Why Robert Redford’s Style in “The Candidate” Still Matters
From technically flawless tailoring to avant-garde accessories, Redford’s wardrobe from the 1972 film carries just as much power 50 years on. Here's how to get the look.
Cinema is a key port of call for issuing enduring style lessons — especially when said lessons are fitted on Hollywood’s most iconic actors. Think of Marlon Brando’s simple white t-shirt in A Streetcar Named Desire. Or Alain Delon’s elegant beige trench coat in Le Samourai. These men made an enduring case for the most essential items that sit in a man’s wardrobe, and when it comes to the tailoring section, one case in particular stands out: Robert Redford — specifically, in Michael Ritchie’s acclaimed 1972 drama The Candidate.
Released 50 years ago on June 29, the film stars Redford as Bill McKay, the young, idealistic lawyer who embarks on a run for the U.S. senate. Conscious of addressing essential issues with civil rights, legal aid and ecology, the style of Redford’s character is key in communicating his literal expression — so no surprise that it’s one of the sharpest we’ve seen on screen. Characterized by excellent suits, flamboyant accessories and nonchalant ways of wearing both, his on-screen style has stood the test of time, therefore making it an essential jumping-off point for your current personal wardrobe. So without further ado, we present five of Redford’s finest pieces displayed in The Candidate, along with some current styles to get the look today.
1. His Boy Scout shirt
While Bill McKay’s most frequent dress code sits on the formal side of the scale, he also brings out some more casual pieces for persuasion, the finest of which is this cotton Boy Scout shirt. Featuring a perfectly pointed collar, contrasting buttons and two fold out pockets across the chest, it’s a classic style that lends itself perfectly to a single-breasted blazer. The best way to wear it? Ever-so-slightly unbuttoned like Bill, resulting in just the right level of nonchalance to stand out in a crowd. This is very practical for the current summer season — and it’s easy to recreate if you start with this striking similar design from Parisian tailoring brand Husbands.
2. His excellent tie selection
Next up, accessories. Arguably the most avant-garde element of Redford’s character, his collection exhibited throughout The Candidate is second to none. From bold striped patterns to decadently shaped motifs, the ties and his way of wearing them were excellent because they served as a central pop of color around an otherwise monochrome ensemble. Sitting between a sharp, button-down shirt and black notch lapel blazer, the accessory exhibits his character’s political confidence and is a reliable style move to follow for your own professional pursuits. The best place to turn for a similar variety of ties today? Easy: the Ivy League-inspired brand Drake’s. We’re particularly into this oxblood shade to shed a touch of romanticism upon your outfit.
3. His pinstripe blazer
Any man wanting to assert his views on important global matters has to align his style with a sharp mentality. Enter the sartorial section of a wardrobe. Redford’s approach to tailoring was relatively simple, but that’s not to dismiss the technical perfection of it. From wide notch lapels and elegant shoulder ropes to nipped-in waistlines and slim silhouettes, his sartorial deployment is one to reference — regardless of the season or year. If you’re stuck on a piece to start with, we suggest investing in a double breasted pinstripe style, because it lends itself to pretty much any occasion, from a day at the office (pair it with matching trousers) to an evening social excursion (high waisted jeans are waiting). This luxury wool fit from Celine is a failsafe layer for both.
4. His simple black turtleneck
Coming back to the casual side of McKay’s wardrobe, another staple he turns to for a less predictable weather forecast is a black turtleneck. Partnered with a classic herringbone blazer (shoutout to those wonderfully wide-notch lapels), the knitwear piece is a comfortable counterpart to a button-down oxford shirt, yet its effect is just as powerful. Why? Because it carries enduring appeal; just look at the wardrobe of every cultural icon from the past six decades if you’re in need of further proof. Due to its essential nature, it’s important to invest in a well-made style to last for the long run, and no brand does so more finely than knitwear brand John Smedley.
5. His cream suit
Last (but certainly not least), Redford’s most commendable style move in The Candidate: a completely cream tailoring move. Sure, it might not come during one of his most prominent political speeches, but it stands out as the ultimate wardrobe moment in the film, because not many men have the confidence to attempt such a statement. As his character advises, the bolder the details, the better: be it grand lapels, sharp shoulder lines or a straight cut to the trousers. Given the current warmer season, now, more than ever, is the time to test it out, and this ensemble from Saint Laurent is a brilliant way to do so. If you want to replicate Redford, layer the set over your finest shirt and tie. But for a modern and more relaxed stance, a light Cuban collared shirt will equally seal the deal.
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