A Very Special Preview of the Menswear on Display in S3 of “Succession”

The show’s costume team dishes on what to expect from the best-dressed family in Hollywood

October 14, 2021 8:47 am
Matthew Macfadyen, Brian Cox and Peter Friedman in season 3 of Succession.
Matthew Macfadyen, Brian Cox and Peter Friedman in season 3 of Succession.
Macall B. Polay/HBO

Costume design is an art. Sometimes what a character wears tells us what they do for work; how much money they have or what their aspirations are. But in few shows does the costuming tell us exactly who these characters are quite like Succession

The Emmy Award-winning series returns for its much anticipated third season this weekend, and like virtually anyone with taste, I have been waiting with bated breath to see what the Roys and their confidants will be wearing this season. Much has been written (including by me) about the fashion of Succession: the show is straight-up money porn and the clothes are no exception. Having gotten a sneak preview of the new season, I can say with confidence the fashion this time around does not disappoint. And while Shiv’s pantsuits and shoulder-skimming bob are understandably the focal point of much of the Succession-fashion discourse, it’s always the menswear that has me swooning. Perfectly tailored suits, iconic knitwear and vests, even the casualwear is truly the stuff of a haberdasher’s deepest, darkest fantasies. 

The geniuses behind the show’s wardrobe are Costume Designer Michelle Matland and Assistant Costume Designer Jonathan Schwartz. I got the chance to chat with them about how the Roy men and their crew are evolving — and how the way they dress communicates and reflects that. 

InsideHook: Let’s dive right in and talk about Kendall. What can we expect from him this season? 

Michelle Matland: We made sure to make it a dark style, very serious suit because of what he was about to do, and knowing that he was going to be vilified immediately afterwards, so he had to look super tough and super serious.

But he also had to be broken at the same time. I mean, it had to feel like the devastation at the same time of this incredible empowerment. So it was a fine line and with Kendall; [Jeremy] is truly an actor who thinks a lot about all of the details, and this did not come easily. There was a lot of dialogue and a lot of conversation. And upon his part, a lot of development. He is always a participant in his costumes.

Jeremy Strong in Season 3 of Succession.
Jeremy Strong in Season 3 of Succession.
David Russell/HBO

And then of course there’s Logan; the last time we see him, he’s on his yacht in linen and vacation clothes.

Jonathan Schwartz: The creative guys usually decide whether they’re going to change or not. So there was a bit of a discussion whether they would be in their yacht clothes, preparing for this onslaught of bad public relations, or they’d be dressed for war. And so it was decided that they’d be dressed for war. Wherever it might’ve been — on a yacht or on a plane — they had changed their clothes into more business. “Let’s be camera-ready.”

And last season, much of Logan’s clothing was bespoke — is that the case this season? 

MM: Because of COVID reasons, you can’t get people in for fittings, so there was not as much made-to-measure stuff. It was more menswear boutiques, things like that, around town. 

Now, one guy I always enjoy watching is Connor — he’s so different in how he dresses from the rest of the family. He’s got those sweater vests. Everything is a bit softer. 

JS: He was going basically off the ranch and getting his foot into the political arena, so in the beginning, you’ll see him kind of softening that ranch-Western look and putting on something a little more business-y. Toward the middle of the season where he’s really gunning for this wacky idea that he can be the president, he starts to dress like a politician. In the early goings, you see the beginning of that transformation.

MM: But it’s still extremely in the casual world. He is the one who is constantly going to look like the outsider. Connor is the one who does not ever fit into the boardroom. Especially during his aspirational phase, which we are still in.

So without giving too much away: will we see Connor ever become a suit and tie guy?

MM: Not yet.

JS: He starts to have a bigger voice in the room as the season moves on. Without giving too much away, at some point you’ll see Connor in a full suit and tie.

Interesting …

JS: We tried to do what the Republicans and all the politicians do: they wear the pin on the lapel, the American flag. We wanted to do it with two pins on his lapel to show how American he was, but Jess [Armstrong, show runner] doesn’t like comedy in costumes.

I want to talk about Tom, because his costuming is some of my favorite to dissect.

MM: Well, I think you’re going to find that Tom becomes a bit of a dandy as we grow in the season, because he has more in the room to prove than anybody else. He postures more than anyone because he doesn’t come from the bloodline. The lineage isn’t there and he didn’t come from the money. So he’s wearing a lot more of that. The bigger watch, the shinier shoe. And in terms of his growth, his trajectory, I think we’ll see a lot more of that.

Matthew Mcfayden in Season 3 of Succession.
Matthew Mcfayden in season 3 of Succession.
Macall Polay/HBO

And when we first see him in this season, like Logan, he’s changed out of his boat clothes into chinos and a quilted vest.

JS: And as far as the red chinos and the quilted vest, there was an idea of business casual — outdoorsy business casual — for some of these guys, kind of, if you remember, the hunting episode. And not everyone is as lucky as Logan, where they could be traveling with a closet full of suits on the yacht or in a plane. So Tom basically has to be one of the guys that throws together what he has when he realizes, “Uh-oh, back to business,” and he did not pack for business. So it’s kind of rough and ready, “Let’s go to war,” and that’s what he has.

And the chinos are red, which feels almost comedic.

JS: Yes. He’s always trying to be part of the guys, but sometimes he’ll have a misstep.

MM: That is the thing about Tom. He’s never in beat. He pretends to be. He wants to be calm, cool and collected, but something is always just off center or not quite right, or a little bit too much. There was always one piece that doesn’t quite fit right in the picture, and it’s because he’s constantly trying too hard, I find.

And part of that is because he doesn’t come from money like the Roys, he’s always trying to prove himself. 

JS: He wants to be talked about, how great he looks.

MM: Right. And we have to remember, all those little details that everyone else passes over, the suspenders, the cuff links, the two-tone shirts, whatever it is. It’s always just one little bit more than necessary, but he’s unaware of it. His watch has to be the most expensive. If he buys Shiv something, it has to be monied.

And as a viewer, that comes off as awkwardness or discomfort. 

MM: That’s exactly right. He’s awkward. To begin with, he doesn’t know where he fits in. There is no room for him in the room, if you think about it. Everybody has a seat at the table. They always have, and they know where they stand. He doesn’t. They didn’t want him. They don’t want him now.

JS: And he did not grow up wearing suits.

MM: No. And he didn’t grow up with money. And you sense that.

And I want to just talk quickly about his suits specifically, because they’re such a sharp contrast to the slim cuts we see on Kendall and Roman. 

JS: You also have to take into consideration the actor’s body. He’s a manly guy. He’s six-foot-two. You talk about Kendall and Roman, they’re a little more slight.

MM: And even Connor is trim. He’s long and lean. Whereas Tom is, compared to them, a football player. He’s a rugby player. He’s got shoulders, he’s got a waist, he’s got a bum. 

Kieran Culkin in season 3 of Succession.
Kieran Culkin in season 3 of Succession.
Macall Polay/HBO

And Roman of course, he’s the cast’s cool guy, and the way Kendall looks sort of broken in the new season, Roman too has this disheveled-ness to him. 

JS: He was always going to be the downtown party boy. And so the dark shirt with or without the suit jacket seemed to suit him. I mean, an early inspiration was Robert Downey Jr. in Less Than Zero, kind of wild man.

MM: Roman is slicker than any of the family. That is clear and we have no clue what he does behind closed doors, but whatever it is, we don’t want to know. So I think there’s something incredibly wily about him and almost menacing. You just don’t know what he’s up to. 

JS: With him, you basically want to feel like it’s slick to the point of greasy … the hair does a good job with that. Slicked-back hair kind of says it all.

MM: And where we can see Kendall break down and become vacant, we see Roman as constantly sliding around, and we know that even when he is completely demoralized, he only becomes more dangerous. Kendall becomes sort of manic but sad, I think. We see him overtly losing it. We don’t see that same thing with Roman. He becomes more conniving in a way. And his clothes reflect that.

Now I want to talk about my personal two favorite guys on the show: Frank and Karl. I love the way they dress, I love how it plays off each other. 

JS: It’s kind of like a frick and frack type thing, where they both may have gone to college together. Old buddies, they know all the secrets, so they are going to look similar. They are going to look corporate. Karl does love his club ties, very clubby. He likes the whole idea of fraternal brotherhood. So he thinks it’s him, Frank and Logan forever.

Frank doesn’t buy in as much to that, but they are definitely kind of brothers in the conference room.

Even though they’re more monied than Tom, their suits have that same classic tailoring; the aesthetic is very traditional and old school. 

MM: But they are definitely off-the-rack guys. And I think you’re going to find that Tom becomes slightly more elevated in terms of a little bit more style and a little bit more fashion, but still old school, of course, and still conservative. But those two were definitely the most conservative in the room in terms of their dress. 

JS: And even if Tom had a choice, he would choose classics, because he thinks Logan would prefer a classic. He doesn’t want these skinny-legged pants and tight-fitting suits. He wants to do whatever Logan would think is appropriate.

That’s interesting, because where obviously Karl and Frank care what Logan thinks of them, that style of dress is really just who they are regardless and that’s why it looks natural on them, whereas Tom always looks a little uncomfortable. 

MM: Well also like Jon said, those are Ivy Leaguers. They belong to long lines of family members who have done this exact same thing. They might as well be Logan blood. They have their own. So we don’t know where Tom went to school, but it certainly wasn’t one of those schools and he wouldn’t have gotten in, on many levels.

And I love watching Karl and Frank’s costuming play off each other; they’re never wearing the exact same thing but they always more or less look like they shop at the same places. 

JS: They’re like those Dr. Seuss — Thing One, Thing Two.

I think that makes Logan the Cat in the Hat?

JS: That’s a great way to end the article.

MM: Yes, I think you should just sign your name at the bottom line.

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