How to Dress Like The Talented Mr. Ripley's Dickie Greenleaf
How To Dress Like Your Novel is a series in which we explore what Creative Director Raquel calls “the pursuit of literary aesthetic coordination.” In this edition, our Perfume Columnist Mishka Hoosen channels what over on Twitter we've all been calling “Ripley summer” after the 1999 film based on Patricia Highsmith’s iconic thriller.
With special thanks to Olivia for suggesting this theme, and the lovely and stylish Raquel for styling ideas!
For me, nothing says “summer” like a moody, slow boiling thriller set in some grand European city. And what better one to turn to for sartorial inspiration than the 1999 classic The Talented Mr Ripley? It needs barely any introduction. Just know there’s a young Jude Law as shambolic aristocrat Dickie Greenleaf, plenty of white linen, jazz and opera and midcentury Italian swing sprinkled liberally among lingering, adoring shots of Italy, blood on a marble statue, and the requisite dose of homoerotic anguish to make it a veritable treatise on The Aesthetic (TM).
As for the clothes — God, the clothes. We can thank brilliant costume designers Anne Roth and Gary Jones for one of the best masculine wardrobes ever captured on film. It’s decadent but deshabille, elegant and nonchalant. And throughout the film, there is a refined consciousness of the importance of clothes — to disguise, to inspire, to distract, and enchant. It’s a jacket that sets the entire story in motion.
Throughout, the film shows us how the clothes we wear both capture how we want others to see us, and reveal the most shadowed parts of ourselves by turns. So, if you’ve got secrets to hide, or have anguished dreams to brood over while looking out over the Mediterranean, or just want to look like you do, here’s a little guide to looking the part.
Dolce far niente
The key aspect of the look here is ease. Luxury that doesn’t try too hard, and elegance that smirks while tucking into some gelato, are the key here. Simple, clean lines, and a capsule wardrobe are what to aim for. There are so many other things to do in the summertime than fret over one’s outfit every morning, so a few carefully chosen, elegant pieces that can be worn in many combinations are ideal. Roth made sure to use the same elegant jacket for several of Dickie Greenleaf’s looks in the film, and always ensured that his clothes had a sense of being worn in, even a little threadbare, to capture the wardrobe of a wealthy heir on the lam and in danger of being cut off. And frankly, slightly-disgraced aristocrat living in bohemian dissipation is a look I’m happy to wear any time.
Clothes maketh the man
(or woman, or nonbinary person. You get it.)
One of the pivotal moments in the film comes when Tom is fitted for a new jacket in Rome, marking his shift from wearing his one boxy, shabby shirt (that he washes every evening), to wearing bespoke. It’s a statement on the power of clothes to change our circumstances, and the impact a little tailoring can do. With this in mind, mix formal and casual items to add both polish and ease, depending on the occasion and mood. Pair a sleek blazer with some linen joggers, or pair leather loafers with summer shorts.
A sense of understated splendor is what we’re aiming for here, and it’s not as elusive as you might think. This summer, I’ve properly discovered the huge difference a tiny bit of cheap tailoring can make to an ordinary shirt or jacket. It’s easy enough to get shirts taken in, or shoulder pads from vintage finds removed. With one old blazer, I also sourced some vintage brass buttons and replaced the old plastic ones, instantly transforming it into something that looks much more luxurious. Keep an eye out at summer markets or brocantes for vintage buttons, a bit of silk ribbon, or other details to customize and revive clothes you already have.
One of my favorite things about Dickie’s style in this film is his unashamed and fantastic use of accessories. From gold rings to great watches, sunglasses, bold ties, and questionable hats, it sets him apart and adds exactly the right kind of sprezzatura to encapsulate his louche-ness and vitality. What’s more, they identify him. In that spirit, why not shop the summer markets for a small but unique accessory that is so perfectly *you* that, should your best friend ever murder you with an oar, your grief-stricken fiancé will smell a rat as soon as she spots it on him.
My personal favorite this summer was a silver and lapis ring my partner bought for me from one of the street vendors beside the Seine. Shop small, shop local, shop vintage, and you’ll be sure to find something truly unique and memorable.
You also can’t go wrong with a pair of Wayfarer-style sunglasses to cover up the results of your drunken carousing (or murderous escapades).
Blazer - Summertime is also when many people have events to attend. What better way to dress up a relaxed summer ensemble than with a sleek blazer jacket? Linen and cotton are the way to go here, and to give it a more relaxed feel, look out for buttons in tortoiseshell or seashell. Try this one from Stradivarius.
Linen shirt - This needs no further explanation. I picked up this one from Uniqlo, as it has a bit more of a fluid feel, and I’ve currently reached my absolute limit for regular button-down shirts. I think especially for more non-binary or masc-leaning people with broad chests (as I am), a three-quarter button placket does a much better job at avoiding the dreaded button-pull in the center of the chest. Here are some other options as well.
Shoes - In terms of footwear with a Ripley vibe, I think a nice pair of summer brogues, braided loafers, or Gucci-style loafers are the way to go. This pair from Massimo Dutti is on my wishlist, and this pair of leather loafers from Dune is one of the best purchases I’ve made lately. For a more summery style, why not try this version? For more affordable options, check out this pair from Asos, or these lovely brogues.
The right perfume - No ensemble is complete without it, and it’s the easiest way to create a mood without saying a word. Personally, this summer I’ve fallen in love with my partner’s current signature: Goutal’s Bois d’Hadrien, a breath of spice and woods that speaks of summer breezes through fir and cypress, ivy growing on the walls of old villas, and hot sun on a countryside road. I also think that nothing is better after a summertime swim than layering some scented oil: Nuxe’s Huile Prodigieuse is a forever favorite, and still conjures memories of the isolated bay in the Cyclades where my partner and I spent our honeymoon. Or, for a more luxurious option, why not try one of the exquisite Huiles Antique from Buly — the scent will linger deliciously on your clothes, and complement glowing summer skin.
Now that you’re kitted out for a proper Mediterranean summer, why not take your best friend on a boating trip, murder him and assume his identity? Just kidding. That would be awful. Just — live your best life, and don’t get caught.
Mishka Hoosen is a writer, creative director, and neophyte perfumer living and working in Cape Town, South Africa. His first novel, Call it a difficult night, was published by Deep South Books in 2015, and he is currently working on a book about perfume and the anthropocene thanks to a residency from IFAS. Mishka is The Attic on Eighth’s Perfume Columnist.