Among the many talents of Tom Ripley — piano-playing, boat-scuttling and will-tampering to name but a scandalous few — perhaps his strongest suit is a knack for fashion. And, while Ripley was initially written stylishly in Patricia Highsmith’s source novel, and iterations including Alain Delon in Purple Noon and John Malkovich in Ripley’s Game have swaggered suavely across the screen in adaptations, no Ripley has ever carried off ‘bon vivant chic’ like Matt Damon’s 1999 crack at the character.
He could be tailored into a tux, rocking a rollneck or just buttoning up a plain blue shirt — but Damon’s Ripley is as carefully clothed as characters come. Every stitch has a meaning; a symbolic nod towards his ulterior motives or eventual undoing. In the film, Tom Ripley is sent to Italy to convince Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law) to return to the US. But, after becoming obsessed with the wealthy heir’s lifestyle, Ripley begins to impersonate him.
That means we also take a whirl through Greenleaf’s wardrobe during the drama; a collection of clothes unconstrained by budget or humility. Below, from spectacular spectacles to a louche collection of loafers, we’ve picked out five of the most important style lessons to learn from this fatal, fashionable film…
Glasses bring the film’s fashion into focus
In both the novel and Minghella’s adaption, spectacles play an important part of Ripley’s subterfuge. The con-artist uses accessories to differentiate between his actual identity and his impersonation of Greenleaf. But, while Ripley believes that glasses afford him a meeker, more inconspicuous air, we’d disagree. Instead, we’re rather fond of how those horn-rimmed glasses frame Damon’s face, and we’d recommend recreating the look.
To fully embrace the style, look to Cubitts — a British brand that offers a pair of soft, round specs similar to those Ripley pops on. There’s also the ‘Cran’ style from TBD Eyewear, an almost identical proposition, but one with slightly tinted lenses. Or you could simply take inspiration from the shape, and unfold Monc Eyewear’s ‘Løkka’ frames; sufficiently summery, and fit for the Italian Riviera.
TBD Eyewear ‘Cran' Frames
Cubitts ‘Rosebery’ Frames
Monc ‘Løkka’ Frames
The polo shirts are avant-garde and adventurous
The Academy Award-nominated film is also brimming with perfect polo shirts. Whether it’s Damon’s Ripley — who pulls on classic cuts — or Jude Law’s Dickie Greenleaf — who buttons up polos boasting bold stripes and slick, silky fabrics — the Oscar-nominated, costume-designing duo of Ann Roth and Gary Jones played a blinder with the film’s shirting.
So it pays to imitate the style. We’d suggest either going for subtle blues, whether that be a deep dark navy or a pale pastel blue. Hemingsworth has a stellar example of the former, woven with Lycra for extra stretch, and Aurélien has stitched together a breathable, absorbent option in sky blue towelling fabric. Or, for those preppy, panelled stripes, try Frescobol Carioca‘s silky ‘Francisco’ knit.
Aurélien Terry Towelling Polo Shirt
Frescobol Carioca ‘Francisco’ Knit
Hemingsworth ‘Comber’ Polo Shirt
Lightweight loafers capture the Riviera chic
During the course of the fashion-forward film, the only thing Damon’s Ripley finds easier to slip into than his alter-ego is a series of stylish loafers. In the Alain Delon-starring adaptation, Purple Noon, it’s a pair of white loafers that precipitates the character’s fall into framing, forgery and murder. And, here, slip-on shoes are just as stylishly prevalent — be they scooting over cobbles or kicking back by the beach.
We’re firm proponents of the footwear. In fact, earlier this year, Gentleman’s Journal launched a limited collaboration with storied heritage shoemaker Crockett & Jones; these handsome black suede ‘Boston’ loafers. For more of a ‘Mediterranean’ feel, Scarosso’s ‘Ludovico’ slip-ons have a waterproof rubber sole — or look to MULO for a more casual spin on the style.
Scarosso 'Ludovico Acciaio Scamosciato’ Loafers
Crockett & Jones x GJ ‘Boston’ Loafers
MULO Tan Suede Loafers
Like the personalities at play, the jackets are big and bold
It’s not always warm on the Italian Riviera. And, when the wind blows through Mongibello in the 1999 film, both Ripley and Greenleaf are seen to pull on some seriously statement-making jackets. It’s a bold style move — and one you should definitely look to adopt this summer, whether you’re jetting off to the sunny climes of Sanremo, or staying put in Britain.
You’ll never go wrong with a camp-collar canvas overshirt, similar to Dickie Greenleaf’s light-coloured option. Try Loro Piana for this. Or, if you’re more of a Ripley, this slightly subdued — but equally elegant — houndstooth blouson from Reiss will do the job. Alternatively, for that smarter, more collegiate look, try a corduroy blazer; an education in preppiness from Damon can be mimicked thanks to Thom Sweeney.
Thom Sweeney Corduroy Blazer
Loro Piana Camp-Collar Canvas Overshirt
Reiss Houndstooth Blouson Jacket
Striped neckwear ties the whole film together
And finally, we tie up our trip through the fashionable film’s wardrobe with neckwear. Despite the plunging necklines, tanned chests and unbuttoned shirts that typify the sunny scenes, The Talented Mr Ripley also makes a case for trim tailoring (see: the corduroy jacket above). And the ties, whether Greenleaf’s is loosely-knotted as he loosely plays jazz saxophone, or Ripley’s is firmly knotted on the beach, play another key part in delineating smart and casual; truth and lies.
The key, across most of the designs seen in the film, is stripes. Greenleaf, much like his character, prefers to go big and bold; and Turnbull & Asser’s ‘Repp’ tie is perfect for imitating this look. Ripley himself, pre-identity thieving, leans towards more intricate designs — bands of differing weight, such as Drake’s patterned offering, or even this gently motif-bearing ‘Tea’ tie from New & Lingwood.
Turnbull & Asser Stripe Repp Tie
Drake’s Stripe Repp Silk Tie
New & Lingwood ‘Tea’ Silk Tie
Want more cinematic style lessons? Here are the fashion tips to take from The Godfather…
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