Fictional Style Hero: Dickie Greenleaf

The only way to dress this summer

Words by Peter Minkoff

Illustrations by Zack Huffman


For those who aren’t in the know, although this is a fairly iconic cinematic creation, The Talented Mr. Ripley is a movie set in the 1950s, and aside from the plot of the mystery, one of the most memorable features of this movie are the costumes. The world famous Ann Roth is the person responsible for the iconic costumes that convey much more than just clothes that excellently, impeccably and without a flaw represent the era in which the movie is set. Perhaps if Tom Ripley was the only male character in the movie the ingeniousness of the costumes wouldn’t be as poignant or carry the symbolism that it does, but the fact that we essentially have two leading men puts things into a whole new perspective. 


The first thing that is incredibly interesting is that, even though the ‘50s was a highly distinctive decade in terms of style and types of clothing both men and women wore, most of the items, if not all, could be worn by a fashion-savvy man of today, which makes this recap of Dickie Greenleaf’s style all the more important, as his style is still resonant today, particularly if you pay close attention to the menswear collections of 2018. The saying is definitely true – what goes around does indeed come around. The wide shoulders, the slightly slouchy blazers, it’s all coming back now. But enough about the present, let’s talk about the past and dissect Dickie’s style, while inevitably placing it against Tom’s, because one virtually doesn’t exist without the other.


The nonchalance 

The thing that couldn’t possibly escape one’s eye is the nonchalance that seems to be an innate quality of Dickie’s. However, the nonchalance that he exudes is not one only acquired by birth; no, this is the kind of nonchalance that only the truly wealthy, the ‘never think about money’ type of wealthy people have. When you look at his daytime uniform, which mainly consists of white or rolled beige linen pants, white plimsolls and short sleeve cabana shirts with pastel patches on the front, you would think ‘well, yes, he’s in Italy, it’s the Italian way – the seductive ‘several buttons left undone’ way. But there is something in his manner, the way he wears these items that makes him look like a million dollars. True, these items are probably high-quality and therefore pricey ones, and he knows their value, but as any real rich kid without a care in the world, he pretends not to care, and he does so successfully. It’s like he’s playing this role and has a costume for every performance. 

He coordinates his fashion items casually. They mirror his liberated spirit, but they still fit perfectly to Dickie’s body by virtue of being the finest quality of the clothing. He even wears the cliché white shirt and tropical swim trunks on the boat – as one does. However, there is something alluring about the white shirt cliché, otherwise it wouldn’t be so prominent in such a large number of movies. Another thing to notice is that most of the items he wears are pastel, which is another trend that has come back in style, so it has never been easier to copy the style. Tom, on the other hand, looks and obviously feels out of place in this world and this country. His shirts are checkered flannel, his pants are khaki, and he has that ‘square American’ look about him, along with the worried eyes that hide behind the nerdy glasses. The look would probably be described as nerdy chic today, but in 1950s Italy, it was almost laughable.


The suits 

So, even though Dickie’s attire mostly consists of buttoned-down shirts, shorts and linen pants, there are moments when he suits up, and these moments are truly monumental because this is exactly where we get to visually capture the vast differences between the two men. First, we have the ties – Dickie’s are always either pastel or in bright colors, but always striped for a touch of whimsy. The jacket is impeccably tailored and the pants are still always white. Next to him, Tom, in his all black everything, except the crisp white shirt almost looks like an IRS agent even though they’re clothes aren’t that dissimilar at first glance. He’s stiff and uncomfortable, while Dickie is playful while rocking his signature hat and ostentatious ring. The night at the concert is the perfect setting in which their differences are brought to the fore – even though they’re both wearing black, you can tell who’s who in an instant. However, as both the preppy and the nonchalant men’s suits are, luckily for you, back in style. In 2018, you get to pick and choose whether you want to be the detailed and chill suited up Dickie or the sharp although slouchy Tom. Still, the genius costume designers made sure to use texture and the material of the clothing in order to emphasize the difference in social status, lifestyle and even personalities. Even in the boat scene, in which Tom kills Dickie, they are both in black shirts, but Dickie is wearing a black see-through shirt with white linen pants, his rings, and belt. Tom, on the other hand, even though he’s doing his best to emulate Dickie’s style, is in khaki pants, and his only accessories are his wristwatch and glasses.


Clothes and backgrounds 

Still, this isn’t the only scene in which their differences are visible even to the color-blind. Throughout the entire movie, Dickie’s garments are graced with elaborate ornaments and are full of little details such as the aforementioned ring, hats and colorful ties. Compared to the mocked corduroy jacket that Tom wears, Dickie looks like a style god – not that he even needed Tom’s lack of style for contrast to begin with. To say that in the future, and most probably in the past, Dickie’s style was the more coveted one in real life would be an understatement. Still, perhaps we shouldn’t be undoing so many buttons until we’re actually at the beach, but feel free to rock the black and gold Versace-reminiscent robe any day of the week, although if you’re a Tom at heart, you probably won’t pull it off as well. After all, this is a guy who appeared at the beach in neon green speedos when Dickie was flaunting his fashion savvy with pastel blue tropical swimming trunks. Enough said.