Film

Remembering Brad Pitt’s Ridiculously Underrated ‘Ocean’s Twelve’ Wardrobe

Silk shirts, belted trenches, resort-wear: this is rhapsodic costuming in action.

by Lauren O'Neill
14 May 2020, 11:23pm

All screengrabs courtesy Netflix. 

If you are a subscriber to the streaming service Netflix, you may have found yourself becoming especially well-acquainted with it recently. If, like me, you are also a proud fan of a little thing called cinéma, you might have noticed that the Ocean’s trilogy – i.e. the film equivalent of the musical genre “easy listening” and potentially the greatest set of three Hollywood movies ever made – is now available to watch in full via that service, in the comfort of your home, whenever you like. Will wonders ever cease?

For the sadly unacquainted, the Ocean’s movies, all directed by Steven Soderbergh, follow a guy called Danny Ocean (played by George Clooney) who adores to con very rich people – usually casino owners – out of their money, millions of dollars at a time. In order to do this effectively, he enlists a group of criminal collaborators with various skill sets, played throughout the films by actors ranging from Eddie Izzard to the guy who plays Monica and Ross’ dad in Friends.

The success of the whole concept rests basically only on a Robin Hood-type ethical code – Danny and his crew are the good, fun guys, stealing from evil guys such as Andy Garcia and Al Pacino – and the essential fact that it exudes an extremely 2000s version of masculine “cool” (the closest point of comparison I can think of is probably when Thierry Henry did those Renault adverts.) As these two things are kind of irresistible to a lot of viewers, it is very successful.

I recently watched the whole trilogy over the course of three weeks (one film every Sunday; as the day of barbecues and “Steve Wright’s Love Songs”, Sunday is both God’s and Danny Ocean’s day) and have some observations to share from the experience.

Firstly, the original Ocean’s Eleven is far and away the best actual film, other than the weird ending where Julia Roberts’ character decides that she does actually want to be married to George Clooney/Danny Ocean (Danny Ocean, as we know, is just George Clooney saying scripted lines as himself), despite this being a complete U-turn on her behaviour for 90 percent of the movie. Secondly, while the first one is technically tHe BeTtEr MoViE, the series really catches its air with Ocean’s Twelve, which gifts you essentially everything you got from the first movie – a bunch of guys just hanging out, slickly doing crimes, presented as a model of ideal masculinity – with two important added bonuses:

1) There is an utterly amazing subplot wherein Julia Roberts, playing Tess Ocean, pretends to be Julia Roberts as part of an attempt to steal a Faberge egg. I could quite seriously talk for a number of hours about what a funny meta-narrative that is, particularly because much of the excitement around the Ocean’s trilogy was about the films’ A-list cast (Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Julia Roberts starring together in the early-to-mid 2000s was a big deal!), and their “famous movie actors having the time of their lives making an incredibly fun movie” feel. When you actively interrogate that, and also throw in Bruce Willis playing himself, it’s very hard to fuck up.

2) Brad Pitt’s wardrobe.


To see Brad Pitt in Ocean’s Twelve is to observe rhapsodic costuming in action. The costume design for the film was lead by Milena Canonero, who has won four Oscars for dressing people in movies (including for Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, so you know this is serious shit), and on Pitt, she delivers a heretofore unseen level of what I can only term “pizzazz.”

In the first movie, there are some definite suggestions that Pitt’s character, Rusty Ryan – Danny Ocean’s suave and sardonic right hand man – has an eye for a bold ensemble, but it’s really taken to the nth degree in Ocean’s Twelve. His wardrobe is a visual buffet: cinch-waist trench coats (plural), resort-wear, not-quite-mirror surfaces, wraparound shades – the gang’s all here. It’s a set of costumes so comfortable in its masculinity that it is willing, at times, to embrace some slightly more un-masculine details. While Danny is black turtlenecks and business suits, Rusty is shirts so silky they look like petrol, and, well, blue leather. These are quietly flamboyant clothes, with an easy, vaguely unserious sexuality; they are a glass of whisky with a maraschino cherry bobbing at the liquid’s surface. They are the get-up of the best dressed guy in the used car forecourt, who’s going to sell you a 2014 Ford Focus for double what it’s worth, and you will say “thank you,” just because he looked so damn persuasive.

All of this is to say, I think that the styling of Brad Pitt in Ocean’s Twelve should be collected and conserved in some sort of museum, but in lieu of that, I provide you here with an absurdly detailed account of the majority of the outfits he wears throughout the film, listed from amazing to most amazing for your pleasure.

11) PAST RUSTY WITH SEMI-PRO WRESTLER HAIR

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Even Rusty’s bad looks are pretty great. This is nowhere better exemplified than in this scene, a flashback to a time when the character was younger and presumably attempting to grow in a mullet, where his proto-Joe Exotic trim steals the show, even though Oscar winner Catherine Zeta-Jones is there too.

10) PAST RUSTY WEARING COMBATS

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When I was around nine years old I went through a “combats” phase and can attest to their comfort and practicality. They do, however, also look genuinely terrible on anyone who wears them, and even Brad Pitt, at the peak of his turn-of-the-century heartthrob powers, cannot pull them off, especially not with that hair. Points for daring to go with a white trouser though.

9) DRUNK WEDDING USHER-TYPE SUIT

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“Listen Sarah. Listen to me. I love you OK. I love – where are you going? Can we just try again? I want to give you a life……I want to smell you...every day. Sarah. Sarah.” He’s crying now.

“Sarah?” His hand loosely grasps her wrist. “...Can you go and get me a beer?”

I’d almost disapprove if it weren’t for the shiny tie.

8) SHINY JACKET

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Which brings me here. The thread linking much of Rusty’s sartorial greatness in this movie is the fact that the man fucking loves a silver fabric – not grey, but silver. Silk, or perhaps satin (or in the case of this jacket, maybe even a velveteen?), abounds, to the point where on any of Pitt's peers, this stuff would essentially look like it fell out of a closet belonging to an “edgy magician” (magician who swears). This, of course, is what makes it so incredibly good.

7) BLUE LEATHER TOP THING

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Doesn’t this blue shacket look like something that a member of the group Blue would have worn in the video for “All Rise”? Good for her.

6) SHINY, INDEED ALMOST REFLECTIVE, SHIRT

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The zenith of the shiny garments, really. Here, let me show you in close up:

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As you can see, the shiny silver shirt is really the foundation stone of The Rusty Ryan Aesthetic, the roots from which the rest of the wardrobe grows and blossoms. This is because it encapsulates everything that needs to be communicated by looking at Rusty (like all of the Ocean’s characters, who are enjoyably two-dimensional, this basically amounts to: not very much). So when you close your eyes and think, “What would a wisecracking-but-fundamentally-jacked guy who makes his considerable living from robbing casinos, and is in a film about doing so, wear?”, do you not immediately see this garment floating before you like a mirage or religious apparition?

5) HOLIDAY DAD

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Not sure Brad Pitt has ever looked more like he’s just exasperatedly gone “Dos cervezas por favor” after waiting ten minutes to get served, and for that, we have Milena Canonero to thank.

4) TRENCH COAT AND WRAPAROUNDS

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The power in this look really lies in the combination of two statement items. Wraparound shades – best known for their appearances on a) middle aged men at ski resorts and b) south London irony boys who have middling-to-good Twitter presences – with the sort of trench coat your mum would buy from M&S one October, saying she’s “trying something different,” is not a pairing I would ever make. This, I suppose, is why I’m not an award-winning costume stylist, because the result is truly undeniable.

3) EXTRA IN ‘THE SOPRANOS’

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Can’t you imagine a guy dressed in this exact ensemble appearing on screen for approximately one minute as an enemy henchman, before being brutally shot in the head behind the steering wheel of a car? Because I can. It’s a great outfit.

2) RESORT CHIC

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Speaks for itself really.

1) VERY POWERFUL SECOND TRENCH COAT THAT LOOKS LIKE THE MATRIX

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Would you like another angle on this, the second belted coat that Brad Pitt wears in seminal fashion film Ocean’s Twelve? It would be my pleasure:

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This coat is the best item that Rusty wears in Ocean’s Twelve because it is genuinely dope, necessarily attention seeking, and also accidentally nods to one of the other best cinematic style watersheds ever: The Matrix (like, if there were a smooth-talking con man who stole from millionaires for sport knocking about in Zion, he’d probably be wearing something like this.) From the second image, you can see that the fabric has a sort of heavy, oil spill-esque quality, tying in with Rusty’s general inability to put on anything that he can’t at least *try* to see his reflection in, and the sunglasses in the first push the whole thing to the good side of bad, which is basically where this character’s taste in clothing lives.

Arguably, there’s something to be learned from all of this. The real moral here is probably something like: if Brad Pitt as Rusty Ryan in Ocean’s Twelve, and maybe also Ocean’s Eleven, but mainly Ocean’s Twelve, would wear it, then maybe you should too. You should just bear in mind that you’re probably not as hot as Brad Pitt circa-2004.

@hiyalauren

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This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

Tagged:
Fashion
Brad Pitt
Ocean's Twelve