Diving for Sunken Treasure With Wild Wes
A closer look at the meticulous style decisions made in Wes Anderson's most loved films.
Buttered Popcorn is a monthly column that covers wardrobe and fashion in current and past TV shows and films.
This summer, we are invited back to the wild, wild, Wes Anderson. His name itself functions as an adjective, his distinctive style endlessly influential. From customized prints and specific patches to imagined book collections, Anderson offers a consistency of comforting technicolor whimsy and meticulous symmetry. He has influenced brands, such as Alessandro Michele's 2015 Gucci Womenswear debut, Tyler the Creator's Golf Le Fleur line, and Very Troubled Child's luggage and loungewear, to name a few. Recently, there has been an AI-generated image movement to 'Wes-ify' any character lineup, capitalizing on the deceptive simplicity of his aesthetic as a whole. While at a glance it may appear algorithmic, his costuming embodies an untouchable humanity and expressiveness that set it apart from the ebb and flow of trends.
The subtle stylistic twists that make the most memorable Wes characters are the unconventional, personalized details. Take Rushmore, an early film by Anderson, that takes place at an elite private school known as Rushmore Academy. The school uniform consists of a light blue button down, a red striped tie, khakis, and a navy blazer. The only student consistently in full uniform is our protagonist, Jason Schwartzman’s character, “Max Fisher." The pins on his lapel declaring punctuality and perfect attendance serve as symbols of his values, ambition, and the inevitability of his audacious plans, like funding an aquarium to be built in the school's baseball field.
Schwatzman has acted in many of Anderson's films. In his most recent work, Asteroid City, Schwartzman’s “Augie” sports a tan lightly dirt-dusted safari jacket with a pocket flap always open for his pipe. His minimal flair comes from the camera draped around his neck like a mechanical necklace. This functions as a nod to his photographic career as well as a unique accessory. This small detail reveals his desire to keep distance from those around him.
Color is pivotal to creating the uniformity within Andersons’s eccentric world. In his first feature length film, Bottle Rocket, Owen Wilson’s character, “Dignant,” wears a banana-yellow jumpsuit—planned as the team uniform for a comical undercover operation. The bold hues and edible pastels distinguish characters and plots from each other while working harmoniously together. Bill Murray’s “Steve Zissou’s” Life Aquatic team drips in brand oriented primary colors. A custom Z logo on every garment, down to a limited release Adidas collaboration sneaker. Bright red beanies—reminiscent of Jacques-Yves Cousteau's novel Diving for Sunken Treasure's cover art—serve as cherries on top, being uniquely modified for each team member.
Willem Defoe’s character “Klaus,” has a pom pom, Owen Wilson’s character “Ned” with a stop light patch, and Waris Ahluwalia’s character “Vikram” a turban. The Society of the Crossed Keys in The Grand Budapest Hotel is a network of hotel concierges worldwide, identified by the tailored three-piece tail suits in vivid Crayola shades. The bronze cross-keyed pin unifies members seamlessly together like they could fit side by side in a gift wrapped Mendl's box.
Anderson utilizes repetition and sentimental accessorizing to enhance narrative. In The Royal Tenenbaums, the children appear to suffer from Peter Pan syndrome. As child prodigies, Gwyneth Paltrow’s “Margot”and Luke Wilson’s “Richie” are styled identically as kids and adults. "Margot," with her signature red gem hair barrette that remains untouched through her many flings and phases. Her source of stability is found through her style: a mink fur coat, a brown leather Birkin, and striped Lacoste tennis dresses. “Richie," a failed tennis pro, clings to his past by wearing his navy and red striped sweatband, matching his polo shirt collars, even long after his last match.
Another instance of this familial connection shines blatantly, in Darjeeling Limited, the Whitman brothers reunite after their father’s passing. Adrien Brody’s “Peter Whitman '' wears his father’s prescription tortoise shell blue tinted aviators. Their father’s monogrammed 10 piece luggage set, customized with a unique Louis Vuitton palm tree and safari animal print, becomes a significant prop. The luggage makes its most poignant appearance when thrown to the dust as they board their final train. Moonrise Kingdom’s “Suzy Bishop” also carries personalized objects when she runs away from home. A suitcase brimmed by books so catered to her that they’re not real. She is gifted fish hook-rigged scarab beetle earrings, made and pierced for her by partner in crime, “Sam” that she never removes. Serving as a token of their connection, they become synonymous with Suzy’s character.
Wes Anderson has been able to capture with nuanced detail an element of style so rooted in reality that it defies exact replication. It’s a trait that can’t be acquired through TikTok note taking or SSENSE trolling. While it's possible to mimic the resurrected vintage and pastel perfection, Anderson's films employ a stylistic level of taste, trust, and personal POV that is found innately and through curation that averts trends. It’s your grandfather’s inherited orange tinted Ray Ban aviators. It’s the way your partner’s hoodie fits. It’s an actual painter's pair of pants. It's a stolen robe, not a Hotel Chevalier Anderson knock-off, but from a hotel you loved and lost at.