The Gentlemen’s Costume Designer Breaks Down the Felonious Finery

Early in his career, British director Guy Ritchie specialized in making good movies about bad guys. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch and RocknRolla told stories about pugnacious criminals plying their trades in and around London’s working-class demimonde. His latest romp The Gentlemen (now in theaters) marks a return to form with its cast of alpha males Matthew McConaughey, Hugh Grant, Colin Farrell and Charlie Hunnam augmented by the presence of elegant Downton Abbey star Michelle Dockery.

Ritchie sets the cheeky tone with his script and direction, but it’s Oscar-nominated costume designer Michael Wilkinson (American Hustle) who provides the sartorial panache. Wilkinson, who first teamed with Ritchie on last year’s uncharacteristically family-friendly Disney picture Aladdin, says “Guy’s brief to me for The Gentlemen was to create clothes that sum up the vibe of modern British style in its many guises. Whether its wealthy drug-lord, nouveau riche mafia bosses, street gangs and council estate boys, Guy wanted to make sure that everyone put their look together with pride and wore the clothes with 200 percent commitment.”

Breaking down his costume designs via video “character shots,” Wilkinson takes The Credits through the full range of dapper criminality on display in The Gentlemen.

Matthew McConaughey as Mickey

“We wanted to create an original look for Matthew’s character so we made all of his suits ourselves working with our amazing tailor. Mickey’s costumes show a modern take on classic English tailoring: extremely high quality but with a younger, less constrictive vibe. I chose luxurious fabrics like windowpane checks and Prince of Wales checks that were woven from beautiful wools, cashmere, and silk. Matthew wears his suits like a second skin.”

Hugh Grant as Fletcher

“Hugh Grant’s character modeled himself on the great film directors of the 1970s but interpreted with a lecherous, creepy vibe, which he loved. The key for Fletcher had to do with finding the right pair of glasses. We chose a classic pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarers but added lenses that had an unsettling shade of grayish-purple. Then we made a leather jacket and distressed it to look lived in. We paired that with high neck sweaters and crocodile-skin boots.”

Colin Farrell as Coach

“We designed and manufactured all of the fabrics for Colin Farrell’s tracksuits. They were based on classic English suiting fabrics, which we enlarged, brightened and printed onto a modern quilted technical fabric. Colin’s frames were a one-off original from the early ’80s that we sourced from a vintage eyewear specialist. It’s a modern update on streetwear and casual sportswear that shows the ‘Coach’ character having this bold, idiosyncratic sense of style.”

Charlie Hunnam as Ray

“With Charlie’s costumes, we wanted to show a more casual side of English style so we combined tailored pieces with quilted Barbour jackets, knitted ties, tweedy waistcoats, chunky knits, and beautiful bespoke boots. The fact that Charlie’s character was engaging in less-than-legal activities did not inhibit his appreciation of well-cut, well-made clothes!”

Michelle Dockery as Rosaline

“Michelle’s character wears luxury labels with throw-away aplomb. She’s very comfortable with her ascent from a background very much different from her current circumstances. Rosaline dresses fearlessly and effortlessly, so we defined her style as being classic English with a modern, dramatic impact. We put Michelle in black and white, strong shoulders, graphic stripes, and bold silhouettes along with pearls, boots, fur, cashmere, and sharp tailoring.”

Featured image: Michelle Dockery and Matthew McConaughey in ‘The Gentlemen.’ Photo Credit: Christopher Raphael


Hugh Hart

Hugh Hart has covered movies, television and design for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Wired and Fast Company. Formerly a Chicago musician, he now lives in Los Angeles with his dog-rescuing wife Marla and their Afghan Hound.

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