An Insider’s Take on Gordon Gekko’s Fashion Legacy
Were Michael Douglas’s clothes in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street remake, “Money Never Sleeps”, to be compared with other post World War II male film wardrobes, they would likely measure up rather well. However, these latest on-screen duds come with a rather unusual karma – being forever compared to the 1987 academy award winning original, where its leading man, Gordon Gekko, sports one of the most acclaimed film wardrobes of all time.
Having had the fortune to be given the assignment of designing the original Gordon Gekko wardrobe, I can speak with some authority on the subject. My involvement was occasioned by mention being made to my clothes in two of the decade’s profiles of Wall Street during the “go-go Eighties” – “Liar’s Poker” and “Barbarians at the Gate”. Therefore, when Ellen Mirojnick, Wall Street’s costume designer, went looking for someone to create this new high-flying, Master of the Universe dressing style, she came to visit with me at my newly formed custom shop on East 52nd. St. Because of the publicity surrounding my custom clothes, many of our early customers were successful investment bankers from Solomon Brothers, First Boston, and Goldman Sachs. It didn’t take Ms. Mirojnick long to realize that we were already fast at work crafting this insider power look for the newly minted Wall Street brethren, much like we continue doing today.
After deciding to throw my hat into the ring, Michael Douglas asked if I would meet him at his Central Park West apartment to discuss my ideas for the clothes. Arriving in full-Flusser form – horizontal-striped dress shirt, bold pin-stripe double-breasted suit, brown suede lace-ups, et al., Michael took one look at me and proclaimed “that’s exactly how I want to look.” Several months later, after many late night and week-end fittings and with Michael becoming almost a fixture at my custom shop, we delivered the last of his bespoke clothes the day before shooting was to begin. The producers must have decided early on that his wardrobe was going to figure importantly in the film because they ended up spending close to $55,000 in 1986 dollars, an unprecedented investment, then or now, for a leading man’s wardrobe.
I can remember arranging to visit the set on the day Michael was to wear a rounded club collar shirt so I could show the dressers how to pin the collar correctly and fold the pocket square in his jacket’s breast pocket. In between takes, we were relaxing in Michael’s trailer when Oliver Stone popped in. Glancing at me decked out in my custom tailored togs, he asks Michael whether I’m one of his extras. Michael laughed and filled him in. Terence Stamp, Gordon Gekko’s British counterpart in the movie, saw one of Michael’s suits on set and rang me to ask whether I could rush him out a suit, which we did. We had become friends in London showing up twice at the same time for fittings with the legendary English bespoke shoemaker, octogenarian George Cleverley. Like a private club, George’s was always brimming with interesting folk.
In any event, the release of Wall Street in 1987 catapulted the Alan Flusser Custom Shop onto the global stage. From the number of interviews that followed, you’d have thought I’d invented rye……or maybe even tweed. Men began telephoning from all over the globe wanting to come to the shop and be made into Gordon Gekkos. The following year, sales in my custom business quadrupled.
However, with all the clamor being generated by the Gekko wardrobe, not much of the credit for the movie’s overall look and blockbuster success was being directed at Ms. Mirojnick, which she well deserved. I can remember telling several interviewers at the time that, were there ever to be a sequel with Ms. Mirojnick as the costumer….. I doubted that I’d be on her dance card. Fast-forward some twenty some years to Wall Street II and that’s pretty much how the story line played out.
Now, one has to understand that in the two films’ intervening years, the dressing style and character of Gordon Gekko had attained almost a cult-like status. Within the rarified climes of the luxury men’s retail business, no less amongst self-proclaimed male style arbiters around the world, Michael Douglas’s wardrobe was known to all. Every seven years or so, when the cycle of men’s fashions would inevitably return to their bespoke-inspired roots, the Gordon Gekko look would be once again dusted off and trotted out for all to regale. During my travels around the globe, I’d regularly come upon “Wall Street” being played on closed-circuit TV’s on selling floors or in windows from London to Los Angeles.
The “Gekko” moniker continues to be memorialized by legions of “B” School graduates for whom going “Gekko” signifies anything from dressing up to acting like a big shot. Michael Douglas often speaks about the number of young men in the past twenty years who have come up to him to tell him that Gordon Gekko was the reason they went to work on Wall Street – and the character ends up being put in jail. Within the emerging menswear blogosphere, Gordon Gekko is as well known as Ralph Lauren or Giorgio Armani. And I have yet to do an interview where the writer knows of my connection to the movie that he does ask for my perspective of the clothes’ seemingly timeless appeal.
So, when hints of a “Wall Street” remake began surfacing, my phone started ringing. Having lobbed off several missives to the film’s producers without any response, not surprisingly, I later learned of Ms. Mirojnick’s role as the film’s costumer. However, as the film’s release approached, style journalists would persist in peppering me with questions about why I wasn’t involved, etc. Gekko fanatics forwarded the office interviews with Ms. Mirojnick along with their complaints while decrying the wholesale injustice of my services not being re-engaged. Like it or not, I seemed fated to remain inextricably tied to the Gekko saga, even if my new role was as the unofficial Gekko Wailing Wall.
A Failure to Launch
It was with some anticipation that I sat down to view Master Stone’s latest treatise on power and greed circa present-day Wall Street, which I ended up enjoying more than most of my friends. I was pleasantly surprised with the clothes for the film’s new bucks as well as for Michael’s character up until the moment he sheds his transitory garb for the full-tilt Gekko. Until then, his power-in progress threads accorded with his pilgrimage to the comeback alter. However, finally positioned atop his financial throne, Gordon Gekko turns from behind his desk to leer into the camera and, in that moment, sartorial history hangs in the balance. Will the new Gekko’s dress reflect his celebrated dressing style; will the Gekko sartorial legacy be passed on, or not?
Unfortunately, the audience is faced with a gilded-to-the-nines Gordon Gekko, whose oversized Windsor knotted, high-colored foppery falls just short of caricature. In one blink, the opportunity to reinvigorate a twenty-year old worldwide fan base no less revive the Gekko sartorial saga passes before your eyes. Instead of reworking a few of the Gekko trademark style leitmotifs for definite entertainment and transition value, it was almost as if the character’s fashion celebrity and immortalized style sense intimidated the selection process.
And what would it have taken to sartorially hyphenate the two Gekkos, not that much. For example, imagine our freshly crowned potentate in his maiden ensemble of strong charcoal pin stripe suit, bold black and white horizontally striped dress shirt with self-collar, solid black satin four-in hand and white pocket square – simple, graphic, and singularly Gekko. Exploiting one of the character’s most recognized and copied fashion trademarks, the horizontal striped dress shirt, would have resonated with all persuasions of fans, new and old. In downplaying the original Gekko style playbook, one of the most eagerly anticipated and least risky of all film passes was left uncompleted.
While I recognize that providence does not drop such opportunity into one’s lap every day, the consequences from dropping this proverbial fashion ball do rank considerably below that of curing cancer. However, should you desire a more fulfilling denouement to your latest “Wall Street” viewing experience, I am posting on my new BeSpeak iPhone application and Website a triumvirate of classic Gekko-inspired outfits for your wearing or learning pleasure.
Note: The BeSpeak® iPhone app is available for free from iTunes; the update including the “Gekko” horizontal stripe shirt has been submitted to Apple and has been approved!