There are many reasons a person might choose to examine and then write about Jim Jarmusch’s filmic catalogue—but fashion is typically not one of these.
For the sake of objective depth and honouring legacies: Jarmusch is among the most idiosyncratic auteurs still making films today. To know Jim Jarmusch is to know not the first thing about Jim Jarmusch—!!!—such is the reality of his unsuspecting methods. His narratives are sometimes disparate vignettes, other times, metanarratives, and other other times, they’re enacted by one of his recurrent collaborators like Tilda Swinton or Steve Buscemi. That’s him taking a familiar turn to paradoxically veer you off course. That JJ!
Of course, every great creator has some hallmarks. A deep investment in the oceanic gamut of facial expressions, for instance. Or outcasts struggling to reconcile a thing within themselves so that they might go on to understand something about society. He does this in a way that is far less tragic than what I have described.
Jarmusch’s directorial career spans some forty years, from his unvarnished, low-budget debut Permanent Vacation (1980) to the intimate, vignette-driven Coffee and Cigarettes, to the elegant vampire story Only Lovers Left Alive (2014). Here, we unpack a subordinate fascination: The clothes on the backs of Jarmusch’s characters. They are, for the most part, stiflingly utilitarian—highlighting why fashion is not the obvious element in Jarmusch films, and also, exactly why we’re drawn to it.
Over five vignettes, five cab drivers in five cities around the world pick up interesting passengers. The taxi cab confessional allegory manifests, as do some other interesting tribulations. Broadly, we are concerned with the human condition and how it percolates in captivity.
Rough-‘round-the-edges, headstrong Winona Ryder stars as the Los Angeles taxi driver, though her true ambition was to be a mechanic. It’s poetry for 2018! Anti-patriarchy themes aside, she had a good, rough-n-ready vibe going on—one that you can observe today in any urban-ish setting. Our verdict? Enduring street style is basically just a backward cap and a cigarette dangling
The sophomore to Jarmusch’s debut is an exercise in deadpan antics and tracing the mundane. At times the plot barely feels a plot—rather, it is held together with silly string, ordinary exchanges and rhetoric driving the action. The fashion is appropriately modest (particularly in 16-millimeter black and white), yet still manages to hug the character’s eccentricities. Fedoras, boxy jackets, dorky cardigans and formless trousers suit oddballs Eddie (played by former Sonic Youth drummer Richard Edson) and Willie (played by John Laurie) impeccably—we can see strong parallels to Hermès’ Fall ‘18 menswear presentation, actually. Sartorial compliments belong, too, to Eva (Eszter Balint). Her layering prowess = deeply chic.
In this movie chronicling three separate experiences of a curious hotel (in which every room features a portrait of Elvis Presley) the most memorable #looks come via the couple from Yokohama who appear to be taking cues from the King himself.
It’s true that this is a jail film, and in jail one wears a standardised uniform. Sooo, jails aren’t typically fashionable places. But outside the prison walls, the film’s three protagonists—two unduly incarcerated, one guilty of manslaughter—have all the dashing appeal of the cocky beat generation. Particularly Tom Waits (who also supplies the soundtrack, by way of his 'Rain Dogs' album), expressing his signature disheveled prep: plaid pants, deconstructed suiting, polo shirts and an air of nonchalance.
These preppy, slightly gritty stylings rarely stray too far from our sartorial consciousness: From Dapper Dan’s signature 80s suiting, to the persistent punkish predilections of Vivienne Westwood and Junya Watanabe, to myriad streetwear interpretations, it’ll probably always be a smart idea to dress smart.
A regular Jarmusch collaborator, Iggy Pop (along with his band) gets his dedicated tribute film in Gimme Danger. A documentary of a frontman unhinged; a truly animalistic performer, Iggy and the Stooges are aptly painted as early architects of the CBGB era.
Slim denim, fitted jackets and leather rendered in tough hardware—endemic of rock-n-roll during the 70s and 80s—are also fixtures of houses like Saint Laurent, season after season. (They’re also recurrent themes in practically any image on the internet captioned ‘Model off duty’. *shrugs*).