One of the most iconic sartorialists in movie history is surely Chinatown’s J. J. “Jack” Gittes, played by Jack Nicholson.
Nicholson dons a series of three-piece, double-breasted suits for the role, including a gray and white pinstripe wool suit, a gray, gabardine suit, and a sand-colored suit. In keeping with the fashion of the 1930s, he always pairs his suits with a fedora.
Perhaps Gittes’ most memorable suit, however, is his double-breasted, three-piece, cream suit. Critics of the film have pointed out that the suit says a lot about Gittes’ character: he uses his suits to demonstrate to his clients that he’s a successful private investigator.
The cream “private investigator” suit
There are few suits more flashy and luxurious than a cream or ivory three-piece. Everybody knows such pale cloths are likely to pick up dirt, and that’s partly the point of wearing one: it says the owner is rich enough not to care.
The suit in question is double-breasted with a standard 6 x 2 button configuration, and wide, peaked lapels. The waistcoat is hardly visible, the double-breasted jacket usually blocking it from view. The multiple layers of Nicholson’s three-piece suit clearly lend themselves to the luxuriousness of cream.
Besides these details, one of the most interesting characteristics of the suit is its 1930s style jacket, featuring a pleated, bi-swing back, designed for freedom of arm movement, and a belted rear waist.
The bi-swing jacket rear definitely says “private investigator,” because it allows for mobility. Considering how physical Gittes gets later in the movie, he would have been well-advised to wear this jacket then, except its color would have been a dead giveaway.
Gittes pairs his cream suit with a striped, mustard, taupe and cinnamon-colored tie, and a white, silk pocket square. The combination is surprisingly timeless.
#GetTheLook with A Suit That Fits
We sell ivory, white, and cream suits in either single-breasted or double-breasted styles.
Here’s an example of a single-breasted, ivory jacket.