Style on Screen

'Street' Style: Making a Man Out of Shia LaBeouf

Costume designer Ellen Mirojnick’s wardrobe for the original Wall Street—particularly the clothes she designed for a guy named Gordon Gekko—sent constrast-collared and suspendered ripples through the world of men’s style back in ‘87. With the release of the sequel, Money Never Sleeps, we talked to Mirojnick about Gekko as movie star, the demise of male glamour, and how she used the right collar to transform Shia Leboeuf into a man.

Photo: Courtesy Edward R. Pressman FilmTell me about the nuts and bolts of creating a wardrobe for a film like this one. Where do you begin?
I go quiet for a while, go into my own little sanctuary and really feel it. I read the text—the most important key—and with that I try to go quiet for a minute and see what is being stirred up. What am I seeing, what am I feeling? For me it’s a process about using my senses. What’s resonating? What is the kernel of inspiration?

It’s interesting that it is so internal, not searching through external references.
Well, I am a real people stalker—I just love looking at people. I walk down the street, looking, looking, looking, feeling everything on a visceral level and cataloging everything I see. It’s kind of like opening your paint box. It helps me see what will be available for the project I’m about to begin. That’s just who I am. I love allusion and abstraction and then focusing them into a whole.

For Gordon Gekko, I loved the text of Wall Street, the seduction, the manipulation, and I thought Gordon Gekko has got to be a movie star. Knowing Michael a little bit—I’d just left him two months prior on Fatal Attraction—I knew his body language, and it began with creating a character that was as big as a movie star. That’s where it began. What I meant by movie star was Cary Grant, Clark Gable, old Hollywood glamour. Untouchable but beautiful elegance. That stride, that confidence, that luxuriousness. I took that and combined it with stylings of the Duke of Windsor.

Photo: Courtesy 20th Century FoxAnd Douglas is all movie star swagger.
Sometimes it’s about alchemy and a point it time. That was the case with Michael Douglas becoming the icon Gordon Gekko. It was just one of those sublime points in time. Bringing my designs together with where Michael was at that time to what Oliver [Stone] wrote… To make that magic happen is breathtaking in the end… We didn’t set out to make a movie that would change the face of men’s fashion. I think Oliver was concerned that people didn’t look that way on the street. There wasn’t a reality to it—

But it became a reality afterward.
It became reality. Oliver is a great historian and here we are telling a story dedicated to his father who was a stock broker, and the villain, Gordon Gekko was the work of sartorial splendor. We didn’t know that it was going to take the world by storm. He just touched the psyche—the villain became the most appealing man on the Street.

I have a feeling that’s why Stone wanted to go back, to undo the making of the villain into a hero. Was there any trepidation for you in revisiting it, reengaging?
It was a great challenge. I wanted to capture the end of the Golden Age—the story is set around the crash in 2008. Gordon opened up the first chapter, that was then. I was curious about that glistening New York, the sexy appeal of money and power. What did that look like? What did that smell like? What did we create with generations growing up worshiping Gordon Gekko? I went back to close the book.

I like what you did. Shia is working it with his clothes and Gordon looks dispossessed, looser, but still sniffing around.
Gordon is definitely on the outside. He circles the story. Shia’s on the inside. I think that Shia is a good example of making a man into a movie star. Michael’s a movie star—we know that. Shia was a movie star, of course, the star of Transformers. He did his homework, he became that guy. But I’m looking at Shia and I see Transformers and I have to transform him into a man, a New Yorker who has a lot of money.

But he was willing to come to the table—stripped, if you will—and we started with a collar. I thought if we started with a collar that framed his face, and brought his entire body, his chest up to his face, and gave him a strong shoulder it would change him. It did. The crispness of a white shirt just shifted the Shia impression. Gave him a chin that was strong, built that close-up of him that was really strong.

Photo: Courtesy Edward R. Pressman FilmAll the clothes are custom cut. Did you do them in house?
I used a tailor in New York called Leonard Logsdail. He was my in-house tailor, so to speak. This moneyed world looks very slick, very crisp. These guys are high, tight and crisp, they are aerodynamic. They work at the speed of light. But in doing research, I was shocked (and happy) at the amount of bespoke-ness on the Street. I thought that was pretty fabulous because a man can have a great tailor and a great shirt maker and he can be all he can be. A great tailor can fix any part of your body. It will feel like you’re not wearing anything. A great collar will frame your face, bring the attention to your eyes. A great shoulder—whether you have them or don’t—a great tailor can help you create that. A custom shirt with a great collar can help define who you are. A tailor can help create a body that you don’t necessarily see when you wake up in the morning.

I love your view that every man can look and feel like a movie star with a little encouragement. What exactly does that entail?
The word “glamour” is kind of obsolete for a lot of men. Men tend to be a bit lazy when it comes to style. I don’t think that there is a man or a woman who doesn’t enjoy watching entertainment and secretly say, What would it be like if I were that guy? If I were that cool?

Photo: Courtesy Edward R. Pressman FilmI always say that people who are saving the Champagne for the occasion are doing it backwards—if you open the Champagne you have made it an occasion; if you put on the suit, you have made yourself that guy.
But guys don’t do that. Maybe there is a certain thing in their DNA that it’s not the first thought. What men ought to consider is, what is your character and think about yourself in close-up. What does the close-up look like? If someone were to take a picture of you, from mid-chest up, how does it express who you are?

How do we turn more men on to the glamour, the elegance, the romance, the appeal of style?
At this moment in time we have a ways to go, because the male and female voices have become imbalanced. The female voice has become really loud—it’s unstoppable. You can be Lady Gaga, just think of the Amazonian-ness of it all. I believe men get intimidated by that. The female getting to be the leader of the species intimidates the man, and with that gets loud, gets nagging, gets unhelpful.

Shouldn’t that empower men to bring a little more peacock back?
Not if the woman is going make fun. What I think needs to happen for all men to become movie stars is the help of a woman. The voices need to be rebalanced to empower a man’s voice, which will help him open the Champagne, put on the suit, become the occasion and the people he wants to be. A movie star lives that moment.

Click to the next page to see Ms. Mirojnick’s mood boards for Money Never Sleeps.

Courtesy Ellen Mirojnick

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  3. G says:

    bad casting. Shia is a little girl dressed up as a man.

  4. Ryan says:

    agreed. Someone like a Chris Pine would have been better.

  5. Tyler Thoreson says:

    Chris Pine–Not a bad idea. But it’s pretty cool to think that you can help turn a boy into a man with the right collar…

  6. Leonard says:

    White collars and Stripes of Pride. Wall Street is still about fashion. Check out fashion brand Wallstreet Kingdom and you know what I mean. Epic

  7. Leonard says:

    White collars and Stripes of Pride…
    Check out fashion brand WallStreet Kingdom – Lower Manhattan NYC
    They rock!

  8. Aaron says:

    Actually, most of Gekko’s clothes in Wall Street were made for Ellen by Alan Flusser. Iteresting that she doesn’t mention him at all, and didn’t come back to him for the sequel.

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