Now for a subject that consistently and unwelcomingly fights its way back into our collective conscious: Wall Street, the mother of all stock exchanges. As Francesco Guerrea points out in today’s aptly titled article “Wall Street’s Hurricane Isn’t Over” for The Wall Street Journal, hurricane Irene is a fitting metaphor for the current state of the financial sector. For Oliver Stone, the subject, bearing personal affinity to him, has come full circle. His 1987 classic, Wall Street, was a tribute to his father, Lou Stone, who was a stockbroker during the Great Depression. The film became an archetypal portrayal of 1980s excess and his recent film Wall Street Money Never Sleeps revisits the character of Gordon Gekko with the recent worldwide economic collapse as the film’s platform.
The 1987 American drama Wall Street was quite influential all around. Men were influenced by Gordon Gekko to become stockbrokers driven by his famous lines “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good” (never mind the fact that it’s one of the seven deadly sins). His wardrobe became the quintessential attire of Wall Street and was emulated by the so-called “yuppies” of the 1980s.
But onto the good stuff. Costumes are usually, though quite subtly, used for plot progression and character development, so in today’s post, I will show you how costume designer Ellen Mirojnick used costume, more specifically, suspenders, as a sign of power in Wall Street.
Wall Street centers around Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen), an ambitious young Wall Street junior broker who is desperate to get on top and be like his hero, broker Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas). Bud gets his big break by finally landing an appointment with him. This shot shows a nervous Bud fixing his tie before going into the interview of his life, wearing an unimpressive suit.
In our first encounter of the ruthless corporate raider Gordon Gekko, we see him as this big shot broker, behind the desk of his skyscraper office giving orders over his phone in his best, expensive, Italian-made business attire. Notice the suspenders.
Bud tries very hard to impress Gekko, and when he gets the feeling he’s getting nowhere, he succumbs to his ambitions by sharing inside information about the company his father works for, Bluestar Airlines. We will later learn that this was his first step towards becoming a part of the ruthless capitalist trading mentality of the Wall Street big guns. In the following shot, Gekko, the man in the expensive suit, decides to give Bud a chance and becomes his client. He gives him a big chunk of capital for him to manage, promises him lots of perks, tells him to sniff around and find information no matter how immoral his methods are, and lastly tells him to go get a decent suit.
Most of the shots we see of Gordon Gekko, he is wearing suspenders, while for the first half of the movie, Bud Fox does not.
We even get a glimpse of Bud’s boss, wearing suspenders, a sign that if you don’t wear them, you’re basically a nobody on Wall Street. The suspenders are the only thing setting them apart.
Bud eventually becomes wealthy under Gekko’s wings. He gets the penthouse, the girl (Darien played by Daryl Hannah), the corner office with a view and a secretary, so on and so forth. In this shot, we see him wearing suspenders for the first time when his boss is showing Bud his new office, a sign that he’s made it.
But maybe he hasn’t made it just yet. From this scene on, Bud wears suspenders in his day job at Jackson Steinem & Co., but he doesn’t feel that he’s there yet when he’s around Gordon Gekko. Here he is having a meeting in Gekko’s private jet. Gekko wears suspenders, while Bud does not, a subtle way of costume designer Alan Flusser showing who’s the boss, through their clothes. In this scene, Bud pitches a new idea to Gekko: buy Bluestar Airlines and expand the company by using savings from union concessions. He will of course have to convince union leaders to do this, which he thinks he will have no problem doing because one of Bluestar Airlines’s union leaders is none other than his father Carl Fox (Martin Sheen).
We finally get the sense that Bud has made it when we see both Gekko and Bud wearing suspenders in the same scene. In this shot, they are meeting with union leaders to persuade them to get union support for this deal. He is willing to go against his father’s better judgment for the sake of power and greed, losing his soul in the process. Bud wearing suspenders with Gekko is a sign that he has stooped to become one of the Gekkos of the world, gaining success, power, and wealth no matter at what cost.
You all know how the story ends. Bud realizes that he has only been an accessory to Gekko’s ruthless plan to destroy his father’s company. He’s deceived and betrayed by Gekko, and in his search for redemption and a clear conscience he aids the federal authorities to unmask his insider trading and securities fraud, which leads to Gekko serving fourteen years in prison as we find out in Oliver Stone’s sequel Wall Street Money Never Sleeps.
After the release of Wall Street, suspenders became a trend among men seeking to emulate the same kind of confidence, ambition and power that was so exquisitely depicted by Michael Douglas in his Academy Award winning role with the aid of the talented Ellen Mirojnick.
Wall Street (1987) Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation | Costume Designer, Elle Mirojnick | Director, Oliver Stone.
© 2011 – 2015, Louise Junker.