Who Wins Succession? In Our Opinion, The Menswear
Messrs Nicholas Braun and Matthew Macfadyen in Succession, season four, 2023. Photograph courtesy of HBO
Who will “win” Succession? What does “winning” Succession even mean? Sure, you might get to use another human being as a footstool. But being king – or queen – of the world, or at least whatever is left of Waystar RoyCo after the coronation demolition derby, doesn’t sound like much fun at all. At this late stage, we still don’t know which Roy will be ordained, sipping from the poisoned chalice. But without giving too much away, what we can say is this: there’s a CEO flight jacket up for grabs, along with some big shoes to fill. Big, big shoes.
In Succession, everything is a power play. Every move, every line and, without a doubt, every outfit. From the pulled-down luxe baseball caps to the driving shoes that never touch the ground, let alone the pedals of a car, every piece is considered – by a stylist or Personal Shopper, if not by the character themselves. And every dress-code faux pas is a sign of weakness, a chink in the armour, to be mercilessly exploited. Since the show began in 2018, whom among us hasn’t thought twice about outerwear that, in certain circles, might be considered a tad “puffy”? Or a bag that veers dangerously close to being “ludicrously capacious”? Are your white sneakers just too white?
They may fail upwards, but, boy, do the Roys know how to dress. With it all still to play for heading into the grand finale, let’s take a moment to talk about what really matters: the outfits. Here are nine items of clothing, the parts they’ve played in the show so far – and any clues for how it all ends.
Tom Wambsgans’ cream linen suit
Mr Matthew Macfadyen in Succession, season three, 2021. Photograph courtesy of HBO
Doing the dirty on not just your wife, but also her siblings? Best look unimpeachable while you’re at it. You needn’t have studied the classics to know that popping your betrayal cherry at your mother-in-law’s wedding while wearing an off-white linen suit, in this case by Ralph Lauren Purple Label, is pretty ballsy. This outfit didn’t just alter the narrative arc, it led to a sharp uptick in the sales of tailoring IRL, spearheaded by linen lines. The Tom Wambsgans Effect, as it became known. Never mind Emperor Nero, staging a cloak-and-dagger offensive while wearing a neutral colour palette is straight out of Mr Sun Tzu’s The Art Of War. Although, obviously it would look the part for less Machiavellian manoeuvres in Tuscany, too.
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Logan Roy’s civilian duds
Mr Brian Cox in Succession, season four, 2023. Photograph courtesy of HBO
Does Succession really require the viewer to suspend disbelief when we know that the lives of the Roy clan shadow those of a certain real-world media dynasty? Close, but not so close as to contravene clauses written into divorce agreements. Likewise, the Roys’ “incognito” attire is an approximation of how your everyman dresses, but not quite. Elevated to boardroom level, Logan here is still 100ft tall and other people are “pygmies”. Slipping out of his own birthday party, his take on how the other 99 per cent dress is more slightly flamboyant hitman than average Joe, with a polka-dot scarf and a rare logo on show.
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Kendall Roy’s birthday bomber jacket
Messrs Jeremy Strong and Alexander Skarsgård in Succession, season three, 2021. Photograph courtesy of HBO
At the “big f***ing nervous breakdown of a party” for his 40th birthday, Kendall repeatedly asks for his brother Connor to take off his coat. Very probably because he wants his jacket to be the only (and alpha) outerwear in view. While it may look like a standard bomber jacket at first glance, Kendall’s Gucci version actually has a sparkling UFO design embellished on the back and bright green stripes running down the sleeves. It perfectly represents the birthday boy’s energy: cool and collected from the front; utter chaos behind the scenes. Just like the numerous attempts at taking over the company, the scrapped Tiny Wu-Tang performance and Connor keeping his coat on all night, nothing really goes to plan for Kendall.
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Roman Roy’s serious suit
Mr Kieran Culkin in Succession, season two, 2019. Photograph courtesy of HBO
Unlike Kendall’s “stealth wealth” dressed-down style – cashmere baseball caps, TOM FORD hoodies and Loro Piana shearling-lined jackets – Roman is almost always neatly dressed in his uniform of button-down shirts and trousers sans tie. But when you’ve just been made co-COO along with your brother and you’re both jostling for the position of Dad’s number-one boy, then the time calls for a serious suit and tie, plus a pocket square. It’s one of the most formal looks we see the youngest son wear on the show. From successfully advising his dad to get rid of Vaulter, the company Kendall acquired, to sitting in proxy battle meetings with in-house counsel Gerri Kellman, even Roman Roy knows that you have to dress for the job you want.
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Josh Aaronson’s Gorpcore layering
Messrs Jeremy Strong, Adrien Brody and Brian Cox in Succession, series three, 2021. Photograph courtesy of HBO
“I’m not one to name names, but it was an amalgamation of a number of people I’ve encountered,” Mr Adrien Brody said of his portrayal of Josh Aaronson, who appears in season three of the show. Aptly, the investor and minority stakeholder turned kingmaker is a player in many layers. He eschews boardroom trappings for technical gear more suited to his home environment, a glass box on a private island off the Hamptons. This beanie-clad billionaire is dressed to weather a physical storm, if not a financial one. Summoning Logan and Kendal out to his skerry, Aaronson’s cheery demeanour and zingy orange gilet standout against the stripped-back aesthetic that the Roys have cultivated.
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Greg Hirsch’s elevated tuxedo
Mr Nicholas Braun in Succession, seasons one, 2018. Photograph courtesy of HBO
When we first meet Cousin Greg in the first season, he is wearing an amusement-park character costume. Initially, the other Disgusting Brother has a more casual, unpolished style compared to his affluent family members, reflecting his outsider status and relative inexperience in the corporate world. But as he becomes more entrenched in the business dynamics, Greg’s style gradually evolves to more refined looks. Take the tuxedo he wears to the Roys’ annual charity event, the Recny ball (which Tom used to read about in his mum’s Vanity Fair magazines). Now Greg (and Tom) are attending the ball, and the tux helps him fit right in with the elite circle his family moves in. Another way to fit in? Greg ratting out Tom’s plans for a press conference about the cruises scandal to Gerri, perfectly assimilating the family’s flair for underhanded strategies.
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Lukas Matsson’s natural look
Mr Alexander Skarsgård in Succession, season four, 2023. Photograph courtesy of HBO
While Kendall bills himself as a disruptor, his season-four adversary, the tech edgelord Lukas Matsson (Mr Alexander Skarsgård), is stomping barefoot into his sister’s Learjet and criticising the interior. “Nobody minds a genius acting weird,” are words that have probably enabled many weird geniuses. Indeed, as with business, the “Striking Viking” enjoys subverting norms when it comes to getting dressed. Take the velvet Needles bomber he dons to season four’s New York tailgate party, which Skarsgård describes as a “golden hand grenade”. But in most instances, “the Odin of coding” rubs the suited squares up the wrong way with comfortable clothes in natural tones, a counterpoint to the Roys’ slick corporate attire. At Matsson’s Norwegian retreat, the Mr Steve Jobs-style rollneck gets a Scandinavian 3.0 update – Fjällräven, in a dark, mossy green. Seemingly, each of his European hideouts features its own capsule wardrobe.
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Kendall Roy’s landlubber browns
Mr Jeremy Strong in Succession, season two, 2019. Photograph courtesy of HBO
From season one, when he crashed a car into a river, to his celebratory post-Living+ ocean dip, via the cliff hanger on a pool float, bodies of water have come to represent rebirth for Kendall throughout the show. But stuck on the family’s superyacht, with his dad calling for a “blood sacrifice”, the heir apparent is keen to close himself off, keep his head down and his wardrobe grounded. Outside shoes might not be allowed on board, but the rest of the outfit is firmly grounded with terra firma tones, mirroring actor Mr Jeremy Strong’s own penchant for brown. And while we talk about green in relation to money, it is natural hues from umber to beige that are increasingly the colours of the one per cent.
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Tom Wambsgans’ “puffy” vest
Messrs Matthew Macfadyen and Nicholas Braun in Succession, season two, 2019. Photograph courtesy of HBO
First, poor Tom has his Patek Philippe watch regifted as a bribe to keep a young boy quiet, then his generously insulated vest gets verbally punctured. There’s a common thread: a Roman Roy putdown and an ostentatious flash of wealth from Tom. Whether ski gear or upwardly mobile middle-class Midwesterner, everything has its proper place, where it should be kept. Roman’s “hopes and dreams” jibe is no doubt at the back of Tom’s mind when he later double-crosses the Roy children (see above). The lesson: never underestimate a man in Moncler.