Forget Succession’s Stealth Wealth – Why A Vest Is Now The Ultimate Power Play
Mr Adrien Brody in “Succession” (2021). Photograph by Mr Macall B Polay/HBO
“Nice vest, Wambsgans,” says Roman Roy, the caustic youngest son of Succession’s fictional media-mogul clan, to his brother-in-law, Tom, in the second series of the hit show. “It’s so puffy. What’s it stuffed with? Your hopes and dreams?” As a putdown, it’s barbed enough to burst poor Tom’s gilet. The subtext: amid the anonymous luxury that is the Roys’ trademark style, this showy skiwear stands out for all the wrong reasons. Tom may have married into the family, but he isn’t their equal. And yet those words might come back to haunt Roman. By season three, the hopes and dreams of the dynasty seemingly hang by a thread on one such garment.
Perhaps one such garment is inaccurate, since the item in question is among many worn by Josh Aaronson, played Mr Adrien Brody. A billionaire investor seen in his glass cube of a home in the Hamptons, Aaronson uses his minority stake in the Roys’ media empire to leverage dominance over the warring family. But the gilet – both lighter and brighter than the one worn by Tom – is the piece that pops.
“I’m not one to name names, but it was an amalgamation of a number of people I’ve encountered,” Brody told Variety when asked about his portrayal of this man who would be kingmaker. When it came to how the character dressed, however, the actor was more forthcoming.
“Those were all based on the costume department and the creators being very collaborative with me,” he said of Aaronson’s layers of layers. “They had some initial musings about him being into foraging and I loved that he was a much more present and youthful guy, in the sense that he’s very connected with the environment. He’s happy to wear a beanie, but it’s not just a fashion statement. He’s prepared for inclement weather in a way that [Logan and Kendall Roy] are not… He’s in his element and I wanted that to be immediately tangible.”
In Succession’s ongoing game of thrones, appearance is everything. Kendall, the one-time heir apparent, says as much. “Hell, look, I come from a world of image,” he tells a reporter. “That’s the family business.”
In the confines of Manhattan – or numerous other lavish locations – where, except for the few steps between murdered-out SUV and Learjet, the feet of the well-heeled rarely touch the ground, the top-tier Roys dictate the terms. Here, style is conspicuously inconspicuous. The clothing leans into fine fabrics and brands where logos have no place.
“Succession is always very representative of how that section of society dresses. It’s stealth dressing – you have to know to know”
“I sadly have limited first-hand dealings with the one per cent, but I feel that Succession is always very representative of how that section of society dresses,” says Ms Sophie Hardcastle, MR PORTER’s Deputy Style Director. “Both in terms of brand mix – I spy Loro Piana, TOM FORD, Brunello Cucinelli – and how they wear their clothes. To a certain extent, it’s stealth dressing as you have to know to know.”
Indeed, Ms Michelle Matland, Succession’s costume designer, has called the Roys’ style “anti-bling”, muted in a way the Roys themselves are not. And as The Guardian reports, sales of luxe, plain baseball caps in particular, the show’s signature headgear, have increased by 45 per cent since the current run began in October. But out of the city, on the windswept acres surrounding Josh Aaronson’s minimalist fortress of solitude, Gorpcore is king.
Brody’s finance bro cameo taps into a wider trend within corporate America. For decades, the influence of the tech giants has pulled dress codes westwards, away from their traditional base, with “business casual” now the overriding trend of the Wall Street powerhouses. Further down the food chain, the vest in particular has become a key signifier in this, as lampooned by the Instagram account @midtownuniform.
This association is not one that everyone is comfortable with. In 2019, Patagonia changed its policy on corporate sales, making bulk orders of its branded iconic fleece vest available only to companies that were aligned to its environmental ethos. With recent news that half of current investments in fossil fuels could become worthless within the next 15 years, Patagonia’s vest is perhaps symbolic of the recalibration of the finance industry towards a sustainable future. It also makes it that most desirable of items: something you can’t have.
Messrs Jeremy Strong, Adrien Brody and Brian Cox in “Succession” (2021). Photograph by Mr Macall B Polay/HBO
“We often talk of pieces that can be dressed up or down and the quilted gilet is that workhorse”
“I think we’d be remiss to say the power puff favoured by the Midtown crowd is a thing of the past,” says Hardcastle. “But I do think that the off-duty/Gorpcore version is more widely adaptable and where we are seeing the trend take hold.”
For Hardcastle, it is the vest’s versatility that has brought it to the fore. Wearing this extra layer under a jacket rather than over is her preferred option. “Saying that, they do work well when worn over lighter pieces as a final layer,” she says. “I like the contrast of texture, so a fleece gilet against a denim or twill overshirt and a down vest with a wool coat.”
As insulated as the one per cent seem to be, climate change affects us all. And while even the Roys are now having to tackle the optics of private air travel, investors such as Aaronson are learning to adapt. The multitasking vest represents this shift.
“As winters get milder and the seasons are less defined, vests provide an ideal alternative to a heavy coat or jacket,” says Hardcastle. “We often talk of pieces that can be dressed up or down and the quilted gilet is that workhorse.”
Whatever the outcome of Succession, we all know who the sartorial winner of this season is. Layer like a player. Now is the time to invest in a vest.
The people featured in this story are not associated with and do not endorse MR PORTER or the products shown