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CALVIN KLEIN 205W39NYC’s Neo-Vintage American Dream

The stalwart American brand is exerting its rebellious nature

“People sometimes say the way things happen in the movies is unreal, but actually, it’s the way things happen to you in life that’s unreal,” reads a quote from Mr Andy Warhol, printed on the show notes from CALVIN KLEIN 205W39NYC’s SS19 collection. The brand has explored the American artist’s work and wisdom in depth in its past collection, too, and while Mr Warhol’s face doesn’t appear emblazoned on the fabric as it did last year, his influence is still felt, and certainly through the label’s cinephile approach to its clothes this season.

The collection’s most explicit reference? Jaws. The scream-worthy 1975 thriller continues to be one of the most culturally significant American films of the 20th century. What, after all, is more gripping than the tension and temptation created by the unknown or the unexpected? It is appropriate, then, that the brand has done a deep dive into the movie for its latest output.

The seminal film about the famous man-eating great white is hitherto not a piece of cinema that fashion has given much attention over to, but like Mr Steven Spielberg, CALVIN KLEIN 205W39NYC is at its best when it hits us with the unexpected. Inspired by “the edge of the landscape: the beach”, Jaws references appear throughout: the movie poster-print white T-shirt, for instance, or the powder-blue tuxedo jacket that adds a splash of beachy loucheness to a versatile garment that will sit as nicely over a dress shirt in the evening as it will a T-shirt in the daylight.

This collection draws on the brand’s American roots not just through Jaws, but also through the 1967 movie The Graduate. Here, Mr Dustin Hoffman plays a graduate fresh out of college with little idea about what to do with his life. No spoilers here if you haven’t seen it, but the film’s overarching themes are temptation, taboo and disappointment – but also hope and belonging. Now more than half-a-century old, The Graduate’s appeal (plus its all-American style chops) has endured far beyond its years, melding itself into our cultural framework in a way that it still feels contemporary despite its age, and is surprisingly fertile ground for cinematic style inspiration.

The resulting wardrobe of sweaters, jackets, footwear and tailoring that CALVIN KLEIN 205W39NYC has designed for this season are, then, a tale of two movies. Drawing on vintage Americana and culture, the brand has succinctly updated its heritage for 2019. Alongside the aforementioned ocean-blue tuxedo jacket, the bear intarsia mohair sweater is a standout, as is the virgin wool and leather bomber varsity jacket: both are soft and long-wearing, without a hint of itchiness. “Cal” is writ large on the sweater – a tacit nod to both Calvin and California – and the bear is in homage to Berkeley Bear, the mascot of the University of California. The animal also makes an appearance on the varsity jacket, which is dyed with a striking mix of “California Blue” and “Berkeley Gold”; colours that give it a vintage, campus-meets-cinema quality.

Also worth taking note of are the accessories. The belt bag has gone through a revival over recent seasons thanks to a strong push from streetwear brands bringing them out of National Trust territory and into the insta-hypebeast arena, but CALVIN KLEIN 205W39NYC’s iteration works well simply because it isn’t trying too hard. Reassuringly vintage-looking, it reads in red embroidery on the front: “Calvin Klein Established 1968, Consumed Around The World, Conceived in NYC 205 W39th St.” 

As far as American designers go, the brand is etched as boldly as Jaws onto the fabric of the country’s cultural history, and it has displayed an extraordinary ability to remain relevant more than five decades later. Established and well-loved for its consistency and stoicism in a fashion climate that finds itself torn between smart clothes and streetwear, CALVIN KLEIN 205W39NYC is a voice of reason and reliability. It is a steady choice in a menswear scene that doesn’t quite know where it stands at the moment, moving through the decades with apparent ease, ever-nimble and relevant, but ever-steady in its interpretation of the American vernacular. History for the now, and the cinema crossing over into reality? We think Mr Warhol would approve.


  • CALVIN KLEIN 205W39NYC Oversized Quilted Shell Down Jacket with Detachable Gilet

  • CALVIN KLEIN 205W39NYC Slim-Fit Logo-Embroidered Stretch-Cotton Jersey Rollneck T-Shirt

  • CALVIN KLEIN 205W39NYC Oversized Printed Cotton-Jersey Mock-Neck T-Shirt

  • CALVIN KLEIN 205W39NYC Denim Jeans

  • CALVIN KLEIN 205W39NYC Leather-Trimmed Embroidered Shell Belt Bag

  • CALVIN KLEIN 205W39NYC Mesh, Leather and Rubber-Panelled Neoprene Sneakers

Jaws is a trademark and copyright of Universal Studios. Licensed by Universal Studios. All rights reserved. UC Berkeley is a licensed product of UC Berkeley.