National Treasure: Book of Secrets -- Justin Bartha's Sports Suits in Detail

https://propstore.com/product/national-treasure-book-of-secrets/riley-poole-justin-bartha-costume-002/
Original costume.
Riley Poole, portrayed by Justin Bartha, is a computer expert... well, a hacker whose expertise is in demand in both National Treasure movies. Early in National Treasure: Book of Secrets, he is promoting a book about the previous movie's events where his role is certainly exaggerated, evident by the standee showing him in stereotypical adventuring gear. To nobody's surprise, he barely has anyone lining up for autographs. Clearly, Riley has invested a lot into making himself seem successful and intellectual, including the tweed three-piece suit he's wearing. Sadly, the whole facade is not working out as he hoped, especially when his new sports car gets repossessed. Despite being a little down on his luck, he has not given up dressing nicely at least.

The tweed and corduroy suits he wears aren't exactly business suits, but they're not relegated to the country or hunting either. They are perhaps best called sports suits since they have the features and fabrics one would expect of a sports coat but with matching trousers. Both suits are cut and styled identically. Everything including his designer eyeglasses combines to make him look like a young, hip professor of sorts.

https://propstore.com/product/national-treasure-book-of-secrets/riley-poole-justin-bartha-costume-001/
Original costume.
The fit is trim, owing to trends that started in the 2000s and Bartha's slim physique, but thankfully not as skinny as many suits have been. Though much of the film's male wardrobe was bought off the rack from clothiers such as J. Crew and Brooks Brothers, Justin Bartha's suits were made to measure. According to costume designer Judianna Makovsky (who also worked on Captain America: Civil War), this is because they could not find the fit they wanted in the fabrics required. The look of these suits was inspired by Band of Outsiders and Thom Browne. (Source) The end result looks closer to the former but more attractive than either brand.

He first wears a grey Donegal tweed three-piece for his (failed) book signing. Worn with it is a grey and white alternating stripe shirt with a point collar and barrel cuffs, a black tie with an irregular white oval pattern tied in a four-in-hand knot, and nonchalantly stuffed in his breast pocket is a blue silk satin pocket square with an unrecognizable print. Going by the original costume tag, he wears striped socks with the outfit (colours unknown) and the shirt is alpha-sized like a casual shirt, not by the neck and sleeve like a dress shirt. The shoes are seen sparingly from a distance, but look to be black square-toed shoes which were popular during the 2000s. His tie and shoe choice could certainly be better, but they could also be much worse. A pair of wingtip brogues would complete this ensemble a little more nicely.

At his Borders book signing. (This location definitely dates the movie a bit.)

The jacket is detailed with a button two front, medium width lapels, slanted (hacking) hip pockets with a ticket pocket, and double vents. The collar, lapels, front edges, breast pocket, and pocket flaps have topstitching about 5/16" from the edge for a sportier touch, also known as swelled edges. The jacket has lightly padded shoulders with moderately roped sleeve heads.

Riley attempts to impress his "fan". The swelled edges can be seen more clearly here.

The waistcoat has four pockets total -- two at the chest, two at the waist as most used to -- and a button five closure in which he leaves the bottom undone. The points are a longer than average, creating a larger notch down below. The back is lined in contrasting dark grey and has an adjustable strap and buckle in the same lining fabric.

The low-rise trousers and longer points cause his shirt to show in a triangle below the waistcoat.

The trousers have a flat front, straight cut, low rise, and are plain hemmed with a full break. Ideally, they'd be worn with braces in order to keep them up at the proper height. This would also allow the waistcoat to cover the shirt and waistband more effectively. Instead, they have belt loops which Riley foregoes making use of and causes them to sag slightly. A belt would look even more distracting. However, having adjustable side tabs would also be an improvement.

It is difficult to tell the shoes or socks from this shot and others.

Later, at Buckingham Palace, he dons a two-piece navy corduroy with a red and black on white, mini-tattersall pattern shirt and burgundy tie with small white repeating ovals. The shirt has the same details as the previous one. Unlike with the tweed suit, he chooses sneakers that appear to be black Converse Chuck Taylor All Star with grey toe caps and sole edges. Though this is a continuation of his fashion choices from the first movie, it's not something that should be copied and lets down the entire outfit. A suede or pebble grain derby boot would achieve the same goal of dressing down his footwear and look far better.

Riley remains well dressed even while hacking Buckingham!

The ill-chosen Chuck Taylor sneakers. Considering Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) wears dress shoes and is able to run away from the bad guys just fine later, there's simply no excuse.

Ben mistakenly fastens both his jacket buttons, but Riley doesn't fasten his at all!

The tie pattern. Both ties have a matte texture that I cannot quite place. Any guesses as to the fabric?

There are a couple other tailored pieces, but they're really nothing special by comparison. One appears to be a solid charcoal or black waistcoat accompanied by a white shirt with a faint diamond print, same style as the previously mentioned shirts, and a burgundy regimental stripe tie with red stripes and thin white stripes on either side. The trousers remain unseen, so is he even wearing any? (Awkward!) He only wears this outfit indoors and it's not clear why. There may be a deleted scene that explains it. The waistcoat is left completely unfastened, as Riley still values comfort above all.


Another is a two-piece suit in a rather un-stylish dark brown plain weave fabric (perhaps tropical wool) which has black and light brown alternating stripes. It appears similarly styled to the other suits all the way down to the swelled edges. With it is a lavender semi-spread collar barrel cuff shirt and narrow cream tartan tie with a red, black, and white overcheck. He wears the same Chuck Taylor sneakers as in the Buckingham Palace scene. Had it simply been a dark brown suit it might be fine, but the style of stripes hasn't dated too well in only a decade.


While there are a couple of style choices that I and other clothing traditionalists will dislike, it must be deliberate to some degree by Makovsky to show that Riley dresses down even while "dressed up". Sleeve length notwithstanding (Nicolas Cage's suits have the same problem in this movie), both of Riley's sports suits are pretty stylish on their own.

Though people tend to wear more suits than sports coats ten years after this movie, that doesn't mean they are wearing more suits period. Off the rack business suits generally have softer construction on average than they used to. The sports suit is a logical evolution of this idea, not only using soft construction but soft, casual fabrics. It is unfortunate that they are not more popular right now, as it might make the suit in general more popular.

All screencaps from kissthemgoodbye.net

Comments

  1. He doesn't look fantastic, but better than how a lot of young men dress now. It works in a "geek chic" kind of way. Still having trouble seeing what's wrong with the sneakers though. Can you elaborate?

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    1. Certainly! To me there's a sort of cognitive dissonance at play when you've gone to the trouble of a tailored jacket, tie, and button front shirt, yet chose footwear suitable for mowing the lawn. Aesthetically speaking, they don't match at all. Sneakers, no matter how they're designed, can never match the elegance of a welted shoe or boot. Many of which are still plenty comfortable and can be had in Dainite rubber soles that approximate the look of a leather sole.

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    2. It's all about context. I'm an MC for pop culture conventions, and I've found Chucks with a suit to be an effective combo as a hosting uniform. Not only do the sneakers give increased mobility (shoddy knees and all that), they also don't make any noise on stage floorboards like the heels on dress shoes do.

      The shoes I wear are clean and reasonably new, though. Can't get away with ratty old Chucks and a suit unless you're looking to accurately cosplay the Tenth Doctor.

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    3. Dent, that is a reasonable concern! As far as rubbed soled dress shoes go, Dainite may be a little heavy and loud, but the Allen Edmonds Tate Collection or Road Warriors could be what you want. They both have lightweight soles, which are generally quieter in my experience. I believe they also have the cushioned insoles you may be looking for. Either way, they're supposed to have the comfort of sneakers in a dress shoe.

      Which pop culture conventions, if I may ask? I've gone to many in the last seven years. I'll be sure to say hi to the MC wearing a suit with sneakers if I'm at one of them. :)

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    5. Thanks for the recommendations! I'll keep an eye out the next time I'm on the hunt for a pair of dress shoes (which should be within the next 6 months). The last pair of really good dress shoes I bought were Brando, and the tall heels gave a lot of support, but I got them reheeled and they're not quite what they used to be.

      I'm an Aussie, and the conventions I host at are AICon, AVCON, GAMMA.CON, and SMASH! - haven't applied to host anything in the States just yet, but if I make the jump I'll let you know!

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  2. Not trying to diss you but the pants are no more "full break" than the sleeves are "full length". They both look too long. I don't get why costume designers let these kind of things slide. They should know better as should the tailors.

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    1. It could be a few things at play:
      1. The costume designer doesn't know better.
      2. The tailor is used to making suits for people who don't know better and insist on having their shirt cuffs covered. This happened all the time when I worked at a menswear store even when I explained why showing cuff was better functionally and aesthetically.
      3. The costume designer does know better, but thinks that longer sleeves are appropriate for the character.

      As for the trouser length, I'm leaning on the fact that they didn't give Justin Bartha a belt for the loops and his trousers are sagging a bit, as seen in the shot with his waistcoat. A full break is not ideal on narrower leg openings, but it's best done with a slanted hem as I suspect they did with the Kingsman suits.

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  3. How did you determine it was "topstitching about 5/16" from the edge" and what's the difference between that and pickstitching?

    Other thing I notice about the last outfit you list is that it washes out his face. Dark brown should be good for his hair and skin but the tie and shirt probably don't work for him.

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    1. It looks a touch farther from the edge than the 1/4" topstitching on his shirt collar and 5/16" topstitching is common on tailored jackets, particularly sports coats.

      Topstitching is just an unbroken stitch typically achieved with machine which looks like a straight line. It doesn't require a lot of skill. Pick stitching appears to be intermittent and when at it's best you'll barely notice it from a distance -- like on bespoke quality garments. Traditionally it was done by hand and required some skill to achieve. However, there's an AMF machine many clothiers use now which gives relatively the same appearance without needing the same time and skill. It can range from looking pretty subtle to being a little too noticeable. I'm guessing it depends on the settings they use.

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  4. Why is Nic Cage wearing a poplin suit and Justin Bartha wearing corduroy? Seems an odd choice if it's still warm/cold enough outside to wear either.

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    1. Obviously temperatures aren't going to be the same all over the world, but he wears a cold weather suit both in the United States and shortly after in the UK which would lead me to believe it's either late winter or early spring. But then Nicolas Cage wears a seersucker suit in another scene of the movie. So I have no idea!

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