In American Gangster, Denzel Washington's up-and-coming Harlem druglord character Frank Lucas eschews the pimp aesthetic in favor of some very sharp suits. On his journey from bumpkin to kingpin, Lucas learns some important sartorial lessons; the quiet, understated elegance of his clothing allows him to pass as a respectable businessman while flashier rivals get picked off by the cops.
At times one wonders how Lucas has time to get any business done; in the course of the flick he goes through more costume changes than Madonna on a comeback tour—some 64 in all, or roughly every two-and-a-half minutes—but the effect is captivating. And while the supporting players had to make do with smelly vintage finds, Denzel's togs evoke the '70s without overdoing it. We might have hazarded a guess at Gucci, but the superlative fit said bespoke.
Turns out the film's costume designer Janty Yates had him suited up on Savile Row; the dapper actor even made some suggestions of his own. "Denzel loves clothes,” Yates told Variety, “and that made dressing him a joy.” And we might add watching as well.
- Jared Paul Stern