I'm Nevets: Nerd, cinephile, TV-junkie, bookworm, gamer, and slacker extraordinaire.
An eccentric side to fashion
From Edward Scissorhands, to Jack Sparrow, Willy Wonka, and the legendary king of Gonzo, Hunter S. Thompson, Johnny Depp has had a knack for playing unique and colorful charcters for a long, long time. Characters remembered and revered not only for their weird and quirky personalities but for their equally eccentric fashions as well. One of the earliest of which being that of the sweet and lovable Sam from the 1993 rom-com, Benny & Joon.
Basing his look on his silent film-era comedy heroes, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and Harold Lloyd, Sam was a complete anachronism in terms of style. With having both the physical comedy bits and classic fashions down pat, he both walked the walk and talked the talk in his imitations. Many of the clothes he's seen wearing are oversized, exaggerated, unique circus clown-type specialty made pieces (not surprising, considering the screenplay was written by a former Ringling Clown) that, unfortunately, we will most likely have trouble finding exact replica's for. But, hopefully, with a little creativity and ingenuity, we can get pretty close.
Below is a list of various clothes worn by Johnny Depp in Benny & Joon, and helpful hints on how you can achieve his look as well as possible. And, as always, if anyone finds any more authentic pieces of clothing to add to the list, leave a message in the comments section below and it'll be added ASAP! Enjoy!
The Pork Pie Hat
You may not realize this, but the late, great Buster Keaton actually handmade his own pork pie hats. He managed this by taking perfectly fine Stetson hats, cutting them down, stiffening out the brim with sugar water, and finally smoothing them out on a hard surface. Voila! That’s how the king of pork pie’s (sorry Heisenberg) acquired his signature look. In Benny & Joon, Johnny Depp’s character, Sam, is an avid fan of both Keaton’s comedy and his looks, so naturally the pork pie hat becomes a must-have for the characters wardrobe. Incidentally, in one scene of the movie you can even spot Depp’s character reading (or looking at, at least, as Sam is illiterate) the book, The Look of Buster Keaton, by Robert Benayoun. But anyway.
For the average guy, and likely for Sam (his hat was nowhere near as slim at Busters), it may be easier to just purchase a store-bought pork pie. You can find many online that are similar to the one which is the first we see Johnny Depp wear in the film. (Check out the above photo from the film if you want to get an idea of what we’re shooting for here.)
Below I’ve included a link of a hat from Amazon which is somewhat similar to the one Depp is seen wearing in the film. The link also includes several other pork pie’s to choose from (on the “Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed” section) on the off chance that this one doesn’t quite do it for you.
Did you know that the classic porkpie hat actually first acquired its name due to its resemblance to an actual pork pie? This makes the pork pie not only a fashionable accessory, but also the most delicious looking headwear you’ll ever come across.
Polka Dot Necktie
Just like with any good silent-era comedian, Sam always seems to enjoy making a larger than life caricature out of himself using both his eccentric manner of house cleaning and his loud and colorful clothing choices. This is also the same tactic in which we see clowns often us when throwing together their weird and out-there outfits. So it only seeming fitting that our next flashy, clown-like piece of attire is Sam’s black and white polka dot necktie. Other than his pork pie hat, this tie is one of the first standout pieces of clothing we notice our bizarre young protagonist wearing when he first meets Benny and Joon early in the film.
Aside from the slightly ostentatious white-on-black polka dot pattern, however, this wide piece of neckwear could actually easily pass for a regular clothing accessory for all of you tie-wearers out there (assuming you’re not working in a strict and overly professional atmosphere, at least). It’s certainly silly, but who cares? Super genius astrophysicist, Neil DeGrasse, is as respectable and professional as it gets, and that guy wears goofy neckties all the time. If he can still be taken seriously, why couldn’t anyone else? Right? Not like he’s special or anything… ahem.
The tie pictured in the link below should do well in suiting your Sam-lookin’ needs. It’s a very nicely — and, more importantly, cheaply — priced item from Amazon.com and, from what I can make out, it looks like a pretty passable copy of the one that we see worn by Johnny Depp in the film. If not to your liking, however, be sure to check the “Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed” section that can be found on the link, and perhaps you’ll find something that’s more along the lines of what you’re looking for.
On Benny & Joon the first vest which we see Sam sporting is a 6 button waistcoat (no buttons undone) that appears to be of a backless, formal style. It looks to be an off-white, vanilla, or flesh toned color, with a light (barely visible) dotted pattern.
Sadly, I couldn't find an similar (let alone, identical) copy of the vest anywhere online. If anyone can find a more authentic replica, however, go ahead and slap a link in the comments section below and I'll add it to the list.
The Double Breasted Blazer
This snazzy jacket is an 8 button, double breasted, blazer with large lapels, similar to something worn by the Royal Navy. Sam is usually seen wearing the blazer open (unbuttoned) as you can see in the photo pictured above.
Here's a link to buy a similar peacoat that you can purchase from Etsy.com. Be warned, though, that this particular blazer comes with a patch on the cuff that can be more than a bit distracting (although, you can probably remove it with a little ingenuity and a quick Google search). If you want to go a different route, the purchasing of a Benny and Joon-esque Sam-styled blazer could probably be made much easier by simply buying a double breasted (and slightly oversized) four button blazer like the one below. You'll be lacking two buttons (one on each side of the blazer) and it won’t be a perfect match, but other than that I think that it could pass for a nice enough match.
As usual, if anyone out there can find a better replica of this blazer online then be sure to drop a comment (include the link) at the bottom of this page and — if it’s a good enough match — I'll be sure to add it to our list.
The Pinstripe Pants
Perhaps my own, personal favorite piece of clothing featured in the movie Benny & Joon, Sam's pants are of a very interesting style. They’re a slim-fitting pair of dark slacks that have pinstripes and an unusual set of buttons (seven per leg) that run from the cuff of each pant leg all the way up to just below each knee. The bad news is that the unique design of these pants makes their style frustratingly difficult to distinguish (for me, at least), which sadly results in making it nearly impossible for us to find an identical copy anywhere online.
During my deep digging, hard hitting investigation into the subject, however, I’ve come across several people who have suggested that they may be either Mariachi pants, an antique style of cowboy pants, or even Vaquero pants. So if you want to do a quick search on your own, typing out these weird keywords may be good places to start. Unfortunately, though, my own Google prowess failed to deliver and I inevitably came up short.
In the meantime, I did find a very good looking (and reasonably priced) pair of pinstriped pants on Amazon.com. They’re lacking those fancy buttons down the leg, but otherwise they’d totally do the trick if you’re going for that Sam-esque look. As long as you're not too much of a stickler for precise authenticity, they should work out just fine. Check out the link below to take a look at them for yourself.
As with several other items mentioned on this list, feel free to give me a shout out in the comments section if you have any ideas of what style of pants these are, or if you have a link to where we can snag us a pair. It would be greatly appreciated.
The second piece of neckwear that we find our bizarre little Sam wearing in the film Benny & Joon is a thin, widely tied cravat (which you can see pictured in the three photos above). Cravats are those big, fluffy looking pieces of cloth tied around men’s necks that you’re always seeing the stereotypical rich, snobby guy wearing in the movies. They’re also very prominent in period pieces, so you’ve probably seen a ton of them there too. They’re a product of the olden days. These days, however, they’re not quite so popular with folks.
For the specific one that we see Johnny Depp wearing in Benny & Joon, really any old ascot should do just fine, as long as it's approximately the right shade of color — and maybe includes a plaid pattern. Hell, if you’re thrifty enough — and ingenuitive enough — you could probably even get away with just cutting off a piece from a table cloth or a bed sheet if you want a quick cheat. Tie it around your neck and, voila, you got yourself a makeshift cravat. Hey, it could work. Why not? Eh?
If you’re not that cheap or creative, however, and can't find a better looking version during your own searches, the ascot featured below may work as at least a passable alternative to the one which we see Sam wearing. Granted, it’s far from perfect (very far) but, honestly, I doubt anyone will notice as long as the rest of your wardrobe matches up well enough.
Drop a link in the comments section if you can find a more exact replica anywhere online. If it looks better than the one I’ve found (which shouldn’t be too difficult of a feat, I hate to admit) I’ll go ahead and toss your suggestion here.
The Plaid Vest
For our second vest on the list, we have this nice looking plaid waistcoat which is pictured above.
We first see Sam wearing this surprisingly un-gaudy thing (well, mostly un-gaudy) when he begins doing is iconic vaudeville act on the street. He’s in the process of trying to cheer up poor old Benny after getting wind to the fact that Benny and Ruthie are having a bit of trouble in their relationship.
While undoubtedly fitting for the characters personality, the vest itself is still pretty normal in comparison to much of the rest of Sam’s wardrobe that we see in the picture. It’s a simple plaid design with two pockets on the front. The color appears to contain a tan/yellow striped pattern combined with a black/brown color. He wears it with a baggy looking pirate shirt and a pair of oversized pants. Speaking of the baggy clothes he’s combined with the waistcoat, from the looks of things this also may very well be one of the few articles of clothing that Sam is seen wearing that actually fit him pretty well.
The vest featured below may not be the most identical match in the world, but it's pretty darn close, if I do say so myself (however, the buttons appear to be a bit much). To better visualize the resemblance, try to overlook the silky red shirt, necktie, and matching pants that are shown being worn in the picture. Those other items of the outfit (hat, pants, shirt, necktie, and pants) aren’t included in the link (but if you really want them, you can probably find them elsewhere on Amazon). As for the price, it seems reasonable enough as far as waistcoats are concerned. And when I saw it I couldn't help but think that it was the perfect circus-ringmaster look for someone like Sam.
Baggy Pinstripe Pants
Also worn during Sam's street performance is a darker, much baggier pair of pinstripe dress pants than he wore earlier in the film. These are also, stylistically, a more traditional kind of pants. Other than their baggy size, they're on average side. So they should be an easy enough for you to find.
Nothing too extravagant here either, folks! (Sheesh, is it just me or are these clothes getting more normal by the minute?) As boring as they may be, though, the suspenders are a must haveyou’re your Sam-styled attire. Sam has a tendency to dress in a more old fashioned kind of way, and back in the good old days of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, belts weren’t quite as popular as they are today. And believe it or not, there was actually time in history when it was suspenders who reigned supreme in the pants supporting business. Belts are a young man’s game. Well, a normal young man, at least. And normalcy is a trait which or hero Sam far from being acquainted with.
As for the look of these particular suspenders, they’re really very plain and regular. The ones pictured above look to be of a maroon color, but Sam wears several different pairs throughout the film. You barely see them most of the time, though, as they're being worn under either a jacket, waistcoat, or both. That being said, these are nevertheless a must have for your outfit. Belts simply aren't quaint enough for an ensemble this anachronistic. Besides, who wants to wear a belt with a suit? So bourgeois.
The pair that I’ve picked out below are about as simple as it gets. They’re only about fourteen dollars and are available in a variety of colors. I’d go for either burgundy or black if you’re trying to get close to matching Sams.
The Top Hat
While the pork pie may be Sam’s most memorable piece of headgear in Benny & Joon, it's his top hat that we see him wear during the film’s final climactic scenes. Which seems appropriate enough, considering that top hats, these days at least, are usually reserved for special occasions (when they’re worn at all). In climax of Benny & Joon, when Sam is chivalrously coming to save Joon from the clutches of the mental institution, he’s wearing the hat in combination with a matching black tailcoat and his bamboo cane. It’s almost as if he’s dressed for an impromptu wedding.
The hat is actually somewhat normal in terms of its general style (as far as top hats are concerned). However, what sets it apart is that it’s clearly very old and has obviously been through enough wear and tear to give it a very scruffed up look (it almost looks like something you would find a hobo wearing on a street corner). Seeing as though one of the basis for Sam’s character is Charlie Chaplin’s own hobo character, The Tramp, it’s hardly surprising how nonplussed Sam appears to be about the headwear’s condition.
In the link below I’ve found nothing more than a regular top hat (as hard as it may be to believe, it’s sort of difficult to find shops online that are selling destroyed top hats). You can wear it as it is to get the Sam look, and it should suffice just fine. But if you really want to go all out for full authenticity you're going to need to scruff this sucker up manually. If buying hat only to ruin it directly after doesn’t sound appealing to you, though, you could always just check a local thrift store. Who knows, they may have just what you’re looking for.
As mentioned above (in the top hat portion of this list), by the climactic end of Benny & Joon, when Sam and Benny work to rescue Joon from the clutches of the metal institution, Sam is essentially seen fully dressed in a sort of symbolic wedding getup. Along with the above mentioned top hat, he’s also wearing a pair of dress pants (baggy) and the long coat with tails which you can see pictured above.
Tails are a very formal looking piece of clothing that are typically only seen during special occasions. Fittingly for Sam, they’re also a trademark piece of garb also seen worn by the likes of circus ringmasters and magicians (two peculiar careers in which Johnny Depp’s characters seems to share a lot of similarities with in both fashion and showmanship).
Judging from the cut and style, these particular tails appear to be that of the morning coat variety. Unfortunately, the link I previously had available below has sold out. The next best match is in the link below. It’s not a morning coat, but the style looks much more similar to Sam’s jacket than any of the remaining morning coats that I could find on Amazon.com. Be warned, however, that this isn’t just a coat. This product comes as part of a combined, full three piece suit including the jacket, vest, and pants (I’m unsure if the hat, gloves, and tie are also included). It’s designed and advertised as being for men (groomsmen, especially) to wear at a wedding ceremony. As far as wedding suits go, it’s not too steeply priced (just under one hundred dollars), and it’s really is a swell looking ensemble. But if you only want the tailcoat alone — or you’re just looking for something slightly cheaper — you’ll have to look someplace else.
His least ostentatious piece of clothing, Sam’s shoes are a regular lace-up pair of old boots. For these, a black pair of oxford boots or work boots should suffice just fine.
Getting this footwear right, however, has more to do with what you shouldn't wear as oppose to what you should wear. It's unlikely that anyone will notice a big difference in your shoes unless you're trying to pull off either sneakers, colors other than black or brown (get black, though, if you can), slip-on's, or anything that reveals your ankle (you'll want to wear white socks, by the way, if you’re trying to match Sam). Avoid those things and you should be right as rain.
Like Charlie Chaplin, Sam constantly carries around with him a flexible bamboo cane. Being as flexible as it is, a costume cane is probably what you'll want here if you plan on doing any comedic wobbles with it like Sam is seen doing in the film. Understandably, any real bamboo cane would hopefully not have that much bend to it (suffice it to say, this could be very dangerous for the poor old soul who actually needed it for its intended purposes).
With all that being said, the cane which I’ve featured in the link below isn't a costume cane. But it does have a great resemblance to the one in the film. So just as long as you’re willing to give up showboating with the comedic wobble, this should be a must-have addition to top off your Sam-styled outfit. Granted, however, the price for this one is a bit outrageous. Luckily, though, both costume canes and real canes aren’t too difficult to find online. And for this particular accessory, it doesn’t really need to look exactly like Sam’s in order for you to get the point across.