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Look of the Week: The Old Guard guide to understated immortal style
Welcome back to Look of the Week, celebrating the best in TV and film sartorial excellence, past and present across sci-fi, horror, fantasy, and other genre classics!
Living through centuries of changing clothing styles and fashion trends sounds equal parts enticing and exhausting, particularly when you are a warrior fighting various wars across the ages. In the case of The Old Guard, Andromache the Scythian, aka Andy (Charlize Theron), has experienced every form of battle-ready look across thousands of years. In the present day, she has settled on a low-key capsule closet featuring easily replaceable items that ensure she doesn’t draw too much attention while still looking effortlessly cool.
Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, the action-packed summer movie highlight is another string in Theron’s balletic fight sequence bow joining stylish '80s spies and dystopian desert living. In the meeting of experienced fighters with a new immortal, The Old Guard showcases effortless attire as a must for those engaging in a 21st-century battle.
Spoilers ahead for The Old Guard.
Sunglasses, a black tee, and skinny jeans is a pretty nondescript outfit that instantly tells us everything we need to know about Andy. This fuss-free ensemble is practical and anonymous, and one she repeats throughout the movie. Costume designer Mary E. Vogt is no stranger to action or high fashion, with credits including Batman Returns and Crazy Rich Asians. However, in The Old Guard, it is less specialized suits and couture and more low-key casual attire. Andy isn’t the only one sticking to staples in a neutral palette, as Booker’s (Matthias Schoenaerts) motorcycle-riding introduction focuses on his boots and flowing chambray shirt.
Joe (Marwan Kenzari) and Nicky (Luca Marinelli) also got the memo on the outfit front, which shows how in-sync they are as a couple and group. In a world of surveillance and tourists making memories with smartphone cameras, disappearing into the background is necessary. Any logos, patterns, or bold color could make them identifiable. A closet (or bag) packed with denim and cotton basics is the easiest solution. If you are a squad of seemingly immortal assassins, armor isn’t necessarily required, but the appropriate tactical gear is still a must, because they don't know how many times they will return from the dead. Based on a comic book of the same name by Greg Rucka — who also wrote the screenplay — certain images are inspired by the source material.
Enter Nile (Kiki Layne), who switches military-issue camo for garments provided by her new platoon. Fatigues are no longer required, although she does keep her tactical camel boots. On the transport plane to France, Andy provides her with skinny jeans, tee, and a denim shirt similar to the rest of the team — notably, the purple is more eye-catching but still on the same color spectrum as the blues and grays worn by the guys. Later, when these are ruined by the inevitable stains of combat, Booker has a new outfit for her.
Sure, they can heal, but the clothes they wear don't have the same regenerative powers. Blood is hard to get out, and a bullet or knife hole is hard to blame on moths or a distressed fabric trend.
Rather than changing outfits with no explanation, Prince-Bythewood ensures the audience sees where new garments materialize from. A stunning green silk bomber is part of the Booker outfit change, which is unlike anything the rest of the team has worn so far. Putting her in a bold color makes her stand out, which could be a tactical move so they can see her, or it could be read as part of his later betrayal — although he doesn't give up her identity. In this stylish getup, she is clearly the warrior newbie.
Much like Warrior Nun, Nile is at the whim of those around her when it comes to the clothes she wears. The only items she retains are her cross necklace and the military boots; both show her roots and beliefs are still intact, even if her family thinks she is dead.
Andy keeps an unconventional storage facility in Val D'Argent, France, that she discovered during the Baussenque Wars in what she estimates was the 1150s. The abandoned mine has become a place to stash her stuff and also acts as a safe house. Pulling out an oversized coat to replace the bloody jacket she is wearing — and to mask her unhealing wound — the military style suggests Andy has owned it for some time.
There are no distinguishing insignia or stripes, but the location coupled with the comfort factor points to an element of sentimentality that is lacking with the rest of her replaceable attire.
Offering up a Rag & Bone-leaning image, Andy's core look includes a repeat item that cannot be bought in stores — a necklace that is older than any of her friends. Leather fingerless gloves are another signature accessory that is practical for fighting purposes and incredibly cool. Delivering an edginess that is inherent to this character, these gloves would also be sartorially appropriate for the other action heroes Theron has previously played.
Costume informs story and character, and in this case it offers up a unifying theme without putting each character in matching clothing. The thread is visible in how each member of the elite mercenary squad dresses. Even at the end, when Booker has been expelled from the group for 100 years as punishment for his betrayal, his costume mirrors Andy, Nick, and Joe's. The outlier here is still Nile in a white bomber and red t-shirt, which points to her youthful and new status — she is the youngest by 200 years, so tastes will differ. After living for several millennia, Andy's minimalist taste as her choice of 21st-century attire is a win for an understated and timeless aesthetic.