Let’s call it, How to Dress Like a Beach Bum in 4 Steps.
In Harmony Korine’s trippy new comedy, Matthew McConaughey stars as the titular Beach Bum, Moondog, a poet who lives life to the fullest and is unlike anyone the big screen has ever seen — and with a wardrobe to match.
The film’s costume designer Heidi Bivens says the inspiration for the unique style came from looking at the “colors and wildness” of South Florida, the area’s residents who have the same “not give a f— attitude” as Moondog, and legendary writer Hunter S. Thompson. And McConaughey, himself, proved to be an important figure in the creation of Moondog’s style.
“We talked about the evolution of the psychology behind what his journey was and his feelings behind his look,” shares Bivens of the Oscar-winner. “He really respects costumes and is a very good collaborator and came into the fitting ready for us to give him the tools to become this character. He stayed in character pretty much the whole time we were shooting, so after the first fitting he asked to take some pieces home with him to wear them around and really feel the character’s vibe. For example, he wears neon thongs throughout the movie as underwear and he asked to take some of those home so he could start working on his suntan [laughs].”
Read on for the stories behind some of McConaughey’s best Beach Bum fits.
During his daughter’s expensive oceanside wedding, Moondog gives away the bride like only he could.
“It’s called The Flamesuit,” cracks Bivens. “Matthew just wore it to the SXSW premiere party. Harmony wanted him to look like he was on fire, and that suit was my translation of what was in Harmony’s brain. We looked at a lot of different flame prints and then the photorealism one just made the most sense. We knew that he needed to be a little bit more dressed up for the wedding, and at first I was considering him wearing some kind of suiting that wasn’t based on the sort of matching set silhouette of Hawaiian cabana vibe and I had something built for him. We tried it but then we just decided to keep it easy and keep it breezy and keep that same silhouette of that shirt-short set but just add a suit jacket — and it worked.”
Moondog returns from partying in the Keys and quickly gets comfortable at home in wife Minnie’s (Isla Fisher) robe.
“Harmony is so fun to work with, because, as a writer, he includes a lot of costume notes in his scripts, which gives me a starting point,” reveals Bivens. “And so in the particular scene where [Moondog’s] wearing the robe, it states that he’s wearing Minnie’s robe, so then in coming up with this idea of who Minnie is, coming from money and living in Florida and having this affluent life, what kind of robe would she own? We decided to go with something a little more over the top than one might have originally envisioned. I remember we had a robe made for Minnie, and for Moondog to wear, and the feathers just weren’t dramatic enough. So we really tried to go big with that piece, because the rule of thumb whenever we were making creative decisions, whether it was the production designer or myself, was that we should play up the comedy. So that was a big opportunity to do that with that robe and it makes for some really fun visuals that hopefully will create some Halloween costumes for this year.”
The Beach Bumtress
In an attempt to hide from the law, Moondog wears women’s clothes to avoid detection, but he continues to still do so well after he needs to.
“That was a lot of fun, because, again, I looked to the women of the Keys for inspiration,” says Bivens. “I could look at real sort of weathered day drinkers from the Keys, that expat type, and looking at what they’re wearing and just get a version of it that fit Matthew. I did pull a little bit from fashion. There’s a dress that he wears, the first dress he puts on and it’s Balenciaga from that season when we were shooting, and when we set it out for Matthew to put it on that day, he put it on backwards, but it was a happy accident because it actually worked so much better backwards [laughs]. That was kind of just playing on the current trend of the time but also sort of a nod to that type of print that you’d see in a place like Key West or South Florida, like kind of a Muumuu style.”
The Elephant Sandwich
Zac Efron makes a short but memorable appearance as Moondog’s new friend, Flicker, who wears enormous jeans, constantly vapes, specializes in weird karate moves, and has panini-inspired hair.
“That’s the widest jean that JNCO makes,” shares Bivens. “They were still in business when we were shooting, so luckily they were still producing stuff and we didn’t even have to get vintage, I was able to get new JNCOs from them. We found that Zac knew how to skate on Heelys, and so just this image of him in these wide-legged jeans, getting to skate around was instant comedy. We definitely pushed it with him and went a little over the top in a way that hopefully created an iconic character.”
The Beach Bum, which also stars Snoop Dogg and Jonah Hill, is now in theaters.