A Clockwork Orange (1971) was the first film Italian costume designer Milena Canonero worked on, director Stanley Kubrick hired her after meeting her on the set of 2001: A Space Odyessy (1968) (Anderson, 2015). She later worked on another two of Kubrick’s works; Barry Lyndon (1975) and The Shining (1980). The former of which, she won her first Oscar for, and latter of which, she recieved her first of four academy awards for (IMDB, 2015). Other Notable works include; Chariots of Fire (1981), The Godfather: Part III (1990) and most recently she won her fourth Oscar at the 2015 Oscars for her costume design work on the Wes Anderson directed The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) (Anderson, 2015).
“Milena Canonero is a ‘Character Designer’ who works closely with the directors for the creation of an entity [and] has an infinite precision for details whose colors reveal the character’s psychology…” (Wanderfull, 2015)
The film was based on the 1962 Novel of the same name. Written by Anthony Burgess who thought to write the novel when he came back to England in 1959 from Malaya and Brunei, where he had clonial teaching posts. He Noticed that a new youth culure had emerged in England, a culture that wasn’t present when he was a youth, a culture of drugs, pop music and Teddy Boy Violence, a group associated with american rock and roll. Burgess himself claims that in 1944 during the London Blitz, his first wife, Llewela Jones, was a victim of an attack committed by 4 US Soilders, similar to that of one of the ones Alex, the main protagonist, and his gang of droogs performs in the novel. Which could easily be inspiration for the violent themes covered in the book. Burgess also drew inspiration from dystopian novels such as George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World Revisited (unknown, 2015).
Both the film and book are set in a futuristic London, however the film was filmed eight/nine years later than when the book was written. In which time London saw the rise and fall of the Mod subculture, a subculture particularly associated with violent brawls with the other main subculture of the early 60s, the rockers. This probably influenced the overall design of the film, but the film stil closely followed it’s source material.
It is told in first person from the perspective of Alex, played by Malcolm McDowell, a male youth living in a dystopian, futuristic London. Alex spends his time taking part in violent activities, such as rape, with his gang of droogs and listening to Ludwig Van (Beethoven). During one of his violent nights he kills a woman and concequently gets arrested for it. He is then ‘cured’ of his violent nature through treatment, known as the Ludvico Technique. When he is cured he is captured by one of his previous victims and somewhat tortured, resulting in an undoing of the Ludivico Technique.
I will be focusing on the two-tone costume worn by Alex and his droogs. The black hat, white shirt, white trousers, white suspenders, black boots, a cane and a jock strap worn over the trousers. This one – – http://hubpages.com/holidays/How-to-dress-like-Alex-in-A-Clockwork-Orange-The-Droog-Costume
I chose this costume because of the cultural influence it has made. It’s a popular choice for halloween costumesand there has been many references made throughout popular culture showcased here by Homer Simpson and co. from the long-running animated comedy, The Simpsons –
“Obviously working with Stanley Kubrick was one of the greatest experiences of my career. It’s impossible to put into words what it was like. Kubrick gave me a lot of guidance. He took me along to check out sites and sent me to photograph certain things. He wanted me to understand what he was looking for. He told me that the head is the most visible part in film and I should start from there.” – (Bourne, 2011)
This would suggest that the first part of the iconic costume she design was the black bowler hat.
Despite what many believe, that the cane and bowler hat are references to a metaphorical figure of Charlot, Canonero, the costume designer, actually chose those accessories because they are traditional symbols of the establishment and Britain, and it becomes intimidating and dark when worn by Alex and his gang (Fiumelli, Unknown).
It wasn’t just the hats and canes that were inspired by, and probably inspired, British culture. The boots were inspired by London’s current street fashion at the time of making the film. The Black footwear were known throughout british youths as ‘bovver boots’, refering to bother. and causing a spot of it. The boots even sparked a creation of a cult named Bovver Boys who would partake in being a general nuisance much like Alex and friends. (Gross, 1986)
The Simpsons isn’t the only one in pop culture to reference the get up worn by Alex and his Droogs. In fact, KTZ based thier Fall/Winter 2015 collection on the film, includng this Droog inspired design – – http://www.thefashionisto.com/ktz-fallwinter-2015-inspired-clockwork-orange-london-collections-men/
Although KTZ has given it a much less sinister look, with the oversized anorak an umbrella instead of a cane and shiny, not used for kicking people, boots.
Popular music band ‘No Doubt’, fronted by the once famous Gwen Stefani, wore some A Clockwork Orange inspired gear as they performed on The Today show in 2009, this is what they looked like –
I think it’s time for another, earlier The Simpsons reference. This time, the younger male Simpson, Bart is dressed as Alex in the 1992 hallowen Special, ‘Tree house of Horror III.’ I guess the writers of The Simpsons quite like A Clockwork Orange, they’ve manged to fit in several references to it throughout its 25 year+ run.
Popular spoof magazine, MAD released an issue in June ’73 titled ‘A Clockwork Lemon.’ On the cover, the cartoon bloke from MAD is Dressed as Alex. – https://www.pinterest.com/pin/80853755783680986/
According to bank of knowledge, Wikipedia, there’s a good seventy-five or so cultural references to A Clockwork Orange, a large portion of which credited to the costume used. And despite what many people think, Wikipedia doesn’t know everything. So there can be so many more references out there unknown to the free encyclopedia, which is undoubtable evidence of how much of an impact Milena Canonero has had on the world with her costume design work on the highly regarded film.
Also, ‘Droogs’ sounds like drugs. And I don’t think thats a coincidence. Although that has nothing to do with costume. Just a thought.