The Best Part Of The Beach Bum Is The Fashion

Photo: Courtesy of Neon/VICE.
Photo: Courtesy of Neon/VICE.
In The Beach Bum, you see Matthew McConaughey's actual bum more than a dozen times. In a few such scenes, he's wearing a royal purple G-string, and only his tan lines in others. But although these naked moments are definitely fun, they're actually not the most noteworthy aspect of Harmony Korine's follow-up to Spring Breakers. That honor goes to the absolutely deranged and perfect fashion that dominates the film.
In fact, people have been talking about the fashion in this movie since the first set photo dropped back in 2017. Garage deemed it "the most important fashion film" and High Snobiety even did a round-up of McConaughey's, as his character Moondog, best looks — just from paparazzi photos. What I'm saying is, much like Moondog — the drunk, grimy, lovable, carefree poet at the heart of this sun-drenched laissez faire comedy — the outfits in this film scream "I don't give a fuck what I'm doing" and it's the exact 2019 vibe that everyone should have. Moondog is a poet using the world as his muse. I'm just a girl using his wardrobe as mine.
And even though it may look like McConaughey — in his captain's hat, CVS grandpa shades, stringy beach blonde wig, and two-piece flame set, aka "the Flamesuit" (which he wears to his daughters wedding) — is just being weird, it's really more than that. It's an essence. An aura. A vibe.
To prove it, here's a brief list of items worn by characters in this film: massive JNCO jeans (Zac Efron as Flicker), white leather golfing gloves (Jonah Hill as Lewis), a silk bathrobe that says "Snoop Dogg" (Snoop Dogg as Ray aka Lingerie), a Missoni-esque muumuu (Isla Fisher as Minnie Boo), a custom-made gothic vest that reads "These ARE My Church Clothes" (Efron), a different Missoni-esque muumuu (McConaughey), Jeremy Scott Ugg boots (McConaughey), a sequin mini-dress (McConaughey), a neon thong (McConaughey), a slime green formal gown (McConaughey), Heelys (Efron), a feathered bubblegum pink robe (McConaughey), a wet suit (Martin Lawrence as Captain Wack), and a hot pink polo (Hill).
The clothing is the heart and soul of this movie, and it's all thanks to Heidi Bivans, who also styled Spring Breakers, and Hill's 2018 directorial debut, mid90s. She's the mad genius who taught McConaughey how to properly wear the previously mentioned Barney purple thong — a hero and a visionary who reportedly didn't expect a movie that she styled in 2017 would resonate so clearly with the street style aesthetics embraced in 2019.
Of the soon-to-be-infamous looks, like the silver flame Ugg boots Moondog borrows from his wife, Bivens told GQ that she likes "to think that there is a creative ether that exists, and we’re all influenced by stuff even when we don’t realise it, even if we’re not conscious of it."
If you've ever been Key West, you know the movie nails it. The island city at the tip of Florida —  for those not yet lucky enough to have stood in a sandy bar while drunk old men slur about their previous lives and older women grind the air in floor-length beach cover-ups — has a long history of being a place where people move to embrace unlimited sun, alcohol, and rid themselves of inhibitions. This is Moondog's mecca. This is a lot of actual people's mecca. There's even a bar called Garden of Eden where clothing is optional, and I have been there, and it really is optional. And the people who live there really do dress like that. Maybe not in Prada-esque Hawaiian Flamesuits, but almost.
In a place where people live so freely, Moondog's eccentric wardrobe isn't all that much more interesting than the next tanned and leathered retiree's. That's probably why Korine was able to bring his cast and crew onto the houseboats of actual Key West residents to film scenes, even including a lot of locals in background shots.
During a Q&A with an audience at Metrograph on March 26 before the film's US premiere, the director said he shot at more than 300 locations, many of them just places he himself knew from his own hazy late nights in the Keys.
“Listen: the film, and the life, is a cosmic America, you know what I'm saying?" Korine told GQ in a recent profile about the film. "And so the movie—that's what it is, it's a cosmic America. It's an energy that kind of travels through."
That energy is what will get me through 2019, and through my next big purchases, which may or may not be a fluffy pink robe, and custom Uggs.

More from Movies

R29 Original Series