True Detective is a mystery series that leaves viewers guessing with each episode. Look to the costumes to find out a little more about everything.
True Detective is a tense and stylized neo-noir crime anthology series. It’s aired for three seasons on HBO. While critics have hailed the first and third seasons, which both employ southern gothic themes, the mob-focused second season received mixed reviews. The art direction and costuming for all seasons have been acclaimed. The show’s layered narrative style, which spans decades, requires characters to age both forward and backward in believable ways.
Each season of True Detective has employed a different costume designer, a person tasked with bringing the characters to life through subtle design and style choices. While many watchers take the importance of costuming for granted, shows like True Detective are enriched by the personalized flairs evident throughout. Here are 10 details about costuming in the series that are easy to miss.
Reverend Tuttle’s Tie Is Intentionally Yellow
In Season 1, it becomes obvious as the narrative advances that Reverend Tuttle is implicated in the disappearances and murders of dozens and dozens of children. He’s part of the strange cult that participates in Cajun and Mardi Gras rituals taken to a violent extreme throughout the bayous and backroads of Louisiana.
Set designers chose yellow for the tie he wears in one of the anxiety-ridden exchanges between Tuttle and detectives. While they didn’t plan to connect the color to the mythos surrounding The King in Yellow, and instead wanted to express Tuttle’s status and regality, it turned out to be a lucky coincidence that helped fans connect the dots.
Rust Cohle Is Supposed To Have A Utilitarian Look As A Police Officer In 1995
While the typical dress fashion for men in the mid-1990s involved pleats and boxy suits, Rust Cohle, a serious and dedicated detective, has nothing to do with such pomp. He dons straight and tactful suits that are fitted to his body, the kind of suits someone in his position would wear over and over again.
Season 1 costumer Jenny Eagan clarifies why Cohle’s clothes tend to be tighter than other characters, saying, “It’s Matthew McConaughey. He’s sexy. There was going to have to be some sex appeal there.”
Extras In Season 1 Had Their Clothes Dirtied And Beaten Up
In Season 1, Hart and Cohle traverse the poorest parts of Louisiana in hopes of figuring out why so many children have gone missing over the decades. It turns out the children in these neglected regions are the perfect prey for the Tuttle clan.
Costumers sullied and tanned the clothes worn by extras in these scenes to emphasize the down-and-out nature of life in these poverty-stricken areas. Costuming staff relied on vintage duds that they then dirtied up to achieve this effect.
Reggie Ledoux Is Wearing A My Little Pony Towel When He’s Captured
In one of the scariest, most memorable scenes in Season 1, Hart and Cohle track down Reggie Ledoux, a meth dealer and monstrous serial killer who is part of the elaborate Tuttle network. They end up killing Ledoux and hiding the evidence, a choice both detectives carry with them for the rest of their lives.
To add to the creepiness, costumers chose to clothe Ledoux in a vintage My Little Pony towel. Recognizing just how menacing it would be to have him in the towel, designers faded it to make it look worn out.
Ray Velcoro’s Bolo Tie Reflects His Southwestern Heritage
In Season 2, Colin Farrell plays Vinci Police Department Detective Ray Velcoro. He has a unique style, one with a Southwestern flair that includes a full mustache and outgrown hair. These choices were intentional, and they are designed to reflect Velcoro’s heritage.
Costumer Alix Friedberg wanted to give Velcoro a job-appropriate look while also paying homage to 1970s Western noirs like Dirty Harry. As she tells the Costume Designers Guild, “Ray comes from deep Southwestern roots, where a bolo tie is a perfectly acceptable alternative to a common necktie, which to Ray might feel like a noose.”
Season Two Is Imbued With Neo-Noir Stylings
Despite its mixed reviews, one consistent quality about Season 2 is Alix Friedberg’s adherence to neo-noir fashion choices. One of the most underappreciated ways through which characters are developed for audiences lies with clothing, and the characters in Season 2 are defined by what they wear.
From Antigone Bezzerides’s jewelry choices that seem to border on weapons to Jordan Semyon’s gangster wife attire, Friedberg’s decisions inform the storyline more than the muddled dialogue or perplexing narratives.
Frank Semyon Has A Muted Look For A Gangster
Season 2 is full of understated choices, and Frank Semyon’s gangster duds are the prime example. Vince Vaughn’s character chooses dark, solid colors like navy for his suits, usually matching them with simple, lined button-ups.
An air of casualness is created by Semyon’s choice to rarely wear ties. Usually, his shirts are unbuttoned at the top, exposing a bit of chest hair. When he does wear a tie, it’s nothing lavish or flashy. Again, these choices, while easy to miss, help define Semyon’s inner qualities through visual queues.
Mahershala Ali Used Sidney Poitier As His Hair Muse For Wayne Hays
As a black police detective near the Arkansaw Ozarks in the 1980s and 1990s, Mahershala Ali’s Detective Wayne Hays is a serious man working within a system defined by racism, the looming after-effects of the Vietnam War, and the pervasive poverty that wreaks havoc on folks around him.
When he was working with costumers and make-up artists on his look, Ali looked to iconic actor Sidney Poitier for inspiration. In fact, Ali went on to describe Poitier as his hair muse for Season 3, especially in regards to his 1990s look.
Prosthetics Designer Michael Marino Kept His Alterations Minimal In Season 3
In the eyes of prosthetics artist Michael Marino, less is more. Instead of covering up Hays’s face with silicone-like material, Marino applied minimal amounts to make Hays’s aging appear as realistic as possible.
Marino worked with Ali to age Hays through nominal sculpting and contouring. Instead, they relied on Ali’s actual skin to guide the transformation, giving the prosthetics a believable effect on the screen. Ali had to work on his facial expressions to make sure they didn’t manipulate the prosthetics in unnatural ways.
Roland West Always Wears Boots, Regardless Of The Decade
In Season 3, Stephen Dorff plays Hays’s partner, Roland West, a tough and lonely detective whose relationship with Hays is fractured due to their egos and the politics around them.
Dorff worked with costume designer Emma Potter to develop West’s aesthetic, and they both concluded that West is the type of man who always wears cowboy boots, no matter the situation. Even long after he’s retired from the force in 2015, West still rocks his boots.