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Photo Credit: Gregory Smith

“On The Road”

Dec. 21, 2012

The film “On The Road,” based on the iconic 1957 novel of the same name by Jack Kerouac, chronicles the years the author spent travelling cross-country in the 1940s. His character, Sal Paradise, encounters Dean Moriarty (based on writer Neal Cassady, played in the film by Garrett Hedlund), and Moriarty’s free spirited sometimes-wife Marylou (Kristen Stewart), and the trio embarks on a life-changing adventure that defined a generation.

For a story that is beautifully famous for breaking all the rules, Costume Designer Danny Glicker was tasked with maintaining a delicate balance between paying homage to the real image of Kerouac and the icon he had become, while still defining the fictional element of character Sal Paradise. Known for his work on acclaimed films such as “Up in the Air” and “Milk,” Glicker recalls the Red Buffalo Plaid jacket that Sal Paradise wears throughout much of the film as the most significant of pieces he created. “I wanted to find the perfect pure wool Buffalo Plaid with a graduated stripe and a good texture,” he said, noting that many of today’s wool plaids have a felted texture and a rather flat stripe. “And it needed to be pure wool because it was important that we be able to break down the fabric as the story progressed and really manipulate the texture.”

Glicker and his team did “copious amounts of distress and overdye samples before committing to the final fabric,” after which they set out to find pressed leather buttons and zippers appropriate to the time period. “[The buttons] had a beautiful crackly quality and the zippers needed to be perfect as well because they were going to be featured heavily in close-ups,” he said, adding that they had to replace the pulls of modern zippers with brass pulls from the 40s, and that fortunately, they were able to scrounge up enough materials for duplicate versions. In all, Glicker and his team created five different coats to represent different stages of distress over a very heavily weathered four-year journey. Every decision, he says, including plaid placement, the deepening of the colors, the holes that appear and grow over time and where and how it gets dirty were all carefully considered and screen tested with an understanding of how the jacket needed to be truly lived-in and never detract from the realism of the cross-country journey.

“Ultimately, I designed the jacket to be a unique-yet-familiar piece of clothing that is deeply rooted in Sal’s heritage as a French Canadian, and to subtly visualize the way he feels as a permanent outsider,” says Glicker. “I think the joy and payoff of creating an iconic piece is seeing how it behaves in all the different contexts and locations of the character’s massive journey.”

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