For the modern man searching for cinematic style inspiration, one has to look no further than Christopher Nolan’s mind bending sci-fi thriller: Inception. With a wardrobe almost as intricate and forward thinking as its plot, the film’s sumptuous style walks the fine line between fantasy and reality with unflinching confidence. This theme is particularly appropriate to Inception, where the action alternates between subconscious dreamscapes and lucid real world settings.

Various dream levels are also encountered during the film, with each sequence given its own distinctive look and feel – some making use of warm, rich hues while others employ a cool and sterile palette.

Although costume, like set design and lighting, is often used in cinema as a divisive tool to create a mood and to aid the audience’s recognition of the narrative’s location, this can be translated to the everyday world of menswear: highlighting the importance of dressing according to the occasion and our environment.

The medium of film also uses costume and fashion to reflect each character’s individual personality, something that Inception does to great effect. Numerous techniques are employed to achieve this (many described below), underlining the powerful role that clothing plays in our perception of others.

Although almost every character in Inception is worthy of their own article, the below details the style of three of the film’s most well presented protagonists.

Dom Cobb – Leonardo Di Caprio

Leonardo Di Caprio plays the film’s central role of Dom Cobb, a professional thief in a dystopian world of corporate espionage, who specialises in conning secrets from his victims by infiltrating their dreams. Haunted by his dark past, Cobb casts a complex and intense figure and his outfits throughout the film are a carefully curated extension of these traits: subdued, understated and monochromatic.

Cobb’s mixture of classic cuts with modern detailing and limited use of colour is not dissimilar to his small screen anti-hero counterpart, Don Draper. Both sport impeccably tailored formal wear to highlight their similarly imposing frames, with combinations of fabric and fit providing a timeless quality. Cobb is, however, somewhat less traditional, favouring wide lapel two-piece suits and broadcloth shirts with elongated straight point collars.

The brooding dream stealer’s more casual attire is equally eye-catching, with black ties and dark suits making way for linen shirts and unstructured jackets in keeping with the film’s abstract architectural theme. Two pieces of particular note are the dark navy plaid flannel shirt that adds depth, weight and texture to Cobb’s ensemble and the brown leather jacket worn during the initial ‘Inception’ sequence.

Dom’s look is one that on the surface appears simple, yet closer inspection reveals a carefully considered wardrobe offering ultra-modern cuts and detailing. To achieve such a style it is important to compensate for the minimal aesthetic and colour palette by way of clever textural combinations and precision fits.

A sharp-cut, dark suit accompanied by a white poplin shirt and matte tie will go a long way toward recreating Cobb’s futuristic yet timeless silhouette. Even Cobb’s more relaxed and rugged outfits maintain a certain elegance, so try matching lighter linen shirts with a grey unstructured blazer and cotton trousers.

Inspired By Pieces
  • American Apparel Poplin Long Sleeve Button-up
  • Reiss Navigator Plain Poplin Shirt White
  • Asos Skinny Suit In Black
  • Topman Black Slim Tie
  • Dolce & Gabbana Cotton And Linen-blend Shirt
  • Allsaints Kuroshio Trouser
  • Austin Reed Black Textured Premium Leather Belt
  • Antony Morato Black & Grey Checked Shirt
  • Alfred Dunhill Washed-leather Jacket
Arthur – Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Dom’s able and efficient accomplice Arthur is played by off-screen style icon, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Arthur’s austere and solidly structured aesthetic acts as a refreshing respite from the film’s fragmented scenery and represents his rather rigid and well-organised personality. Given the task of managing and researching the team’s missions of subconscious subterfuge, Arthur’s fastidious nature and meticulous planning are matched only by the attention to detail in the layering of his outfits.

In terms of formal wear, the sartorially inclined Arthur opts for slim fitting three-piece suits to complement his business-like attitude and slight physique. Cobb’s right-hand man exhibits this style eloquently in the dream-within-a-dream hotel room scene, where he sports a dark grey two-button suit with waistcoat and burgundy silk tie. The unusually patterned neck wear worn by Arthur throughout the film is in stark contrast to his penchant for linear tailoring and the tapered, angular collars of his pinstripe shirts.

Rarely to be seen without a shirt and tie, Levitt’s character does appear more casual in the film’s kidnap sequence, where a butter-soft tan leather jacket is paired with a muted check shirt and relaxed cotton trousers. This dress-down look is ideal for SS13 – the bomber-style leather is bang on trend and works wonderfully as a statement piece when complemented by the outfit’s contemporary cut and restrained aesthetic.

Achieving a complexly coordinated style such as Arthur’s is not something to be taken lightly. It requires acute attention to the layering of fabrics, use of light and shade and an understanding of one’s own physical attributes – not to mention a pretty dexterous tailor. A good starting point might be to experiment with various shirt and tie combinations, identifying which textures, patterns and collar type/tie widths work well together.

Inspired By Pieces
  • Lanvin Slim-fit Contrast-collar Cotton Shirt
  • Reiss Riva Two Button Textured Suit Light Grey
  • Reiss Rushby Three Button Notch Lapel Linen Suit Grey
  • Reiss Garth W Classic Waistcoat Grey
  • Asos Waistcoat In Grey
  • Loro Piana Check Cotton Shirt
  • Paul Smith Shoes & Accessories Striped Woven-silk Tie
  • Paul Smith Jeans Leather Bomber Jacket
  • Tods No_code Suede Oxford Shoes
Eames – Tom Hardy

As the forger of the team, Eames specialises in identity theft in order to extract information from a chosen mark. More easy-going in disposition than both Cobb and Arthur, Eames’ sharp tongue and quick wit act as an amiable aside to the film’s fast-paced plot. His nonchalant style follows suit, as relaxed fits and casual cuts blend with tactile fabrics and elaborate patterns.

Often opting for the smart-casual combination of an open collar shirt and blazer rather than the tailored formality seen on many of the film’s other characters, it allows for easy integration of additional textures and accessories. This is key to Eames’ look, where the inspired use of pocket squares, braces, pocket chains and vintage watches should not be underestimated.

Hardy’s cool and confident portrayal of Eames is proof that there is more than a little truth in the mantra: “The clothes do not make the man. The man makes the clothes.” Wide collars and loose fit trousers enhance Eames’ broad build, whilst floral details and retro designs add an unobtrusive flair to his outfits.

To pull off Eames’ dressed down demeanour, try pairing a wool blazer with an open neck polo shirt, straight-leg linen-blend trousers and penny loafers. Additional details can be provided with the inclusion of a textured pocket square, leather belt and analogue wristwatch.

Inspired By Pieces
  • Loro Piana Linen Shirt
  • Gant Rugger Shirt With Multi Stripe
  • J.crew Ludlow Slim-fit Herringbone Linen Blazer
  • Topman Premium Green Donegal Heritage Fit Suit Jacket
  • Crease Resistant Active Waistband Single Pleat Trousers
  • Alfred Dunhill Linen Pocket Square
  • Topman Black Vintage Plain Braces
  • Austin Reed Navy/burgundy Stripe Braces
  • Sekonda Gold Watch
Final Word

The flawless fashion seen throughout Inception is something many of us can only dream of, and its use of costume and dress as a subtext to describe personality and character is something we should all try to translate into our own individual style.

Make sure you let us know who your favourite Inception character is in the comments section below, and feel free to suggest other films that are worth of the ‘Celluloid Style’ treatment.