Random Ephemera

4 Iconic Wardrobe Choices That Were Actually Mistakes

Costume designers are human like the rest of us, and 99 percent of the time they know exactly what they're doing. When George Lucas came up with the idea of Indiana Jones, he had the iconic silhouette of Indy's fedora, jacket, bag and whip all in mind from both a character and a filmmaking functionality standpoint. That's a perfect example of what can happen when everything goes to plan.

Then again, there are moments when some people just didn't read the memo right and turned in something completely different. When I do that, an editor threatens me with a gun, but in at least four cases the minds behind some of the most iconic images in the world said, "Meh. It'll do." Today we spotlight those great moments of wardrobe happenstance.

Jules Winnfield's Jheri Curls

There may be more badass men than Samuel L. Jackson as Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction, but no one has ever lived to tell if there are. The assassin and errand boy for gangster Marsellus Wallace never lets a man die without thoroughly ruining his soul beforehand with a Sonny Chiba quote. The image of him in all his black-suited and Jheri-curled glory is the perfect dance between blaxplotation and modern antihero.

That image might've been ruined forever had Tarantino gotten what he asked for...a gigantic afro for Jackson. Tarantino is not much for subtlety, you see? Contrary to popular belief, not all afros are created equal, so a crew member was sent off to fetch a box of afros for Tarantino and Jackson to dig through in hopes of finding the one that would make an audience take Winnfield as seriously as a Boney M comeback.

Luckily, in said crewmember's haste to fill a box with afros, he mistakenly added a Jheri curl wig, and both Tarantino and Jackson realized that maybe a balding Italian guy should not necessarily be the final say on hairstyle ideas. And thus was born Jules Winnfield, BMF, instead of Undercover Brother.

The Fourth Doctor's Scarf

Before David Tennant walked in in red converse and owned every inch of the revived series, when people thought of Doctor Who they thought of Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor. Baker took over the role from Jon Pertwee in 1974, and for seven years completely redefined the character with his offbeat wit and penchant for offering jelly bellies to everyone. He remains one of the most popular Doctors ever, and usually sits second place behind Tennant.

Like all Doctors, Baker had his own special costume. Rather than the refined looks sported by his predecessors, the Fourth Doctor wore a battered, wide-brimmed hat, a dusty, long coat full of bizarre odds and ends, and an improbably long scarf. The Doctor claimed it was a gift from Nostradamus's wife, and it was four times as long as the imposingly tall Baker. It remains his character's most iconic accessory.

Costume designer James Acheson wanted a knitted scarf for Baker's Doctor, but didn't really know anything about knitting. So he gathered up a bunch of different samples of wool and delivered it to a friend who did named Begonia Pope, telling her to use it. And she did. All of it. Every single piece of fabric Acheson delivered made it into one ridiculously long scarf, and Baker loved it. It was a handy tool for the Doctor, who used it as a rope, a bandage, a tripwire, a leash and a measuring stick throughout his run.

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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner