Richard Burke: Style hero

Friday, November 5th 2021
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There’s this one outfit worn by the character Richard Burke in Friends, played by Tom Selleck, that has stayed with me for years. 

It’s in the penultimate episode of series six. Richard comes to Monica’s restaurant to try and win her back. He walks casually into the kitchen, hands in pockets, in his ever-so-easy manner. 

He looks amazing: sophisticated colour combination, luxurious materials. Both, I’m sure, in deliberate contrast to Chandler and the rest of the friends. This is an older guy who knows what he’s doing, and is comfortable in his clothes. 

He wears a pale-grey shirt with a faint check; roomy, pleated olive trousers; a chestnut-brown belt with brass buckle; and over the top, a sand-coloured jacket in what is clearly a fine, lightweight suede.

I love the combination for the reasons readers will expect: it’s subtle and muted, yet unusual. It would scream taste if it wasn't so subdued.  

Combinations like these look easy, but they aren’t. If the shirt were darker grey, it wouldn’t be as good. If the belt were a brighter colour - more caramel - it would't be as sophisticated. 

It's so much easier to be conventional. To wear a blue or white shirt instead of the grey. A dark-brown belt instead of the chestnut. These would all be fine (in fact they'd look great) but they wouldn’t be the stand-out look this is. Something would be lost. 

I’m not sure I can really call Richard a style hero. He’s fictional, after all, and only appears in a handful of episodes. There’s not much of a wardrobe to emulate. 

But what is there has stayed with me for 25 years, long after the menswear in most other TV faded. And it feels very current, with the relaxed silhouettes, Armani colouring and smart/casual aesthetic. 

My other favourite outfit comes from earlier, when Richard is first going out with Monica. 

For their date, he wears a grey/green soft-shouldered suit, black shirt buttoned to the neck, and a black leather belt with silver buckle (above). All topped off with gold-framed reading glasses. 

It’s very toned-down and simple. Without the belt it would all be a little plain, but that belt draws it together. 

It makes me think I should try and put belt loops on some of my trousers again, given I wear ties so much less. 

Those two outfits come together, in a way, with another grey/green combination in the following episode (above). 

The suit here is a similar murky green, but this time he wears a dark-grey shirt and a braided chestnut belt similar to the first outfit. The black belt would have looked just as good, but more formal - and perhaps that’s appropriate, given this is a house party, not a date. The shirt is unbuttoned at the neck too. 

These grey/green shirts reappear in other, more casual outfits, but not always as successfully. 

In the first outfit below, one is worn with pale-blue denim and a black western belt. Kudos on the belt, but the shirt isn’t so great with the blue jeans. Particularly as it’s a fairly smart shirt with a covered placket. 

A better match for the jeans is a paler colour of shirt worn later - almost a khaki colour (second image above). This also has no covered placket and two chest pockets. It’s much more fitting.

My favourite combination of this type is the last picture above: the same khaki shirt but with black jeans and black hiking boots.   

Of course, it’s no coincidence that these colours recur. Costume designers generally use a narrow range of clothing for characters, particularly minor ones. It's part of their identity. Only bigger characters, with more complicated stories, get more complicated wardrobes. And then only over time. 

The costume designer for Friends, Debra McGuire, has talked about how she established colour palettes for each of the characters.

Monica, for example, was “in this black-white-gray-burgundy world for a long time”. She also talks in that interview about her desire to keep things smarter than just jeans and a T-shirt - to give Friends more style. 

Now can Richard do black tie? Of course he can. 

His very first appearance is in a double-breasted dinner jacket, cut just as big as the suits and buttoning low on the hips. 

The lapels are generous without being over the top. They’re grosgrain rather than satin, but with a satin binding. This is reflected in the satin bow tie, which is framed neatly by a collar of similar proportion.

The shirt is pleated, with nice mother-of-pearl buttons. I’d prefer a covered placket or studs, but that's just me. It still feels very on-character, the black tie that Richard would wear: the best possible combination of stylish and comfortable.

The only thing that undermines this outfit is Selleck’s habit of putting his hands in his pockets. The jacket is ventless, and using trouser pockets with a ventless jacket is not a great look. Everything bunches up at the back. 

Later, bare-lipped, Richard demonstrates how good a navy raglan coat looks over his grey/green suiting, in the scene in a video-rental store (top image above). 

A brown scarf works nicely over the collar of the coat too, as does the black tie with a jaunty geometric pattern. 

Interestingly, the one time we see him in a formal suit and tie (last image above) the jacket is much more square-shouldered and padded. Which could be more appropriate, given its worn over a white shirt and silk tie, at a restaurant. 

Richard also does a really nice line in 50s-style cardigans, piped dressing gowns and much-loved old T-shirts (all above). 

Almost the only outfit I dislike is the last image: a teal button-down and jeans. If I was being fussy, I’d also like him to undo one more button on that shirt. He’s certainly got the chest for it. 

Below are a couple more shots of my favourite outfit, where he's at home without that sand-suede jacket. And, for the sake of completeness, the one outfit that was particularly popular with female viewers: wearing nothing but Monica’s pink dressing gown. 

Other sitcoms of this era such as Frasier and Seinfeld have much more classic-menswear to talk about. But they're also covered more. I’ve never seen Richard Burke given his due, so here it is. 

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Il Pennacchio

Photographs 13 and 14 are a really good illustration of natural shoulders vs padded shoulders.

rafael

great article, love it!

JB

Lovely to see a nod to Richard, a very well dressed character indeed.
If you haven’t already, I recommend checking out the Nanny. Maxwell Sheffield dresses very nicely, not unlike richard, in muted knitwear, roomy trousers, a lot of shirt jackets and safari jackets. All of which feels very current.

Daniel

LOVE the post!

Ajbjasus

Nice article Simon, Sellick nails that relaxed American look, that they often get so wrong, with shapeless oversisized suits, and overlong, massive trousers. They also have a badly executed tendency for grey shirts, but Tom shows how it should be done
I also love what a good belt brings to an outfit – you should check out MacCrostie’s lovely bridle leather mto ones – stunning value – I actually came across them In Haderer’s wonderful shoe shop in Kitbuhel.
Got to disagree with you on more shirt buttons undone – I think his are bang on.

Mike T

Hi Simon, a really nice and well observed article perfect for a Friday morning.
I think for a lot of people in the UK, settling in to watch Friends and Frasier was always a great start to the weekend.
The muted palette is perfect for this time of year. Richard can certainly get away with high rise trousers with quite a loose fit, not an easy thing to carry off. I think the best thing he wears however is his easy charm and manner.
you have got me hooked so I’ll have to revisit some of those episodes now.

limekiln

I see little of interest in most of these outfits. But I suppose that’s what’s interesting about this overall topic. One man’s meat is another man’s poison. Photo 6 (in front of the window) is especially ugly – the jacket looks at least 2 sizes too big across the shoulders. On a positive note, its colour is nice.

Ray_Bentos

Do Soup Nazi: style hero next

Peter

Unexpected and enjoyable piece! This current revival of 90s style is so intriguing to me, given how as recently as 5 years ago the period felt like basically a byword for poor taste. Suddenly the tailoring looks cool, and it feels as though everyone is dressing like a 90s film star walking through an airport – blazer over tee/polo with jeans, loafers and baseball cap. (I know that sportswear/smart mixup is not exactly what you’re exploring in this particular piece but it all feels relevant). I’m not complaining about any of this – as youve touched on previously in a few pieces the loosening up of silhouettes and the mix of tailoring with other influences feels very fresh and fun – it’s just fascinating to me how the dial turns. I suppose the key is not to commit too fully to the swing of the pendulum – trend enjoyment within moderation! Best wishes, Peter

Peter Hall

Tom Selleck was also impeccably dressed in the movie Lassiter. He carried the 40s style really well.

Julian

What a refreshing article, delving into a bit of nostalgic pop culture! I think credit should really go to the actor, Tom Selleck, though. He’s always imbued his characters on film and television with his very personal sense of style, and has always dressed in tune with both his large, athletic frame and attitude of not taking himself too seriously. Nothing too polished or refined, everything casually but smartly balanced. From this core, he takes on the quirks of the times and subtly adjust his clothes or picks an item or two to seemingly poke fun at himself in that moment. That is all good stuff, all his own, and nothing that any costume designer can hang on him.

Alex

Scrolling down to see the first photo of a de-moustachioed Selleck in amongst all the others was quite a shocker. He just doesn’t look right without it.

Ian Skelly

Tom Selleck in Friends? yeah good . Tom Selleck in Blue Bloods ? now you’re talking , I own a Ralph Lauren Shawl Cardigan just because of that character ! he looks like one the models from the 80’s Ralph Lauren adverts in his casual wear with lots of tweeds

Stephen

… and the great glasses. A real style icon in BB.
Some people have such an innate style and presence that they look good in many things.

Robin

(9:30 Friday… open PS webpage and …)
Whoah ! Where did that come from ?

Very pleasant surprise.
As for the clothes …. they make Tom Selleck look big , which he is , and older or at best his age.
But I take your point about the colours.
British men are completely colourless so any help with this is a good move.

As for Tom Selleck , I think more importantly his skin tone and, dare I say, his moustache also play a key role in how the presents himself .

Anyway , I nice twist to the articles and may I suggest for the future a critique of

1 Daniel Craig as Bond and Daniel Craig as Daniel Craig

2 Richard Gere in American Gigolo (a look , which literally as I write this , reminds me of Saman Amel… not sure why … maybe the colours , the easy drape .)

… to name but just 2.

Stefan

Can we gently push back on that opinion re Daniel Craig? Not that you can’t have whatever personal opinion you like, but it would really be interesting to read your fluent writing about Craig’s influence on menswear these last 15 years. The skinny Bond suits, the casual clothing in the later movies, the funny stuff the Benoit Blanc character wears, the pink velvet. I’m with Robin, this would probably be quite entertaining to read, even if your choice were to take it all apart and just explain what you don’t like?

Gary

Ah DC as Bond… to me it looks like a fashion too far with his over tight suits (albeit loosening up a bit in later movies), I like DC but he lost that urbane well dressed Bond profile in favour of following a trend. As with many movies, marketing and brand placing is in danger of, and often does, spoiling the character

Chancellor

I thought Daniel Craig had good suits in his first two movies (I think the first one was Brioni; second started with Tom Ford). By the third movie, though, he was dressing in shorter and tighter suits which I didn’t like. I’m sure it was reflecting the fashion trend.

Ben Richards

Thanks so much for this Simon: I’m a frequent re-viewer of Friends, and it’s so interesting to see Richard’s outfits examined from a PS perspective. In a similar way to comments on the most recent viewer profile post, it’s refreshing to see a well-dressed (albeit fictional) man devoid of any references to #menswear. He doesn’t wear high-waisted, pleated trousers as a style affectation, rather they look completely natural on him and seem like an obvious rather than intentional choice. There’s certainly a lot to draw from here, so thanks for drawing attention to it!

Anonymous

Something very Adam Rogers-esque about some of those images. More likely, this is the sort of vibe for which Adam is aiming.

RTK

Tom Selleck is still wearing that tan suede blazer 20+ years later as a pitchman in commercials for a reverse mortgage firm.

EL

One of your best, Simon. Completely unexpected. Would not have thought of this.

Paul

Thanks Simon, great article. I’d love to see one on Frasier although the excitement of seeing one of my favourite sitcom characters on my favourite blog might be too much for me to handle!

Spencer

This is seconded, with much enthusiasm.

RDH

I have admired Frasier’s coats on many occasions. If not a review, which would be great, Simon, are you able to point to a reference which indicates where they come from and the style points?
On the Richard “look”, like Georgios below, I struggled. I can see why it looks good, I just cannot imagine me (of less Olympian proportions) being able to wear it. 100% agree on the jeans and teal shirt being the weakest, but, for me, it is not the buttoning of the shirt, but waist button and front shape of the jeans, that look off. I might be the camera angle, but it just does not look right.

Jason

Selleck has always been a bit of a clothes horse.
He’s had his moments and you’ve certainly picked some good ones.
That said, what would make this type of article super interesting would be to take the essence of a particular look and show how to interpret it today.
It wouldn’t be easy to do but it would result in a groundbreaking series of articles.
For example, one of my absolute favourite fictional style icons is Reynolds Woodcock from ‘Phantom Thread’.
His clothes were made by A&S and I just love his style but the movie is set in the ‘50s and taking the whole enchilada would be CosPlay.
That said, it is entirely possible to take the essence of his style and update it – ‘How Reynolds Woodcock Woodcock Would Dress Today’ if you like.
Now that would really float my boat.
What thinks Simon ?

Harry

Got to say Simon, like how so many of your posters are creative with words and flesh out their points of view. Makes for a good read, unlike so many of the five word sentences I’m used to reading elsewhere on the Internet. Nice and civil too, just as I like it 🙂

PB

When this first aired, I remember thinking that Tom Selleck’s character looked appealingly grown-up and confident—but not cool, which is something I was concerned about at the time. Now, I think he looks pretty cool indeed.

Yosef777

Perhaps it is a slow news cycle so I will be be the bearer of bad news but this smacks of 80’s/90’s Armani/fashionista : (
Despite the somewhat palatable color combinations it is tough to get past the ‘football’ style shoulders, distinctly 80’s pleating on the trousers, etc.
It is a bad time capsule of an era that should be forgotten, much like the excesses of the 70’s, 60’s and (to a lesser extent) the 50’s.
Classic menswear that is almost unchanged and still relevant is what, IMO, PS is about not this ‘basura’?!?

Adam

This article is incomplete without making reference to the scene where Chandler and Joey are impressed with Richard and start badly copying his style.

Jj

I remember this character and enjoyed his appearances at the time. Whilst he was undoubtedly a stylish character I find these articles to overly analytical. They really sap the fun out of dressing for me when it is over analyzed in this manner. More instinct and following ones own inclinations and less formulas for dressing please. (It’s also all massively helped by the fact he is a naturally handsome guy. This trumps his clothes all day long and means if you don’t look like Tom Selleck don’t assume you can by choosing the right colour belt/ trouser combination)

Con

Have to disagree with JJ here. I find the detail very helpful. But then, I am only at the beginning of my journey into learning how to dress well. Often I’ll know instinctively that an outfit doesn’t look right, without always knowing the details of why so having it explained is very useful. It helps me to develop a mental framework and set of rules so to speak. Having followed my own instinct it has left me with a disparate wardrobe and often feeling frustrated in putting together an outfit – and I have no shortage of clothes. I’ve been reading back over previous articles recently and found the ‘capsule’ articles and ‘rules’ have helped me so much in gaining an understanding of what works together and why e.g the colour and formality of the shirts vs jeans, also the belts. When looking at the pictures above I can understand why something works or doesn’t and having details pointed out, even it only confirms it for me, gives me more confidence that I’m better armed to (re) develop my wardrobe and personal style. I won’t be wearing suits of that cut that he is wearing but I do like pleats, for example, and I need them really to be comfortable and I can see why they make him look good.
When I read this article yesterday one thing that jumped out at me is that Tom Sellecks outfits, both the casual and the suits, give him the appearance of having an athletic figure (let’s leave aside his handsome face for now). I don’t know whether he does actually have an athletic figure i.e v-shape torso, muscular thighs but his clothes here do make it look like he does, but in a toned down, low-key way. He doesn’t look overtly muscular like, for example, Daniel Craig in Bond does.
Mentioned in the article ‘ it feels very current, with the relaxed silhouettes’ – very true. I bought my first jacket this week. A relaxed, casual cut. A rougher (can’t think of the right term) more casual wool, in grey herringbone. A finer wool, maybe a block of colour e.g. navy, just wouldn’t work for me right now. With this jacket, worn with jeans I’d feel comfortable stopping by the pub.
Knowing why, the little details, ‘rules’ actually allow me to get fun and pleasure out of the process of buying clothes and building my wardrobe. I really used to hate shopping for clothes and trying to put stuff together. Am much more relaxed about it now and actually looking forward to it

Matt

Thank you for this Simon. I’d be absolutely down for more sit-com fashion articles. I’d suggest one on check-shirts: George Costanza versus Martin Crane.

Matt

What about the ‘tache though Simon? Definitely a Selleck style trademark, especially when you see him without it…

BC

The thing that has always most impressed me about this blog is its combination of unpretentiousness and thoughtfulness, clearly exemplified here.

An interesting post. Wasn’t Selleck a model in his younger years before TV stardom? It’s overstatement, of course, but a burlap sack would look pretty good on him given his height, chest, and shoulder width.

Kind Regards,

H-U

Jim

Re considering putting belt loops on some of your trousers – it’d be interesting to see what belts you’d choose with grey flannels and other everyday smart trousers if you did do it

Leo

Hi Simon
I love the color combos Tom Selleck is wearing. Muted greys and greens combine so well.
I wonder if you could give me some color matching advice? I favour dark grey and charcoal in some of the suits I own. The trousers fit and look so good-hand made by an elderly Italian tailor, right here in Melbourne Australia-who is quite an impresario when it comes to making trousers. Wearing it separately causes me some confusion. What color jacket should I wear with dark grey/charcoal trousers? If blue is an option, what shade of blue is recommended? And, are there other colors you’d suggest to match these trousers?
Thanks for your help-Leo.

Georgios

One of the most interesting latest articles of yours. The colour Palette as the clothes style of Selleck shows us how a man with such manly and of course beautiful characterestics ( body and face+mustache etc) can dress different from the other but tastefully and of course well thought. I doubt that someone not so manly+beautiful looking would be able to wear such clothes in 2021 without making me think of one a Hipster with mustache and vintage shop clothes.

Dr P

Great article. I found Selleck’s style amazing in each of these images. Crucial to this is how confident and comfortable he looks in every single outfit, including the most formal. Spontaneity is a key aspect of elegance as I see it.

Gary

As I recall he also modelled very snappy outfits in the movie ‘Three men and a baby’ Groovy dude (us cool guys always say ‘groovy’)

LESLIE KAY WILSON

Have you not seen Tom in Magnam PI topless and in shorts??? The man has a body to die for!!! Where have you been?? Been looking at this great actor for years on the big screen and TV. He is very athletic and what a body?? Must be hearing these comments from jealous males!! I have seen him many times in a bathing suit in Hawaii and it is for real. And he is just as nice too. Go Go Tom we love you!! Almost as much is his very pretty wife!!!!! He is timeless

Matt H

I’d actually be interested in seeing you tackle Frasier. I’ve found myself liking some of Niles’ casual outfits in later seasons. A lot of long-sleeve knit polos.

Christian

As someone who worked for Ralph Lauren in the late 80s/early 90s, it was well known that Selleck was a devotee of the Polo and Polo Country lines (Purple Label hadn’t yet appeared on the scene, and Polo tailored clothing still had lots of handwork and was made in a factory in Northampton, MA). He famously wore his own Ralph Lauren clothes in many of his film and TV appearances (from Three Men and a Baby, which is pretty much wall-to-wall Ralph up to his current Jesse Stone films and Blue Bloods role). I think someone else already mentioned a shawl collar sweater from Blue Bloods in this thread. While he’s obviously been dressed in a couple of Italian suits in the photos you’ve chosen, the suede blazer and the black belt (croc w/ sterling silver hardware) are definitely Polo from that period (I own the belt). The high-waisted pants are, as well (he normally favored the Dalton model, which has been updated and is still made today, but the Dalton has reverse pleats and these are forward pleats – I’m blanking on the model name for those right now). And finally, I also still have the Mallard vintage-inspired t-shirt he’s wearing in bed. It was a Polo Country release in 1989-90 (for those who remember the Polo Country line and retail stores). I think it’s interesting to look back on this because his style has remained steady and centered on Ralph Lauren for decades, and it’s aged very well for him (as opposed to the Italian suit photos, obviously). It’s more difficult to tell from these pics, but he almost always wears RL jeans and casual wear, as well.

Jose

Great article! While we’re at it, any thoughts on Drs. Frasier and Niles Crane’s wardrobe from the same era?