The first thing you might notice about Todd Phillips’ Joker is that it’s not a story of superheroes. Joaquin Phoenix is not depicted battling Batman or hanging out with Harley Quinn. Nor is he wearing the character’s signature purple suit (although Jason Momoa did wear one to the premiere).
Rather, this Joker dons a maroon red two-piece suit with shoulder pads, a gold waistcoat, and a green collared shirt. Visually, he is a totally new iteration of the maniacal DC villain. And he looks undeniably cool.
The look was created by costume designer Mark Bridges (Inherent Vice, Jason Bourne), who explained to Indie Wire how the style is reflective of the film’s early ’80s setting. It also matches up with Arthur Fleck’s (aka Joker) backstory and financial means.
“I had to analyze Arthur’s character,” said Bridges. “Where does he get his clothes? Would he care how he looked? Would he dress like a little boy? Because he lives with his mom, there’s something kind of awkward and adolescent in his clothing. He’s probably had his sweaters and shirts for years, and, when he does his laundry, he puts it all in with his mom’s laundry. That influences the look of the clothes.”
On the color palette, Bridges felt “three colors should go together: green, gold, and red.” Influences included Cesar Romero‘s outrageous Joker — particularly how green was used as an accenting color — and Bernhard Goetz, New York’s 1984 “Subway Vigilante.”
“I was living in New York at the time so I remember [the 1984 New York City subway shooting] quite well,” Bridges continued. “[Goetz] was a very bland person, who had just had it, so there was a bit of that too: Art imitates life a little bit. If this already happened, it’s not a far stretch for someone who has been abused and misused enough to fight back, finally.”
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In a separate interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Bridges revealed that the trousers and shirts in Phoenix’s costumes were custom made and then distressed to look lived-in, with a few vintage sweaters included. Bridges also created the gold vest and the necktie.
In the same conversation with THR, Emmy-winning hair designer Kay Georgiou revealed that broccoli, of all things, was the inspiration for Joker’s hair color palette, “It’s so organic, and there are so many colors, so I went to the grocery store and matched them up with the dye!”