Written by Bertie Bowen


Dressing Like… Raoul Duke

Fashion stylist Bertie Bowen channels the clothes and spirit of a fictional character. This week she’s unbuttoning that Acapulco shirt and taking holiday fashion tips from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Johnny Depp as Raoul DukeWe booked our summer holiday this week. It’s a big deal because we haven’t been on a plane for a few years and my nearly two-year-old daughter has never been on one, let alone a round trip to LA.

Apart from the horror and dread of being trapped in a metal capsule, miles above the earth for hours, while trying to keep a toddler (and the hundreds of other passengers) from going insane, I am feeling really excited. It got me thinking about holiday attire and the image of Raoul Duke – particularly as played by Johnny Depp in Terry Gilliam’s film version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – sprang to mind.

According to IMDB, much of the clothing worn by Johnny Depp in the movie was the actual clothing worn in the 70s by Hunter S Thompson, Fear and Loathing’s author. Thompson loaned the clothes to Depp after the pair had spent four months together so that Depp could study Thompson’s mannerisms and vocal inflection.

“Get yourself some classic aviators with a colourful tint and watch your happiness factor rise at least 30 percent. The world is just a better place when it has a neon tinge.”

Holiday wear is all about letting go, becoming that person in the hotel bar that everyone says “hi” to, the one with a cocktail in her hand and a grin on her slightly burnt face. Embrace the holiday look, Duke-style.

So let’s start with shirts and hats…

SHIRTS: it’s not quantity, it’s quality.

‘Acapulco shirts’ are one of the things in the list Duke’s attorney reels off at the beginning of the film that he believes are essential for their trip. The colourful, printed shirt has been part of most men’s summer wardrobe for generations. ‘Fun’ shirts are a way for someone who is slightly conservative to show everyone around them that they are in HOLIDAY mode while also not stepping too far out of their comfort zone. But why let the men have all the fun?

A shirt is also like a summer cardigan: it adds a layer of sun protection or modesty without making you too hot. Throw it over your vest or swimsuit; don’t bother doing it up – you’re on holiday, FFS. Also, it’s totally fine to wear it for three days in a row without even taking it off, making packing nice and light.

Raoul's green hatHATS: the more the merrier.

Hats, on the other hand, are the opposite: you can never have enough. Duke mainly wears a bucket hat, in various colours and prints, but now and again will opt for a coloured visor. Keep a spare hat in your pocket and randomly swap them for maximum Duke-ness.

SUNGLASSES: change your outlook.

Duke keeps his shades on throughout the entire film. He sees the world through a happy sunshine haze of yellow joy (and narcotics, duh). I don’t encourage copying the latter but definitely get yourself some classic aviators with a colourful tint and watch your happiness factor rise at least 30 percent. The world is just a better place when it has a neon tinge. Just don’t take them off. Ever.

Raoul in shortsBOTTOM HALF: bottoms up.

Duke has eccentric taste when it comes to his legs. He has fine legs. Shorts that are ever so slightly too short (it was the only way people knew in the 1970s) or a printed, flared trouser is spot on. Let’s not even mention the walk. Do not try to imitate this. Unless you’ve been drinking those funny local cocktails by the pool all day, in which case you’ve probably been doing a version of the walk already for the last few hours.

SHOES: clean and comfy.

Duke wears white Converse: an absolute classic. Most people have had a pair of these in their life at some point so will know how comfortable they are. Like slippers. Duke somehow keeps his pristine white (several pairs perhaps?) and takes the comfort notch up a level by wearing them with white socks pulled up to the mid-calf. Oddly, it works.

Raoul's white shoes & socksFINISHING TOUCHES: be imaginative.

Duke’s main accessory is a cigarette holder permanently sticking out of his mouth but I don’t condone smoking. Towards the end of the film we see him wake up in his trashed hotel room wearing waders, a lizard tail and feathers. Duke doesn’t remember why. It doesn’t matter why; it only proves that he was caught up in something really crazy and he was up for anything and it is this attitude that I want to try and channel.

On holiday you might not want to join in with the afternoon bingo or evening karaoke but why not? You might be worried you’ll feel silly but you’re on holiday – you’re never going to see these other holidaymakers again (hopefully). Let your hair down, dance, chat to strangers, drink that florescent green drink with the curly straw. Duke would’ve shrugged his shoulders and tried it. And even if it all goes horribly wrong, at least you’ll be able to leave at the end of the week and have an interesting story to tell your mates when you get home.


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Written by Bertie Bowen

Stylist, writer and mother living in East London. A clompy shoed, curly haired, Radio 4 enthusiast. www.mothershoppers.com