Costume Designer “No” Explains Characters’ “Obscure” T-Shirts

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If you’ve seen the latest Jordan Peele movie Nope — and if not, maybe avoid this article — you’ve probably noticed the plethora of old band t-shirts his characters wear. Bands represented include Jesus Lizard, Wipers, Earth, Mr. Bungle, Rage Against The Machine… All very cool! The film’s costume designer, Alex Bovaird, has been doing the rounds of the press now that the film has been out for a weekend, and she’s addressed these shirts.

“We were struggling to get the wardrobe to match Angel’s random career, and we had him in these kind of happy outfits, and the actor is understandably optimistic,” Bovaird said. Variety, talking about the Fry’s Electronics employee played by Brandon Perea. “So we were trying to find a way to make him a little more depressed and make his clothes a little more depressing. So [the directors] said, “He’s the kind of guy who stands in front of a concert or rocks out with earplugs.” We said, ‘OK, let’s put band shirts on him – what kind of music does he listen to?’

“Jordan, [producer] Ian [Cooper] and I’m all exactly the same age and I listen to this music and I’ve been to these concerts,” she continued. “Some of them were Jordan’s suggestions, some were mine. Poor Brandon [Perea] — we actually had to make a playlist of those bands because he might have heard of Rage Against the Machine, but barely!

“These are Angel’s band t-shirts,” Bovaird explained in another interview with Weekly entertainment. “And the methodology was that he now wore his favorite band’s t-shirts, but those were things he listened to a few years ago. His band t-shirts are either post-punk or proto-grunge. And again, there’s some personal stuff going on there, because Jordan and [producer] Ian [Cooper]…they make a movie they want to see, and so sometimes it shows up in the costumes. As well as Angel is the kind of character who likes obscure groups.

Eventually, the characters played by Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer also find their way into some of these group tees. That of Jesus Lizard worn by Palmer is particularly striking. “I found the Jesus Lizard one on eBay, and I think that was an indulgence that I treated myself to as well,” Bovaird told EO. “Because I always look at, like, Insecticide t-shirts and they’re $800, and I’m like, ‘Well, I can’t afford that. I think the Jesus Lizard was a thousand dollars. But it was also such a beautiful and vibrant image. It goes with some of the other images. Jordan saw it and said, ‘This gives me life.’

“At some point they were going to ask Angel to discuss how much he paid for the t-shirts – that was going to be a character point,” Bovaird noted in the Variety interview. “Emerald was going to say, ‘How much did you pay for it on eBay?’ and then steal it, ’cause it’s a bit of a magpie, you know? But…we always incorporate those stories into the [film’s] clothes that no one ever knows!

Nope is in theaters now.

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