Joaquin Phoenix Wore the Only Oscars Outfit That Actually Mattered

Murray Clark
·3-min read
Photo credit: Arturo Holmes
Photo credit: Arturo Holmes

Populists like to take aim at the Hollywood elite. During an era of canyon-wide wealth divides and boiling hot Februaries, famous people aren’t always the best spokespeople for liberalism. It’s hard to heed calls of climate change and workers’ solidarity from millionaires who fly eyebrow technicians from Sydney to LA on a Learjet.

At the peak of his highly decorated campaign trail for Joker, Joaquin Phoenix touched upon humanity’s knack for hotboxing Mother Earth. “We go into the natural world, and we plunder it for its resources. We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow, and when she gives birth, we steal her baby, even though her cries of anguish are unmistakable,” he said while collecting the best actor gong at the 92nd Academy Awards. “Then we take her milk that's intended for her calf, and we put it in our coffee and our cereal.”

Photo credit: Steve Granitz
Photo credit: Steve Granitz

We’re bad children, then. And, though many could decry the speech as more pulpit bluster, Phoenix actually lives by his values. He’s an avowed vegan, an animal rights activist, a board member for a non-profit that provides free school lunches. He gets arrested with Her Eminence Jane Fonda at climate change protests, calls out the lack of diversity at the Baftas during acceptance speeches, and he wore the same suit by the same pro-green designer on every red carpet in 2020.

That might not sound like a big deal, but in a normal awards season run, a bespoke outfit will be specially made and loaned for one evening only, then spend the rest of its life in plastic in some Parisian archive. This stuff, generally speaking, isn’t off the runway. Nor is it for sale. It’s a one-off, custom, 24-hour art piece. And it’ll never be worn again.

Rather than settle for the usual celebrity assembly line, Phoenix vowed to wear the same suit by the same designer for the entire red carpet season. Which, for 2020, was a custom Stella McCartney tuxedo – a particularly apt choice given the British designer’s rock-solid anti-animal product platform. Of the decision, McCartney took to Instagram to highlight its green motivations, captioning: “This man is a winner… wearing custom Stella because he chooses to make choices for the future of the planet and all of its creatures. He has also chosen to wear this same [tuxedo] for the entire award season to reduce waste.”

Because, ultimately, a tuxedo should be worn again, and again, and again. That’s the beauty of a menswear classic, and an unforeseen benefit of dress codes. They may have slightly liquefied in recent years, but the rules are still policed by archaic institutions (perhaps the most archaic of them all being the Academy) meaning your old favourite will stay within the lines. They’re built to last, to dress us for as long as we’re attending events that require pre-written speeches and swirling orchestral interludes. Hollywood knows this, and Phoenix knows that they should know – and dress – better.

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