The Last of Us is a masterclass in roughed-up, rustic workwear
If you haven’t been gripped by smash HBO series The Last of Us, which wrapped up its first season this week, trust me when I say that you’ll never look at a plate of mushroom risotto in the same way again. The series – starring Pedro Pascal and young talent Bella Ramsay and set in a post-apocalyptic American dystopia – centres on a zombie-like virus contracted from fungi, specifically cordyceps, with our beleaguered antihero making his way across desolate cities and vast landscapes in search of salvation, while avoiding the shiitake assassins. And he does so in some pretty natty clothes along the way.
Of course, no one has time to finesse their look when they’re battling mushroom-headed monsters, but costume designer Cynthia Ann Summers creates a wardrobe that speaks to the very best of great American workwear. It helps that somehow our grimly-determined protagonists have a varied array of outfits, despite being rootless refugees in search of a promised nirvana (although, spoiler alert, it really isn’t). Perhaps there are a few Gaps along the way that haven’t been pillaged by looters.
Befitting of the not-exactly-ideal circumstances where your average Portabello mushroom is baying for blood, Pascal’s lead character Joel is a masterclass in roughed-up, rustic workwear. It’s a pocket of men’s clothing that, befitting of the show’s backdrop, began life in the American gold rush, although it’s taken a step back in recent years with the rise of sportswear.
But workwear is a stellar American tradition, thanks to brands such as Carhartt, Gitman Vintage, Filson and Wrangler making it their USP, and it as embedded in the land of the free as apple pie and questionable gun laws. Joel’s outfits are a fine example; he steers towards faded denims, solid jackets, plaid shirts, sturdy boots and a downplayed sense of masculine style that’s casual without being sporty. Nothing particularly exciting, nothing that makes a statement, just good, dependable, easy clothes that you’d likely see in any of the expansive locations The Last Of Us depicts so beautifully in the sweeping plains of the Midwest (although it was filmed in Canada).
There are other characters who dress from the workwear playbook – Murray Bartlett and Nick Offerman’s heartbreaking love story in episode three plays out with a series of plaid shirts, shaggy knits and fulsome beards (there’s little impetus to shave when civilisation goes to the dogs) – but it helps that Pascal has become a style icon in his own right, off screen. The Chilean-American actor, who GQ recently termed a “fashion daddy”, has side-stepped traditional leading man attire in favour of quirky knits, bright colours and soft-fit tailoring, courtesy of Italian stylist Julie Ragolia. Back in the apocalypse-scape of The Last of Us, his shaggy, salt ’n’ pepper beard and mop of hair look just about as hipster as anything you’ll see around the cooler environs of east London.
There’s also a whole world of geekery devoted to the finer points of workwear – the weight of denim or stitching on a plaid shirt – so while it’s a simple aesthetic, there’s a richness to how it’s made and entire swathes of the internet devoted to the specialists in the field who do workwear well. Men’s wardrobes are nowhere near as formal as they once were – the suit has been in decline for years – and workwear hits the sweet spot because it is considered in its make up, but casual in its stance. It’s also a sound wardrobe solution for early settlers and action franchise pioneers – as well as your average dad at the weekend.
Left to right: Workwear jacket, £74.99, Abercrombie; 90s original straight jeans, £52, Gitman Vintage; overshirt, £205, End Clothing; Powerplant boots, £105, CAT