Back in 2017 — nearly two years ahead of its official release date in March — Harmony Korine's new film "The Beach Bum" was already making waves, as photos of Matthew McConaughey, who plays the lead role of Moondog, were trickling across the internet. Sure, the attention-grabbing antics were noteworthy (have you ever seen someone eat lobster on a hoverboard before?), but it was actually McConaughney's costumes, designed by Heidi Bivens, that made this film go viral. Not only were Bivens's creations so flamboyantly arresting, they were also extremely in touch with today's "scumbro" aesthetic well before it even entered our style zeitgeist's vernacular.
According to Bivens, Korine is big on wardrobe cues, often writing them into the script to serve as specific starting points for costumes and characters. (She also worked with Korine before on another Florida-based, high jinks-ridden movie called "Spring Breakers.") For inspiration, the director looked to South Florida locals and more obscure references, rather than well-known names or faces that are already in the public eye. "He didn't send me any known people for inspiration, and if I ever used references of known people in my mood board, he usually asks me to think outside the box more," says Bivens. "In general, Harmony likes to look to people who are more characters you see walking down the street."
Throughout "The Beach Bum," Moondog boasts a uniform of two-piece sets in garish, but apt, prints. The outfit idea stemmed from when Bivens and Korine came across a storefront window in Key West, which had a set — fit for a six or seven-year-old boy and covered in marine life — on display.
"[Harmony] loved it, so I set up to find similar types of things for an adult man and it just didn't exist in the world," says Bivens. While 1950s cabana sets are readily available from e-retailers like Etsy and Ebay, most of the vintage pieces were made from terry cloth. "It wasn't the right look we were going for, so out of necessity, I sourced fabric and made the sets," explains Bivens, who had a seamstress alongside her all through filming. "It became a real source of creativity in costume design. That was a joy because not every movie I get to build costumes."
Of all the custom two-piece sets that Moondog wears, Bivens says the flame suit, which he wears to his daughter's wedding, is the most iconic. "That came out of Harmony's notes. He wanted Moondog to look like he was on fire," she says. "We made a bunch of multiples of that suit because [Matthew] does a lot of water work with them, and he actually took home a lot of the costumes after the film." (Indeed, at SXSW in Austin, McConaughey wore the fiery outfit to the film's world premiere afterparty.)
To complete the rest of Moondog's look, Bivens chose a pair of white sneakers with velcro straps from Brooks, which was inspired by a man from Key West who was wearing the exact style. "The dad shoe trend was almost hitting but it wasn't quite in fashion yet," she recalls. "So at the time we weren't really aware of how hard that would hit and I think that's also a nice coincidence." Bivens also mentions that the idea of sandals were also brought up during the wardrobing process, but Korine "has an aversion towards seeing men's feet," so open-toed shoes were out of the question.
Bivens also gave McConaughney's character a fanny pack — a practical accessory for the character's nomadic journey during the film. How and where the fanny pack should be worn was also a strong style choice: "[Moondog] liked wearing it in the front, the very front," says Bivens. "Not on the side, or not so much on the back, but the very front." Other highly considered pieces were Moondog's jewelry: statement rings, a banana earring — "just a whimsical thing that we threw in there" — and a chain with pendants that, upon a much closer look, are comprised of a, uh, flying penis, a lobster claw, a naked woman on a crescent moon and a roach clip (duh) that shows a man cupping a woman's breasts when it's closed or in use.
For the rest of "The Beach Bum" cast, Bivens provided equally detailed and Floridian-esque ensembles. Moondog's wife Minnie (Isla Fisher) is mostly wearing some form of lingerie or designer-name gown. "I used existing brands that I thought would highlight this idea that she's this wealthy woman and are indicative to Miami and the style that is prominent down there," says Bivens.
In Minnie's first appearance, as she welcomes Moondog at the private dock of their mansion, she's wearing La Perla underwear, a Gucci floral robe and "incredibly high" Valentino heels. Later, Minnie is dressed in a Roberto Cavalli gown, Gianvito Rossi shoes and a printed Pucci dress. Moondog even takes a few pieces from his wife's closet, too, like a pink robe with marabou feathers and a pair of Ugg boots that Bivens painted silver and added heart appliqués — both of which were described by Korine in the script's notes.
There's also Snoop Dogg, who plays Lingerie and wears his own personalized robe in the film. "He just showed up on set wearing it and Harmony thought it worked so we just went with it," remembers Bivens. "It was fun. I was able to build costumes for him based on his measurements, but I think I only did one fitting with him. He's not big on fittings." Martin Lawrence plays the dolphin-obsessed Captain Whack in what you would imagine every Florida-based tour-host-at-sea would wear, while Moondog's literary agent Lewis (Jonah Hill) had a Southern gentleman-meets-Palm Beach dandy vibe.
But it's Zac Efron's Flicker whose style stands out as much as Moondog's wardrobe choices. "We definitely knew from the beginning that we wanted to do the elephant bell JNCOs," says Bivens, who also incorporated an Ed Hardy-style top and Thai boxing shorts into Flicker's look. Inspired by the character's obsession with Christian rock and metal, Bivens detailed his studded vest with patches featuring religion-related phrases. "One of my favorites says, 'These are my church clothes,'" says Bivens. "Then with his facial hair and his constant vaping, it added so much humor. [Zac] really played it up."
And just when you thought you were getting used to Moondog's style, a character arc in the film has him swapping his two-piece sets for women's dresses. "The joke is that he puts on a woman's dress and he still looks exactly like Moondog. It's just Moondog wearing a dress," says Bivens, who looked to Austin-based Leslie Cochran, a local celebrity, for inspiration. "But then there's sort of no turning back from that point for him. He's really comfortable and that feels natural to him, so he continues to do so. And it's for his own reasons."
One particular dress was a runway look from Adam Selman's Spring 2018 collection — a green gown with a pearl neckline, custom-made and fitted just for McConaughey. "With the fanny pack included," notes Bivens.