In light of the recent news pertaining to the cancellation (and, already, possible resurrection?) of the much-touted but little-watched TV show Hannibal, I thought I’d share a post on the show (mostly) that I wrote last year for Geek Force Network. Hannibal is one of only a teaspoonful of network TV shows that remain in my regular viewing roster. Its cancellation(?) sucks but is not terribly surprising. I read plenty of rumors after the end of its second season that the show was in trouble and might not be back. Only then it came back, delayed, in a weird time slot, and to subdued fanfare. Now, season three has barely begun, the cancellation notice was given, and the “fannibals” are in their mourning gear shouting #SaveHannibal! (And maybe it worked? So many question marks.) I’m right there with them, hoping to see the show come back in all its bloody glory on a streaming service. After all, where else am I going to find my men’s fashion eye candy on TV?
The following post originally appeared on Geek Force Network, March 21, 2014.
As ZZ Top said, what is it about a well-dressed male that makes people take notice? There really is nothing like a well-crafted, well-fitting outfit on a man, no matter his shape or size. But I’m not here to ramble on about men’s clothing generally, though this post is about clothing. Men’s suits, in fact. And really…only one man’s suits. The suits of Hannibal Lecter in TV’s Hannibal.
Though it took me a couple episodes to really chomp into the bit that was “television’s new number one drama!” of 2013, once the reins of Hannibal really slapped away at my sides, I was totally off. Or on. Err…I was a fan. Not a horse. Anyway, before I get more off track (haha…sigh), Hannibal is a wonderful new TV series based on Thomas Harris‘s series of novels that introduced Hannibal Lecter to the world.
Everything about the show is fantastic, from the casting of the jagged-looking and eerie Mads Mikkelsen as the cannibal at-large to the sideways take on standard procedurals that TV knows all too well. Adding a special bit of tension to each episode is Hannibal’s proclivity for human flesh, which would almost border on elegant, even seductive, if the audience didn’t know what was going on. (The cast remains ignorant of Hannibal’s eating habits, which propels much of the plot-twisting action.)
But of all the things about the show the one thing has captured my attention each week is Hannibal’s attire. Throughout the entirety of an episode, Hannibal is almost never seen without a suit – a full three-piece suit, mind you. And they aren’t just suits from the back corner of Sears. But neither are they particularly glamorous. In that I mean the fabrics appear to be standard – wools, linens, flannels – no sharkskin, leather, or polyester would dare to darken Hannibal’s closet, surely. And even when Hannibal is being “casual” he’s tailored. No jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers in sight. It’s something that sets his character apart from the rest of the cast. Hannibal’s wardrobe is as complex as he is.
Hannibal’s dress clothing is defined by pattern. While the rest of the world is told to “never mix florals and plaids,” Hannibal does it with such grace. And though his character can be a bit dour, his suits are anything but as he mixes up a range of plaids, tweeds, and checks in (always matched) suit coats and trousers. His wide ties also bear some sort of pattern – striped, dotted, floral, paisley. Shirts however, they remain colorful but plain. If a shirt happens to have a pattern, it is usually subtle. And usually, always, there’s a distinct and seemingly discordant pocket square. Kudos to the show’s costume designer because the comingling of patterns on a single person is brilliantly asserted. Though he may be in a burgundy and blue houndstooth suit with a yellow paisley tie — full Windsor knot, please — Hannibal’s look never clashes with itself. (The interplay and matching of various colors help his dress from becoming an eyesore.)
In the most recent episode of Hannibal, the viewers (or maybe just me) were treated to Hannibal’s dressing ritual. In this case he was getting ready for a trial. The meticulous precision with which Hannibal led his life was on full view as he carefully buttoned up each button of his shirt, as he precisely knotted his tie, and as he gently secured both his vest and suit coat. Once he completes dressing, he is an ideal vision: a finely trimmed and handsome man in a divinely made three-piece suit. Only he holds a very well-kept secret behind those patterns.
Ages ago I had the chance to learn men’s tailoring, and I made, to varying degrees of success, men’s jackets and trousers. Before that, I never thought twice about the effort that goes into making a man’s suit. Afterwards, I never looked at them the same away again. There’s good reason why they are expensive and why the bad ones look terrible and the great ones look astounding. Every one of Hannibal’s suits makes me picture the meticulous sewing-room work that went into each one; and the craft of Mikkelsen’s superb turn as Hannibal Lecter enhances the perfection of his garb.
I’m incredibly happy that Hannibal came back for a second season, and I highly recommend it. It’s a risky show given the subject matter, but that only makes it all the more tempting. And really, it’s far from a show about eating people; it’s more about the complexities and complications that arise from simply being human and how easily we can allow ourselves (or sometimes want) to be manipulated. Hannibal is staged to perfection all around, and it doesn’t hurt that at the heart of it all is a well-groomed individual with a deep, dark secret…and plenty of very nice suits.