When we watch our favorite TV shows, there are a lot of different elements to keep track of that make the story flow properly. The acting is one of the first items of importance. There’s nothing quite like an iconic performance to galvanize our interest in a show. The musical choices are another vital component of the atmosphere and tone of a show or movie, and the sound and mixing people deserve tons of credit for their contributions. We want to focus on an underrated yet irreplaceable addition to every piece of entertainment we consume, though: Costume design.
What our favorite characters wear onscreen tells us so much about their personalities, their desires, and where they want to go in life. Sometimes characters have such a distinct style that they become a fashion icon. If you love the world of crime dramas, you probably already have one of Saul Goodman’s bright and brash get-ups at the forefront of your mind. The morally gray protagonist lawyer of Better Call Saul has been wowing folks for over a decade going back to his days as a bit character on Breaking Bad, and his suit and tie combinations continued to expand their horizons once he went solo on his own show.
To fully understand why Saul Goodman’s outfits have reached legendary status, it’s important to grasp his character arc and how clothes symbolize his thoughts, feelings, and choices throughout his life. Before his Saul Goodman alter-ego took full flight, the New Mexico criminal attorney born Jimmy McGill was the underdog of his profession. He didn’t take a traditional path to becoming a lawyer, and his older, more accomplished brother, Chuck, constantly looked down on Jimmy’s choices and unorthodox methods of practicing law. At the end of the first season of Better Call Saul, Chuck even tells Jimmy that allowing him to become a lawyer would be like giving a chimpanzee a machine gun.
This pivotal argument sets up the first domino to fall in Jimmy’s path to becoming Saul Goodman. He takes Chuck’s opinion to heart and tries to become a more traditional lawyer at the firm Davis & Main in the second season. When he quickly realizes that he can’t contain his unconventional legal tactics, he sabotages his own position at the firm. The main way he attempts to do this is through dressing as outlandishly as possible. See for yourself.
Not everyone can pull off wearing the rainbow to their job, but Jimmy McGill can because it’s an instrumental choice in his evolution. When some people add more color to their wardrobe, it can look forced, almost like the person is trying to be someone they aren’t. When Jimmy does it, his charisma and confidence both go through the roof. The character is becoming his true self. The slimy part of him that allows him to connect with his clients comes through more clearly in these instances. This will continue to happen at the beginning of the fifth season, when Jimmy starts practicing his law under the name “Saul Goodman,” unofficially marking his territory in Albuquerque as the premier legal counsel for shady individuals.
His hot-pink attire not only parallels the tent where he’s counseling his potential clients, but it also creates a symmetry between his desires and his actions. When Jimmy doesn’t have to hide his true intentions, he’s able to reveal his true colors, both figuratively and literally. Chuck and the New Mexico legal profession can’t stop the runaway train at this point in the show.
The color pink also has a meaning that is typically in stark contrast to Jimmy’s actions. Pink is sometimes a color representing innocence, naïveté, and playfulness in not only the shared Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad universe but also the storytelling medium at large. When Jimmy is in Saul mode, he’s obviously all of these descriptors. Still, his nonchalance and disrespect for traditional values while being a lawyer are anything but unimpeachable. Jimmy is like a shooting star in the middle of the night, ready to burn out quickly and suddenly. He gets involved with bad people as he delves deeper into the criminal underworld. The fashion choices he sports are the opposite of the darkness that clouds his judgement.
The ungodly amount of color he continues to wear throughout his descent is a brilliant juxtaposition. It tells the audience that Jimmy’s intentions as Saul are somewhat pure, but when he ignores the results of his actions, the clothing becomes a reminder of his mistakes. Jimmy’s embracing this type of clothing even in the face of adversity is what makes him even more of a TV icon. No scene defined this sentiment more than his prison sentencing in the final episode of the series. Even with the black and white aesthetic used by creators Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan, the unreal drip Saul exudes is second to none.
This is the scene in which the character redeems himself. He owns up to his mistakes and crimes, takes the jail time, and yet does it in extreme style. Now Saul Goodman’s suits represent his most moral side, even when the colors are drowned out. The ways in which Jimmy McGill is able to flip the original intent of a fashion choice into something completely antithetical is why he will always remain a fashion deity, no matter how many years pass after the show’s end, and it will help the program to remain a streaming favorite.
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