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Before filming began on Jobs, the Open Road, Ashton Kutcher-starring biopic of prolific Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, costume designer Lisa Jensen had one directive from film-helmer Josh Stern — don’t make the actors look “comical.” Despite that command, Jensen started her sartorial search in star Ashton Kutcher’s own closet, rifling through racks of old costumes amassed from his stint on That ’70s Show.
“He has them all cataloged and photographed,” recalls Jensen, whose past work includes Swing Vote, In the Valley of Elah and The Fabulous Baker Boys. “I pulled a few pieces, but we didn’t end up using any of them because that show was pretty bright and not as realistic as what we were looking for.”
Stern’s other charge was not to show Jobs’ iconic black mock turtleneck and Levi’s 501s combo until the end of the film. Even though — as Jensen discovered in her endless research — he’d worn versions of that combo since the ‘70s.
“We did reach out to [Issey] Miyake,” says Jensen of the Japanese-born designer behind Jobs’ signature shirts. “Those black mock turtlenecks were custom made for Jobs en mass. It didn’t pan out, and in truth, we didn’t push it too far. I found something that was made by an American company that worked visually, so we went with that. It had the right sheen, the right height of mock and the right texture.”
While the lack of cooperation from Miyake’s camp didn’t prove to be a major roadblock, the inability to speak with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak — who was off limits due to his involvement in Sony’s rival Steve Jobs flick — was.
“There was very little available photographic evidence of their early days in the garage,” Jensen explains. “Maybe they took snapshots of themselves, but it’s not on the Internet.”
To make Kutcher even more closely resemble Jobs, Jensen bought “mountains” of the Apple creator’s trademark Levis 501 jeans that are still in production. Kutcher, who dropped 25 pounds on a fruit diet for the role, went through roughly 60 to 70 pairs onscreen, in various washes and shades of distressing. She also purchased several pairs of Jobs’ favorite sandals — Birkenstocks — as well as New Balance sneakers that were custom made by the company using vintage molds.
“I think Ashton kept the sneakers and sandals, which he had broken in until they were like butter,” Jensen recalls. “I think he also kept his custom made suits.”
For even more authenticity, Jensen chose Cassara Brothers Clothiers, headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif., the company that dressed top Apple executives during the company’s early days. She also used classic Brooks Brothers and discovered perfect suits for ’80s and ’90s executives at Malibu Clothiers in Beverly Hills.
The costume designer, who previously had worked with Stern on Swing Vote, also did her fair share of scouring L.A.-area thrift and vintage shops, including Western Costumes, Universal Costumes and ABC Costumes, as well as Sears and JCPenney for short-sleeve tops. Her tailor Jack Kasbarian and the Western crew cut some of the stash of shirts to create pointed, exaggerated ‘70s-style collars.
Of course, high-tech methods (aka Ebay) were employed when it was time to find Wozniak’s (Josh Gad) Apple-logo belt buckle, which used to be sold on the company’s website. But the $2,000 price tag was no match for the movie’s bootstrap-sized budget.
The solution embodied startup style, indeed: A local metal smith cast the buckle and added it to a single layer brown belt from Gap.
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