If you caught Straight Outta Compton in the theaters this past weekend, you wouldn't be blamed if you thought you were watching footage shot during the group's heyday in the 1980s and '90s. The on-point aesthetics come courtesy of costume designer Kelli Jones who, with heavy involvement and consultation from Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, helped shape the look of each rapper's cinematic counterpart.
It wasn't just that Jones scoured thrift stores and rebuilt classic pieces to fit key moments in the film's real-life timeline, she also received blessings from Nike, adidas, and designers like Karl Kani to help recreate the retro looks in the film. In a recent phone call, Jones remembers a specific scene in which viewers can catch the remade designer looks:
"There's a scene where Dre wears [Karl Kani] when they're sitting around the pool, and they get the FBI letter. Every time it flashes to Dre, you can actually see on his shirt, the real Karl Kani embroidery...to have those pieces, to make it so authentic, is exactly what I wanted."
It's that authenticity that drove the costume department to be as factually correct as possible. But, in classic Internet fashion, Jones' meticulous work was put to task, when sports bloggers noticed that Eazy-E was sporting a Chicago White Sox hat from a conflicting period in time. While the hat has the Old English lettering style that we associate with the White Sox of today, as For The Win pointed out, that logo didn't drop until 1991. However, Eazy-E is seen wearing the hat during a scene taking place in 1986. While the Internet began pick at what seemed like a costume department, Jones sets the record straight.
Jones told Complex the choice to use the hat from '91 was an intentional one. Originally, the crew had planned to put Eazy-E actor Jason Mitchell in an L.A. Kings hat (which would be correct in the timeline) but the director, F. Gary Gray, and his team felt the change would help that visuals of that particular scene.
"The whole thing, the whole look, it needed to be such a strong scene to help set up the movie. So the Kings’ hat has the 'Kings' all across it," notes Jones. "So, [F.] Gary [Gray] and everyone just wanted a hat that had a little pop of something, and I think that when you look at the frame—that frame is so close on Jason [Mitchell]—that’s such a large font to have there."
Jones' made a conscious effort to keep the movie's wardrobe as far from costume as possible. It's part of what helped the team behind the film make the decision. "The reason the Sox were chosen is that it has a little bit more of a subtle font. And it’s one that they wore, and the font is just more subtle," explains Jones. Besides, a bit of quick research shows that while the Gothic lettering logo didn't receive the monochromatic colorway until 1991, it did exist in an earlier form—namely between the 1951-63 seasons—in a now defunct black-and-red colorway.
As Jones says, "That specific hat did come out in ‘91, but there was one that’s almost identical that came out decades before...We had to be pretty spot on, but there also was a little creative license that was ok...it was close to something that was already in existence."
And before you naysayers complain that they should have just used a period-correct Dodgers or Raiders hat, there's a specific reason that the filmmakers avoided that workaround. "We were definitely saving the [L.A.] Raiders for Cube. We were doing the Dodgers for Dre, the Raiders for Cube, and the Sox for Eazy-E.”
Jones remarked that this is the only instance in the film that his kind of creative license was taken, with the rest of the film maintaining her vision of historical accuracy.
"The last thing I wanted to do with these guys, is make them look like actors playing the real guys," explains Jones. "I wanted you to look at them and think 'Oh, these could be the real guys."