Stylishly Executed - The Clothes of Hannibal

Stylishly Executed – The Clothes of Hannibal & How To Dress Like Lecter

NBC’s hit television show Hannibal has been canceled, and for its fans, this is a travesty.

In the world where television is broadly a megaphone for stupidity, it’s not surprising that Hannibal hasn’t been well received by the masses. A friend of mine once said it’s a ‘complex show with a challenging plot and dialog’ to which another responded with ‘challenging plots and dialogs don’t fare well considering the average intelligence level.’

Unfortunately, that’s true, and one could argue that’s why NBC decided to cancel it. Unfortunately, television shows like Keeping Up with the Kardashians, The Housewives of (name a county) and reality shows documenting the lives of unusual families tend to be favored by the masses.

Despite this, just as we have to contend with men wearing sports jerseys and backwards ball caps to Michelin-star restaurants, we also have to deal with shows we love being taken off the air because most people would rather the quality of McDonalds over the quality of a 5-star restaurant.

Like the rarely seen bistro amongst the row of fast-food joints, Hannibal is, all things considered, the most stunning and beautiful television show of the year.

Aside from the dialogue, set design, music and cinematography, one could argue that one of the most prominent cravings of the show is the elegance that such a barbaric man can exude, both in his personal style and his culinary skills.

The bold style of Hannibal

The bold style of Hannibal with slippers, and a flowery silk dinner jacket, shawl collar & black bow tie

Who is Hannibal Lecter

Brilliantly portrayed by Mads Mikkelsen in the series, Dr. Hannibal Lecter is a gifted forensic psychiatrist based on the characters and elements from the novel Red Dragon by Thomas Harris.

The key difference between Mikkelsen’s Hannibal and the Hannibal in the previous films is that Mikkelsen reminds you of Satan but in the most charming and elegant way that makes you want to sell him your soul.

He is a cannibalistic, ritual serial killer who executes his victims with panache and flair. Recruited as an expert by the FBI, he is partnered and hunted by the tormented protagonist, Will Graham, an expert profiler with the ability to see the crime through the eyes of the killer.

Dinner with Hannibal

Dinner with Hannibal

Lecter becomes a trusted advisor to the FBI but also serves as a therapist to various FBI agents and consultants throughout the series.

A true culinarian, Lecter befriends those around him by preparing chef-d’œuvres to tantalize and delight his dinner guests. Of course, one can only imagine what the meal is made of.

Hannibal may be a demented serial killer, but he has the appearance of a gentleman of style. He is showcased throughout the series in an elegantly terrifying manner through his interior decor, his mannerisms, his cooking and of course, his style. Of course, it goes without saying that a murderer can never be a true gentleman.

The Style of Hannibal

Like the television show Suits, Hannibal is filmed in Toronto, Canada. Christopher Hargadon is the costume designer responsible for the show and under the guidance of the show’s creator, Bryan Fuller, he crafts Hannibal’s wardrobe for each episode based on the psychology of the episode.

Hannibal’s style is eccentrically bold and yet, crisply elegant and understated at the same time. One look at the character and you know that everything he wears is chosen with an eye for detail. His custom suits and combinations from local suitmaker Garrison are refined in the most dapper of ways, yet Hargadon has managed to use accessories and colors to create these whimsically flamboyant accents that showcase Hannibal’s brazen and yet reserved personality.

Mads Mikkelson is Hannibal

Mads Mikkelson is Hannibal wearing a wide spaced brown chalk stripe on light grey – note the visible contrast pick stitching & flapped chest pocket

Like Harvey Specter from Suits, Hannibal utilizes large Windsor knots in his ties to reflect his confidence and intrepidness. Sometimes, he even wears it with a dimple.  Three-piece suits are often worn with patterns that resemble outfits typically reserved for the most fashionably-diverse dandy in Paris.

The bold suits, wickedly paired with paisley ties and flamboyant pocket squares are downplayed by Hannibal’s cultivated and urbane personality. His quiet temperament exudes sophistication and yet you can tell based on the statement of his wardrobe that he’d briskly snap your neck with gusto and passion and yet without a second thought. It’s this psychotic and yet controlled temper that makes Hannibal so likable and yet so grotesque.

All parts of Hannibals life exude refinement

All parts of Hannibals life exude refinement
(Photo: Brooke Palmer/ Sony Pictures Television/ NBC)

All of Hannibal’s outfits are remarkably meticulous. Like the food showcased in each episode, he seemingly selects every thread of his wardrobe with methodical and careful resolve. He is a perfectionist, and everything about him is a testament to that.

Like a sumptuous feast for the sartorially-savvy gentleman, the fit of Hannibal’s clothes are exact and the materials chosen as fine as they come.

His choice of spread collars matched with the double windsor plays perfectly against the dynamic check patterns on his suits. Sometimes, he wears the same knot with a more closed collar though, which looks more like an amateur.

His velvet dinner jackets in teal and burgundy stands out against the standard black tuxedos worn by his co-stars.

Despite his panache, Hannibal still maintains a uniform of sorts. He is partial to three-piece, two button suits with uncuffed, flat-front trousers. Despite this, almost all of his suits feature bold patterns or odd colors. Rarely is he ever seen in a solid dark suit or subtle stripes, sharkskin etc. His wardrobe spans the darker colors of greens, blues, and browns, yet he is often confidently seen in summer suit colors and sometimes textures of tweeds and flannel.

Even the most mundane suit will be patterned with a noticeable glen check, windowpane or a chalk stripe. These less flashy suits are usually paired with a bolder dress shirt that is in stark contrast to the usual solid shirt worn with his more prominent, and even cheeky business suits. These very basic shirts are only noticeably-Hannibal due to the spread collar and used as a vessel to showcase his intrepid collection of jacquard silk paisley ties. On the rare chance Hannibal isn’t wearing a paisley tie, you can rest assured that his tie will still be bold and patterned. It is only when Hannibal is shown in a relaxed state without a tie, that he opts for a semi-spread collared shirt. For a selection of the ties he wears in the show, click here.

Hannibal is always relaxed yet stylish while cooking

Hannibal is always relaxed yet stylish while cooking

Don’t let that fool you into thinking all of Hannibal’s shirts are standard white. They aren’t. Many are dark and deep shades whereas others are lighter pastels or bright blues. Rarely does Hannibal wear the same thing twice.

It’s a safe bet that if Hannibal is wearing a brown suit, Hargadon has managed to layer various shades of brown and perhaps the shirt is no exception.

To showcase Hannibal’s menacing intellect, intimidation as a murderer and yet prove his worth as an arbiter elegantiarum, Hargadon uses layers of the same color palette in different hues to give the audience an understanding of Hannibal’s mental state. The choice of color is often selected based on the mood, the music or the scenery. Every part of Hannibal’s wardrobe is crafted in meticulous fashion to show his character and his attitude. It’s the use of vibrant colors and exemplary fit that separate Hannibal from the dozens of other television characters wearing suits. One could argue that it’s all in the details.

Peak lapels and bold patterns accentuate classic style

Peak lapels, windowpane and bold patterns and colors accentuate his unique style

How To Dress Like Hannibal

  1. Wear bold, single breasted three piece suits
  2. Suit patterns must be unusual and include, plaids, checks, windowpanes and stripes, always in unusual color combinations with a certain amount of contrast
  3. Colors: Skip the usual navy and grey and opt for browns, greens, and brighter blues for suits and jackets. For shirts, stick with pastel colors and small patterns. Strong dark colors are often difficult to combine elegantly and you really must have a very good sense of style to pull them off without looking ridiculous.
  4. Shirt Details: Go with a spread collar, barrel cuffs and mother of pearl buttons.
  5. Ties: Go with unusual ties in jacquard weaves and bold prints. Although he does not wear them, knit ties and wool or wool blend ties help you to create this unique look that separates you from the crowd. For a selection of unique neckties in the right size for you, click here.
  6. Pocket Squares: Hannibal utilizes a wide range of linen silk and wool pocket squares all folded in a nonchalant way. You definitely want a wide range of out-of-the-box colors and textures which you can find in our shop here. Click here to learn how to fold pocket squares in a way Hannibal would approve.
  7. Socks: Over the calf socks are a must. Ideally you try to choose the color and pattern so it goes well with another accessory without matching it 100%.
  8. Shoes: As in most TV shows, shoes are not seen very often. When at home, Hannibal likes to wear velvet slippers. Otherwise he sticks with leather Oxfords.


One thing that Hannibal has done considerably well is by viewing all departments working on the show as a collective team. It’s evident that everyone from the music department to food styling to costume, makeup, and production work hand-in-hand to give the show a certain poetic feel that is consistently beautiful.

Everything seems to intertwine. It matches. Hannibal’s clothing is perfectly paired with the color palette of his office and dining room, the music is equally well matched. Food is showcased, and everything about Hannibal is vibrant and sophisticated. It is the most elegant show on television and one that will hopefully be picked up by another network that understands that not every viewer wants to watch reality television that makes us feel stupid just for tuning in.

Article Name
The Suits of Hannibal & How To Dress Like Lecter
The stylish clothing of Hannibal Lecter in NBC's hit show 'Hannibal'.
13 replies
  1. R.T. says:

    Great article! As a medical student I greatly admire this character (style-wise, of course). Just a little observation, Hannibal is in fact a psychiatrist and not a psychologist.

  2. Anas R says:

    It’s a shame the show is discontinued. The dialogue and play of words is what drew me into this show. As well as the overall sophistication of pretty much everything you pointed out in your article. Wonder how long we’ll have to wait for another masterpiece like this, all while the Kardashians and the like continue degrading the watcher’s minds.

  3. Nick says:

    Unfortunately hear in Great Britain we have not been able to watch Hannibal. Looks really good. I must totally agree with the comment about television viewing. Here in the UK we have the same trouble. Bad programmes!!! But I have to say you sent us Keeping up with the Kardashians (Thanks)

  4. Chiemelie says:

    Quite exquisite, the writing. I did however note that how much an attribute his meticulous dress styles were to his character and his attitude came about too often. Could almost be a rhyme, expected at a point in each paragraph. Still I understand how difficult it is to ignore the attention to detail this show does so well. I respect Mr. Hannibal really, when he is not eating people. A perfect villain, in every sense of it, if there ever could be such a thing.

  5. Alex says:

    Nice write up! Loved the show. My father use to cringe whenever anybody would call the Windsor knot a ‘double’, LOL!

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