Skip to main content

The Tom Wambsgams French Cuff Conspiracy

The costume design on Succession is a decadent feast; there’s a reason it’s fodder for entire Instagram accounts and TikTok’s dissecting the minutiae of everything the show’s characters wear and what those fashion choices might indicate. That’s not a coincidence. Costume designer Michelle Matland’s work is highly intentional. Her meticulous attention to what the show’s characters wear precisely communicates everything from their status in the ever changing power dynamic, to their insecurities, their upbringings, and more. 

Few characters exemplify this nuance more than Tom Wambsgams.

Courtesy of HBO

Unlike the men of the Roy family, or the Karl and Frank’s of Waystar Royco, Tom lacks the pedigree of the family and company he so desperately wants to ingratiate himself into. In early seasons, this chasm was communicated through subtle but humorous nods to his lack of ease in these uber-rich spaces. Think back to his decision to buy Logan an ostentatious watch in season One. In Season Two, Roman pokes fun at his Moncler vest, which boasts one of the only visible logos we see on the entire show (intentionally so.) 

Logan warned Shiv that she was marrying Tom because he was “fathoms beneath [her]” and “because you don’t want to risk being betrayed.” But by the end of Season 3, Tom seemed to be coming into his own. His suits looked more refined, he carried himself with comfort and ease and in the the Season 3 finale, in a crisp and perfectly-tailored cream colored suit though, Tom did betray Shiv, with his evolving wardrobe in lockstep with his ascent in the Waystar ecosystem.

Now, in the final season, Tom finds himself in a tenuous spot; his only ally in the company is dead and he’s once again clamoring to be taken seriously by the people around him. And while his clothing at the start of the season seemed a natural progression from last season’s high class tailoring, I was curious how his suits, shoes, and (puffy) vests would reflect who he really is as the show comes to a close. So we went straight to the source, and asked Michelle Matland about who Tom really is, and what his clothes reveal about him. 

SPY: When we first met Tom, he was a little awkward in his clothes; they communicated his need to fit in and he looked like he was trying too hard. But by the end of last season, and the beginning of this season, he looks more natural. How did you handle his style evolution?

Michelle Matland: He definitely is one of the characters who has changed dramatically over from season one to four. He was very ostentatious; the whole thing with wanting to buy Logan the $25,000 watch or whatever that Shiv knew Logan would think is obscenely ridiculous and just absurd. I think as he progressed from season two into three and now for sure in four, the cut and the tailoring on his suits was much more classic, less patterns, simpler. The pocket squares and the suspenders and the French cuffs diminished. He became more of a man in his own right. And as he affiliates himself with Logan and it becomes clear to him how Logan is opposed to all of that nonsense, he becomes a more and more simple and handsome man.

SPY: I think it’s funny because despite that, there are still some elements of Tom in there, like those new white sneakers that Shiv made fun of in Episode 4; they reminded me of the puffy vest comment Roman made a few seasons ago. 

MM: Well, yes. Number one, it’s very important that we don’t lose our sense of humor about all the characters and the subtleties of change and evolution, whatever it is. He will always be born middle class and he went to a middle road school and didn’t go to the private schools, never flew on a private jet. So there still has to be the essence of Tom and the fact that Tom and Greg have this wonderful, hilarious relationship. We have to believe that Greg wants to emulate him. And Greg is not even middle class. He came from the wrong side of the tracks. So we have to be able to see him aspiring to becoming Tom.

Courtesy of HBO

SPY: How have the brands you’ve used changed? Or the tailoring?

MM: When he started, he would be in your traditional kind of Hickey Freeman-esque. Now, obviously, his suits are much more tailored, they’re much more lavish in the textures, they’re more expensive obviously, and he’s come into that money. Tom brands this season are Canali, Zegna, Ralph Lauren, Davide Cenci, and Brioni.

But we have to remember also that he and Shiv are in dire straits of that kind of complication, so I think as he becomes stronger and more powerful in the family, Shiv in some ways is conflicted completely because it’s now a competition and she no longer has him as her ally, and so what happens between the siblings is now very dangerous for her, the situation she finds herself in. Because having had him as an ally was at least one person in the corporation that she could get information from.

SPY: There’s been some chatter online about Shiv wearing a U-Mich t-shirt in the scene when we find out she’s pregnant; can you confirm that was intended to be Tom’s?

MM: Yeah, that is it. Because she’s in this downward spiral at that moment anyway, at that moment, and I’m not sure how this affects her instead of her being in some chemise or silk pajama set, having that kind of comfort zone of some ratty old t-shirt of his out of a drawer. And just to show the conflict of where they are in their relationship and how this news could be supremely dire to her. And I don’t think at that point she would know what her feelings are about that because it is a complication.

SPY: Do you think Tom and Shiv’s relationship changing has an impact on how Tom dresses?

MM: I don’t think that his relationship, the situation that they’re in, affects his costumes. I think that it’s more important that we tell the story of his position in the company ATN and what’s happening with Syd. I think it’s important that he tells that story as the imperative and that the Shiv relationship factor wouldn’t play that much in how he dresses. I think this is primarily a change having to do with Logan and the company.

SPY: How will Logan’s passing affect that? Are the white sneakers a little nod to the fact that Tom’s comfort in his status might be slipping a little, back to his puffy vest days?

MM: Well, I think [his status] is very tentative, what he’s achieved, and I think he has more to lose than most, they all have something to lose obviously. But his position in the firm now without Logan and without Shiv is very tentative. So he will have to try to maintain it if he can. I guess you’ll have to watch…

SPY: Do you think there’s anything that viewers might overlook about Tom that is communicated in his clothing?

MM: I think he will attempt to maintain it; that’s all I can say for now…