Usually I used a bow tie on the set of "Dear John." Here I am on the set with Billie Bird, Judd Hirsch, Jere Burns and Susan Walters. I had about twenty suits which I rotated on the show. I bought most of them at thrift stores. Paramount often supplied me with wardrobe but the costumers usually liked what I brought from home. I had lots of bow ties and also many wide ties from the 70s and 50s. I had wide lapel suits which were a favorite for my character. The pants were always cuffed and pleated. My favorite sweaters for the show were "V" neck and cardigans. The suit I am wearing in this picture cost $8.
If you want to buy one suit to get started, I recommend a medium or dark blue. It will work for most attorney or businessman parts. Add other colors of suits and a topcoat later. Have a light blue or light gray dress shirt.
Wearing a smart hat will make them notice you on an audition. I used to work with an actor named Elliot Broones. His best scene might be his Greek dancing solo in the opening sequence of "Private Benjamin." Elliot once told me, "When they say they want a character look, they mean 'wear a hat.'"
Think of all the characters from famous films who wore unusual hats. Charlie Chaplain and Laurel and Hardy wore derbys. Cantinflas usually wore some sort of hat that was just a little too small. William Boyd as Hopalong Cassidy had a ten gallon cowboy hat. Carmen Miranda who was the highest paid performer in the US in the early 40s wore a banana hat. For Bogart, a fedora was the topper. Remember Harrison Ford's hat from "Raiders of the Lost Ark?" What if Reese Witherspoon tried to wear a banana hat and Johnny Depp wore a fedora? Might work.
Imagine the wrong hat on someone and you will see how important the hat is for establishing character. What would Darth Vader look like in a Santa Claus hat? How about John Wayne in a baseball cap with the brim pointed to the back? What if Barbra Streisand came onstage to sing while wearing a dunce cap? Imagine Garth Brooks with a beanie. Hats are very important to an actor.