Yağmur Caylar, 22, was at home in Turkey watching Jason Bateman scheme in Season Three of Netflix’s crime thriller Ozark when it dawned on her. She’d seen Bateman’s khaki-pants-wearing, blue-button-down-looking ass before. That work dad ’fit became a trademark in Arrested Development, Game Night, The Switch, Juno and… just about every other movie he’s starred in.
What is this style, exactly, if it’s a style at all? As Caylar describes to MEL, it’s peak “middle-aged white man. Blue shirt with beige pants. That’s all.”
For nearly two decades, Bateman has played every type of white-everyman middle manager, starting with Arrested Development in 2003. Along the way, he picked up an Emmy and Golden Globe, defended Jeffrey Tambor’s abusive behavior on the set of Arrested Development and never once found a crisp dress shirt he didn’t like. The iconic Jason Bateman character is a walking Banana Republic ad: all clean-cut business-casual.
“He usually plays a hard-working, ultra-pragmatic, slightly anal-retentive type — a relatively ‘nice guy’ with a strong work ethic,” die-hard Arrested Development fan Danny Furey, 27, tells MEL.
You know how all upper-middle-class, pencil-pushing straight men wear blue gingham shirts? I believe we can actually blame Bateman for popularizing the look. “He’s looked like an office manager since he was a teen on The Hogan Family,” Mark Anspach, a memer known as @TheCatWhisprer, tells MEL.
In Bateman’s defense, white-collar men’s work clothes haven’t changed in decades. Just a constant rotation of J.Crew button-downs over a Hanes undershirt all tucked into a pair of chinos. Still, Bateman’s sartorial style betrays the typecasting at play. It evokes any number of Horrible Bosses still wearing Bulova watches and carrying Tumi briefcases.
There’s one signature Bateman style choice, however, that’s worth digging into a bit more. What’s up with the rolled-up sleeve?
Furey tracked down approximately 60 scenes Bateman has filmed in which his button-down sleeves are rolled up. “The rolled-sleeves thing is probably just a way to add an element of ‘hard worker’ into his wardrobe,” he says.
Furey and his girlfriend, Maura, theorize that Bateman’s rolled-up sleeves may allude to one of his very first roles. In the early 1980s, Bateman appeared in Little House on the Prairie, where his costar Michael Landon dressed with rolled-up sleeves and a buttoned collar for the run of the show. Maybe Bateman is making a nod to someone he once aspired to be.
Some celebrities won’t take on projects unless their requests are matched. Jennifer Lopez needs a bling cup, while Samuel L. Jackson requires golf breaks twice a week during movie shoots. Sarah Jessica Parker famously included a no-nudity clause in her Sex and the City contract. I’d like to think Bateman requests to wear a dress shirt for the majority of the film — with a little rolled-up sleeve, as a treat. “You could also say that maybe he just likes playing himself? Because he rolls up sleeves in real life too,” Furey says.
His business-casual look even extends to the animated world. In 2016, Bateman voiced a fast-talking red fox named Nick Wilde in Zootopia.
Wilde might actually be Bateman at his most real. The cartoon fox wears beige slacks, a tie and a floral button-down with short sleeves. “Rolled or not rolled, you’re still seeing his forearms, which might be the moral of all this,” Furey says. “Maybe Bateman just fuckin’ loves his forearms.”