Beef is not feel-good television. The titular beef refers not to the wagyu delicacy but the state of war between rappers. In this delicious dark comedy, a near collision between Amy Lau (Ali Wong) and Danny Cho (Steven Yeun) sends the pair spiralling down a vortex of vengeance that ends, per Chekhov’s rule, with a fired gun. But wrath is only a front for the deep-seated misery gnawing at the two. In director Lee Sung Jin’s minutely observed psychological portrait, Amy and Danny are instantly recognisable characters. Amy, in her roster of highly specific name brands (Rachel Comey, Eileen Fisher and Proenza Schouler), is the worldly career woman nursing a secret despair. Danny, in his neat bargain bin get ups, is the poor sod whose desperation is plain. In Beef, the characters dress like real people—aspirationally, imperfectly and tellingly. As in life, their clothes reveal who they want to be and who they really are.
Amy’s wardrobe is aggressively neutral. Her unerring palette of crisp beiges and creams speak to the zen plant-repreneur she tries to be. Her angst, however, can’t help peeking out. In the show’s opening car chase scene, the brim of her cosy knit hat is carefully upturned. The peppy detail reads as obsessive and dissimulating, hinting at a woman who furiously curates her life. Her tasteful outfits are interrupted by discordant notes, from her of-the-moment octagonal glasses that clash with her cheekbones to her blonde bob that looks like a wig. In short, she’s always just shy of perfect.
If our sense of Amy comes from the kinks in her image, our picture of Danny comes across in his ossified style. He goes to the club in full business casual, like a mascot for the unfortunate aughts. Donning a Nautica jacket from 1998, an ill-fitting DKNY black shirt, matching bottoms and a genuine “Structure” belt, he looks like a man stuck in time. At home, he wears free handout shirts, a reminder of his down-at-heel circumstances. To church, where he plays the good christian Alpha, he wears pale button downs as outerwear, paired with white T-shirts underneath. His church garb simultaneously proves his ability to manipulate and reveals an undiscerning datedness—fitting for a character that had no idea his nickname of “Korea Johnny Carson” was a jibe. Beyond Amy and Danny, costume designer Helen Huang’s considered choices extend to the supporting cast as well, from Fumi’s arty ensembles to Isaac’s bohemian necklaces.
Below, examine the layered looks of Beef.
1 / 5
Amy goes through several hair transformations in the course of the show, pointing to the familiar restlessness and unease with the self that leads grown women to contemplate bangs. Her sense of style is pared back and sophisticated but still slightly creative and it’s obvious that she favours flowy silhouettes and drapey cuts. It screams Kōyō Haus.
2 / 5
Danny is always in his white T-shirt. Outside, he wears it like an undershirt so that it peeks out from beneath his clothes. At home, he wears it as is. Either way, it’s stubbornly old fashioned, an emblem of arrested development.
3 / 5
George parents, sculpts and cheats in a welter of savvy designer labels such as Kapital, Batoner and WTAPS. He also favours cool European brands like Nanushka, Acne, and Officine Générale. He is international, intentional and tonally correct in his dressing and superficially, he is the perfect complement to Amy and proof of the superior dress sense of Asian men. But his pristine image conceals an impotence and the frustrations of a failed artist.
4 / 5
Fumi is an avant-garde grandma. Her dressing is high-brow and high-minded. Her black-and-white polka dot Junya Watanabe dress, early-‘80s Issey Miyake, vintage Yohji Yamamoto and frequent CDG flaunt her affinity for bold fashion and hint at an aspiration to free-spiritedness where in real life, she is no-nonsense. She seems to have an intimate relationship with clothes, deriving strength from them. In vulnerable moments, like when pleading for a loan from Amy, she dresses up extra zany.
5 / 5
Isaac is the most creative dresser in the show. His character is the only one whose entire wardrobe was sourced from costume houses: beaded necklaces, vintage streetwear and basketball jerseys. He is a first-rate accessoriser, with a constant rotation of necklaces and belts. It adds depth to a character who could otherwise translate as a one-note crook. The man clearly has interests beyond felonies.