‘This Is Us’ Star Chris Sullivan on Dressing ‘Very Loudly’ and Challenging Gender Norms

This Is Us” star Chris Sullivan loves bright colors, playful patterns and challenging gender norms: “I’ve always dressed very loudly,” he says.

“The goal for me, always, is to have fun, and to kind of intentionally be unexpected and go against the dress code a little bit,” says first-time Emmy nominee Sullivan. For an early screening of “This Is Us,” he wore asymmetrical glasses, a Bailey hat and floral pants from Loudmouth, “which I think is an appropriate title for a favorite clothing company of mine.” The series instantly sparked a reaction. “There’s a level of flawed-character that this show uncovers. And jumping back and forth between storylines is exciting because it makes the show unpredictable: You never know which way we’re going to go.”

When the freshman drama scored 10 Emmy nods, Sullivan started at Brooks Bros. He found the navy jacket, navy pants and custom purple bow tie — “They cut up an actual necktie,” he recalls. But once they decided to select a cummerbund, “the look started to shift.” Sullivan never imagined he’d wear a hat with a tuxedo, but he fell in love with this vintage design from the Bollman Hat Co. in Santa Monica. “The people at Brooks Bros. were like, ‘Well then, if you’re wearing a top hat, you definitely need a cane!’ And to throw the whole thing into another era, the shoes are black rhinestone.”

Sullivan loved the Loudmouth fishbone suit and bow tie he wore to the Critics’ Choice Awards. “Those shoes were on a mannequin at the G-Star store,” he says. “The person had to call their manager to see if I could buy them.” He added a Bailey hat, shades and black nail polish — which triggered questions on the carpet. Sullivan says he identifies as a “a cisgendered middle-aged white man,” but he often wants to make fashion choices that “might go against the stereotypical ‘straight white male’ fashion choice.” He explains: “I think now it’s an important time for all of us to challenge those tropes, or what is ‘normal,’ or what is ‘male’ or ‘female.’”

Sullivan wears a padded suit to portray Toby, who struggles with weight. “To take up space in the world and move through it in a different body is very helpful,” says Sullivan, who wanted to experience the Emmys with different hair. “Our hair and makeup team at ‘This Is Us’ had made me a mohawk to wear,” he says. “I couldn’t apply it correctly.” He accessorized this metallic Mr. Turk suit with bracelets, gold nail polish and a seahorse lapel pin. Since he couldn’t have a mohawk, “on the way out the door, I had [my wife’s makeup artist] give me a smokey eye, which I think brought the whole thing together.”

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