Year after year, with each new crop of “Survivor” castaways, it’s easy to see that they’re meant to represent a familiar cross-section of archetypes.
Even in their off-the-rack tank tops and cargo shorts, characters like the cranky old military vet, the arrogant corporate executive and the pharmaceutical rep next door are recognizable on sight.
That’s no accident: While the conventions of reality TV encourage viewers to believe that these contestants arrive with whatever hastily selected items they can grab, their clothing is carefully vetted and assembled with producers and wardrobe staff to maximally portray players’ personalities and emphasize the show’s “Robinson Crusoe”mise-en-scène.
Since it debuted in 2000, “Survivor,” which will soon finish airing its 45th season on CBS, has had an ever-shifting cast and has regularly introduced new twists for contestants as they compete to be the last person standing and win a cash prize. Over time, players’ wardrobes — dirt-crusted and minimal though they may be — have helped further plots and create through-lines in the series, which continues to draw among the highest ratings on network television.
Jeff Probst, the host of “Survivor” and its executive producer and showrunner, said clothing was at the foundation of the show’s premise.
“The idea is, what if you were shipwrecked with a group of strangers?” Mr. Probst said. “A lawyer’s clothing should look very different from a nurse, who looks different from a pizza maker.”
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