Why Silent Bob's Costume In Clerks III Couldn't Legally Be An Exact Replica Of The Original [Exclusive]

Eagle-eyed fans of Kevin Smith's View Askewniverse might have noticed that one tiny detail in "Clerks III" was missing, and it was a part of one of its most important character's iconic costumes. Though Silent Bob (played by Smith himself) is a man of few words, he is a man of many hats, and wore an all-white one with the word "FELIX" stitched across the back in the original "Clerks" all the way back in 1994. It turns out that while the estate that owns the rights to the old cartoon "Felix the Cat" didn't feel like going after a weird little indie filmmaker back then, they wouldn't be too keen on the now very-famous Smith using the character's likeness. 

In an exclusive interview with /Film's Jack Giroux, "Clerks III" costume designer Allison Pearce spilled the details on all of the Mooby's gear, hockey uniforms, and more, along with the reason behind Silent Bob's minor change of haberdashery in the latest sequel. 

The perils of copyright law

In the original "Clerks," Smith wore a backwards "Felix the Cat" hat as Silent Bob. While it's pretty tricky to see the cat on the front of the hat given the graininess of the film and the fact that it's always backwards, it is in fact a branded hat. That became a problem for Pearce when she realized she would have to get clearance to use it, something Smith hadn't even thought about back in 1994. Pearce managed to get the original coat and hat from "Clerks" for use, but the hat was a no-go:

"I think originally that was in the Secret Stash, Kevin's comic book shop in Red Bank, that was on display there. I had to crack it out of a display case for him to wear it, and he also wears a Felix the Cat backwards hat. That was a whole rigmarole to be allowed to do it, and in the end, we couldn't. I just made something for Kevin that said Felix on it. We couldn't even show the original graphic that was in the movie. We tried, but there are a lot of graphics in the original 'Clerks' and brands and logos and it's different now. You can't really do that anymore."

In the end, Pearce crafted a new hat for Smith that's not quite the same as the original, though Silent Bob has worn a few different hats over the years, so it's not a huge deal. My favorite is the "Batman"-esque hat in "Mallrats," because Lunchbox looks lovely as the caped crusader. 

A bittersweet reminder of how far Smith's come

So how exactly did Smith get away with using the "Felix the Cat" hat in the first place? Pearce explained: 

"Based on my understanding, the way they made 'Clerks,' he made it just with his friends and family and whatever they were wearing, they were wearing, and it was an indie. It did end up getting purchased, obviously, but I think that he wasn't thinking about it. I guess back then it wasn't such a big deal. It's such a thing now. Everything has to get cleared and everyone has to sign paperwork agreeing to put their brands on camera, and it's like, no one ever [notices the logo] anyway."

While "intellectual property" law and copyrights have definitely gotten more stringent over the years, it's also an indicator of just how much Smith's life has changed. Sure, he's not filming after a long day of working at the actual Quick Stop, paying for his little movie with maxed-out credit cards and family loans anymore, but that also means he has to worry about things like if his characters are wearing outfits with copyrighted material on them. Good thing he has a costume designer for that these days.