BAMF Style’s 5 Days of Christmas
One of my all-time favorite Christmas movies is Die Hard. If you’re traveling for the holidays this year, make sure you dress comfortably for the plane ride and for taking on a skyscraper full of European terrorists. Don’t worry about packing extra shoes.
Bruce Willis as John McClane, NYPD detective
Los Angeles, Christmas 1987
Film: Die Hard
Release Date: July 15, 1988
Director: John McTiernan
Costume Designer: Marilyn Vance
Bruce Willis’ Key Costumer: Charles Mercuri
John McClane was the direct American response to James Bond. Nothing against Bond; we’re obviously fans here, but McClane provided a brutal anti-hero that the ’80s needed. Before we delve into the attire, let’s briefly contrast these two. (This is all pre-Craig Bond being compared as Dan Craig certainly exemplifies a jaded physical toughness that McClane would be proud of.)
Bond chooses a tailored suit or, in some occasions, a full tuxedo. McClane is lucky if he can find a pair of shoes.
Bond prefers gunfights with his suppressed PPK. McClane isn’t above brutal hand-to-hand combat and threats of killing, cooking, and eating people.
Bond smirks over each wisecrack from the safety of a woman’s arms. McClane spits his wisecracks over a two-way radio, often between interjections of genuine fear.
Bond chooses to get into dangerous situations as a Secret Service agent. McClane certainly would’ve wanted to be any place else (although he was happy to save his wife).
What’d He Wear?
John McClane touches down at LAX wearing utilitarian but ultimately unexciting examples of off-the-rack American casual staples: a zip-up jacket, plaid shirt, dark slacks, and an overcoat over his arm.
The dark brown jacket has a weather-resistant waxed cotton or canvas shell and is roomy enough to comfortably wear on a plane for a few hours… especially over a shoulder holster. McClane’s NYPD-issued shoulder rig is made from edge-stitched tan leather with a snap-fastened holster suspending his Beretta 92F under his right arm for a left-handed draw. The weight is somewhat balanced out by two magazine pouches under his left arm. The jacket is lined in a warm, insulated flannel twill patterned in a red and gray tartan plaid.
The Barbour-style jacket has a brown pinwale corduroy collar that has a squared tab extending from the left side to latch onto a button under the right collar leaf, if needed. In addition to the zip front, a fly fastens to buttons placed two inches in on the right side of the jacket.
McClane’s navy and white shadow plaid long-sleeve shirt made from what looks like a soft brushed cotton has a point collar and a plain “French placket” with white plastic buttons. The breast pocket is made from the same fabric, rotated 45°.
The most essential part of McClane’s attire (and, if you think about it, the most necessary part of most men’s outfits) is his pants. These charcoal flannel trousers have single reverse pleats and a brown leather belt that closes with a rounded gold-toned single-prong buckle.
Of more use to McClane as his night continues are the trousers’ four pockets, one on each side and a pair in the back (with a button through the left pocket). These pockets come in handy as he prowls the passages of Nakatomi Plaza with a two-way radio, his dark brown leather wallet, spare 9mm pistol magazines, Gauloises cigarettes, and a silver Zippo lighter. The bottoms of his trousers are finished with turn-ups (cuffs).
“As a costume designer you serve the actor’s body too,” costume designer Marilyn Vance explained in a 2012 interview with Dazed. “Some people have narrow shoulders, big hips, or a long face, and you have to design it so that you don’t notice. I had to make Bruce’s pants especially for Die Hard, because he has a long body and short legs. Don’t even write that because you’ll be looking now…”
McClane even knows the importance of his trousers, telling Hans Gruber, “Better than being caught with your pants down, huh?” when the latter notices his missing shoes. Which brings us to…
McClane’s shoes. Barely worth talking about as their very absence provides a plot point for the film. But, in their short appearance, they do appear to be dark brown to match his belt.
As one would expect, McClane is light on the accessories. He still wears his plain silver wedding band on his left ring finger and he also wears a chunky stainless steel TAG Heuer chronograph (obtained by Prop Bay) with a rotating bezel and three dark sub-dials on a well-worn brown leather band, worn on the inside of his right wrist.
Never actually worn on screen, McClane also carries a dark gray herringbone single-breasted overcoat with red lining. He carries it over his arm, not needing it in L.A.’s warmer climate, but it probably served him well during the chilly New York winter.
And, of course, the undershirt. McClane’s now-iconic white undershirt is a sleeveless ribbed cotton A-shirt, so named upon its introduction as it was developed for athletic endeavors. McClane’s undershirt has a long neckline that extends to mid-chest.
Go Big or Go Home
McClane is a fine example of a modern man. He dresses relatively well for casual situations and, unlike most ’80s action heroes, he isn’t a fearless killing machine with no emotions. He shows a deep care for his family, genuine fear for his life, and at first attempts apprehending the terrorists before becoming their worst nightmare. He demonstrates that he is plenty tough but isn’t afraid to show his sentimental side to the point that he doesn’t want even Ellis the asshole to be killed… if that’s it’s considered a standard of decency to not wish death upon someone.
Basically, McClane should be an example to tough guys everywhere: it’s okay to be a tough guy and a nice guy!
But also, please don’t smoke ’em.
What to Imbibe
Anything but “watered down” pink champagne. I’m gonna go ahead and guess McClane is a beer and whiskey kinda guy.
McClane carries a Beretta 92F, a 9×19 mm Parabellum semi-automatic pistol made by Pietro Beretta in Italy that now serves the U.S. military as the M9 pistol. The pistol was developed during the early 1980s and was the first to fully replace the military’s venerable M1911A1 .45-caliber semi-auto you’ve seen in countless World War II movies.
It was first seen on the big screen in A Better Tomorrow and was very soon featured in both Lethal Weapon and Die Hard as the hero cop’s weapon of choice. Although this would be correct for LAPD officer Martin Riggs in Lethal Weapon (played by Mel Gibson), Die Hard‘s portrayal of NYPD cop McClane carrying the Beretta is mistaken; the NYPD didn’t authorize any semi-automatics until the Glock 19 in 1993. To the best of my knowledge, the only Beretta authorized for NYPD carry is the Beretta Mini-Cougar 8000D as a potential backup weapon.
The Beretta 92F and 92FS both weigh about 34 ounces with a full size 4.9 inch barrel and 8.5 inch overall length. The standard magazine carries 15 rounds of 9mm ammunition, though additional variants are made in .40 S&W.
Willis’ model, to account for his left-handedness, features an extended magazine release and extended slide release. McClane prefers to carry his in a LHD shoulder holster—described above—but when the going gets rough, he tucks it in the front of his waistband.
How to Get the Look
John McClane sports a timeless and easy look that you can easily emulate while adding your own touches.
- Dark brown windbreaker with tobacco suede collar, extended collar button-tab, button/zip front, side pockets, and red-and-gray plaid flannel lining
- Navy and white shadow plaid long-sleeve shirt with soft collar, plain front, and breast pocket
- Charcoal gray single reverse-pleated slacks with open side pockets, jetted back pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- Brown leather belt with a rounded gold-toned single-prong buckle
- Brown leather dress shoes
- Dark gray herringbone single-breasted overcoat with red lining
- White ribbed cotton sleeveless A-style undershirt
- Plain silver wedding band
- TAG Heuer stainless steel chronograph with rotating bezel and three sub-dials on brown leather strap
- Brown leather shoulder holster (LHD) with magazine pouches, for Beretta 92F-series pistol
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.