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 in considerably nondescript American casual wear: windbreaker jacket, plaid shirt, dark slacks, and an overcoat over his arm.
The dark brown windbreaker is roomy enough to provide comfort for a guy stuck on a plane for a few hours… especially with a shoulder holster. His shoulder rig is edge-stitched tan leather with a snap-fastened holster under the right arm for a left-handed draw of his Beretta 92F pistol. Two magazine pouches under the left armpit balance it out.
The windbreaker’s tobacco brown suede collar has a button-tab that extends from the left if needed. It has a zip front with an extended button fly, and the warm flannel lining is patterned in a red and gray plaid.
McClane’s navy and white shadow plaid cotton long-sleeve shirt has a soft turndown collar, plain front with white plastic buttons, and a breast pocket.
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. They are charcoal flannel with single reverse pleats and belt loops for his brown leather belt that closes with a rounded gold-toned single-prong buckle.
The trousers have side pockets and jetted back pockets (with a button on the left) which 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).
“Nine million terrorists in the world and I gotta kill one with feet smaller than my sister.”
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 because it is often worn for athletics. (The Brits also typically call this a “vest”. The Brits then refer to American vests as “waistcoats”. While we’re at it, they also call trucks “lorries” and refer to elevators as “lifts”.)
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. He doesn’t want Ellis the asshole to be killed, and he prefers classic Christmas songs like “Jingle Bells” to Run DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis”.
Basically, McClane should be an example to tough guys everywhere: It’s okay to be a man and a nice guy!
What to Imbibe
Anything but “watered down” pink champagne. I’m gonna go ahead and guess McClane is a beer and whiskey kinda guy.
How to Get the Look
McClane sports a timeless and easy look that you can easily emulate and add your own touches to:
- 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
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.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Buy the DVD.