Die Hard

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 Det. John McClane in Die Hard.

Bruce Willis as Det. John McClane in Die Hard.

Vitals

Bruce Willis as John McClane, NYPD detective

Los Angeles, Christmas 1987

Film: Die Hard 2: Die Harder
Release Date: July 4, 1990
Director: Renny Harlin
Costume Designer: Marilyn Vance
Bruce Willis’ Key Costumer: Charles Mercuri

Background

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?

McClane touches down at LAX in pretty typical men’s casual wear. As McClane is a man’s man and not overly concerned with fashion, his look is timeless with a windbreaker, plaid shirt, dark slacks, and an overcoat over his arm.

His windbreaker is dark brown and roomy, providing the most comfort for a guy stuck on a plane for a few hours and also leaving space for his shoulder holster. It has both a zipper and a few buttons on the right side. The collars are a lighter brown suede – to match the lining – and feature an extended left collar tab to button at the top. The jacket’s interior lining is a red and gray plaid, best seen when his seat mate on the plane spots his shoulder holster. This is the only red McClane sports for Christmas, eschewing the holiday’s typical color.

Your Dad probably has this jacket.

Your Dad probably has this jacket.

Underneath, McClane wears a white and blue plaid button-down shirt. It’s very casual with soft collars, white buttons, and a patch breast pocket.

Beneath the jacket but over his shirt, McClane wears his Beretta 92F in a brown leather LHD (left hand draw) shoulder holster with magazine pouches under the left arm.

This was on an AIRPLANE.

This was on an AIRPLANE.

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 dark charcoal and pleated with belt loops and cuffed bottoms. He has an open pocket on each side and two jetted pockets in the back, with only the left rear pocket buttoning. The useful pockets house his two-way radio, dark brown leather wallet, spare 9 mm magazines, cigarettes, and silver Zippo lighter.

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. The belt is mahogany brown leather with a gold rounded clasp.

"Nine million terrorists in the world and I gotta kill one with feet smaller than my sister."

“Nine million terrorists in the world and I gotta kill one with feet smaller than my sister.”

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 silver wristwatch on a plain olive drab vinyl strap, worn on the inside of his right wrist.

The McClane essentials: cigarettes, Sharpie, wallet, and watch.

The McClane essentials: cigarettes, Sharpie, wallet, and watch.

Never seen actually worn, McClane also carries a dark gray herringbone single-breasted overcoat with red lining. He carries it over his arm, not needing it in the warm weather of L.A. but probably serving him well during the chilly New York winter.

"Fists with your toes" had better have been some damn good advice to get McClane from his comfortable traveling clothes to barefoot and half-stripped.

“Fists with your toes” had better have been some damn good advice to get McClane from his comfortable traveling clothes to barefoot and half-stripped at just the wrong moment.

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. McClane’s has a long neckline that extends to the mid-chest. 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”.

American version: McClane in his undershirt. Little does he know, he'll soon be throwing explosives into an elevator shaft. Shit!British version: McClane in his vest. Little does he know, he'll soon be throwing explosives into an lift shaft. Tally ho!

American version: McClane in his undershirt. Little does he know, he’ll soon be descending into an elevator shaft and kicking some terrorist ass. Shit!
British version: McClane in his vest. Little does he know, he’ll soon be abseiling into an lift shaft and kicking some terrorist arse. Tally ho and Bob’s your uncle!

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 heros, 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 is still plenty tough, as he demonstrates, but he has soft spots. He doesn’t want the asshole Ellis, who snorted coke in his wife’s office and has probably spent six months trying to bed her, 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!

Smoke

Smoke ’em if you got ’em, whether they’re your own Marlboro Reds or the Gauloises of fallen terrorists.

What to Imbibe

Anything but 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 casual zip-up/button-down windbreaker with a brown suede collar and extended tab, red and gray plaid lining, and open side pockets
  • White and blue plaid casual button-up shirt with a soft collar and breast pocket
  • Charcoal gray single reverse-pleated slacks with open side pockets, jetted back pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
  • Mahogany brown leather belt with a gold-colored rounded clasp
  • Mahogany brown leather dress shoes
  • Dark gray herringbone single-breasted overcoat with red lining
  • White ribbed cotton sleeveless A-style undershirt
  • Plain silver wedding band
  • Chunky silver wristwatch with an olive drab strap
  • Brown leather shoulder holster (LHD) with magazine pouches, for Beretta 92F-series pistol

The Gun

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.

DH-GunUp1

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.

Courtesy of IMFDB, this is the actual Beretta as used by Bruce Willis in the second and third Die Hard films. Although a 92FS and not his original 92F, it also has the extended releases for left-handed Willis.

Courtesy of IMFDB, this is the actual Beretta as used by Bruce Willis in the second and third Die Hard films. Although a 92FS and not his original 92F, it also has the extended releases for left-handed Willis.

The Beretta 92F and 92FS weighs about 34 ounces, has a full size 4.9 inch barrel and 8.5 inch overall length, and a 15-round magazine of 9×19 mm Parabellum ammunition. 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.

The Quote

How could we really put anything but…

Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker.

15 comments

        • luckystrike721

          Luke,
          Hope you’re still following! Mel’s first outfit from Lethal Weapon will be coming up next Thursday the 12th in time for Christmas. (Since it’s a Christmas movie.) Any suggestions for which Woo films I should watch? I know Chow is always well-suited in them.

          Like

          • Luke Gardner

            Sorry that this is so late. Yes I’m still following and I still enjoy reading your posts. For the John Woo films, check out A Better Tomorrow, The Killer and Hard Boiled (he doesn’t wear a suit in this one but I still like his dress style). Keep up the good work.

            Like

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  5. Ken

    I know I’m late to the party but first I just wanted to say that I am a huge fan of your blog and have been putting it to some good use in research for my various “cosplays”, John McClane being top of my list at the moment. Secondly, I just wanted to point out an error in pants section for DH1: McClane’s pants are not pleated, they are flat-front with a single crease down each leg. The only reason why I’m mentioning it is because I just watched DH1 very recently and noticed the pants. Below should be a picture differentiating the two. I just thought I’d point that out for anyone else trying to replicate the look. Keep up the good work and I look forward to more entries!

    PS: I’ve been on the search for an accurate replica for the shirt that McClane wears in DH3 and have come up with zilch. Taking matters in my own hands, I’ve found a plaid maker website and am currently working on the correct color scheme and pattern for that shirt, as well as experimenting with different fabrics. Here’s hoping I can figure it out soon!

    Like

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