Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction
Samuel L. Jackson as Jules Winnfield, newly enlightened mob hitman
Los Angeles, Summer 1992
Film: Pulp Fiction
Release Date: October 14, 1994
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Costume Designer: Betsy Heimann
Written especially for him, the part of Jules Winnfield catapulted Samuel L. Jackson to enormous (and well-deserved) fame despite Pulp Fiction being his thirtieth film in twenty years of acting. Thanks to both Jackson’s performance and Tarantino’s script, Jules became an immediate sensation with an arsenal of brilliant lines and memorable scenes.
So who is Jules? He could be described as an errand boy for L.A. mobster Marsellus Wallace, but the respect he garners and his talent indicates that he is more of a trusted hitman or, as another of Wallace’s go-to men explains, problem-solver.
What’d He Wear?
Jules’ look is part of what makes him iconic, a reflection of the Tarantinoian belief that all professional criminals wear black suits, white shirts, and black ties.
Both being professionals, Jules and fellow hitman Vincent each adopt the black suit uniform for their task at hand – in this case, retrieving a valuable briefcase from a group of petty thieves. However, each man’s suit reflects his own personal style.
Jules’ black suit coat is single-breasted with notch lapels, a welted breast pocket, jetted hip pockets, and 4-button cuffs. Two darts run down the front, one through each hip pocket, and a center seam divides the back in half. Although a timeless look, Jules’ jacket has a few yields to the ’90s, including slightly padded shoulders, a ventless back, loose fit, and the low 2-button stance.
The jacket also has black lining and a small white label under the right inner pocket, seen best when Jules prepares to get a county jail-style bath.
The double reverse-pleated trousers have side pockets, plain-hemmed bottoms, and center creases down the front and rear. He wears a black leather belt, fastened in the front through a large rounded steel single-claw buckle
The suit’s material appears to be wool, which keeps its condition better than the wrinkle-prone linen suit favored by Vincent. A black wool suit may seem warm for an L.A. summer, but as Jules himself muses, “Damn, this morning air is some chilly shit.”
Jules’ white shirt evokes an earlier era with its button-fastened tab collar. The tab collar also makes Jules’ shirt slightly dressier than Vincent’s, which has a more common spread collar. Otherwise, the two shirts are the same with white buttons down the front placket, buttoned barrel cuffs, and breast pocket.
Each man also wears a black tie of moderate width. While slimmer than most, the ties are still wider than those seen in the mid-’60s and today during the Mad Men style craze. This works better for Jules’ taller frame than Vincent’s somewhat squatter one. However, Vincent isn’t supposed to be a fashion plate (he later wears a BOLO TIE) so he probably doesn’t care much either.
Jules completes his outfit with a pair of well-polished black leather plain-toe oxfords and black socks.
Appropriate to his character, Jules doesn’t wear a watch. If he wants to know what time it is, he asks someone and they will tell him. Additional accessories include a large twisted gold pinky ring on his right pinky and a large gold bracelet on his left wrist. He also wears a gold chain around his neck, with a pendant on it. While the pendant has a “J”, ostensibly for Jules, we later learn that there is a possibility that it is a “J” for Jesus.
Finally, one of the most distinctive and widely-copied parts of Jules’ wardrobe is his wallet. A company, BMF Wallets, is selling copies of the distinctive wallet, lovingly embroidered with the immortal “BAD MOTHER FUCKER”. Jules’ particular wallet was brown with black embroidering, but the company has a few varieties to fit your personal taste.
Typically not discussed here, hair is too essential to ignore in Jules’ case. Initially envisioned as an afro, Samuel L. and Quentin instead decided on a jheri curl, long sideburns, and a fu manchu mustache. You know what sort of person can pull this off? An angrily, biblical Samuel L. Jackson.
For the Sake of Completion…
Go Big or Go Home
There is plenty that can be said about what makes Jules cool. The major thing that sticks out for me is confidence. Not arrogance or the Godforsaken term swag, but confidence. Jules enters every room knowing he is the coolest guy there. Anytime he walks with someone, he walks ahead of them. He speaks firmly, relatively eloquently, and with enough forceful color that people are going to pay attention. This is outlined from the outset as Vincent tells him about the subtle things that make Europe different from America. Rather than a conversational space-filler (“I know what you mean”) or an unsure engagement (“lol tell me about it”), Jules plainly asks: “Example?” in a way that is barely a question. A small moment, but a defining one.
There are a few things that Jules and I disagree on, however, most especially his avoidance of bacon. Filthy animals or not, bacon is at the top of my personal food pyramid.
Jules’ car is a green 1974 Chevy Nova two-door coupe.
How to Get the Look
While Tarantino’s standard black suit look can be dismissed as being the same all across the board, each suit in Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction had subtle differences that showed character preferences.
- Black wool full cut suit, consisting of:
- Single-breasted jacket with notch lapels, low 2-button stance, welted breast pocket, jetted hip pockets, 4-button cuffs, and ventless backs
- Double reverse-pleated trousers with belt loops, side pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- White cotton dress shirt with button-fastened tab collar, front placket, breast pocket, and button cuffs
- Black necktie
- Black leather belt with steel single-claw rounded buckle
- Black leather plain-toe bluchers/derby shoes
- Black dress socks
- Large twisted gold pinky ring, worn on right pinky
- Large gold bracelet, worn on left wrist
- Gold neck chain with “J” pendant
And Mr. 9mm here… he’s the shepherd protecting my righteous ass in the valley of darkness.
A lot of idiots get mad about that line. I’m about to tell you why they’re idiots.
Jules’ gun, which he correctly refers to as “Mr. 9mm”, isn’t a “.45” just because it looks like the standard M1911 seen in countless video games and World War II movies. It is, in fact, a nickel-plated Star Model B semi-automatic pistol. The Model B has been used as a stand-in for the 1911 in plenty of movies, notably The Wild Bunch, The Getaway, Dillinger, Three Days of the Condor, and The Untouchables, but in this case it is exactly what it is supposed to be – a 9mm pistol.
The Star Model B was first manufactured in 1928, just a few years after the M1911 design was updated to the M1911A1. It is externally differentiated from the 1911A1 design with an external extractor on the right side and the absence of a grip safety. It carries eight rounds of 9×19 mm Parabellum ammunition and, like the 1911, is single-action.
The Star Model B was made by the Spanish company Star Bonifacio Echeverria, S.A., a small arms manufacturer that operated in the Basque region throughout the 20th century, from 1905 until bankruptcy in 1997. Most Star pistols were copies of other designs, including the Model 1908 (a .25 ACP version of the Mannlicher Model 1900), the Ruby pistol, and – of course – the Star Model B and its compact cousin, the Star Model BM. More recently, Star developed the Firestar, seen in movies and TV such as Heat and The Sopranos.
Jules keeps his Star Model B in the front of his waistband, tucked off to the left. Vincent indeed carries a .45-caliber 1911A1, made by Auto-Ordnance, the same company that manufactured many Thompson submachine guns during the 1920s.
Do Yourself A Favor And…
Buy the movie.
Jules’ finest moment is his interrogation of Brett and his dishonest cohorts. Below is a transcript of the whole thing, partially courtesy of IMDb. Enjoy.
Jules: Hey kids! How you boys doin’? (to Roger) Hey, keep chillin’. (to Brett) You know who we are? We’re associates of your business partner Marsellus Wallace. You do remember your business partner don’t you? Let me take a wild guess here. You’re Brett, right?
Jules: I thought so. You remember your business partner Marsellus Wallace, don’t you, Brett?
Brett: Yeah, yeah, I remember him.
Jules: Good. Looks like me an Vincent caught you boys at breakfast. Sorry about that. Whatcha havin’?
Jules: Hamburgers! The cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast. What kind of hamburgers?
Jules: No, no no, where’d you get ’em? McDonalds? Wendy’s? Jack in the Box? Where?
Brett: Big Kahuna Burger.
Jules: Big Kahuna Burger. That’s that Hawaiian burger joint. I hear they got some tasty burgers. I ain’t never had one myself. How are they?
Brett: They’re good.
Jules: Mind if I try one of yours? This is yours here, right? (picks up burger and takes a bite) Mmm-mmmm. That is a tasty burger. Vincent, ever have a Big Kahuna Burger?
Vincent shakes his head.
Jules: Wanna bite? They’re real tasty.
Vincent: Ain’t hungry.
Jules: Well, if you like burgers, give ’em a try sometime. I can’t usually get ’em myself because my girlfriend’s a vegetarian which pretty much makes me a vegetarian. But I do love the taste of a good burger. Mm-mm-mm. You know what they call a Quarter Pounder with cheese in France?
Jules: Tell ’em, Vincent.
Vincent: A Royale with cheese.
Jules: A Royale with cheese! You know why they call it that?
Brett: Because of the metric system?
Jules: Check out the big brain on Brett! You’re a smart motherfucker. That’s right. The metric system. What’s in this?
Jules: Sprite, good. You mind if I have some of your tasty beverage to wash this down?
Brett: Go right ahead.
Jules: Ah, hit the spot. (to Roger) You, flock of seagulls, you know why we’re here? Why don’t you tell my man Vincent where you got the shit hid at?
Marvin: It’s over th…
Jules: I don’t remember askin’ you a Goddamn thing! (to Roger) You were saying?
Roger: It’s in the cupboard.
Vincent starts looking in the upper cupboard.
Roger: No, no, the one by your kn-knees.
Jules: We happy?
Vincent continues staring at the briefcase’s contents.
Jules: Vincent! We happy?
Vincent: Yeah, we happy.
Brett: I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name. I got yours, Vincent, right? But I didn’t get yours…
Jules: My name’s Pitt. And your ass ain’t talkin’ your way out of this shit.
Brett: No, no, I just want you to know… I just want you to know how sorry we are that things got so fucked up with us and Mr. Wallace. We got into this thing with the best intentions and I never…
Jules: (shoots Roger) I’m sorry, did I break your concentration? I didn’t mean to do that. Please, continue, you were saying something about best intentions. What’s the matter? Oh, you were finished! Well, allow me to retort. What does Marsellus Wallace look like?
Jules: What country are you from?
Brett: What? What? Wh – ?
Jules: “What” ain’t no country I’ve ever heard of. They speak English in What?
Jules: English, motherfucker, do you speak it?
Brett: Yes! Yes!
Jules: Then you know what I’m sayin’!
Jules: Describe what Marsellus Wallace looks like!
Jules: Say ‘what’ again. Say ‘what’ again, I dare you, I double dare you motherfucker, say what one more Goddamn time!
Brett: He… he’s black…
Jules: Go on…
Brett: He’s bald
Jules: Does he look like a bitch?
Jules: (shoots Brett in the shoulder) DOES HE LOOK LIKE A BITCH?
Jules: Then why you try to fuck him like a bitch?
Brett: I didn’t…
Jules: Yes you did. Yes you did! You tried to fuck him. And Marcellus Wallace don’t like to be fucked by anybody except Mrs. Wallace. You read the Bible, Brett?
Jules: Well, there’s this passage I got memorized, sort of fits the occasion. Ezekiel 25:17. The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy My brothers. And you will know My name is the Lord when I lay My vengeance upon thee.
Any thoughts on what’s in the briefcase? Tarantino himself said it’s up to the viewer’s interpretation. The most popular belief seems to be that it’s Marsellus Wallace’s soul, but – being more of a tangible-minded sort – I like to think it’s the diamonds from Reservoir Dogs. We already know that they’re set in the same universe.
I’m not trying to be boring, no, but what is the point of reviewing the outfits that are all alike? Robbers of “Reservoir Dogs” fame, now Jules. Those suits differ, that’s for sure, but the difference is minimal and the details about them are not that special and outstanding. And next ones would be Kill Bill vol.1 Crazy 88 gang? Steve McQueen’s suit in “The Getaway” was unique – it’s about the shirt, but those…
So many movies, so many styles, why stomp on the same spot?
I’m not disappointed, mind you, just puzzled.
A lot of people have been curious about Sam Jackson’s suit and there may be a whole group of people that are interested in this but not some of the others. I haven’t done any of the Reservoir Dogs robbers yet – if I do, I will probably just do a write-up on Harvey Keitel and possibly put a section in it that contrasts each one.
As I continue to make posts, I’ll hopefully keep learning more about clothing (I’m pretty much an amateur in that sense) and be able to make more notes about the differences and details in each.
Also – I haven’t forgotten about your observation of the Collateral cuffs. Once I’m able to pop the DVD back in to check, I’ll confirm and make that fix!
Uh, sorry, my bad. Yesterday I’ve read post about Reservoir Dogs outfits on clothesonfilm.com, and it got shaken and stirred in my head with your site. Sorry.
On briefcase – well, Tim Roth said in one interview that it contained only a battery and light bulb. Why not?