Merry Christmas from BAMF Style to you and yours!
Bruce Willis as John McClane, LAPD detective lieutenant
Washington, D.C., Christmas 1990
Film: Die Hard 2: Die Harder
Release Date: July 4, 1990
Director: Renny Harlin
Costume Designer: Marilyn Vance
Bruce Willis’ Key Costumer: Charles Mercuri
One of the complaints about the Die Hard series is that there’s no way the same thing can keep happening to the one guy in the world who’s able to save it. Of course, these sort of complaints mostly started cropping up after the fourth installment in 2007 where John McClane literally saved the world. Prior to that, he’d saved about 30 lives in an office building, a few hundred in airplanes, and the population of New York City. Okay, so the scale kept getting bigger, but at least then he had a reason for being around. It’s even lampshaded in Die Hard 2 when McClane rants to himself:
Oh man, I can’t fucking believe this. Another basement, another elevator. How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?
That recognition gave Die Hard 2 carte blanche to put McClane in whatever situation it saw fit. Plus, McClane was still the same type of hero he was in the first Die Hard; vulnerable, resourceful, and afraid, but facing high stakes that convert his fear into adrenaline.
A few movies later, he’s just a walking killing machine who’s replaced wisecracks and a few well-needed bullets with a smirk and an assault rifle. (To be fair, I didn’t see A Good Day to Die Hard. Maybe it’s Citizen Kane and all the reviews I’ve read have been wrong.) In Die Hard and Die Hard 2, he’s scared and recognizes the foolishness of what he’s about to do, but he has to do it to save his wife and the lives of countless others. As the stakes are raised, the film’s working title of Die Hard 2: Die Harder makes sense. Sort of. I still don’t know what it really means to “die hard” unless we mean in the literal Nelson Rockefeller sense.
Maj. Grant: You’re the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time.
McClane: Story of my life.
What’d He Wear?
Since he’s sticking to the more Christmas-friendly climate of the mid-Atlantic for this Christmas, John McClane is dressed in a warmer version of his garb from the first Die Hard, again sporting a blue plaid shirt, dark slacks, boots, and an overcoat, with a chunky sweater replacing his L.A. windbreaker.
The first item that McClane ditches is a heavy dark brown-and-tan barleycorn tweed raglan coat. This single-breasted car coat has large brown woven leather buttons down the front and fastened through the straps around each cuff.
Underneath, McClane layers against the D.C. chill with a ribbed-knit pullover sweater spun from beige and gray yarn. The ribbed shawl collar, which shows more beige than the body of the sweater, fastens with a brown woven leather button that McClane leaves open. Fashionably oversized for 1990, the sweater has set-in sleeves that fall off Bruce Willis’ shoulders but are rolled back at each cuff to fit snugly on McClane’s wrists.
McClane wears a brushed flannel shirt patterned in a navy-and-green Black Watch tartan plaid, which auction sites and DieHardProps.com have confirmed was made by Banana Republic.
Heritage of Scotland traces this tartan to 18th century watch companies in the Scottish Highlands, specifically Clan Campbell and one from each of Clan Munro, Clan Fraser of Lovat, and Clan Grant. The Black Watch tartan may have originated with the latter and remains popular with its blue, green, and black check, though McClane’s shirt is colored only in navy and green.
The shirt has buttons on the cuffs and gauntlets, but McClane only fastens the cuff buttons. The brown-toned buttons down the front placket match those on the sleeves. There is a button-through patch pocket on the left breast, and a horizontal seam stretches across the top rear of the shirt. Unlike the first and third installments, McClane keeps this shirt on the whole time. Given an average December temperature of 39°F, it’s a wise choice.
He does, however, wear his loyal white undershirt underneath the plaid shirt. This ribbed, sleeveless A-shirt (or “vest” to the Brits) is the same style as the one worn in the previous Die Hard and would naturally be seen again in the next film, Die Hard With a Vengeance.
McClane wears brown corduroy double reverse-pleated trousers from Cerruti with belt loops, angled side pockets, jetted back pockets, and turn-ups (cuffs) on the bottoms.
He wears a plain brown leather belt with a rounded brass clasp through his pants, clipping his holster and his LAPD badge to it.
Not looking to get caught barefoot again, McClane wears a pair of dark brown napped leather work boots with black rubber Vibram soles that give him the traction he needed whether crawling through air ducts or climbing across airplane wings. The moc-toe boots are derby-laced through metal eyelets and speed hooks, and he wears them with a pair of white crew socks.
McClane keeps his accessories sparse and functional. Happily married to Holly, he wears a plain silver wedding band on his left ring finger. On the other hand, a military-styled TAG Heuer field watch is worn with a well-worn dark strap on the inside of his right wrist, fastening with a dulled brass buckle.
McClane’s shoulder holster is back. As it was in Die Hard, this is a brown leather rig with a LHD holster for the Beretta 92F-series under his right arm and two snap-fastened magazine pouches under his left arm. The rig is complete with brass snaps and silver hardware.
This is a very functional and warm look, with a well-made sweater providing more than adequate protection against the cold. I personally wear a variation of it, with my items outlined below:
Weatherproof®, a division of David Peyser Sportswear, is a great brand with well-priced outerwear for both men and women. The company introduced its outerwear division in 1992 with a microfiber jacket. I currently own many Weatherproof items, including a black zip-up jacket and a black crew neck sweater that are great for a look evoking Matt Damon in The Bourne Ultimatum. For a McClane-like sweater, their “Vintage” division – launched in 2009 – currently offers a chunky, ivory-colored, cable pullover sweater. It is 100% acrylic with a large brown snap-button on the shawl collar and ribbed cuffs and a ribbed hem to fit warmly. You can find it at the Macy’s site here, as of December 2013. It’s not quite as McClane-styled, as it has a cable pattern rather than the plain rib, but the functionality will be the same and I can personally attest to the sweater’s warmth. If you want a more McClaney ribbed sweater, check this one out. It’s basically the same except for the color options and buttons.
I found a pretty similar shirt, also at Macy’s, as part of Nautica’s “Classic Fit” collection. It is a blue buffalo check with a green double overcheck. Like McClane’s, it is a cotton button-up shirt with a button-through patch pockets and buttons on the cuffs and gauntlets. Again, it isn’t an exact match, but it’ll do in a pinch and it is a very comfortable shirt. Nautica calls their color “Vineyard” plaid.
For McClane’s trousers, Polo by Ralph Lauren currently offers a pair of extremely comfortable and very warm flat front 14-wale corduroy slacks as part of their “Classic Fit” brand. These sit comfortably at the natural waist with a belt and have a zip fly with a buttoned closure. Like McClane’s, they have angled side pockets and jetted rear pockets, except the Polos also feature a welted coin pocket on the right waist and a flap over the rear left pocket. They are garment-dyed in dark brown (which they call “holiday brown”) and have plain-hemmed bottoms, a modernization of McClane’s cuffed bottoms. They are 99% cotton and 1% elastane. To my understanding, elastane is a fancy word – probably French-derived or something – for spandex, which you and I know well as the manufacturer of most volleyball shorts. So, bully for spandex.
Finally, my watch of choice is a Victorinox Swiss Army Men’s Infantry #241563 with a dark brown leather buckled band, fixed stainless bezel and 40 mm case, and a black dial under scratch-resistant sapphire crystal.
Once he begins venturing out into the snowy runway (several times!), McClane is forced to borrow outerwear wherever he can get it. The first jacket he borrows is a dark blue vinyl “DULLES ENGINEERING” jacket with a zip front, insulated fur-trimmed hood, and black buttons. Silver reflectors also adorn the upper sleeves and the waistband.
During the final scenes, McClane is again in a borrowed jacket, this time a white heavyweight waxed cotton fireman’s jacket with a large brown suede collar, yellow florescent reflectors down the front, around the sleeves, and across the waistband, and very large hip pockets that close with a snapped flap. The jacket snaps down the front with silver “fireman’s clips” to ensure protection.
Go Big or Go Home
McClane is back and just as badass as he was in the first Die Hard. Despite the slow anti-smoking movement that began around this time, McClane joins fellow cop Martin Riggs in being a prominent on-screen smoker. He seems to grab from a soft pack of Real cigarettes around a half-hour in after his “just the fax” pun, though he would more clearly be smoking Marlboros in Die Hard with a Vengeance. His trusty silver Zippo lighter has the abnormal ability to ignite jet fuel despite most Zippos not generating nearly enough heat that would be required for such a feat.
Like all great holiday songs, the anthem of the first two Die Hards, “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” was written during a hot summer day. It was July 1945 in Hollywood, and lyricist Sammy Cahn and composer Jule Styne—the same brains behind “The Christmas Waltz”—wanted to take their minds off of the weather, which was one of the hottest days on record. They wrote the song best known as “Let It Snow”, and it was immediately recorded by the deep-voiced Vaughn Monroe, where it went to No. 1 on the Billboard charts within a year.
Even non-Christmas celebrants can appreciate the song as its non-seasonal lyrics can apply to any cold winter’s day. Despite this, it’s become a holiday standard with recordings by Sinatra (in 1950), Dean Martin (twice), and Doris Day (on the same 1964 album that features her version of “The Christmas Waltz”). However, it is Monroe’s original that has lived on for nearly seventy years thanks to its inclusion in both Die Hard and Die Hard 2. Even if you’re not celebrating Christmas today, you can appreciate this classic.
What to Imbibe
After the disappointing sip of pink champagne he took at the Christmas party in Nakatomi Plaza, we don’t see much in the way of John McClane drinking. While the terrorists show a preference for Miller beer—the mercernary named Miller (ha!) drinks an MGD while ex-Sgt. Cochrane has a bottle of Miller Lite—McClane is seen sitting alone at the airport bar, a glass of a brown liquor—almost certainly whiskey—on the rocks in front of him.
McClane is a no-frills guy, as I have been one of many to note. He would probably go with a good whiskey that isn’t too expensive and gets the job done. If I had to guess, and I do, I would say McClane had a glass of Wild Turkey – the 101 Proof version, of course. Enjoy responsibly.
Die Hard 2 was one of the first films to really put the Beretta 92FS on the map. McClane had previously used the 92F in Die Hard, as had Riggs in Lethal Weapon, but the 92FS soon took over as both detectives’ sidearm in the sequels. Like his Beretta in Die Hard, the 92FS used in Die Hard 2 had an extended slide and magazine release so that the left-handed Willis would be able to easily access it, since the Beretta doesn’t have ambidextrous releases like many of the Heckler & Koch line.
So what’s the difference between the 92F and the 92FS? Obviously an “S”. Okay, what else?
Above the left grip plate, which you see above, is a large circular hammer pin between the plate and the frame. On the 92FS, the pin’s diameter was increased with a corresponding groove cut into the left rear portion of the slide. This improvement is meant to keep the slide in place should the rear of the slide ever separate. It may sound like a small change, but slide failure was one of the few complaints about the early 92F models. Beretta also will upgrade the 92F to an “operational 92FS” for a small fee.
Granted, this is all from what I have read. My only personal experience with the Beretta 92F-series has been a few hundred rounds fired at the range on the 92F, the 92FS, and the .40-caliber 96G. It’s a fine, reliable weapon, but I don’t like the ejection port of the open-top slide.
Other than those differences, the two semi-automatic pistols are cosmetically identical with an 8.5″ overall length, a 4.9″ barrel (just short of the 1911’s 5″), and weighing in around 34 ounces. The standard 9×19 mm Parabellum holds 15 rounds, although some extended mags hold 17 and mags during the ’94-’04 assault weapons ban carried 10.
When it’s not tucked into his waistband for immediate action, McClane keeps his Beretta in a LHD shoulder holster as described above. The prominence of guns in this film truly shows how much the times have changed; the idea of anyone – cop or not – running around an airport with a handgun in 2013 is laughably unbelievable.
While we’re addressing the guns of Die Hard 2, the film makes two major firearm-related fallacies that, since this is my blog, I’ll address:
- McClane is tipped off that the terrorists are “pros” because the gun he found on Cochrane was “a Glock 7… a porcelain gun made in Germany that doesn’t show up on your airport metal detectors and costs more than you make in a month.” First off, wow. Bruce Willis, who knows a thing or two about guns, must’ve been shaking his head about having to read off that one. Not only is the Glock 17 (not “7”) from Austria, but it is made of polymer, not porcelain. There’s no such thing as a porcelain gun, nor is there any such thing as a gun that a metal detector can’t detect. Not only that, but wouldn’t a metal detector be able to detect the metal bullets inside? The “ice bullet” theory from Dick Tracy is not possible either.
- Sadler’s men and the “Army team” carry Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine gun variants. When they’re actually shooting to harm, they use red-taped magazines with live ammunition. When they want to make it look like they’re in a gunfight, they use blue-taped magazines with blank ammunition. What’s so wrong about this? You’ve seen it in movies before! Well, movies tend to get this wrong. Guns that “autoload” or cycle ammunition from a magazine (i.e. submachine guns, semi-automatic pistols, and assault rifles) must be blank-adapted, restricting the size of the interior of the barrel. Firing a live round through a blank-adapted barrel would severely damage, if not blow up, the firearm. However, this does not apply to manually-operated guns such as revolvers or bolt/lever/pump-action shotguns and rifles. Watch old movies; you’ll see a lot more revolvers and shotguns being fired than pistols.
How to Get the Look
- Navy-and-green Black Watch tartan plaid cotton flannel long-sleeved shirt with button-through breast pocket and button cuffs
- Beige and gray ribbed-knit shawl-collar sweater
- Dark brown corduroy double reverse-pleated trousers with belt loops, angled side pockets, jetted rear pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- Dark brown barleycorn tweed single-breasted raglan-sleeve coat
- Dark brown napped leather moc-toe work boots with dark-laced metal eyelets and speed hooks and black rubber Vibram soles
- White crew socks
- White ribbed cotton sleeveless A-style undershirt
- Plain silver wedding band
- TAG Heuer steel field watch with round black dial on dark brown leather strap
- Brown leather shoulder holster (LHD) with magazine pouches, for Beretta 92F-series pistol
Should you find yourself getting overheated, you can lose the overcoat and sweater and pick up a discarded utility jacket along the way. Bonus points if it belongs to an engineer or a fireman.
The base of the outfit—McClaine’s plaid shirt and corduroy slacks—were auctioned in June 2018. See the iCollector listing with more details here.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
Just once, I’d like a regular, normal Christmas. Eggnog… a fuckin’ Christmas tree… a little turkey… But, no. I gotta crawl around in this motherfuckin’ tin can.