George Clooney as Jack (aka “Edward”), weary hitman and gunsmith
Castel del Monte, Abruzzo, Italy, April 2010
Film: The American
Release Date: September 1, 2010
Director: Anton Corbijn
Costume Designer: Suttirat Anne Larlarb
A very informative article from the Focus Features archives features Suttirat Anne Larlarb, The American‘s costume designer, discussing the costumes worn by the main characters in the film. About Clooney’s character, she explains:
Jack needs to be anonymous, to blend in with his surroundings. He is trying to avoid his past and to be a normal person, so he picks a small Italian town, almost a village, to live in. To have someone like George Clooney playing such a character for me meant stripping away from him anything that was glamorous or fashion forward. It was very necessary to normalize him, especially because we were not in a fashion-forward city like Rome or Milan. He has picked a small town with 75-year-old men sitting on benches drinking their cappuccinos; he has to blend into that.
But, at the same time, Jack is played by one of the best-dressed men on the planet, and we didn’t want to strip him of his handsomeness and individuality. It was a balance.”
After arriving in the remote village of Castel del Monte from Rome, he sheds his more distinctive and traditionally hitman-worthy double coat and spends his days (and nights) sporting a casual field jacket from Ermenegildo Zegna, which provided much of the film’s attire.
Jack spends much of his time in Abruzzo focused on the job he was sent to do: perfecting a rifle for an assassination and meeting with the client to test it. However, the lonely and increasingly cynical assassin also begins taking solace with Clara, a beautiful and oft-naked Italian prostitute, whom he could be potentially happy with if only he had learned how to trust.
What’d He Wear?
The American does a fine job of keeping Jack’s wardrobe both realistically believable and useful. He looks sharp, but only because he happens to feel comfortably wearing sharp clothing. (It also helps that he is played by George Clooney.) We never get the impression that he is trying to show off; in fact, he is ably blending in with the “75-year-old men drinking cappuccinos” that Larlarb mentioned. He rotates his clothing effectively, pairing shirts, jackets, and trousers differently from day to day based on comfort and activity level.
The staple of his Abruzzo wardrobe is the gray field jacket mentioned above. It is a very utilitarian garment, but it has a very clean and correct military-inspired presentation, especially when he wears it fastened. The jacket is almost definitely an Ermenegildo Zegna garment, as they received notable publicity for supplying most of Clooney’s costumes in the film, including his charcoal suit in the finale.
The front features both a zipper and four buttons to close, both ending at waist level to allow the skirt of the jacket to flap openly even when the jacket is closed.
There are three outer pockets. The chest pocket on his left breast is flapped and closes with a button, which he typically keeps fastened. In addition, there is a welted pocket on each hip with a buttoning flap, although the flaps are almost always tucked into the pockets themselves, leaving the buttons exposed. This could be a personal choice of Jack’s to allow him quicker access to the pocket contents.
The jacket has reddish-brown exposed stitching that nicely complements most of the brown-toned clothing that Jack wears with it. The three-row top-stitching is present on the lapels and pocket flaps, but it is especially noticeable on the shoulders and upper back of the jacket. The cuffs of the jacket are also set apart by the stitching, but they are otherwise plain cuffs with no buttons or zips.
While the classic M-65 field jacket (think Taxi Driver) was traditionally a cotton and nylon blend, the more fashion-oriented Zegna variant probably leans closer to the cotton side of the spectrum.
Jack’s field jacket is a very reasonable and sensible choice for a professional. It is fitted around the waistband with no vents, flaps, or tabs present that could potentially snag when he needs to jump into action.
Jack often pairs the jacket with the same zip-front cardigan sweater that he wore at the train station in Rome. To refresh your memory – or save you the time of reading that post – the sweater is a dark brown herringbone wool that zips all the way down and has elasticized cuffs. It is a very versatile garment, serving the double purpose of keeping Jack warm in a fashionable manner as well as giving him an extra layer to conceal his PPK. Castel del Monte is located in the L’Aquila province of Abruzzo, where April temperatures typically fluctuate between 40°F and 60°F. Thus, Jack is wise to wear various and easily removable layers.
Jack also wears several pairs of trousers, all in various shades of brown. There is some danger is pairing brown trousers to a brown top (the sweater), but both the differing shades of brown and the contrasting shirts underneath keep Jack from looking like a UPS employee.
The trousers – which range in color from mink to dark chocolate brown – are all flat front with belt loops, open side pockets, jetted button-through rear pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms with a full break. Occasionally, Jack also wears a pair of more casual cargo pants in dark gray, typically when spending the day gunsmithing.
Although most of his clothing is made by Zegna, a label visible on his mink-colored trousers while doing his morning exercise routine appears to be something else. I’m tempted to say Dockers for some reason, but can anyone shed more light on the possible brand?
Keeping with what is evidently his favorite (and most tactically appropriate) color, Jack wears a dark brown leather belt with a silver buckle.
Jack wears many different shirts while in Abruzzo – some paired with the sweater and some worn alone.
The first shirt we see has a small white and gray check pattern. He almost always wears this with the sweater zipped up over it, so we have to infer the details. It is definitely long-sleeved with buttoned cuffs, and it also appears to have a button-down collar and almost definitely a front placket.
Very briefly, later in the film, Jack lays in bed while wearing this shirt underneath a soft black shirt-jacket. Not much is visible about this garment other than the black horn buttons down the front and the flapped chest pocket. It is definitely not the dark brown zip-up sweater, but it doesn’t match anything else worn by Jack in the film.
Next, Jack drives into town for a meeting at an outdoor café. For this encounter, he wears a gray soft cotton long-sleeve polo shirt with three plastic buttons. It should be noted that these buttons are not on a placket.
Zegna currently makes a long-sleeve polo constructed of a cotton and silk blend; given the luxurious look of this shirt, it’s very possible that there was also some silk in its construction.
The shirt worn by Clooney in the film also has elasticized cuffs, best seen when he is in bed, reading about butterflies.
For much of the construction of his Ruger Mini-14 rifle, Jack wears a blue button-up shirt, worn open over a heathered gray cotton t-shirt. The long-sleeved blue shirt has seven white buttons down a front placket (plus two extra buttons on the bottom) and a contrasting inner collar with a blue and green tattersall pattern on a white ground.
The heathered gray cotton t-shirt is one of the most basic items of a man’s wardrobe, and I feel confident saying that most men in the civilized world own at least one. If you don’t think you know what heather means – in terms of clothing – you have definitely seen it. Heather is a series of interwoven yarns, often of mixed colors, producing streaks in the fabric to create an alternating appearance. It is very commonly used with multiple shades of gray, although many manufacturers also heather gray with other colors for a muted shade.
Jack finds very diverse uses for his gray cotton t-shirt, wearing it as an undershirt for a button-down or alone with the field jacket and brown sweater.
When dining with Father Benedetto, Jack again wears the brown sweater, this time zipped up over a white long-sleeve shirt with buttoned cuffs. This is likely the same shirt he wears for his date with Clara, which has no front placket and a spread collar with no buttons.
Jack wears a different white shirt the next day. This shirt is off-white linen with a spread collar, plain front, and long sleeves with buttoned cuffs, which he typically rolls up. He wears his light gray t-shirt underneath.
Jack and his client, Mathilde, take to the woods for a marksmanship session, where Mathilde tests his handiwork with the Ruger Mini-14. Underneath his field jacket and brown sweater, Jack wears a light blue long-sleeve shirt with a button-down collar, buttoned cuffs, and a front placket.
Jack’s underclothing is also consistent throughout the film. He wears a black ribbed sleeveless A-shirt and a pair of dark gray boxer briefs. It’s possible that these sartorial choices were made to show that, despite what he may wear on the appearance, he is always dark underneath, but that might be taking metaphors a bit too far.
The brown motif again rears its head with Jack’s footwear as his typical footwear is a pair of well-traveled brown leather hiking boots. He also seems to wear a lighter pair of tan suede slip-on boots, but the hiking boots get much more screen time.
The piece of Jack’s wardrobe that gets the most focused screen time, however, is his stunning Omega Speedmaster Professional. The watch is stainless with a round 42mm case on a black calfskin strap. The black face has three sub-dials at 3:00, 6:00, and 9:00.
If you really like Jack’s Omega, you can pick one up on Amazon for $3,900. Amazon kindly tosses in free shipping, because paying a few extra bucks for a $3,900 watch would really be the last straw.
Jack’s only other accessory is his pair of bronze-framed Ermenegildo Zegna SZ3174 aviator sunglasses with brown polarized lenses.
These are much more low-key than the tortoiseshell Persols he wore earlier in the film and much more in line with his character. Although they are no longer in production, you can still pick up a similar pair from SmartBuyGlasses.com for about $220.
Go Big or Go Home
Jack is a nice contrast from the typical movie assassin. Sure, he’s tough and talented, but he isn’t overly macho. He broods, growing increasingly cynical about his life choices. If you’re a real-life hitman, learn from Jack that you should change professions before it’s too late!
He wisely keeps in shape with a morning routine of rigorous exercises all within the confines of his rented room. If the cost of a gym membership is your only excuse for not working out, Jack just proved that you’re pretty foolish. Plus, it means he is more than ready when an armed Swedish assassin forces him into a high speed motorcycle chase.
Jack also follows the old “when in Rome…” adage, enjoying the region’s finest red and white grapes with glasses of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Asprinio wines, respectively.
In possibly the greatest interpretation of religious advice ever, Jack is told by the local Catholic priest, Father Benedetto, that he lives in “a place without love”. In response, Jack allows himself to fall in love with Clara, a lovely soiled dove who spends most of the film sans clothing.
But after all, can you blame him?
The film’s Italian setting is strongly present throughout, not least of all with its soundtrack, including such well-known Italian pop as Renato Carosone’s 1956 song “Tu Vuò Fà L’Americano” about an Italian living the American lifestyle, a reverse of the American assassin in the film who revels in the quieter Italian culture. The song was revived in 2010 for younger audiences when it was sampled (aka stolen) by Yolanda Be Cool for their song “We No Speak Americano”.
Patty Pravo’s early hit “La Bambola” also features in the film. Although Carosone’s song is more relatable to Jack’s situation, Pravo’s more mournful song about a bitterly abused woman better fits the overall tone of the film than Carosone’s lighthearted anthem.
How to Get the Look
Jack uses a timeless mixture of both grays and browns to fashionably blend in with his Italian surroundings. His neutral layers under a field jacket are a fine choice for a man who likes to maintain a look that blends simplicity, comfort, and utility, all while looking fashionably understated.
- Gray field jacket with a zip/4-button front, button-flapped chest pocket, button-flapped hip pockets, plain cuffs, plain waistband, and reddish-brown three-row top stitching
- Dark brown herringbone wool full-zip cardigan sweater with elasticized cuffs
- Light blue long-sleeve shirt with front placket, button-down collar, and buttoned cuffs
- Heathered gray short-sleeve cotton t-shirt
- Brown casual flat front trousers with side pockets, button-through jetted rear pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms with a full break
- Brown leather laced hiking boots
- Bronze-framed Ermenegildo Zegna SZ3174 aviator sunglasses with brown polarized lenses
- Omega Speedmaster Professional wristwatch on a black calfskin strap
Almost all of Jack’s clothing was made by Ermenegildo Zegna, but similar (and much more affordable) retailers like Gap, J. Crew, and Nordstrom offer items that would present the same look and feel without the resulting lightness in your wallet.
The primary job that Jack has been contracted for involves the customization of a Ruger Mini-14GBF semi-automatic rifle. He refers to the rifle as a “Ruger M14”, which is inaccurate but not too far off track as the Mini-14 was developed with the military M14 rifle as a model. The eventual name, Mini-14, is meant to imply that Ruger’s rifle is a smaller version of the M14.
Ruger introduced the Mini-14 in 1974, immediately finding popularity in both the police and private sectors. It was designed by L. James Sullivan and William B. Ruger, who implemented an investment cast, heat-treated receiver and a “simple, rugged Garand-style breechbolt locking system, with a fixed-piston gas system and self-cleaning, moving gas cylinder” according to Ruger’s website. This locking system is indeed a version of the rifle locking system found on both the M1 Garand and the M14.
The standard barrel is 18.5″, and the rifle is available in either a blued or stainless finish with hardwood, synthetic, or laminated stocks. Jack’s rifle is a very classic looking sporter rifle with a blued finish and hardwood stock, although he modifies it as an assassin’s weapon with a scope and homemade suppressor. It can fire 5.56×45 mm NATO or .223 Remington ammunition in box magazines of 5, 10, 20, or 30 rounds. Jack’s Ruger is loaded with 10-round magazines.
Another difference between Jack’s Ruger and the standard Mini-14 is the folding paratrooper stock. This indicates that Jack is modifying a Mini-14GB rather than just a Mini-14, and it was likely made prior to 2005. The folding stock allows for greater concealment and portability, which would make sense for an assassin like Jack or his client Mathilde.
Like most movie assassins, Jack also has his own cool carry piece. He opts for James Bond’s preference, a classic blued Walther PPK in 7.65 mm (.32 ACP) with black plastic grips. A fine closeup of Jack’s pistol when he is pulling it out of a picnic basket reveals that it is of Cold War-era manufacture, having been made in West Germany. Many PPKs used in American productions are typically contracted versions by INTERARMS or Smith & Wesson, but this is a genuine Walther, likely due to the genuine European locations and organizations involved in the making of The American.
As we see when he chases down the motorcycle assassin, Jack’s PPK can also fit a “Hollywood suppressor”, although we typically see it unsuppressed. When he is sleeping in his hotel room, he keeps the PPK within his reach, holstered by the bed.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Buy the movie.
I don’t think God is very interested in me, Father.