Lt. Aldo Raine Leads the Inglourious Basterds

Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo Raine in Inglourious Basterds (2009).

Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo Raine in Inglourious Basterds (2009).

Vitals

Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo Raine, U.S. Army OSS officer and redneck leader of the “Inglourious Basterds”

Occupied France, Fall 1942

Film: Inglourious Basterds
Release Date: August 21, 2009
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Costume Designer: Anna B. Sheppard
Brad Pitt’s Personal Costumer: Isabell Logen (though I’m not sure what her contribution was to this particular outfit)

Background

Surprisingly to most, I was a late comer to Tarantino’s work. It wasn’t until my freshman year of college in the fall of 2007 when I first saw Reservoir Dogs and – entranced – I soon caught up by getting my hands on Pulp FictionJackie BrownTrue Romance, and Death Proof. (Somehow, neither Kill Bill film made the cut until years later.) Thus, Inglourious Basterds was the first QT flick I actually saw newly released in theaters.

I was one of many who were looking forward to Inglourious Basterds, mostly expecting what the trailers promised – a badass World War II action piece starring Brad Pitt as the leader of a band of badass Jewish-American soldiers. What I didn’t expect was a damn near epic piece of revisionist history that gave Hitler the violent death he deserved (SPOILER ALERT!) and relegated “Aldo the Apache”‘s band of rebels to bookend what became a deserving showcase for the multi-lingual and multi-talented Christoph Waltz.

Though I disagree with Aldo’s closing meta-statement to Ryan from The Office Utivich that this is QT’s masterpiece (a title I would bestow upon Pulp Fiction), it perfectly fits the Tarantino dictum of being a movie full of exactly what people want to see. The bad guys get what’s coming to them, the best of the good guys survives to tell about, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun getting there.

What’d He Wear?

After ditching his Army uniform, Aldo goes deep undercover into occupied France in a blue pea coat, brown slacks, sweater, and boots. Although comprised of many military-inspired elements, the Basterds’ clothing is mostly civilian attire to keep them inconspicuous… although the automatic weapons in their hands may give away the gambit.

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When we first come across the Basterds somewhere in France around the fall of 1942, they’re scalp-deep in the aftermath of an assault on a Nazi squad. Aldo the Apache oversees the proceedings in a warm pea coat constructed of heavy navy blue wool. The pea coat – or “reefer” to the Brits – certainly has military origins, but Lt. Raine’s example doesn’t appear to be a military version (at least not a U.S. military version).

Aldo’s belt conceals the middle of the coat, but it appears to only have two buttons; it was either constructed that way or the other buttons were meant to have fallen off. The large lapels have stitched edges, and the padded shoulders give the jacket increased bulk. The only exterior pockets are two slanted handwarmers.

"Now if you ever want to eat a sauerkraut sandwich again, you gotta show me on this map where they are, you gotta tell me how many there are, and you gotta tell me what kinda artillery they're carrying with 'em."

“Now if you ever want to eat a sauerkraut sandwich again, you gotta show me on this map where they are, you gotta tell me how many there are, and you gotta tell me what kinda artillery they’re carrying with ’em.”

The pea coat’s sleeves are very distinctive with brown leather trim on the edges and a pointed half-tab that closes with a single button on each cuff. There are also two non-functioning buttons on the coat’s half-belted back.

During the Basterds’ first combat appearance, Aldo wears plenty of layers under his pea coat. The most prominent is a dark brown long-sleeve ribbed wool sweater. The sweater’s high open neck pops out over the jacket’s collar with brown leather knot buttons visible. Although not the same as the G.I. version, it’s likely based on the olive drab WWII “high neck” wool jumper as described here.

Aldo warns the Nazi sergeant about The Bear Jew.

Aldo warns the Nazi sergeant about The Bear Jew, showing the triple layers under his pea coat.

Aldo further combats the cold with a lightweight blue scarf loosely tied around his neck. It hangs low enough that his unexplained throat scar remains revealed. Beneath the sweater, Aldo double layers both gray and light brown long-sleeve henley shirts. The scarf covers up most of the shirts’ chest areas, but both shirts’ sleeves can be seen poking through under the pea coat cuffs.

His trousers are dark brown corduroys with a thin wale. Corduroy pants are a traditional choice for keeping warm (are you seeing a pattern here?) and are the least military-like of his attire.

Aldo wears a thick dark brown leather belt outside his pea coat. The leather is obviously well-worn, fitting his rugged woodsman-type persona, with a brown leather scabbard on the left side for his scalping knife. The belt closes in the front through a dulled metal clasp.

Aldo's thick belt is durable enough to carry both his pistol holster and knife scabbard.

Aldo’s thick belt is durable enough to carry both his pistol holster and knife scabbard.

A black leather flapped holster is on the right side of his belt. Aldo doesn’t use a pistol on screen until he is handed Hans Landa’s P38 at the end of the film, but it’s likely that he is carrying his own Walther P38 here as the “Basterds” have a tendency to carry the weapons of their enemies.

His footwear throughout the Basterds’ time in France is a pair of tall dark brown leather riding boots with adjustable straps at the top and four laces across the throat. Peeking over the top of the boots are a pair of brown wool knit leg warmers, similar to these. Taking into account his warm layers from head to toe, it’s obvious that Aldo Raine knows how to dress for the cold.

IBAldo-CL-boots

Aldo tops it all off – literally – with a black & gray specked woolen newsboy cap.

About two years later, we catch up with the Basterds on the eve of the D-Day attacks. They’re still deep in the heart of occupied France, fighting their own battles and killing as many Nazis as possible. Given the warmer time of year, Aldo’s under layers are seen more than his coat and scarf, although he still wears both while his men are prepping for the Nadine tavern rendezvous. (This coat – a Belstaff – is different with fur collars; it is seen best in promotional material but barely shown in the finished film.)

Belstaff made a big deal about one of its custom-designed hero coats appearing in Inglourious Basterds, neglecting to mention that it only appears in one shot.

Belstaff made a big deal about one of its custom-designed hero coats appearing in Inglourious Basterds, neglecting to mention that it only appears in one shot.

After the gun smoke has cleared, Aldo and his remaining Basterds confer with Bridget von Hammersmark in a doctor’s operating room. Having ditched the pea coat, Aldo paces the room in a dark blue wool v-neck sweater vest with a ribbed waistband. This would’ve been a very popular choice in 1944, and it’s refreshing to see that Pitt wasn’t averse to the connotations of a sweater vest. Indeed, we haven’t seen a guy this badass wearing one since Dirty Harry.

IBAldo-CL2-vest

Aldo’s shirt for the Nadine scene is light gray cotton with thin blue and red stripes that, paired with the dark blue sweater vest, can make it appear solid blue in some light. It has a soft spread collar and button cuffs, although he wears his sleeves rolled up above the elbow. The off-white plastic buttons fasten down a front placket, although he keeps the top few open to reveal a light brown henley underneath.

IBAldo-CL2-shirts

Aldo mulls over the adjustments to the plan.

He also wears a different pair of brown trousers in this scene. These are dark brown pinstripe high-rise trousers with reverse pleats that, like the corduroys, he tucks into his boot tops. They have a large, baggy fit and a straight front fly. The side pockets are slanted, and the right rear pocket is jetted with a button to close.

IBAldo-CL2-pants

After these scenes, Aldo’s next appearance is at a Paris film premiere in a white dinner jacket and black tie. We’ll get to that outfit later.

Go Big or Go Home

QT deliberately gives Aldo Raine an ambiguous history, somewhat at odds with Raine’s loquacious personality. What we do know is that he hails from Maynardville, Tennessee and declares himself to be a direct descendant of legendary mountain man Jim Bridger, although it could be that – like Bridger himself – Aldo is not immune to the occasional tall tale. Aldo recalls his history as a moonshiner in the hills of Tennessee. His progressive views clash with his hillbilly tendencies and background, and this probably explains the failed lynching that led to the ambiguous scar on his throat.

At some point, Aldo joined the U.S. Army and was commissioned as a first lieutenant in the 1st Special Service Force (“The Devil’s Brigade”), an elite commando unit organized in 1942 and comprised of both American and Canadian soldiers. It is further implied that the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the wartime predecessor of CIA, chose Lt. Raine to lead the “Basterds”‘ guerilla mission into occupied France.

Throughout the “Basterds”‘ violent mission across France, Aldo is frequently sen snuffing powdered tobacco from a small box with the Nazi eagle engraved on it. Though the box was almost certainly taken from a captured or killed enemy (as were many of the group’s weapons), this is likely an old habit of his from his Appalachian upbringing.

Aldo clears his mind during an interrogation.

Aldo clears his mind during an interrogation.

In QT’s version of history, Lt. Raine and PFC Smithson Utivich – the two known surviving “Basterds” – are directly credited for ending World War II in Europe by leading the mission that killed Hitler and compelling Hans Landa to surrender Germany to them. After the war, Raine likely resumed his moonshining activities with the likes of Robert Mitchum’s Thunder Road character. He certainly raised a family, as Brad Pitt’s character Floyd – the pothead on the couch in True Romance – is said to be Aldo’s great-grandson. (Another interesting callback to Pitt’s career is his aversion to “fightin’ in a basement”… an activity that secured his stardom in 1999.)

How to Get the Look

Even if you’re not a violent military commando, Aldo’s look is both fashionable and smart for battling the cold… and battling the Nazis.

IBAldo-crop

  • Navy blue wool pea coat with slanted handwarmer pockets, 2-button front, half-belted back, 1-button pointed-tab cuffs, and brown leather sleeve trim
  • Brown ribbed wool high-neck sweater with brown leather-knotted buttons
  • Light brown long-sleeve henley shirt
  • Dark brown corduroy trousers
  • Dark brown leather 4-eyelet high-rise riding boots
  • Brown wool knit legwarmers
  • Blue lightweight scarf
  • Gray & black specked woolen newsboy cap

The sweater can also be swapped out for a dark blue wool sweater vest and light gray striped shirt. On an especially brisk day, Aldo chose to layer two henley shirts.

The Gun

Like his fellow “basterds” Wicki and Hirschberg, Lt. Aldo Raine arms himself with a Karabiner 98k bolt-action rifle, likely captured from a German soldier as they were the standard service rifle of the Wehrmacht during World War II. As the group’s leader, Lt. Raine also has proudly (and crudely) scratched “INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS” into the butt, thus giving the group and the film its popularly misspelled moniker.

Aldo spells it all out for us... even if spelling isn't necessarily his strong suit.

Aldo spells it all out for us… even if spelling isn’t necessarily his strong suit.

The Karabiner 98k is a grandchild of Mauser’s venerable Gewehr 98 rifle that had served the German military for nearly forty years. Shortly after Hitler took power, the Heereswaffenamt ordered a new military rifle. The Gewehr 98’s design was shortened, modified, and redeveloped as the Karabiner 98 Kurz (or “Carbine 98 Short”), chambered in the same 7.92×57 mm Mauser cartridge – loaded into an internal magazine with a 5-round stripper clip – as its predecessor. With nearly 15 million rifles produced, the Karabiner 98k gained a reputation as a reliable and accurate service rifle and was in great demand by capturing forces on both fronts, although it appeared far more often in Soviet hands.

The Knife

Much Internet speculation has focused on determining the exact variant of Aldo the Apache’s Bowie knife, and it is generally agreed that he carries a Smith & Wesson “Texas Hold ‘Em” model with the logo polished off. A guard and stag handle were added by the props department to give it a more generic look.

The Bear Jew and the Apache survey their most recent work.

The Bear Jew and the Apache survey their most recent work.

The standard Smith & Wesson Texas Hold ‘Em knife is still available on Amazon.

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Buy the movie.

The Quote

You probably heard we ain’t in the prisoner-takin’ business… we in the killin’ Nazi business. And cousin, business is a-boomin’!

2 comments

  1. Roman

    In defense of Cyril Figgis – he is badass in his own right: he is talented field agent (not regarding combat, but think of “El Contador”), he usurped a country and ruled it for a year or so. Besides, well, – he happens to be a kickass accountant! (But it did sound a lot better in his head.)

    And, Arthur from Inception also wore sweater vest in a couple of scenes, and he’s also badass, but less so as he didn’t scalp any Nazi.

    Like

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