Spy Game: Redford’s Brown Leather Jacket in Beirut
Robert Redford as Nathan Muir, shrewd CIA case officer
Beirut, Summer 1985
Film: Spy Game
Release Date: November 21, 2001
Director: Tony Scott
Costume Designer: Louise Frogley
Redford’s Costumer: David Page
Robert Redford finally teamed up with his spiritual successor Brad Pitt in the 2001 action hit Spy Game, directed by Tony Scott. Redford played Nathan D. Muir, the veteran CIA operative who took rookie Tom Bishop (Pitt) under his wing. Muir’s cynicism eventually clashes with Bishop’s idealism after nearly ten years on the job, and the two split after a morally disastrous mission in Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War.
The conflict in question that caused the rift in Muir and Bishop’s relationship is known as The War of the Camps (حرب المخيمات), roughly setting the action depicted to summer 1985. Bishop has been undercover in the area as a photojournalist named “Terry”, although his romance with the mysterious Elizabeth Hadley has been more than just a cover. When Muir arrives, he sees the danger in Bishop’s budding relationship, and his ultimate solution to meet the mission’s ultimate goal drives the two men apart.
In an interesting case of life reflecting art, the film had to move its production from Israel due to the escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the fall of 2000, and the “Beirut” scenes were instead filmed in Morocco.
What’d He Wear?
Muir arrives in Beirut wearing a dark brown leather jacket constructed of a rugged horsehide that looks as well-traveled as Muir himself. Likely vintage (or at least made to look so), it is styled like a classic flight jacket with a comfortable fit and large shirt-style collar. It closes down the front with a dark brass zipper, and the cuffs are plain with no buttons, zips, snaps, or other frills.
Muir’s leather jacket is very distinctive, particularly with the front yokes. Both sides have stitching extending horizontally from above the armpit before curving halfway across the jacket and falling vertically down each front panel of the jacket. In addition to the yoke, the left front panel of the jacket has a welted breast pocket that closes with a zipper. The jacket also has two slanted hand pockets above the waist line.
The back of the jacket is also distinctive with its self-belt, cinched rear waistband, and thin adjustable leather straps on each side that close with a small steel buckle.
Muir’s jacket is seen primarily in the Beirut scenes, but he is also briefly seen wearing it while training Bishop in Berlin in 1976, backing the thought that his rugged jacket has traveled with him for at least nine years.
America Suits has a replica available for around $130, but the site offers no photos or testimonials about the jacket in addition to the scanty description, so I can’t testify as to whether or not it’s an accurate replica.
For the bulk of this jacket’s screen time, Muir layers two shirts under the jacket. His base layer is a heathered gray cotton short-sleeve t-shirt, worn as an undershirt. Over the t-shirt, he wears a tan cotton utility shirt that buttons down a front placket.
Muir’s utility shirt has a slim spread collar and large patch pockets on the chest that close with a buttoning flap. Edge stitching is present throughout the shirt from the collar and the pocket flaps to the placket and the rounded button cuffs. Another shirt that he wears with this outfit is the light blue melange cotton button-up shirt which he also wears with his herringbone sport jacket during the 1991 scenes set in CIA’s Langley headquarters.
Muir tucks both shirts into a pair of olive gray double reverse-pleated trousers with a medium rise. The trousers have on-seam side pockets and two jetted rear pockets that each close through a dark brown button. The bottoms are plain-hemmed with a short break to ease his movements as he darts in and out of destroyed buildings on his way to breakfast.
Distressed leather is clearly the basis of all of Muir’s accessories. His belt is thick well-worn brown leather with a large rectangular dulled brass single-prong buckle.
The low boots he wears in Beirut are also – you guessed it – distressed brown leather. Muir’s boots have a sueded finish, tan laces, and light brown leather soles. He wears them with a pair of dark brown socks.
Muir accessorizes more than some of the BAMFs we see on the blog, but it’s all mostly functional. The watch on his right wrist is a Victorinox Swiss Army Officer’s 1884 with a 41 mm stainless case, white dial, and stainless link bracelet.
The one mostly decorative accessory of Muir’s is the silver finger on his right ring finger that Redford explained to the Hollywood Reporter last year:
It’s a very small silver ring that was given to me by Hopi Indians in 1966… Every film I have done since 1968, I’ve had that ring on my right-hand ring finger.
On the opposite hand, Muir wears a gold wedding ring, presumably to match his cover as a frice married man.
Redford also sports a pair of stylish Oliver Peoples “O’Malley” brown tortoiseshell eyeglasses throughout the film. Although Oliver Peoples wasn’t founded until 1986, the frames certainly look like something a classic spy like Muir would wear. It also makes sense that OP would make an appearance since Brad Pitt is known to be a big fan of the brand himself.
Go Big or Go Home
Muir and Bishop bantering and dodging bullets as they head to breakfast among the rubble is very evocative of a similar scene more than thirty years earlier when Newman and Redford did the same thing in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (albeit, Butch and the Kid were trying to escape breakfast).
Once they get there, Bishop impresses his mentor with the gift of a flask, full of Scotch. Almost makes me wish I was someone’s mentor…
Bishop: Happy Birthday, Nathan. Did you know Langley has seven different birth dates for you?
Muir: And they’re all wrong.
Bishop: I know. Believe me, it wasn’t easy. KGB, Mossad, also wrong. Fortunately, I was well trained.
How to Get the Look
Going into hostile territory? You’ll want to be prepared with a badass, functional look.
- Dark brown horsehide leather jacket with collar, brass zip front, curved front yokes, zip welted breast pocket, slanted hand pockets, belted rear, buckle side adjusters, and plain cuffs
- Tan cotton utility shirt with collar, front placket, flapped button-down patch pockets, and rounded button cuffs
- Heathered gray cotton short-sleeve crew neck t-shirt
- Olive gray double reverse-pleated trousers with belt loops, on-seam side pockets, button-through jetted rear pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Thick brown leather belt with large dulled brass single-prong buckle
- Brown sueded leather 5-eyelet low boots with tan laces and light brown leather soles
- Dark brown socks
- Victorinox Swiss Army Officer’s 1884 wristwatch with stainless 41mm case, white dial, and stainless link bracelet, worn on right wrist
- Silver Hopi ring with black imprint, worn on right ring finger
- Gold wedding band, worn on left ring finger
- Oliver Peoples “O’Malley” tortoiseshell-framed eyeglasses
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
Seventy-four casualties, an apartment block leveled, one dead terrorist? Yeah, happy.
Couple of things. I’d guess the jacket is a vintage horsehide, judging from the thin but rugged look. Tons of companies made these around the forties. Back then you could go in Sears or Penneys and buy a well made jacket. Californian also made great ones. Here are a couple of similar but ultimately incorrect jackets with details like this Redford’s.
Best bet for something similar is doing searches for keywords like vintage, horsehide, “half belt” or going to sites like The Fedora Lounge where they’re always discussing vintage togs like this. Check out Bruce Willis’ jacket in Surrogates for another great similar jacket.
The other thing is that the eyeglass frame worn is the Oliver Peoples O’Malley, not the Riley. Up in the corner of the frame front where the temples attach there are two pins in most OP glasses. On the Riley, the two pins are laid out horizontally but on the O’Malley, vertically. They’re similar in shape, the O’Mally slightly taller and rounder and the Riley flatter, ever slightly more oval comparatively, so I can see where one would make the mistake. Also, the O’Mally wasn’t made for several years and the Riley was the closest thing sold during that time so that could be why they’re misidentified on some sites. OP reintroduced the O’M a few years ago though(I think the RIley has gone away), including the color worn by Redford(Brown Tortoise Cream, tortoise on the outside/cream inside), so it’s available easily. I have a couple of Rileys and several O’Malleys(currently wearing the Oliver Peoples Gregory Peck in the Raintree color, kind of a fan of their glasses) and I love them both so you can’t go wrong either way. Here’s a shot of the O”Malley in the correct color. The only difference with the older ones is they didn’t have the OP badge at the end of the left temple and the inside writing was engraved rather than printed.
Thanks for that info…….making a great post better.
Beirut’s sunglasses are the Randolph Aviator II