Indiana Jones’ White Dinner Jacket
Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones, adventurer and archaeology professor
Shanghai, Summer 1935
Film: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Release Date: May 23, 1984
Director: Steven Spielberg
Costume Designer: Anthony Powell
For the first Indiana Jones post on BAMF Style, one might expect to see the iconic leather jacket, fedora, and bullwhip costume. However, Indy’s first chronological appearance in the original trilogy is at the outset of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom when Indy dons his finest duds to meet with Shanghai crime boss Lao Che at the hopping Club Obi Wan.
What’d He Wear?
English costume designer Anthony Powell set himself apart as a master of 1930s film wardrobes for a few decades, dressing everyone from Indiana Jones to the oft-doomed vacationers in several lavish Agatha Christie adaptations.
One of Powell’s earlier designs, a white dinner jacket worn by Nicholas Clay as Patrick Redfern in Evil Under the Sun, was also featured on BAMF Style last summer. Two years after Evil Under the Sun, Powell returned to the drawing board to create a white dinner jacket for another ’30s gentleman in a warm climate.
Like Patrick Redfern, Indy would’ve been taking a cue from the tropical resorts where gents were now sporting white or off-white dinner jackets in warmer climates. As Black Tie Guide says: “White dinner jackets premiered alongside the mess jacket in resorts like Palm Beach and Cannes, albeit with much less fanfare. Constructed of cotton drill, linen, or silk they were originally worn with either black or white trousers of tropical weight wool.”
Based on the texture and thickness, Indy’s cream dinner jacket appears to be tropical wool or possibly a cotton and wool blend. It is single-breasted with a single covered button in the front. The wide, silk-faced peak lapels extend sharply toward the padded shoulders and roped sleeveheads. (More about the silk facings later.)
Dr. Jones embellishes his look with not one but two added touches. He folds a white linen handkerchief into the welted breast pocket and pins a large red carnation to the left lapel.
Indy’s dinner jacket also has jetted hip pockets, a ventless back, and 4-button cuffs in mother-of-pearl. Questionable silk facings aside, it would’ve been a very stylish jacket for 1935 before men’s formalwear entered a more double-breasted phase as seen on the Redfern jacket and in Casablanca.
Black Tie Guide also notes the rising popularity of formal waistcoats in the 1930s: ‘Waistcoats have become a high style item,’ observed Apparel Arts in 1933. ‘No more of the thick ill-fitting affairs but today a suave and sleek arrangement.'” Indy’s nod to this “suave and sleek arrangement” is a black silk single-breasted waistcoat with a low V-shaped front opening. Although backless designs were entering the men’s fashion realm, Indy’s vest appears to be the more traditional full-back version.
Indy’s waistcoat has a 4-button front – each button covered in black satin – with a notched bottom. The jacket covers the vest most of the time, but it appears to have wide shawl lapels and no pockets.
Indy properly wears a pair of black formal trousers made of tropical-weight wool with a single satin stripe down each side to the plain-hemmed bottoms.
Indy’s shirt is a more traditional white plain front bib that is now more associated with white tie. Two onyx studs are visible between the detachable wing collar and the bottom of the waistcoat opening. The shirt’s single cuffs are fastened by a pair of unique bronze cuff links depicting the Eye of Horus, the Egyptian god of creation. According to Indy Props, which recreated its own pair in gold-plated or bronze-plated metal: “This symbol represents royal authority as well as mathematical signs used by the Egyptians. This design of cufflinks is also fitting for the time period, with the Egyptian art-deco renaissance of the 1920s and 30s.” Indy’s cuff links provide a unique, adventurous touch to an otherwise traditional outfit.
Another non-traditional – and more disappointing – aspect of the outfit is Indy’s black satin bow tie. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a black satin bow tie with a white dinner jacket, Indy wears a pre-tied model rather than a self-tie model. This would be less grievous if it wasn’t for Indy’s wing collar which fails to obscure the hook closure on the left side of the tie knot.
Indy’s shoes are a correct pair of black patent leather longwing oxfords, best seen when he scrambles all over the floor of Club Obi Wan in search of an antidote. We briefly see his socks, also black and likely cotton.
The oft-referenced Black Tie Guide directly mentions this outfit in a blog post from last summer, commenting that “[the silk facing] might be legitimate for the 1980s production timeline it certainly wasn’t for the 1930s narrative. Of the dozens of Depression-era white DJ references I have on file from leading menswear periodicals, none of them suggest anything but self facings.” Author Peter Marshall also notes that “the black waistcoat would have been equally unorthodox back in the day.” Given Mr. Marshall’s extensive research into the history of formalwear, I would accept his word and say that Indy’s formal attire is more an ’80s interpretation of the ’30s than an actual reflection of the period’s fashions.
What to Imbibe
Indy and his criminal companions do better than James Bond’s ten-year-old champagne by sipping from a bottle of Moët & Chandon 1915… which would’ve been a full twenty years old by the time of the film’s setting. Modern Moët drinkers may be used to seeing the traditional “Brut Imperial” label, but here we see a “Dry Imperial” label.
Of course, you’ll want to avoid any poisoned coupes of Moët. Even if you have the antidote, you never know what you’ll have to do to get your hands on it.
How to Get the Look
While not a perfect translation of ’30s formalwear, Indy’s off-white dinner jacket provides a cool template for making an impression on your weekend getaway. (In Dr. Jones’ case, that would be a literal getaway.)
- Cream wool-blend single-breasted dinner jacket with wide peak lapels, single covered-button front, welted breast pocket, jetted hip pockets, 4-button mother-of-pearl cuffs, and ventless back
- Black satin silk single-breasted 4-button waistcoat with wide shawl lapels and notched bottom
- Black tropical wool formal trousers with satin side stripes and plain-hemmed bottoms
- White formal dress shirt with detachable wing collar, plain front bib, two onyx shirt studs, and single cuffs
- Black satin silk bow tie
- Bronze deco-style “Eye of Horus” cuff links
- Black patent leather longwing oxfords
- Black cotton socks
Indy accessorizes with a large red lapel carnation and a folded white silk pocket square.
Indiana: Where’s my gun? WHERE’S MY GUN?
Willie: I burned by fingers and I cracked a nail!
Although it is only briefly spotted as Indy fights back against Lao Che’s gangsters, the gun used in Temple of Doom has been determined to be a Colt Official Police revolver with a 4″ barrel, chambered in .38 Special. The fact that Indy loses his Official Police in the first scene may explain why he has a different weapon, a Smith & Wesson, by the time of the next adventure (Raiders of the Lost Ark).
Due to its quick and blurred screen time, many assumed that this standard-looking American revolver was the same as the Smith & Wesson Hand Ejector used in Raiders of the Lost Ark. IndyGear.com, however, has been able to definitely prove that it was an Official Police. IndyGear.com researched the three handguns rented for the film’s production, a Colt Official Police .38 with a 4″ barrel, a Smith & Wesson Model 10 .38 with a 5″ barrel and lanyard ring, and a Webley Green revolver that was meant to be used as Indy’s “hero” gun (explaining the larger Webley-sized holster he wears later).
Interestingly, this car chase through Shanghai is the only time that Indy uses a handgun throughout the film.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie, or the whole series.
I suggest you give me what you owe me… or anything goes!