All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance, stir-crazy writer
Silver Creek, Colorado, Winter 1979
Film: The Shining
Release Date: May 23, 1980
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Costume Designer: Milena Canonero
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Happy Halloween, BAMF Style readers! What better way to observe the most haunted holiday than with a look at one of the scariest and most suspenseful psychological horror movies, The Shining.
Three years after Stephen King’s novel was published, Stanley Kubrick brought his own adaptation of the story to the big screen with a screenplay co-written by novelist Diane Johnson, significantly altering the characters and motivations of the source novel.
Perhaps most significantly—and certainly cited as one of King’s greatest dissatisfactions with the movie—was Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of the central character, Jack Torrance, the new caretaker who brings his family to the Overlook Hotel for the winter and hopes the seclusion will help him with his writing… and to continue overcoming his battle with alcoholism. “Instead of playing a normal man who becomes insane, Nicholson portrays a crazy man attempting to remain sane,” wrote Cinefantastique editor Frederick S. Clarke in 1996.
Despite—or perhaps due to—Kubrick’s shift of Jack Torrance from sympathetically conflicted to singularly crazy, the resulting movie remains a major subject of speculative interpretation among film scholars and novices for nearly four decades. Is The Shining an allegory for the Holocaust (as Geoffrey Cocks argued) or the genocide of Native Americans (as Bill Blakemore suggested), or is it an indictment of American imperialism as John Capo has concluded?
What’d He Wear?
Jack’s signature outfit for much of The Shining takes its inspiration from classic blue-collar workwear. He is, after all, the hotel’s caretaker. He’s always been the caretaker.
Several film scholars have suggested that Stanley Kubrick directed The Shining as an allegory for American imperialism, thus making Jack’s red, white, and blue outfit take on a heavier significance.
According to the film’s costume designer, four-time Oscar winner Milena Canonero, the burgundy corduroy blouson jacket was hand-picked by Jack Nicholson from his own personal wardrobe for his character to wear in these scenes and an additional 11 replicas of the jacket were thus ordered for the production.
The original jacket was made by Margaret Howell, a British designer who got her start with menswear in the 1970s before expanding to design for women as well. Oliver Franklin-Wallis reported for British GQ in spring 2012 that Margaret Howell had just updated and reissued Nicholson’s iconic corded jacket the previous fall, selling for £465 and available “in two new fabrics, grey marl and blue gabardine, and with a slightly cropped silhouette.”
As of the fall of 2018, the only corduroy jacket available from Margaret Howell is this “boxy cut” work jacket in midnight blue corded cotton with three widely spaced buttons for £395. Fans hoping for a screen-accurate jacket will have to look elsewhere, such as one of the many replicas offered online.
The screen-worn jacket (size large) still had the Margaret Howell label when it was included in an Italian auction of props from Kubrick’s cinematic career in March 2018.
Jack’s burgundy corded blouson jacket has a one-piece, shirt-style spread collar. The jacket has a seven-button front with five buttons under a covered fly that ends above the waistband, which has a double-button closure. Except for this double-button closure in the front, the waistband is ribbed and elasticized in brown wool. The set-in sleeves close over each wrist with a squared single-button half-tab at the cuff.
The jacket has a long patch pocket on the left breast and a lower bellows pocket on each side, all with buttoned flaps.
The auction catalog also included a burgundy cotton shirt that Nicholson reportedly wore during costume rehearsals though not in the film itself. This burgundy shirt was made in Sweden by London clothier Austin Reed, so it’s possible that his navy plaid check shirt came from the same shop.
The screen-worn plaid shirt is patterned with two interlocking white large-scaled grid check patterns on a navy ground. One check is a bold white windowpane bordered on each side by a red stripe for a shadow effect; the other check is two faded white stripes criss-crossing with a faded green stripe bordering each vertical set of double stripes.
Jack’s flannel shirt has a large point collar, a front placket with mixed tan plastic sew-through buttons, button cuffs, and a set-in breast pocket with a single-button flap, rounded on the corners.
Jack’s jeans are the classic Lee 101 Riders in dark blue selvedge denim, the same model worn by James Dean in Giant and Rebel Without a Cause and by Steve McQueen in The Hunter, also released in 1980. These sanforized jeans with the original zip fly (a Lee innovation dating back to 1926) can be identified by the black tag with “Lee” in yellow on the corner of the back right pocket as well as Lee’s signature decorative curved “Lazy S” stitching across each of the back pockets.
Jack wears a brown leather belt with contrasting tan edge-stitching and a thick squared steel single-prong buckle.
Apropos his now neglected position as caretaker, Jack wears a pair of well-worn work boots that appear to be Timberland‘s classic six-inch waterproof boots with gold wheat-colored burnished full-grain leather uppers, now offered as part of the Timberland Heritage line from Timberland as well as Amazon.
Designed for waterproof comfort with seam-sealed construction, rubber lug outsoles, and brown leather padded collars, these plain-toe boots are derby-laced with seven brass grommets on each side for the two-tone laces.
Barely glimpsed on Jack’s left wrist is a steel wristwatch, which he wears throughout the film.
What to Imbibe
God, I’d give anything for a drink. I’d give my goddamned soul for just a glass of beer.
While Jack Torrance’s soul is certainly up for grabs, it’s not beer but bourbon that ends up satiating the part of him that has been craving a drink after spending the better part of a year on the wagon.
At least, the laconic Lloyd calls it “bourbon,” a surprising misstep for a professional bartender who ought to know that the Jack Daniel’s he pulls off the shelf for a thirsty Jack is actually a Tennessee whiskey rather than the differently distilled bourbon whiskey associated with Kentucky. After all, Jack Daniel’s proudly earns its Tennessee whiskey designation alongside other Tennessee whiskies like George Dickel after the spirit is filtered through sugar-maple charcoal chips, a step popularly known as the “Lincoln County Process” that became required under the law after Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed House Bill 1084 in May 2013.
I like you, Lloyd. I always liked you. You were always the best of them. Best goddamned bartender from Timbuktu to Portland, Maine. Or Portland, Oregon, for that matter.
In search of a drink, Jack feels an instant kinship with Lloyd, a connection communicated to the audience through their nearly matching “uniform” of similar jackets. While Lloyd’s burgundy velvet dinner jacket is more indicative of a bygone era, the color and texture it shares with Jack’s more contemporary corduroy blouson unifies the two in the Overlook Hotel’s unending time warp.
Lloyd: Women. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.
Jack: Words of wisdom, Lloyd, my man. Words… of… wisdom.
And if drinking in a Prohibition-era setting, you’ll want the appropriate music. From Louis Armstrong and Bix Beiderbecke to Sidney Bechet and Duke Ellington, there’s no shortage of great musicians from the 1920s that can provide the soundtrack to your night of classic cocktails, however this British production used the stirring vocals of Al Bowlly backed by Ray Noble and his Orchestra to set the mood, most notably the 1934 recording of “Midnight, the Stars, and You” that leads into the end credits.
How to Get the Look
“As the winter and his madness closes in, Jack recedes to workwear staples: a corduroy bomber jacket, plaid flannel work shirt, jeans, and work boots,” wrote David Shuck in a thoughtful 2014 exploration for Heddels. “This stands in stark contrast to the black tie dinners that haunt his vision.”
- Burgundy corduroy blouson jacket with shirt-style collar, 5-button covered fly front with double-button bottom closure, brown woolen elasticized hem, three patch pockets with buttoned flaps, and single-button cuffs
- Navy, white, red, and green plaid flannel shirt with point collar, front placket, flapped set-in breast pocket, and button cuffs
- Dark blue selvedge denim Lee 101 Rider jeans
- Brown leather belt with contrasting tan edge-stitching and thick squared steel single-prong buckle
- Timberland Heritage six-inch work boots in burnished, waterproof-treated full-grain wheat gold leather
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie and read Stephen King’s novel. If you’re among the many fascinated with interpreting and exploring the film’s many possible meanings, check out Rodney Ascher’s 2012 documentary Room 237 featuring insights from Blakemore, Cocks, and other film scholars who provide unique analysis into the movie.
If you’re looking to take in the alpine aesthetic of The Shining with less of the axe-wielding madness, check out the Majestic Yosemite Hotel (former the Ahwahnee Hotel) which inspired much of the Overlook’s set design and architecture.
Fans should also check out some of this behind-the-scenes footage of the cast, including an increasingly intense Jack Nicholson.