The Omega Man: Charlton Heston’s Green Velvet Blazer
Charlton Heston as Colonel Robert Neville, MD, former military scientist and resourceful survivor
Los Angeles, August 1977
Film: The Omega Man
Release Date: August 1, 1971
Director: Boris Sagal
Costumers: Margo Baxley & Bucky Rous
Tailor: Albert Mariani
The second of three adaptations of Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel I Am Legend, The Omega Man stars Charlton Heston as Robert Neville, a survivor of a global pandemic. “The last man on earth… is not alone!” exclaimed the film’s advertising, and indeed Neville is forced to fortify himself into his home each night, warding off attacks from The Family, a violent cult of fellow survivors who—without the experimental vaccine that saved Neville—were mutated by the effects of the plague into nocturnal albinos.
Neville’s home seclusion is become unpleasantly close to reality as many across the globe are self-quarantining during the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. He tries to make the most of his solitude by cooking newly acquired sausages, putting some bossa nova on the hi-fi, and settling in for evening chess opposite a bust of Caesar that he adorns with the green “scrambled eggs” peaked cap he had formerly worn as a U.S. Army colonel:
How does that grab you, Caesar? Your move, Imperator.
What’d He Wear?
What day is it, anyway? Monday? Huh? The hell it is. It’s Sunday. Sunday I always dress for dinner.
When we make Robert Neville’s acquaintance, the colonel is dressed in a manner consistent with his military background in a khaki bush jacket, aviator sunglasses, and gun belt, so it’s surprising to see him “dress for dinner” in a velvet blazer, opera pumps, and—perhaps most shocking of all—a frilly shirt with ruffles bursting from the chest and cuffs.
The olive green velvet blazer blends ’70s trends with neo-Edwardian detailing like wide turnback (or “gauntlet”) cuffs in lieu of sleeve buttons and a tailcoat-inspired back. The blazer has broad notch lapels that roll to a single-breasted front with two unique gilt shank buttons that are an open framework of gold swirls snaking around the button. There is a welted breast pocket in addition to widely flapped hip pockets that gently slant backwards.
Not to be outdone by the rest of the jacket, the blazer’s distinctive back has two seams that curve out from each armhole and straight down the back, splitting out into long, closely spaced parallel vents that extend down from the waistline, where they are ornamented with a row of two gilt buttons to match those on the front.
Charlton Heston evidently kept pieces from this outfit after the production, wearing them to formal events, and both the velvet blazer and ruffled shirt were included in a Bonhams auction in March 2016, selling for a $6,000 premium. The auction listing describes:
Warner Bros., 1971. Olive green velvet single-breasted two-button blazer with a chartreuse silk lining bearing an Albert Mariani interior label; and a white dress shirt with Edwardian style ruffles sewn in to front and cuffs, adjustable snap catch at collar, sewn in label “Tailored especially for / Charlton Heston / Machin / Shirtmaker / Los Angeles / November 1970.” Accompanied by a copy of the film. Mariani, based in Beverly Hills, was also President Reagan’s longtime tailor. Heston can be seen wearing this jacket and shirt throughout a key early scene in this science fiction classic, and later wore these pieces to formal events.
Following the contemporary trend of ruffled-front dress shirts as worn by George Lazenby’s 007 in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Roger Moore on The Persuaders!, Neville wears a white cotton shirt with a fancy lace bib consisting of layers of ruffles, echoed by the lace trim on each of the single cuffs which have buttonholes that go unused. As stated in the auction listing, this shirt was made by Machin of Los Angeles, a now-defunct shirtmaker that had first opened shop in southern California around 1890.
Neville treats the outfit like a black tie ensemble, sporting a pair of black formal trousers with the appropriate black satin side stripes and plain-hemmed bottoms that break high over his leather opera pumps. Also known as court shoes, these low-vamp slip-ons with their distinctive black grosgrain bows are the most formal footwear endorsed for men’s formal attire, de rigeuer with white tie and a formal alternative to well-shined oxfords with black tie.
Robert Neville may be “the Omega man”, but that appellation applies only to his survivorship and not his watch brand. (Honestly, if I had to pick between being the last man on Earth or wearing an Omega… I’d definitely take the watch!)
Neville wears a gold watch throughout the movie that is difficult to identify, made even harder to even see the piece due to his military-informed practice of wearing the dial on the inside of his wrist, though the fact that he wears his gold watch on an equally shiny gold bracelet would nullify the glare-reducing benefits of wearing his watch that way.
More annoyed than anything by The Family’s attempted attack on his fortified penthouse, Neville politely steps away from his chess game with Caesar and picks up an M1918A2 Browning Automatic Rifle to exercise a little
crowd cult control.
The BAR was designed by the venerable John Browning, developed to be a handheld light machine gun effective for the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) during World War I trench warfare. Chambered in the same .30-06 Springfield round as the American service rifle and fed from twenty-round box magazines, the BAR was intended to deliver a machine gun’s potency with a rifle’s portability. Although the M1918 BAR was effectively fielded by some AEF troops, it wasn’t until World War II and the Korean War that it had become a standard-issue weapon in the U.S. Army arsenal with the 1938 authorization of the M1918A2 variant. By that time, the BAR had also gained a more sinister reputation as the weapon of choice for Depression-era desperadoes like Clyde Barrow.
Neville’s M1918A2 BAR is accessorized with an M3 active infrared scope and infrared lamp to help him better target his nocturnal enemies.
While Neville keeps racks of properly stored firearms in his home, his seclusion gives him some leeway to be lax when it comes to gun safety, and he is seen keeping the BAR in ready position next to his open balcony door as well as an M3 carbine casually laid across an armchair next to the same door.
The experts at IMFDB suggest that the infrared scope on the BAR was taken from the M3 carbine as the M3 was essentially an M2 carbine modified with an infrared scope system, famously used by U.S. troops to spot Japanese soldiers infiltrating their lines at night during the Okinawan campaign. Like the M1 and M2 carbines, the M3 fired the rimless .30 Carbine cartridge specifically for this series of weapons.
Not surprising for a character played by Charlton Heston, later to be head of the NRA, Robert Neville knows his stuff when it comes to firearms, building an unorthodox combination that adds the M3 carbine’s night sight functionality to the BAR’s potency to create a weapon most effective for defending his home at long range against a large group of nocturnal attackers.
What to Imbibe
Blended Scotch whisky on the rocks is Neville’s drink of choice, though he switches from the Cutty Sark he drank upon arriving at home to a dram of J&B Rare for the second stage of his Sunday night in. One can imagine that, once he had stockpiled enough weapons and secured his home, requisitioning the supplies of local liquor stores would have been a top priority for the marooned Neville.
J&B was one of the most popular whiskies around the time The Omega Man was made, a noted favorite of Dean Martin and Truman Capote at the time. Justerini & Brooks had been pioneering blended whisky for nearly half a century by the time they introduced J&B Rare onto the American market at the end of Prohibition, a welcome commodity for a populace thirsty for legal booze in a country where many distilleries had been shuttered for more than a dozen years.
How to Get the Look
Dressing for his own amusement after two years in relative isolation, Robert Neville sits down for chess and dinner in a colorful velvet blazer and frilly lace shirt that would likely evoke Austin Powers in the minds of modern viewers rather than Charlton Heston.
- Olive green velvet single-breasted two-button blazer with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, wide-flapped slanted hip pockets, wide turnback/”gauntlet” cuffs, and double vents with two ornamental gilt buttons on waistline
- White cotton shirt with ruffled lace bib and cuffs
- Black formal trousers with satin side stripes
- Black leather opera pumps with black grosgrain bows
- Black dress socks
- Gold wristwatch with gold dial on gold bracelet
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
Endgames are always full of surprises, aren’t they?
Wow. Humanity has been wiped out by an epidemic, and an anti-science cult, which is lead by an bombastic TV celebrity, is in charge of what’s left. So, what brought Omega Man to mind?
If the lace is attached to the shirt, it’s most likely a bib and not a jabot, but if it is a bib it’s a well made one. It’s hard to tell if that’s attached to the shirt front or if it’s a jabot stock he put on over a band collared shirt.
I got the impression from the auction listing that it’s attached! Plus, the shirt cuffs having lace trim makes me think it could all be one garment.
Sorry, I wasn’t clear. I meant that, knowing it’s attached, it’s a very well made piece, because it looks like a separate piece when it’s not.
Ah yes – got it! I’m grateful that the auction listing included a little more about the shirt, but I do wish there were some existing/easily accessible photos of just the shirt on its own as I’d love to see more detailed looks at its construction.
Total history nerd reply but the bust in the first photo is Emperor Caracalla, one of Rome’s lesser-studied but more fascinating figures. Part of the Severan dynasty– who’re all pretty interesting in their own way– Caracalla could properly be thought of as “The Bro Emperor,” a hot-headed jock more interested in being thought of as a military badass than a good ruler. He kicked off his reign by killing his own brother (while their mother tried to protect him, no less), and things sort of went downhill from there. Known as “Soldier Emperor,” he spent more time among the army than the people of Rome or the ruling classes. His reign came to a rather ignominious end when one of his own men shanked him on the side of the road while he relieved himself.
“[A] hot-headed jock more interested in being thought of as a military badass than a good ruler.”
Not that he isn’t preeminent among them, but this can describe quite a few Roman emperors. Maybe Neville was worried if he played chess with one of the more strategically thoughtful emperors, like Marcus Aurelius or Octavian, he’d lose.
Thanks for sharing that — I would have never known!
Based on the angle of that particular screenshot, Caracalla and Heston appear to be scowling at each other.
My god, he looks like he’s doing a Third Doctor Who cosplay, but in 1971 Jon Pertwee was still wearing smoking jackets rather than the neo-Edwardian velvet jackets he would wear later in his tenure. If anything, I’d almost say Pertwee took some styling cues from Heston! Their green velvet jackets are remarkably similar.
Wow! That is really quite a rig! I don’t know if anyone other than Charlton Heston could carry that off. I’m definitely going to see if I can find a picture of him at an NRA function wearing that outfit.
Thanks again. Your posts never disappoint.