Die Hard: Takagi’s “John Phillips” Suit

James Shigeta as Joe Takagi in Die Hard (1988)

James Shigeta as Joe Takagi in Die Hard (1988)


James Shigeta as Joe Takagi, Nakatomi Corporation executive

Los Angeles, Christmas 1987

Film: Die Hard
Release Date: July 15, 1988
Director: John McTiernan
Costume Designer: Marilyn Vance

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!


My latest post focused on yet another chaotic Christmas party on The Office, though the drama of Dunder Mifflin’s holiday celebrations pale in comparison to how the employees of the Nakatomi Corporation are forced to spend Christmas Eve in Die Hard.

James Shigeta kicked off #Noirvember last month when I focused on his style in The Crimson Kimono so, in the spirit of the yuletide season, let’s revisit the actor via his arguably most memorable role as the stylish, unflappable, and ultimately doomed head of the Nakatomi Corporation.

Joseph Yoshinobu Takagi, born Kyoto, 1937. Family emigrated to San Pedro, California, 1939. Interned, Manzanar, 1942 to ’43. Scholarship student, University of California, 1955. Law degree, Stanford, 1962. MBA, Harvard, 1970. President, Nakatomi Trading. Vice Chairman, Nakatomi Investment Group… and father of five.

Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) introduces himself—and Takagi—by reading the executive’s CV, luring him out from his among his employees with the purpose of coercing the codes out of him to raid the company’s vault of $640 million in negotiable bearer bonds.

You want money? What kind of terrorists are you?

What’d He Wear?

Gruber proves that he knows even more about Takagi than his personal and professional history when he observes: “Nice suit. John Phillips, London. I have two myself… rumor has it Arafat buys his there.”

The London tailor was invented for the film’s narrative, but Gruber’s conspicuous admiration for Takagi’s high tailoring (as well as Harry Ellis’ smug admiration for Holly’s new Rolex) reflects the vain, materialistic, power-hungry psyche of the late ’80s that Bret Easton Ellis tapped into with sociopaths like Patrick Bateman in American Psycho who would just as soon kill someone for wearing an unfashionable suit.

Though he may be wearing the “right” clothes, Takagi rises above the Batemans, Grubers, and Harry Ellises of the world with his accepting, trustworthy nature, not thinking twice about welcoming the blue-collar John McClane (Bruce Willis) to his corporate celebration.

James Shigeta as Joe Takagi in Die Hard (1988)

Okay, all you “Die Hard isn’t a Christmas movie” Scrooges… explain what Santa’s doing there!

Takagi opts for festive fabrics rather than colors for his company’s holiday party, selecting the hues of conservative business wear but in a silk suiting that shines like holiday lights. The charcoal pinstripes against the elephant gray silk suiting echoes the distinguished executive’s graying hair.

As a successful, powerful businessman, it stands to reason that Joe Takagi would be tailored in a manner consistent with the decade-defining “power suits”, albeit more subtle than some per his more unassuming personality. The suit jacket has the strong, squared, padded shoulders associated with power suits and lower-gorge notch lapels that roll to a low but still proportional two-button front. The single reverse-pleated trousers have a low rise to meet the buttoning point, held up with a black leather belt and detailed with side pockets and turn-ups (cuffs) on the bottoms.

The full cut is still flattering rather than excessively baggy. The sleeves are roped at the shoulders and finished with two “kissing” buttons spaced back from each cuff. The ventless jacket and minimalist jetted hip pockets serve to keep the lower torso looking sleek and minimalized in comparison to the built-up shoulders and chest, which also draws attention with the black silk pocket square Takagi wears folded in the welted breast pocket.

Takagi wears a plain white cotton shirt with a spread collar and double (French) cuffs that he fastens with a set of plain round silver links.

James Shigeta as Joe Takagi in Die Hard (1988)

Shooting his cuffs, buttoning his jacket, straightening his tie; Takagi dresses to kill for the company Christmas party… and unfortunately dresses to be killed as well.

Perhaps another indication of Takagi’s amiable and unassuming personality is his choice of neckwear. At the height of a decadent decade where conspicuously colored “statement” ties were meant to intimidate or at least catch one’s eye, Takagi foregoes the classic red power tie—even though it could have been excused as a festive seasonal choice—and instead coordinates with the grayscale palette of the rest of his outfit by wearing a silk tie in a design of gray “painted” streaks against a black ground, held in place with a pearl stickpin.

James Shigeta as Joe Takagi in Die Hard (1988)

Holly holds her boss back from volunteering his identity to the terrorists, no doubt returning the favor after Takagi likely came to her aid against Ellis’ lecherous advances.

Takagi wears a gold watch just barely glimpsed under his left shirt cuff. The squared look of the case suggests a luxurious tank watch like the famous Cartier, though he may also choose to wear a Rolex given that his company seems to value the venerated Swiss watchmaker.

James Shigeta as Joe Takagi in Die Hard (1988)

A glimpse of a gold watch can be spotted under Takagi’s left shirt cuff.

Takagi’s black leather oxfords appear to have a classic cap-toe and are worn with black socks.

James Shigeta as Joe Takagi in Die Hard (1988)

James Shigeta as Joe Takagi in Die Hard (1988)

How to Get the Look

“It’s a very nice suit, Mr. Takagi… it’d be a shame to ruin it.”

  • Gray black-pinstripe silk tailored “power suit”:
    • Single-breasted 2-button suit jacket with low-gorge notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight jetted hip pockets, 2-button cuffs, and ventless back
    • Single reverse-pleated trousers with belt loops, side pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
  • White cotton shirt with spread collar and double/French cuffs
    • Round silver cuff links
  • Gray-on-black “painted”-streak motif silk tie
    • Pearl stickpin
  • Black leather belt with squared metal single-prong buckle
  • Black leather cap-toe oxford shoes
  • Black socks
  • Gold wristwatch

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Check out the movie.

The Quote

We’re flexible! Pearl Harbor didn’t work out, so we got you with tape decks.


  1. jdreyfuss

    No question it’s a Christmas movie. It’s not just set at Christmas, but it uses that setting and reflects it. Regardless of the fact that neither the heist nor McClane’s presence would have happened but for the Christmas party, some of the major themes of the movie are family and togetherness – reflected not just in John and Holly’s character arcs but also in Karl and Tony’s relationship – and forgiveness, themes usually present in Christmas movies but not in many action movies before then.

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