Batman: Michael Keaton Gets Nuts in Layered Taupe

Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne in Batman (1989)

Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne in Batman (1989)


Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne, enigmatic millionaire and defender of Gotham

Gotham City, Fall 1989

Film: Batman
Release Date: June 23, 1989
Director: Tim Burton
Costume Designer: Bob Ringwood
Clothes By: Giorgio Armani


Happy 70th birthday, Michael Keaton! Born September 5, 1951 just outside of Pittsburgh, Keaton rose to fame throughout the ’80s in comedies like Night ShiftMr. Mom, and Beetlejuice before he was tapped for the titular role in Tim Burton’s adaptation of Bob Kane’s famous comics. The casting decision initially soured fans, who mailed thousands of letters to Warner Bros. in protest, but his unassuming performance quickly won over audiences and Batman became one of the top-grossing movies of 1989.

Despite Keaton playing the title character, a role he would reprise three years later in Batman Returns, it was Jack Nicholson—and his $60 million salary—who was top-billed for his chaotic portrayal of the Joker, née Jack Napier, a psychotic killer with a grudge against the caped crusader after a confrontation in a chemical plant resulted in Napier’s deranging disfigurement.

In addition to his resentment of Batman, Joker also posits himself as Bruce Wayne’s romantic rival when he begins to covet Bruce’s new girlfriend, photojournalist Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger). Bruce and Vicki are navigating the regular obstacles in any new relationship (i.e., should he tell her he’s Batman?) when Joker literally bursts into their lives as he and his boombox-toting hoods storm into her apartment—which has lots of space.

Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne in Batman (1989)

Armed with a fireplace poker and protected by a silver tray tucked under his tailored layers, Bruce provokes Joker into shooting him and absconding with Vicki, but not until after Joker inadvertently reveals he had killed Bruce’s parents decades earlier when he utters the same curious phrase:

Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?

What’d He Wear?

Discussing suits in relation to Batman typically begins with the Batsuit itself (much to George Clooney’s dismay), but when Bruce Wayne isn’t out fighting Gotham’s goons, he’s dressed to fit his reputation as a successful—if aloof—industrialist, clad in conservative but fashionable double-breasted suits from Giorgio Armani, typically in businesslike shades of gray.

Once he’s aware that his burgeoning relationship with Vicki Vale is in need of salvaging, Bruce softens his daily look by layering an avuncular cardigan sweater under his suit. The suit is a taupe brown blend of 50% silk and 50% rayon, the warmest shade of his tailored clothing in Batman. (You can see photos of the screen-worn suit, shoes, and a similar tie in this listing at The Prop Gallery.)

Fashioned consistently with menswear trends in the late 1980s into the ’90s, the double-breasted suit jacket has considerably padded shoulders and a low 6×2-button front, though the left peak lapel rolls over the second row. This effectively lengthens the the line of the lapels, a flattering detail that makes the 5’9″ Michael Keaton appear taller. The ventless jacket has a welted breast pocket, jetted hip pockets, and three-button cuffs.

The generously sized dark gray wool long-sleeved cardigan could threaten to look bulky under some suits, but Keaton’s lean frame and the looser fits of the late ’80s harmonize to create the effect of the cardigan merely serving the welcome role of an odd waistcoat. Bruce wears the top of the four buttons undone, and the cardigan blousons over the ribbed waist hem that echoes the ribbed cuffs.

Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne in Batman (1989)

Bruce struggles with how to tell Vicki that he’s Batman, but he abandons all passivity once Jack Napier arrives.

Bruce’s suit trousers are pleated, though the full wrap of the double-breasted jacket, the cardigan, and his reclined angle when both are removed make it difficult to discern how many or in which direction, nor do we see enough of his other suits to conclude whether or not they would all be consistently detailed. All we know is that they’re almost certainly held up with a belt, styled with side pockets, and the bottoms are plain-hemmed.

With gray argyle socks continuing the leg-line of the grayish-brown taupe trousers, Bruce wears sueded leather five-eyelet plain-toe derby shoes with brown—or nut brown, if you will—nubuck uppers.

Michael Gough and Michael Keaton in Batman (1989)

Mornings in the Batcave with Alfred (Michael Gough).

Bruce wears a light-blue cotton shirt with a repeating fancy stripe, consisting of a pale blue bar stripe bordered by taupe stripes and bisected by a hairline-width blue stripe. The shirt has a point collar, breast pocket, and button cuffs. He wears it with a crimson red silk tie by Italian fashion label Gian Marco Venturi, patterned with scattered taupe squares and “boomerang” shapes, each detailed with a busy black medallion-like motif.

Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne in Batman (1989)

“Let me tell you about this guy I know, Jack. Mean kid. Bad seed. Hurt people.”

To insulate himself against the chill of autumn in Gotham City, Bruce pulls on a trench coat for his visit to Vicki’s apartment. Made from a gabardine cloth in a similar shade of taupe as his suit, Bruce’s coat is a civilian-oriented evolution of the original military trench, lacking the shoulder straps (epaulettes), belt D-rings, and gun flap that had been trademarks when worn in the proverbial trenches.

The long coat has the requisite full belt to support the double-breasted button configuration, though Bruce uses neither as he wears the coat open with his hands often stuffed in the side pockets. The raglan sleeves allow the coat to more easily slip over heavy layers like his padded-shoulder suit jacket and woolen cardigan, and the ends of each sleeve are belted around the cuff. In service of the coat’s purpose of protecting its wearer against rain, there’s a long storm flap across the back and a long throat latch extends from the left collar to close the broad lapels around the neck, if necessary.

For additional protection against the elements, Bruce wears a dark olive-gold scarf with a navy and magenta paisley print.

Michael Keaton and Kim Basinger in Batman (1989)

While the trench coat would serve a practical purpose in Gotham City, its noir-era gumshoe connotations also suggest Batman’s reputation as “the World’s Greatest Detective.”

Keaton’s Bruce Wayne distinguished himself among past and future Batmen by regularly wearing eyeglasses, perhaps a nod to his more subdued personality (“let’s get nuts” aside) or to add a touch of Clark Kent’s famous “disguise” to the characterization. In Batman, he are round rimless glasses with thin gold arms.

Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne in Batman (1989)

Bruce’s glasses would return with the character three years later in Batman Returns, albeit with mitred-corner lenses.

How to Get the Look

Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne in Batman (1989)

Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne in Batman (1989)

Quietly dignified in his muted double-breasted suit, neatly knotted tie, and avuncular wool cardigan, Bruce Wayne looks like the last guy who would smash a mantle with a fireplace poker and invite you to get nuts… and that kind of deceptive dressing could be exactly what you’re going for.

  • Taupe-brown silk/rayon-blend tailored suit:
    • Double-breasted 6×2-button jacket with peak lapels, welted breast pocket, straight jetted hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and ventless back
    • Pleated trousers with side pockets, belt loops, and plain-hemmed bottoms
  • Dark gray wool 4-button cardigan sweater with ribbed cuffs and hem
  • Light-blue multi-striped cotton shirt with point collar, breast pocket, and button cuffs
  • Crimson-red silk tie with taupe medallion-printed square motif
  • Brown nubuck plain-toe 5-eyelet derby shoes
  • Gray argyle socks
  • Taupe-brown gabardine double-breasted trench coat with broad lapels (with throat latch strap), raglan sleeves (with belted cuffs), back storm flap, full belt, and side pockets
  • Olive-gold silk scarf with navy-and-magenta paisley print
  • Round rimless eyeglasses with thin gold arms

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Check out the movie, which portended the darkness of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy starring Christian Bale, though the Burton/Keaton collaborations still infused a tongue-in-cheek lightness, in part due to the out-of-time setting that borrowed from the aesthetics of the “golden age” of Bob Kane’s early Batman comics in the 1940s when characters like Joker, Vicki Vale, and Harvey Dent originated.

The Quote

You wanna get nuts? Come on! Let’s get nuts!


  1. RM

    So glad that Keaton is returning to the role. Interesting you didn’t go for the iconic jeans and turtleneck look, that Steve Jobs stole. Love or hate Tim Burton he did realise, like Alan Moore, that Bruce Wayne has to be a little crazy to do what he does. I think it’s a failure in the otherwise great Christopher Nolan films that Bruce is rather bland and very sane.
    If you ever get around to Ben Affleck’s stint, he was tailored by Gucci for the plot hole riddled Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I’d be interested in the textured gray 3 piece suit he wears at the office during the Superman Goes to Washington scenes.

    • luckystrike721

      Great ideas! I did consider the black turtleneck but, upon reviewing, I felt like we didn’t see quite enough of it for a full post. I may instead do a post about how each of the four 80s/90s Batman flicks incorporated that to some extent.

Leave a Reply