Arnold Schwarzenegger as Howard Langston,
massive Austrian bodybuilder midwestern mattress sales executive and family man
Minneapolis, Christmas Eve 1996
Film: Jingle All the Way
Release Date: November 22, 1996
Director: Brian Levant
Costume Designer: Jay Hurley
With only a few more shopping days left until Christmas, some may still be scrambling for that perfect gift to put under the tree. This family-friendly ’90s comedy satirized the lengths to which people had to go in the blessed pre-Amazon days, represented by Minneapolis mattress king Howard Langston’s increasingly desperate attempts to track down a prized Turbo-Man action figure for his son… on Christmas Eve!
Sure, Jingle All the Way has plenty of goofy moments and a few too many Golden Raspberry and Stinkers Bad Movie Award nominations for me to whole-heartedly recommend it to any serious cinephiles, but it’s fun to watch Howard’s war amplified against excitable postman Myron Larabee (Sinbad), a snippy cop (Robert Conrad), a criminally enterprising mall Santa (Jim Belushi), and the smarmy wannabe-lothario neighbor Ted (Phil Hartman) with his designs on Howard’s wife Liz (Rita Wilson).
“You can’t bench-press your way out of this one,” Ted warns Howard, marking one of the few occasions where anyone in the movie acknowledges that the Austrian Oak may not be your average suburban dad; for his part, Howard almost immediately proves Ted’s theories of the value of physical strength incorrect when he has to literally punch a reindeer in the face seconds later to escape a dangerous situation.
If you really wanted to find a deeper meaning, you could sort through the silliness of retail riots and reindeer rumbles to glean a message about pernicious consumerism… though the fact that the movie premiered at the Mall of America a week before its general release suggests that it wasn’t exactly trying to be They Live.
“You know it’s all a ploy, don’t you?” Myron informs Howard when they meet in line outside the first of many toy stores. “We are being set up by rich and powerful toy cartels!” Myron proposes a partnership, citing examples like Starsky and Hutch, Bonnie and Clyde, and Ike and Tina (well, maybe not, he reconsiders) to “divide and conquer” in their shared quest for Turbo-Man, but Howard’s dismissal of the outrageous postman results in a fierce but festive rivalry that reaches an equally outrageous climax in the streets and over the skies of downtown Minneapolis.
What’d He Wear?
“Mr. Wear Your Fancy Cashmere Coat and Your Nice Little Suede Shoes,” disparages Myron of his new nemesis, providing a concise yet accurate description of Howard Langston’s clothing. Indeed, Howard tastefully layers on Christmas Eve, a day of increasing desperation during his desperate search for the prized Turbo Man action figure for his son.
The “fancy cashmere coat” in question consists of a softly napped tan cashmere wool shell, styled at the crossroads of a thigh-length car coat and a more elegant variation of a chore jacket. (In fact, many promotional posters for the movie feature Arnie dressed in a more work-oriented Carhartt-style coat in the similar colorway of a brown collar against a lighter brown canvas body.)
When the screen-worn coat was auctioned by Julien’s Live in November 2012, the listing identified the maker as Giacomo Trabalza, an Italian-born tailor whose shop was a Hollywood fixture for decades before Trabalza’s death in 2009. According to a 2005 Robb Report article, Trabalza had started making suits for Schwarzenegger in 1984, using the skills he developed in suiting the actor’s muscular physique to cultivate more clientele of similar size. (Interestingly, similarly styled jackets would be made for the crew to wear, but in a reversed colorway of black wool bodies with tan leather collars, as seen at iCollector and Prop Store.)
Howard’s coat closes with four large mixed brown 4-hole sew-through buttons from the waist up to the neck, where a chocolate brown suede shirt-style collar lays flat. Before he wears the jacket totally open, Arnie just keeps the top button undone, showing the charcoal woolen lining that covers the few inches on each side—inside the fly—before the rest of the brown quilted nylon lining.
The only external pockets are patch pockets over the hips, which each close with a single-button pointed flap. A swelled horizontal yoke extends across the chest and the back, and the set-in sleeves are finished with two ornamental cuff buttons. Swollen seams extend down each side from the back of the armhole, cut into short vents on the sides that Howard keeps fastened with a single button through a short pointed tab.
Howard’s base layer is a long-sleeved mock-neck jumper in marled stone-colored knit fabric, possibly cotton or a more luxurious blend of cashmere or silk. The short mock turtleneck is narrowly ribbed.
Howard typically wears the mock-neck under a checked button-up shirt, a tasteful alternative to the traditional crew-neck undershirt or T-shirt. The roomy over-shirt is woven in a balanced red-and-white mini-gingham check cotton flannel, the brushed fabric marling the white.
This shirt appears to take its styling queues from classic mid-century sports shirts, with a sporty convertible collar that can be worn flat—as Howard does—or buttoned up to the neck, presenting as a spread collar. The swollen burgundy plastic sew-through buttons are fastened up a plain front (no placket), echoing the buttons closing each barrel cuff and those that fasten the flaps over the two patch pockets on each side of the chest.
While his absenteeism and workaholism may have marred his holiday reputation with his family, Howard at least incorporates Christmas colors into his wardrobe, tucking the red-checked shirt into a pair of rich olive green corduroy trousers.
The corduroy is a medium-wale tufted cotton, rising to Schwarzenegger’s natural waist where he holds them up with a dark brown woven leather belt that closes through a polished gilt single-prong buckle. Rigged with double reverse-facing pleats, the trousers have slanted side pockets, back pockets, and turn-ups (cuffs) on the full-break bottoms.
Myron had also called out Howard’s “nice little suede shoes,” and—while he may have been accurate about the material—he was a bit off-base in dismissing Schwarzenegger’s size 12 shoes as “little!” The uppers are made from a chocolate brown sueded leather, detailed with a split moc-toe and contrast-stitched around all edges with beige thread. These derby shoes are open-laced with round brown laces and are secured to the hefty black leather soles via traditional Goodyear welt construction. Howard’s dark socks also appear to be brown, though the full break of his trouser bottoms often cover most of his shoes, let alone his hosiery.
As reported by outlets like GQ and Watch & Bullion, Arnold Schwarzengger approaches watch collection with the same energetic enthusiasm as his larger-than-life action roles, often taking a role in choosing the timepieces that dress the wrists of his characters.
In Jingle All the Way, he wears a stainless dive watch that has been identified as an Armitron Analog-Digital Diver, uniquely detailed with large luminous hour markers—clockwise against the black dial from 8 o’clock to 4 o’clock—and a single-line LCD display across the bottom. This quartz-powered watch has a narrow black-finished rotating bezel and is secured on a black ridged rubber dive strap.
Aside from the watch, Howard accessorizes only with a gold wedding ring… which he won’t have for much longer if he doesn’t get his act together!
Before the proverbial—and literal—gloves come off as his hunt for Turbo Man intensifies, Howard wears a pair of taupe-brown suede three-point gloves.
After the calamities that befell him and found him splitting a beer with a reindeer named Ted (yes, after his neighbor), Howard keeps on the marled mock-neck but now wears it under the flecked tweed overcoat he had worn the previous night. He ditches the whole outfit as he’s being changed into the Turbo Man costume, a process that also briefly shows that he’s wearing a white ribbed cotton sleeveless undershirt and light blue boxer shorts.
What to Imbibe
Howard warms up with a cup of diner coffee, which he allows his retail nemesis Myron to lace with a generous pour of “Old Homestead Kentucky Whiskey”, a fictional bourbon label affixed to the pint carried in Myron’s pocket. The prop bottle would portend Jamie’s possible future—as a kid doomed without an expensive in-demand toy under his Christmas tree—as he lifts the pint to his mouth and drolly toasts “here’s to you, Dad,” in Howard’s imagination.
How to Get the Look
From his chore-like car coat to his two-pocket shirt and corduroy trousers, Howard Langston’s Christmas Eve garb presents as more elegant evolutions of classic work-wear, reimagined for the holidays in festive colors like his red-checked shirt and olive-green corduroy. Additional layers reinforce his warmth in the winter weather, like the mockneck base layer and the luxurious cashmere coat worn over all.
In addition to being a smart holiday-themed outfit, I also find Howard’s attire to be a relatively timeless and tasteful approach to casual dress!
- Tan cashmere car coat with brown suede collar, four-button front, flapped patch hip pockets, vestigial 2-button cuffs, and short side vents with button-tab closure
- Red-and-white marled mini-gingham check cotton flannel long-sleeved shirt with convertible collar, plain front, two chest pockets (with button-down flaps), and button cuffs
- Marled stone-colored knit long-sleeved mock-neck jumper
- Olive-green corduroy double reverse-pleated trousers with belt loops, slanted side pockets, back pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- Dark brown woven leather belt with gold-finished single-prong buckle
- Dark brown suede split-toe derby shoes
- Dark brown socks
- White ribbed cotton sleeveless undershirt
- Light blue cotton boxer-style undershorts
- Gold wedding ring
- Armitron Analog-Digital Diver stainless quartz watch with black-finished rotating bezel, black dial with luminous hour markers and digital display, and black ridged rubber strap
- Taupe-brown suede three-point gloves
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie, if even for some festive background while wrapping presents and enjoying a soundtrack that includes classic holiday jams from Sinatra, Darlene Love, Nat King Cole, and Tom Petty, as well as the occasional Austrian-accented shout of “it’s Turbo time!”
Plus, as you see above, there’s hardly a frame of this movie that doesn’t have Christmas represented on screen to some degree!
I gotta tell you, Santa… there is something here that doesn’t seem quite kosher.