Alien: Harry Dean Stanton’s Tropical Shirt as Brett

Harry Dean Stanton as Brett in Alien

Harry Dean Stanton as Brett in Alien (1979)

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Harry Dean Stanton as Brett, wry engineering technician

Aboard the USCSS Nostromo, June 2122

Film: Alien
Release Date: May 25, 1979
Director: Ridley Scott
Costume Designer: John Mollo

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Alien Day was first celebrated several years ago on April 26, chosen in honor of the moon LV-426 where the crew of USCSS Nostromo first encountered the dangerous xenomorph that proceeded to terrorize and slaughter them as depicted in Ridley Scott’s suspenseful classic Alien.

A masterful blend of sci-fi and horror, Alien boasts an ensemble cast led by Sigourney Weaver as the resourceful warrant officer Ellen Ripley, in addition to Tom Skerritt, Ian Holm, John Hurt, Yaphet Kotto, Veronica Cartwright, and the great Harry Dean Stanton as the junior engineering technician known only as “Brett” (but whose full name was said to be Samuel Elias Brett.)

The idiosyncratic Harry Dean had been reluctant to even approach the role, having shared with Scott during audition that he didn’t like sci-fi or monster movies, until Scott reassured him that he envisioned more of a thriller like Agatha Christie’s classic And Then There Were None. Indeed, Brett proves to be the first victim of the eponymous alien, who ultimately moves on to the rest of the crew, leaving only Ripley—and the ship’s cat, Jonesy—as the lone survivor of the alien’s slaughter and the ship’s subsequent destruction.

While I’m not nearly as immersed in the Alien-verse as many super-fans, I’ve dipped a toe in some of the thoughtful online research that seem to determine the setting of early June 2122, just over exactly one hundred years from today. Some say it could be a few decades sooner, but what I’m most interested in is the evident late ’70s aesthetic still present, particularly as Harry Dean looks like he could have strolled out of a Tulsa dive bar and onto a spaceship while on a hell of a bender.

What’d He Wear?

Costume designer John Mollo had already established his sci-fi credentials designing a relatively accessible wardrobe for his outer space heroes in Star Wars: A New Hope, so he was a natural fit when it came to dressing the limited crew of the USCSS Nostromo.

Rather than just outfitting the crew in identical uniforms, Mollo thoughtfully approached how each crew member’s duties and personality would inform their approach to their regular attire, particularly in the midst of a long-haul journey through space. “People always wore uniforms on spaceships … that’s how it worked from Star Trek on,” explained James Cameron, who would direct the 1986 sequel Aliens, “Alien broke that mold and it just seemed so right to people. They recognized the archetype immediately, ‘Oh, these guys are truck drivers.'” (Source: Strange Shapes)

Among the Nostromo crew, Brett may most sartorially embody this “truck driver” comparison made by Cameron, dressed for the adventure in a baseball cap, bomber jacket, Hawaiian shirt, cargo pants, and sneakers, while no doubt reeking of tobacco… exactly the sort of sci-fi hero—or anti-hero—we would expect Harry Dean Stanton to portray.

Harry Dean Stanton as Brett in Alien

Production photo of Harry Dean Stanton as Brett.

Brett wears a navy blue baseball cap referencing his service, similar to those often worn by military veterans. The front of the cap’s crown is emblazoned with the colorful “rainbow” patch evidently authorized for those aboard the cruiser, with blue, purple, scarlet, and orange embroidered arcs across the top above a yellow-bordered semi-circle with “USCSS NOSTROMO” embroidered in yellow against a periwinkle upper arc with “180286” across the bottom, flanking a yellow-bordered illustration of two green planets in the foreground of a single five-point yellow star against a light blue sky.

Detailed with ventilation eyelets around the crown, the cap has an adjustable plastic closure that snaps through any of six pegs and corresponding holes. The cap’s brim is decorated with gold wire bullion leaves, familiar to military personnel as the “scrambled eggs” traditional reserved for higher-ranking officers of O-4 and O-5 and up… suggesting there may be more to Brett than meets the eye.

Brett’s uniform also includes a hip-length jacket made from a tightly woven olive-green fabric shell, detailed with quilted brown nylon around the edges and down the sleeves and with two patches sewn high over the left breast. The uppermost patch is shaped like a triangle with swirling red and white stripes encircling a blue star in the center, said to be commemorating America’s tricentennial which would have been in 2076. Directly below this, a patch of gold wings against a black ground is accented with a hexagonal pin with a black six-pointed star that Mollo had designed as an engineering badge.

The jacket features two narrow open-top patch pockets abreast on the left side, and there is a large top-entry patch pocket on each side. Curiously, it lacks any obvious way to fasten the front, seemingly meant to be worn open at all times.

Harry Dean Stanton as Brett in Alien

The jacket’s brown nylon quilting includes a strip that follows around the collar and down each side of the front, curving around the bottom but stopping after a few inches. The sleeves have much wider brown quilted pieces extend from the neck down each arm to the cuffs, with black laced gussets following nearly the same distance but stopping a few inches shy of the cuffs, where Brett wears the two laces hanging down from each side.

A seam splits the back down the center, and the hem is widely elasticized in a brown nylon similar to the quilted strips around the front and down the sleeves. The back of the jacket is stenciled “NOSTROMO” in a thick, futuristic sans serif typeface.

Venerated costume house Bermans & Nathans made the jackets used in the production, with one of Harry Dean Stanton’s screen-worn jackets sold for $22,500 at a 2016 auction, per iCollector, which also features photos of the jacket (as does this YourProps listing.) Replicas of this unique jacket are also available from Geek Life and Magnoli Clothiers.

Harry Dean Stanton as Brett in Alien

Brett steps up to a fateful encounter, his jacket emblazoned across the back with the name of the ship where he meets his end.

One of the most distinctive parts of Brett’s costume is his tropical-printed shirt which, with his more unkempt appearance and cavalier attitude, suggests more of an intergalactic Hawkeye Pierce. My instinct was to describe this as a Hawaiian shirt or aloha shirt, but a user named “Joberg” on the Blade Runner-centered PropSummit.com forum suggests that it’s actually a shorter-length Jamaican shirt, likely an early 1960s product of the National brand made by Manhattan.

Whatever its provenance, the rayon shirt is covered in a tropical “island” print of palm trees, beaches, and boats against a viridian seascape in shades of mint and sea-foam green. The cut and style are typical of aloha shirts, with a camp collar, breast pocket, and a plain front (no placket) that Brett wears only partially buttoned, typically with just one button done to show plenty of his white cotton long-sleeved henley-style undershirt with its long placket of horizontal buttonholes.

Harry Dean Stanton as Brett in Alien

In space, no one can hear you say “Aloha”.

  • Benny's Flamingos Camp Shirt (Amazon, $27.99)
  • Faherty Kona "Tropical Breeze" Camp Shirt (STAG Provisions, $119.95)
  • Go Barefoot Camp-Collar Printed Cotton-Poplin Shirt (MR PORTER, $115)
  • Ky's International Fashion Sailboat Hut Blue Hawaiian Shirt (Aloha Funwear, $38)
The specific print of Brett's Jamaican shirt would be difficult to replicate, but these aloha shirts offer similar vibes. Availability and pricing as of April 26, 2022.

As Brett foregoes his uniform shirt in favor of his tropical-printed top, he lacks the effect of the matching shirt and cargo pants worn by his fellow crew members. He’s even further differentiated by wearing pale-blue cotton trousers rather than white ones like most of his colleagues, with only the treacherous android science officer Ash (Ian Holm) also wearing the blue trousers to match his shirt.

Color aside, these cargo pants otherwise echo the details seen across his colleagues’ issued trousers. His untucked shirt hem covers much of the long belt loops, which are closed with a brass-finished snap at the tops and sewn on at the bottoms. The straight fly closes with a hidden hook closure at the top, and the fit is full through the legs.

Cargo pants are characterized by their added pockets that elevate pocket contents to cargo. On the Nostromo uniform trousers, slanted welt-entry “full-top” front pockets are positioned at the top of each hip, with a large box-pleated bellows pocket (with a large trapezoidal velcro flap) over the left hip. Slightly lower on the right side, a narrower velcro-flapped pocket is set against a reinforced patch. Below the reinforced quilted oval knee pads, each shin has a large pouch pocket. The bottoms are finished with a narrow velcro strap that could adjust the tightness around the ankles as needed.

Stanton’s screen-worn pants, also made by Bermans & Nathans, were sold in March 2014 at The Prop Gallery, which eerily described some lingering studio blood stains.

Harry Dean Stanton as Brett in Alien

Aside from the cowboy boot-wearing navigator Lambert (Veronica Cartwright) and executive officer Kane (John Hurt), most of the Nostromo crew are uniquely outfitted with white hi-top sneakers that have been posited to be modified versions of the venerable PF Flyers, one of the earliest and most enduring sneaker brands.

B.F. Goodrich introduced PF Flyers in Akron, Ohio, in 1937, intended for court sports like badminton and basketball and built on the “Posture Foundation” arch support insole… hence the “P.F.” in the name. The popular “Center” line was introduced in the ’60s, with both hi- and lo-top variations available. Brett appears to be wearing the Center “Hi” model with white duck canvas uppers, white rubber “smile”-shaped toe-caps, white rubber outsoles with the signature vertical-ribbed “bumper” toe-guards, and the red piping that rings around the entire top of the midsole, with a darker blue piping below it that stops before each side of the toe-guard.

The RPF forum member “Mike J.” identified the significant differences between stock Flyers and the Nostromo sneakers, particularly that the recognizable ankle logos had either been removed or painted over, a third ventilation eyelet was added on the sides, and the lace eyelets were supplanted by eight sets of white-painted D-rings, presenting a more technical appearance.

Harry Dean Stanton as Brett in Alien

Brett steps up to a fateful exoskeleton, flashing the signature ridged toe-guards and red and white midsole striping of the classic PF Flyers.

  • PF Flyers Men's Center Hi in white (Amazon, $75)

Brett doesn’t wear a watch, though Alien fans seeking a timepiece to go with their look could follow the examples set by Ripley and Dallas of wearing a dual rig of black Casio digital watches mounted on an orange base.

What to Imbibe

R&R among the Nostromo crew typically means swilling cans of Aspen, a fictional beer brewed by the in-universe conglomerate Weyland-Yutani Corporation. The name suggests Aspen is a product of Colorado, perhaps meant to be Alien‘s update of Coors as another “taste of the Rockies.”

Harry Dean Stanton as Brett in Alien

How to Get the Look

Harry Dean Stanton as Brett in Alien

Harry Dean Stanton as Brett in Alien (1979)

Brett’s space truckin’ ensemble would indeed make a great Halloween costume, but you could also pull together your scrappiest baseball cap, bomber jacket, aloha shirt, cargo pants, and sneakers and look just as at home at your neighborhood dive bar as Brett looked on the Nostromo… if not more-so.

  • Olive-green cotton hip-length crew jacket with brown quilted nylon edges and sleeve facings (with black laced gussets), two narrow breast pockets, and large patch hip pockets
  • Light-green tropical-printed Jamaican-made aloha shirt with camp collar, plain front, and breast pocket
  • White cotton long-sleeve henley shirt with long placket (with horizontal buttonholes)
  • Pale-blue cotton multi-pocket cargo pants with long snap-top belt loops, reinforced knees, and velcro-strap bottoms
  • White canvas hi-top sneakers with 8 D-ring lace eyelets, white rubber toe-caps, and red-and-navy piped white rubber midsoles with vertical-ribbed “bumper” toe-guards
  • Navy baseball cap with arced rainbow “USCSS Nostromo” service badge and gold-wire “scrambled eggs” brim detail

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Check out the movie. You can also read more about John Mollo’s costume design from Alien from these sources:

The Quote

Right.

3 comments

  1. Joseph Cruise

    Alien is one of those movies that is so fantastic looking that it’s hard to take it all in at once. I actually never even took the time to appreciate the costumes because I’m too busy looking at the amazing sets and creature designs.

  2. Paddy

    The jacket looks like a field coat liner, like one of the M-65 liners modified into the screen jacket.

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