The Nice Guys: Russell Crowe’s Blue ’70s Leather Jacket

Russell Crowe as Jackson Healy in The Nice Guys (2016)

Russell Crowe as Jackson Healy in The Nice Guys (2016)


Russell Crowe as Jackson Healy, unlicensed private detective

Los Angeles, Fall 1977

Film: The Nice Guys
Release Date: May 20, 2016
Director: Shane Black
Costume Designer: Kym Barrett

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!


I was pleased to again join my friends Pete Brooker and Ken Stauffer on another episode of Pete’s podcast From Tailors With Love, this time discussing the fun ’70s style of Shane Black’s action comedy The Nice Guys.

For those unfamiliar, the “nice guys” in question are Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, bringing back Black’s signature buddy comedy style in a big way as competing private eyes Jackson Healy and Holland March, respectively.

The older and worldlier yet paunchier Jack is more an enforcer than investigator, balancing his limb-breaking toughness with at least some remaining scruples, particularly when compared to the younger and less experienced Holly, who’s not above taking a case agreeing to help an aging woman track down her “missing” husband… whose ashes rest in an urn just a few feet away from them.

Like Crowe’s star-making turn almost twenty years earlierThe Nice Guys’ conspiratorial heartbeat is driven by Kim Basinger’s role at the intersection of corruption and porn in the City of Angels forty years prior, but the villains’ overcomplicated scheme are certainly secondary to the comedic chemistry between Crowe and Gosling, whom I—and Crowe himself—would love to see re-team for a follow-up… and with a built-in sequel title like The Nicer Guys, what’s stopping them?

What’d He Wear?

When Pete asked during the podcast what prop or item from The Nice Guys I’d be most eager to own, I enthusiastically responded that it would be Jack Healy’s light blue leather jacket, distinctive not just for its offbeat color but also unique detailing. Would I be able to pull it off? Probably not, but that wasn’t the question.

Healy is considerably less concerned about his appearance than March, who rotates through a series of suits and sport jackets while Healy almost exclusively relies on the same blue leather jacket, sneakers, and jeans with his limited rotation of blue sport shirts. (The rare exceptions are when the situations call for something dressier, such as a charcoal flannel suit and tie for the climactic auto show… or an evidently dressier black leather jacket and tie for a dinner date.)

Russell Crowe as Jackson Healy in The Nice Guys (2016)

Got a dinner date? Even Jack Healy knows the blue leather is far too informal… swapping it out for black leather and an embroidered tie instead.

Healy’s light blue leather jacket extends to his thighs, slightly shorter than a traditional car coat. The ulster-style collar presents the same beige contrast stitching present on the jacket’s edges and seams, including the chest yoke across the front, around the pockets and pocket flaps, and around the ends of the otherwise plain cuffs.

The four squared patch-style pockets are covered by wide flaps, each with a concave arc toward the center where a long strap hangs down to be fastened through a gunmetal-toned buckle sewn onto the pocket itself, an overly complicated but certainly distinctive closure system. The jacket itself has a more conventional closure, with four brown woven leather buttons from mid-chest down to Crowe’s natural waist, coordinated through buttonholes on the left that have been reinforced by a contrasting dark navy stitch.

Russell Crowe as Jackson Healy in The Nice Guys (2016)

Like Healy himself, the jacket had likely seen some better days: slightly faded in color, worn at the seams, and no longer fitting its wearer as well as it might have when he picked it up during his glory days earlier in the decade. This is particularly seen around the shoulders and back, where the leather pulls toward Healy’s armpits, accommodating his added heft.

This unfortunate effect may have been mitigated if Healy had sprung for a jacket with bi-swing pleats behind the shoulders, an “action back” affectation from the ’30s that was briefly revived in the ’70s, though the less flattering look nicely serves the character by visually signaling that Healy’s best days may be behind him. The half-belt sewn across the back does recall this vintage style, but without the benefit of added fabric to ease the larger man’s movement within the stiff confines of his leather.

Russell Crowe as Jackson Healy in The Nice Guys (2016)

Healy’s first shirt under this jacket gets limited screen-time, but it’s enough to see the busy blue floral print stenciled against a white ground. Almost certainly short-sleeved, the shirt has a long, ’70s-style point collar and a front placket with recessed light brown faux-wood buttons. Following the example set by this first shirt, all of Healy’s shirts worn with his jacket include blue to a prominent degree.

Russell Crowe as Jackson Healy in The Nice Guys (2016)

The day Healy meets March (and gives him a thorough thrashing in his own kitchen), Healy again wears a shirt with a tropical-influenced design, this time more of a panel print anchored by a beach scene that works its way up from the dunes and waves around the hem through the silhouetted palm trees up to the light blue mottled clouds and sky comprising the upper body of the shirt. To learn the basics of aloha shirt designs, including the subtle difference between a “border print” and “panel print”, check out this helpful visual guide by Aloha Spotter.

Though it may not be an authentic Hawaiian shirt, the shirt follows conventional aloha styling with its camp collar, short sleeves, and plain front (no placket), which buttons up with dark brown buttons.

Russell Crowe as Jackson Healy in The Nice Guys (2016)

One of Healy’s most frequently worn shirts is a light sky-blue short-sleeved shirt, styled like a work shirt with its pair of flapped chest pockets as well as a shaped point collar and wide placket with seven cornflower-blue plastic buttons.

This shirt may be made from the “light blue fabric” that costume designer Kym Barrett had found in the Anto Beverly Hills archives when researching from the film and—upon learning that it dated to the ’70s when Anto brought it from Lebanon to the United States—used it to create a screen-worn shirt.

Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling in The Nice Guys (2016)

Healy also wears a darker navy blue short-sleeved two-pocket shirt, albeit with subtle differences in style such as a flatter-laying collar and a plain front (no placket) with seven large recessed 4-hole buttons in navy plastic to match the shirting.

Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe in The Nice Guys (2016)

Healy regularly wears a pair of likely vintage jeans in a dark blue denim wash, identified as Levi’s by the telltale red tag sewn onto the right of the two back pockets, each further decorated with the brand’s signature arcuate stitch. The jeans are roomy through the legs, with an apparent boot-cut as was more fashionable in the ’70s than today, even though Healy doesn’t share his partner’s penchant for boots.

Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling in The Nice Guys (2016)

As March takes cover beside him, Healy fires a few rounds from March’s .38 at a retreating John Boy.

The one aspect of Healy’s wardrobe that remains surprisingly consistent, even when dressed in a suit and tie, are his worn-in sneakers, consisting of navy-blue leather (or synthetic leather) uppers and pale-gray rubber outsoles, and most often worn with dark blue socks. The plain-toe sneakers follow the circular vamp oxford (CVO) design with four sets of nickeled eyelets for the flat light-gray woven laces.

In a blink-or-you’ll-miss-it moment as Healy slips into his shoes in the morning, the brown leather tongue tabs are visible that reveal the brand to be ECCO, the family-owned Dutch shoemaker that has been producing footwear since 1963.

Russell Crowe as Jackson Healy in The Nice Guys (2016)

Healy rotates between two different pairs of glasses, his black-framed reading glasses and a set of silver-framed aviator sunglasses. The latter design had been introduced decades earlier for military airmen but underwent a revival through the ’70s into the ’80s, when its popularity was reinforced by Tom Cruise’s swaggering Naval aviator in Top Gun.

Russell Crowe as Jackson Healy in The Nice Guys (2016)

When you’re on the job, you need to be readily able to switch between reading glasses and sunglasses.

Style purists could likely—and justifiably—take issue with almost every part of Jack Healy’s wardrobe, but there’s little argument to be made against his tasteful timepiece, an Omega Speedmaster chronograph that had reached contemporary stardom as the watch issued to NASA astronauts and worn by Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins during the 1969 moon landing.

While I couldn’t speculate as to Crowe’s role in choosing his screen-worn watch, I do know the actor is a watch enthusiast as evident from the range of luxurious pieces he included in his Sotheby’s Australia auction “The Art of Divorce”, commemorating his marital split. Though the auction included an Omega Speedmaster, it was one he had purchased a replacement for the Speedy that Ron Howard gave him and which he had subsequently regifted to his brother. (Hodinkee has confirmed that the auctioned watch differed from the black-strapped 50th Anniversary Speedy he wore in the 2009 thriller State of Play.)

Healy’s screen-worn Speedmaster follows the classic configuration of a steel case, fixed black-finished tachymetre bezel, and black dial with the requisite trio of sub-registers at the 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions. Rather than the classic black leather strap or matching steel link bracelet, Healy wears the watch on a silver-toned Speidel “Twist-O-Flex” expanding band as was popular through the ’70s.

Russell Crowe as Jackson Healy in The Nice Guys (2016)

Healy may never make it any farther into orbit than the upper floors of an L.A. hotel during an international auto show, but he still faithfully straps on his “Moon watch” Omega Speedmaster every morning.

Even Healy’s undershirt is blue, as he invariably wears a rotation of navy ribbed cotton sleeveless undershirts in the style named “A-shirt” (for “athletic shirt”) upon their development by Jockey in the mid-1930s before they received the unfortunate metonym “wife-beater” the following decade.

Russell Crowe as Jackson Healy in The Nice Guys (2016)


What to Imbibe

“At least you’re drinking again,” March quips during the Christmas-set denouement when he finds Healy taking shots directly from a bottle of Captain Morgan in reaction to the latest headlines. Unlike most movies where we’re often rooting for a hard-drinker to give up their destructive habit by the end, March hilariously turns the trope on its head by celebrating his newfound partner’s rediscovered fondness for the bottle.

Named for the Sir Henry Morgan, the Welsh privateer who ascended to the position of Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica in the late 17th century, this 70-proof spiced rum had been distilled in Jamaica for forty years before it was finally introduced to the American market in 1984. Unfortunately, this timing makes it an anachronism for Healy to be drinking it so openly in a Los Angeles bar seven years earlier.

Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe in The Nice Guys (2016)

Yo-ho-ho-ho!, and a bottle of rum.

Looking for a less destructive way to toss a few back in the spirit of one of our favorite “nice guys”? Thanks to March’s precocious daughter Holly (Angourie Rice), Healy learns of his appreciation for Yoo-hoo.

No anachronism here, as Yoo-hoo has been continuously produced since this “chocolate drink” was introduced in New Jersey in 1928. Based on its ingredients—primarily consisting of water, high-fructose corn syrup, and whey—we can’t legally call it chocolate milk… but Yoo-hoo fans already know it’s so much more than just milk.

Russell Crowe as Jackson Healy in The Nice Guys (2016)

Healy embraces Yoo-hoo before going the yo-ho-ho route.

The Guns

Jack Healy is considerably less trigger-happy than his partner, depending primarily on his brass knuckles when a weapon is needed though he certainly has access to—and a familiarity with—firearms as needed. When Healy returns home to a few thugs in his room, he pulls from under his bed an Ithaca 37, the same 12-gauge pump-action shotgun that Russell Crowe had used to effectively repel corrupt cops during the climactic gunfight in L.A. Confidential, released nearly 20 years earlier.

Unlike the stock riot-length shotgun wielded by Officer Bud White, Healy’s Ithaca 37 has been cut down to a maneuverable “scattergun” for close quarters combat, particularly with a shorter barrel (though with the front sight intact) and a removed stock that results in a pistol grip. Even with these modifications, the Ithaca 37 is quickly recognizable for its novel loading/ejection port located on the underside of the frame, leaving the sides unexposed to the elements.

Russell Crowe as Jackson Healy in The Nice Guys (2016)

Healy’s sawed-off Ithaca 37 shotgun sends a couple of henchmen packing.

When outside his home, Healy arms himself with SIG-Sauer P230, a compact semi-automatic pistol that had been newly introduced to the global market in 1977, the same year The Nice Guys is set. It does stretch believability to some degree that such a low-rent enforcer like Healy would have access to an innovative new Swiss handgun rather than a venerated .38 snub-nose like March keeps, but it’s possible that he took it from some rich mook he had earlier been hired to beat down.

As evident by its similar profile, the double-action P230 was developed as a modernized successor to the aging Walther PPK design, primarily offered in the same .32 ACP and .380 ACP calibers as the PPK—with the same 8-round and 7-round magazine capacities, respectively—as well as both blued and stainless finishes. After nearly 20 years of production, SIG-Sauer replaced the P230 in 1996 with a modernized P232 that retained much of the aesthetic but with more than 60 improvements to its design and operation.

For what it’s worth, a continuity error during the gunfight at March’s home does briefly swap out Healy’s blued SIG P230 for a Walther PP, the longer-barreled pistol that the PPK had been derived from. Though the pistols may look similar to an untrained eye, the P230 most immediately differentiates itself from the Walther pistols with its almost continuous “ramp” between the muzzle and trigger guard.

Russell Crowe as Jackson Healy in The Nice Guys (2016)

Healy aims his SIG-Sauer P230, most clearly differentiated from the Walther PP and PPK by its ramped front silhouette.

March dreams that Healy carries a snub-nosed revolver butt-forward in a tan leather ankle holster. Little more of this non-existent gun can be seen behind the smooth walnut grips, positioned butt-forward, though the “Camel Hump”-covered hammer suggests that March envisions Healy carrying a variation of the Smith & Wesson Model 38 “Bodyguard” that was developed in the 1950s specifically for concealed carry, with a light “Airweight” aluminum alloy frame and a shrouded hammer to prevent the weapon from snagging on a wearer’s clothing when rapidly drawn. Built on the same J-frame platform as the Model 36 “Chiefs Special”, the Model 38 and its carbon steel cousin, the Model 49, each carried five rounds of .38 Special in the cylinder.

Russell Crowe as Jackson Healy in The Nice Guys (2016)

March: Is that an ankle gun?
Healy: That is an ankle gun, yeah.
March: Pretty sweet.

March should have been tipped off that Healy’s ankle gun didn’t exist when he actually had to hand over his own nickel-plated Smith & Wesson Model 36 for Healy to use as a second weapon during the gunfight at his home, as well as a speed-loader with five additional rounds of .38 Special to fill the cylinder.

Russell Crowe as Jackson Healy in The Nice Guys (2016)

After March accidentally tosses one of his revolvers out the window instead of to Healy, he pulls a matching Model 36 and speed-loader from his cookie jar.

How to Get the Look

Russell Crowe as Jackson Healy in The Nice Guys (2016)

Russell Crowe as Jackson Healy in The Nice Guys (2016)

Down on his luck by the time we meet him in the fall of ’77, Jackson Healy’s got a right to sing the blues… and wear them. Though his shirts and jeans are rooted in classic casual and workwear styles, Jack embraces the excesses of the disco decade in an eye-catching blue leather jacket, distinctively detailed but—like its wearer—having seen better days.

  • Light-blue leather thigh-length vintage jacket with ulster collar, four brown woven leather buttons, four squared patch pockets with arced strap-down flaps, and half-belted back
  • Blue short-sleeved work shirt with point collar and two flapped chest pockets
  • Dark blue denim Levi’s boot-cut jeans
  • Navy leather plain-toe 4-eyelet CVO-style sneakers with light-gray laces and outsoles
  • Dark blue socks
  • Navy ribbed cotton sleeveless A-shirt/undershirt
  • Black narrow-framed reading glasses
  • Silver-framed aviator sunglasses
  • Omega Speedmaster chronograph watch with stainless steel case, black tachymetre bezel, black dial with 3 black sub-registers, and silver-toned “Twist-O-Flex” expanding bracelet

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Check out the movie and the latest episode of From Tailors With Love to hear us chatting about its costume design.

You should also read some of the authors that Shane Black cited as his inspiration in a Reddit AMA: Richard S. Prather, Warren Murphy, Ross MacDonald, and Ed McBain.

The Quote

Marriage is buying a house for someone you hate.

One comment

  1. Dan Holloway

    I thought it was great that the phone book advert was an exact copy of Jim Rockfords’ in the Rockford Files. Probably the best of the 70s television Private Eyes.

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