Every stain a story: The many dirty undershirts of John McClane in Die Hard

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3 Citations (Scopus)


Men’s upper body underwear and the depiction of grime, dirt and blood on costumes have a long tradition in Hollywood films. This article explores the 34 undershirts worn by Bruce Willis and his stuntman in the 1988 action film Die Hard from the points of view of the maker, designer, actor, curator and spectator. The image of McClane and the undershirt became iconic in their depiction of a white, working-class, heroic masculinity. One of the many undershirts used in the film was donated to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American Culture costume collection. This one artefact and the 33 ‘lost’ doubles hold more clues to the undershirt’s past than the obvious connection to a major star; the exhibited object also brings the viewer into physical proximity with the art of Hollywood filmmaking. This article queries the different ‘authenticities’ of the garment, from its material believability as evidence of the character’s …
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193
Number of pages205
JournalStudies in Costume and Performance
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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