An Appreciation of Indiana Jones: The World’s Most Stylish Archeologist

In honor of this month’s arrival of Indy on Netflix, here’s a look at his best-dressed moments.

If Google had existed in 1981, “How to become an archeologist” would undoubtedly have been one of the year’s top searches. In fact, right now there may be a whole generation of archeologists who chose their profession purely out of a desire to become the next Indiana Jones. The reason, of course is that 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, the first of the Indiana Jones quadrilogy of movies (or trilogy plus weird step child, if you prefer), is the film that made archeology look like the coolest profession on earth. Traveling the world fighting Nazis! Foiling the plans of mercenary treasure hunters, Shanghai crime bosses, and evil cults! Dodging giant boulders and swinging across gaping ravines! And, perhaps most important of all, dressing like an honest-to-god badass.
The truth is, few characters in cinematic history have as iconic a look as Indiana Jones. The fedora, the leather jacket, the khaki trousers, the work boots… on the surface, it’s nothing too out of the ordinary. But put together it’s become a signifier for adventure, roguish wit, and indelible charm. Now—while this may be the outfit of the series—it’s important to note that Indy was no slouch in other important avenues of men’s style. Whether teaching a class, infiltrating a Chinese crime syndicate, or strolling the cobblestones of Venice, Indiana Jones knew how to put together a look. You don’t get to be a tenured professor at Marshall College simply by melting Nazi faces after all. And if you need proof, simply pop on over to Netflix and peruse the entire Indiana Jones cinematic canon, which is now available to stream.
Or, if you prefer, take a spin through our own favorite moments in Dr. Jones’ jones-worthy (pun intended) style.
The Legend
Wear a brown leather jacket with a fedora today and it will take about three seconds for someone to make an Indiana Jones reference. When it comes to zeitgeist-y looks, this ensemble is tough to beat. In truth, however, Indy wasn’t the first movie character to don the leather jacket/fedora combo in the name of adventure. That honor goes to Charlton Heston’s Henry Steele in Secret of the Incas, a 1954 film that Raiders costume designer Deborah Nadoolman cites as a direct inspiration for Indy. But, and no disrespect to the Charlton Heston in his prime here, mix a brew of Harrison Ford’s rugged, high-wattage charm, Steven Spielberg’s cinematic vision, and peak-George Lucas storytelling prowess, and it’s no surprise that the fedora, leather jacket, and khakis became synonymous with Indiana Jones.
But to better understand the sartorial power of this ensemble, it’s important to look at the finer details. First up, the fedora. It was custom made by Herbert Johnson Hat Company of Savile Row in London, and was allegedly based off of a model called the Poet. The hat’s combination of high crown and wide brim gave Indy a very distinctive silhouette, which was the chief aim of Raiders’ costume designer Nadoolman. Next up, the leather jacket. In terms of provenance, Indy’s jacket deserves a film of its own. Suffice it to say, it was a slightly different version for each film, but essentially it’s a leather WWII-era bomber with a plain leather cuff and hem rather than elasticated jersey. This alteration gave it more of a James Dean/Marlon Brando effect, which better suited the effortless cool that Harrison Ford brought to the character. (Which surely is what made a leather jacket bearable in the broiling deserts of Egypt and the swampy jungles of India).
Perhaps one of the most popular pieces of Indy’s wardrobe in terms of modern day style is his boots. Though some assume they are Red Wing work boots, they’re actually Alden model 405s. As legend has it, Harrison Ford wore Alden 405s back in his carpenter days. And so, when Indy’s costume was being set up for Raiders, Ford requested that they not only use Aldens—which would have been period-correct for the 1930s—but also that they buy them from his favorite shop in Sherman Oak called Fredrick’s. Dually accomplished, the 405s have since become so associated with the character that even Alden refers to them as the “Indy” boot.
The final pieces of Indy’s signature look combine early 20th century adventuring style (think Hemingway and Teddy Roosevelt) with WWII-era military surplus. His shirt is a take on the classic safari shirt—a button-up made from khaki twill with flap pockets and epaulets—while his trousers are WWII khaki wool twill army officer’s trousers. And of course, for the coup de grace, Indy’s satchel—where Crosses of Coronado and Peruvian golden idols can be easily stored—is a British WWII-era Mk VII canvas gas mask bag. Put all of those pieces together and you have one of the greatest adventuring kits the world has ever known.
The Dapper Professor
While Indiana Jones would prefer to be out in the field, part of his gig as a tenured professor is that he must occasionally teach a class. Which means that he also must occasionally shed his grizzled adventurer look in favor of something more sophisticated. For Dr. Henry Jones Jr., that means a tweed three-piece suit. Whether worn with a wool necktie, as in Raiders of the Lost Ark, or with a dotted bow tie as in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indiana’s tweed three-piece—a Brooks Brothers sack suit cut with patch pockets, pleated trousers, and a high-necked waistcoat—is the gold standard of professorial style. It’s classic tailoring that has been a staple of menswear since the Victorians first invented it for country sport. Plus, it perfectly illustrates Indy’s patented blend of brain and brawn.
Sometimes, however, a look that walks the line between sophisticated and casual is required. For those occasions—say, when faced with some impromptu professor-ing while in a foreign land in the Temple of Doom—his strategy is to replace his leather jacket and fedora with a tweed blazer, bowtie, and his signature round-framed glasses. It’s basically a version of business casual before business casual was a thing. Which makes Indy not only a literal trailblazer, but a sartorial one as well. And then, of course, there are those times when maximum tailoring is required. Like when dealing with government pencil-pushers who want to stuff the Ark of the Covenant into a crowded warehouse. For this, Indy employs a sharply tailored double-breasted navy suit. And while even Dr. Jones himself can’t stymie the grinding gears of government bureaucracy, at least the suit gets him the girl. Or maybe it was saving her from a pack of murderous Nazis. Either way.
Finally, in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, our favorite gun-slinging archeologist is no longer the spry youth of his Nazi-fighting days. Set in 1957, the movie follows Indy as he navigates not only Soviet thugs, but also middle age. And as such, he demonstrates a clear dexterity with middle-aged professorial style. Of course, his staple three-piece tweed suit and bowtie are on full display, but so too is a slightly more casual look of a light gray tweed blazer, brown trousers, crisp white shirt, and burgundy necktie—an ideal ensemble for both the 1950s, and a man of any era over the age of 50. Plus, it plays well off of the youthful Marlon Brando-wannabe style of Shia LaBeouf’s Mutt Williams, with his black leather Perfecto jacket, white T-shirt, and jeans.
Man Of The World
The thing about Dr. Jones is, not only is he a fearless and much-respected adventuring archeologist, he’s also a bona fide man of the world. Exhibit A: the opening scene of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Indy impresses not only by firing off some colloquial Mandarin, but also with a dashing evening ensemble of white dinner jacket, black vest, and black tie, all topped off with a dapper red carnation. What better outfit to hold Kate Capshaw hostage and then get poisoned in? It’s a look that fully proves George Lucas’ original boast to Steven Spielberg when pitching the idea of Indiana Jones to him (actually, at that point he was Indiana Smith): that Indy is a better character than even James Bond.
And, last of all, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade provides us with yet one more glimpse of Dr. Jones’ sophisticated world-beating style. Upon arrival in Venice, Italy, at the mid-point of the first act, Indy ditches both his professorial tweeds and his signature leather jacket for a softly-tailored taupe single-breasted suit with a burgundy necktie. While the look remains firmly entrenched within Indy’s standard color-palette, thanks to the suit’s Continental aesthetic, it shows how skillfully he can adapt to his surroundings—the mark of a true sartorial master. And, along with his action hero bona fides, the reason Indiana Jones is one of the greatest (and best-dressed) characters in the history of cinema.
– By Scott Christian, January 19, 2019 Follow the link at https://www.esquire.com/style/mens-fashion/a25848350/indiana-jones-style-fashion-outfits/?source=nl&utm_source=nl_esq&utm_medium=email&date=011919&src=nl&utm_campaign=15749488

Authors

*

Top