John Wick’s Bulletproof Suits
Can you get one of the super assassin’s tactical-but-fashionable outfits in real life? Almost...
ONE OF THE JOHN WICK accessories that doesn’t get a lot of attention are the awesome suits Keanu Reeves wears in the role. We learn, eventually, that his clothes are more than just sharp duds that let him blend into a crowd; they’re also custom made, functional body armor.
The tailor in JW2 gives a description of a liner made of a Kevlar weave with a ceramic matrix or some such buzz-word filled description—point is, bullets aren’t getting through his jacket or pants—but the material is still soft and pliable. That means when he gets shot, it doesn’t kill him, but it hurts. We see Wick shielding his head with his jacket at times during the shootout sequence in the tunnels, and we see him take a number of rounds to the back and protected chest area, so his pain tolerance is also superhuman.
“Zero penetration, but…quite painful, I’m afraid.”
In the first movie, he only wears a normal two-piece suit with a thin ballistic vest between his tshirt and his dress shirt. In John Wick 2, after visiting the special tailor in Rome, he went with a three-piece suit, presumably because the vest can be made from the same bulletproof material as the jacket, offering double protection on the sides and back, and some protection for his vitals, which would otherwise be exposed.
But, as this story from Audiblwav.com explains, his suits were also designed to fit his character. You don’t have to be a fashionista (that’s what I hear people who are into fashion are called) to understand the reasoning behind Wick’s suit design. He dresses like a professional bodyguard or personal security operator would dress, turned up to Hollywood levels, but not too much.
He wears black or gray suits that are neat, clean, and nondescript. Single-notch labels, flat front pants with no cuffs. Simple. Usually with a white, black, or gray button down shirt and a black tie. He goes with a black Tactleneck shirt for his trip to Rome. There’s no flair, no adornments, nothing to catch the light—he even wears his watch with the face on the inside of his wrist.
Video game fans might be reminded of the Hitman series, in which Agent 47 rocks the same look, only with a red tie. Always red. It’s also pretty close to the black suit, white shirt, black tie “work clothes” worn by professional criminals in the Tarantino-movie-verse, namely in Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. But instead of the ill fitting, baggy, cheap suits from the Tarantino movies (it was the 90s so the bagginess is forgivable, but they still look cheap), Wick’s clothes are impeccably tailored. What happens when you try to sport the same ensemble on a budget? You get this awesome dude.
You’ll notice Wick very rarely buttons his jacket, which gives him more freedom of movement and allows him to conceal his firearms and spare mags from 3 o’clock around the back to 9 o’clock on his belt—but from the complete lack of any printing, I don’t think he’s even wearing empty holsters and mag carriers in most scenes.
I’ve tried to see if he wears a different jacket with more room in the shoulders for the crazy fight scenes, but I can’t tell. When clothes are custom made for multi-million dollar movies, who knows what kind of super stretchy spandex panels and whatnot they can build into a suit to make the stunts possible.
In the real tactical world, being able to blend in while also concealing firearms, spare mags, tools, and comms gear under a suit is something to which a number of professionals have to give serious thought.
The Real Stuff
There is at least one company I know of that makes men’s clothes that aspire to be what Wick’s fictional suits are to the real life bodyguards and other professionals out there who have to wear a suit that doesn’t look like it’s two-sizes too big while being heavily armed.
Grayman and Co makes suits to order with tactical features like gusseted shoulders in a suit jacket that looks like any other jacket from behind when the wearer is performing normal every-day actions, but when they need the extra room to, say, present a handgun in an isosceles stance, stretch panels are revealed at the seams.
You can design your own suit on their site, which come with a basic set of features including: “mission ready” pockets that allow for carrying of magazines and other small gear and are laid out to maximize easy of access; “hold-out pockets” that are meant to hide a handcuff key in a position for easy access if restrained; comms loops in the cuffs and collar area for wire management; pockets made of ripstop grid fabric; and waistband pockets at 11 o’clock and 1 o’clock that hold pistol mags, knives, multitools, or even AR mags.
You can further choose from a host of additional options like cut-resistant sleeves; RFID blocking pockets; quickdraw jacket buttons that allow you to keep your jacket closed and still get to a sidearm quickly; a holster liner on the inside of the jacket that protects it from tears and abrasions from rubbing against a holster and pistol grip all the time—plus it mitigates printing; and more.
Grayman includes simple things that you might not think of if you don’t train with a suit on, but you really should think about if you carry for self defense regularly while wearing a suit, or even just a sport coat.
You can get a “draw assist pocket” sewn into the inside of the bottom corner of Graman jackets on your carry side. Something with a little weight is slipped in there, like a challenge coin, or even a couple spare rounds. It gives the jacket edge a little weight, helping you to sweep it clear on the draw.
Including all these features is one thing—having the clothes look like a normal suit to even trained eyes is something else entirely, and that’s what Grayman strives for. I’ve hung out with the folks behind the company at SHOT Show and I can tell you, they are serious about what they do—and their suits look great in person.
Go ahead and have fun designing your own on their website, but it isn’t going to be cheap. Their basic suit with the options mentioned above will run you over $1,500.
However, that fashion site I mentioned earlier recommends buying a $450 white shirt and a $230 silk tie to look like John Wick—with no tactical applications whatsoever. I know very well that there are people who don’t bat an eye at paying upwards of $2,000 for a suit—I’m not in that sphere—but the fashion site also recommends a jacket that costs over $2,500, just for the jacket.
Considering pros who wear suits every day often spend about the same for an average suit and the necessary tailoring to make them suitable for use (so I’m told), it’s not that expensive at all.
Still, they’re not quite as cool as John Wick’s bulletproof duds, but maybe one day…