In 1988, Bruce Willis blew up a lift, told Alan Rickman where to go, and coined a much-imitated-but-never-bettered catchphrase (you know the one). Most importantly, he wore an increasingly-dirty vest, which became a cinematic symbol for the heroic everyman who triumphs against the greatest odds. He wasn’t the first, and he wasn’t the last…
Die Hard (1988)
Just a year after Arnold Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers showed off their bulging biceps in skimpy vest tops in Predator, we got the ultimate in sartorial minimalism.
As New York cop John McClane, Bruce Willis made the vest the must-have item of the late ’80s – and it’s not hard to see why when Willis looked as cool as he did fighting off terrorists in a Los Angeles high-rise. An icon is born.
American History X (1998)
Edward Norton just loves wearing vests. Whether it’s in 25th Hour, Fight Club or The Incredible Hulk, a tight-fitting white number is the thing for him.
He’s never looked meaner, though, than in American History X. Shave-headed, tattooed, goateed and wearing that vest with pride, he’s every bit the badass we’re expected to believe he is.
Under that sweeping black leather jacket, half-human half-vampire Blade (Wesley Snipes) is packing some serious heat. Not only is he equipped with some of the coolest gadgets this side of James Bond, he’s also got one nifty vest.
A cross between a police vest and a lifejacket, Blade’s sleeve-free top is clearly designed to protect his most important asset – his heart. He is a vampire, after all.
Dirty Dancing (1987)
Ask anybody in their thirties and they’ll tell you there was only one movie man for them in the 1980s, and that man was Patrick Swayze.
Hard to disagree. As bad boy dance instructor Johnny Castle, Swayze rocks a figure-hugging black number that leaves little to the imagination. Of course, it helped that he knew how to move. No wonder Jennifer Grey’s young guppy fell head over leg-warmers for him.
Ripley always skirts the line between macho and sexy, which is never more apparent than in James Cameron’s big budget, scale-ramping sequel to Alien.
At the climax of Alien, we got Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) in her smalls facing off against the terrifying xenomorph. In Aliens, it’s all about the vest, which Ripley wears right at the start of the film as she recovers from her extended hyper-sleep.
It’s obviously meant to contrast with the army-style fatigues that she’ll don later in the film, and hints at Ripley’s fragile state of mind. Mostly, though, it’s just really cool – even badass Vasquez (Jenette Goldstein) gets in on the action.
Honourable mentions: Philip Seymour Hoffman in Boogie Nights, Amber Heard in All The Boys Love Mandy Lane, Brad Pitt in Fight Club, Quvenzhané Wallis in Beasts Of The Southern Wild and Nic Cage in Raising Arizona.