With Breaking Bad (2008-2013) gaining critical acclaim for everything from the performances to the cinematography, it was the character development that kept on reeling people in, especially protagonist to antagonist Walter White. But television’s greatest bad boy’s transformation was seen nowhere more than through his wardrobe, with the Walter White outfits changing to narrate the story of the struggling family man with a hidden criminal alter ego Heisenberg.
So, let’s have a look at some interesting Walter White’s outfits and try to identify what makes them iconic.
Walter White’s Straight-Laced Tan Jacket and Yellow Button-Down Shirt
When we first meet Bryan Cranston as down on his luck Walter White, we notice that his clothes reflect his life as a straight-laced yet struggling high-school chemistry teacher. His simple light tan jacket and pale yellow striped button-down shirt are bland and unthreatening. Allowing Walter to move around on the edges of the criminal underworld without drawing any attention to himself.
Walter’s Green Button-Down Shirt and White Underwear from Breaking Bad
Probably one of the most memorable images from Breaking Bad came from the pilot episode, with the Walter White green shirt and underpants look. The disturbing scene, made more so by the handgun a slightly unhinged Walter is brandishing, is the audience’s first steps into the world of crystal meth cooking within the show. With our protagonist demonstrating a level of naivety to the dangers he faces, from not only the drugs but the ruthless dealers they are now in league with.
A Conservative Beige Sweater for Chemistry Teacher Walter White
None of Walter’s early Breaking Bad outfits represent his dull and boring life, that he feels trapped in, more than this simple beige sweater. Paired with equally drab pants and worn like a uniform, the nondescript color and straightforward diamond pattern symbolize his benign and harmless personality that he shows to the world. With the conservative round neck, long sleeved sweater smothering Walter’s true feelings and struggles.
Burgundy Heisenberg Check Shirt from Breaking Bad
As his character evolves and sinks deeper into the shady criminal underworld, the Walter White clothes follow the same transformation. But with a darker color palette becoming the norm, Walter still favors the simplicity of his basic check and stripe shirts. Shadowy and moody colors, like this deep burgundy on his understated button-down long sleeved check shirt, reflect his darkening mood and new intimidating persona, Heisenberg.
Walter’s Simple Chinos With An Edge of Menace
Although Walter White’s outfits darkened as his character gradually transformed into the show’s antagonist, he didn’t get rid of all his beige clothes from his wardrobe. Still wearing his pale bland chino’s when it suits the occasion, or confrontation he is walking into. With lots of color theory articles about Breaking Bad online, like this one by Looper, reinforcing the idea that beige represents safety and harmlessness, Walter knows exactly when to use this to his advantage.
Heisenberg’s Black Felt Hat
When Walter White has his hat on you know that there is going to be trouble, and that will probably lead to a lot of violence. The ‘pork pie’ hat made of a simple black felt is a statement piece, and what is the statement that it is making. That for a simple accessory, the hat actually represents Walter’s drug producing and distributing persona Heisenberg.
Pink V-Neck Sweater Worn by Walter White in Breaking Bad
Episode thirteen in the second season is one of only a few times throughout the show’s five season run that any of the Walter White clothes could be described as colorful, bright or bold. The complete opposite of his usual dull beiges or dark moody burgundies, the v-neck wool sweater in vibrant pink is a nod to the loss of the innocent passengers in the plane crash. Especially since Walter is inadvertently responsible but is completely unaware of the part he has played, following Jane Margolis’ death (check out her style breakdown here).
Walter White’s Transformation into Heisenberg, the Criminal Mastermind
The only thing more important than his pork pie hat when in the character of his alter ego Heisenberg is the dark, black and moody wardrobe that goes along with it. Walter, as a high-school teacher, dressed conservatively but when working with his partner Jesse Pinkman (whose style we discuss here) this more relaxed, casual and slightly menacing look fitted his Heisenberg persona perfectly. Simple black straight leg jeans, paired with a matching jacket, shirt and shoes really shows his descent into criminality and completes his transformation.
It’s difficult to resist being attracted to Walter White
Even with his character personifying some of the worst parts of the drug trade, inciting violence and glorifying the criminal underworld, it is hard not to be drawn to Walter White. With the plot centered on his transformation from straight-laced to the show’s bad boy, his Walter White outfits have changed to fit this new narrative.
So if you want to perfect your own Walter White look, stick to moody colors, simple unfussy garments and a statement hat. Although, it is probably best not to steal his personality, unsatisfying job and dangerous side hustle.
And if you want a complete Heisenberg Costume, read our tutorial on how to Dress Up Like Walter Heisenberg White from Breaking Bad