Luke Cage Costume Designer on the Power of the Hoodie
Every hero needs a uniform. Whether it’s a military uniform for Captain America, a suit of armor for Iron Man, or a Blue Dress for Peggy Carter, every superhero needs an outfit that speaks to his or her character’s strengths, emotions, and powers.
For Luke Cage — the hero of Harlem — it’s a black hoodie. That may not have been the obvious choice, especially since he wore a bright yellow shirt in the comics, but when the series kicked off, Luke wearing a black hoodie just seemed to fit. He didn’t need armor or a shield — his skin is literally his protection — but he did need something that said Luke Cage, a working class turned bulletproof hero.
When speaking with Stephanie Maslansky — Luke Cage’s brilliant costume designer — we asked her what inspired her to give Luke something as simple and powerful as a black hoodie and how she approached designing a garment that could even be considered controversial in 2016.
The Marvel Report: What went through your mind when you were handed the task of creating a bulletproof black hoodie?
Stephanie Maslansky: I have to initially credit Cheo Hodari Coker [Luke Cage’s showrunner]. When he was first envisioning who this character was, he couldn’t imagine Luke Cage wearing anything else except a hoodie. Which I completely understand, given today’s culture and racial profiling, the initial thoughts and suspicions and fears that unfortunately people often have when they see a Black man in a hoodie. Luke Cage isn’t just bulletproof but he’s a hero who helps people, he’s trying to foil the plans of the all the bad guys on the show.
A hoodie is also something people use to disguise themselves, they can put up the hood and become practically invisible. A hoodie is a statement for anyone who wants to wear it, even something like a Horror Hoodie could make a powerful statement. This is a character who struggles with his identity, who struggles with his superpowers, like the other Netflix heroes — they grapple on a daily basis with who they are and what they can do. They are not easily comfortable with their abilities and the emotions that go with being heroes. Daredevil has a lot of guilt, Jessica Jones has PTSD, and Luke Cage just wants to be left the hell alone. Luke would prefer to keep a completely low profile so he can help the people around him. Jessica and Luke Cage both wear their garments as a form of psychological protection.
These superheroes need to resonate authentically, as real life, grounded, gritty New York heroes. The choice of a hoodie and a pair of jeans and a tee shirt, that’s is what a working class man would wear. There’s nothing flashy about Luke Cage, and I know there never will be.
Was the choice of yellow in the hoodie a nod to his original outfit from the comics?
Absolutely, we are always trying to figure out ways to connect the original comic book illustrations to these live-action, modernized shows. Incorporating the yellow lining inside the hoodie was a way to connect back to the colors from the comics. Our choices had to be ones which were not overly ridiculous or exaggerated, choices that didn’t stand out or distract from the dialogue the story at hand.
I don’t remember exactly who suggested it, but we were trying to figure out ways to work in the color. We came up with a way to stitch the stretchy jersey fabric into the lining. Once he [Mike Colter] put it on, it really made sense. It looked like a special hoodie. Even though he lost the yellow-lined hoodie in the explosion, he was able to purchase another one just in time for his fight against Diamondback. We wrote in a backstory for that hoodie.
I loved the Method Man “Bulletproof Love” sequence where the men in Harlem start wearing bullet-laden hoodies in solidarity with Luke Cage. That was an incredible powerful and symbolic moment.
It was a style choice, an action choice. It will be interesting to see if someone tries to market these bulleted hoodies. Ripped jeans, ripped shirts are in right now, why not a hoodie?
Do you think these hoodies will become a staple at Conventions?
I have a feeling we’re going to start seeing a lot of Luke Cages.
Stay tuned for part two of our interview with Stephanie, where she will discuss designing Luke and Misty’s throwback comic book costumes!