Photo: Tina Rowden / NBC

Demon-Fighting Duds

That's John Constantine's look and he's sticking to it.

Speaking as someone who has never had to wear a uniform to any of my schools or jobs, I can only imagine the upside to wearing the same thing every day. Albert Einstein was supposedly in the habit of always rocking the same look so that he wouldn't have to waste precious mental data cycles choosing his clothes every morning. I've read that Christopher Nolan, the sometime boss of Constantine's co-executive producer David S. Goyer, wears a black suit all the time. Even I, an longtime telecommuter, am usually turned out in a t-shirt, hoodie, and Dockers™, and though their colors vary, a blind person checking out my outfit by feel could reasonably assume I've been wearing the same clothes all week (and sometimes not be far off).

The thing about committing to wearing the same thing every day is that you have to choose carefully. That same thing has to be comfortable, be practical, and meet the level of professionalism expected by the people you'll meet in your line of work. NBC's John Constantine has accomplished the remarkable feat of settling on a look that is equidistant from all three.

Let's start from the outside and work our way in, starting with the signature trench coat.

Photo: Tina Rowden / NBC

Photo: Tina Rowden / NBC

It's too short, okay? That thing should be pooling around him on the sidewalk. However, there are a couple of very good reasons that it isn't. One is that trench coats in general have suddenly gone stumpy. I blame James Bond. Ever since that hero shot of him in Skyfall looking over the skyline of London in an overcoat that was a more appropriate length for M, a "long" men's coat is above the knee. My own trench coat is thus probably out of date, but my thighs stay warm and a gusty day makes for a bad-ass silhouette.

John Constantine is a comic-book character, and his trench coat is his superhero cape. He should be a mysterious figure wreathed in yards of fabric and cigarette smoke, not a sawed-off Columbo. On the other hand, Constantine probably finds himself squatting in some pretty nasty places. So what the coat lacks in style, it gains in practicality.

By the way, as long as we're down here, I approve of the shoes. They look like he could do some decent running or kicking or stamping out unholy flames with them, but the color doesn't say "Fuck you, I'm wearing sneakers."

Photo: Quantrell Colbert / NBC

Photo: Quantrell Colbert / NBC

Ditto the pants. Nothing flashy, just basic black slacks. Room to move, utilitarian pockets, they don't show soot, and they're easily replaceable. Keanu wore a black suit in the movie, so if the pants or jacket got snagged on a horn or something, he'd have been out several bills. This Constantine wisely doesn't bother with the suit jacket, which also makes for a much cleaner look under the trench coat. And not for nothing, but the trousers have plenty of room in the crotch, which is good because Constantine is not short on balls.

Let's circle back to the coat for a second, which I've just now noticed is also too long in the sleeves. Really? Off-the-rack for a guy who sets fire to his hands?

Photo: Quantrell Colbert / NBC

Photo: Quantrell Colbert / NBC

But now we come to the part of the ensemble that finishes it off, yet is the most problematic: the necktie. Ties have had a rough millennium so far; between business casual, tech-startup chic, the Bush 43 administration, and the fact that they don't even always get to go to the Oscars any more, their long-term future is uncertain. They've never served a practical purpose, and even when they were de rigueur, the only time a tie was ever really noticed was because there was something wrong with it.

Still, they hang on (no pun accomplished) as a signifier of at least a modicum of sartorial effort. Nobody puts on a tie because they want to spend an extra minute getting dressed and then go through the rest of the day worried about what's going to get spilled on it. A tie is something you wear for other people.

I have no quarrel with the hue, width, or nonexistent pattern of John Constantine's tie. Indeed, the dark red color is ideal for a gentleman who encounters the occasional blood spatter, while providing a much-needed hue element to offset his otherwise neutral palette of white shirt, black pants and shoes, tan coat, blond hair, and British complexion.

My only issue is the way he wears it. Don't get me wrong, I am a huge proponent (and inveterate modeler) of the Alex P. Keaton knot and the way it facilitates respiration. However, Constantine's knot invariably hovers between the second and third button of his shirt, which frankly is worse than wearing no tie at all. A tie is a fashion statement; do you really want that statement to be "I was getting ready for a job interview when the fire alarm went off"? He couldn't even tighten it in a pinch if he needed to; both ends of the tie dangle to the same height, so if he had to get into a fancy restaurant to track down a demon disguised as a hedge-fund manager, he'd find himself with the tail hanging a foot below the front and thus be foiled.

It's distracting. In this week's episode, Constantine crashes a wake by pretending to be a newspaper reporter, but with the knot of his tie bouncing against his xiphoid process he looks as if he spent the night under the widow's porch.

Wearing a tie in this manner only serves two possible purposes. One is to be ready to cinch it around one's head and thus have a Shaun of the Dead costume ready at a moment's notice. The other is to say, "Fuck you, at least I'm wearing a tie."

Finally, the shirt. There's not much to say about the basic white dress shirts Constantine wears. No button-down collars, no cufflinks, nothing to differentiate them from one another. They may not be practical in what is sometimes a dirty job, but by the same token, they serve as a blank canvas on which to mark, in some form or another, whatever trauma Constantine has just been through. I very much hope he buys them in bulk.

Photo: Tina Rowden / NBC

Photo: Tina Rowden / NBC

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