Part Five: The Present, the Past, the Future
2014: “You’re gonna fight a war, you’ve gotta have a uniform.”
Captain America: The Winter Soldier didn’t just tone down the stars and stripes. It went from the vaguely gaudy to the unarguably subdued. Cap is a covert agent in his latest film appearance, working for S.H.I.E.L.D. full-time, and he’s in stealth mode when we see first see him on the job.
Gone are the bold colors and American flag motif, the overly busy belt and fasteners, the bullet-head helmet. Instead, it’s a dull blue-and-nickel on the body, with brown leather accents. On Steve’s right upper arm is a S.H.I.E.L.D. eagle. There is an American flag on his left upper arm, if you look hard for it, but it’s hidden as part of the stripes and rendered in the same colors as the rest of the suit. This is in keeping with military use of flag patches on camouflage or other stealthy clothing.
The helmet, back to following the contours of Evans’s skull, finally shows Cap’s ears, and a new strap configuration firms up the weak-jaw problem seen when his neck was covered in The Avengers. The helmet straps, belt, harness, boots and gloves are plain, brown leather. The gloves, for reasons not obvious to me, are fingerless.
Although we only see the variant paint job during a mission early in the film, even his shield gets dusted-down for the job.
Again, many individual panels make up the torso of the new uniform; in this case, they outline some faux-musculature, a continuing motif of Steve’s uniforms across three movies. The heavier material is interrupted by cut-outs up the length of the abdomen and under the arms, as well as down the front of the trousers. I can only guess that this improves Cap’s range of motion. Think of them as crumple zones. I won’t begin to speculate why they’re shaped like barbells.
Cap has some light armor, once again, mostly on the knees, elbows, and shoulders. Padding around his clavicles and scapulae helps support his shield harness. It’s a simple but effective replacement for the WWII suspenders, not dependent upon the many straps of the older system.
After Cap has to abandon his S.H.I.E.L.D. suit, he’s forced to steal a World War II uniform from a display at the Smithsonian Institution. We’re never told if this is supposed to be one of Cap’s original suits or a recreation, but it bears only superficial resemblance to the costume from The First Avenger.
Most obviously, the red torso straps are spread further apart and a non-strap red stripe runs up the center of the abdominal armor. The armor itself has a different configuration The harness anchors on the chest and arms are very different, both in color and shape, and they don’t attach to the original overshirt’s leather straps under the arms. That portion of the original design is not found on the Smithsonian suit. The gray strap at the base of the overshirt, directly below the star, is also absent. The gloves, boots, and belt are a plain brown, rather than having the reddish tint seen in The First Avenger.
The shoulder and arm padding are part of the main shirt, rather than attached to the harness. The rear suspender strap is gone, replaced by a triangular patch sewn into a portion of the overshirt that’s hard to pin down. Where does it attach? No matter the case, it’s definitely not the harness of the WWII uniform.
Generally, the design of the main shirt and overshirt have been simplified and more modern-looking materials used to construction the new uniform. I suspect this made the arrangement easier to move in for Evans and the stunt men.
The finished product actually looks closer to the classic comics version than the First Avenger costume but somehow lacks the period charm of the original. It feels like an attempt to make modern, high-tech fabrics look old. In The First Avenger, the uniform looked, to me at least, like some kooky, futuristic thing the government and Howard Stark actually created in the ’40s. But it remains a strong look.. Here’s the movie’s hero shot of Steve in the fake WWII suit as he steps into a lovely Virginia glade.
Isn’t that pretty?
2015: Relevant dialogue available in May
All right, let’s wrap this sucker up.
Next year, The Avengers: Age of Ultron will feature an all-new uniform inspired by most of those that have already appeared. It includes the red, white, and blue torso stripes of the traditional uniforms in The First Avenger and The Avengers. More contemporary elements from the Winter Soldier suit are also present — barbell-shaped crumple zones, cut-outs extending under the arms, and the return to military-looking accessories.
There are large, patch pockets on both thighs and several pouches on each side of his leather belt. It, along with gloves and boots, are once again a plain brown. The gloves are half-fingered and include gauntlets that protect Cap’s forearms. The design of the boots is hard to pin down; they’re covered by leather guards that extend nearly to his knees, and feature what look like red leather fasteners to keep the guards in place.
Here, the crumple zones have become the red vertical stripes on the torso. The star on the chest is now surrounded with darker blue, then a red color feature around the side points that extend up to Cap’s shoulders. The white half sleeves of the WWII suit have been replaced by a narrow red stripe just below the shoulder, then a wider white stripe, followed by blue below. Once again, there are red panels on the legs. The simpler shield harness is back, an excellent idea.
Shoulders, elbows, and knees are protected with rigid plates. The gloves have padding in the gauntlets and along the backs of the hands. Both elbow and glove armor include metallic protrusions — perhaps for offensive blows? The helmet looks tougher and more resistant to damage, although I can’t explain why. Overall, this is the hardest, most-armored look Cap has had, and the most abstract in its general design. It looks modern, but classic.
With the dissolution of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Avengers are now on their own. Cap no longer has a star, a flag, or any other governmental symbol on his shoulders. Instead, he’s rocking the big “A.”
Next May can’t come soon enough, at least for me.
Postscript note: If you’ve ever wondered how Cap’s pants and shirt stay in place during all of his rough-and-tumble activities, here’s the answer. They button together. It keeps the whole arrangement neat and is cleverly hidden by the wide, leather belt.