The John Wick suit: here’s the story behind Keanu Reeves’ impeccable styling

Gentleman's Journal speak to costume designer and tailor Luca Mosca, who reveals the secrets behind the world famous John Wick suit...

The John Wick suit is undoubtedly one of the most sleekly sophisticated pieces of tailoring ever to grace the big screen. Despite the near constant explosive, nail-biting violence, the action franchise’s titular character — played, of course, by Keanu Reeves — always looks impeccably styled: to the extent that  the John Wick suit has become a style icon for gentlemen worldwide. And the man we have to thank for this iconicity is Luca Mosca. 

“I am generally hired to design the outfits and costumes for films with sleek characters,” designer Luca Mosca introduces himself, adding: “Roles that need to convey extreme elegance.”

That’s no understatement. Mosca’s resumé reads like a catalogue of the best suited and booted actors ever to take to the silver screen. He tailored suits for Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman in 2013 thriller Paranoia. He dressed Dwayne Johnson for last year’s Skyscraper. And he even decked out the entire US Secret Service — Dennis Quaid and Matthew Fox included — for 2008’s Vantage Point.

But perhaps the designer’s finest hour — and one he continues to revisit every year or so — is kitting Keanu Reeves out in the full John Wick suit.

To look at them, you’d think the costumes as simple as the contract killer’s name; all-black, classically cut. But, Mosca tells us, there is more going on with the John Wick suits than meets even the character’s sharply-trained assassin eye.   

“My costume design process is based on collaboration with others,” says Mosca, “so I worked very closely with the director of the John Wick films, Chad Stahelski, and Keanu himself, who always trusts my senses of colour and proportion.

“As I had to create suits just for Keanu,” the designer adds, “I obsessed more on the tailoring than many specific labels and designers would when creating a line — it had to fit to perfection!”

And, as the tailor on all three instalments so far — John Wick 4 is now scheduled for release in 2022, after its original 2021 release date was delayed due to COVID-19 — Mosca has tried to keep John Wicks’ suits in each film similar to the original designs. Instead, he says that rather than changing the suits each time, he simply uses the opportunity to progress the famous John Wick suit through refining the designs.

"I wanted to keep the outfits clean and simple. That way, the touch of a cufflink or tie bar would really pop..."

“They’re always an upgrade of sorts on the costuming from the previous films,” he explains, “a chance to ‘clean’ those initial suits even further. You have to keep the template of the first two films, as that is one with the character — and has been well-received the first time round — but you can always make improvements.

“There are so many secrets in the suits!” adds Mosca. “As boring as it may sound, safety always comes first, so I often had to allow room for pads and anything else Keanu had to wear to protect himself during stunts or fight scenes.

“And, due to the action-packed nature of the films, the suits are full of tiny slivers of fabric called ‘gussets’, which I had to insert into a suit sleeve or trouser leg to allow them to extend without ripping the material. That can be tricky — as all of this has to be done without compromising the accurate proportions of the costume.”

Mosca — who cameos in the second film as John Wick’s tailor, discussing and fitting the assassin with his in-world high-tech suit — also reveals that the suits may look black, but they’re actually very dark grey.

“They do look black,” he acknowledges, “but it was actually only the suit worn in the second film during the Rome sequence that was black. Because of film lighting and the exposure on dark night scenes, eyes can often be misled with the darkest of fabrics. For this reason, most of Keanu’s suits are actually dark shades of grey.”

And it is this block colour and simplicity that allowed Mosca to create the look of a shadow — one of his inspirations for dressing Reeves’ character. But he was also committed to introducing hints of interest in each of John Wick’s suits, through accessorising.

“I wanted to keep the outfits clean and simple,” Mosca says, “That way, the little touch of a cufflink or tie bar would really pop. For example, in the second film, Keanu’s cufflinks were a vivid red — almost invisible, but an incredibly powerful detail.

“Of course, to finish it off, I also chose a Carl F Butcherer watch — the Manero AutoDate — as they are simply beautiful timepieces. They are incredibly elegant and clean at the same time — exactly my aim with John Wick’s suit.”

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