John Wick’s Bulletproof Suit
photo credit: Black Lapel

In the pantheon of well-dressed gunmen, John Wick is definitely one of the first that comes to mind.

His iconic bespoke bulletproof suits are as much a part of the character as Batman’s cowl or Steve Rogers’ shield. But how feasible would it be to actually work ballistic protection into a normal suit jacket?

There’s a couple elements of this that we need to consider:

Ballistic Protection:

If you’re trying to work bullet resistant material into an existing article of clothing, it’s going to have to be soft armor. Something in the range of Level II – Level IIIA.

The material will need to not only be flexible enough to mold to the body during regular movement, but also thin enough that it doesn’t make the suit jacket look like a ski parka. Level II material is approximately 5mm thick, whereas level IIIA is 1.6x thicker at roughly 8mm.

Think about the thickness of the shirt you’re wearing right now. A heavy cotton t-shirt is ~0.4mm thick. So envision layering 12 shirts under a cover garment that needs to be somewhat fitted.

Tailoring Considerations:

The suit is going to need to look normal, so the facing/presentation fabric is going to have to be a traditional wool or wool blend. The best option is going to be replacing the canvassing of the jacket with ballistic rated material.

Canvass is the interlining that gives the jacket structure and allows it to conform to the body.

photo credit: Oliver Wicks

The other challenge is, as you can see, when the jacket is buttoned, the centerline from the sternum to the neck is still exposed. Now John Wick seems to address this by adding a waistcoat that pushes the coverage up a little higher and covers the vial organs, but does leave some of the center chest exposed above the nipple line.

photo credit: Lionsgate Films

The world in which John Wick exists requires some degree of suspension of reality. As such I think it’s fair to assume that this guild of assassins has access to the latest, cutting edge armor technologies that are not available on the open market. Given what’s currently available for purchase, it’s not a far leap to assume there are some restricted nanotechnologies that would offer much more effective ballistic protection in a slimmer, lower profile package.

It does bear mentioning though that companies like Safariland and MC Armor currently offer IIIA tank tops, which in my mind seem like a far more practical solution.

If you want to see a real bullet resistant suit constructed, check out the video by Hacksmith Industries. They did a great job of taking all the factors into account.

I've never carried a gun professionally. I'm just a yuppie suburbanite that happens to live an armed lifestyle. Having worked in the corporate arena for the last decade, I've discovered that a lot of the "requirements" and norms of gun carriers at large aren't necessarily compatible with that professional environment. I also have a pretty diverse social background, having grown up in the Northeast, and there are many people in my life that are either gun-agnostic or uncomfortable with the idea of private gun ownership. This has afforded me not only insights into how we are perceived by different subcultures, but how to manage and interact with people that may not share your point of view without coming across as combative or antisocial. This is why my focus is the overlooked social aspects of the armed lifestyle.