Walter White’s clothing noticeably changed in Breaking Bad as the character fell deeper into the drug trade as his alternate persona, Heisenberg. Bryan Cranston portrayed the complicated anti-hero for five seasons of the AMC drama, winning five Emmy Awards for his performance in that span. While the cast did a brilliant job, it was also the writing and deeper thematic storytelling that made the series truly unforgettable. Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan went out of his way to incorporate significant elements, including character outfits.
Walt sure made questionable choices throughout Breaking Bad, and many of them put his family at risk, but at the start of the series, he deserved a ton of sympathy. Not only was he an ordinary high school chemistry teacher, but the man was also stuck feeling undervalued by his family and peers. To top it off, he was diagnosed with lung cancer as he struggled with how he could support his wife, son, and a new baby on the way. In an act of desperation, Walt sought out former student Jesse Pinkman and managed to build a drug empire from a rolling RV. The partners bit off more than they could chew as they found themselves interacting with dangerous members of the cartel, in addition to the ongoing threat of the DEA.
While developing Breaking Bad, Gilligan put a lot of effort into the theme of colors. Certain objects were a particular color for a significant reason, like the pink teddy bear for example. The colors of the outfits that the characters wore were also calculated decisions, especially when it came to Walt’s decay and growth of Heisenberg. When viewers met Walt, he predominantly wore pale, muted tones and a lot of khaki. Following his cancer diagnosis, he started to go a little darker with his outfits, correlating with his mental state. That dark color scheme had a habit of sticking around when the Heisenberg alter ego started to take over. Viewers could tell by the darker colors and his use of the iconic porkpie hat. To further illustrate how clothing colors connected to Walt’s transformation, TDYLF’s John LaRue created an infographic that detailed Walt’s outfit evolution.
Walt’s Color Palette Changed During Significant Breaking Bad Moments
Walt first introduced his alter ego in season 1, but he did didn’t fully make the Heisenberg transformation until season 4. In between that time, however, Walt spent periods wearing darker outfits during some of the show’s most tragic subplots. Around the episode that Walt let Jane die, he dressed in a lot of black and dark brown. Aside from the darkened color scheme, Walt’s double life as Heisenberg spilled out into his outfits in other ways. As he got cockier with his special sky blue meth in season 3, the character wore light blue. In addition, he started to dress better in the presence of Gus Fring as if the man’s style was an intimidation factor.
In general, Walt’s aesthetic went darker in Breaking Bad season 5 as a way to compliment the character’s journey. Costume designer Jennifer Bryan revealed (via Vulture) that she “shifted the color palette” a bit in the show’s final season. Interestingly enough, when Walt’s cancer returned, he dropped Heisenberg’s wardrobe reverted back to the drab muted and khaki tones for a while before accepting his eventual demise. It’s no secret that Breaking Bad required an attentional to detail but who knew outfits worn by a man in his fifties could be so symbolic?