‘Breaking Bad’: Walter White’s Wardrobe Reflects His Descent Into Darkness Becoming Heisenberg
Breaking Bad was filled with brilliant moments at every turn, but perhaps the best aspects were all the hidden references and symbolism throughout. Every detail in the Emmy award-winning series was intentional. Street names, background music, even names and colors are all there to enhance the storyline.
Walter White begins ‘Breaking Bad’ as a high school chemistry teacher
In the opening episodes of Breaking Bad, Walt looks exactly like you’d expect a suburban high school chemistry teacher to appear. He wears plaid shirts, khakis, and textured sweaters in light colors. It’s all part of the extensive color symbolism from the series that extends as far as Walt’s name.
Showrunner Vince Gilligan chose the name “Walter White” as another way of expressing his absolute boringness. “White is the color of vanilla, of blandness,” Gilligan told GQ.
“For instance in the pilot, it was intentional that Walt start off very beige and khaki-ish, very milquetoast, and he would progress through that one hour of television to green and thus show his process of evolution as a character.”
His clothing gets darker as he becomes Heisenberg
There’s no precise moment that Walt transforms from a mild-mannered guy into a murderous drug kingpin hellbent on dominating an entire territory of meth trade in the Southwest. However, perceptive fans can see Walt’s clothing change right along with him throughout the series as he edges closer to his alter ego, Heisenberg.
Heisenberg is also known for wearing a black pork pie hat that becomes a signature of the character. This accessory got added to protect Bryan Cranston’s bald head from the glaring New Mexico sun, however it did fit the character quite well.
Later episodes of Breaking Bad show Walt wearing darker colors most of the time. This transition from beige to darkness is an obvious euphemism for the switch from good to evil. But that change was always a back-and-forth rather than a straight path.
Heisenberg ‘becomes’ Walter White again after cancer news
Because the transition from Walter White to Heisenberg wasn’t linear, there are moments when glimpses of his former self returns. For example, Walt learns his cancer returns during season 5 and starts wearing more khaki after hearing the news. It’s almost like he’s returning to his former self.
Eventually, he reverts to the darker clothing and the darker aspects of his personality. In the end, Walt admits that he wasn’t really making meth for his family’s benefit after all. He did it because he liked it and was good at it. And his clothing showed externally exactly what was going on inside.
The color symbolism on Breaking Bad is yet another reason fans loved the show so much and still find new clues every time they watch it. Even details as seemingly inconsequential as clothing have special meaning in the end.