Build Your Own Mal Reynolds Costume This Halloween Holiday
Photo Credit: Pop Culture Geek CC license 2.0
So you want a Captain Malcolm Reynolds costume this year? Encompassing one season on television and a movie, the universe of Firefly and Serenity had a spirit and unique style that continues to inspire an army of devoted fans, nicknamed “Browncoats”. Its 22nd Century fusion of Asian and American Old West influences have made it a popular choice for party and science fiction and fantasy convention costumes.
However, it can be a difficult look to pull off because what the characters often wear is close to contemporary everyday clothing. So when fans “aim to misbehave” little details and accessories become important for telling to difference between cosplay and street clothes.
Nowhere is this truer than when portraying the leader of the Serenity crew, Captain Malcolm Reynolds, played by Nathan Fillion. So to help out, we have a put together a list of the best parts for a Captain Mal Reynolds costume.
Captain Mal Costume Essentials
Before becoming a smuggler, Reynolds grew up on a ranch and was an officer in the Independent Army, which fought against the unified government of the Alliance. For the Malcolm Reynolds costume, designers Jill Ohanneson and Shawna Trpcic combined classic military and Old West elements for this fiercely independent and loyal character.
The essential pieces of a Malcolm Reynolds costume are:
- Long-sleeved, button-front men’s shirt in a solid, dark color
- Classic tan or brown work pants
- Full-length, single-breasted brown topcoat or trench coat
- Plain brown Western-style boots
- Suspenders and black gloves
- Replica pistol
- Belt and gun holster
- A slightly wicked and determined grin
Replica Malcolm Reynold’s Gun
Perhaps the most “shiny” piece of Mal’s gear is his reliable gun, the Moses Brothers Self-Defense Engine Frontier Model B. One of the show’s signature props, its design was based on a Taurus Model 85 revolver crossed with the Civil War-era Volcanic repeating pistol. Quantum Mechanix makes an exact, screen-accurate replica that measures 14” from the tip of the barrel to the back of the grip. Aged to match the antique brass finish of the original prop, is it made of cast polystone and metal. It is a beautiful piece and well worth the investment.
Definitely Need a Brown Coat
The absolutely essential piece for a Malcolm Reynolds costume is a full-length brown coat. According to the show’s mythology, the brown coat was a part of the uniform of the Independent Army that rebelled against the authority of the Alliance government—and lost. The coat is so identified with the rebellion that independence sympathizers are called “browncoats”. Mal and his second in command Zoe Washburne still wear their brown coats as symbols of their discontent. A high-quality version like this piece can get expensive. So for something more affordable that will do in a pinch Check Out This Other Coat At Amazon.
Bad Guy or Good Guy
The one thing a Malcolm Reynolds costume should never include is a hat. As series creator Joss Whedon says in the DVD commentary for the Firefly pilot episode, in this show, “bad guys wear hats; good guys don’t”.
Captain Malcolm Reynold’s Shirt
A review of the 14 episodes of the Firefly series shows Captain Mal wearing about eight or nine different shirts during production. All of them were the same traditional “Oxford” style of men’s collared, long-sleeved shirt with a full button front. The men’s Big and Tall shirt from Tri-Mountain is a perfect match. Its pleat in the center back and adjustable cuffs make it comfortable to wear. The captain favored dark, masculine colors like shades of blue and red. Tri-Mountain’s “Maroon” choice matches the color most associated with Captain Mal.
Malcolm Reynold’s Boots
Mal’s boots are classic Western wear, but they do not have the decorative stitching and leatherwork or pointed toes common to fancy cowboy boots. They are far more utilitarian, with only harness straps as decoration. The Durango men’s 11″ harness boots feature squared toes, supple leather uppers, and padded, flexible insoles for extra comfort. Any western style boot will suit this costume, Slouch boots look the most like Mal’s boots but the lower of these boots look the closest to his boots that we could find.
Cap’n Tight Pants Trousers
According to a video interview with Shawna Trpcic, who became the main costume designer after the Firefly pilot, the pants Fillion wore for most of the series were antique cavalry pants from the American Old West and Civil War era. Since that will not be an option for most fans, they will need a pair of medium brown or tan work pants for their Malcolm Reynolds costume. Dickies men’s flat-front multi-use pocket work pants have the classic look and durable style that is a reminder of what men wore while settling the West. Also, they do not have extra cargo pockets, which look too contemporary for Captain Mal.
Two of the little details of the Malcolm Reynolds costume are his suspenders and gloves. He sometimes wears simple black gloves that appear to be made of leather or a leather-like material. For most of the Firefly series and Serenity movie, Mal’s suspenders were a custom-made black pair created from World War II surplus.
Carhartt’s utility suspenders are the kind of durable, straight-forward accessory Mal would choose. They are adjustable for comfort and made from quality materials, including a top-grain leather patch in the back. When Mal is out and about, he is usually wearing his coat which keeps the suspenders hidden. So if you have a suitable coat or are planning on getting one you can probably skip getting suspenders. In saying this, suspenders are essential in completing the Malcolm Reynolds costume if you have decided to skip the coat. When not wearing his coat Captain Mal is almost always seen to be wearing suspenders.
Leather Holster Belt
A sidearm like Mal’s requires a belt and holster to keep it handy. You need a holster that comes with a leg tie-down and hammer thong to keep the Moses Brothers Self-Defense Engine secure. There are two we have found, one is a lot more decorated and more expensive. The other is poorer quality, cheaper and quite plain.
Reviews have stated that it is often to small to fit, so it may need some modification to make it fit. It certainly looks the part and for the price, it may warrant a little bit of modification to make it the perfect holster for this costume.
Unfortunately, most pants available in stores do not have the distinctive stripes down the legs that Trpcic added to the pair Fillion wore. The piping is an important detail because it suggested the pants were a leftover part of Mal’s military uniform. The easiest way to add the stripes is to purchase 1” grosgrain or satin dark brown ribbon from a fabric or craft store. Then, sew it on down the outside of each leg. An alterations shop or dry cleaner also can affordably do the work. Flexible fabric craft glue will work too, but it will not be as durable as stitches.
Will You Make a Great Captain Malcolm Reynolds?
Paying attention to the little details can mean the difference between being a normal partygoer or fan and being the leader of a group of “big damn heroes”. Fans who are determined to pay tribute to Captain Malcolm Reynolds should take their time to make sure they have all the essential pieces in place before they soar off into the ‘Verse. These costume pieces, combined with the right attitude and swagger, are everything an aspiring 22nd Century smuggler needs. Then, gather a lively, ragtag crew and prepare to do some illegal, but surely honest, work while flying through the black.