Style Breakdown #1: Walter White vs. Heisenburg

Here is our first actor/character breakdown for the The Stylish Jerk. The Style Breakdown is on Breaking Bad’s main character Walter White (played amazingly by Bryan Cranston). To all of the uninitiated, Breaking Bad is a show about Walter White’s fall from normal chemistry teacher to meth cook. It’s about his descent from normal family man to conflicted anti-hero. I found it interesting how the fashion department portrayed Walter White as he became his alter-ego Heisenburg.

(I will do my best not to reveal any huge spoilers or key plot points. But just in case there may be SLIGHT SPOILERS.)

In the first episode of Breaking Bad, we are introduced to character Walter White. What catches my attention is how “average” he dresses. By this I mean there is no individuality to his look at all.

Everything about him screams mediocrity. He has a “meme-like pedophile mustache” and a haircut that has not seen a revision since the 70’s. He is also wearing a bright, cheap dress shirt that could be found at the bottom heap of department stores. Walt dresses like a man who has given up on his aspirations and has decided to fall into a routine. His clothes and his body language reflect this. Walt lives like a man who has given up, and his friends, co-workers, and relatives treat him as a man defeated.

Watch this youtube clip from time 9:10-11:48. The clip shows how Walt is not respected by his boss who works at the car wash. The second scene shows his brother-in-law,Hank,work the room at Walt’s own suprise party. Even his son, Walter Jr., seems to be more impressed with Hank’s witty lines and bravado then his own dad at the moment. A telling moment is when Walt picks up one of Hank’s gun and says:

Walt: It’s heavy.

Hank: I know that’s why they hire men. It’s not going to bite you. He (Walt) looks like Keith Richards holding a glass of warm milk.

In this scene, all the party guests are laughing at Walt. Walt pretends to crack a warm smile, but it is obvious he feels emasculated.

Later in the episode, Walt discovers that he has cancer and his outlook on life completely changes. He starts making rash decisions. One of them is cooking meth to support his family as well as pay for his bills. But, Walt really starts changing when he cuts off his hair because of the chemotherapy.

He receives many positive responses after he cuts off his hair. He receives compliments from his hot co-worker about his style. His son even says he looks “badass”. With his new found confidence and change in look, Walt’s character continues to change throughout the seasons. Walt soon becomes an intimidating force. Walt starts to have a demeanor and attitude that he desperately wanted to have when everything was going wrong in his life before he was diagnosed with cancer. He becomes Heisenburg.


Heisenburg is the person that Walt always wanted to be. Heisenburg  is in charge of his career and goes after his own aspirations no matter what anyone thinks. Heisenburg is the head of his household. Heisenburg is respected and loved by his children. Heisenburg is not afraid to kill others if it benefits or protects his interest. I liked how cast and crew of “Breaking Bad” portrayed Walt’s turn as a dark figure. Here are a few things I noticed about his transformation.

(Facial Features)

Over the five seasons of Breaking Bad Walt’s face has aged dramatically. It’s quite obvious that cancer will have that affect on the human body, but there is more to it than that. Walt’s pride, arrogance, anger, and hatred have “consumed” him and it is clearly reflected on his face. This portrayal of inner turmoil and it’s affect on facial features is popular in other sources of media, including cinema classic, ‘Star Wars”,  and the popular video game, “Infamous”.

(“Infamous” Evil Cole)                                               (“Star War” Palpatine)


I advise Breaking Bad fans to re-watch a few episodes of the first season (and if you haven’t started…do it…IMMEDIATELY). Take notice of the colors Walt wears. There ironically very bright colors (bright yellow, bright green, etc.) It’s ironic because Walt’s life is anything but bright during this time period. Over the course of the show the colors of Walt’s clothes begin to change to a darker hue. Another reflection of how Walt’s outer appearance is being reflected from his change in character.

(The Infamous Hat)

I have to be honest, t first I thought the “infamous hat” was kind of silly. And then in one episode it became perfectly clear why Walt specifically wears that hat. To keep it as spoiler free as possible, I will leave out specific details. I will say later in one of the seasons Walt kills someone very important in the drug trade. One of his “partners” says, “Just because you killed Jesse James, does not make you Jesse James.” At that moment the symbolism of the hat becomes abundantly clear. In my opinion, Walt compares himself more of the archetype in old westerns than the drug kingpins of the present. He makes his own rules and code. He is an old school outlaw that wants his own territory. He wants to be a criminal that everyone will remember and fear when they mention his name. He wants to be the “Jesse James” of this era.


Thank-you for reading our first Style Breakdown. Leave a comment on your thoughts about the piece, and also give suggestions on who our next style breakdown should be on. Also, if your reading this and you have not watched Breaking Bad, please do. You have one year until this classic drama series ends.

3 responses to “Style Breakdown #1: Walter White vs. Heisenburg

  1. Nice article,I’ve watched all of breaking bad but I can’t for the life of me remember the reason they give for Walt’s hat,can you jog my memory?

    • I don’t remember exactly when they give Walter his hat. The reason he wears it is because it is like a symbol. When he puts on the hat he is Heisenberg. It’s a way of him separating Walt from Heisenberg. When he is Heisenberg he is able to commit heinous crimes that Walt would never be able to do. It’s his scarface-like alter ego.

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