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Who is That Masked Man?

Okay, so this post has nothing to do with Jack Sparrow, but Jack isn’t the only character I plan to cosplay as.  While a lot of my fellow Jack Sparrows out there are gearing up to be Johnny Depp’s Tonto from “The Lone Ranger” this Halloween, I’ve decided to go a different route.  I’m going to be the Lone Ranger himself.

That’s the plan anyway.  Halloween is fast approaching, but money is coming in rather slowly.  On the plus side, I’m off to a great start and already have what are probably the most important pieces for the costume anyway.  Worst case scenario I figure I can rent the rest from a costume shop or throw something together to get by if the costume isn’t 100% completed by the time All Hallows’ Eve rolls around.

So why the Lone Ranger instead of Tonto?  Obviously Depp’s Comanche warrior costume is a lot of fun, and Tonto fits right in with the kind of oddball characters I like to play on stage.  Sure I’m a little heavy and pale to dress up like an Indian at the moment, but I’d need to slim down to be the Lone Ranger or Jack Sparrow, too, so that’s really not a factor.  You see, as cool as Depp’s Tonto is, and as much fun as it would be to put his costume together, I’m doing a Lone Ranger costume because I’ve been a fan of the Lone Ranger for as long as I can remember.

As a little kid back in the 80’s I used to watch reruns of The Lone Ranger on television, and I could often be found running around outside sporting a white hat, black domino mask, and a two-gun rig, shooting imaginary bad guys with my cap guns and riding a white stick horse.  I had Lone Ranger action figures, and would build Old West towns out of Lincoln Logs for the Lone Ranger and Tonto to visit.  I even had Lone Ranger decorations for my fourth birthday party!

 photo TheLoneRangerGlen_zps735b4827.jpg(“How cool was my childhood?”)

 The Lone Ranger was one of my favorite characters when I was a kid, right up there with Han Solo, Rambo, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  So when I heard Gore Verbinski would be directing a big screen version of The Lone Ranger starring Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer I was thrilled.  I couldn’t wait to see their take on this classic hero, even if he had already become a bit cheesy by the time I first saw the reruns on cable TV all those years ago.  The Lone Ranger needed to remain a white hat good guy, to be sure, but things like “Hi-Yo Silver! Away!” and the William Tell Overture would seem quite campy by today’s standards if not handled in just the right way.

On the eve of the movie’s official release date our local multiplex had an advanced screening and I was there, ready to see the Lone Ranger and Tonto up on the big screen.  It was the most fun I’ve had at the movies so far this year.  Sure the critics hated it, but it seems like most of them had made up their minds about it long before it even came out.  They complained that Depp’s Tonto was just another flamboyant Jack Sparrow type performance and that him playing an Indian was somehow racist.  They complained about the film’s budget and its shifts in tone.  The movie was never going to please them, but for me it was a blast.

Unfortunately it hasn’t done well theatrically either, having only made around $200 million worldwide on a $250 million dollar budget.  In studio terms that’s a flop, but it has little to do with the film’s entertainment value.  Every audience I saw it with (and I saw it 4 times) had an absolute blast with the movie, laughing at the comedic antics of Depp and Hammer and sitting on the edges of their seats during the action sequences.  The movie is by no means perfect, but it’s a shame that it hasn’t done better at the box office.  It’s likely we’ll never see “The Lone Ranger Rides Again” unless somehow the movie fares better in the overseas market and/or does a ton of business on blu-ray and DVD.  It really is a fun movie, so hopefully it will find a wider fan base down the road as more people discover it on video and TV.  I can certainly understand some of the reasons why the movie wasn’t a bigger hit, but since this blog is about costumes and not movie reviews I won’t go further into it here.        

Anyway, I did consider doing a Tonto costume at one point, but after thinking about it for a while I decided my time and money on a costume that intricate would be better spent finishing the Jack Sparrow costume I’ve already started.  However, after watching the movie a couple times I thought it would be fun to return to those “days of yesteryear” from my childhood and become the Lone Ranger once again.

First up, I snagged the officially licensed “Texas Rangers” badge prop replica by NECA at Hot Topic.  It was on a discount rack marked down half-price and with a bunch of other items for “Buy One, Get One for $1”,  So I bought two and sold the extra one on eBay.  I turned a small profit and effectively made the one I kept a freebie.  The badge, while not 100% screen accurate, is a pretty awesome prop made of a light metal (probably an alloy of some sort) and will work nicely for my costume.

One decision I made early on was not to aim for the same level of screen accuracy I’m striving for with my Jack Sparrow costume.  This will be more of an interpretation of the Lone Ranger’s movie costume using the best items I can find without breaking the bank, and although I want to get as close to the screen costume as possible I’m not worried about making it 100% authentic.  Since his outfit is fairly basic compared to something like Jack Sparrow or Tonto I’m going more for the overall silhouette than for the minute details.  You could almost call this my “The Lone Ranger Rides Again” costume, allowing me some wiggle room and justifying any discrepancies between my gear and the screen used outfit.

Next, I did some searching over on eBay and found a nice leather mask from a seller in the UK.  NECA makes a version of the mask, but I was fairly adamant that I wanted mine to be made of real leather and the NECA mask isn’t.  For the movie a cast was made of Armie Hammer’s face, and a thin plastic mask was molded to fit him perfectly so that it would easily stay in place.  Then it was covered with leather.  Eventually I may try to find a well fitted plastic face mask I can use to do something similar, but for now I’ve wet molded the leather mask I purchased to fit my face and it seems to have worked pretty well.

(Leather Mask – New)

I did have to do a bit of trimming to get the shape of the mask just right because initially it looked a little more like a Zorro or Dread Pirate Roberts mask to me.  I wanted to be able to see more of my nose and give the brow more of a rounded look, and luckily trimming it was pretty easy.  I may also try to weather the mask a bit later on, but for now I’m quite happy with it.

(Leather Mask -Modified)

The other key piece I knew I needed was a white cowboy hat.  Having been a rodeo cowboy back in my younger days I wore a lot of hats and used to be a bit of a hat snob, only buying the best felt hats I could find.  Since this hat would be for a costume I didn’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on it, but I also didn’t want a cheap costume hat that would get torn up easily either.  The hat used in the movie is a Stetson, so I started looking from there.  In the past I always wore Resistol hats, and it turns out Resistol and Stetson are both made in the same factory these days, so that helped broaden my search.  I also looked at other brands I remembered from back in my rodeo days like Bailey, Beaver Brand, and Milano.  I knew I’d have to reblock the crown since most cowboy hats come pre-bashed with a cattleman style crease these days, so I wanted a decent felt to work with without spending a ton of money on it.  After looking at different hats online I narrowed it down to either a Resistol Pageant hat or a Bailey Spur hat.  Both are made of wool, although I think it is likely alpaca wool rather than sheep’s wool.  Since these hats run from about $94-$125 new, I searched eBay on a regular basis to see if I could catch a nice used one at a good price.

  (Resistol Pageant Hat – New)

Years ago I actually bought a white felt Resistol hat.  It was from their George Strait line, and I wore it as a bit of an homage to the old white hat good guys of classic westerns like Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger.  Unfortunately I sold it on eBay a couple of years ago, not knowing a Lone Ranger film was on the way.  I’d be more bummed about it, but my head’s grown a bit over the years so it likely would have been too snug now anyway.  Oh well.

Anyway, late one night on a whim I decided to check out craigslist just to see if someone in the area might have a used white cowboy hat for sale.  I wasn’t holding out much hope, after all I was looking for a pearly white felt hat in my size.  But lo and behold a Resistol Pageant hat turned up, never worn and still in the original box, and the seller was only asking $70 for it!  I didn’t really need to spend $70 right then, but I didn’t want to miss a deal like that either.  I spent most of the next day debating on whether to call and ask about it or not, and finally decided “what the heck” and gave the guy a ring.  He still had it, so I asked if he’d take $60 for it.  He agreed, and off I went to claim my new hat.  He wasn’t kidding when he said he’d never gotten around to wearing it, it still had the original crease that hats like it come with straight out of the box.  He’d bought it because it was on sale and he thought it would be fun to have, but never found any excuse to wear it and was tired of it taking up space in his closet.  It would take a bit of work to get the original shape out and put the new bash in, but I wasn’t about to pass up such a good deal.

(My hat, reblocked to look like the movie hat.)

The first thing I had to do was pop out the cattleman crease from the crown so it could be reshaped.  I took it to a western wear store where they had a hat dome and used it to reopened the crown.  The guy at the store did a little bit of the creasing for me, but it still needed a lot of work done to it when I got home.  Creasing cowboy hats is nothing new to me, so I heated up the tea kettle and got to work steaming and shaping it.  Using photos of Armie Hammer in costume and of a Stetson Seneca (which has the same basic teardrop crown shape as the movie hat) I set to work reblocking the crown.  Once I had it looking right I went to work on the brim.  In the movie the Lone Rangers hat brim is quite wide across the front, the sides turned up without much curl or a hard crease.  The front of the brim is also turned up just a bit.  It took some playing around, but after about an hour the hat was looking pretty close to the original.

One thing about working with cheaper felt hats, it can take a bit more effort to get them to really hold their shape, so every day for about a week I messed with it a bit more, spraying it with a light mist of water from a spray bottle and molding the felt to the shape I wanted.  After all, The Lone Ranger’s hat needs a lived in look, it shouldn’t look like it just came new off the shelf.  The hardest part was getting the dent bashes in the side of the crown, but after working with it a little every day I finally got it just the way I wanted it.

The hatband is different than the one on the movie hat, it’s made of the same felt as the hat with a silver-toned buckle on the side, whereas the movie hat has a classic ribbon band, but that’s a minor detail.  All-in-all I’m really pleased with the the way it turned out.  Would I have liked for the felt to be a little higher quality?  Sure.  But I really couldn’t justify spending hundreds of dollars on a beaver felt hat just to beat it up to make it look like the hat from the movie.

I’ve already found a great coat and vest for the costume and am watching eBay to see if I can snag them at a good price, too. They’re both from a company called WahMaker that produces Old West and Victorian Era clothing, and the style of both the coat and vest is called the Vigilante.  The great thing about them is they can also be used for other costumes I hope to eventually put together, such as a Van Helsing costume based on the one I wore in “Dracula: The Musical?”, and a Robert Downey Jr. style Sherlock Holmes costume.  The Lone Ranger’s shirt in the movie is a bib style shirt commonly worn in the old west, but with a slightly more modern collar.  For the costume I think any white dress shirt will do fine for now since it’ll mostly be hidden by the vest and coat anyway.  His pants are a dark brown with black pinstripes,  and so far I’ve found a few options on some websites that sell Old West-style clothing that would work pretty well.  As for his red checkered neck scarf, I should be able to find some material at Jo-Ann’s or Hobby Lobby that I can make one out of fairly easily.  The other thing I’ve been watching for on eBay is an old pair of black pointed-toe cowboy boots.  If I’m patient and keep an eye out for them I should be able to snag a decent used pair for around $25-$50.

Over the course of the movie the Lone Ranger wears two gun belts.  The first is a brown gun belt with one right-hand draw holster, and his gun is a long barreled colt revolver with wooden hand grips.  He wears this belt through most of the movie, and it would likely be the less expensive option for my costume since I would only need the one gun.  The second gun belt he wears during the movie’s climactic action sequence, and it is a black belt with two holsters in which he carries two Colt Peacemakers with 5.5″ barrels and ivory grips.  There’s a company called Denix that makes great replica pistols, but they don’t currently offer any with smooth ivory handles, so if I go this route I’ll most likely modify the wood grips with spray paint to simulate an ivory look.

During the end action sequence the Lone Ranger uses a black bullwhip and is wearing a pair of black gauntlet style gloves, but those are things that are not necessary to achieve the basic look of the character.  A pair of spurs could be a cool addition, though, and there’s a chance I might still have a pair packed away somewhere from back in my cowboy days.  Other than that the only other thing I can really think of to add to the costume would be some dummy bullets to wear in the gun belt, and those are easy to come by online.  I’ve even found some “silver” ones!

As for my Captain Jack Sparrow gear, that journey is still far from over, and my excursion into Lone Ranger territory is only a small side-trip to put something simple together for Halloween.  I’ve acquired a few more Jack Sparrow pieces since my last post, and will share them with you here very soon.

Now if only I could get someone to give me a white horse I could call Silver.  That would be awesome!

(“Hi-Yo Silver! Away!”)



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