Costume Drama: How Iron Fist’s Classic Costume Channelled His Chic
It's obviously not the most disappointing thing about the series, but when it was confirmed that Netflix's Iron Fist show wouldn't feature the character's classic duds, my heart sank. Partly because it meant more screen time for Danny's civilian look (best summed up as "rich white kid who won't stop telling you how he really discovered himself on his gap year in Asia"), but mostly because the Iron Fist costume is a design classic.
It's a look that has survived largely unscathed since 1974, when the character made his debut in Marvel Premiere #15, drawn by Gil Kane. The yellow ballet pumps have sadly fallen by the wayside, but every other element has stayed pretty solid --- with occasional variations --- for over forty years.
Let's start with the color scheme. Green and yellow is a relatively unusual combination for a superhero costume. When it does make an appearance --- green being a secondary color and all --- it's often reserved for characters who skirt the line between hero and villain: Loki, Vision, Rogue, Phoenix.
Iron Fist doesn't really fit that pattern, though he does fall into a tradition --- as Brian McLachlan and Aaron Hanson pointed out in their Superhero Color Theory series on this very site --- of green-and-yellow characters being associated with mystical energies. In Danny's case, it's the chi punches that set his fists alight with orange and occasionally pink flames, which pop beautifully against the rest of the costume.
Then there's the dragon icon. It functions like Batman's bat or Spider-Man's spider logo, with one key difference. Rather than being printed onto the fabric of his super-jammies it's burned directly into Danny's skin.
Hence the incredibly deep V of the original costume, which is essentially a plunge top. This is one design element that does come and go, but its legacy lives on always, in the grand tradition of Danny's costume getting shredded, or him just forgoing the top half entirely. It's a trait he shares with his Hero-for-Hire BFF Luke Cage, surely his main competition for Marvel's Second Most Shirtless Man. (After Namor, of course.)
So, when a hero is running around topless half the time, what is actually left to distinguish their costume? Only the best part of Iron Fist's entire costume, the element that anchors the rest of the design: his mask.
The Iron Fist mask is simplicity itself. It's a length of stretchy yellow fabric, with two holes cut in it, wrapped around his head, with excess ribbon trailing behind. You probably have something within reach that could be used to create a reasonable facsimile, and that makes it not only eminently cosplayable, but tactile too. You know, deep down, how that fabric feels, wrapped and stretched between two fists.
And look, if you're feeling the urge to make yourself a DIY Iron Fist mask at this point, please go for it. I'll still be here when you get back, and you'll look way cooler.
Around that one fixed element, the rest of the costume is free to shift. I said at the outset that Iron Fist's look hasn't changed much, but it's a design with a lot of elasticity, and the green pyjamas look is just what it eventually snaps back to. Green, white, high collar, open neck, tracksuit, no shirt... Whatever else changes, the mask always keeps Iron Fist recognisable.
Plus, it's worth noting that it's not only Danny pulling costume changes. As established in Fraction, Brubaker and Aja’s Immortal Iron Fist run, Iron Fist is a mantle passed down through the generations. And each iteration has a very different, but nonetheless recognizable look.
Each drops some elements of the design, while keeping hold of just enough that they're identifiable as an Iron Fist. The colors. The icon. The mask.
Given how much I love this costume, and the comics' tendency to pull closer to their on-screen counterparts, I'd be worried that Iron Fist in the comics is about to drop it in favour of the Finn Jones trustafarian look. But a costume that can survive all these changes, across decades of publishing and millennia of fictional history? I'm pretty sure it's immortal.