Jack Taggart

Jack Taggart
Textile Artist for Feature Films

Bachelor of Creative Arts, UNC Charlotte (1988)
Master of Fine Arts, emphasis Set and Costume Design, University of California San Diego (1990)

Hometown: Charlotte, NC

Jack Taggart has been into creative arts in all forms since he can consciously remember. As a small child, he could always draw and sculpt and paint, and loved the performing arts, he says. 

"I just had no idea it was possible to combine the forms into a viable working career."

At North Mecklenburg High School, there was no drama program, so he and a friend convinced the history department to allow them to do a production of Inherit the Wind as a history project. "We basically created our own theater club and mounted two plays on our own. That's how my career in theatre started."

Jack came to UNC Charlotte to pursue theatre training at a time when the arts all shared a common building - Rowe Arts - and a common degree.

"The Bachelor in Creative Arts degree was an all-around study," he says. "Few universities offered it. I was involved in all aspects of the theatrical performance, on stage and behind. I painted sets and props, adjusted lighting, designed costumes and sets for the actors to perform on. In addiction, I had studies in costume and architectural history, performance theory, and practical classes in construction of costumes and sets. But in short, it was a UNC Charlotte that I met Bob Croghan, who saw my potential, guided me towards a career best suited to my talents and temperament, pushed me to dream bigger and see the world outside Charlotte and the SouthEast, and steered me toward grad school that paved the way for me to take off into this incredible career." 

Jack is now the Head Textile Artist (Ager/Dyer) on feature films being made all over the United States, in Europe, and beyond. 

actor Tom Cruie in leather jacket"It's a very specialized job, hard to adequately describe. When asked what I do I often say 'I get paid to mess clothes up, but just enough.' I put the 'life' into clothes, give them a visible history that tells a story of the character. I take a brand new leather jacket and distress and fade it, adding wear and tear, wrinkles, and folds from being worn 20 years on a body in the elements. (See actor Tom Cruise, pictured right.) I make that special dingy t-shirt look lived in and slept in, sweat stains and faded just so. The perfect pair of broken-in jeans, that ideal slick power suit for the right business meeting, shoes that tell you exactly how long they've been worn by this character and how they took care of them. I make a freshly made WWII uniform look like it's been through years of battle in the sea and on the field, and then I repeat that with the additional 1000 others in that film. On the flip side of that, I also restore vintage costumes to new garments for leading actors to wear them in proper dinner and Hollywood premier scenes on the red carpet, or I add all the levels of blood, sweat, dirt, fire and destruction that occurred in the script to each successive set of changes. I also get involved in the building of period armor, native gear, and intricate Superhero uniforms and accessories."

Jack has worked on a long A-list of films -- Guardians of the Galaxy (2 and 3), Dunkirk, the Avatar franchise, Top Gun: Maverick, Black Panther, The Dark Knight Rises, and Django Unchained, to name a few. Top Hollywood directors like Clint Eastwood (with whom he's done 14 films), Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Quentin Tarantino, the Coen Brothers, Michael Mann, Michael Bay, Tim Burton, Denis Villeneuve, and Christopher Nolan all come to him for his expertise. 

Tom Hanks in astronaut costume"It all starts with having knowledge and experience working with all types of textiles, metals, leathers, and materials, knowing how to manipulate them in color and texture and understanding how far you can push these elements to get the results you need for the show," he says. "Basically, when you see an actor wearing garments that look real enough for you to believe that's their actual clothes, THAT'S my work. If you notice it looking like a costume, that's when it's bad. It has to be fully integrated into the story for you to believe the story we're telling."

His current project is the new Francis Ford Coppola film Megalopolis, with four-time Oscar-winning designer Milena Canonero.

Jack's advice for current students: "Dream Big, Go Big. See the world outside your corner and be open to opportunities you never expected. Roll with the punches and always remember, it'll be fine. Everything is fixable. Never panic. And... BE NICE. It goes a long way."

Jack is the recipient of the 2023 College of Arts + Architecture Distinguished Alumni Award in Theatre.

Pictured left: Tom Hanks in Finch in one of Jack Taggart's creations.