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What You Likely Never Noticed About JJ's Costume In Criminal Minds

While most television series hope to be renewed season after season, such longevity does present a few challenges. One of the biggest is character development. If a character does not evolve or grow over the course of the series, the creators risk character stagnation. Of course, evolving a character too much, or too quickly, risks losing the essence of the character and alienating the fanbase.

Thankfully, creative teams have a number of tools and tricks at their disposal to help evolve characters naturally. A series' plot is perhaps the most obvious path to evolving characters. Convincing storylines helped the slow and steady evolution of Sansa Stark in "Game of Thrones" and Carol Peletier in "The Walking Dead," who both began as weak and frightened characters before becoming forces to be reckoned with. More subtle approaches to progressing a character include small changes to appearance, whether through hair and makeup or costumes. On "Criminal Minds," JJ Jareau (A. J. Cook) experienced a massive shift in her job responsibilities, which was quietly reflected in the character's attire.

JJ started out in heels and skirts

When "Criminal Minds" premiered on CBS in 2005, Jennifer Jareau served as the Behavioral Analysis Unit's communication liaison. In that role, JJ's main responsibility was to update the local media and law enforcement on the unit's progress in apprehending that week's unknown subject, or unsub. Though she was an FBI agent when she joined the team, she wasn't a profiler like her BAU colleagues.

In a 2017 interview with "Criminal Minds Brazil," the series' longtime costume designer, BJ Rogers, discussed JJ's clothing, noting that when viewers first meet her, JJ is wearing a skirt and heels. While that attire might be common among traditional media liaisons, it was ill-suited to someone working in the field. In an early episode, JJ is seen walking across a park ... in heels. For Rogers, that visual spoke to JJ's newness to fieldwork and her office-based background where she mostly performed her job behind a desk. 

JJ eventually dressed the part

Over the course of the first few seasons, JJ took a more active role in the field, chasing down suspects and exchanging gunfire, before becoming a full-fledged profiler and field agent in Season 7. During that time, JJ's clothing choices reflected her new position. The "puffy sleeves and skirts" Rogers dressed the character in during the early years of the series were gone, replaced by pantsuits and smarter footwear that allowed her to run and tackle unsubs like a pro, unhindered by designer heels. As Rogers stated, the JJ of later seasons is "very paired down and ready to kick butt!"

The subtle changes in the character's attire likely went unnoticed by most fans. Yet those changes, seemingly small and insignificant, were essential to JJ's shifting role on the team. Rogers' costume choices added a sense of realism to both JJ and the series, while also evolving the character naturally without losing the essence of the character.