Friday, August 3, 2012

The Lasting Effects of Vice

In 1984, I was playing little league and trying to memorize the world capitals and rivers for school.  That year, men's style would be altered in a trend that would last for decades.  When Miami Vice debuted, America was shown a handsome leading man who brought four fundamental changes to the collective social calibration for men's dress.  These four changes would be the basis for an attitude shift that endures today, though its origins are somewhat forgotten.

Don Johnson pseudo-pioneered (1 and 3) and popularized (2 and 4) the following style elements that had not been largely accepted before:

1. Tight, no-collared shirts worn under sportcoats/suits
2. Turquoise, or primary colors with white or light (sans beltloop) suits
3. Regularly unshaven face
4. Socklessness

As Sonny Crockett, Johnson provided fashion cues that actually became discussions on news and opinion pieces, and several talk shows actually debated whether or not his casual approach trend would be harmful to the serious formality of the workplace.

The show was different than any other at the time.  Unlike nearly every program of the time, the title and credit sequences contained no clips from the show itself (the detached car and boat shots excluded), giving the build-up a specific feel and style that was unique.  Some elements of the show were not particularly believable, but overall, it was a fun watch.  Even today, (streaming or DVD series) the show largely stands up.  Many of the episodes are still truly heavy (The Home Invaders) and the characters warm up to you quickly.

I have an old RL Polo shirt that I like to wear on the water, and when I got sick of the double-collar look, I had it unstitched and taken out.  It's now perfect for boating, beach, or any other outdoor activity with temperature variation.

Not that I'm actively going for the Sonny Crockett look, but he might have been onto something when it came to layering in hot temperatures.

Philip Michael Thomas (as Rico Tubbs) appeared in suit/jacket and tie in almost every shot, somehow tolerating a closed collar in Miami for filming the scenes, including the foot chases.  Having spent a decent amount of time in Miami while wearing a tie, I can sympathize.  Strangely, it would be Thomas's well-tailored wardrobe that withstood the style shifts of time.  Tie patterns aside, his clothing  in the series is still mostly relevant today.

Johnson's character would inspire millions of men around the world to emulate and ape the approach, mostly failing, but the effects of the style shift are still readily visible today.  Not shaving before going to an office or an evening out?  Society seems to accept it now based on how often i see it.  Wearing a collar-less shirt under a jacket or with a suit?  Go to any airport and just look around.


I enjoy summer colors when the weather is right, and perhaps my tolerance is partially calibrated by the show that I watched decades ago.  Maybe.  Granted, it helps having been surrounded by sockless and loafered men in primary colored shirts throughout life already.  Yellows, pinks, and ivories are all happily in my summer or tropical rotation, having opted to not adopt style shifts #1 and #3 listed at the top of this post.  Numbers 2 and 4 were around LONG before Miami Vice, but had been restricted to a far more narrow demographic.  It was the show that broke the ice for the majority.


  1. I believe you inadvertently reverse-engineered a henley.
    Also, respect due for the best tv show intro ever...what more inspiration does a young man need in life?

  2. LOL! Bloody hell, we must be about the same age...

  3. *Phillip: You may also appreciate the fact that in the boating scenes, Don Johnson ACTUALLY knew how to dock a twin-engine vessel. The way he confidently took the angled approach and the last-minute reverse-throttle and helm-to was impressive.

    *LBF: Born in the mid-70's here.

  4. A skill that indeed take a few hours of practice and a few marred hulls...


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