Jaws will probably remain about the only blockbuster to have ever been mentioned on Classiq. But it’s a classic, and a blockbuster in the 1970s meant an entirely different thing than it means today. Most importantly though, it’s a good film. Brilliant and terrifying, Hitchcock-style. Jaws (1975) is plain and simple a great adventure movie and one of the most effective thrillers ever made, the kind that keeps you on the edge of your seat, getting you to identify with the characters and asking yourself what you would do if you were them. It is a story that scares the hell out of you from the very beginning (skillfully using the power of the unseen – it is what you don’t see that scares you the most), which is why, I think, it is perfect to watch on the idle days of summer.
“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
But what I want to talk about today is a little more different. Fashion.
Because you know what Jaws is also about? Three guys in chambray shirts, denim jackets and cotton sportswear take a boat ride off the coast of Amity, New England, in the summertime. Now, all jokes aside, the clothes the three key characters wear are truly timeless. And what truly makes them timeless is that they are “real man shark-hunting gear”. Real men wearing real clothes, which means that anybody can identify with them. Simple, familiar, functional, straightforward and uncomplicated. They know for sure what works and they sure know what doesn’t. Indeed, masculine nautical style is the kind of style that does not age: salt-washed denim and military jackets, black sweaters and grey marl sweatshirts, boat shoes and sneakers, and rugged dive watches. They exude modernity and masculinity.
But each one of these three guys wears his clothes differently, revealing their distinctive personalities and class differences.
There is Richard Dreyfuss’s Matt Hooper, an oceanographer, a collegiate rich guy. His clothes say Ivy style. The grey marl sweatshirt, for example, is one of the pieces adopted by collegiate preppy style, thus contributing to the transition from its pure functionality, from being strictly a sports garment, to one worn casually. When he goes to chief Brody’s house for dinner, he sports a corduroy jacket with chambray shirt and knitted tie, jeans and boat shoes – the clothes that a well-dressed college man would wear.
Robert Shaw’s rough-edged, old sea dog Quint, on the other hand, is the exact opposite, and everything about his clothing suggests that the last thing on his mind is to impersonate a social creature or to belong. He is as anti-social and anti-conventional as one can be. His clothes serve one purpose and one purpose only: to be worn. His signature long-billed faded cap, blue collar work shirt and fisherman’s jacket not only signal isolation, but the class difference between him and the other two. “You’re a city boy, you’ve counted money all your life”, he tells Hooper, looking at his hands. “Hey, I don’t need this, I don’t need this working-class hero crap”, replies Hooper irritated.
Brody (Roy Scheider) is a middle-class man and his clothes reflect that. He spends more than half of the movie in a cop uniform and Baracuta jacket and it’s interesting to see his style evolve, escaping the restrictions of job and social requirements when he switches to t-shirt, black sweater and jeans when they set sail. He finally seems relieved and at ease when he does that.
Richard Dreyfuss in casual Ivy wardrobe essentials: sweatshirt, denim shirt and, unseen here, jeans and classic canvas shoes.
Nautical essentials, then and now: chambray shirt, fisherman’s waxed jacket, crewneck knitted sweater, waxed cotton cap
Roy Scheider in the most democratic look of all: simple t-shirt and blue jeans
photos: Zanuck/Brown Productions / Universal Pictures