Gator McKlusky’s Red, White, and Blue

Burt Reynolds as "Gator" McKlusky in Gator (1976).

Burt Reynolds as “Gator” McKlusky in Gator (1976).

Vitals

Burt Reynolds as Bobby “Gator” McKlusky, paroled moonshine runner

Dunston County, Georgia, Summer 1975

Film: Gator
Release Date: August 25, 1976
Director: Burt Reynolds
Costume Designer: Norman Salling

Background

To celebrate yesterday being the Fourth of July here in the United States, BAMF Style is breaking down a red, white, and blue look from that most American movie star… Burt Reynolds.

Sterling Archer and I disagree on which of Burt Reynolds’ two cinematic outings as Gator McKlusky is superior… or at least “less bad”. I prefer the darker White Lightning that cast a grittier line on Arkansas moonshiners, while Archer claims that the Reynolds-directed sequel Gator is the stronger choice. While I could make the argument that White Lightning has an 83% rating on Rotten Tomatoes while Gator currently enjoys a 0%, it’s also worth pointing out that Archer falsely attributes many scenes from White Lightning to Gator. (It’s also likely that Archer just appreciates Gator more because Burt had grown his now-iconic mustache for the role; his upper lip had been tragically bare in White Lightning.)

Anyway… this second installment in the Gator McKlusky series was Burt Reynolds’ directorial debut, and his face certainly gets plenty of time both behind and in front of the camera. Though set in the fictional “Dunston County” in Georgia, it was actually filmed in the beautiful and historic city of Savannah – one of my favorite U.S. cities to visit – and the nearby Tybee Island.

What’d He Wear?

Gator’s base look as he heads to Dunston County on his mission for the government is a variation of the same semi-sanitized outfit that would appear in every ’70s and ’80s “hick flick” from Burt Reynolds’ own Smokey and the Bandit through Bo and Luke in The Dukes of Hazzard: large-collared check shirt, tight jeans, boots, and a big ol’ belt buckle.

Reynolds cycles through five different shirts over the course of Gator – significantly for this American hero, all in shades of red, white, and blue. After meeting back up with his old friend “Bama” McCall, Gator wears a white and red gingham check shirt. Gingham is typically constructed of a light- or medium-weight balanced plain-woven cotton, and this shirt appears to be no exception.

If you can take your eyes off the mustache...

If you can take your eyes off the mustache…

Gator’s gingham check shirt has long sleeves that he rolls halfway up his forearms. The large collar has very long points, a not-so-subtle reminder to audiences that this was filmed in the mid-’70s when even the deep south couldn’t avoid the influences of the disco era. Reynolds keeps the shirt halfway buttoned down the plain front, showing off his voluminous chest hair to audiences who weren’t satisfied by just his mustache.

Although he wore a more traditional pair of denim jeans in White Lightning, Gator returned for this outing sporting a pair of much tighter and trendier “fashion jeans” in light blue denim. These high rise jeans have wide belt loops and flared bottoms that narrowly avoid bell bottom territory. They have frogmouth front pockets and jetted back pockets, both just below the belt line. A riding seam curves up and around the back of the seat, similar to cavalry trousers (as worn by Harrison Ford as Han Solo.)

Gator and Bama strut down the side streets of Durston County with Bama's lupara keeping them safe.

Gator and Bama strut down the side streets of Durston County with Bama’s lupara keeping them safe.

Gator wears a thick plain black belt through the jeans’ wide loops. While it may be impossible to get an exact replica of the big brass oval “Gator” belt buckle worn by Reynolds, some similar buckles created for the film’s crew after the production were gifted by Reynolds and are now available on web auction sites, including this item – sculpted by “Cowboy Artist to the Stars” Al Shelton – that was sold on eBay.

I wonder just what one would have to do in their life to get a belt buckle with their nickname on it.

I wonder just what one would have to do in their life to get a belt buckle with their nickname on it.

To match his belt, Gator also wears a pair of plain black leather boots with raised heels.

Gator wears a rugged-looking wristwatch on a dark brown leather cuff. The watch consists of an off-white round dial in a gold-colored case. The cuff strap fastens through a large gold-toned buckle.

Chilled champagne and patio umbrellas... this ain't the Gator McKlusky we knew in White Lightning.

Chilled champagne and patio umbrellas… this ain’t the Gator McKlusky we knew in White Lightning.

Although Burt Reynolds’ long-collared shirt and tight fashion jeans scream 1970s, this is an outfit that can be very easily and comfortably adapted as a more timeless guideline for classic American fashion. Gingham shirts – like this modern example from Saks Fifth Avenue – remain a staple of men’s summer attire, and would look great with a pair of classic Levi’s 501 jeans.

A Getty Images photo credited to Brian Hamill of Burt Reynolds on the set of Gator in 1975.

A Getty Images photo credited to Brian Hamill of Burt Reynolds on the set of Gator in 1975.

How to Get the Look

Gator dresses to rub elbows with crime bosses and intrepid reporters alike when carrying out his mission in a corrupt county in Georgia.

  • White and red gingham check plain-woven cotton long-sleeve shirt with long-pointed collar, plain front, and rolled-up button cuffs
  • Light blue denim jeans with wide belt loops, frogmouth front pockets, jetted back pockets, rounded back seam, and flared bottoms
  • Thick black plain belt
  • Brass oval custom-made “GATOR”-embossed belt buckle with alligator motif
  • Black leather boots with raised heels
  • Gold round-cased wristwatch with off-white dial on dark brown leather cuff

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Buy the movie.

One comment

  1. Pingback: Die Hard | BAMF Style

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