Sidney Poitier’s Printed Shirt in Lilies of the Field
Sidney Poitier as Homer Smith, helpful handyman
Arizona, Summer 1963
Film: Lilies of the Field
Release Date: October 1, 1963
Director: Ralph Nelson
Wardrobe Credit: Wesley Sherrard
Happy first day of summer! As the Northern Hemisphere officially enters its warmest season, menswear retailers have been dutifully swapping out their pea coats and sweaters in favor of tropical-printed short-sleeved shirts.
While some prints are wild and some just get weird, the most timeless styles of floral or natural patterns have remained the same in the more than eight decades since Ellery Chun first advertised his Aloha shirt in The Honolulu Advertiser in the summer of 1935.
Even the famously fashionable Sidney Poitier wore a classic Aloha shirt for his Academy Award-winning role in Lilies of the Field as Homer Smith, the traveling handyman whose brief stop outside of Tucson for water for his station wagon turns into an extended job as he eventually takes on the task of building a new chapel for a group of nuns.
What’d He Wear?
Though Lilies of the Field was released in black-and-white with few color photographs documenting the production, we can be reasonably certain that Homer’s lightweight cotton shirt as he returns from a brief retreat to again escort the group of nuns to Sunday mass is white with a green leafy print, worn over a white cotton crew-neck undershirt, a lively variation from the herringbone three-button sport jacket, white shirt, and tie that he had typically worn for driving the sisters to mass.
The short-sleeved camp shirt has a large collar with a small loop on the left side that ostensibly would fasten over the neck to a small button under the right collar leaf. The shirt has a plain front for the large white two-hole sew-through buttons.
Looking for a modern alternative? Luckily, the modern trend toward printed shirts for men means a variety of options are available from a range of retailers.
As of June 2019, Banana Republic offers a line of soft rayon camp shirts for $69.50 including one in the “Botanical Khaki” pattern of green leaves, some with blooming red flowers, scattered over a white ground.
Nordstrom also offers a selection of similarly patterned shirts, from the higher-end silky sport shirts like the ALLSAINTS “Virginia Slim Fit Print Shirt” and Tommy Bahama “Adriatric Fronds Silk Blend Sport Shirt”, both in tasteful black-on-white patterns, to the more modestly priced but no less tropical offerings of surf-and-skate brands O’Neill, Quiksilver, and Vans.
Less of a match—but also considerably less expensive—is the “7 Leaf” pattern polyester camp shirt by ELETOP, available on Amazon.
In Lilies of the Field, Poitier lets the shirt garner all the sartorial attention and keeps the rest of his outfit subdued with a pair of dark—possibly black or dark brown—trousers, dark slip-on shoes, and dark socks.
These may be the same beltless flat front trousers and side-gusset ankle boots (similar to a shorter pair of traditional Chelsea boots) that Homer had worn earlier with his three-button sport jacket and tie when driving the sisters to mass before breakfast.
The final element that brings a definite cool factor to Poitier’s simple summer-friendly ensemble is a pair of black plastic sunglasses. While the maker is unconfirmed today, the frame is similar to the Ray-Ban Wayfarer that had first entered production in the 1950s, though Poitier’s shades appear to have more roundness to the bottom of the frames than the classic Wayfarer.
How to Get the Look
It’s no surprise that the always elegant Sidney Poitier takes a timeless approach to the summer Aloha shirt.
- White with green leafy print lightweight cotton short-sleeved camp shirt with plain front
- White cotton crew-neck short-sleeve undershirt
- Black flat front trousers with side pockets and turn-ups/cuffs
- Black calf leather plain-toe side-gusset ankle boots
- Black socks
- Black plastic wayfarer-style sunglasses
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
Poitier wears some cool cream colored Lee 101 riders in this film also http://imgc.allpostersimages.com/images/P-473-488-90/67/6720/GMVA100Z/posters/lilies-of-the-field-ralph-nelson-sidney-poitier-1963.jpg
I own 34 floral print shirts and counting. It’s always a job finding a place to store them for the winter – but always great to get them out again!
I just watched this two nights ago for the first time. As a Catholic I’m always looking for an inspirational film that reflects the Church and her adherents in a positive manner and this film meets the criteria. Sidney Poitier and the mother nun were great. I noticed Mr. Smith’s (Poitier) outfit when he returns to pick the nuns up and take them to the makeshift altar on a roadside gas station with a cafe inside that serves lunch and breakfast. His character is Baptist so he goes inside to chat it up with a lapsed Catholic proprietor of the service station while the nuns and locals attend Mass by the roadside. Sadly these types of places don’t exist anymore. I’d give anything to be able to go back for a month to travel up and down the old interstate system and meet the various regional people in the old America.