Burt Reynolds as Bobby “Gator” McKlusky, paroled moonshine runner
Dunston County, Georgia, Summer 1975
Release Date: August 25, 1976
Director: Burt Reynolds
Costume Designer: Norman Salling
September 6 marks the sad one-year anniversary since Burt Reynolds’ death. One of the star’s most famous roles was that of “Gator” McKlusky, the “good ol’ boy” moonshiner introduced in White Lightning (1973) who was revisited, this time with Burt’s iconic mustache, in the Reynolds-directed Gator (1976).
Gator transports the Okefenokee Swamp-dwelling Bobby McKlusky to “Dunston County”, a fictional county in Georgia depicted on-screen by Savannah and the nearby Tybee Island. On an unofficial mission working for federal agent Irving Greenfield (Jack Weston), Gator quickly finds himself entangled with ambitious newscaster Aggie Maybank (Lauren Hutton) as she chases down a story on the possible corruption that brought Gator and Greenfield to Dunston County in the first place.
What’d He Wear?
In both White Lightning and Gator, Burt Reynolds establishes Gator McKlusky’s preferred outfit of a large-collared shirt buttoned halfway down his chest with tight jeans, tall boots, and a flashy belt buckle that doubtlessly provided the template for the muscle car-drivin’, corruption-fightin’ cousins in The Dukes of Hazzard, particularly Tom Wopat’s character Luke Duke with his penchant for blue checked shirts.
One of Burt’s most frequently worn shirts in Gator was this navy-and-white gingham check cotton shirt with a long point collar and front placket, wearing the top three white buttons undone for Reynolds to show off his chest. The shirt has two chest pockets, each closing with a single button on a pointed flap, and long sleeves that Reynolds wears unbuttoned at the cuffs and rolled up his forearms.
Rather than classic Levi’s or Wrangler jeans, Gator—or, more likely, Reynolds—sports a pair of trendy light blue denim jeans that are tight everywhere except the bottoms, which slightly flare out in accordance with the decade’s “bell bottoms” trend. The jeans have wider-than-usual belt loops, frogmouth front pockets, and unique set-in back pockets with a slim welt, accented by a riding seam that curves up and around the back of the seat, similar to cavalry trousers.
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.
Gator matches his boots and belt leather, sporting a pair of black leather boots with raised heels that he wisely removes for his barefoot-on-the-beach date with Aggie.
Reynolds was known to be a Rolex wearer later in his life and career, though he does not yet appear to be wearing one in Gator. Gator McKlusky wears a gold watch on a dark brown leather bund strap that closes with a large gold-toned single-prong buckle that extends the width of the strap.
Instead of a blanket, Aggie and Gator wake up sharing a cream báinín shawl-collar cardigan patterned with Aran cable-knitting like the classic “fisherman’s sweater”. The cardigan has a ribbed shawl collar, and the ribbing continues down the front with the brown-trimmed sew-through buttons. The cuffs are also ribbed.
The button placement informs that this is a men’s cardigan, though there’s no confirmation if it belongs to Gator, Aggie, another character like Greenfield (which would explain how it can fit both of these slimmer characters), or was just found at the beach by our amorous protagonists.
How to Get the Look
Gator McKlusky has a simple approach to dressing, cycling through a variety of long-collared shirts with his tight jeans and signature belt buckle emblazoned with his moniker.
- Navy and white gingham check plain-woven cotton long-sleeve shirt with long-pointed collar, two pointed-flap chest pockets, front placket, and rolled-up button cuffs
- Light blue fashion-forward denim jeans with wide belt loops, frogmouth front pockets, jetted back pockets, rounded back seam, and slightly 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 “champagne” gold dial on dark brown leather bund strap
You’d almost certainly need to go vintage to find a shirt with a substantial collar like Gator’s, but the classic navy-and-white gingham has been a menswear mainstay for decades. The larger-scaled gingham check that Reynolds wears is a little less common than its finer-scale cousin, but you can easily find selections from a range of modern retailers like Amazon house brand Goodthreads, Jack Spade (with two button-down flapped pockets too!), Marquis, Mizzen + Main, Paul Jones, Tommy Hilfiger, and Wrangler.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.