Blow: George’s Navy Pea Coat

Johnny Depp as George Jung in Blow (2001)

Johnny Depp as George Jung in Blow (2001)

Vitals

Johnny Depp as George Jung, ambitious pot dealer

Chicago, Winter 1972

Film: Blow
Release Date: April 6, 2001
Director: Ted Demme
Costume Designer: Mark Bridges

Background

In the centuries since pea jackets were first established by military mariners battling the cold, these short and warm coats have emerged as a winter staple for men and women around the world. While many maintain the original template, such as the 1940s Schott in 32-ounce melton wool that was handed down to me from my grandfather, the pea coat’s ubiquity has also inspired more fashion-forward variations like the leather-trimmed, peak-lapel Billy Reid coat that Daniel Craig wore in his third 007 outing Skyfall or this Disco-era jacket briefly worn by Johnny Depp in Blow.

Adapted from Bruce Porter’s 1993 book of the same title, Blow recounts the rise and fall of real-life American drug smuggler George Jung. Before he was reportedly earning millions each day smuggling cocaine for the Medellín cartel, “Boston George” was a high school dropout who’d been kicked out of the Marine Corps and moved from the suburbs of Beantown to the sunny eden of Manhattan Beach at the end of the swinging sixties. While there, Jung engineered a profitable smuggling operation that started with shipping marijuana to college campuses back east via stewardess’ unchecked suitcases and ended with stolen planes flying hundreds of pounds of pot out of Puerto Vallarta.

While Jung’s criminal career was indeed sidetracked when he was arrested in Chicago with 660 pounds of marijuana as depicted in Blow, the movie does not show the smuggler’s first significant legal trouble when he spent three months in a Mexican prison after the Federales busted him at an airstrip in the late summer of 1970. The three month stay began when the swaggering Jung was brought down to size by a strip search, a few electric shocks from a cattle prod to his thus-exposed gonads, and a 24-hour internment crunched into a wooden box with his head forced between his knees. Having adjusted his attitude toward his arresting officers after this introduction to the penal system, Jung evidently worked out a settlement to pay $50,000 for his eventual release following a three-month sentence.

And thus we get to the fall of 1972, when the real-life Jung was arrested in the Chicago Playboy Club with the aforementioned 660 pounds of marijuana and charged with intent to sell. Depp’s Jung expects no consequences for the violation and quotes Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie during his indictment, to which the stupefied judge (Dorothy Lyman) replies, “Gosh, you know, your concepts are really interesting, Mr. Jung… unfortunately for you, the line you crossed was real and the plants you brought with you were illegal, so your bail is $20,000,” before she bangs her gavel, leaving a gobsmacked Jung speechless before he’s ushered out.

While it may seem purely made up for the movies, this is one incident in Blow that is almost verbatim from how Porter presented it in his biography of George Jung. Evidently, his lawyers had worked out a deal with the U.S. attorney and all that Jung would need to do would be to give a repentant speech, apologizing for his mistake and concisely outlining his plan to clean up his life after the brief, agreed-upon sentence.

“George didn’t tell his lawyer, but he had a feeling when he entered the courtroom and saw the federal judge sitting up there that he wasn’t going to do the speech they’d agreed on,” Porter writes, recalling Jung’s lifelong struggle with authority figures, in this case presiding judge James Austin. “What he actually told the judge was: ‘Your Honor, I realize I broke the law, but I want to tell you in all honesty that I don’t feel it’s a crime. I think it’s foolishness to sentence a man to prison, for what? For crossing an imaginary line with a bunch of plants?’ George found himself expressing other general thoughts as well. He mentioned the Vietnam War, and something about how none of the real criminals in the world ever end up behind bars, a little distillation from the oral philosophy of Bob Dylan. You say that I’m an outlaw, you say that I’m a thief. Well, where’s the Christmas dinner for the people on relief?

Austin’s bemused smile at first convinced Jung that his diatribe may have actually convinced the judge, who was evidently impressed by Jung’s “interesting concept”… though the scene then played out as it would on cinema as Austin reminded Jung that the line was not imaginary, the plants were indeed illegal, and thus the man standing before him had, in fact, committed a crime. Austin then added insult to injury by tacking an additional year onto the initial three-year sentence that the attorneys had worked out, recommending Jung to serve four years at the Danbury federal prison in southwestern Connecticut, unknowingly doing more to further Jung’s criminal career than to hamper it, as Depp’s Jung would narrate:

Danbury wasn’t a prison, it was a crime school. I went in with a bachelor of marijuana and came out with a doctorate of cocaine.

What’d He Wear?

They don’t call it the Windy City for nothing. Depp’s George Jung wisely bundles up for the Chicago cold in a navy wool coat clearly modeled after traditional pea coats and reefer jackets. The coat has broad lapels with deep notches, detailed with double-stitched edges

George's grandstanding for the court receives a more lukewarm reception than he expected.

George’s grandstanding for the court receives a more lukewarm reception than he expected.

George’s jacket has a total of six buttons, organized in two parallel columns of three dark blue plastic sew-through buttons each decorated in what appears to be the classic naval anchor motif. In addition to the set-in hip pockets with flaps appropriately wide for the 1970s, the set-in sleeves are also finished with the unique detail of three buttons on each cuff, more typical to a suit or sport jacket than a pea coat.

Though some more traditionally inspired pea coats have lower external pockets with flaps, they almost always supplement open handwarmer pockets, which are the quintessential pea coat pocket. Additionally, pea coats almost never have buttons adorning the sleeve; if anything, cuffs are finished with the outerwear-friendly semi-tab that closes through a button like these pea jackets from Amazon Essentials or Match.

BLOW

Layering for the chilly Chicago climate as opposed to the warm and sunny Puerto Vallarta paradise he calls home, George wears an ivory turtleneck under his pea coat. While the roll-neck and set-in sleeves are stitched in what looks like a classic vertical rib stitch, the body of George’s sweater is stitched from a more complex series of long, vertical crossed ribs to create an interlocking lattice-like effect.

Something tells me George would have to sweep that hair out of his face for the CPD to have a truly effective mugshot in their records.

Something tells me George would have to sweep that hair out of his face for the CPD to have a truly effective mugshot in their records.

The brief scene only shows glimpses of Jung’s wardrobe below the waist, though we can see he’s wearing dark navy flat front trousers with plain-hemmed bottoms that flare out just enough to avoid “bell bottom” territory while also draping over most of his black leather square-toed boots.

Jung is met by this then-girlfriend Barbara (Franka Potente) after posting bail.

Jung is met by this then-girlfriend Barbara (Franka Potente) after posting bail.

Johnny Depp as George Jung in Blow (2001)

Johnny Depp as George Jung in Blow (2001)

How to Get the Look

Though stranded in a Chicago courtroom rather than taking on the high seas, Johnny Depp’s portrayal of George Jung in Blow takes sartorial inspiration from centuries-old maritime garb with a trendy twist as he makes his nonsensical pleas for freedom.

  • Navy wool pea coat with broad lapels, 6×3-button double-breasted front, wide-flapped hip pockets, and 3-button cuffs
  • Ivory interlocking lattice-knit wool turtleneck
  • Dark navy flat front trousers with flared, plain-hemmed bottoms
  • Black leather square-toed boots

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Check out the movie and read the book too!

The Quote

Well, in all honesty, I don’t feel that what I’ve done is a crime. And I think it’s illogical and irresponsible for you to sentence me to prison. Because, when you think about it, what did I really do? I crossed an imaginary line with a bunch of plants. I mean, you say I’m an outlaw, you say I’m a thief, but where’s the Christmas dinner for the people on relief? Huh? You say you’re looking for someone who’s never weak but always strong, to gather flowers constantly whether you are right or wrong, someone to open each and every door, but it ain’t me, babe, huh? No, no, no, it ain’t me, babe. It ain’t me you’re looking for, babe. You follow?

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