Happy St. Patrick’s Day, BAMF Style readers! What could be a more appropriate focus on this green-bedecked holiday than focusing on one of the most famous movie and TV bartenders rocking a green shirt?
Ted Danson as Sam Malone, bartender and former baseball star
Boston, Early Winter 1983
Episode: “How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Call You Back” (Episode 2.10)
Air Date: December 8, 1983
Director: James Burrows
Created by: Glen Charles, Les Charles, and James Burrows
Costume Designer: Robert L. Tanella
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Diane: This is the way I describe our reIationship. It’s more than “like”. Beyond fondness. Verging on deep affection. There’s a vitaI physicaI component, bordering on the passionate. However, it has not reached the IeveI at which we wiII abandon reservations about a compIete commitment. That’s how I see things.
Sam: (a beat) Ditto.
The hot-and-cold relationship between Sam Malone (Ted Danson) and Diane Chambers (Shelley Long) on Cheers set the precedent for many sitcom pairings to follow, a seemingly incompatible romantic coupling that fluctuates frequently throughout the series. The sexual tension between the bartender and the perpetual grad student reached a boiling point in the first season finale when the two agreed to make a go at it (“Diane and I decided we’re going to start messing around,” Sam announced to the bar in the following episode), though the couple can barely make it a few weeks without questioning everything.
Earlier in the episode, Sam gratefully—but unconsciously—declared “I love you!” to Diane after she gifted him hard-to-get tickets to a fight. After walking back his declaration, Sam and Diane agreed to take a week “off” from their relationship to determine exactly why they’re together. On the final night of the challenge, Sam has been out partying with Coach, Carla, Norm, Cliff, and Alan (Alan?), idling away their time at a strip club and playing all-night poker, only for Diane to visit Sam right at midnight to excitedly exchange each other’s thoughts about the meaning of their relationship… though, of course, Sam’s got nothing and is forced to stall until he proves unable to come through in the clutch.
“Honey…I have no idea why we’re together,” Sam admits, also laying bare the show successfully taking one of a sitcom’s greatest and most uncelebrated risks: pursuing the possibility that its two romantic leads may not actually be “meant” to be together. In my opinion, this gives Cheers a degree of emotional realism that elevates it above other sitcoms. While Ross and Rachel probably should not be together, Friends was still firmly rooting for its two characters while Cheers—even early on in the Sam and Diane pairing—recognizes the very valid factors that might make these two characters too fundamentally different to be in a healthy romantic relationship.
Meredith Blake nicely called this out in The AV Club‘s retrospective review of the episode:”Given the over-familiarity of the accidental ‘I love you’ premise, the open-ended, meandering quality of this episode surprised me somewhat. I expected a neat third-act resolution in which Sam unequivocally declared his love for Diane, but instead we get an episode that embraces narrative and romantic ambiguity. I tend to think of ’80s television as being obvious and formulaic in a way that quote-unquote good shows can’t get away with today, but Cheers really challenges this impression.”
Cheers co-creator James Burrows told The New York Times after Shelley Long left the show in 1987 that “the three of us have been with Sam and Diane a long time, and we’re a little tired of their shenanigans,” to which Les Charles added “a little bored and amazed America was so passionate about them.” A lesser show may have used Shelley Long’s return in the series finale to tie a neat, happy bow on Sam and Diane’s on-again/off-again dynamic, but anyone who has seen the final episode knows that the series took a more mature, realistic, and ultimately more satisfying direction.
What’d He Wear?
This particular shirt from Sam’s expansive wardrobe makes only a brief appearance, but it made an impression on me for its color, fabric, and flattering cut. He would later wear a red version of the same shirt under a blue puffer vest in the following episode, “Just Three Friends” (Episode 2.11).
Sam’s long-sleeved shirt is a rich forest green shade of pinwale corduroy, also known as “needlecord”, with a point collar, front placket, and two chest pockets. The shirt is detailed with mixed tan urea buttons that pop from the shirt’s placket, pocket flaps, and cuffs for an eye-catching contrast that also neatly coordinates with the rest of his outfit’s earthy tones.
Sam wears beige flat front trousers with plain-hemmed bottoms, side pockets, jetted back pockets (with a button through the left pocket only), and a coin pocket just below the right side of his belt line with a single-button flap. His surcingle belt is a prep style staple, consisting here of a khaki web body with a brown center stripe, fitted with brown leather ends that close through a long rectangular gunmetal single-prong buckle.
Boat shoes are Sam Malone’s preferred footwear when manning the bar at Cheers, consistent with his nautical enthusiasm while also serving the practical purpose of providing the barman with traction when working the potentially slippery floors behind the counter. Also known as deck shoes, these iconic shoes were developed in 1935 by New England renaissance man Paul A. Sperry. Sperry had noticed the relative ease with which dogs were able to traverse icy surfaces without slipping and used that to create the siped soles of what would become the famous Sperry Top-Sider, so named for ability to keep sailors stably afoot while walking the exposed “top side” decks above a boat’s waterline.
Sam wears a variety of boat shoes over Cheers‘ eleven-season run in colors ranging from dark shades of navy and black to multiple shades in the brown spectrum including a rich tobacco nubuck and, as seen here in “How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Call You Back”, a drab khaki with a matching lace system and white outsoles. Complementing this classic prep staple, Sam wears argyle socks in tan-and-dark cocoa brown with burgundy overcheck.
This episode marked the first appearance of Sam Malone’s all-black wristwatch with its dark gunmetal case, black dial with white hands and hour markers, and black strap, differing from the mostly field watches on khaki and brown bands that he had worn for the season and a half leading up to this.
Danson would wear this watch for the duration of the season, aside from the twelfth and thirteenth episodes, until swapping it out for a gold dress watch on a tan strap for the third season.
Discarded as soon as they enter the bar and seen only in a wide shot, Sam wore a tan suede shirt-jacket with a point collar, seven black-finished snaps up the front, two patch pockets on the chest that each close with a straight, single-snap flap, and barrel cuffs with a single-snap closure and a second snap to close the gauntlet. The suede provides a fine textural complement to the needlecord shirt he wears under it.
How to Get the Look
Given Cheers‘ extended production over the uneven sartorial years of the 1980s into the early ’90s, Sam Malone was hardly a consistent style icon, but simple outfits like this St. Patrick’s Day-friendly garb that pun an interesting spin on his preppy template stand out against the abundance of bright plaid flannel shirts, gaudily patterned sweaters, and shirts with excessive pockets and redundant flaps that would make their way into Mayday’s wardrobe later in the series’ run.
- Forest green pinwale corduroy cotton long-sleeve shirt with point collar, front placket, two chest pockets (with single-button pointed flaps), and button cuffs
- Tan suede shirt-jacket with point collar, seven-snap placket, chest pockets with single-snap flaps, and single-snap cuffs
- Beige flat front trousers with belt loops, side pockets, right-side coin pocket (with single-button flap), jetted back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Khaki-and-brown stripe webbed surcingle belt with brown leather fittings and long rectangular gunmetal single-prong buckle
- Khaki napped leather two-eyelet boat shoes with khaki lacing system and white outsoles with siped bottoms
- Tan-and-brown argyle socks with burgundy overcheck
- Gunmetal wristwatch with black dial (with white hands and hour markers) on black strap
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the entire series, currently streaming on Amazon Prime and Netflix while also available on DVD.
Just goes to show you, you could still have a good time without drinking as long as you’re surrounded by naked broads shakin’ their wallies in your face.