The Deep: Nick Nolte’s Chambray Shirt at Sea

Nick Nolte as David Sanders in The Deep (1977)

Nick Nolte as David Sanders in The Deep (1977)

Vitals

Nick Nolte as David Sanders, vacationing scuba diver

Off the Bermuda coast, Summer 1976

Film: The Deep
Release Date: June 17, 1977
Director: Peter Yates
Costume Designer: Ron Talsky

Background

Okay, yes, I acknowledge that one of the few reasons anyone might still be talking about The Deep more than 40 years later is… well, the same reason anyone talked about it when it was released.

The Deep‘s enduring cultural significance indeed resulted from a costuming decision, though not related to anything Nick Nolte wore but rather Jacqueline Bisset’s simple but oh-so-memorable white tee during the underwater opening sequence.

Jacqueline Bisset in The Deep (1977)

Costume designer Ron Talsky’s on-screen credit appeared next to arguably his most famous wardrobe choice.

Once I registered what all the fuss was about, I also observed that Nolte—playing Bisset’s partner, David Sanders—begins the movie wearing an aquatic-adjacent outfit appropriate for gents developing their spring-to-summer transitional wardrobe or dressing for any seagoing getaways over Memorial Day weekend.

What’d He Wear?

David’s blue chambray cotton shirt echoes the hard-wearing work shirts that had been a U.S. Navy staple for much of the 20th century, though details like the long pointed collar indicate that David is clearly wearing a commercially marketed shirt designed with an eye toward then-fashionable ’70s trends. The long-sleeved shirt has rounded cuffs that each close with a single button, matching the white mother-of-pearl buttons up the front placket as well as to close each gently scalloped flap over the two squared chest pockets.

Jacqueline Bisset and Nick Nolte in The Deep (1977)

They say the longer you’re with someone, the more you start to look—or dress—alike. After three years together, Gail and David both dress for days in Bermuda in their respective barely-buttoned two-pocket shirts.

White trousers are most welcome by the sea, with David’s cream-colored cotton canvas pants nodding to his nationality as they incorporate the styling details of all-American jeans, from the curved front pockets to the patch back pockets. He foregoes a belt, despite the presence of loops.

Jacqueline Bisset, Nick Nolte, Robert Shaw, and Eli Wallach in The Deep (1977)

Gail and David enlist the services of Romer Treece (Robert Shaw) and Adam Coffin (Eli Wallach).

Consistent with the outfit’s utilitarian approach of a work shirt and jeans, David wears white sneakers, detailed with navy leather side trim and gray heel counters that resemble Puma models of the era. (David evidently values athletic shoes, as Gail jokes that “I’ve known him for three years and all he’s ever given me is a sweater and a pair of sneakers!”)

Nick Nolte in The Deep (1977)

David’s Puma trainers allow him to pedal like hell when Cloche’s henchmen chase them, though it’s amazing that Gail’s still able to speed past him in her high-heeled sandals.

After he and Gail partner with the hearty treasure-hunter Romer Treece (Robert Shaw), David eventually abandons his full diving suits and follows Romer’s example of diving with whatever button-up shirt he was already wearing with his shorts, in this case a pair of navy-blue nylon trunks with a short inseam.

Nick Nolte in The Deep (1977)

As long as you’ve got the right equipment, David learns from Romer that any shirt can be a diving shirt.

While I don’t believe David’s profession is ever expressly mentioned in the film—though Peter Benchley’s 1976 source novel likely tells us more—he’s properly equipped for these recreational dives with his Rolex Submariner watch. Though the iconic watch had been gaining prestige thanks in part to three James Bond actors wearing them across the popular 007 series, the Submariner was originally intended for diving and gets a chance to show off this utility on Nick Nolte’s wrist in The Deep.

Powered by Rolex’s 26-jewel, self-winding cal. 1570 movement, Nolte’s screen-worn Submariner follows the traditional colorway of a stainless steel 40mm case and Oyster-style link bracelet with folding clasp, a black rotating bezel, and round black dial with luminous indices. The white date window at 3:00 reinforces that this particular Submariner is a ref. 1680 Date model, introduced in 1966. The actual watch was auctioned by Sotheby’s, whose listing shares more detail such as the 1975 manufacture date and case number 4’163’403.

Nick Nolte in The Deep (1977)

David’s Rolex Submariner fulfills its intended duty as a reliable dive watch.

To protect his hands while treasure-hunting underwear, David wears creamy yellow knitted gloves, printed with the Edmont logo on the dorsal side, with wide white ribbed wrists and prominent seams running across the sides and tops of the gloves.

Nick Nolte as David Sanders in The Deep (1977)

Nick Nolte as David Sanders in The Deep (1977)

How to Get the Look

Nick Nolte’s seaside kit in The Deep suggests a comfortable look more compatible with labor than leisure.

  • Blue chambray cotton work shirt with long point collar, two button-flapped chest pockets, front placket, and 1-button rounded cuffs
  • White cotton canvas jeans with belt loops, curved front pockets, and patch back pockets
  • White leather Puma sneakers with navy side trim and gray counters
  • Rolex Submariner Date ref. 1680 automatic dive watch with stainless steel 40mm case, black rotating bezel, black round dial (with 3:00 date window), and stainless steel Oyster-style link bracelet

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Check out the movie.

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