Paul Newman, acclaimed actor, activist, and Navy veteran
Florida Keys, Summer 1967
Photographs by Mark Kaufmann
Part of BAMF Style’s Iconic Photo Series, focusing on style featured in famous photography of classic stars rather than from specific productions.
June 18 is annually celebrated as “National Go Fishing Day”, an observance encouraging Americans to take some time to take a break and cast a line.
Following his acclaimed performance in Cool Hand Luke, Paul Newman turned to the comfort of rod and reel on a friend’s fishing boat off the Florida Keys. The actor was in the midst of his directorial debut—directing his wife Joanne Woodward in Rachel, Rachel—but looks as stress-free as it gets as he stands top side with a beer in one hand and rod in the other.
Along for the ride was Mark Kauffman, the long-time Life photographer whose career began when he was 16 years old when his photo of Eleanor Roosevelt was chosen for a 1939 cover. He quickly worked his way from serving as a photo lab technician to capturing combat overseas as a Marine before he signed on as a Life staffer. A recipient of the White House News Photographers’ Grand Award, Kauffman also served as Playboy‘s director of photography and was instrumental in the launch of Sports Illustrated with one of his photos used for the cover of the first issue.
What’d He Wear?
Fishing is not traditionally the most stylish activity, as most anglers dress for function over form in water-resistant shirts and utility vests, all layered with plenty of pockets, straps, and loops that serve its wearer well… but, paired with the quintessential lure-laden fishing hat, these clothes are far more effective for catching fish than catching eyes.
On the other hand, Paul Newman approaches his day on the water as though he was dressing for a casual summer day. His fully unbuttoned shirt is the Ivy classic button-down, pioneered by Brooks Brothers at the dawn of the 20th century after John E. Brooks observed how English polo players secured their shirt collars in play.
The versatile light blue button-down shirt may be the most traditional color—second only to pure white—consisting of a pinpoint oxford cloth basket woven in blue and white cotton for an overall light blue finish.
Newman “un-wears” the shirt as much as it can be; in addition to the completely unbuttoned front placket, the cuffs are unbuttoned, the sleeves rolled up, and the collar points unbuttoned with the collar itself rakishly turned up against his neck. The shirt also has a breast pocket.
The three holes on his mother-of-pearl buttons—as opposed to the more traditional four or two—are reportedly a signature of the Waterville, Maine-based shirtmaker C.F. Hathaway, but I can’t tell if the exposed label on Newman’s left front tail helps identify them as the brand. (Interestingly, Newman and Woodward spent several months in Waterville during production of the miniseries Empire Falls in 2003, the year after Hathaway ended operations.)
Newman had yet to start wearing the pre-Daytona Rolex chronograph he would make famous, but the actor was already familiar with cool timepieces. Strapped to his left wrist, Newman wore a steel Bulova Accutron Spaceview watch, easily recognized by the exposed tuning fork movement under the crystal that was minimally marked to serve as the dial, and worn on a five-piece link bracelet. Newman also wears a plain silver ring on the third finger of his right hand.
Newman’s wears off-white cotton jeans, styled just like their traditional blue denim brethren with belt loops, slanted front pockets with coin pocket and rivet-reinforced corners, and patch-style back pockets. The unbuttoned shirt shows off the belt, which would normally be hidden by the long, untucked hem.
The body of the belt is a braided woven material, likely khaki or tan in color, with dark brown leather ends and a large gunmetal-toned single-prong buckle. Braided belts are often designed to close anywhere on the open weave of the belt itself (like these examples from Fairwin and The Tie Bar), but—like a surcingle belt—Newman’s belt buckles through the dark brown leather front piece. (Like this braided stretch cord belt from Orvis.)
Newman’s broken-in boat shoes are styled with the traditional moc-toe and side lacing, though the vamps are detailed with a single-laced tassel rather than the two-eyelet derby lacing of the quintessential Sperry Top-Sider boat shoe. His white crew socks are widely ribbed around the tops.
Additional photos from this summer of ’67 fishing trip show Newman dressed down even more while at sea, swapping out the open OCBD for a heathered gray cotton Danbury High School crew-neck sweatshirt, holding wraparound shades and another Heineken. A graduate of Shaker Heights High School, the sweatshirt likely refers to an institution in Danbury, Connecticut, the very berg where he’d been filming Rachel, Rachel that summer.
To match the informality of the baggy sweatshirt, Newman has also slipped into a pair of weathered white deck sneakers which appear to be the simple Sperry CVO model, developed by Paul Sperry in 1935, the same year he would launch the famous Top-Sider boat shoes.
What to Imbibe
This 1967 expedition was no exception, and Heineken couldn’t have asked for better brand ambassadorship than to have one of the top actors of the era so prominently flashing the Dutch brewer’s recognizably labeled green bottle as he enjoys an easy day on the water.
The idea of Newman cracking a beer is consistent with his no-fuss image, but the actor was forced to take a stand against over-indulging in his name when he learned that “Paul Newman Day” had become an annual tradition at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, where a student had begun circulating the apocryphal quote attributed to Newman: “24 hours in a day, 24 beers in a case. Coincidence? I think not.”
Bates began a tradition that spread to Princeton as well as Kenyon, the actor’s alma mater, where students would spend April 24th attempting to follow the terms suggested by the statement, consuming two dozen beers between midnight and 11:59 p.m.
In 1987, Newman shared his disapproval in a letter to the president of Bates College, proposing instead that the observance be reinstated as “a day in pursuit of athletic excellence with paid attendance,” with the proceeds going back to the community.
How to Get the Look
Paul Newman’s insouciantly deconstructed Ivy style at sea transcends the cooler-than-ice period in the late ’60s when Mark Kauffman snapped these iconic photos, as a light blue button-down shirt, off-white jeans, boat shoes, and an interesting watch would be a fine combination for a gent in any decade.
- Light blue oxford-cloth cotton shirt with button-down collar, front placket, breast pocket, and button cuffs
- Cream canvas flat front jeans with belt loops, slanted front pockets with coin pocket, patch pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Tan woven surcingle belt with dark brown leather front strap and large gunmetal single-prong buckle
- Dark leather moc-toe side-laced loafers
- White crew socks
- Bulova Accutron Spaceview steel watch with black dial on steel five-piece bracelet
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Watch Paul Newman’s movies… though he himself would direct you away from The Silver Chalice.
If you don’t have enemies, you don’t have character.