Don Cheadle as Buck Swope, porn actor and aspiring electronics store owner
San Fernando Valley, Summer 1977
Film: Boogie Nights
Release Date: October 10, 1997
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Costume Designer: Mark Bridges
In the mood for some midweek summer leisure looks, I was inspired by the parade of ’70s style in Boogie Nights. As with so many period productions set during the disco era, Boogie Nights features plenty of the big collars, flashy jewelry, and polyester we’ve come to associate with that decade, and its focus on the porn industry—despite Jack Horner’s insistence that his “pictures” may be a higher art than the era’s run-of-the-mill smut—takes us through the tackier side of a decade already oft reviled for its sartorial excess.
Among the sprawling ensemble cast, I’ve always enjoyed Don Cheadle’s performance as Buck Swope, the conflicted actor in Horner’s troupe constantly wrangling with his identity. Buck already balances a double life as he earns a living both selling electronics and starring in in “adult entertainment”. His attempts at authentic self-expression are stymied at almost every turn, from the electronics store owner who bemoans “what kind of brother are you, anyway?” to his co-star Becky (Nicole Ari Parker) arguing with him that “the cowboy look ended about six years ago.”
Of all the troubled inhabitants of Boogie Nights’ world, Buck may be among the purest and most selfless in his intentions, though his selflessness comes at the initial cost of depriving him of the sense of self he so deserves. Yet, for each obstacle he encounters as he grapples with his identity, Buck always manages to find champions like club owner Maurice (Luis Guzmán) and his good-natured co-star and eventual wife Jessie St. Vincent (Melora Walters).
After we first meet Buck enthusiastically (and, to his manager, incongruously) stomping to a country jam during his day job at the stereo store, we catch up with him during a pool party at Jack Horner’s residence to welcome Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg), soon to be rechristened Dirk Diggler, to their coital coterie.
What’d He Wear?
Even at leisure, Buck stays true to his Western-influenced sense of style, trying not to be discouraged by what he’s told by Becky or his boss. As the accepting Maurice encourages him, “wear what you dig!”
In Buck’s case, that’s a nearly matching shirt and shorts, both constructed of a rich crimson red polyester with white piping. The Western-style shirt has five snaps up the white-piped front placket, ostensibly fastening at the white-piped point collar with a mother-of-pearl sew-through button, though—in the spirit of the afternoon—Buck wears the shirt completely open, also showing the simple gold rope-chain necklace he wears, likely about 20″ long.
The shirt’s back yoke is a more traditional Western style, white-piped with a neat dropped point in the center. The front has white stylized shoulder yokes, shaped like fleur-de-lis as they extend down from his shoulder seams with rainbow embroidery. Below each yoke is a single set-in curved “smile” pocket, jetted in white with white embroidered arrow points on each end. Gold embroidery detailing spirals out from below each armpit for additional pizzazz. The sleeves end in five-snap “shotgun cuffs”, also piped in white, that extend up each forearm nearly to the elbows.
Buck’s thigh-length flat-front shorts are also red with white piping, suggesting a matched set. The fitted waistband is piped in white around the top and bottom, with a short tab suggesting a hidden hook closure. The straight front pockets, also trimmed with white piping, are consistent with Western styling as seen on trouser “frogmouth”-style pockets.
Our glimpse at Buck’s footwear is brief, but he appears to be wearing a pair of contextually appropriate slip-on shoes with light brown soles, likely a pair of tan sandals.
To see more of Buck Swope’s unique sense of style, check out one of Cheadle’s screen-worn jumpsuits currently held by The Golden Closet. You can also read more about Boogie Nights‘ intentional costumes in Philippa Snow’s 2017 feature for Refinery29, which includes insights from costume designer Mark Bridges and notes:
In a Paul Thomas Anderson film, details matter. A tiny, perky, perfect porn star overdoses on coke, and the blood from her nose is a match for her bikini; Don Cheadle’s Buck Swope, in a Western shirt as red as bikini girl’s nosebleed, is told that “the cowboy look went out about six years ago.” …
There is so much red in Boogie Nights, perhaps because it’s a sensual color, or maybe because it feels gynecological. Maybe red was just the shade of the era. “This is a big nostalgia piece,” says Bridges. “So I went for a slick, sexy look that epitomized the late ’70s.” Red is slick like a nosebleed, but it also says “Look at me,” like Scotty. Boogie Nights is all about turning sexual lemons—objectification, loserdom, sex as your only talent—into lemonade. More than just slickness, its style is about selling yourself even when life’s not easy.
How to Get the Look
Wear what you dig! If you like incorporating cowboy garb into your style, Buck’s matching Western shirt and shorts illustrate how you can continue the look for a summer afternoon spent partying by the pool.
- Red polyester long-sleeved Western-style snap-front shirt with white piping, white fleur-de-lis shoulder yokes, two white curved “smile” chest pockets, gold embroidery detail, and five-snap “shotgun cuffs”
- Red polyester flat front shorts with white-piped waistband and white-piped Western pockets
- Gold rope-style 20″ necklace
- Tan sandals
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.