Philip Michael Thomas as Ricardo Tubbs, vengeful undercover detective
Miami, Spring 1984
Series: Miami Vice
Episode: “Brother’s Keeper” (Episode 1.01)
Air Date: September 16, 1984
Director: Thomas Carter
Creator: Anthony Yerkovich
Costume Designer: Jodie Lynn Tillen
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
This week in 1984, Miami Vice debuted on NBC, introducing us to the cooler-than-ice cops Sonny Crockett (Don Johnson) and Ricardo Tubbs (Philip Michael Thomas). Per the detectives’ duties for the Metro-Dade Police Department’s vice division, the episodes frequently included thrilling gunfights and car chases against drug-peddling foes amidst a stylish backdrop of sleek cars, sleeker clothes, pop music, and a parade of guest stars ranging from Liam Neeson, Willie Nelson, and a young Julia Roberts to… G. Gordon Liddy.
The title of the Emmy-winning pilot episode, “Brother’s Keeper”, refers most specifically to Tubbs, a New York transplant who arrived in Miami seeking vengeance on the wily drug kingpin Calderone, who killed his brother Rafael. Despite their head-butting personalities, Tubbs joins forces with Crockett, hoping to soften the tension between them by bringing coffee and donuts onto his boat as well as the results of his own surveillance on Calderone, but Crockett informs him that “down here, you’re just another amateur.”
Sipping cocktails at a beachside bar to the tune of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”, Tubbs spots a “girl” having a little too much fun when she pulls a silenced pistol and kills Leon (Mykelti Williamson), one of his and Crockett’s most promising leads in their case against Calderone.
“You know, buddy, you got a leak in your department the size of the East River,” Tubbs tells his new partner, now convinced that he needs Tubbs’ help to bring down Calderone.
What’d He Wear?
Don Johnson’s layered pastel linens as the slick Sonny Crockett would become the breakout fashions from the series, though Tubbs would have been the standout on almost any other show. As a New York cop fresh in Miami, Tubbs isn’t as rooted in the colorful schematics as Crockett but he quickly gets a hang for how to dress down in the subtropical “Magic City”, adapting his more conventional style to keep up with his partner.
Midway through “Brother’s Keeper”, Tubbs shows up for his first official day partnered with Crockett in a double-breasted dove-gray suit jacket made from a softly napped cloth with a silky finish, possibly a blend of silk and wool serge. Philip Michael Thomas wore the jacket as part of a matching two-piece suit for a series of promotional portraits taken with Johnson, though the jacket was orphaned with non-matching trousers for its appearance in the pilot episode.
Whether worn with a tie or T-shirt, double-breasted jackets would quickly become a style trademark for Rico Tubbs, redefining what had once been a more old-fashioned style to illustrate that you don’t have to be Chance the gardener to wear double-breasted jackets.
The pick-stitched peak lapels roll to a full 6×2-button front, which Tubbs wears both open and fully fastened. Shaped with darts, the jacket has a welted breast pocket, jetted hip pockets, three-button cuffs.
Double-breasted jackets are traditionally tailored sans vents, and Tubbs’ jacket is no exception though the lack of vents creates a rather obvious bulge over where he carries his revolver in the back.
Tubbs would be considerably more predisposed to wearing neckties than Crockett, though he goes open-neck this morning, unbuttoning the top few buttons of his ice-blue silky long-sleeved camp shirt. The shirt has a loop collar, covered fly, and single-button rounded barrel cuffs. The two chest pockets are covered by rounded-corner flaps, neither of which close through a button.
Tubbs doesn’t wear the jacket’s matching suit trousers in “Brother’s Keeper”, instead sporting pleated taupe trousers that are a shade warmer than the jacket, though the lack of obvious contrast may create the effect that Tubbs was trying to “match” two non-matching pieces. The proneness to wrinkling suggests linen—a smart choice of fabric when expecting action in the hot Miami climate—or a linen and silk blend.
The trousers are held up by a narrow russet-brown leather belt that has a gold-toned single-prong buckle and gold keeper (not a “brother’s keeper”.) Dropped below the mid-rise belt line are a set of two closely spaced reverse-facing pleats on each side of the trousers.
“Call him off, man, I don’t even like alligator shoes!” Tubbs exclaims upon meeting Crockett’s gator pal Elvis on his boat. Indeed, his apron-toe lace-up shoes—while unconventional with their light gray uppers—are made from a more traditional leather than gator-skin. He wears them with a pair of black socks that show under the shorter break of his trouser bottoms, which are finished with turn-ups (cuffs).
Tubbs finishes his look with a substantial amount of gold jewelry, from a subtle small hoop earring to a chain-link bracelet and watch that collide on his left wrist. Tubbs’ wristwatches never received the same attention and scrutiny as Crockett’s parade of timepieces, but we see in the pilot episode that he wears a gold watch with a blue square dial flush against the gold bracelet.
Often swinging out from the unbuttoned top of his shirt, Tubbs wears a large gold pendant that has been identified on the Miami Vice Online forums as a religious medallion with a relief of St. Christopher (“Christ Bearer”) carrying Jesus. A St. Christopher pendant had also been famously worn by Steve McQueen.
As part of his undercover image, Tubbs would also weigh down his fingers with a chunky gold ring on each hand, but we don’t see either of those with this particular outfit.
As with the rest of his style, Rico Tubbs rarely carried flashy new firearms like his partner, instead veering toward tried-and-true practicality. His Smith & Wesson Model 38 “Bodyguard” reflects the snub-nosed Smith & Wesson .38 revolvers authorized for plainclothes policemen across the country for decades while providing the added benefit of a shrouded hammer for an easy draw from within the folds of his designer clothes.
Smith & Wesson introduced the “Bodyguard” model in 1955, a half-decade after launching the five-shot .38 Special “Chiefs Special”—later to be re-designated Model 36—on the same J-frame. This original alloy-framed Bodyguard would be renamed the Model 38 Airweight Bodyguard, differentiated with the all carbon steel-framed Model 49 Bodyguard introduced by decade’s end. Both “Bodyguard” models featured a “Camel Hump” shroud to conceal the hammer and prevent it from snagging on clothing, making it a particularly practical weapon for concealed carry.
In fact, firearms expert Geoffrey Boothroyd had even insisted to Ian Fleming that the Smith & Wesson Airweight Bodyguard would make an ideal sidearm to replace James Bond’s relatively anemic .25-caliber Beretta, though Fleming relegated it to a backup weapon in the novel Doctor No, preferring to keep 007 armed with a semi-automatic pistol like the Walther PPK.
Tubbs carried his Smith & Wesson Model 38 Bodyguard, with black Pachmayr grips, throughout the entire duration of Miami Vice, while his partner rotated between the SIG-Sauer P220, Bren Ten, and .45-caliber Smith & Wesson semi-automatics over the course of the series.
For heavier-duty battles, Tubbs again tends to arm himself with time-tested weapons like the sawed-off double-breasted shotgun that makes several appearances throughout Miami Vice‘s first season, including “Brother’s Keeper”. While not necessarily a weapon still widely in police usage by the 1980s—especially for more urban departments like NYPD or MDPD—the infallible design that dates back more than a century is consistent with Tubbs’ preference for older-inspired technology and fashions.
What to Imbibe
While keeping an eye on Leon from a beachside bar, Tubbs sips from a coral-tinted goblet with the unique garnish of what appears to be a suspended fishing bob.
We unfortunately aren’t privy to exactly what Tubbs is meant to be drinking, unless series creator Anthony Yerkovich detailed it in his script, but the color and context could inspire you to mix the aptly named cocktail Miami Vice.
Liquor.com informs us that “the tropical drink—part Strawberry Daiquiri, part Piña Colada, separated in the glass—precedes the popular ’80s television drama by some years,” so it wouldn’t be beyond the realm of possibility for either of our heroes to order one… though it would perhaps be irresponsible for Crockett or Tubbs to be drinking on the job.
Despite decades of existence, this particular cocktail has eluded inclusion in my latest version of the Mr. Boston Official Bartender’s Guide, so I’ve relied on online sources to get a sense of what goes into mixing a Miami Vice:
- Two 1-ounce portions of white rum
- 1-2 cups of strawberries
- 1/2 ounce of simple syrup
- 1.5-2 ounces of cream of coconut
- 1.5-2 ounces of pineapple juice
Both the strawberry daiquiri and the piña colada portions should be mixed separately, with Liquor.com advising that the daiquiri be prepared first, blending an ounce of the rum with the strawberries, simple syrup, and—if you prefer—an ounce of freshly squeezed lime juice, all with a cup of fresh ice. Once the strawberry daiquiri is smoothly blended, it should be poured into the hurricane glass and stored in the freezer.
With the blender cleaned out and ready for the next step, blend the remaining ounce of rum with the cream of coconut and pineapple juice (Tipsy Bartender suggests slightly less of the juices than Liquor.com does) with ice until you’ve got a smooth piña colada as well.
Pour the piña colada into the hurricane glass over the strawberry daiquiri, ostensibly providing a layered red-and-white effect that you can garnish with a strawberry, a pineapple slice, or—if you have it at your disposal—a paper fishing bob.
(Feeling patriotic? Baking Beauty suggests dying half the piña colada portion blue for a red, white, and blue cocktail ideal for your fourth of July celebrations.)
How to Get the Look
A more conventional dresser than his partner, Ricardo Tubbs still embraces the warm, fashionable setting of 1980s Miami as he updates mid-century styles like double-breasted jackets, two-pocket camp shirts, and pleated trousers.
- Dove-gray wool-and-silk serge double-breasted 6×2-button suit jacket with pick-stitched peak lapels, welted breast pocket, straight jetted hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and ventless back
- Ice-blue silk long-sleeved sports shirt with camp collar (with loop), covered-fly front, two flapped chest pockets, and single-button rounded cuffs
- Taupe linen double reverse-pleated trousers with belt loops, on-seam side pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- Russet-brown leather belt with small gold-toned single-prong buckle and keeper
- Light gray leather lace-up shoes
- Black socks
- Small gold hoop earring
- Gold St. Christopher medallion on gold necklace
- Thin gold chain-link bracelet
- Gold wristwatch with flush blue squared dial
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the series.
Couldn’t let you handle all that bad karma by yourself.