A Nightmare on Elm Street: John Saxon’s Off-Duty Sports Coat
John Saxon as Donald Thompson, police lieutenant
Suburban Ohio, Spring 1981
Film: A Nightmare on Elm Street
Release Date: November 9, 1984
Director: Wes Craven
Costume Designer: Dana Lyman
A decade after he investigated a series of grisly sorority murders at Christmastime, John Saxon again portrayed a police lieutenant chasing down a serial killer in Wes Craven’s horror classic, A Nightmare on Elm Street.
We meet Lieutenant Thompson when he’s called to the station late at night in response to the murder of his daughter’s friend Tina Gray (Amanda Wyss). Thompson’s police colleagues initially suspect Tina’s meathead boyfriend, the “lunatic delinquent” Rod Lane (Nick Corri). Rod doesn’t help his case by fleeing the scene, but a tearful Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) explains to her father that it couldn’t have been Rod.
Thompson has little reason to believe his daughter’s protestations, but we the audience know that Tina’s brutal slashing was the work of the disfigured spirit of the long-dead child murderer Freddy Kreuger.
What’d He Wear?
Thompson’s first appearance begins with his arrival at the police station, his light stone-colored cotton sport jacket illuminating him against the darkness of the night. We don’t know where Thompson was before this, as he could have been out for a night on the town in bustling Springwood or roused from sleep and grabbing the first items he found in his closet. His energy suggests the former, as does his wardrobe for the rest of the movie where he tends to rely on a baggy windbreaker.
This single-breasted jacket has a 3/2-roll, meaning that the lapels of his jacket roll over the top button to show only the center and bottom buttons. This configuration can trace its origins to tailoring on both sides of the Atlantic, though Thompson’s undarted sports coat with its single vent shares considerably more DNA with American Ivy style traditions than British or Italian tailoring. The jacket has two spaced-apart buttons on each sleeve cuff, a welted breast pocket, and patch-style hip pockets with flaps with sporty “edge-swelling” echoing the notch lapels.
Thompson’s cotton sport shirt is checked in a yellow double-lined tartan plaid and thin white overcheck against a dark royal blue ground. Worn open at the neck, the shirt has a point collar, front placket, and button cuffs.
Anyone who has spent years immersed in #menswear forums and comment sections would be certainly familiar with the modern iGent’s repulsion at wearing light jackets with dark trousers. While this guidance may have some well-intended basis in taste-informed tradition, it—like so many “rules” of its ilk—would be more productively addressed on a subjective, rather than objective, basis.
What is an iGent? The generic term could refer to anyone who writes about men’s style online—including yours truly—though the more pejorative connotation suggests those who are more judgmental in their preference for sartorial conventions. While there’s certainly a place for this mindset, I feel it goes too far when appreciation for tradition extends into excessive judgment or snobbery. For a great exploration of the relationship between James Bond’s clothes and “iGent culture”, I recommend a great two-part article by Matt Spaier for Bond Suits.
The day-and-night contrast of Don Thompson’s almost-white jacket and dark charcoal flat front trousers does wade into tricky sartorial area. For instance, wearing the same jacket and trousers with a white shirt and tie could look like a slapdash attempt at summer formalwear that lands its wearer looking more like a waiter. Thompson wisely harmonizes what could be challenging outfit by wearing a darker, patterned shirt that dresses it down and eases the stark contrast between these two pieces.
The more judgmental iGent’s heart rate may just be settling back into a reasonable zone until he spies Thompson’s black belt… and brown shoes!
One of the more frequently cited “rules” of menswear dictates that a gent should try to coordinate the leather of his belt and shoes, though Thompson may be able to make a practical case for his mismatch. The black leather belt with its dulled gold-toned buckle blends better against the almost-black trousers. Black oxfords or derbies may have dressed the outfit up too much for his liking, so he instead wears a pair of scruffy brown leather shoes with heavy tan laces and outsoles, which may in fact be ankle boots.
This brief scene at the station would be Saxon’s most fashionable moment in A Nightmare on Elm Street, as he spends the rest of the film clad in either his police uniform or the aforementioned beige windbreaker. Strapped to his left wrist, Thompson wears a stainless steel watch with a round silver dial on a steel link bracelet.
Lieutenant Thompson doesn’t appear to be carrying his service revolver when he arrives at the station, but for his next appearance—having followed Nancy’s tracks directly to Rod—he’s in uniform with his Colt Python drawn.
Colt introduced their top-of-the-line Python in 1955, built on the large I-frame and chambered for the .357 Magnum cartridge, a powerful alternative to the then-universal .38 Special round used in most American police revolvers. As intended, law enforcement agencies across the nation quickly embraced the smooth and precise Python, with many adopting it for decades until the general switch to semi-automatic pistols through the ’90s.
Visually distinguished by the vented upper rib along the top of the barrel, the Python was available in royal blue and stainless steel finishes, the latter a replacement for the original bright nickel option. Barrel lengths ranged from the shorter 2.5″ and 3″ through standard service lengths of 4″ and 6″ up to an unwieldy 8″, which could increase the total mass to a whopping three pounds. Colt discontinued the Python in 2005 after fifty years, though production was revived in January 2020. Though options are limited to 4.25″ and 6″ barrels, the new generation of Pythons—offered for $1,499—are modernized improvements of an already great revolver.
How to Get the Look
Even if you’re not interested in directly copying Don Thompson’s late-night look, you can at least find inspiration in the no-nonsense detective’s disregard for some of the more arbitrary “rules” of menswear, pulling on a light sport jacket with dark trousers and mismatching his belt and shoe leather, allowing an instinctive sense of self-expression and taste to take precedence over tired maxims.
- Light stone cotton single-breasted 3/2-roll sport jacket with “swelled-edge” notch lapels, welted breast pocket, flapped patch hip pockets, 2-button cuffs, and single vent
- Dark royal blue yellow-and-white checked cotton long-sleeve sport shirt with point collar, front placket, and button cuffs
- Dark charcoal flat front trousers with belt loops
- Black leather belt with gold-finished square single-prong belt buckle
- Brown ankle boots with tan laces and outsoles
- Stainless steel wristwatch with round silver dial on steel link bracelet
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie… or all seven movies in the official canon!
Look, I don’t want to get into this now—God knows you need time—but I sure would like to know what the hell you were doing shacking up with three other kids in the middle of the night!
Thanks for the link! I did not know that iGents disliked light jackets with dark trousers, but I’m probably biased towards that look thanks to a few of Roger Moore’s examples in the Bond films. I know iGents don’t like navy trousers with jackets, and though I’ve done it myself I find that I don’t care for the look and that neutrals work best for trousers.
None of this matters on John Saxon, whose combover always steals the screen. Most other actors like him would have worn a hairpiece, but he rocks the combover, and I respect him for that.
Now that you mention it, I respect the Saxon combover as well!
I feel like I’m frequently seeing the “rule” cited in comment sections and forums that “your trousers should NEVER be darker than your jacket”, which… seems like a new one to me? Granted, I think there are some instances and jacket/trouser combos where it could be a gamble, but I don’t see the wisdom behind it being suggested as universal guidance.
“Rules” like that had always intimidated me, but it was your excellent “Bond vs. iGent” pieces that helped me recognize the value of a more nuanced approach, informed by (rather than *dictated by*) taste and convention.
@Matt What would you recommend one wear with navy trousers in lieu of Jacket?