Telly Savalas as Kojak: A Gray Suit for the First Lollipop
Telly Savalas as Theo Kojak, NYPD lieutenant
New York City, Fall 1973
Episode: “Dark Sunday” (Episode 1.08)
Air Date: December 12, 1973
Director: Charles R. Rondeau
Creator: Abby Mann
Who loves ya, baby?
As today would have been the 100th birthday of Telly Savalas—born January 21, 1922—it felt like the time to take a long-overdue look at the Greek-American actor’s signature role as the tough and tenacious Theo Kojak.
Kojak’s famous lollipops were introduced in the eighth episode, “Dark Sunday”, which begins with the murder of a small-time criminal named Artie Fowler (Marc Alaimo). “He used to love to play with cars, you know,” recalls Kojak. “Strip ’em, drive ’em, steal ’em… oh well, what else?” Through his investigations of the murder, Kojak welcomes Artie’s girlfriend Maria Cranston (Lara Parker) to his office. He has a lit cigarillo in his mouth when she enters, but he swiftly tosses it away in favor of a Tootsie Pop pulled from his desk… the first of what would become one of the character’s trademarks.
The new habit is called out in this same episode by Kojak’s fellow detective, Bobby Crocker (Kevin Dobson), who had been eyeing the suckers with some suspicion.
Crocker: Hey, what’s with the lollipops?
Kojak: I’m lookin’ to close the generation gap. Get outta here!
What’d He Wear?
Kojak would eventually join the vast fraternity of classic TV shows to credit the wardrobe to Botany 500, the American menswear brand that dressed dozens of sitcom stars and game show hosts across the 1960s and ’70s, though the New York-based brand wasn’t yet credited by the time credits rolled on “Dark Sunday” (Episode 1.08). Still, this early episode provides a great look at the glabrous lieutenant’s approach to dressing as Kojak subtly deconstructs his attire over the course of a long day’s investigation.
Throughout the course of Kojak, Savalas dressed his famously bald dome in trilbies like this black short-brimmed hat, decorated with a band of seven black-and-white braids densely stacked to create the effect of staggered static waves around the base of the crown.
Savalas rotated through several pairs of sunglasses as Kojak, often styled with colorful lenses affixed to fashionable frames. His “Dark Sunday” sunglasses appear to be wire-rimmed with blue tinted gradient lenses, resembling a squared aviator-style frame.
Layered against the brisk New York fall morning, Kojak wears his navy melton wool double-breasted coat, with shoulder straps (epaulettes) affecting a martial appearance. The peak lapels and breast pocket are finished with sporty “swelled” welted edges.
Though he dresses for this particular day on the job in a gray flannel suit that had appeared in earlier episodes like “Girl in the River” (Episode 1.05), Lieutenant Kojak is hardly the quintessential American office drone. The single-breasted jacket has notch lapels, rolling to a two-button front, and detailed with four-button cuffs and long double vents. The jacket has a welted breast pocket, flapped hip pockets that slant toward the back, and a flapped ticket pocket added to the right side. The suit’s matching single-breasted waistcoat (vest) has slim notch lapels, a four-button front, and four slim-welted pockets.
Kojak holds up the flat front trousers with a black leather belt that closes through a large squared silver-toned single-prong buckle. The bottoms are plain-hemmed, breaking over his black leather shoes. The pockets slant back from behind the foremost belt loop, ending at each side seam, and there are no back pockets.
The pale-blue shirt has a substantially sized collar, consistent with early ’70s trends, as well as a front placket, breast pocket, and double (French) cuffs that he fastens with a set of large silver etched disc links that resemble coins. His tie is printed in a navy, burgundy, bronze, and black paisley.
Savalas undoubtedly wore his usual array of gold necklaces layered under his shirt, but Kojak’s visible jewelry is limited to a pair of bracelets and a gold ring flashing from his left hand. He wears a different bracelet on each wrist, with the right bracelet connected by a series of small circular links and the left bracelet a twisted rope chain.
By the late 1970s, Savalas publicly touted Rolex watches but he spent much of the decade on Kojak wearing a unique digital timepiece. Finished with a gold case on a tapered gold expanding band, the watch resembles the Pulsar-style LED watch that Hamilton had brought to market at the start of the decade and popularized on screen via Roger Moore’s debut as James Bond in Live and Let Die.
Kojak’s digital watch has been identified as a gold-plated Omega Time Computer 1, specifically a 1974 model described by Uncrate as “one of the first LED watches made, sporting more transistors than the smallest TV of the time.” Solar Navigator goes on to explain that this waterproof watch has a single magnetic switch on the side that triggers the red-lit LED display.
Kojak draws his issued revolver, identified by IMFDB as a Smith & Wesson Model 15 with a two-inch “snub-nosed” barrel appropriate for a plainclothes detective. Smith & Wesson had introduced the K-15 Combat Masterpiece at the end of the 1940s, renaming it the Model 15 the following decade when the brand designated each of its models with a numeric nomenclature. Per its original moniker, the revolver was built on Smith & Wesson’s medium-sized “K” frame and was chambered for the .38 Special ammunition typical of law enforcement service revolvers. The two-inch barreled variant was introduced in 1964 and would be discontinued in 1988 alongside the lengthy 8 3/8″ barrel.
How to Get the Look
Though the character’s wardrobe would rotate through a selection of uniquely detailed suits and sport jackets, this notable episode that introduced his penchant for lollipops illustrated how Lieutenant Kojak could also add his personal flourishes to a relatively conventional suit.
- Gray flannel suit:
- Single-breasted 2-button jacket with wide notch lapels, welted breast pocket, slanted flapped hip pockets, flapped ticket pocket, 4-button cuffs, and long double vents
- Single-breasted 4-button waistcoat with slim notch lapels and four welted pockets
- Flat front trousers with belt loops, slanted side pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Pale-blue shirt with large collar, front placket, breast pocket, and double/French cuffs
- Navy, burgundy, and black paisley tie
- Black leather shoes
- Navy melton wool double-breasted coat with shoulder straps/epaulettes
- Black felt trilby with black-and-white braided band
- Wire-rimmed sunglasses with blue tinted gradient lenses
- Gold round-link chain bracelet
- Gold twisted rope-chain bracelet
- Gold ring
- Gold-plated Pulsar-style LED digital watch on expanding band
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the series.
Apologies for the low-resolution screenshots, but I unfortunately don’t have access to any high-quality versions of Kojak episodes.
New York’s finest? They’re gonna end up makin’ the Keystone Kops seem like grave-diggers.
The best-dressed TV cop of the seventies.
Check out the Kojak episode “Wall Street Gunslinger” (Season 2, episode 5) at about the 19 minute mark. Kojak greets two visiting sergeants from a financial crimes unit – Sergeants Way and Collins – who are togged in tailored three-piece suits:
Kojak: Collins, you guys gotta be the two best-dressed guys in town! Hunh .. What is this, Brooks Brothers? (Pulls open Way’s suit jacket, evidently to check the label).
Sergeant Way: You don’t do too bad yourself, Lieutenant. What do you think, Collins?
Sergeant Collins: For Homicide? Outstanding.
Kojak: Yeah, well my tailor’s a killer.
Who loves ya, baby? A great actor who made KOJAK a TV classic. A man with enormous concern for victims and witnesses and utter contempt for killers. I’m told the NYPD let the KOJAK writers have access to their files when they realized that Savalas and the showrunners were people of integrity. I don’t remember Kojak ever firing his weapon – his hard glare was enough. Don’t ask me how a Lieutenant could afford such fine suits, though.
Pilot shows him divorced living in an efficiency apartment cooking his own meals.
“Crocka!!” One of my absolute fave 70s shows.