Christian Slater as Clarence Worley, comic store clerk and rockabilly enthusiast
Detroit, Winter 1992
Film: True Romance
Release Date: September 10, 1993
Director: Tony Scott
Costume Designer: Susan Becker
Happy Valentine’s Day! In the spirit of today’s love-centered holiday, it felt like the right time to start exploring the style of True Romance, specifically the slapdash quasi-rockabilly wardrobe worn by its leading character, the energetic comic enthusiast-turned-killer Clarence Worley (Christian Slater).
True Romance begins with Clarence striking out at a bar before celebrating his birthday in solitude at a local cineplex with a Sonny Chiba triple feature… instantly signaling writer Quentin Tarantino’s involvement to the informed viewer. Among the scattered audience, Clarence makes the acquaintance of the bleach-haired amateur call girl Alabama Whitman (Patricia Arquette). Despite Alabama’s post-coital admission that Clarence’s boss hired her to assuage Clarence’s birthday loneliness, the two almost immediately fall in love and impulsively marry, appropriately scored by Billy Idol’s “White Wedding”.
Following tattoos of each other, Clarence and Alabama spend their “honeymoon” drinking champagne and watching kung fu movies, though Clarence’s frustration about the mistreatment that Alabama and her friends received from her ruthless and sleazy ex-pimp Drexl Spivey (Gary Oldman) boils into rage. Resolving to address the situation, Clarence retreats to the bathroom, where his spiritual guide—a hallucination of Elvis Presley (Val Kilmer!)—advises Clarence to confront Drexl and “shoot him in the face.”
What’d He Wear?
Clarence’s most famous attire from True Romance may be the red tropical-printed aloha shirt he wears with jeans and Elvis-style sunglasses upon his arrival in L.A.—and with my fondness for Hawaiian shirts, you know I’ll be writing about that soon—but it felt appropriate to kick things off on this chilly Valentine’s Day with the wintry layers he wears for his impromptu wedding to Alabama.
Clarence typically blends elements of retro rockabilly fashion with then-contemporary ’90s grunge, though his soon-deconstructed wedding day outfit may be one of the few examples most rooted in the ’50s-inspired former style. The lone exception may be his military field jacket as, while the U.S. Army had issued field jackets since the early years of World War II, the style hadn’t particularly caught on until the Vietnam era. Even more significantly, Clarence wears an M-65 field jacket which, as its designation implies, wasn’t introduced until 1965 as a replacement for the earlier M-1951 model.
Made from 9-ounce olive green (OG-107) cotton sateen cloth, the M-65 field jacket retained the M-1951’s combination of a snap-fastened fly over a zipper as well as the four-pocket layout, but the convertible revere collar of the earlier jacket was replaced with a more continuous collar that contained a built-in hood stored behind a zipper. The four bellows pockets—two on the chest, two on the hips—have flaps that close through a single covered snap. The waist is cinched by an internal drawcord, and an epaulette strap is sewn into the set-in seam at the top of each shoulder, buttoned to the body of the coat toward the neck. Pleats behind each armhole give the wearer a greater range of movement, particularly when layered over heavy uniform elements… or a sport jacket and bowling shirt.
Clarence’s jacket may have been passed down from one of his uncles who he stated had served in Vietnam, as the jacket shows plenty of wear with frayed edges. Unlike the more “decorated” jacket that he would later wear when confronting Drexl, this field jacket is adorned only with the double chevrons on each upper sleeve indicating the non-commissioned Army rank of Corporal (E-4), with an olive “AIRBORNE” arc-shaped tab higher up on his left sleeve.
As the newlywed Clarence leaves the courthouse, he pulls the field jacket over his red sports coat, which appears to be patterned a tonal example of the “atomic fleck” that had been most popular during the fabulous fifites. The jacket follows ’50s styling cues with narrow notch lapels that roll to two white buttons on the front. The breast pocket and hip pockets appear to be patch pockets. We see the light teal satin-finished lining, though I can’t discern if the jacket is ventless or has a short single vent. We see little of the jacket after Clarence layers the field jacket over it.
Clarence’s wedding calls for dressier trousers than his usual blue jeans, so he wears a pair of black—or dark navy—trousers with single reverse-facing pleats that enhance their ample fit through his legs. The trousers are held up by a narrow dark brown leather belt that closes through a brushed steel or silver-toned single-prong buckle.
The bottoms are finished with turn-ups (cuffs) that break fully over the tops of his blue suede shoes, likely chosen in tribute to his idol’s famous 1956 hit single. In fact, both Clarence and Alabama sport blue footwear, as her baby-blue boots may be a nod to the traditional “something blue” suggested among the quartet of what brides should wear for good luck. These derby-laced shoes have heavy black crepe soles and black eyelet tabs that contrast against the blue suede vamps.
Since their ’50s heyday, bowling shirts have retained a retro rockabilly association that would have appealed to Clarence Worley, hence the range of these short-sleeved camp-collar shirts in his wardrobe.
On his wedding day, he wears a white-bodied bowling shirt with a black camp collar, detailed with a contrasting white running stitch about a quarter-inch from the edge. This black portion continues along the inside on both sides, suggesting that the shirt may be reversible. The short sleeves are banded at the ends.
The shirt has five plastic buttons sewn up the right side of the plain (non-placket) front, connecting to four horizontal buttonholes and a short white loop at the neck. Both chest pockets close through a single button positioned at the center of the horizontal-yoked top of each patch pocket.
The left pocket is decorated with a small embroidered crest, suggestive of a European sports car logo with its yellow exotic animal embroidered against a black ground and encapsulated by a gold-threaded shield shape.
Given the shirt’s intended purpose, there are long back pleats that run the length of the shirt behind each arm from shoulder to hem, gathered at the waist but open above and below it to allow the bowler a greater range of arm movement.
In addition to the matching diamond-studded gold horseshoe rings that he and Alabama acquired as wedding rings, Clarence’s usual jewelry consists of a silver necklace and a chunky silver-toned chain-link ID bracelet worn on his left wrist.
From the tattoo parlor to the hours spent in front of their TV at his home, Clarence wears his shirt unbuttoned and the top of his trousers undone, showing the top of his powder blue cotton boxer shorts, bedecked with large white polka dots.
How to Get the Look
Clarence Worley’s slapdash style on his wedding day may be too chaotic to be worth endorsing, but I respect his dedication to his preferred aesthetics, with a retro-informed rockabilly foundation of flecked sports coat, bowling shirt, pleated trousers, and blue suede shoes layered under an M-65 field jacket.
- Olive-green (OD-107) cotton sateen M-1965 Army-issued field jacket with integrated hood, zip/snap front closure, four flapped pockets, shoulder straps (epaulettes), and back shoulder pleats
- Red “atomic fleck” single-breasted 2-button sports coat with patch breast pocket and patch hip pockets
- White short-sleeved bowling shirt with black camp collar, plain front, and two button-through chest pockets (with embroidered left pocket)
- Black single reverse-pleated trousers with belt loops, side pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- Dark brown narrow leather belt with small silver-toned single-prong buckle
- Blue suede derby shoes with black eyelet tabs and black outsoles
- Silver necklace
- Silver chain-link ID bracelet
- Gold diamond-horseshoe ring
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.