Gary Busey as Angelo Pappas, beleaguered FBI agent
Los Angeles, Summer 1991
Film: Point Break
Release Date: July 12, 1991
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Costume Supervisors: Colby P. Bart & Louis Infante
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
“When are you gonna write about Gary Busey?”
“Where are your posts about Busey’s style in Point Break?”
“Show us the Busey, you coward!”
These are the kinds of questions and comments I never get, and yet, on the 78th birthday on this most idiosyncratic of actors, I want to take a deep dive—or surf—into the wardrobe of one of Gary Busey’s best-known roles.
Point Break provided an early starring role for Keanu Reeves as Johnny Utah, a rookie FBI agent and former OSU quarterback who goes undercover among the local surf community to infiltrate a suspected gang of bank robbers led by the charismatic and philosophical Bodhi (Patrick Swayze), who use their ill-gotten funds to chase their “endless summer” around the globe.
Shaking up this youthful dynamic, enter Gary Busey as Utah’s superior Angelo Pappas, a 22-year veteran of the FBI’s Bank Robbery Division and the kind of consummate professional whose lunch consists of two meatball sandwiches at 10:30 AM.
What’d He Wear?
When not wearing his rumpled sport jackets and Jack Daniel’s-stained shirts, Angelo Pappas provides the delightful synergy of a wardrobe as outlandish as its wearer. Even subjectively speaking, Pappas would be far from the best-dressed of BAMF Style’s subjects, but there’s considerable interest in how he dresses for duty—a search for “gary busey point break shirts” on Twitter reveals as much!
My original plan was to focus on one of the two more prominently featured outfits from Pappas’ bold wardrobe, but an Instagram poll of BAMF Style followers made it pretty clear that, if we’re gonna talk about Busey, we may as well break it all down. Surf’s up, ace!
Aqua-Blue Tribal T-Shirt
Our first glimpse of Pappas’ undercover gear appears as he and Utah are getting chewed out by their constantly angry superior agent Harp (John C. McGinley) for having spent the last two weeks producing “squat!“, his ire particularly directed at Utah for having brought his surfboard into the office after he reports having caught his first tube that morning. Resentful that he’s being reprimanded for just doing his job and following Pappas’ own “lame-o idea”, Utah suggests a new investigative technique of comparing local surfers’ hair samples to a single sample recovered from an Encino bank job, eventually narrowing their search to Latigo Beach.
Pappas wears a bright aqua-blue T-shirt with an over-print in repeating strips of blue, black, and slate, resembling an abstract pattern of waves and tribal designs. My dim memories of the early ’90s seem to include seeing these shirts frequently throughout the summer and Pappas seems to have done his homework as they’re often associated with the surfer/skater subculture, as evident in the description for this ’90s-vintage Pipeline T-shirt.
When Pappas takes to the beach, we get a sense of how truly chaotic his outfit is once we see that he’s paired the shirt with a baggy cotton beach trousers printed in black, red, and yellow against a white ground. His flip-flop sandals are beach-appropriate, with soft layered rubber soles and blue Y-shaped thongs.
Pappas completes his Latigo Beach stakeout from his ’87 Caprice, dressed behind the wheel in the same T-shirt but now with a more traditional pair of khaki flat-front trousers with side pockets and plain-hemmed bottoms.
Burgundy-and-Slate Printed Shirt
The next day, Pappas gears up for a raid against a house of violent Latigo Beach criminals. For this, he wears an oversized rayon shirt printed in a burgundy-and-slate wavy checkerboard pattern, overlaid by teal-and-white leaf sprigs. The shirt has a camp collar, non-matching breast pocket, elbow-length sleeves, and a French-style plain front that he wears buttoned up just enough to cover the wired microphone taped to his chest.
His khaki cotton trousers appear to be the same as he wore during the stakeout, worn with gray-and-white New Balance sneakers and white ribbed cotton crew socks.
Blue-and-Yellow Printed Shirt
Thanks to the evidence of Roach (James LeGros) mooning them, evidence arises suggesting that Bodhi’s gang are indeed the bank-robbing gang of “Ex-Presidents,” prompting a late-night meeting where Pappas assures Utah that “tomorrow morning, first thing, we’ll be at the bank… like stink on shit.”
Even for this, Pappas wears one of his colorful camp shirts, boldly printed in a blue, black, yellow, gray, and white print vaguely depicting a beach scene. The shirt follows the same design as the burgundy-and-slate shirt with its camp collar, plain front, non-matching breast pocket, and short sleeves that envelop his elbows due to the oversized fit.
Mint Glyph-Print Shirt
As promised, Pappas is at the bank the next morning though the “stink on shit” comparison hasn’t ruined his appetite for mid-morning meatball subs:
Utah, get me two!
Giggling behind the wheel at Calvin and Hobbes, Pappas wears a lightweight rayon or silk shirt with a mixed mint-and-white ground, printed with a series of dark navy glyph-like patterns that range from simple swirls to more complex depictions. This short-sleeved shirt also has a camp collar, albeit one with more structure than the flat-laying camp collars of his previous two shirts, as well as the usual plain front and breast pocket.
On the beach, Pappas wears wayfarer-style sunglasses with bold cream-colored acetate frames.
As opposed to Bodhi’s Breitling and Johnny Utah’s black-finished TAG Heuer, Pappas wears a relatively nondescript watch that reminds me of the Timex-made alternatives to the Rolex Datejust. The case and Jubilee-style link bracelet are plated in yellow gold, the round white dial left relatively minimalist with its gold non-numeric hour markers and a 3:00 day/date window.
Angelo Pappas carries a nickel-plated Charter Arms Undercover, an appropriately named sidearm for his profession, despite the fact that I don’t believe it was ever officially authorized for FBI usage. Pappas’ 2″-barreled Undercover has black Pachmayr rubber grips and uniquely lacks of a front sight, suggesting either an intentionally removed sight or a longer barrel that had been cut down to two inches without replacing the sight.
Firearms designer Douglas McClenahan had founded Charter Arms in 1964 with the intent of manufacturing low-frills revolvers that were made simply with less moving parts and with stronger one-piece frames that could withstand higher loads. The lightweight Undercover was Charter Arms’ debut model, chambered in .38 Special—the standard American law enforcement cartridge—in a five-round cylinder.
Within a decade, the Charter Arms Bulldog was introduced, designed to take more powerful .357 Magnum and .44 Special loads. In the decades since, Charter Arms has increased its lineup with models ranging from .22 LR to .45 ACP, including less frequently encountered revolver rounds like .327 Federal Magnum and even the 9×19 mm Parabellum pistol ammunition. The company has been associated with some of the more infamous crimes of the ’70s, as serial killer David Berkowitz had used a Bulldog during his “Son of Sam” murders that resulted in his initial nickname “the .44-caliber Killer”, and the .38-caliber Undercover had also been used by Arthur Bremer (who shot and wounded George Wallace) and Mark David Chapman (who shot and killed John Lennon.)
Read more about the firearms of Point Break at IMFDB.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
In addition to the movie, I also recommend William Finnegan’s memoir Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life.
Speak into the microphone, squid-brain!