Johnny Depp as George Jung, successful cocaine smuggler
Massachusetts, Fall 1979
Release Date: April 6, 2001
Director: Ted Demme
Costume Designer: Mark Bridges
One of the more formative movies in developing my appreciation for more outlandish period style is Blow, Ted Demme’s Scorsese-inspired chronicle of the rise and fall of real-life drug smuggler George Jung, who was born 80 years ago today in Weymouth, Massachusetts. The DVD (does anyone remember its white case?) was in almost constant rotation when friends would come over in high school, and Mark Bridges’ costume design resonated to such a degree that, thanks to eBay, I may have been one of the few high-schoolers in the early 2000s to own a vintage polyester leisure suit.
Bruce Porter’s source book makes more mention of the real George Jung wearing blazers and sport jackets, but this quintessential men’s style of the ’70s gets plenty of time to shine on screen, perhaps most notably as a triumphant Johnny Depp struts into the Miami airport to the tune of Ram Jam’s “Black Betty”, clad in a creamy white leisure suit with a white turtleneck and Elvis-style TCB shades.
Several years later by the film’s timeline, George’s smuggling success for the dangerous Medellín Cartel has elevated him to the top of the American drug pyramid. Having newly purchased a mansion in his home state of Massachusetts where he lives with his extravagant wife Mirtha (Penelope Cruz) and a fleet of sports cars, George welcomes his parents, Fred (Ray Liotta) and Ermine (Rachel Griffiths). With his parents in town and Mirtha now pregnant with their daughter, George doesn’t appreciate Mirtha’s prolonged cocaine intake, but she merely derides him for being a “hy-po-creet” and takes another snort.
Blow presents George as long struggling to get along with his mother, who had turned him in to the police several years earlier but now seems dazzled by the fruits of what she once reputiated as “drug money”. Fred, with whom George is shown to have enjoyed a much more authentic relationship, doesn’t buy any of George’s crap about “this little import-export thing goin’ down in Miami,” instead just assuring his son that “it’s good if it makes you happy.”
What’d He Wear?
While many would argue that leisure suits rarely—if ever—exited the realm of tackiness, their brief flash of popularity during the disco decade included a range of styles, from those more adjacent with conventional business suits to trendier styles influenced by trending western and safari fashions.
Likely made from polyester or a similarly on-trend synthetic fabric, George’s bright red leisure suit takes its cues from the latter, with the top half styled more like a shirt-jacket with its snap-front placket and shirt-style collar. The jacket features a contrasting white-threaded edge stitch that alternates between single, double, and triple stitching, present on the placket, pockets, pocket flaps, and yokes. A double-stitched horizontal yoke extends across the chest with a triple-stitched horizontal yoke across the back.
Five white enamel-filled snaps can fasten up the narrow front placket, beginning at the waist and extending up to the neck, another detail that presents more like a shirt than a jacket. Consistent with the safari and martial-inspired trends that dominated the ’70s, the jacket has shoulder straps (epaulettes), also appointed with snaps that fasten the inside edge of each strap to the body of the jacket. The sleeves are also finished with snaps, which George wears undone and folded back under the ends of his similarly self-cuffed shirt sleeves.
The jacket has four outer patch pockets, each outlined with a triple contrast-stitched border. The two chest pockets are covered by a wide flap integrated against the jacket body, extending from placket to armpit, while the hip pockets have more conventionally free-hanging flaps only sewn to the jacket across the top. All four “flaps” have a trapezoidal extension over the center.
George’s matching red polyester trousers have a flat front and are worn sans belt, though we never see them without the jacket to discern whether or not they have a fitted waistband (most likely) or a system of side-adjusters to keep them up. The plain-hemmed bottoms have a then-fashionable flare that avoids bell-bottom excess. He also wears plain black leather square-toed pull-on ankle boots with slightly raised heels.
George has an eye for color coordination, pairing his bright red leisure suit with a shirt printed in a large-scaled red-and-white houndstooth check. George integrates the shirt with the jacket, wearing the shirt’s long point collar atop the equally large jacket collar and rolling back the unbuttoned shirt cuffs over the undone jacket sleeves.
George signals his success with a variety of visible gold jewelry, including a thin gold bracelet on his right wrist and a gold diamond-studded horseshoe-shaped ring that he wears on the third finger of his left hand, like a wedding ring.
George’s gold dive watch has a black-finished bezel and a round black dial with a date window at 3:00, worn on a gold three-piece “Presidential”-style link bracelet. It may be a Rolex Submariner ref. 1680, which was the first Submariner to include a date function upon its introduction in 1966, in addition to also being the first Submariner model (ref. 1680/8) available in yellow gold.
How to Get the Look
Unless you’re truly a fan (or super-confident with an unapologetic Leo energy to match George Jung himself), ’70s-style leisure suits belong primarily in the realm of costume.
- Red polyester leisure suit:
- Shirt-jacket with large point collar, 5-snap front placket, epaulettes/shoulder straps, four trapezoidal-flapped pockets, and snap cuffs
- Flat front trousers with beltless waistband and flared plain-hemmed bottoms
- Red-and-white large-scaled houndstooth long-sleeved shirt with large point collar, front placket, and button cuffs
- Black leather slip-on ankle boots
- Thin gold bracelet
- Gold dive watch with black-filled bezel and round black dial (with 3:00 date window) on gold “Presidential”-style three-piece link bracelet
- Gold diamond-studded horseshoe ring