Kevin Costner as Lawrence “Crash” Davis, minor league baseball catcher
North Carolina, Spring and Summer 1987
Film: Bull Durham
Release Date: June 15, 1988
Director: Ron Shelton
Costume Designer: Louise Frogley
Tonight is game 1 of the World Series! One of my favorite baseball movies, Bull Durham, shines a light on Minor League Baseball, based on writer and director Ron Shelton’s own experiences as a Minor League infielder.
When not following the national pastime and registry discussions out on the baseball diamond, the extremely quotable Bull Durham follows a romantic triangle with “Church of Baseball” groupie Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) balancing her seductions between the Durham Bulls’ rookie pitcher Ebby “Nuke” LaLoosh (Tim Robbins) and catcher Crash Davis (Kevin Costner), a veteran with 12 years in the minor leagues who’s been recruited onto the team to help temper LaLoosh’s wild pitching. (Crash’s name was inspired by real-life second baseman Lawrence “Crash” Davis, who played for the Durham Bulls in the late 1940s and befriended Shelton after the production.)
Crash and Annie meet while she’s out for drinks with Max Patkin, the Clown Prince of Baseball himself, who talks up Crash’s intellect: “He’s really different. I actually saw him read a book without pictures once!” LaLoosh interrupts their conversation to hit on Annie but is quickly rebuked by Crash, whom he challenges to a fight.
Once outside, Crash pulls a baseball from his pocket, challenging LaLoosh to pitch it at his chest: “Show us that million-dollar arm ‘cos I got—oh, I got a good idea about that five-cent head of yours… from what I hear, you couldn’t hit water if you fell out of a fuckin’ boat.” LaLoosh misses completely and falls into a blind rage as he storms into Crash, who—in turn—crashes the hotheaded pitcher into some boxes and introduces himself:
I’m Crash Davis, I’m your new catcher, and you just got lesson #1: don’t think, you can only hurt the ball club.
What’d He Wear?
Having reached a position where he can take pride in his talent and reputation, Crash Davis dresses less to impress and more for stylish comfort, cycling between a black unstructured sports coat (as when we first meet him during a conference with the Bulls management) and a sage-green nylon. Alpha Industries MA-1 bomber jacket.
Crash’s nylon MA-1 may be a spiritual update to the leather jacket worn by fellow baseball old-timer Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford) in The Natural, set in the 1930s when leather was the prevailing flight jacket material. During and after World War II, the air branches of the U.S. military generally phased out leather shells in favor of nylon jackets like the fur-collared B-15, eventually resulting in the “Jacket, Flyer’s Man Intermediate, MA-1” authorized by the U.S. Air Force in the 1950s and produced under contract by Alpha Industries from September 1963 onward.
The MA-1 was originally produced in midnight blue to reflect Air Force uniforms before transitioning to more ground-adaptable shells in sage-green, a slightly grayer alternative to the venerated olive-drab. The shirt-style and fur collars of previous flight jackets had been replaced by a short ribbed-knit standing collar echoed by the cuffs and blouson-style hem, all made from a durable blend of wool and acrylic fiber. The slanted set-in hand pockets are covered by single-snap flaps, and the left sleeve is detailed with a utility pocket (originally a cigarette pocket) comprised of a vertical-zip side entry with two inset pen slots to be accessed by a pilot in flight.
The jacket was designed to be easily reversible, allowing a downed pilot to wear the bright “Indian Orange” nylon emergency lining on the outside to be more easily spotted by potential rescuers. This side also boasts two snap-closed hand pockets, deep enough for Crash to keep a baseball handy for a night out at a Durham bar.
Like so many hardy military garments, the MA-1 found a following among civilians and even made its debut as a Steve McQueen-approved style when the “King of Cool” wore a sage MA-1 in his final film, The Hunter (1980). After its vicennum restricted primarily to military fliers, the practical and comfortable MA-1 became a statement piece favored
- Alpha Industries MA-1 bomber jacket in sage-green nylon
- Buzz Rickson's Type MA-1 E-Type in sage-green nylon (Hinoya, $508.45)
- Cockpit USA
- Rothco MA-1 bomber jacket in sage-green nylon (Amazon, $51.99)
- Schott NYC MA-1 bomber jacket in sage-green nylon (Nordstrom, $168)
After the trio meet at a local bar, Annie assures Crash and LaLoosh that “I love a little macho male bonding,” and invites them both back to her home to “try out” which of the men will be scoring with her for the season, though Crash doesn’t take kindly to the arrangement as “I don’t try out. Besides, I don’t believe in quantum physics when it comes to matters of the heart.”
Through this first evening that the three are acquainted, Crash wears a plain gray cotton pique short-sleeved polo with a short two-button placket, worn undone.
The ’80s saw a resurgence in pleated trousers, particularly among the khakis and slacks that had become a dressed-down favorite for the American everyman thanks to brands like Dockers.
Crash wears beige chino-cloth cotton slacks with two ample forward-facing pleats flanking each side of the wide fly, finished with plain-hemmed bottoms. Despite some insisting on a “rule” that pleats are most compatible with cuffs rather than plain-hems, Matt Spaiser has explained in his blog Bond Suits that “pleated trousers with plain hems are a classic British style” and were evidently at their peak of popularity through the late 1980s when Timothy Dalton’s trousers as James Bond were accordingly rigged with pleats and plain bottoms.
Crash holds up his medium-rise trousers with a russet-brown leather belt that closes through a gold-finished single-prong buckle. In addition to the their standard side pockets and jetted back pockets, a coin pocket is set-in just below the belt-line with a short button-down flap that overlaps the forward-most of the two pleats on that side.
Though Crash’s shoes are oxford-laced, the unique texture of the brown woven leather uppers dresses them down considerably to the level of more casual footwear like loafers or even elevated sneakers. The shoes have four sets of eyelets for the round brown laces and hard leather soles. His white ribbed cotton crew socks may be unstylish, but their athletic association befits his profession and the dressed-down nature of his wardrobe.
Later in the Bulls’ season, LaLoosh—now nicknamed “Nuke” by Annie—has been promoted to the majors, prompting a bitter Crash to drunken rebuff his willingness to celebrate. Crash comes into the Bulls locker room as Nuke packs to make amends, again wearing his MA-1 bomber jacket but with a teal V-neck sweater casually layered over a long-sleeved shirt. Patterned with pale blue-on-white stripes against a lilac cotton ground, the shirt has a spread collar and front placket with the top few buttons undone to keep his look nonchalant.
As his brawl with Nuke resulted in a black eye, Crash now wears his black “browline”-style sunglasses, detailed with gold rims under the frames.
The striking browline style of eyewear had been pioneered by Shuron in the late 1940s, developing the “Ronsir” frame that became associated with mid-20th century figures like LBJ, Vince Lombardi, and Malcolm X. Browline sunglasses appeared shortly later from lesser-known companies like Marwitz and OAI Eyewear, as researched by my friend Shawn Michael Bongiorno for his blog Individual Elegance, seeking to find the truth behind the oft-mistaken claim that the Ray-Ban Clubmaster was the original browline sunglass frame; indeed, while arguably among the most popular varieties thanks to visible ambassadors like Tom Cruise in Rain Man, Ray-Ban was hardly the first to the browline party, as eyewear stalwarts American Optical, Art-Craft, Persol, Shuron, and Victory were among those also making browlines through the ’80s. Costner himself would famously wear a pair of Art-Craft “Clubman” non-tinted glasses as Jim Garrison in JFK (1991).
For the final scene back at Annie’s house, Crash wears his usual MA-1 and beige pleated slacks with a white-and-blue hairline-striped shirt with a button-down collar, front placket, and button cuffs. He further dresses the look with a light taupe cashmere scarf with fringed ends.
What to Imbibe
Miller High Life seems to be the unofficial beer of the Durham Bulls, as not only are Larry (Robert Wuhl) and Skip (Trey Wilson) drinking bottles of “the Champagne of Beer” when Crash first joins the team, but Crash and his teammates also crack cans of High Life for their rain-out stunt on the road.
Miller Brewing Company introduced the venerable High Life pilsner on New Year’s Eve 1903, soon advertised as “the Champagne as Bottled Beers” in reference to its high levels of carbonation. Despite its budget-friendly pricing these days, High Life had spent much of the 20th century considered a premium beer until McCann-Erickson rebranded Miller’s flagship brand as more of a common man’s brew in the early 1970s, in tandem with the “Miller Time” campaign, the introduction of 7 oz. pony bottles, and the development of Miller Lite.
How to Get the Look
Though the generous fits of his shirts and slacks may date his wardrobe to the ’80s, Crash Davis’ classic nylon flight jacket never strikes out.
- Sage-green nylon MA-1 bomber jacket with ribbed-knit collar, cuffs, and hem, slanted and snap-flapped side pockets, zip-up utility pocket with two inset pen slots, and reversible orange nylon lining
- Gray cotton pique short-sleeved 2-button polo shirt
- Beige chino cotton double forward-pleated medium-rise slacks with belt loops, side pockets, right-side coin pocket (with button-down flap), jetted back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Russet-brown leather belt with gold-finished single-prong buckle
- Brown woven leather oxford-laced shoes
- White combed cotton crew socks
- Black browline-framed sunglasses with gold-rimmed lenses
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
Well, I believe in the soul. The cock. The pussy. The small of a woman’s back. The hangin’ curveball. High-fiver. Good Scotch. That the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there oughta be a Constitutional amendment outlawing astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, softcore pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve, and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft wet kisses that last three days. Good night.