Tom Savini as “Sex Machine”, whip-snapping biker
Mexico, Summer 1995
Film: From Dusk till Dawn
Release Date: January 17, 1996
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Costume Designer: Graciela Mazón
Though it may be a few days late to celebrate Halloween, it’s always the right time to celebrate Tom Savini, my fellow Pittsburgher who turns 76 tomorrow!
Born November 3, 1946, Savini grew up in the Bloomfield neighborhood and served in the Vietnam War before following his cinematic passion to become an iconic figure in horror movies, working extensively on both sides of the lens as a prosthetic makeup artist, stunt performer, actor, and director. (Non-horror fans may recognize Savini as the beleaguered shop teacher Mr. Callahan in the Pittsburgh-filmed The Perks of Being a Wallflower.)
Perhaps best known for his six (to date) collaborations with George A. Romero, Savini memorably appeared in From Dusk till Dawn, perhaps one of his earliest prominent roles in which he was solely credited as an actor. Savini co-stars as “Sex Machine”, a biker who becomes one of only a half-dozen initial survivors after the vampiric employees of a rowdy bar in the Mexican desert turn on its customers.
Despite his persona as a tough biker, we also get a sense of Sex Machine’s sincerity as he happily partners up with the teenage Kate Fuller (Juliette Lewis) in “staking” some of the vampires, eagerly sharing that Peter Cushing had improvised making crosses to defeat his undead foes:
Garlic, sunlight, holy water… I’m not sure, isn’t silver have somethin’ to do with vampires?
What’d He Wear?
As a stereotypical biker, the leather-clad Sex Machine naturally wears a black leather motorcycle jacket, characterized by its asymmetrical front zipper, wide-shouldered and waist-length cut, and abundance of zips and snaps. Though often associated with the fabulous ’50s after Marlon Brando dressed for his aimless rebellion in The Wild One (1953), the jacket’s origins actually date to 1928 when the Staten Island-based outfitter Schott developed the leather Perfecto jacket in response to a request from Harley Davidson. Nearly a century later, the Perfecto-style jacket remains a quintessential staple among the edgier subsets of counterculture.
Sex Machine’s black leather motorcycle jacket follows the Perfecto template, with its broad, snap-detailed notch lapels that close over his torso when the asymmetrical silver-toned zipper is fastened, though Savini exclusively wears the coat open, thus also leaving the self-belted waist totally undone… resulting in a hanging belt strap that provides yet another suggestive shape protruding from his groin area.
When fastened, the belted waist would help shape the jacket into a piece ideal for riding, leaving a full fit through the wide shoulders that additionally benefit from the “action back” side pleats behind each arm that allow a greater range of movement.
The jacket features the four usual external pockets, including the small set-in coin pocket with a snap-closed flap positioned low on the left side. The three other pockets—a vertical hand pocket on each side and a slanted chest pocket on the left side—are all detailed with a row of squared silver-tone studs flanking each side of the zipper.
The shoulders are finished with epaulets (shoulder straps), a military-inspired detail that provides another avenue for riders to secure their belongings. The set-in sleeves have zippers at the end of each cuff that can be unzipped up the forearm for a looser fit when not needing to be secure over the wrists. Echoing the studded pockets, the ends of each sleeve are detailed with rows of ball-shaped studs that taper into a bullet-like formation pointing back from each cuff.
Motorcycle jackets are typically made from rugged leather like steerhide to better protect the wearer against the elements as well as during accidents, so it likely would have afforded some protection against the fangs of the Titty Twister’s vampiric staff. Unfortunately, Sex Machine strips out of the jacket when repelling the survivors’ initial attacks, perhaps to relieve himself of the stifling warmth of the restrictive leather or to give himself even greater movement than the built-in “action back” pleats would allow.
Under the jacket, he wears a plain black cotton crew-neck tank top shirt, tucked in and tightly fitted to Savini’s torso. He also protects his wrists with a pair of very wide black leather studded bracelets, each detailed with four rows of spikes and two belted straps to secure the bracelets in place. As well as making him look tough, the bracelets would serve the added purpose of potentially protecting his wrists in the event of an accident.
Sex Machine wears black denim jeans that we barely glimpse under the full coverage of his black leather riding chaps, which cover most of his legs from thigh to ankle, where they each close with a triple-snap closure over the tops of his black leather cap-toe riding boots.
Despite the heritage and ornamentation of his motorcycle jacket, Sex Machine reserves his arguably most interesting apparel for below the belt. The belt itself is black leather (of course) with three rows of spiked square studs, fastened through a silver eagle buckle.
Hanging from his waist, Sex Machine wears a black leather codpiece, a triangular item that originated in Europe during the late Middle Ages. Initially meant to cover a gentleman’s groin, codpieces were refashioned to emphasize this area—rather than hide it—as men’s trousers evolved into more practical realms. Aside from their athletic cousins that provide needed protection, codpieces today are generally reserved for more performative attire.
As his nickname would suggest, Sex Machine’s codpiece unites all of these purposes, both performative and protective with its, er, erectile functionality that presents a milled aluminum barrel fed from two six-round
According to IMFDB, this fictional firearm was originally featured briefly in Robert Rodriguez’s previous film Desperado (1995), before the director insisted on bringing it back in From Dusk till Dawn as Sex Machine’s first line of defense against the Titty Twister’s vampires.
What to Imbibe
Another returning item from Desperado is the fictional Cerveza Chango beer, though Sex Machine saves himself from the “piss-warm” drafts served at the Tarasco bar by lassoing himself a fellow patron’s bottle at the Titty Twister.
How to Get the Look
If you’re going to dress head-to-toe in biker gear like a leather motorcycle jacket, chaps, studs, and boots, make sure you can at least hold your own on a motorcycle. If you’re going to arm yourself with a codpiece gun, make sure you’ve boned up on your state’s open-carry, concealed-carry, and crotch-carry laws.
- Black leather Perfecto-style motorcycle jacket with widely notched lapels (with collar snaps), asymmetrical zip-up lancer front, snapped epaulettes/shoulder straps, studded zip-up hand pockets, studded zip-up slanted left chest pocket, left-side coin pocket (with pointed single-snap flap), half-belt (with mitred-corner steel single-prong buckle), studded zip-up sleeves, and pleated “action back”
- Black cotton crew-neck tank top
- Black denim jeans
- Black leather chaps
- Black leather plain-toe riding boots
- Black leather studded belt with silver eagle buckle
- Black leather codpiece with milled aluminum shaft and cylinders
- Black leather studded bracelets with double belted straps
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
Now let’s kill that fucking band.