Ernest Borgnine as Mike Rogo, a tough New York detective
Aboard the S.S. Poseidon en route Athens, New Year’s Eve 1972
Film: The Poseidon Adventure
Release Date: December 12, 1972
Director: Ronald Neame
Costume Designer: Paul Zastupnevich
Happy New Year’s Eve! Fifty years ago, the holiday was celebrated in spectacular fashion aboard the S.S. Poseidon, the fictitious ship at the center of “Master of Disaster” Irwin Allen’s Academy Award-winning 1972 blockbuster The Poseidon Adventure, based on Paul Gallico’s novel on the same name inspired by a journey on the RMS Queen Mary, the now-defunct ship where parts of the movie were filmed. Following the example set by the subgenre-establishing Airport two years earlier, The Poseidon Adventure gathered a group of a stars in a perilous situation that picked them off one by one, allowing its substantial advertising campaign to ask audiences “who will survive?”
Of course, before an undersea earthquake capsizes the aging ship just as auld acquaintances be forgot, its passengers are navigating their own personal dramas like “by-the-book” New York detective Mike Rogo (Ernest Borgnine), who continues struggling coming to terms with how his ex-prostitute wife Linda (Stella Stevens) had made her living before their marriage. His jealousies make their way onto the menu as the two are seated with Reverend Frank Scott (Gene Hackman) at the captain’s table for a New Year’s Eve dinner, but the broadside wave that literally turns their lives upside down plunges the Rogos and their fellow passengers and crew into a desperate adventure to survive.
Let’s hope your New Year is off to an easier start!
What’d He Wear?
Contrasted agains the staid dark suit and neutral turtleneck worn by Reverend Scott, Mike Rogo embraces the flashy festivity of New Year’s Eve in a burgundy silk dinner jacket, pink evening shirt, and black bow tie. Although colorfully coordinated tuxedoes dominated the tackier corners of 1970s fashion—if the powder-blue tailoring in my dad’s prom photos are any indication—Mike’s evening-wear features narrower details that suggest they were made through the late ’60s before the more excessive trends of the ’70s entered the mainstream.
Though the flashy color may not be for everyone, Mike’s burgundy silk dinner jacket is still flatteringly tailored for the burly Ernest Borgnine, with a narrow self-faced shawl collar that rolls to a single button positioned at his natural waist, though we never see Mike wear the jacket buttoned. The short length of Mike’s double side vents would also have been popular during the previous decade as vents grew generally longer in the ’70s.
The jacket has no breast pocket, and the straight jetted hip pockets are trimmed in the same black silk piping along the narrow turnback (gauntlet) cuffs detailing the end of each sleeve with their two buttons. Turnback cuffs are a neo-Edwardian detail that tailors resurrected through the 1950s and ’60s across a variety of styles from dressed-down sports coats to dinner jackets, as spied on Sean Connery’s first tuxedo as James Bond in Dr. No. Some regard turnback cuffs a sporty addition, making them particularly appropriate for Mike’s creative black tie ensemble.
Mike wears a black bow tie in a straight batwing shape as was popular early in the previous decade and harmonizes with the narrower collars of his jacket and shirt, though he may lose some sartorial credit after the wreck when the unfastened tie hangs from his neck, revealing that it’s not only pre-tied but likely of the clip-on variety.
Mike wears a rose-pink cotton formal evening shirt that softly coordinates with his dinner jacket by remaining in the red color family. A classic white evening shirt could work just as well with a burgundy dinner jacket—and could be argued as the classier choice—but wearing a pink shirt indicates that Mike built his evening-wear with intention.
In spite of the trendy color, Mike’s shirt thankfully avoids some of the gaudier fashions of the era like ruffles or oversized collars. Indeed, the shirt’s slim spread collar is proportional with his jacket, also detailed with a narrowly pleated bib with four polished silver studs visible that match the cuff links fastening his double (French) cuffs.
To balance the colorful upper half of his black-tie kit, Mike wears the conventional black formal trousers detailed with black silk braiding down each side seam from the waist to the plain-hemmed bottoms. Mike’s suspenders (braces) are white silk with a tonal satin bar-stripe down the center, rigged with silver adjuster hardware and white leather back-patch and double-ears that fasten to the pairs of buttons along the inside of the front of the waistband and a pair on the outside of the rear center. In addition to the suspenders, Mike’s trousers are self-suspended with a set of button-tab adjusters rigged on each side of the waistband.
Though the aforementioned Mr. Bond often forewent the evening-wear tradition of covering his waist with either a waistcoat or cummerbund, Mike Rogo plays by the rules by sliding a black satin silk cummerbund around his waist, fastened in the back through an adjustable silver-toned buckle. “While shawl-lapel dinner jackets look elegant with either form of waistband covering, the cummerbund’s curved design harmonizes particularly well with this shape of lapel,” wrote the eminent Alan Flusser in Style & the Man.
When Reverend Scott suggests that the women in his escape party can’t climb up the fallen tree to the galley in their long gowns, Mike observes the potential issue if his wife disrobes as “she’s got nothin’ on underneath,” which she confirms by stating: “Just panties, what else do I need?”
For the sake of decorum, Mike—with a groan—yields his pink dress shirt to Linda for the duration of their escape attempt, stripping himself down to a white cotton short-sleeved undershirt with a V-shaped neckline that only gets deeper as the shirt gets wetter… and not in a way that would win Mr. Borgnine any contests at sleazy bars.
Mike wears the traditional black-tie footwear of black leather lace-ups and dress socks. His shoes appear to be cap-toe derbies, a tasteful but traditionally less formal alternative to oxfords.
Mike wears a simple stainless steel wristwatch with a plain round white dial on a black leather strap around his left wrist. On his left ring finger, he wears a hefty gold ring with a substantial red ovular stone that luckily doesn’t weigh him down as he swims through the ship’s submerged bowels.
How to Get the Look
Ernest Borgnine wears a reasonable execution of creative black tie for a New Year’s Eve at sea in the early ’70s, a festive situation that arguably allows the frivolity of a burgundy silk dinner jacket and tonally coordinated pink shirt, tastefully appointed with black formal trousers, cummerbund, suspenders, and black leather lace-ups.
- Burgundy silk single-button dinner jacket with narrow shawl collar, black-jetted hip pockets, 2-button cuffs with narrow black-piped gauntlets, and short double vents
- Rose-pink cotton evening shirt with spread collar, narrowly pleated front, and double/French cuffs
- Silver shirt studs
- Silver cuff links
- Black straight batwing-shaped bowtie
- Black darted-front formal trousers with black silk side-seam braiding, button-tab side adjusters, on-seam side pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- White silk tonal-striped suspenders/braces with silver adjuster hardware and white leather back-patch and double-ears
- Black silk cummerbund with silver-toned back buckle
- Black leather cap-toe derby shoes
- Black dress socks
- White cotton V-neck short-sleeve undershirt
- Stainless steel wristwatch with round white dial on black leather strap
- Gold ring with large red stone
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
Well, I had to figure out some way to keep you off the streets… until you’d marry me.