Dennis Quaid as Frank Sullivan, Sr., firefighter and family man
New York, Fall 1969
Release Date: April 28, 2000
Director: Gregory Hoblit
Costume Designer: Elisabetta Beraldo
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Frequency might be one of those movies that doesn’t get discussed much these days, but I remember being intrigued when I caught it on TNT a few years after it came out. Flash forward to a few months ago when I saw it was among the movies leaving
HBO Max that month, and I decided to revisit.
Without spoiling too much, the plot centers on a ham radio-driven multiverse without the added complication of a serial killer seemingly inspired by one part Richard Speck, one part Ted Bundy, while Frequency‘s most significant emotional impact comes from the intragenerational bond between a father and son—hence my posting about it on Father’s Day weekend.
For those hoping for more detail… the plot begins in the “present day” of October 1999, when emotionally stunted NYPD detective Frank Sullivan Jr. (Jim Caviezel) discovers his long-deceased father’s old ham radio. During the aurora borealis, the radio springs to life and, thanks to a big ball of timey-wimey stuff, allows him to talk to a man he discovers to be his late father Frank Sr. (Dennis Quaid), speaking into the same set thirty years earlier. As it’s the eve of his father’s death while fighting a fire in an abandoned warehouse, Frank Jr. is able to warn his father about how to avoid his fatal accident, thus saving his life… for the first time.
I don’t know enough about ham radios, the aurora borealis, or time manipulation to comment on the science of Frequency, which is best absorbed through willing suspension of disbelief, but I found the bond between Franks Sr. and Jr. to be particularly impactful, especially as someone who is lucky enough to enjoy a continually growing relationship with both of my parents as I power through my mid-30s.
What’d He Wear?
Frank Sullivan Sr. is arguably a cool dad. Frequency communicates the point when we first meet him, riding into the scene on his motorcycle clad in a well-worn leather jacket with his fire department patch on his arm, sporting aviator sunglasses, an Omega watch, and a Mets cap (though Yankees and Phillies fans may find this to be a point against his coolness.)
An appropriate choice given his favorite mode of transportation, Frank wears a motorcycle jacket made of rugged brown steerhide leather, worn to a considerably lived-in patina. The style resembles a simplified version of the iconic Schott Perfecto model that had been introduced in the 1920s, retaining the overall waist-length cut, four-pocket layout, self-belt, “action back” side pleats, and asymmetrical “lancer” front but without visible snaps or epaulets (shoulder straps).
Frank’s jacket has a slightly tilted front zip, and a half-belt is looped around the front of the waist, closing through a dulled brass-finished squared single-prong buckle. The lapels and collar do not have visible snaps to fasten them in place, as typically found on traditional Perfecto-style moto jackets. The jacket has the regular quartet of pockets: a slightly slanted zip pocket over the left breast, a slanted hand pocket on each side, and the small set-in coin pocket positioned low on the left side that is covered with a pointed flap that may have a concealed snap to close. The set-in sleeves have zippers at the end of each cuff to adjust how they fit over the wrist and allow the wearer to smoothly and snugly wear the cuffs closed over protective gloves.
Frank personalizes his jacket with his ladder company patch sewn onto the left sleeve. The script dictates that Frank’s FDNY affiliations are engine company 12, ladder company 93, the latter known as the “Eye of the Storm” as immortalized on their insignia.
The badge consists of a gray Firefighter’s Cross, which the FDNY (among other departments) calls a “Maltese Cross”, a shape traditionally associated with firefighters due to the medieval Knights of St. John who courageously fought through fires to save their brothers-in-arms amidst a fiery attack during the Great Siege of Malta in 1565, according to the Pontiac, Illinois city website. The cross is bordered in black embroidery, with a red-embroidered “LADDER 93” across the top branch and a red-bordered, black-embroidered “EYE OF THE STORM” across the bottom. The right and left branches have a red-bordered, black-embroidered letter in each corner so it would read “F.D.N.Y.”, with a black-embroidered ladder between “F.” and “N.” on the right branch and a black-embroidered fire hydrant between “D.” and “Y.” on the left. The embroidered center depicts a fireman—with a “93” on his helmet—charging through red, yellow, and white flames with an axe in his hand.
Frank’s leather jacket is lined in a small black-and-tan four-and-four check with a red-framed overcheck, coincidentally echoing the colors present in the fire ladder insignia on his left arm.
Though Frank rides into the movie wearing khakis and motorcycle boots, he spends most of Frequency in the everyman gear of Levi’s jeans and Chuck Taylor sneakers. Although the recognizable red tab isn’t as clearly seen, Frank’s blue denim jeans have the signature arcuate stitch across the two back pockets as well as the branded leather patch over the back-right belt line identifying them as Levi’s. The more relaxed fit and lower rise than the original Levi’s 501® suggests that he may be wearing the zip-fly Levi’s 505™, which had just been introduced in 1967, two years before his scenes are set.
He holds up the jeans with a stiff dark brown leather belt that closes through a gunmetal double-prong buckle, reinforced with brass studs keeping the strap attached.
Frank wears a rotation of sport shirts, consisting mostly of plaid button-up shirts with button-down collars and solid-colored knit polos. These are all consistent with the typical image of 1960s suburban fatherhood while still relatively timeless looks today.
For the sake of simplicity, we’ll focus on the outfit Frank wears for the most action-packed climactic sequence, which includes his wrongful arrest for the Nightingale murders and subsequent escape from custody. In line with his athleticism, he wears a plain heather gray cotton crew-neck sweatshirt with long raglan sleeves. He layers the sweatshirt over one of his usual white cotton crew-neck, short-sleeved undershirts.
When riding his motorcycle, Frank typically wears non-laced riding boots, but his everyday shoes are the instantly recognizable Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars high-top basketball shoes in the classic black-and-white colorway of black canvas uppers with white rubber toecaps and midsoles. The flat white woven laces are derby-laced through eight sets of nickel-toned eyelets that match the pair of ventilation grommets on the inside of each instep.
These iconic sneakers date back to the 1920s, developed after semi-professional basketball player Chuck Taylor joined the Massachusetts-based Converse Rubber Shoe Company as a salesman in 1921. Converse had recently developed “Non-Skid” basketball shoes with canvas uppers and rubber soles, but Taylor suggested improvements for flexibility and ankle support that resulted in the redesigned “Chuck Taylor All-Stars”. With Taylor’s signature added to the circular patch protecting the ankle, the All-Stars became the first celebrity-endorsed athletic shoe upon its introduction in 1922.
Over the next century, the Chuck Taylor All-Star continued to evolve its design as it grew in popularity, benefiting from visibility it gained as the official shoe of the Olympics for more than thirty years and as the U.S. armed forces’ authorized athletic training footwear during the World War II era. The black-and-white colorway was introduced in 1949, shaking up a previously monochromatic lineup and foreshadowing the more than a dozen colorways currently available. Even after All-Stars faded from the professional sports scene, the style has been embraced as a streetwear staple for decades.
Like so many Americans in the ’60s, Frank indicates a fascination with the ongoing Space Race, asking Frank Jr. over the radio “Hey, what about Apollo? How’d it all work out?” (IMDB considers this a goof, assuming that Frank was asking about the success of Apollo 11, which was four months before we see Frank asking the question. However, it’s more likely that he’s more curious about the success of the space program overall as Apollo missions continued well into the early 1970s.)
The astronauts’ wristwatches may have informed Frank’s own decision to wear a stainless Omega Speedmaster Professional, the model approved by NASA for manned missions in 1965 and was worn by Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins when they successfully landed on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission in July 1969, forever immortalizing the Speedy as the “Moonwatch”. (Interestingly, Dennis Quaid had previously worn a Speedmaster while portraying NASA astronaut Gordon “Gordo” Cooper in the excellent 1983 film The Right Stuff.) We also see Frank Jr. wearing a Speedmaster in the 1999 scenes, likely meant to be inherited from his late father or purchased as a tribute to him.
Omega introduced the Speedmaster in 1957 as a racing chronograph. Though there have been some adjustments and variations over the years, the Speedmaster retains much of the original design, including the novel tachymeter scale bezel, domed Plexiglas crystal, and triple-register dial with non-numeric hour indices—the sub-registers representing a 30-minute scale at 3:00, a 12-hour counter at 6:00, and a running seconds indicator at 9:00. As worn in Frequency, the classic Speedmaster configuration consists of a stainless steel case with a black-finished tachymeter bezel and black dial. A black leather bracelet straps Frank’s Speedmaster to his left wrist, the same hand where he wears his simple gold wedding ring.
At the start of Frequency, Frank arrives home wearing a blue cotton twill baseball cap with the orange-embroidered New York Mets logo of a curlicue interlocking “NY” on the front of the crown.
Frank’s gold-framed sunglasses are the squared variation of aviators first produced by American Optical (AO Eyewear) as the “Flight Goggle 58”, developed to the U.S. Air Force Type HGU-4/P standard authorized in the late 1950s. Though AO Eyewear originated this “Original Pilot Sunglass” style, these frames are commonly associated with Randolph Engineering, which became the prime U.S. contractor in 1982.
What to Imbibe
As an unpretentious blue-collar guy, Frank’s favorite beer is Miller High Life, enjoyed at home and at bars. Miller had introduced this pilsner as its flagship brew on New Year’s Eve 1903, soon marketing it as “the Champagne of Bottled Beers”. Following the evolution of how beer was served over the course of the 20th century, Miller dropped the “Bottled” part of High Life’s motto in 1969, the same year that Frank Sr.’s scenes in Frequency are set.
Not unsurprisingly, Frank keeps a shotgun in the house—specifically a Remington Model 870 pump-action shotgun. This venerable design was introduced in the early 1950s as an improvement upon earlier Remington pump-action designs. It remains in continuous production since then with more than 11 million manufactured, having found considerable usage among civilians, hunters, military, and law enforcement.
Remington offers the Model 870 in a variety of configurations, barrel types and lengths, and gauges, though—again, unsurprisingly—Frank defends his home and family with the basic riot-length model with a blued finish, wooden furniture, and 12-gauge shells fed through the under-barrel tubular magazine.
Perhaps as a testament to the Model 870’s reliability, the ending shows that Frank has evidently kept the same shotgun and ably uses it in 1999 as well.
How to Get the Look
Frank’s timeless weekend casual costume of a well-worn moto jacket, raglan sweatshirt, Levi’s, Chucks, and Omega “Moonwatch” perfectly suits his persona as an athletic, adventurous, blue-collar firefighter—a family man with a bit of a rebellious streak.
- Brown steerhide leather Perfecto-style motorcycle jacket with asymmetrical “lancer” zip-up front, gently slanted zip chest pocket, slanted zip hand pockets, flapped set-in lower-left pocket, set-in sleeves with zip-back cuffs, “action-back” side pleats, and half-belt with dulled brass squared single-prong buckle
- Light heather gray cotton crew-neck raglan-sleeve sweatshirt
- White cotton crew-neck short-sleeve undershirt
- Blue denim Levi’s 505™ zip-fly jeans
- Dark brown leather belt with gunmetal double-prong buckle
- Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars high-top basketball sneakers with black canvas uppers and white rubber toecaps and midsoles
- Gold wedding ring
- Omega Speedmaster Professional chronograph watch with stainless steel case, black tachymeter bezel, black dial with three black sub-registers, and black leather strap
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
I’m still here, Chief.