Christian Slater as Clarence Worley, newlywed rockabilly enthusiast and former comic store clerk
Los Angeles, Spring 1992
Film: True Romance
Release Date: September 10, 1993
Director: Tony Scott
Costume Designer: Susan Becker
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Earlier this year, I commemorated National Road Trip Day with a brief look at Christian Slater’s rockabilly-inspired style in True Romance, the Quentin Tarantino-penned romantic crime thriller directed by Tony Scott. Now, to kick off Car Week for the summer that this film celebrates its 30th anniversary, let’s revisit Slater’s style as the scrappy newlywed Clarence Worley.
Clarence and his new wife Alabama (Patricia Arquette) have driven across the country in his pink (more like purple) Cadillac convertible, hoping to leave Detroit—and his murder of her former pimp Drexl Spivey (Gary Oldman)—far behind them.
In his haste to collect Alabama’s things from the Spivey pad, Clarence grabs a suitcase full of cocaine that Drexl had stolen from Blue Lou Boyle’s mob… but also makes an unintended trade with the corpse. “Woulda got away with it, but your son—fuckhead that he is—left his driver’s license in a dead guy’s hand,” Boyle’s urbane consigliere Vincenzo Coccotti (Christopher Walken) later explains to Clarence’s father.
The two honeymooners plan to bankroll their future by selling the twice-stolen nose candy in Hollywood, taking advantage of the tenuous connections made by his dimwitted actor pal Dick Ritchie (Michael Rapaport). Dick hooks the Worleys up with aspiring actor Elliot Blitzer (Bronson Pinchot), currently working as an assistant to producer Lee Donowitz (Saul Rubinek). Forced to overcome his aversion to roller coasters, Elliot reluctantly agrees to broker the deal between Clarence and Lee, scheduled for three days later.
Unfortunately, that three days allows enough time for reckless yuppie Elliot to get arrested and promptly forced into service as a police informant. To make matters worse, the Mafia has also tracked down the Worleys to their honeymoon suite at the Safari Inn motel, where a defiant Alabama is brutally treated by sadistic mob henchman Virgil (James Gandolfini) while Clarence’s errands are sidetracked by chili cheeseburgers and his Elvis obsession.
With the police clued in and the vengeful mob in pursuit, the stage is set for an explosive confrontation in Lee’s suite at the Beverly Ambassador Hotel.
What’d He Wear?
Clarence spends the final act of True Romance dressed in a red aloha shirt, worn partially buttoned over a white T-shirt. The shirt follows the standard structure of traditional Hawaiian aloha shirts, with a camp collar, short sleeves, and a straight hem meant to be worn untucked. The shirt has a non-matching breast pocket and white buttons that fasten up the plain front, though Clarence typically wears only the lowest two or three buttons done.
The shirt’s red two-toned ground provides the backdrop suggesting a “sailor’s delight” sky at sunset, with colorful one-way prints repeated around the body of the shirt. Each design depicts a tropical vignette, illustrated with green palm trees, blue water lapping against blue rocks, red-and-yellow huts, and boats rigged with red, white, and yellow sails.
While I don't have any firsthand experience with it, the Sun Surf shirt available via Amazon appears to be one of the best available current replicas of Clarence Worley's Hawaiian shirt. Price and availability current as of July 9, 2023.
Under the aloha shirt, Clarence wears one of his usual white cotton short-sleeved T-shirts, though the sleeves are just as long (if not slightly longer) as the sleeves on his aloha shirt, the result of his wearing a standard T-shirt rather than a shirt specifically designed to be an undershirt. The crew-neck T-shirt also has a patch breast pocket.
Consistent with his throwback style, Clarence wears a ’50s-styled windbreaker to the meeting with Lee. The shell is a light-gray gabardine, patterned with thin irregular navy-blue stripes that resemble lines drawn with an inky pen. Navy appears as a contrasting accent color throughout the jacket, including the underside of his collar, the lining, two elasticized squares along the bottom toward the back of each side, and the inside of each long inverted box-pleat that extends vertically from the straight chest yoke to the top of the wide waistband.
The waist-length jacket has a shirt-style collar and a full-zip front to the neck. Each cuff closes with a single button, though Clarence wears the cuffs undone and rolled back once to show the navy lining.
Clarence continues wearing his light blue denim Levi’s 501® Original Fit jeans, characterized as Levi’s by the “arcuate stitch” along both back patch-style pockets and the signature red tab sewn along the seam of the back-right pocket, and specifically identifiable as the iconic 501 by their cut and the button-fly. He self-cuffs the bottoms of his jeans.
Upon arriving in L.A., Clarence begins holding up his jeans with a narrow black leather belt that closes through a small silver-toned single-prong buckle. When stuffing his revolver into his waistband outside the hotel, the box-frame buckle appeared to be a simple square-shape, but the glimpse we see when he draws the gun inside the elevator reveals a longer rectangular-shaped buckle with an extension rather than a traditional bar—detailed with a complicated leaf-like relief.
Clarence’s ’50s-inspired style extends to his shoes, sporting a pair of white bucks throughout the second half of True Romance rather than the blue suede shoes and black boots he’d worn back in Detroit.
Characterized by their white or off-white nubuck leather and often brick-red rubber soles, bucks arrived in the United States early in the 20th century, though it wasn’t until they found a foothold (so to speak) among college students in the 1950s that they grew popular as the clean-cut Ivy alternative to casual sneakers. “Though a certain percentage of the younger generation did indeed fit this mold, it was not representative of the all teenagers, and thus—fittingly, one might say—intentionally keeping your bucks scuffed and dingy during the 1950s was in fact seen a sign of rebellion in some circles,” describes the blogger Chronically Vintage in her excellent history of bucks.
“Bucks have enjoyed continual renaissances, mainly because they make ideal partners for dark jeans and khakis,” advises Esquire’s The Handbook of Style. As long as they meet the criteria of their napped leather uppers and low profiles, bucks can vary in style, including between closed (oxford) or open (derby) lacing systems. Clarence wears derby-laced plain-toe bucks with pure white laces that illustrate the contrast against the sandier beige uppers. He also wears plain white ribbed cotton-blend crew socks.
Clarence channels his idol Elvis Presley through his choice of eyewear. Through his last decade of fame in the 1970s, Elvis Presley began wearing the gold “Nautic 2” oversized pilot sunglasses from German eyewear company Neostyle, personalized with his initials “EP” at the bridge and each temple inscribed with “TCB” for the singer’s personal motto—”Takin’ care of business.”
In the decades since Elvis’ death, scores of inexpensive imitations of the iconic Nautic 2 have appeared on the market. Clarence sports a set of these reproduction shades, with the plastic frames painted a metallic gold. The lenses are amber, and each arm has five holes that regress in size as the arm tapers toward the black plastic-covered ear rests. (A pair of Christian Slater’s screen-worn sunglasses sold at auction ten years ago, with the listing and photos viewable here.)
Clarence wears both an ID bracelet and a horseshoe ring on his left hand. Since the beginning of True Romance, he had worn the chunky tarnished silver ID bracelet with its curb-link chain and a name bar personalized with “Clarence” in a scripted font.
After he and Alabama tied the knot, they symbolized their marriage with a matching pair of diamond-studded gold horseshoe rings, echoing the style of ring famously worn by none other than Elvis Presley.
Undoubtedly inspired by the pink Cadillacs celebrated and owned by Elvis Presley throughout his career, Clarence drives a 1974 Cadillac Eldorado convertible, painted a deep shade of pink—close to purple.
Cadillac introduced the Eldorado in 1953, its aureate name chosen to commemorate the marque’s golden anniversary. Over the following decades, the Eldorado became increasingly associated with automotive luxury. In 1971, Cadillac unveiled the ninth generation of the Eldorado, which was available as a two-door coupe or convertible. These models were impressively long, measuring in at 223 inches. Powering these vehicles was the massive 500 cubic-inch (8.2-liter) V8 engine, which was exclusively reserved for the Eldorado and paired with GM’s renowned three-speed Turbo Hydramatic automatic transmission.
Due to emissions restrictions, the engine’s power output was reduced to 210 horsepower by the 1974 model year. Despite its size and weight, the convertible Eldorado could reach a top speed estimated to be around 114 mph. However, the emphasis of these cars was on comfort rather than performance, and it has been reported that the 1974 Eldorado convertible took approximately 11 seconds to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph.
1974 Cadillac Eldorado
Body Style: 2-door convertible
Layout: front-engine, front-wheel-drive (FWD)
Engine: 500 cu. in. (8.2 L) Cadillac V8 with Rochester 4-barrel carburetor
Power: 210 hp (156.5 kW; 213 PS) @ 3800 RPM
Torque: 380 lb·ft (515 N·m) @ 2000 RPM
Transmission: 3-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 126.3 inches (3208 mm)
Length: 224.1 inches (5692 mm)
Width: 79.8 inches (2027 mm)
Height: 53.9 inches (1370 mm)
In Quentin Tarantino’s original screenplay, the character Clarence was supposed to drive a red Mustang. However, director Tony Scott decided that a pink—or perhaps more accurately, a purple—Cadillac would better suit the character. While in Hollywood shortly before production, Scott spotted a Cadillac of the desired color and arranged for the studio to purchase it from the owner. The production also acquired a second Cadillac as a backup, which was repainted to match the purple convertible and used for stunt scenes.
After the production of the film, director Tony Scott gifted the main Cadillac to Patricia Arquette. However, Arquette found that the car attracted too much attention and eventually decided to sell it. The current owner discovered it in December 2017 and undertook restoration work to bring it back to its former glory.
This current owner kindly shared with me in an Instagram comment that: “It’s a 1974, but the front grill is from a 1973. The paint had chipped away in some spots, revealing what was believed by the previous owner to be a ‘pharaoh gold’ color… but in fact, the factory color, as revealed from the engine block sticker, and my restoration reveals that the factory color was Cotillion White with a dark blue interior. The interior was ‘painted’ white for the movie. During restoration, I discovered the dark blue underneath.” You can read more about this surviving Cadillac, available for premium rentals, at TrueRomanceCadillac.com and follow his Instagram account @trueromancecadillac.
Clarence had used a snub-nosed Smith & Wesson Model 66 to kill Drexl Spivey, and he continues carrying the same revolver upon arriving in Los Angeles. The Model 66 was introduced in 1971 as a stainless steel variant of the classic Model 19, both double-action revolvers built on Smith & Wesson’s medium-sized “K-frame” that carried six rounds of .357 Magnum ammunition.
After discovering that Alabama has killed the mob enforcer Virgil, Clarence ups his firepower by arming himself with Virgil’s Smith & Wesson Model 625 revolver as he heads into the drug deal, rationalizing that:
One thing this last week has taught me: it’s better to have a gun and not need it than to need a gun and not have it.
The Model 625 was a relatively new revolver when True Romance was released, having been introduced only five years earlier in 1988. Built on Smith & Wesson’s large N-frame, the .45-caliber Model 625 was configured with 3-, 4-, and 5-inch barrels, with a 3-inch Model 625 appearing in True Romance.
Evolved from the earlier Smith & Wesson Model 22, the matte-finished stainless Smith & Wesson Model 625 comes in different variants that can be fired with either .45 Long Colt or .45 ACP ammunition. The .45 Long Colt is a well-regarded revolver caliber that has a rich history dating back to the 1870s when it was initially developed for the Colt “Peacemaker” Single Action Army revolver. On the other hand, the choice of using .45 ACP in the Model 625 is unique as the .45 ACP cartridge is a rimless round primarily designed for semi-automatic pistols like the M1911, and not specifically intended for use in revolvers.
Moon clips provide a means for certain revolvers like the Model 625 and the older M1917 service revolver to successfully accommodate, fire, and extract .45 ACP ammunition. This innovation allows these revolvers to utilize .45 ACP rounds even though their cylinders were originally designed for rimmed cartridges. In 1920, the Peters Cartridge Company introduced the .45 Auto Rim, a specialized ammunition specifically developed to enable revolvers like the M1917 and Model 625 to fire a ballistically similar cartridge without the need for moon clips.
How to Get the Look
Clarence Worley champions ’50s rockabilly-inspired style with the windbreaker, bucks, and jewelry that he dresses over his rumpled red aloha shirt and jeans while navigating L.A.
- Red tropical-print rayon short-sleeved aloha shirt with camp collar, 6-button plain front, non-matching breast pocket, and straight hem
- White cotton crew-neck short-sleeve pocket T-shirt
- Medium-blue denim Levi’s jeans
- Beige nubuck derby-laced shoes with white laces and brick-red rubber soles
- White ribbed cotton-blend crew socks
- Gold plastic Nautic 2-style oversized pilot sunglasses
- Silver necklace
- Silver chain-link ID bracelet
- Gold diamond-horseshoe ring
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
Elliot, do I look like a beautiful blonde with big tits and an ass that tastes like French vanilla ice cream?