We’re Going To Need A Bigger Boat: The Style of Jaws (On A Budget)

We’re Going To Need A Bigger Boat: The Style of Jaws (On A Budget)
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of Jaws, we honor the timeless costume design with 4 inspired sharp and affordable outfits.

It’s hard to write about Jaws. Everyone knows it. Even if you’ve never seen it you know all of the film's story beats because they’ve been copied so many times. You’re probably terrified of sharks even though more people are killed every year by donkeys. You can thank Jaws for that. Peter Benchley, the author of the original novel and screenplay, later became an ocean conservationist and expressed regret at having ever written it. It was a cultural phenom the likes of which had never been seen before.

Jaws also helped to create (for better or worse) the summer blockbuster as we know it today. It made Steven Spielberg one of the most well-known and imitated directors in modern cinema. The imitators and sequels can’t take away that Jaws is an expertly constructed film and this particularly shows in the costuming. While there are many elements that scream late 70s, costume designers Robert Ellsworth (who handled the men) and Louise Clark (the women) give a master class in how to convey essential elements of the characters and the times they live in while still maintaining an absolutely timeless look. So timeless in fact that many of these looks can be adapted and look just as at home today as they did in the 1970s.

spielberg jaws shark

When looking at the clothes you first need to look at the environment. The story takes place in a New England beach town at the start of the summer beach season. This means that the water and air temperatures are still a bit on the chilly side so you see a lot of sweatshirts and jackets in addition to bathing suits and t-shirts. This makes for some outfits that are absolutely fantastic for those chilly end of summer nights.

Take a look at the three main characters, Quint, Brody and Hooper, and you can see how important, and subtle the costuming is. Even if you’ve never seen the film it’s easy to see which character is the battered old fisherman, the big city cop turned small-town police chief, and the young academic in the field. Where Jaws succeeds is the verisimilitude of these outfits. They don’t look like costumes or stereotypes of how these people are supposed to look. It’s just how they look.

Jaws outfit inspiration

Now, these aren’t going to be perfect replicas of the looks in the film. It’s not cosplay and it’s based around easy to find clothing that most guys have already in their wardrobes. You may need to buy a new piece or two but almost everything here can be considered a staple.

Jaws Style Inspiration Hooper

Hooper

Matt Hooper enters the story as the young oceanographer brought into the field to figure out what the hell is going on and his costume reflects that perfectly. His leather duffle bag shows his youth. He is a professional but he has not been out of college for very long. I know plenty of guys who have a bag just like this handed down from their dad’s college days and they still use it to this day. He wears a watch cap and a dive watch to show his bona fides as an ocean explorer. He is an oceanographer dammit and he will be taken seriously.

Jaws Hooper Dive Watch

The dive watch is of particular interest to me. By this point in the late 70s dive watches were just starting to make their transition from a true tool watch mostly worn by divers to a staple that guys who never even thought about going deeper than a swimming pool wore. This was the start of the Rolex Submariner’s climb up the market ladder to the position of luxury it inhabits today. To illustrate this, when the Sub was introduced it sold for $150 (around $1200 today) and by 1977 it was selling for $585 ($2300 in today’s dollars.) In less than 10 short years an entry-level Sub would be selling for $1,575 (around $3500 today.) Dive watches were becoming more than tools but at this point Alsta Jaws Hooper Dive WatchHooper’s watch is still meant to convey the point that he is a true professional even if he is young.

As an aside it was always something of a mystery what watch Hooper was wearing but finally after the release of the Blu-rays it was determined to be a Nautoscaph from long forgotten watch brand Alsta.

Hoopers outfit is a pretty easy one to replicate and is great for those chilly nights in late August early September.

Jaws Style Inspiration - Hooper

Jaws Hooper Watch Style Inspiration

Gray Crew Sweatshirt

Sweatshirt – J Crew Factory, $30

Jeans – J Crew Factory, $45

Watch – Tiger Concepts 16800, $140

Sneakers – Gap, $20 [similar – Converse, $55]

Bag – Gusty Leder Toby, $74

Sunglasses – ZeroUV, $12

Watch cap – AE, $13

Total – $350

Oddly enough I don’t actually own a denim jacket and could not replicate this look completely. Throw on your own and you are good to go.

The bag, Gusty Leder Toby, is actually a pretty good bang for the buck. The leather is supple and does not have the plastic feel that a lot of lower-end leather items do. My only complaints are the zippers. The black with brown leather I think is a poor combination and reveals it’s more “affordable” nature. Still a damn good bag for the price though.

Jaws Style Quint

Quint

Everything about Quint’s look let’s you know that this guy has seen some shit. I don’t think you will ever find a a better grizzled sea captain than Robert Shaw as Bartholomew Marion Quint. The costuming for this character is truly masterful. There are no fisherman’s hats or thick knitted sweaters. Not a sailor cliche to be found. Instead this is just a man that is used to work and hardship and it has broken him down but he is still tough as hell. He is battered but not beaten. And damn is that a good look to steal.

Jaws Quint Style Inspiration

Jaws Quint Watch Sunglasses

Jaws Style Inspiration

Jacket – US Army Surplus M65 Field Jacket, $60

Jeans – J.Crew Factory Driggs, $40

Shirt – J.Crew Factory Chambray, $35

Watch – Casio MDV106, $45 on a perlon strap, $15

Webbing Belt –  Army Surplus, $7

Shoes – Converse Chuck Taylors, $40

Sunglasses – American Optical Aviators, $60

Total – $302

The Casio MDV-106 is the perfect watch for a guy like Quint. It’s inexpensive, durable and no-nonesense. Throw it on a perlon strap and you have something that will take a beating with the fast-drying, easy to adjust perlon strap being the ultimate strap for tough voyaging. The American Optical Aviators were the original aviators used by the US Air Force during the Vietnam Conflict and well beyond. Randolph Engineering now produces them for the US Military but American Optical still makes them to GI spec in the USA for the civilian market.

The jacket and sunglasses are both staples of military looks adopted by civilians since time immemorial. The M65 Field Jacket in particular has been adapted by everybody from the Gap to Ralph Lauren to meet every budget possible. But nothing beats the real deal in terms of bang for the buck. These do tend to run big so I would suggest sizing down quite a bit.

Jaws Brody Style Inspiration

Brody

Brody is the fish out of water (pun intended.) A big city cop turned small town police chief, he is the only one that sees the true danger the shark presents. When the rest of the town is working to keep things going as normally as possible he is trying to save whomever he can. The costuming shows this pretty well and I don’t think I’ve ever seen another man look more awkward in a lifejacket than Brody.

Brody jaws life jacket

Despite not being comfortable at sea Brody still manages to save the day and go on to slaughter even more sharks in a multitude of Jaws sequels.

Jaws Style Inspiration Brody

timex main street

Chambray Shirt – J Crew Factory, $35

Undershirt – Old Navy Thermal, $17

Jeans – Levi’s 511, $40

Shoes – ASOS Plimsolls, $40

Belt – J.Crew Factory, $20

Watch – Timex Main Street, $37

Total – $189

The Timex Main Street is a fantastic bang for the buck. While it comes on a black faux-gator strap you can easily swap it out to something different to change up the look. With a water resistance of 30 I would not go for a swim with it on but it should have no problem getting splashed if you are out shark hunting.

mayor vaughn jaws style inspiration

Mayor Vaughn

Larry Vaughn is the mayor of Amity and is trying to keep the problems with the shark under wraps. If this was a real world situation I would sympathize with the mayor quite a bit. The town’s life blood is tourism and shark attacks are so rare the last thing the town needs is a hysterical sheriff scaring the bejeezus out of everyone. But this is a movie and the shark in this film is a heinous monster not a wild animal doing what animals do. And so the Mayor is also a villain letting his own greed get people killed.

As far as his wardrobe goes I don’t think you could costume a better prep-school mayor. Just look at that sports coat! Looking at this outfit you can tell that his family sailed over on the Mayflower and has been in Amity ever since. He only wore J. Press in college and he will be in Brooks Brothers until the day he dies. My wardrobe leans towards the preppy side but I don’t have anything close to that sports coat but I can put something together with the same vibe.

Jaws Style Inspiration Mayor Vaughn

Jaws style inspiration

prep nautical tie and tie bar

Sports Coat – J.Crew Factory Oxford Suit Jacket, $75 [similar, $60]

Pants – J Crew Factory Chino, $35

Shirt – H&M, $15

Shoes – Steve Madden Cabal Oxfords, $80

Belt – H&M, $20

Socks – Topman, $25 for pack

Watch – Vintage Bulova, $150

Cufflinks – Vintage, $25

Sunglasses – J.Crew Factory, $15

Tie – J.Crew Factory, $24

Tie Clip – Vintage, $20

Total – $469

So there you have it Jaws from a menswear point of view. Movies are truly a fantastic place to look if you are trying to figure out what you want to do with your wardrobe. In a lot of cases, costume designers will put things together that you may never have thought of before. It can also help you define the language of style. A good costume designer does not just grab clothes off a rack and throw them on an actor. Every outfit is meant to convey something to you, the audience, about that character without you ever being aware of it. Applying that same type of care to your own outfits can go a long way to determining how you present yourself to the world.

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Chris Scott is a scuba instructor, photographer, and writer living in Chicago. He graduated from the University of Louisville with a degree in Anthropology and a focus in underwater archaeology. He spends most of his time trying to figure out ways to see the world without having to spend any money.

  • http://www.vitamincm.com VitaminCM

    This is an awesome feature. Really cool.
    Quint is awesome. His USS Indianapolis monologue is one of the best in motion picture history. (Largely ad-libbed too.)

    • Chris Scott

      That’s probably one of my favorite performances ever. If the only roles he ever played were Quint and Red Grant in “From Russia With Love” Robert Shaw would still be on my list of favorite actors.

      • http://www.vitamincm.com VitaminCM

        My Uncle made me watch that when I was 6 years old. I’m still terrified of the water. I was at his beach house last week and called him out in front of my whole family (including my kids) who make fun of me.
        My reply is, “Did you hear the story about the guy that got attacked on dry land? Me Neither!”

        • Chris Scott

          Haha man more people are killed by airplane parts falling out of the sky every year than by sharks.

          • http://www.vitamincm.com VitaminCM

            Well, the definition of a phobia is that it’s an unreasonable or irrational fear. I just keep hearing Quint saying “Black like a dolls eye” and I’m out.

          • Allen

            That is just not true at all. You should really do your research before saying ridiculous things that you just read somewhere on the internet. If you would’ve said that more people are killed every year by falling coconuts than by shark attacks/bites, then you’d be correct. However, the statistics you stated are simply false.

          • Chris Scott

            It was a rhetorical tool in a light hearted conversation meant to illustrate how a fear of sharks is a bit misplaced. I stand corrected. Replace “airplane parts” with lightning, vending machines, deer, or hot tap water. Take your pick.

    • Stephen

      It wasn’t ad libbed. John Milius was called in to write it.

      • http://www.vitamincm.com VitaminCM

        I read that Shaw Re-wrote it on set because Milius and the screenwriters disagreed on it.

  • Zach Tame

    if you did have a denim jacket for the hooper outfit would you Stick with a dark denim like the jeans or would you go for a lighter variation of denim

    • Chris Scott

      Personally I would probably go with a lighter denim (but not too light.) When it comes to casual outfits I like to have some contrast between my jeans and jacket.

      • Zach Tame

        Thanks much appreciated

  • Cameron

    What’s the watchband that you ended up putting on the Timex?

    • Chris Scott

      It’s from a company called Hager. I don’t believe that it’s available anymore unfortunately.

  • CryptoReporter

    Interesting to note I dont see the anchor tie on Jcrew factory site, but they do have an almost same navy/yellow stripe tie as Mayor Vaughn.

  • John

    This is fantastic! Borrowing looks from actors in films is a time-honored way for men to dress themselves. Interpreting classic film style for modern sensibility is a great concept! Keep it up!

  • Jon

    Very cool

  • Bradford Neal

    This would’ve been much more helpful if you’d included photos of people wearing your suggested outfits.

  • Stephen

    That turtle neck that Scheider wears is badass. Anyone know where I can get one similar?

  • Butch_Zee

    Finally, an inexpensive no-date dive watch, Tiger Concepts. Thanks Chris.

    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

      That’s right! You were looking for one. Glad you like it.

      • Butch_Zee

        Haha, I’m surprised you remember that, Andrew!

        • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

          Of course Butch, I always appreciate your comments and insight. 🙂

    • Chris Scott

      Fantastic I’m glad you liked it. I’m also a fan of their JB5508 which pays homage Bond’s original Submariner.

      • Butch_Zee

        I’ll have to check that one out too.

  • http://www.stylegirlfriend.com/ Brittany_StyleGirlfriend

    Seriously loving Mayor Vaughn’s and Hooper’s looks. That Gusty Leder Toby bag is such a great find.

  • Damon

    Excellent post Chris, really enjoyed reading this article. You’ve captured all of the characters and their outfits very well. Nice job on the photos too! Can’t wait for your next post!

  • AdamR

    Love this article

  • Ross

    THIS, FEATURE, IS, AWESOME!!
    I think this is one of the best articles I’ve seen on Primer. I’m a huge fan of the Getups and this combines the Getup articles that we all love with Hollywood gold. Love how the outfits are simple yet sophisticated. Keep these coming!!

  • Aslan Smith

    Now we just need one of these for the women of the movie!

  • justinpress

    Add in the kid at the outset who was at the bonfire and on the beach with the deputy when they found the girl covered in crabs. He was in a blue button down, sweater tied around waist, wind blown hair from years of sailing around the island. Throw in some windbreakers here and there and Brody’s short sleeve sweatshirt and its a Preppy masterpiece