Miami Vice

Miami Vice

There are countless ways that television influences the fashion trends of society, but cop shows usually aren’t at the forefront. Nobody ever looked at Barney Miller or Kojak and said “ooh, I want to dress like those guys.” That is until viewers got a gander of Crockett and Tubbs, two pastel-laden police officers keeping the streets of Florida safe from drug lords on the hit 80s series, Miami Vice.

Sonny Crockett and Rico Tubbs — played by Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas, respectively — were Miami undercover cops, battling to stem the tide of drug trafficking, prostitution and corruption. Crockett had a wild style all his own and was perfect for masquerading as drug runner Sonny Burnett, who drove a Ferrari and kept a pet alligator on his boat. Tubbs hailed from New York City but after following his brother’s killer down to Miami, he decided to transfer and stay on as Crockett’s partner. The pair reported to Lieutenant Castillo, a laconic, taciturn man who had very clear views on right and wrong. Edward James Olmos played Castillo and won an Emmy for his role. Other detectives in the department included Gina Calabrese, Crockett’s brief fling, Trudy Joplin, Gina’s partner, Stan Switek, the policeman who battles a gambling addiction and Larry Zito, Stan’s partner.

The show featured a steady stream of big name guest stars and guest musicians. Music, cinematography and action were as important (or more important as some critics pointed out) as character development and plot. Filming on location allowed the lushness of sub-tropical Miami to become a supporting character and also exposed the grittiness of life in the poverty stricken areas of the metro area. For all its flash and pastel suits, the lead characters’ jadedness with the futility of their work was a palpable theme in almost every episode.

Miami Vice broke many TV cop show conventions but it had the most impact on men’s fashion during that decade. Crockett’s uniform du jour of light-colored linen suits, pastel T-shirts and slip-on loafers worn without socks started a men’s department revolution. Copycats and emulators could be spotted from coast to coast and every place in between. The fad of alligator ownership mysteriously didn’t catch on.

After the third season ratings began to slip and producers tried every trick in the book to win back audiences. As is often the case, a change in direction didn’t work and the show was canceled after five glorious seasons. Still, Miami Vice managed to garner four of the twenty Emmy Awards it was nominated for during its successful run, not to mention a pair of Grammy Awards for the outstanding original theme music composed by keyboardist Jan Hammer, as well as Golden Globe Awards for Don Johnson and Edward James Olmos.

Today, Miami Vice serves as a perfect snapshot of the 80s era. Even decades later, it’s almost impossible to see a flock of flamingos, a powerboat, palm tree or peach-colored t-shirt without being reminded of Crockett and Tubbs, two of the most fashionable police officers to ever grace the television airwaves.

If you spent your Friday nights of youth watching this iconic cop show, we hope you’ll take a moment to share your favorite Miami Vice moments in our comments section below. And extra points if you wore your loafers without socks, sported a thin white blazer, or skipped shaving every once in a while to get just the right amount of Crockett stubble.

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