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Pink Is for Pussycats--and the Tough-Guy Cops on 'Miami Vice'

June 21, 1985|BETTIJANE LEVINE | Times Staff Writer

Do real men wear lavendar? Yes, if they're Crockett and Tubbs, the hottest cop team on TV. They also wear pink, mauve, buttercup yellow, shoes without socks, pants without belts. And some of the costliest, flashiest, trendiest men's clothing ever seen on small screens.

Their Friday night show, NBC's "Miami Vice," has become the fashion show of the season, capturing the imagination of thousands, maybe millions of American males, many of whom have run to their local clothing shops asking for "outfits like the 'vice guys' wear."

This is no simple request to fill. That's partly because the "vice guys" never seem to get themselves together the same way twice. And partly because their odd assortment of peppy pastels is generally reserved for Easter eggs.

Crockett, played by Don Johnson, is basically a Southern boy who'd rather go naked than wear clothes. But he's an undercover vice cop who has to carouse with the funny-money crowd. So he makes the effort in a half-baked way, eschewing anything formal or tight.

This usually results in a dazzlingly rumpled look composed of T-shirts under swank, unstructured linen jackets and baggy pants over bare ankles and espadrilles. He puts colors together by mistake.

A typical Crockett palette would be white pants, pink T-shirt, peach jacket and yellow shoes. This is not the sort of stuff you see on "Hill Street Blues."

Tubbs, played by Phillip Michael Thomas, is a sharp ex-New Yorker, the kind who premeditates every fashion move. He wears double-breasted, peak-lapel suits with silk shirts, lizard belts, suede or lizard shoes. But his color schemes too would leave the Brooks brothers gasping.

Typical Tubbs is an aqua suit with a fuchsia shirt, a turquoise tie, a pale-pink belt and white shoes.

Costume designer Jodie Tillen, the woman who concocted the show's whole fashion look, says she's noticed that average male consumers seem to understand it better than many "experts" who design and sell men's clothes.

She's been driving across country on vacation this month and, to her amazement, she says, she's seen "Miami Vice" style on men in big cities, small towns and even while meandering down remote country roads. Men are apparently rummaging around in different shops, she thinks, and putting the Easter-egg look together without benefit of advice.

But when she runs into executives of clothing stores, "they all seem to think I'm some sort of genius. They say they watch the show every week to figure out exactly what the Vice look is all about, and they still can't put their fingers on it."

The finger belongs on pastel colors rather than on any particular style, Tillen says. She uses no earth tones on the show because "Miami is certain colors. We took from Miami what Miami had to offer--aqua water, sand, lavendar, aqua and turqoise buildings. We used that as the show's palette, carrying it through into cars and sets.

Everything is color coordinated. Crocket doesn't walk past a peach wall wearing a lavendar jacket by mistake. It's by design."

The exact clothes seen on the show are unavailable (or unaffordable) for most consumers, she adds, because she buys them from top Italian designers before they've been shipped to stores and before men's fashion magazines have had a chance to feature them.

"We use the newest and the best," Tillen says, "and we're a feast for the eyes." But money has little to do with the look, she adds.

"Any man can fake it. All he has to do is take chances with style and even more importantly, with color." And that color breakthrough is the most amazing phenomenon of the show, she believes.

"The show has made it OK for men to enjoy fashion and to wear color. They're not threatened by it any more. It doesn't mean you're less of a man if you wear lavendar. It's just a shade. You don't have to be stuck with a gray suit and a white shirt.

In fact, interesting color can be worn day or night, anywhere. And even more instructive, I think, men are learning from the show that they needn't worry about putting colors together right . There is no right or wrong.

We present such eclectic use of color on the show that they realize they can't make a mistake, even if they're color blind. They see Crockett, for example, in a lavendar jacket with a baby-blue or peach T-shirt and they like the look. They can go shopping and do the same sort of thing any way they like."

And they're apparently doing it in droves.

The other night on the Merv Griffin show, Bert Reynolds turned up in a fetching array of peaches and pinks. And at most social events these summery evenings, men seem to be strutting around in more cheerfully colored outfits than their wives or dates.

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