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Farewell to an Arresting Look

November 13, 1998|BARBARA THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

There are departing TV characters we will miss more.

There are even characters we may like more.

And certainly, by the sheer nature of TV, there are legions of men who are more conventionally handsome.

But none of them, not one, can wear clothes like Jimmy Smits.

Since his character, papi chulo ne plus ultra Bobby Simone humbly joined the force of "NYPD Blue" four seasons ago, we've been treated to the hottest combinations of cashmere suits, shimmering monochromatic shirts and ties, all elegantly draped on a guy who seems to appreciate good clothes. We haven't been this enchanted since those pretty boys on "Miami Vice" faded into a mauve and teal sunset.

When Bobby Simone bows out on Episode 5 on Nov. 24, TV once again will be fashionably bereft.

The last few TV seasons have seen a bad trend, with most of its characters spending an inordinate amount of time in ER scrubs and those icky white hospital shoes.

Jimmy, if you refuse to think about us fashionably starved fans, then, for goodness' sakes, consider the fate of Brad Loman, "NYPD" costume designer who's made you look so good these last few years.

"I'm very sad to have him gone," Loman says. "The other characters are more character-driven."

Some understatement. Take Sipowicz, please. Dennis Franz is a fabulous actor, completely deserving of his rack of Emmys for this tortured character, yadda yadda yadda. But those short-sleeve shirts and clip-on ties? Those polyester blend jackets?

"Dennis Franz himself is the nattiest dresser. He's very fastidious about his clothing," Loman says. Sipowicz, however? His inspiration: "Larger men in the Midwest wear short-sleeve shirts because they don't have to deal with the sleeve." They're also cooler under a jacket for guys who tend to perspire a lot, and Sipowicz certainly does that.

"The complement between Jimmy and Dennis was brilliant."

We agree--David Caruso was riveting as an actor, but no beacon of Boss. And Rick Schroeder, who joins the "NYPD Blue" cast? Look, we're cutting him some slack; after all, haven't other child actors grown up nicely? (Elizabeth Taylor, Roddy McDowell, for two.) We predict he'll make a perfectly nice "angry young hothead." But a future fashion plate? Even Loman says no.

"He's coming in from narcotics, and he's used to not wearing a coat and tie to work. He's kind of out of his league," Loman says. "Over the next few weeks, he starts becoming a little more fitted, a little more tailored, a little more menacing."

So Loman and his staff, who dressed five TV shows last season, are left bereft. His other big show, "Chicago Hope," leaves everyone but Hector Elizondo in mostly scrubs. Imagine, the good news is you get to dress Mark Harmon; the bad news, he stays in sweats and T-shirts.

Smits, Loman says, is special. For one, he's tall for TV, 6 foot 4. He wears a 44-long but without the 38-inch waist that usually comes with that. He's so slim--34-inch waist--that an in-house cutter and tailor take in everything.

"He's the best actor for clothes that I've ever dressed," Loman says. "Part of it is that he and I and Steven [Bochco, the show's producer] managed to make it work story-wise and reality-wise. You believe it.

"You can hang clothes on that size of a frame," Loman says. But it is hard to find fashion designers who fit that tall a man. Armani doesn't cut long enough for him. Donna Karan used to. He does wear some Zegna and Calvin Klein, but mostly Hugo Boss.

He Was Never

an Ordinary Cop

From the very beginning, Bochco and Loman agreed on Smits' look.

"We wanted him to be very well-dressed and not looking like your run-of-the-mill cop," Loman says.

Loman had met some New York City detectives who were very slick and very well-dressed.

"Probably not the same quality," he says, "but definitely the same look as Jimmy."

And the quality is cashmere blend suits, silk shirts--"His palette is very tight and very limited." Loman kept Smits in earth tones of browns, charcoals, grays, navy and olive.

"His closet has 45 double sets of shirts"--all autumn colors.

And of course, there's that incredible blue raincoat that Smits refused to change in four years. (It was specifically designed for him by Carol Cohen for Sanyo in a blue fabric that isn't manufactured in the regular line.) Actor Smits took one of the two coats home with him after the final shoot.

Few cops can afford this look, of course. But Simone's back story, in case you missed it, is that he used to drive in the mayor's security fleet and therefore had to look different from regular detectives. And, he has an uncle in the garment district who supplies him with fabulous duds at cost.

"We got voted best-dressed on television three years running by various magazines," Loman says. This year, TV Guide voted Franz the worst-dressed, which is kind of a compliment.

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