Jaws screenshot

Summer style inspiration from the Jaws franchise

Contributed by
Aug 11, 2018

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, the Jaws franchise is here to give retro style pointers for lounging at the beach, sailing on the open sea, and enjoying breezy evenings outdoors.

Jaws has a lot to answer for. It was the first summer blockbuster of its kind, effectively revolutionizing the way studios release tentpole movies during the hotter months. It also made the ocean a terrifying prospect. Much like mapmakers of the 16th century putting monsters in uncharted waters, Steven Spielberg’s first major hit gave a generation (and the ones that followed) a fear of the deep blue sea.

After the success of Jaws in 1975, three more Jaws outings followed over the next 12 years. None touch the original in terms of quality, but each installment has something to offer in the summer fashion department. Yep, even Jaws: The Revenge.

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The first two Jaws movies take place exclusively on Amity Island (and the surrounding ocean), essentially Martha’s Vineyard — where the first film was shot — which lies off the coast of Massachusetts. The men tasked with finding the great white stalking these shores are not dressed for the beach, but don’t dismiss their sartorial choices. Instead look to Brody (Roy Scheider), Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), and Quint (Robert Shaw) for some day-to-night transition ideas. Temperatures can drop pretty fast when the sun goes down. In an ocean breeze, layering is your friend.

As with Jurassic Park, the Jaws costume designers were uncredited. But Robert Ellsworth and Louise Clark created iconic looks for the leads, supporting actors, and background actors that deserve to be celebrated. The first Jaws installment is incredible for numerous reasons, right down to how lived-in these characters feel. You can tell everything about who they are by what they are wearing and how these clothes are worn.  

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Brody is the epitome of dad fashion; the sensible windbreaker that almost matches his pants, short-sleeve sweaters, the patented Spielberg Dad-plaid, a turtleneck at sea with a chambray shirt of the top and of course his actual uniform. There is rigidity to Brody at first. He still getting used to life outside the city, but his attire gets looser as Jaws progresses. It is also worth noting that Scheider as Brody is super crush-worthy — just ask Emily Blunt.

Also on the bae scale is Matt Hooper. The young oceanographer is introduced wearing double denim, a gray sweatshirt, and a seaman’s cap. His brown leather duffle is a sign of his youth, his penchant for trends, and the amount of money he has. The knitted hat is meant to show his expertise, but instead, it looks like the kind of headwear he thinks he should be wearing. But this is a highly covetable and timeless casual look.

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Bucket hats have made a recent comeback. Again Hooper looks like he is attempting to use his headwear to show expertise. Instead, he comes off as equal amounts dorky and adorable. Plus, protection against the sun is important.

Denim ties all three men together. They come from entirely different backgrounds, but they are about to enter this battle together. Quint wears a military jacket, a well-worn baseball cap, and a workman’s shirt, which gets unbuttoned the longer they are out at sea. There is nothing carefully curated about his ensemble.

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In the sequel, when Brody battles the shark without his comrades, the military-style jacket he puts on feels like a nod to the fallen hero of the first film. He also undoes his shirt as the threat level rises. Jaws 2 Brody also leans further into his DILF side, with shorts and a very Bruce Springsteen tee as he wanders around his house.

Denim isn’t just for the dudes. Ellen Brody (Lorraine Gary) is working flares for most of Jaws. But it is the simple take on her beach attire that I want to focus on. You can’t go wrong with a wide-brimmed hat — this summer’s must-have item — and a black one-piece. Ellen throws on a cardigan when her son, Michael (Chris Rebello), encounters the great white terrorizing Amity Island.

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Looking chic is obviously not one of Ellen’s priorities while in the hospital, but she looks it nonetheless. This is the first of many traumatic experiences with sharks for the Brody children.   

Mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) is less concerned about what is in the water and more with scoring a large crowd for the Amity Island Fourth of July celebration. A closed beach means no tourists, and no tourists, no money. Mayor Vaughn is also the flashiest dresser on Amity. If the beach is shut down, then who will see his very fine collection of patterned sport coats?!

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That anchor print is very on point for the time of year. Just let the mayor show off his finest threads, shark attack victims be damned. Pure prep at its finest. 

Short shorts are back in the spotlight in part because of Call Me by Your Name. But for all your short-short-style inspo needs, look no further than the first three Jaws movies. The hemlines get shorter, the patterns more intense. Crowded beach shots are a signature of this franchise, and we truly get to bask in the leisure aesthetic of this decade in these moments. Check out the array of swimwear including speedos, bikinis, shorts long and short. There is no set age demographic or body type.

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Folks of all ages are hanging out for the warm weekend; this isn’t a case of Insta-ready models only. Seeing this many different body shapes feels revolutionary. No one is shamed for wearing a bikini or revealing their chest.
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There are also moments where Brody is the “Where’s Waldo?” of the frame; he is the only one not in beach attire.

Meanwhile, teens and their fashion dominate Jaws 2. Brody’s oldest son Michael (Mark Gruner) is now hanging out with his friends on the ocean and at the beach.

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Synthetic fabrics reign; red toweling tops, large collar polo shirts, and flares make up a lot of these looks.
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Tie-front blouses, raglan tees, and rompers are also fit for sailing. There’s not a lot of bikini-wearing among these teens; their outfits could easily double up for hanging out at the mall (a location with vastly fewer sharks).

In Jaws 3-D, younger son Sean (John Putch) goes back in the water for the first time since he was a kid, though the lure of a hook-up with a pre-Back to the Future Lea Thompson helps conquer that fear. Sean doesn’t receive the same fate as Chrissie, the teen swimmer from the opening scene of Jaws. Well, not until Jaws: The Revenge. RIP Sean. 

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SeaWorld is the location for Jaws 3-D. Michael Brody (now played by Dennis Quaid) has relocated to Florida, and his brother Sean (John Putch) is visiting just in time for another great white encounter.

There are still plenty of swimwear options, including this white rainbow one-piece that I would snap up if I could procure it in an adult size.

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Just make sure to get out of the water as quick as possible, as this is the movie where the Jaws franchise jumps the shark. The 3-D parts are laughable now — they might’ve been back then — but the early ‘80s clothing is the gift that keeps on giving.  Pastel pink, tight polos, tighter Levis, and shorts all feature.
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Dennis Quaid sports a hoodie sans shirt, while Bess Armstrong as Mike’s girlfriend Dr. Kay Morgan wears an anti-shark chain-mail diving suit, which looks like a high-tech hoodie at first glance.


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Jaws: The Revenge is bad for a number of reasons — including the very idea that a shark is hunting down every single member of the Brody family, swimming 2000 miles from Amity Island all the way down to Barbados over the Christmas breaks — but what it lacks in good plot/writing, it makes up for in shoulder pads.

In 1987, shoulder pads didn’t just come as part of every jacket, but also sweaters and T-shirts, as worn by Brody family matriarch Ellen.

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There is also the small matter of Michael Brody — Lance Guest is the fourth actor to play this part — wearing a short-sleeved sweatshirt and aviators mirroring his now-deceased father. Got to love a costume call-back.

Nearly 45 years after it was released, Jaws is still one of Spielberg’s best movies. And while the shark effects don’t really hold up, the fashion certainly does. For summer style, look no further than the inhabitants of Amity Island. You’re gonna need a bigger closet.