The Story Behind Don Johnson’S Iconic Miami Vice Suit

The 1980s TV show Miami Vice became a pop culture phenomenon thanks in large part to the stylish clothes worn by its stars, especially Don Johnson’s light linen suits. Johnson’s casual yet tailored outfits came to define men’s fashion during that decade and are still influential today. If you’re wondering about the origins and impact of that now-iconic Miami Vice suit, read on for the fascinating history behind one of TV’s most memorable wardrobe choices.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Don Johnson’s light linen suit jacket over T-shirt look on Miami Vice was not originally intended as the main costume for his character. The unstructured jacket and rolled-up sleeves were meant for one scene in the pilot episode, but became so popular that it ended up becoming Johnson’s signature style for the show’s five season run. The suit’s casual elegance came to influence men’s fashion heavily in the 80s.

The Suit Wasn’t Originally Meant to be a Main Costume

When Don Johnson first appeared on the set of Miami Vice, he was wearing an off-the-rack linen jacket for a single scene. The costume designer, Jodie Tillen, had originally planned to dress Johnson’s character, Detective James “Sonny” Crockett, in more traditional police attire.

However, something unexpected happened that would forever change the show’s fashion direction.

Audiences reacted strongly to the distinctive look

As soon as audiences caught a glimpse of Don Johnson’s casual linen jacket paired with pastel-colored t-shirts and loafers without socks, they were captivated. The unconventional look embodied the spirit of 1980s fashion and became an instant hit.

Fans couldn’t get enough of the stylish combination of Crockett’s laid-back Miami style and the show’s fast-paced action.

The distinctive look quickly gained attention and became a talking point among viewers. The media started to take notice, and soon, the Miami Vice fashion trend was born. Don Johnson’s character became a fashion icon, and the suit took on a life of its own.

The stylist decided to stick with the casual suit as a signature

Recognizing the impact of Don Johnson’s attire on the show’s popularity, the stylist, Jodie Tillen, made the bold decision to stick with the casual suit as a signature for Detective Crockett. She believed that the outfit perfectly captured the essence of the character and the vibrant Miami setting.

By embracing this unique style, Miami Vice changed the landscape of television fashion. The show’s influence extended beyond the small screen, inspiring a generation of fashion-conscious individuals who sought to replicate the cool and effortless look of Detective Crockett.

Today, Don Johnson’s iconic Miami Vice suit remains a symbol of 1980s fashion and pop culture. It is a testament to the power of a well-designed costume and the impact it can have on a television series and its audience.

The Jacket Was Meant to Convey Johnson’s Character

Don Johnson’s iconic Miami Vice suit is not just a fashion statement, but a reflection of his character in the hit 1980s television show. The wardrobe choices for his character, Detective Sonny Crockett, were carefully selected to convey his laid-back yet stylish persona.

An unstructured jacket matched the show’s looser style

One of the key elements of Johnson’s suit was the unstructured jacket. Unlike traditional tailored jackets, the unstructured design gave Crockett a more relaxed and casual appearance. This choice perfectly matched the show’s overall aesthetic, which was known for its looser style and blend of high-end fashion with streetwear.

The unstructured jacket also allowed for ease of movement, which was necessary for Crockett’s action-packed lifestyle. Whether he was chasing down criminals or speeding through the Miami streets in his iconic Ferrari, the jacket never hindered his agility and added to the sense of adventure on the show.

Rolled up sleeves and no tie gave an on-the-go look

Another distinctive feature of Johnson’s Miami Vice suit was the rolled-up sleeves and the absence of a tie. These stylistic choices further emphasized Crockett’s on-the-go lifestyle and disregard for conventional dress codes.

The rolled-up sleeves gave the impression that Crockett was ready for action at any moment. It also added a touch of informality to his overall look, reinforcing his rebellious nature as a cop who played by his own rules.

By opting not to wear a tie, Crockett projected an air of nonchalance and a rejection of traditional authority. His laid-back style was a stark contrast to the more formal attire typically associated with law enforcement, making him a trendsetter both on and off the screen.

Light colors suited the hot Miami setting

The choice of light colors for the Miami Vice suit was not only fashionable but also practical. The show was set in the vibrant and sun-drenched city of Miami, where temperatures soared and the humidity was high.

The light-colored suit helped to reflect the sun’s rays and keep Crockett cool under the scorching Miami heat. It also added to the overall aesthetic of the show, creating a visually pleasing contrast against the backdrop of palm trees, white sandy beaches, and bright blue skies.

Additionally, the light colors of the suit aligned with the 1980s fashion trends, which favored pastel shades and a more relaxed approach to dressing. Crockett’s Miami Vice suit became an iconic representation of the era and continues to influence fashion today.

The story behind Don Johnson’s Miami Vice suit goes beyond just fashion. It was a carefully curated wardrobe that perfectly embodied the character of Sonny Crockett and the spirit of the show. The unstructured jacket, rolled-up sleeves, and light colors all played a role in creating an iconic look that is still revered decades later.

The Suit Impacted Men’s Fashion Trends Heavily

Don Johnson’s iconic suit in the hit TV show Miami Vice had a significant impact on men’s fashion trends in the 80s. The sleek and stylish look of his character, Detective Sonny Crockett, became a cultural sensation and influenced the way men dressed for years to come.

Let’s take a closer look at how this suit revolutionized the fashion industry.

Miami Vice popularized loose Italian suits in the 80s

Miami Vice was known for its sleek and sophisticated style, and one of the standout features was the loose-fitting Italian suits worn by Don Johnson’s character. These suits were a departure from the traditional, more fitted suits of the time and introduced a new level of comfort and style.

The popularity of Miami Vice led to a surge in demand for this type of suit, with men from all walks of life wanting to replicate the cool and effortless look of Crockett.

The influence of Miami Vice on men’s fashion cannot be understated. The show not only popularized the loose Italian suit, but it also brought attention to other elements of men’s fashion, such as pastel colors and linen fabrics. It created a new standard of style that was both modern and elegant.

T-shirts as dress shirts also became mainstream

Another trend that Miami Vice helped popularize was the use of T-shirts as dress shirts. Don Johnson’s character often wore T-shirts under his suit jackets, breaking away from the traditional button-down shirt.

This casual yet fashionable look quickly caught on, and it became acceptable for men to wear T-shirts in more formal settings.

This trend was a game-changer for men’s fashion, as it provided a more relaxed and versatile option for dressing up. It also allowed for individual expression, as men could choose from a wide range of T-shirt styles and colors to complement their suits.

Popularity led to many official collaborations and knock-offs

The immense popularity of Miami Vice and its impact on men’s fashion led to numerous collaborations with fashion brands. Designers and clothing companies sought to capitalize on the trend by creating their own Miami Vice-inspired collections.

These collaborations often featured suits and other garments that emulated the style and aesthetic of the show.

Additionally, the success of Miami Vice also gave rise to a market for knock-off versions of Don Johnson’s iconic suit. Many manufacturers and retailers produced cheaper replicas to meet the demand from fans who wanted to emulate the fashion-forward look without breaking the bank.

Elements of the Look Remain Influential Today

Don Johnson’s iconic Miami Vice suit, with its unstructured jackets and pastel colors, continues to influence fashion trends even today. The combination of relaxed tailoring and vibrant hues has made a lasting impact on the runways and in street style.

Unstructured jackets and pastels seen on runways

The popularity of unstructured jackets can be traced back to Don Johnson’s portrayal of Detective Sonny Crockett in Miami Vice. His loose-fitting blazers created a more relaxed and effortless look, challenging the traditional structured suits of the time.

This trend has since made its way to the runways, with designers incorporating unstructured jackets into their collections. Pastel colors, another prominent feature of Crockett’s wardrobe, have also become a recurring theme in fashion shows, proving that these elements are not just a fleeting trend but a timeless style choice.

Rolled sleeves and loafers still current

One of the most enduring aspects of Don Johnson’s Miami Vice look is the rolled-up sleeves. This simple styling technique adds a touch of casual cool to any outfit, and it is still a popular choice among fashion enthusiasts today.

Pairing rolled sleeves with loafers, as seen on Crockett, creates a perfect blend of sophistication and laid-back charm. This combination remains a go-to option for those looking to achieve a stylish yet relaxed look.

Contrasts formal and casual wear

Don Johnson’s Miami Vice suit also showcased the art of blending formal and casual wear. He effortlessly mixed tailored blazers with T-shirts and sported dress pants with loafers, creating a unique juxtaposition of styles.

This fusion of formal and casual elements has continued to inspire fashion designers and trendsetters. Today, it is not uncommon to see people pairing a sleek blazer with jeans or sneakers, a testament to the lasting influence of Don Johnson’s fashion choices.


Don Johnson’s groundbreaking suit on Miami Vice emerged by chance, not design. But its casual elegance and laidback style turned the actor into a major fashion influencer. Elements of that iconic costume like its unstructured cut and mix of formal and informal wear still shape today’s menswear.

The story behind the genesis of that now-classic light linen suit illustrates how a single wardrobe choice thought up quickly for a minor scene ended up having an outsized cultural impact still felt today. Don Johnson’s Miami Vice style capitalized on emerging menswear trends and helped propel them into the mainstream, proving just how powerfully cinema and television can influence fashion.

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