“Everything always takes longer than you think,” Ricardo Tubbs (Philip Michael Thomas) quips in the waning moments of the Miami Vice finale. He was talking about life on the sunny but mean streets of Miami, where he and his partner, Sonny Crockett (Don Johnson) tried — and increasingly failed — to hang on to some semblance of personal and institutional justice. But this has also proven to be true for the revival of the show’s infamous fashion sense.
While Miami Vice’s looks, which were excessive even by ‘80s standards, were wildly popular and influential during its original run, they quickly fell out of style as both the show and the decade came to a close. And threatened to stay there. Crockett’s iconic rolled sleeves and bright suits became a punchline everywhere from Friends to Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Then they became the fuel for weak stabs at nostalgia for the likes of Pitbull and Chris Brown. There was a flourish of hope when the swimwear label We Are Handsome released a stunning collection of Vice-influenced suits in 2015, but nothing stuck. In a world where even scrunchies managed to make a comeback, the Miami Vice aesthetic seemed as fated as the show’s main characters. Even the 2006 movie remake was a drab and largely greyscale affair.
Over the past year or so, though, something has shifted in the sartorial universe. It could be the resurgence of sockless shoes, the release of the new retro Miami Heat jersey, or Harry Styles’s ongoing efforts to resurrect pastels and shoulder pads — while accessorizing with none other than Don Johnson himself. Or maybe it’s more existential than that. Maybe, at a time where nothing makes sense and we are back to teetering on the edge of nuclear annihilation, the only thing to do is finally re-embrace the all-encompassing extra-ness of a show where people — armed with little more than giant, overly bright clothing and pet alligators — fought to stay true to themselves and their ideals in the face of a broken and ugly system.
Whatever the case, the Miami Vice look, in all of its sock-eschewing, cuffed sleeve, art deco-hued glory, is finally on its way back. Here are the best ways to make it work three decades later.
The Ricardo Tubbs Blazer
While Sonny Crockett and his suits enjoyed most of the attention — both positive and negative — his partner, Tubbs, was arguably the true fashion hero of Miami Vice. Clad in a series of more sharply-tailored suits with long, slightly boxy jackets, Rico was always just a little cooler than his partner. This is why the true key to successfully recreating the Miami Vice look today lies not in a billowing Crockett jacket, but a sleek and maybe slightly muted Tubbs blazer, which can currently be found in abundance at retailers like ASOS, and Miss Selfridge. You can pair it with matching bottoms for a classic Tubbs look, or roll up the sleeves and wear it with a pastel t-shirt and pants to create the greatest Crockett/Tubbs combination possible outside of fanfiction.
Speaking of pastels, colour is non-negotiable if you’re going to do the Vice look properly. Producer Michael Mann famously told the show’s crew that he wanted “no earth tones,” and you should follow that advice as well. Stock up on pastel basics. Add a jacket or two that would make Harry Styles proud. Get matching pants. Make your closet as colourful as the Miami art deco architecture that the show’s popularity actually helped to preserve.
After years of minimalism and more natural lines, the shoulder pad finally made a proper comeback last year. Found everywhere from t-shirts, dresses, and blazers, to a remarkable percentage of Harry Styles’s wardrobe, the long-derided half moon of strategically-placed foam is once again the height of slightly exaggerated style. Accessorize with a world-weary wince for the ultimate Crockett look.
Our traps aren’t the only body parts getting a little extra breathing room in fashion these days. After a shockingly long reign, skinny jeans and leggings have finally begun to share the spotlight with looser shapes, which has allowed the wide legged-pant to return to our lower halves. For maximum Vice-ness, get a pastel pair (Uniqlo currently has some great options), top it with something padded, shove your hands in your pockets and skulk around to the tune of Glenn Frey’s “You Belong To The City,” like Crockett did in the season two premiere.
Ray Ban Wayfarers
Long before some other Miami-based crime procedural turned the donning and doffing of sunglasses into a meme-tastic punchline, Don Johnson made a pair of wayfarers an iconic accessory and the ultimate prop. Perhaps the only element of the Miami Vice look never to go out of style, a pair of these classic sunglasses are perfect for looking cool, concealing the extent of your world weariness, or lowering in scenery-chomping horror when your Ferrari is blown up in front of you.
Unlike many of the show’s stylistic flourishes, the sockless shoe trend launched by Crockett’s unclothed feet was a completely fluke. Unable to cope with the heat while shooting on location in Miami, Don Johnson just stopped wearing socks. The rest is repeating history. The only problem with this look is that, while going without socks might work for filming in Florida’s climate, it’s less functional in the real world. When the sockless shoe trend started resurfacing last year, it actually brought a resurgence of trench foot right along with it. So if you want to look like Crockett without making your feet suffer about as much as most of his tragic love interests do, it would be wise to invest in some no-show socks.
A Lamé Jumpsuit
If you’re less into Crockett and Tubbs’s vibe than you are in all of the beautifully bonkers things that go on around them in Miami Vice, this is the perfect outfit to cater to your whimsy. Thanks to our society’s renewed enthusiasm for sparkling fabrics, jumpsuits, and the combination of the two, you can now recreate the look that a young Kyra Sedgwick rocked when she was romancing Phil Collins (seriously) in the season two episode “Phil The Shill.”