FJerry Bruckheimer, licking a magazine one day in 1983, found himself stunned by a photo. The Hollywood producer later recalled: “It was a picture of this helmet with the visor down and a plane reflected in the brow, then two planes next to the helmet, and the man in the cockpit.”
Three years later, the movie Bruckheimer dreamed of at that moment – Star Wars on Earth – became Top Gun, a film that grossed $350 million on a $15 million budget and sent Berlin’s Take My Breath Away to number one in the Six countries, turned young Tom Cruise into the biggest movie star in the world, and made Ray-Ban’s Aviator sunglasses a bulletproof summer icon.
But, while the Star Wars franchise has made 12 movies, it took 36 years for Top Gun: Maverick to bring back the cocksure grin and leather flight jacket of Pete “Maverick” Mitchell. Can Top Gun – an American high school movie in military uniform, a Western with fighter jets instead of horses, a movie dubbed “America’s Commercial” – capture the world in 2022?
With birthdays, motorbikes, and ballads, Top Gun offers a nostalgic vision of the ’80s at a time of deep anxiety. In fact, the appeal to a simpler, healthier past played a role in the popularity of the original film. Cruz in his white James Dean Eski shirt, McGillis with a little pink jacket strapped around her shoulders, and the starchy white of a military uniform—these were all personifications of Fifties icons designed to seduce ’80s audiences with apple pie perfection. .
Top Gun never presented itself as a fashion movie—unlike the American group Gigolo of the ’80s, Giorgio Armani wasn’t on the speed dial—but his suits, leather jackets, and reflective shades are indelibly indelible into our popular cultural memory. Costume supervisors Bobby Reed and James W. Tyson chose Aviator shades for factual accuracy, a style that has been mandated by the US Army to protect the eyes of pilots since the 1930s. A steady bestseller since 1986, the model currently enjoys White House sponsorship as Joe Biden’s signature look. Backers of Top Gun: Maverick hope this longevity is a good omen.
Tom Cruise’s leather flight jacket was originally a staple in a 2020 auction of movie memorabilia that also included the thigh-high boots worn by Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman and the lightsaber used by Ewan MacGregor in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.
A replica appears to have been made for the sequel, with an early trailer for the new movie lingering on a close-up of Cruise ignoring the iconic Navy G1 bomber, in goatskin suede with a sheepskin collar and star-and-stripes embroidery. The olive-green boiler clothes worn to fly, and the white collar tobacco shirts are being repurposed for downtime.
Like Charlie Blackmore, Kelly McGillis’ wardrobe may not have gotten Cruise’s knockout punch but delivered simple elegance that has stood the test of time.
Images of McGillis teaching lessons in an oversized white shirt with a dove gray unstructured jacket, or a simplified version of a leather bomber jacket with a white shirt, dark pencil skirt and red lipstick are still present on the behind-the-scenes mood boards of fashion designers as an icon of the stylish adult. Monica Barbaro, who plays a fighter pilot in the new movie, is seen in the trailer sporting a crop top — a reference to the popular beach volleyball scene in the original movie.
The biggest gamble in Top Gun: Maverick isn’t whether Cruz continues to fascinate audiences, but whether they can still be tempted back to movie theaters. While the Maverick packs itself up and flies through the sky, many are riding on it.