An Appreciation of Jerry Buss’s ‘Winning Time’ Shirts

Potter told me she sourced TV Buss’s shirts from famed Beverly Hills shirtmaker Anto, with about 90% of the designs being custom-made—and that they actually made bespoke shirts for real-life Buss back in the day. The remainder were vintage. Her favorite look is that gold silk one, which they referred to as the “liquid gold” shirt on set. “I think it was one of the earliest ones where I was like, ‘oh, we can really have some fun here,’” she said.

So did Buss really let it all hang out like that? “I had found a couple of earlier photographs of him in some early press photography and he had like four buttons undone,” Potter said. “John [C. Reilly] and I talked a lot about the idea that he really kind of portrayed this very body positive image of himself and seemed very comfortable in his physical self.”

Buss in 1980.

Randy Tasmussen/AP/Shutterstock

“To feel confident in these stuffy boardroom settings or with all these surly old scouts and coaches, he is wearing fluid silk shirts in bold colors and his chest is exposed,” she continued. That said, there were some times when they had to tone it down to suit the script. “As the season goes on, there’s definitely moments where we were like, ‘oh, well this is a serious scene, so perhaps just three buttons today and not the four,’” Potter added.

Jeff Pearlman, the author of Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s, confirmed that Buss dressed like this. “When I think of an animal when I see Jerry Buss, peacock always enters my head. Just the way that chest hair is always exploding out of the top of his unbuttoned buttons. He’s just so magical,” he told me.

I wanted to know if, over the course of his reporting, Pearlman had gotten a sense of how Buss thought of his fashion. Lakers coach Pat Riley obviously would go on to be known for strutting around in Armani, but did the team’s owner have any distinct philosophy? “The funny thing is, I don’t think he thought about it. He was a jeans and open-button shirt guy,” he told me. So dressing like that even when he was worth all that money wasn’t a power movie?

“I think it was just who he was. He wasn’t a corporate guy,” Pearlman said. “He always viewed himself as a guy from Wyoming. I don’t think it was a power move, I think it was an authentic way of dressing. I don’t think he gave a shit about what people thought.”

May your thoughts be as unbothered—and your shirts, as unbuttoned.

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