Reel/Real Impact: Saturday Night Fever–Fashion and Zeitgeist

John Travolta’s white polyester suit with open-collared shirt and gold neck chains became popular for decades after the film was made. At present, it gets laughs, but in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the suit was emblematic of its times.

Travolta’s Tony Manero was an attempt to capture the look of New York’s “bridge-and-tunnel” night clubbers, folks who commuted from Brooklyn, New Jersey and such to trip the light fantastic in Manhattan.

But “Saturday Night Fever” did more than that–it defined the whole disco era. For more on the polyester disco look, see “Boogie Nights,” which is begins in the same era (late 1970s) and goes through the early 1980s.

Both Travolta and Mark Wahlberg in “Boogie Nights” played iconic characters that touched a chord with the public because they went beyond the specific stories in which they were contained.