[  The Smokey and the Bandit II Jacket Legend “Special Jackets made for Special People”  Arguably, the red “Bandit” jacket that Burt Reynolds wore in the movie Smokey and the Bandit II is perhaps the most remembered item associated with the movie, besides of course, the 1980 Black and Gold Special Edition Trans Am. Everyone wanted to drive one of those black Trans Ams and everyone wanted to wear one of those cool red Bandit jackets. While much is known about the Bandit Trans Am, not much is known about the Bandit jacket.   However, with a lot of help from some very knowledgeable and friendly folks, I was able to gather some interesting facts about these rare jackets that I’d like to share. ​   THE WATKINS JACKET PEDIGREE   The original movie jacket worn by Burt Reynolds in the movie Smokey and the Bandit II was made by Jim Watkins Designs. Watkins jackets were all the rage in the ‘70s and ‘80s. According to an article in the May 23, 1977 edition of People Magazine, Watkins jackets were “Special Jackets made for Special People” and he outfitted movie stars, rock stars, astronauts, and even presidents with his trendy jackets.       THE FIRST WATKINS JACKET   The first Watkins Racing Jackets were made out of silver aluminized nylon with a unique NASA spacesuit coating and lightweight lining to provide perfect year round comfort. They came embroidered with your choice of colorful car insignia (Ferrari, Porsche, BMW, Mercedes, Corvette, and Jaguar) on the right sleeve and a U.S. flag on the left sleeve. It didn’t take long for the popularity of these jackets to take root, and soon Watkins was making jackets with other custom car names, filling rock band requests for exclusive tour jackets, and creating other unique jacket designs.   
The Smokey and the Bandit II Jacket Legend“Special Jackets made for Special People” BURT REYNOLDS WEARING THE RED BANDIT II JACKET Arguably, the red “Bandit” jacket that Burt Reynolds wore in the movie Smokey and the Bandit II is perhaps the most remembered item associated with the movie, besides of course, the 1980 Black and Gold Special Edition Trans Am. Everyone wanted to drive one of those black Trans Ams and everyone wanted to wear one of those cool red Bandit jackets. While much is known about the Bandit Trans Am, not much is known about the Bandit jacket. However, with a lot of help from some very knowledgeable and friendly folks, I was able to gather some interesting facts about these rare jackets that I’d like to share. THE WATKINS JACKET PEDIGREE The original movie jacket worn by Burt Reynolds in the movie Smokey and the Bandit II was made by Jim Watkins Designs. Watkins jackets were all the rage in the ‘70s and ‘80s. According to an article in the May 23, 1977 edition of People Magazine, Watkins jackets were “Special Jackets made for Special People” and he outfitted movie stars, rock stars, astronauts, and even presidents with his trendy jackets.   THE FIRST WATKINS JACKET The first Watkins Racing Jackets were made out of silver aluminized nylon with a unique NASA spacesuit coating and lightweight lining to provide perfect year round comfort. They came embroidered with your choice of colorful car insignia (Ferrari, Porsche, BMW, Mercedes, Corvette, and Jaguar) on the right sleeve and a U.S. flag on the left sleeve. It didn’t take long for the popularity of these jackets to take root, and soon Watkins was making jackets with other custom car names, filling rock band requests for exclusive tour jackets, and creating other unique jacket designs.  BURT REYNOLDS WEARING THE SILVER HOOPER JACKET Burt Reynolds first wore a Watkins jacket in the 1978 movie *Hooper. The Hooper jacket was silver with “Firebird” on the right sleeve and a U.S. flag on the left sleeve. The Hooper jacket served as the precursor for the Bandit jacket, and like the red Bandit jackets, the silver Hooper jackets are extremely rare. Jim Watkins had a long standing partnership with Hal Needham, the director of Hooper and the Smokey and the Bandit films, so it was no surprise that Needham asked Watkins to make a special jacket for his Smokey and the Bandit II movie. Needham really wanted the Bandit jackets to stand out from other jackets (including the Hooper jacket), so he suggested they be red. * Michael Jackson reportedly saw Burt Reynolds wearing the Watkins silver “Firebird” jacket in the movie Hooper and just had to have one. Michael ended up getting a custom made silver jacket with Mercedes on the right sleeve and an eight ball on the left sleeve. Accordingly, the Watkins Smokey and the Bandit II movie jackets were made out of red nylon material from Brookwood Roll Goods. The red nylon material had a special coating applied for comfort and waterproofing which was heat cured while moving through an oven about 200 feet long. It took about 2500 yards of raw material to get the 2 yards required to make a complete jacket. State of the art Swiss embroidery machines were used to meticulously embroider the spools of gold cotton twill needed to produce the iconic emblems and letters for the sleeves. The original Watkins Bandit jacket design did not have any breast pockets and the initial lot of jackets was made without breast pockets. However, subsequent lots of the jacket were made with a Velcro pocket on the left breast, perhaps because of an unexpected availability of material. Burt had 2 personal jackets made (at least 1 without breast pockets), 1 for use in Florida and 1 in Hollywood. Approximately 41 additional jackets were made (some with and without breast pockets) for second camera teams, stunts, stand-ins, and close-ups in the movie, and Burt reportedly used some for gifts.  WATKINS DESIGN BANDIT JACKET (FRONT) The red Watkins “Bandit” jackets used for the movie had a black diamond pattern liner. A Velcro fastener on the collar. A Watkins and Roadshow label on the collarBlack elastic cuffs with a Watkins patch sewn into the right cuff.Gold Mylar lettering “Bandit” on the left sleeve (Camera flashes made the letters look white in some pictures).Gold Mylar lettering “Trans Am” on the right sleeve with “By Pontiac” below (Camera flashes made the letters look white in some pictures). A traditional Firebird on the right breast. A Velro pocket on the left breast of some jackets. A black pull ring on the zipper (YKK on the ring).  WATKINS DESIGN BANDIT JACKET (BACK) According to Watkins, Burt requested that "LOVE BURT" be embroidered in the right inside lining of a few jackets so that he could use them as gifts for some of his close Hollywood friends. Whether or not Burt actually presented these jackets as gifts to co-stars Sally Field, Jerry Reed, director Hal Needham or other celebrity friends like David Niven hasn’t been verified.   COMDA SPORTS WEAR CREW JACKETS Another company, Comda Sportswear, made approximately 100 jackets for the Smokey and the Bandit II crew. Unconfirmed reports say that some of these jackets were also sold by Pontiac dealers (perhaps under Avon Sportswear). These jackets were also red, but had white lettering, with the lettering and Firebird in a reverse pattern. The crew jacket had a red inside liner. White lettering Trans Am on the left sleeve with By Pontiac below. White lettering Bandit on the right sleeve. Turbo like Firebird on the left breast. CAST AND CREW OF SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT II(BURT WITH WATKINS JACKET – CREW WITH COMDA JACKETS) While both the Smokey and the Bandit II movie and crew jackets are rare and collectable, the Watkins movie jackets are truly special. With only about 43 made, not many have been seen over the past 30 years. And to add an air of mystery to these jackets, some of them were apparently appropriated during filming of the Smokey and the Bandit II movie. How many jackets still exist is unknown.  BURT REYNOLDS AND FRIENDS MUSEUM Burt had one of his original Bandit jackets displayed in his Burt Reynolds and Friends Museum in Jupiter, Florida before it was closed, (the Holy Grail of Bandit jackets) and a few have purportedly been offered on eBay and other auction sites, but the authenticity of some of these jackets is dubious. Unfortunately, like the Black and Gold Special Edition “Bandit” Trans Am, Watkins jackets were often cloned or copied. And if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Burt certainly had his share of admirers. During the Smokey and the Bandit heyday, a character named Sasha Gabor used to impersonate Burt Reynolds at various venues. Promoters that couldn’t afford Burt used Sasha at state and county fairs - he even appeared at some Pontiac dealerships. Sasha drove the requisite Black and Gold “Bandit” Trans Am, wore a cowboy hat, and you guessed it – even wore a red Bandit jacket. Whether or not the red jacket Sasha wore was an authentic Watkins movie jacket or, if like Sasha himself, was an imitation of the real thing is something perhaps only Sasha would know for sure.    JULIEN’S AUCTIONBURT REYNOLDS "SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT" SIGNED JACKET  Just like the Black and Gold Special Edition “Bandit” Trans Ams, Bandit jackets should be closely scrutinized to ensure authenticity if you are looking for the real deal. A Watkins Bandit jacket that can be properly authenticated will usually command a premium price. Recent auction prices of the few original jackets that exist can attest to this. While obtaining an original vintage Watkins or even a Comda/Avon jacket might be an unlikely prospect for most of us, there is a glimmer of hope that we can soon get the next best thing. Mr. Watkins is considering making retro Bandit jackets using the same material and production methods as the original if demand is strong enough. And since Mr. Watkins is the original maker of the red Bandit jackets, you can rest assured that the retro jackets will be of the highest quality and possess the true Bandit spirit. For those of us who regard the red jacket as the epitome of Smokey and the Bandit paraphernalia, this is great news. If you are interested in getting a retro Bandit jacket, please contact Mr. Jim Watkins at:____________ Well, hopefully I’ve been able to enlighten you a bit regarding the legendary Smokey and the Bandit II jackets and helped you gain an appreciation for these iconic pieces of automotive and movie history. Armed with this knowledge, if you ever come across a silver Pontiac "Hooper" or red Trans Am "Bandit" jacket you should be able to determine if it is a Watkins movie jacket, a Comda/Avon crew jacket, or Bandit tribute jacket. And if the jacket has "WITH LOVE BURT" embroidered on the right front inside lining, you could have come across a very “Special Jacket made for Special People”. Paul M. Aguilar