Nucky Thompson’s Red, White, and Blue

Steve Buscemi as

Steve Buscemi as “Nucky” Thompson in “The Emerald City”, episode 1.10 of Boardwalk Empire.

Happy 4th of July to all American followers of BAMF Style. If you’re a British follower… sorry… you guys aren’t still mad about that, are you?

Vitals

Steve Buscemi as Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, corrupt Atlantic City treasurer and Republican political boss

Atlantic City, November 1920

Series: Boardwalk Empire
Episodes:
“The Emerald City” (Episode 1.10, aired November 21, 2010, dir. Simon Cellan Jones)
“A Return to Normalcy” (Episode 1.12, aired December 5, 2010, dir. Tim Van Patten)
“Two Boats and a Lifeguard” (Episode 2.08, aired November 13, 2011, dir. Tim Van Patten)
Costume Designer: John A. Dunn

Background

While our nation may be politically divided today, there is one politician that all of America can agree on: Enoch “Nucky” Thompson.

Based on long-standing and long-corrupt Atlantic City treasurer Enoch Johnson, Boardwalk Empire‘s Nucky has a flair for theatrics, often following his own rule of never letting facts get in the way of a good story. If he can distract voters’ eyes with magic words and a flourish, he’ll do it. Thus, it’s more fitting that a politician like Nucky would dress in a loud red suit like an entertainer when shaking hands with the public.

Nucky most notably wears his red suit in the first and second seasons, sporting it in late summer of both 1920 and 1921, as well as on Election Day in November 1920.

What’d He Wear?

Nucky’s red three-piece suit may be a bit weighty for the 4th of July, but I’ve seen people wear crazier things to celebrate our independence. Nucky himself actually wears the suit in late summer, closer to August in 1920 and 1921. He also chooses it – naturally – as his daytime apparel for Election Day in November 1920.

The material appears to be wool, as most suits of that era were. The show’s costume designers have said that they prefer to use Scottish or English wool, as those are heavier than American fabric today. Unfortunately for Mr. Buscemi, this probably means some very stifling days of filming despite the cool sea air from the boardwalk.

The ground is deep red with a thin light blue windowpane pattern. Although it is a red three-piece suit, it is not as obnoxious as one might expect (okay, some of you might still find it obnoxious). It is certainly a muted tone of red; it still stands out but without being a legitimate eyesore like the one worn by Clifton Powell in Rush Hour. All in all, the suit is a fine example of the vibrant colors used for men’s fashion in the post-WWI years when everyone decided they’d had a little too much drabness lately. You know, with the war and all.

The double-breasted jacket is cut very large with more similarities to the old-fashioned frock coat than the more modern sack coat. Indeed, there are some very Edwardian details, such as the 2″ cuffs on each sleeve, the slanted pockets, and the high and tight button stance. The buttons are black horn, with six in the front (2 to close) and four on each cuff.

Nucky wears his jacket with the buttons closed and open.

Nucky wears his jacket with the buttons closed and open.

The jacket has peak lapels, as most double-breasted suits typically do, and is open in the back with a long single vent. Not only are the flapped hip pockets and ticket pocket slanted, but the breast pocket also slants inward toward the center. The breast pocket is also slightly higher due to the raised button stance. As usual, Nucky has a red carnation fastened to his left lapel. The vibrance of the carnation against the duller red suit provides a further example of just how muted the suit really is.

Nucky’s waistcoat is single-breasted with no lapels. It has six buttons down the front, with each button fastened. Due to its high stance, the vest has a ver long fit, long enough for a 7th button over the notched bottom. There are two pockets. Nucky uses the left pocket for his gold pocketwatch, attached via chain through the 3rd buttonhole.

BEred-mid1

We don’t see much of Nucky’s waistcoat, although he generally wears his jacket open during the first season scenes.

The high-waisted suit trousers have a straight fly and pressed creases down each leg to the turn-ups at the bottom. These cuffed bottoms have a full break, nearly engulfing the back of his shoes.

Nucky typically wears a pair of brown leather plain toe dress shoes with brown laces with this suit.

Although he varies his shirts with the suit, they are all blue plaid with detachable white collars and French cuffs.

Nucky's shirt's look very similar at first glance, but details like the type of plaid and cuff colors mark subtle differences.

Nucky’s shirts look very similar at first glance, but details like the type of plaid and cuff colors mark subtle differences.

In the first season, set in 1920, Nucky pairs this suit with a shirt that is a tight madras in various shades of blue. The white tab collars are detachable, but the French cuffs are the same blue plaid as the rest of the shirt.

In the second season, now set in 1920, Nucky wears a light blue shirt with a small white windowpane check. The white detachable tab collars are back, but this time the shirt also has white French cuffs.

Nucky also continues his habit of wearing ties fastened into place with a gold tie bar. The first tie he wears, when escorting Margaret to the conference of women voters, is brown and blue paisley. For Election Day, 1920, he wears a salmon paisley necktie with blue accents. Finally, when he steps off of the elevator at the Ritz-Carlton in 1921, his tie is a black ground with a grand ornate pattern of gold, red, and white circles and squares.

Man, how many women are gonna go nuts for this set of photos?

Man, how many women are gonna go nuts for this set of photos?

Since he is wearing this heavy suit in typically warm months, Nucky foregoes an overcoat or topcoat. However, he always has a tape felt homburg with a light brown band when wearing this suit around town.

No matter what the situation is, Nucky is always sure to complete his red ensemble with a tan homburg and a red lapel flower.

No matter what the situation is, Nucky is always sure to complete his red ensemble with a tan homburg and a red lapel flower.

A very helpful commenter named Rave shed some details on Nucky’s homburg, clarifying that it is a “silver belly”-colored King’s Lane homburg by Knox with a dark gold band. This American-made hat, according to Rave, can be purchased for $300 from the venerated JJ Hat Center in New York in graphite, mink, and black. According to the site:

The King’s Lane is an open crown homburg with a 5 1/2″ crown that can easily be shaped into the classic homburg style or a variety of other shapes. It sports a 2 1/2″ brim and is constructed with high quality fur felt in a variety of rich colors. An elegant alternative to spice up any look.

Go Big or Go Home

Nucky runs the whole gamut of 1920s suits, from conservative pinstripes to loud red windowpane suits like this. The dark conservative suits are reserved for his more business-like roles, as businessman were – and still tend to be – taken more seriously when they were dressed conservatively. Thus, this red number is one of his “politician” suits. Back in the ’20s, the politicians (especially corrupt ones) were flashy and the gangsters were toned down. Generally, things have reversed as time progressed.

Also, since he’s still a politician, Nucky doesn’t carry a gun, instead letting guys like Jimmy – or even Eddie on occasion – do his dirty work.

While parading up the boardwalk, shaking hands and kissing babies, a brass band goads him on with “Stars and Stripes Forever”, Sousa’s 1897 magnum opus that has been declared the National March of the United States.

Of course, once you’ve won the election, you can party with the crazy music of your choice. Nucky and his gang preferred “Ostrich Walk”, but you might aim for something a little more modern. Honestly, I’m probably more of an “Ostrich Walk” man as well.

How to Get the Look

What’s more American than red, white, and blue? More politicians should sport suits like this nowadays. Since people have learned to stop listening to what they’re saying, we may as well have some reason to pay attention!

BEred-crop1Really, I’m not sure where you can get a suit like this nowadays. It would take a lot of chutzpah to pull off, but hey, good luck!

  • Muted red (with light blue windowpane) wool suit, consisting of:
    • Double-breasted 6-on-2-button long jacket with peak lapels, slanted breast pocket, slanted flapped hip pockets with ticket pocket, 4-button turnback cuffs, and long single vent
    • Single-breasted 6-button vest with two welt pockets
    • High-waisted trousers with turn-ups/cuffs
  • Blue plaid shirt with white detachable collar and double/French cuffs
  • Paisley necktie with earth tones and blue accents
  • Gold tie bar
  • Brown leather plain-toe oxford shoes
  • Taupe felt King’s Lane by Knox homburg with light brown ribbed band
  • Gold pocketwatch, worn in the vest pocket through the 3rd buttonhole

Naturally, don’t forget the finishing touch, a red carnation in your left lapel. Appearances are important.

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Buy the first and second seasons.

To see this red suit in action, check out episodes 1.10 (“The Emerald City”), 1.12 (“A Return to Normalcy”), and 2.08 (“Two Boats and a Lifeguard”). Or buy one yourself and run for office.

The Quote

“Who are you votin’ for, Nuck?”

Ed Bader and the straight Republican ticket! And I suggest you all do the same!

Footnotes

I am always going to recommend this link for any Steve Buscemi post.

7 comments

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  3. rasmusvestergaardjensen

    The pocket Watch chain is actually attached via a seperate buttonhole in between the 3rd and the 4th button on the waistcoat, most of his waistcoats with six buttons also have this extra buttonhole, such as the Brown suit with orange windowpanes and the darkgrey with pink/purple strippes 🙂

    Like

  4. Pingback: Nucky Thompson’s Golf Attire | BAMF Style
  5. Rave

    The Homburg hat is the King’s Lane by Knox, silver belly is the right color and the band is more a dark gold then a brown. Is sold by JJ Hatters in NY and it’s a very beautiful hat, well made and also made in the USA.

    Like

      • Rave

        Weird is that I never saw the show, then I started last night 😄 I bought the hat last week, and I was looking around for choose a shape (is an open crown and I have several homburg). When I have time I will dig in you site, maybe I recognize other hats, I love them. 🙂

        Like

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