Nucky Thompson’s Red, White, and Blue
Happy 4th of July to all American followers of BAMF Style.
Steve Buscemi as Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, corrupt Atlantic City treasurer and Republican political boss
Atlantic City, November 1920
Series: Boardwalk Empire
– “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)
Creator: Terence Winter
Costume Designer: John A. Dunn
Tailor: Martin Greenfield
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 Thompson’s suits run the gamut of 1920s style, from conservative pinstripes to loud suitings like this red windowpane number. 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.
Nucky’s red windowpane flannel 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. The show’s costume designers have said that they prefer to use Scottish or English wool, as those are heavier than modern American fabrics. Unfortunately for Mr. Buscemi, the use of heavy Scottish wool in this suit probably means some very stifling days of filming despite the cool sea air from the boardwalk.
The deep red flannel suit is patterned with a sky blue windowpane check, reflecting the vibrant colors popular in American men’s fashion post-World War I as the country sought to distance itself from the drab uniforms of wartime and embrace the prosperous roaring ’20s. Like all of Nucky’s clothing, this suit was tailored by the illustrious Martin Greenfield of Brooklyn.
The double-breasted jacket has a full fit with long cut, long single vent, and a squared front skirt opening that completely covers the hips when Buscemi closes his jacket, more reflective of the old-fashioned frock coat than the emerging sack coat or lounge suit jacket.
Indeed, the suit jacket is resplendent in Edwardian-inspired details like the two-inch “turnback” cuffs on the ends of each sleeve, the flapped, slanted hacking pockets—including a ticket pocket—and the high and tight button stance, consisting of six black sew-through buttons with two to button.
Unlike the lower two rows of buttons, which create a parallel square formation, the two upper vestigal buttons follow the curve of the peak lapels and are placed about an inch farther out. This high button stance pushes the breast pocket, which slants slightly toward the center buttoning point, higher on the suit coat. Nucky continues the practice of wearing his trademark red carnation pinned to his left lapel, providing a visual contrast between the vibrant flower against the more muted red ground of the suit.
The suit has a matching waistcoat (vest) that closes with six buttons on a single-breasted front with no lapels. While the standard waistcoat practice is for gents to leave the lowest button undone, the high-fastening waistcoat positions the buttons so that all can be comfortably fastened with a considerably long notched bottom where, if there was a seventh button, it would be worn unfastened. The waistcoat has four welted pockets, with Nucky keeping his gold pocket watch in the lower left pocket with the gold chain worn “double Albert” style across his abdomen.
Given the high-fastening jacket and waistcoat, the suit trousers have an appropriately long rise that conceals the waistband under Nucky’s waistcoat. Considering the fashions of the era, they are almost certainly flat front trousers that are held in place with suspenders (braces) that remain unseen under the jacket and waistcoat. The bottoms have turn-ups (cuffs) with a full break that nearly engulf the back of his tan leather plain-toe oxfords.
Nucky wears a variety of shirts with this suit, but they are all shades of blue to call out the sky blue windowpane and all worn with the character’s signature white “keyhole”-cut collar that the costume design team developed specifically for Steve Buscemi to wear in the show’s early seasons.
In the first season, set in 1920, Nucky wears a light blue multi-checked shirt with a front placket and double (French) cuffs made from the same shirting. When escorting Margaret to the conference of women voters in “The Emerald City” (Episode 1.10), he wears a silk tie in mixed brown and blue paisley. Two episodes later, for Election Day 1920 in “A Return to Normalcy” (Episode 1.12), he wears a salmon paisley tie with blue accents.
This suit’s sole appearance during the following season is the eighth episode, “Two Boats and a Lifeguard” (Episode 2.08), set during the summer of 1921. He wears a blue shirt with a small white grid-check, though this shirt’s French cuffs are white. The tie is ornately patterned in a gold, blue, and white repeating pattern of circles and squares against a black ground.
Given the context of this heavy wool three-piece suit’s appearances during warm months, Nucky foregoes an overcoat or topcoat and lets the loud suiting shine, though—like any gentleman in the early 20th century—he never ventures outside sans headgear, in this case a taupe felt homburg with an “old gold” ribbed grosgrain silk band and edges.
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
While parading up the boardwalk, shaking hands and kissing babies, a brass band goads Nucky on with “Stars and Stripes Forever”, John Philip 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!
Really, I’m not sure where you can get a suit like this nowadays (other than buying the actual suit from YourProps.com!)
- Red, with sky blue windowpane check, Scottish woolen flannel suit:
- Double-breasted long jacket with peak lapels, high 6×2-button stance, 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
- Light blue checked shirt with white “keyhole”-cutout detachable collar, front placket, and double/French cuffs
- Gold collar bar
- Gold cuff links
- Paisley necktie with earth tones and blue accents
- Tan leather plain-toe oxford shoes
- Taupe felt King’s Lane by Knox homburg with light brown ribbed band
- Gold pocket watch, worn “double Albert” style in the waistcoat pocket
Naturally, don’t forget the finishing touch, a red carnation in your left lapel. Appearances are important.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out 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.
“Who are you votin’ for, Nuck?”
Ed Bader and the straight Republican ticket! And I suggest you all do the same!
I am always going to recommend this link for any Steve Buscemi post.
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 🙂
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.
Wow, thanks for the detail! I appreciate it and will keep this in mind anytime I see the same homburg on Nucky in any future posts. I incorporated this information into the post.
Weird is that I never saw the show, then I started last night XD 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. 🙂
I have this suit in my movie wardrobe collection. The material is remarkably light, especially when compared to how it appears on-screen. The first time I saw this suit in Season 1, I thought, OMG what the hell is that! However in person, it’s really rather attractive.