Goodfellas – Henry Hill’s Wedding Suit
Ray Liotta as Henry Hill, New York mob associate and briefly-loyal husband
New York, Summer 1964
Release Date: September 19, 1990
Director: Martin Scorsese
Costume Designer: Richard Bruno
After years of introspection and deep, deep soul-searching, I have determined that Goodfellas is my favorite film. Thus, when my inevitable wedding day is here, I’ll invite every Peter, Paul, and Marie I know and get a huge bag ready for envelopes that better be filled with cash. I’ll also invite Joe Pesci, just for good measure.
What’d He Wear?
Henry heads up to the chuppah in a slick black three-piece suit for his wedding to Karen. Given Karen’s heritage and her family’s staunch Judiasm, he had previously converted to her faith and thus wears a white yarmulke for the actual ceremony. Evidently, he had agreed on a Jewish ceremony if they could have an insanely Italian reception. Which, I can gladly tell you from experience, it is.
As this is a short scene and Henry is mostly covered by a table or his wife through most of it, we don’t see a lot of the suit, but it definitely consists of a double-breasted jacket, vest, and trousers with plain-hemmed bottoms.
The double-breasted jacket has a 4-on-2 button front. This pattern requires all four buttons to be aligned, creating a square if one were to play connect the dots using the buttons. This style was very popular in the mid-1960s.
The jacket also has slim peak lapels, 3-button cuffs, and a welted breast pocket, which houses the white silk handkerchief, folded into two display points. Henry also wears a large white carnation on his left lapel.
Henry’s white shirt has French cuffs and the very large “spearpoint” collar that have become informally known in fan circles as “Goodfellas collars” due to their popularity among the film’s gangsters. According to ShortList.com, Scorsese’s parents Charles and Catherine, who were on set every day, pressed all of the gangsters’ shirt collars in the film. Why? Scorsese says they were the only ones who “knew how to do it properly”.
Underneath the large collar is an ivory-colored narrow silk necktie that has very thin spotted beige stripes from the right shoulder down to the left hip.
Henry’s footwear is best seen when he is breaking the glass with his right foot, a custom that traditionally symbolized the sorrow over destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem. His shoes are black horsebit slip-0n loafers with brass rings, rather than the usual snaffle bit, on either side of the strap. He wears black ribbed dress socks with the loafers. Horsebit loafers were introduced by Gucci in March 1953. They would be considered too flashy and informal for most weddings, but most weddings are not gangster weddings.
Henry receives an additional piece of jewelry, his plain gold wedding band, on this day. He wears it throughout the film on his left ring finger. He also still wears his usual pinky ring on his right hand.
Go Big or Go Home – Wedding Edition
Although the real Henry and Karen skipped down to North Carolina to exchange their vows in August 1965, the film has them married more conventionally, first with a small Jewish ceremony followed by a massive Italian reception in a banquet hall, probably somewhere in Long Island.
We don’t see much of their wedding ceremony other than the guests and the ceremonial glass-breaking. The traditional Jewish wedding ceremony is known as chuppah, which is also the name of the canopy the bride and groom stand under when the groom places a ring on the bride’s finger.
Henry is seen drinking red wine at the reception. We can assume that a fully-stocked open bar was available here, with the gang’s favorites – J&B Scotch (Henry), Crown Royal (Tommy), and Budweiser (Jimmy) – in abundance.
We don’t see the maker of Henry’s wine, but his family drinks Bolla later, during the frantic May 11, 1980 sequence, so offering Bolla at your wedding would be a fine choice. (My favorite moderately-priced Italian red, FYI, is Ruffino Chianti Classico.)
Paulie and his brothers had lots of sons and nephews. And almost all of them were named Peter or Paul. It was unbelievable. There must have been two dozen Peters and Pauls at the wedding. Plus, they were all married to girls named Marie. And they named all their daughters Marie.
For a true Goodfellas style wedding, you’ll need to invite a bunch of wiseguys from the neighborhood. The kind of guys that would only name their kids Peter, Paul, and Marie. Ideally, you’ll be able to see your reflection in their suits as they’re walking in the door.
The Harptones’ “Life is But a Dream”, a doo wop hit from 1955, plays as Henry and Karen dance. The Harptones was a very successful and influential doo wop group led by tenor Willie Winfield, who is still leading the group today, more than sixty years after it was formed. Pianist and baritone Raoul Cita is the only other band member who has been around since the group’s formation and has arranged most of their songs.
How to Get the Look
The real Henry wore black tie for his wedding celebration, but the film’s Henry opts for a fashionable but low-key (for a gangster) suit that reflects the solemnity of the day without being too somber:
- Black wool three-piece suit, consisting of:
- Double-breasted 4-on-2-button jacket with slim peak lapels, welted breast pocket, and 3-button cuffs
- Single-breasted vest
- Trousers with plain-hemmed bottoms
- White dress shirt with large “spearpoint” collar and double/French cuffs
- Ivory tie with thin beige R-down-to-L spotted stripes
- Black leather horsebit slip-on loafers
- Black ribbed dress socks
- Plain gold wedding band
- White silk handkerchief, folded into breast pocket
- White carnation, pinned to left lapel
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
After Karen worries about the fate of their boost bag (which probably holds close to a million dollars in cash), Henry coolly laughs it off:
Don’t worry. Nobody’s going to steal that here.
He didn’t tell her that if anyone did try and steal it, they would end up scattered inside the trunk of an Impala and dumped in the East River.
National Geographic, of all things, had a great little Q&A with the real Henry a few years ago before he died. During many of his later interviews, Henry tried to deconstruct the myth of him as a “goodfella” and admitted to taking part—at least as an accessory—in many more murders than the film showed. He also offers this advice to young people who aspire to be criminals:
Forget about it. Stay in school.
The contrast between the Hollywood version and the real deal is perpetually offered but rarely remembered. The mob makes for great modern-day Shakespeare, but nothing about it remotely resembles real wiseguys.
The first thing you notice, and the centerpiece of your lasting impression of them, is that they always stand way too close to you — like they’re getting ready to pick your pocket, stick a gun in your ribs, or say some outrageous and totally unexpected thing just to see your reaction. Even to their lawyers. Even when they’re in orange prison jumpsuits and leg-irons. Even when they’re in their 70s and 80s. Even when they’re long-retired from “the life” and cutting hair for a living. Always probing for the weakness, the way to get to you, the way to flatter you or intimidate you into giving something up — even when they don’t actually want anything. That sleazy con-man thug instinct grafted itself onto their DNA. They don’t know how else to act. Getting over on people is like heroin to them. If you have any experience with heroin addicts, you know exactly what I mean. They’ll do and say anything to get what they want from you. Cloyingly obsequious one instant, vein-popping enraged the next, and back again. Telling you what you want to hear, then what you don’t want to hear, and then robbing you blind the moment you’re not looking. And they may completely love you the whole time.
The only on-screen depiction of a wiseguy that I’ve seen that seemed to capture it was Robert Costanzo’s Alphonse Giardella in the first season of NYPD Blue.
Love your analysis. I think everyone knows a few neighborhood guys, and your description hits the nail on the head. It’s easy to feel like you’re in their circle, when really they’re just seeing what you can do for them. Lying and manipulation comes as easy as breathing to them. Sure, they’re not all violent guys (some more than others, definitely), but the ones who aren’t smart enough to play people are the ones who indiscriminately break heads.
When I read these guys’ stories, particularly first hand ones like Henry’s follow-ups to Wiseguy or Joe Bonanno’s autobiography, it’s not so much to read about what happened but to read about how they describe themselves and their surroundings. The movies that show ordinary-guy-becomes-wrapped-up-in-the-mob-world do not ring true. The true stories are about the guys who loved to steal or lie growing up and found a home with the other sociopaths in organized crime.
Always glad to hear from you. Costanzo is a great underrated actor who made a lot of movies memorable with his smaller roles. Probably one of the hardest-working guys out there too; I’d swear he’s done at least 10 shows or movies each year since the mid ’70s!
Stylish and Purposeful, pin collar shirt is one of several collar styles offered for men. The main purpose of pin collar is dual: first the pin brings the collar tabs closer, making for an exclusive, attractive appearance and, second, the pin props up the knot of the tie which makes the necktie more noticeable. It’s always great to wear ties with pinned collar dress shirts. In addition, never wear a collar pin dress shirt without a tie. It looks ludicrous.