Robert Shaw’s Charcoal Pinstripe Poker Suit in The Sting
Robert Shaw as Doyle Lonnegan, conniving Irish-American mob boss and poker host
New York to Chicago, September 1936
Film: The Sting
Release Date: December 25, 1973
Director: George Roy Hill
Costume Designer: Edith Head
Tomorrow would have been the 87th birthday of actor, novelist, and definitive screen villain Robert Shaw. Shaw, who kicked ass in such great films as From Russia With Love, The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3, and Jaws, memorably played “the mark” in The Sting.
As the ruthlessly evil antagonist to Paul Newman and Robert Redford’s happy-go-lucky band of con artists, Shaw was a menacing and stylish businessman-cum-mobster who would stop at nothing to violently avenge even the slightest offense:
You see that fella in the red sweather over there? His name’s Donnie McCoy. Works a few of the protection rackets for Cunnaro when he’s waiting for something better to happen. Donnie and I have known each other since we were six. Take a good look at that face, Floyd. Because if he ever finds out I can be beat by one lousy grifter, I’ll have to kill him and every other hood who wants to muscle in on my Chicago operation.
Earlier in the film, Lonnegan lost just over a thousand dollars to Johnny Hooker (Redford) and his aging mentor Luther in a pigeon drop on the streets of Joliet. After Lonnegan ordered Luther’s death, Hooker teams up with a new aging mentor – Henry Gondorff (Newman) – to get back at Lonnegan. The first act of their revenge is set on board the 20th Century Limited, where Lonnegan hosts a high-stakes poker game.
What’d He Wear?
Lonnegan’s costuming sets himself apart from the film’s other characters. While the protagonists Gondorff and Hooker often sport single-breasted, three-piece suits, Lonnegan is decked out in true ’30s gangster fashion with double-breasted suits with knife-sharp peak lapels. Businessman that he is, Lonnegan almost always wears suits in various shades of gray to evoke business, but he accessorizes luxuriously to wink to the world and let everyone know he wields quite a bit more power than the average banker. (While Shaw looks awesomely lethal in these suits, credit is due to master costumer Edith Head, who won one of many well-deserved Oscars for her work on The Sting.)
Lonnegan hosts his 20th Century Limited poker game in a charcoal pinstripe wool double-breasted suit. His fellow players, mostly industrialists and lawyers, all fit in with their own business suits, but Lonnegan ensures that his look dominates with its dangerously wide peak lapels.
The double-breasted jacket has a 6×2 button front, but – like the gray pinstripe suit he wears later in the film – he only fastens the bottom button, keeping the luxurious sweep of the jacket’s large lapels across his torso intact. The lapels have long gorges slanting inward toward the center of the chest. Together with the padded shoulders, the large lapels have the desired imposing effect.
The jacket is ventless with flapped hip pockets and a welted breast pocket, which is embellished by a white silk point-folded handkerchief.
Lonnegan’s suit trousers are generously cut like his others in the film and in keeping with the fashion of the era. The front has double reverse pleats, and the bottoms are cuffed with turn-ups. There are on-seam side pockets and jetted rear pockets that button.
Interestingly, the trousers were designed to be worn with either a belt or suspenders. Belt loops accomodate the first option, while a small fishmouth rear with two small outer buttons allow for the latter.
Of the two options, Lonnegan indeed opts for suspenders, wearing a striped set in this scene. The suspenders have seven stripes, alternating between dark red and light gray, with brown leather fittings. They fasten to the rear waistline of the trousers with the two small outer buttons and inside the waistband of the front.
Lonnegan wears a white shirt with small dark blue dots scattered over the shirt. The dots are organized so that if one were to play connect-the-dots on Lonnegan’s shirt (something he’d likely consider a capital offense), it would create a grid pattern. The lightweight shirt buttons down a front placket and has a large spread collar and double/French cuffs, through which Lonnegan wears flat silver rectangle cuff links.
Underneath, Lonnegan clearly wears a white short-sleeve undershirt.
His tie is navy blue silk with large cream-colored polka dots, tied in a half Windsor knot. This is an inversion of the white shirt with its small blue dots. A large diamond stickpin anchors the tie about an inch or two below the knot.
Lonnegan wears a pair of black leather balmorals and black dress socks, only seen when leaving the LaSalle Street Station with Hooker and his thugs.
Also seen as Lonnegan leaves the station is his distinctive buttonless camel hair overcoat. As I mentioned in my previous Lonnegan post, these coats were a major trend in the mid-1930s – particularly in Chicago – with a belted sash in lieu of buttons. In an ironic twist, the buttonless coats were manufactured to reduce costs during the Great Depression, but were marketed as luxurious alternatives to wealthy gentlemen who could actually afford more expensive coats.
Lonnegan’s overcoat has large lapels (like his suits), a long rear vent, and flapped patch pockets on his hips. He wears a black homburg during the ride home as well as a pair of pearl gray suede dress gloves.
Lonnegan wears a flat, all-gold wristwatch with a round case and expanding bracelet. His other accessory, a large diamond ring on the third finger of his left hand, matches his tie stickpin.
This suit and tie were auctioned in November 2013 by Bonhams as Lot 123 in TCM New York’s “What Dreams Are Made Of: A Century of Movie Magic at Auction” set. The outfit sold for a total of $4,750 and was described as:
A charcoal gray and white pinstripe double-breasted wool suit with labels on each piece from Cotroneo Costume with the typed inscription, “Robert Show [sic].” Together with a navy and white polka-dot silk tie (unlabeled) and a white shirt made by Gino Pool, not believed to be screen worn.
The auction description is correct; the shirt was not screen-worn, at least not by Robert Shaw.
How to Get the Look
Whether you’re heading into a business meeting or a poker game, Lonnegan’s charcoal pinstripe suit is sure to intimidate any competition (unless you’re facing off against Paul Newman).
- Charcoal pinstripe wool two-piece suit, consisting of:
- Double-breasted jacket with wide peak lapels, 6×2-button front, 3-button cuffs, welted breast pocket, flapped hip pockets, padded shoulders, and ventless rear
- Double reverse-pleated trousers with belt loops and suspender buttons, on-seam side pockets, button-through jetted rear pockets, and wide cuffed bottoms (turn-ups)
- White (with dark blue dots) dress shirt with large spread collars, white buttons down front placket, breast pocket, and double/French cuffs
- Navy blue silk necktie with cream polka dots
- Diamond stickpin
- Black leather balmorals
- Black dress socks
- Dark red and light gray striped suspenders with light brown leather fittings
- Black homburg with a black grosgrain ribbon
- Camel hair buttonless overcoat with large lapels, belt sash, flapped patch hip pockets, and long rear vent
- Pearl gray suede dress gloves
- Silver ring with large diamond on 3rd finger of left hand
- All-gold wristwatch with expanding bracelet on left wrist
Lonnegan also wears a white linen handkerchief in his jacket’s breast pocket.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Buy the movie.
What was I supposed to do? Call him for cheating better than me in front of the others?