Steve Buscemi as Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, Atlantic City’s corrupt treasurer and gangster
Atlantic City, January 1920 through August 1921
Series: Boardwalk Empire
Costume Designer: John A. Dunn
To pay tribute to the return of Boardwalk Empire for its final season and recognize the current Gilt Groupe promotion that I’ll discuss, today’s post covers one of the most recognizable suits worn by the show’s protagonist, Enoch “Nucky” Thompson.
I was originally going to write about a different suit (you’ll never know which one!) but came across this promotion from Gilt Groupe while browsing Facebook. The “Dress Like a Boss” promotion states:
One of the most talked-about aspects of the HBO hit show is the costumes, especially the razor-sharp tailoring.
Enter our giveaway for a chance to win an authentic suit straight from the set, worn by the character Nucky Thompson.
While I couldn’t find anything explicitly stating which suit would be given away, the photo accompanying the promotion is the one used to the right with Nucky staring intently in “The Ivory Tower” in a brown and pink check suit. I figured this was as good a time as any to talk about this very noticeable suit.
(Good luck to any and all who decide to enter!)
What’d He Wear?
Brown and pink suits are certainly not unwelcome in Nucky’s closet, as previous posts make perfectly clear. This suit in particular is used to reintroduce Nucky’s character in “The Ivory Tower” on the heels of the brilliant pilot episode. Like Nucky, the suit is flashy but sharp; ostentatious but not without class. It perfectly defines his role as the shady city treasurer-cum-bootlegger for the first two seasons before becoming a full-fledged gangster. Thus, it is all the more appropriate that the last time Nuck wears the suit is during his impromptu marriage to Margaret in “To the Lost” just before the fateful act that changed the direction of the show and broke many fans’ hearts.
Even without looking at the other clothing and accessories involved, the suit itself is very busy looking. It can best be described as brown wool with a rust brown vertical stripes and salmon pink horizontal stripes crossing to form an overcheck. In my opinion, this would serve best as a cooler weather suit for fall or spring, but Nucky also wears it in August 1921 when tying the knot.
The jacket is single-breasted with notch lapels and a high-fastening 2-button stance. Like many jackets of this era, it has a long, squared fit and a closely-spaced high button stance to offer a long, clean look from the chest down. The natural shoulders and roped sleeveheads were also very characteristic of sack suit coats of the early 20th century.
The details of the jacket are very traditional and country-inspired with patch pockets and a long single rear vent reinforced with the left side flapping over the right. The most distinctive feature of this jacket, also found on several other of Nucky’s suits, is the “throwback” Edwardian detail of half-cuffed sleeves with four buttons. These “turnback” cuffs are a hallmark of traditional-inspired bespoke suits, even showing up on James Bond’s dinner jacket in Dr. No.
Nucky’s vest (or waistcoat) is single-breasted with six dark brown buttons and a notched bottom. The buttons are placed on a relatively low stance to show off the shirt and tie underneath. The four welted pockets – two on the chest, two lower – slant slightly inward. Nucky wears his gold watch on a gold chain looped through the fourth button; the watch sits in his lower right pocket, the fob emerges from the lower left.
The rear lining of the vest is deep lavender silk with a matching adjustable strap.
The suit’s trousers are flat front with a high rise, hiding the waistband under the vest, and cuffed bottoms. There are on-seam side pockets and jetted rear pockets that close with a button.
Nucky’s trousers are likely worn with suspenders due to the fishmouth rear with its adjustable tab. We don’t see them, but – if the rest of the outfit is any indication – you can be assured that they’re somewhat flashy.
Nucky wears a number of different shirts with this suit, all with rounded double cuffs made from the same material as the shirt and fastened up the sleeves with white gauntlet buttons. Each shirt is also paired with a white detachable “keyhole” tab collar, based on the Tyfold collar developed about twenty years earlier (as covered in his Easter suit post). His collar is always firmly held in place under the tie knot with a gold bar.
The first shirt, seen in “The Ivory Tower” (Ep. 1.02) is salmon, calling out the horizontal stripes in the suit overcheck, with gold disc cuff links. Nucky pairs this shirt with a copper-colored paisley silk tie.
When the suit next appears in the second season, Nucky opts for more complex patterned shirts. The first is pale lavender with a repeating circular pattern throughout (in “What Does the Bee Do?” and “Two Boats and a Lifeguard”) and the second, which he wears for his wedding, is comprised of pink squares (in “To the Lost”). His second season cuff links are silver-colored clusters.
Nucky’s ties in the second season are also more varied and complex. In “What Does the Bee Do?”, he wears another paisley tie in lavender and pink silk. Four episodes later, in “Two Boats and a Lifeguard”, he wears a cream gold silk tie with blue four-pointers surrounded by an ornate red floral pattern. Both of these ties are worn with the pale lavender shirt.
For his wedding outfit in “To the Lost”, Nucky wears a pale blue silk tie with red and cream-colored floral wreaths.
Nucky’s light brown leather balmorals are featured very prominently in an establishing shot in “The Ivory Tower”. They have brown waxed laces through the 6-eyelet quarters. Nucky also wears very distinctive socks; a pair of thin maroon dress socks with a white triple stripe and – further back on the foot – a red stripe broken up with blue and white blocks. Chances are that you’d need to get your socks custom-made if you want a pair just like these.
However, a shot of Nucky in the yard with Margaret’s children in “To the Lost” reveals a pair of brown and white leather spectator shoes with a pair of gray or taupe socks.
Since this suit gets most of its wear in the winter, Nucky usually wears it with a homburg and wool overcoat. The first season homburg is dark brown felt with a high, pinched crown. In the second season, specifically in “What Does the Bee Do?”, his homburg is pearl gray with a wide gray grosgrain band.
His camelhair overcoat has a 6×3-button double-breasted front with natural shoulders, slanted side pockets, cuffed sleeves, and a pinched back over a semi-belted waist.
In “Two Boats and a Lifeguard”, set during the summer of 1921, Nucky wears this suit with a straw boater. The boater’s ribbon is striped with black, cream, and tan stripes.
And, of course, Nucky never ventures out into public without his red boutonnière pinned to his left lapel.
Go Big or Go Home
Gilt Groupe is giving you the chance to do just that! Once you get a suit like this, there’s really not much else you need to do to fill Nuck’s shoes. (Literally.)
Of course, you could always conduct business like Nuck. Get an ornate, wood-paneled office in a prominent downtown hotel, stock your liquor cabinet well, and berate your subordinates while getting your shoes shined. For an extra bit of mise-en-scène, get an organist to tinkle away at “Onward Christian Soldier” or “Old Comrades” as you do so. Ideally, the man you just fired will delight in the fact that you just gave him an “Ivory Tower”-style shitcanning and won’t take revenge on you.
How to Get the Look
You’re not gonna find this on the rack. You might get very lucky at a Goodwill, though…
- Brown wool suit with a rust brown and salmon pink overcheck, consisting of:
- Single-breasted long jacket with notch lapels, high stance 2-button front, patch breast pocket, patch hip pockets, 4-button “turnback” cuffs, and long single rear vent
- Single-breasted vest with 6-button front, four welted pockets, notched bottom, adjustable rear strap, and lavender silk lining
- Flat front high-rise trousers with on-seam side pockets, button-through jetted rear pockets, fishmouth rear for suspenders, and cuffed bottoms
- Salmon-colored shirt with white detachable keyhole-tab collar and attached double/French cuffs
- Copper-colored paisley silk necktie
- Gold collar bar
- Gold disc-shaped cuff links
- Flashy suspenders
- Light brown leather 6-eyelet cap toe balmorals
- Maroon striped socks
- Gold pocket watch, worn through the vest’s 4th buttonhole and kept in the lower right pocket with a fob in the lower left pocket
- Dark brown homburg with grosgrain band and tall, pinched crown
- Camelhair double-breasted 6×3-button overcoat with pinched back, semi-belted rear, and slanted side pockets
Pin that red boutonnière to your lapel, and you’re all set!
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Buy the show. This suit is featured throughout the first two seasons, with most of these screenshots coming from episodes 1.02, 2.04, 2.08, and 2.12. (Let me know if he wore it in other season 1 episodes, especially if they feature better shots of the clothing than you see here. I lost some of my screenshots, unfortunately, and I want to be as thorough and accurate as possible.)
Nucky’s exchange with Jimmy from “The Ivory Tower” is a great example of this show starting strong by establishing its roles and relationships through one great scene of dialogue. What could’ve been a typical “you-went-behind-my-back-you-rat” piece of gangster talk becomes a solid, memorable, and witty exchange between two very determined men in two very desperate situations.
Nucky: What are you doing?
Jimmy: It’s 4:30. I’m clocking in.
Nucky: Just like that? I’d say our relationship has changed rather significantly in the past few days. Wouldn’t you agree?
Jimmy: You tell me.
Nucky: Actually, why don’t you tell me? You can start with what the fuck happened the other night. How’s that?
Jimmy: (sits) All right.
Nucky: Did I invite you to sit?
Jimmy: Me and Al, we got to talking about life.
Nucky: Who’s Al?
Jimmy: Capone. He works for Johnny Torrio.
Nucky: The chubby kid?
Nucky: Did Torrio sanction this?
Jimmy: Only after the fact. It was my idea. Mine and Al’s. We got to talking about life, family, money. He’s got a little boy of his own.
Nucky: Young children at home and there’s no goddamn accountability whatsoever.
Jimmy: I said I was sorry, Nuck.
Nucky: Really? When was that?
Jimmy: I’m sorry. I thought it would be easy, okay? Get the drop on them, swipe the truck. No one would get hurt.
Nucky: And me? Where’d I figure in?
Jimmy: It would have never been traced back to you.
Nucky: Well, guess what? A fed came in to see me this morning, standing right where you are now, asking questions about Saturday night.
Jimmy: What’d you tell him?
Nucky: To bugger himself. What the fuck do you think?
Jimmy: There were deer in the woods. Al got spooked, he started shooting.
Nucky: So you kill four fucking guys?
Nucky: Actually, there were four, but let’s not quibble over that little detail, shall we?
Jimmy: We couldn’t leave any witnesses, Nuck.
Nucky: Fucking idiot.
Jimmy: I screwed up, okay? I’m sorry. I’m gonna make it up to you. I’ll work extra hours.
Nucky: Whoa, hold on there. Wait a second. You don’t work for me anymore. Let’s get that straight right now. And you made that decision, not me.
Jimmy: Well, who’s gonna drive you?
Nucky: What’s the difference? You wanna be a gangster, kid? Go be a gangster. But if you want to be a gangster in my town, then you’ll pay me for the privilege. That envelope you gave me, “my end”?… According to my calculations, you’re three grand short.
Jimmy: What do you mean?
Nucky: Are you deaf and stupid? You pull a stunt like that, ass-fuck me with Arnold Rothstein in the process, you owe me another three grand.
Jimmy: Nucky, I spent most of the money.
Nucky: Three thousand dollars. You got forty-eight hours.