Frank Sinatra as Danny Ocean, smooth-talking con man and casino heister
Phoenix to Las Vegas, December 1959
Film: Ocean’s Eleven
Release Date: August 10, 1960
Director: Lewis Milestone
Costume Designer: Howard Shoup
Tailor: Sy Devore
Just because a man is legendary for his tux doesn’t mean he can’t rock a comfortable sweater for more casual activities. When it comes to the Chairman of the Board, there’s no argument.
What’d He Wear?
It may surprise many to know that Frank Sinatra loved the color orange.
Paul Galloway’s Chicago Tribune article, “Sinatra’s Way”, was published in November 1997, six months before the entertainer’s death. In it, he gives a style tip from Bill Zehme, the author of the excellent The Way You Wear Your Hat: Frank Sinatra and the Lost Art of Livin’:
You aren’t threatened by vivid colors. Sinatra loved to wear pink, lavender, lilac. And orange was his favorite.
Knowing that, it makes sense that he would have Danny Ocean enjoying some leisure time in a classic, cool outfit consisting of a white shirt, dark trousers, and an orange sweater.
The Peach Sweater
Sinatra makes his first on-screen appearance in Ocean’s Eleven wearing a luxurious peach-colored fuzzy mohair long-sleeved sweater with a thick ribbed v-neck, cuffs, and hem. Despite this particular sweater’s considerable bulk, the famously thin Sinatra still looks slim and trim as he waltzes into the Phoenix suite he shares with Jimmy Foster (Peter Lawford) and settles comfortably into a chair.
Mohair sweaters are very difficult to track down these days, especially for men. Scott’s Sweaters features a rotating assortment of vintage mohair sweaters for sale if you’re determined to evoke Sinatra’s on-screen brand of fuzzy luxury. Otherwise, you may need to seek out an angora blend or stick to cashmere, a comfortable but typically less fuzzy option.
Underneath the sweater, Frank wears a white poplin dress shirt. It’s likely one of the same shirts he wears with one of his suits later in the movie; based on the very long collar points, it’s probably the shirt he wears with his specked gray sportcoat or when he wears his black suit and tie to recruit Vince Massler into the heist. If so, it also has button cuffs that are hidden by the sweater’s ribbed cuffs.
We don’t see much of Danny Ocean’s charcoal gray trousers in this scene either, but it’s reasonable to assume that they’re styled like most of his others in Ocean’s Eleven with single reverse pleats and straight side pockets. They are clearly worn with a belt that slightly bulges under the sweater when Danny enters the room, but it remains concealed throughout the scene. The bottoms are plain-hemmed with no cuffs.
When Danny kicks back, we see his dark burgundy cordovan leather tassel loafers to keep things sophisticated but informal. The rest of the outfit – particularly the bright peach sweater and the long-collared shirt – may be a bit loud for some people’s taste, but the burgundy loafers are a classy touch. Sinatra wears black dress socks.
The Salmon Sweater
The “eleven” take a break from heist-planning in Vegas for a bowling expedition where Danny lays down the ground rules: all work and no play until the job is done. Since it’s a casual outing, he sticks to his same principles of informal attire with a more subdued look to indicate that he’s in “serious work” mode rather than “getting massaged by random playmates in a hotel” mode.
Danny’s ensemble also needs to be comfortable enough to allow him the full range of motion when tossing the ball down the alley. For this, he wears a muted salmon-colored v-neck pullover sweater.
The material of Sinatra’s sweater in this scene is harder to ascertain. While there’s a chance it may be cashmere, it may also be wool acrylic/wool blend. The ribbing on the v-neck, waistband, and cuffs is slimmer than on the peach sweater, and Frank actually rolls back each sleeve to form a single cuff just above his wrist.
This is the sole appearance of the light ecru shirt that Frank wears under his sweater. All we see is the spread collar with its long points, though not as dramatically long as the previous shirt. The color is best determined when contrasting Frank’s shirt against the plain white sport shirt that Dean Martin wears in the same scene.
From the waist down, Frank’s attire is the same as it was with the peach sweater. He wears the same charcoal pleated pants with the belt hidden under the sweater, although a fashion plate like Sinatra would most likely match a burgundy belt to his burgundy tassel loafers.
Other thank a gold tank watch barely glimpsed under his left sleeve, the only accessory present is a gold ring he wears on his left pinky with a flat black square setting. It doesn’t appear to be the gold signet ring with his family crest that he used to wear on his right hand, as quoted in Ilene Rosenzweig’s New York Times style article from 2000:
Frank Sinatra wore a signet ring with a family crest on his right hand, dressing up an otherwise inelegant mitt. ”My knuckles are like broken bananas,” he once said. He refused the gift of an ID bracelet from his family, saying he wore only the ring, and besides, ”I know who I am.”
He certainly did.
How to Get the Look
Frank’s orange sweaters were worn with classic elements to create an image of personality-infused sophistication. If you hate orange, don’t wear it. If you still want to wear it, don’t be a copycat… just do it your way.
- Orange soft v-neck pullover sweater with ribbed waistband and cuffs
- White or ecru poplin dress shirt with long-pointed spread collar and button cuffs
- Charcoal gray single reverse-pleated trousers with belt loops, straight side pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Dark burgundy leather belt
- Dark burgundy shell cordovan leather tassel loafers
- Black dress socks
- Gold pinky ring with black square setting
- Gold tank watch on black leather strap
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie. You’d also be well-advised to track down a copy of Bill Zehme’s The Way You Wear Your Hat, the definitive Sinatra style bible that spurred Paul Galloway to pen his Chicago Tribune article quoted in this post. I was lucky enough to receive my own copy of Zehme’s book from Teeritz, an excellent blogger well-known to BAMF Style’s commenters.
The Ilene Rosenzweig article was evidently written in response to The Sopranos‘ impact on culture as soon as it hit HBO viewers’ screens in 1999. The full text of the article, which was published in January 2000, can be found here. A highlight is her opening quote from Tony Sirico, best known now as The Sopranos‘ aging soldier “Paulie Walnuts”:
“I’ve been wearing it for 30 years,” Tony Sirico said. “It’s part of my life.” Mr. Sirico was discussing his pinkie ring, the same one he wears when playing Paulie Walnuts on The Sopranos, the HBO mob opera that started its second season last week.
“They say Mafia wear pinkie rings, but men of style wear pinkie rings,” Mr. Sirico said. “So long as they’re not gaudy and the man has a nice hand — not too feminine a hand.” Mr. Sirico, who favors what he called a “sexy” black onyx look, said he was unaware that pinkie rings had gone out of style.