Michael Pitt as Jimmy Darmody, Atlantic City bootlegger and gangster
Atlantic City, Spring/Summer 1921
Series: Boardwalk Empire
– “A Return to Normalcy” (Episode 1.12, aired December 5, 2010, dir. Tim Van Patten)
– “21” (Episode 2.01, aired September 25, 2011, dir. Tim Van Patten)
– “A Dangerous Maid” (Episode 2.03, aired October 9, 2011, dir. Susanna White)
– “Two Boats and a Lifeguard” (Episode 2.08, aired November 13, 2011, dir. Tim Van Patten)
– “Georgia Peaches” (Episode 2.10, aired November 27, 2011, dir. Jeremy Podeswa)
– “To the Lost” (Episode 2.12, aired December 11, 2011, dir. Tim Van Patten)
Creator: Terence Winter
Costume Designer: John A. Dunn
Tailor: Martin Greenfield
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
The ambitious yet bitter Jimmy Darmody was a fan favorite on Boardwalk Empire, certainly a testament to Michael Pitt’s appeal since most characters that would ally themselves with Al Capone and incite a violent war against the protagonist would not be so warmly regarded. However, Jimmy Darmody was a complex onion, and the writers deserve equal credit for giving the character so many layers.
Thus, by the time Nucky Thompson pulls the trigger and declaresthat he isn’t seeking forgiveness, Jimmy was firmly planted in viewers’ minds as a sympathetic hero who had overcome the trauma of World War I and a drunken sexual congress with his own mother. However, it seems that fans were rooting for Jimmy more than Jimmy himself had been, as the character resigns himself to his fate and even coaches Nucky on how he’ll be able to live with himself after committing a murder.
Rumors have floated that Jimmy was actually killed off because Michael Pitt was difficult to work with, but showrunner Terence Winter vehemently denies the rumors and confirms that it was a creative decision in a December 2011 interview with Entertainment Weekly:
The idea was to try and push things to their absolute limit, even if it makes it difficult for yourself and your writing team. If you take things to their logical extreme with the situation we created, Jimmy has betrayed Nucky, he tried to have him killed. You want to be honest about the storytelling. In the pilot, Jimmy told Nucky: “You can’t be half a gangster anymore.” We wanted with the first two seasons to follow that trajectory, where he goes full season from being the guy who doesn’t want to get his hands dirty to actually pulling the trigger himself. And what’s the strongest version of that? To pull the trigger on the very guy who told him,”You can’t be half a gangster anymore.” It’s like, “Guess what? You’re right. I can’t. And here’s me now fully becoming a gangster.” Anything short of Nucky doing it himself wouldn’t feel real, it wouldn’t be real. And it would be a cheat for us to say, “We want to keep our beloved character Jimmy Darmody alive.”
One of the things I wanted to do by design in the finale is make the audience pissed off [at the start of the episode]. I wanted people to say [when it seemed like Nucky and Jimmy would reconcile], “Oh great, after all that, it’s all going to be forgotten and Jimmy is going to be back in Nucky’s good graces.” I wanted them to think right up to the very end that Nucky is going to forgive him and take him back. It was a really hard decision. You’re sort of blowing up your own show, in some ways. Now we’re back in the writers room trying to figure out where we go from here without Jimmy Darmody.
Winter certainly succeeded, although I doubt he expected the backlash from fans. I recall many at the time declaring that they would refuse to watch the show without the Jimmy Darmody character, and several even demanded that he return for the third season… although I have no idea how that would logistically happen. Personally, I applaud Boardwalk Empire for a move that managed to be both shocking and realistic, continuing the show’s momentum as a solid criminal drama and away from the trappings of a fan-pandering show like Dexter became in its later seasons.
Michael Pitt himself had requested that, if his character was to be killed, that he go out “in the worst way possible,” as The Hollywood Reporter explained. After Martin Scorsese and Winter made their decision, they tried to call Pitt to inform him but couldn’t get through, so they unfortunately had to tell him via email that his character would be shot in the face by his old mentor.
What’d He Wear?
Jimmy ups his sartorial game at the end of the first season. He began the series in a humble brown tweed Norfolk suit and cap that made him look every bit the lackey that he was. After moving to Chicago, he picked up a snappy blue check three-piece suit to begin establishing himself as more than just “half a gangster”. Upon his return to Atlantic City in “Belle Femme” (1.09), Jimmy has refined his look from the louder Nucky-worthy blue suit with a more somber gray suit. His wardrobe continues to grow with each new step in his career.
In “A Return to Normalcy” (1.12), set in November 1920, Jimmy decides to end his uneasy and unholy alliance with Nucky and sets in motion a plan to take control of Atlantic City for himself. Jimmy sits and plots with the Commodore and Eli while wearing a brown striped flannel three-piece suit. He looks relaxed yet alert, evoking the image of one of cinema’s most notorious fictional gangsters.
The many shots of Jimmy with both arms on his chair as he is told to assert his power is almost definitely a homage to The Godfather, as Winter told EW: “I’m not ashamed to say Godfather is one of my favorite movies of all time, and any time I can steal from it, I always do.”
Jimmy’s brown striped suit lasted him through the rest of his tenure on the show, worn during confrontations with Nucky and meetings with potential confederates like Manny Horvitz and Chalky White. It was while wearing this suit in the season finale, “To the Lost” (2.12), that Jimmy received his fatal wounds from Nucky after a year-long power struggle.
Jimmy appears to have had two of the same suit, one version in brown stripe suiting (as featured here) and the other made from a charcoal and gray stripe. The latter suit appears in two episodes: “21” (2.01) and “Gimcrack & Bunkum” (2.05). I’ve considered that the charcoal suit may actually be this suit in different lighting, but the color contrast is too dramatic for me to say that it is the same suit. This particular suit was auctioned by Screenbid.com earlier this year.
The stripe effect on Jimmy’s suit is simply two shades of brown that alternate between a lighter and darker color. No pinstripes, no shadow stripes, just two different shades of brown repeating in an equal width.
The jacket is single-breasted with notch lapels and a high three-button stance, although he almost always wears it open. The hip pockets have wide flaps and slant slightly toward the back, with the top of the pocket aligned with the jacket’s third button. A flapped ticket pocket on the right also slants slightly back, aligned with the jacket’s center button. Jimmy also has a welted breast pocket and 4-button cuffs.
Jimmy’s suit nicely reflects men’s fashions of the early 1920s with its half-belted back and athletic fit that makes Michael Pitt appear even taller than his natural 5’11” height. The jacket’s shoulders are straight down to roped sleeveheads, and the back of the jacket is belted above a long single vent.
The suit’s matching vest (or waistcoat) rises high on his chest, above the jacket’s top button. It has notch lapels and a 6-button single-breasted front down to the notched bottom. Jimmy wears each button fastened. The front of the vest has four welt pockets – two on each side. The back is brown patterned silk with an adjustable strap across the bottom.
Jimmy’s suit trousers are flat front with straight on-seam side pockets and jetted rear pockets that both close with a button. They are cut straight through the leg down to the cuffed bottoms, which have a full break over his boots. All of Jimmy’s trousers are worn with suspenders, whether they’re visible or not. These trousers are no exception, and they have the adjustable back strap on the rear waistline where he attaches them.
Jimmy begins his practice of wearing a gold collar pin toward the end of the first season rather than letting his shirt collar flop in and out of his suits. Perhaps it’s his way of affecting a more professional, intimidating look, emulating the clean-looking collars of his old boss Nucky without resorting to the detachable contrast collar that was becoming more and more an indication of an older generation.
All of Jimmy’s shirts with this suit appear to be lightweight cotton with soft turndown point collars, front plackets, and buttoned cuffs. He tends to stick with his favorite color combinations, wearing a royal blue shirt in “A Return to Normalcy” (1.12), “A Dangerous Maid” (2.03), “Two Boats and a Lifeguard” (2.08), and “To the Lost” (2.12).
Jimmy often sports a gold tie with his blue shirt, wearing a mustard-colored knit tie in “A Return to Normalcy” and a gold printed silk tie in “A Dangerous Maid”.
Jimmy wears a blue-gray shirt with a large turndown collar – still fastened by the gold collar pin – with the mustard knit tie when he meets with Nucky outside the funeral home in “21” (2.01).
In “Two Boats and a Lifeguard” (2.08), Jimmy spends the afternoon meeting with co-conspirators before “enjoying” a day on the beach with Angela. He sports a monochromatic look, wearing the royal blue shirt and a dark blue silk tie with a blue paisley “teardrop” motif.
Two episodes later in “Georgia Peaches” (2.10), Jimmy has a clandestine and unsuccessful meeting with Chalky. Now, he opts for a totally monochromatic palette by wearing his a brown shirt with a white pinstripe, the mustard knit tie, and his brown striped suit.
The first appearance of this suit in “To the Lost” (2.12) finds Jimmy and Richard Harrow storming into Jim Neary’s office with fatal intentions. Blood was spilled, and Jimmy’s monochromatic maroon shirt and silk paisley tie may be symbolic, or it may be a coincidence.
After a day spent celebrating on the beach with his family and Richard, Jimmy gets a call to meet Nucky at the Atlantic City War Memorial. Nucky offers an excuse, but Jimmy sees right through it. He heads to the meeting in the last outfit of his life, sporting his favorite royal blue shirt, the brown striped suit, and a black tie with a series of green and tan abstract designs.
Ever the soldier, Jimmy still wears his black leather U.S. Army-issued combat boots, laced up the throat. Best featured in the first season, his Mk I Trench Knife is firmly fastened into the left boot via an ankle holster.
Jimmy’s wristwatch is also indicative of his service, since wristwatches were still only commonly worn by servicemen who had been exposed to this more convenient style of timekeeping during the war. Various characters would adopt wristwatches rather than pocket watches as the series goes on, but Jimmy wore his since the beginning. It has a steel tonneau-shaped case with an off-white dial and a brown leather strap.
Jimmy also continues to wear his silver military dog tags, suspended around his neck on a brown cord. He typically tucks them under his white sleeveless cotton undershirt.
Although many aspects of his attire remain the same, Jimmy gets some new outerwear for 1921. In “21” (2.01), set in winter 1921, he wears a heavy gray herringbone tweed overcoat. The double-breasted coat has a 6×2 button front, which he leaves open, and extends down past his knees. Each of the wide peak lapels has a stitched buttonhole. The two chest pockets are box-pleated with flaps, and the two flapped hip pockets sit straight on his waist. The back has a V-shaped yoke across the shoulders and five darted pleats – including an “action-back” center vent – extending down to the half-belt, and a long single vent cuts up the center of the back. The sleeves are cuffed up 2″ from the edge.
Jimmy also gets a new hat, sporting a black beaver felt fedora with a thin black grosgrain ribbon and a narrow brim. The Screenbid.com auction also included this hat with the suit, and The Custom Hatter’s logo is clearly seen on the satin inner lining.
The Custom Hatter himself is Gary White, a talented hat maker in Buffalo who has worked on several major film, TV, and stage productions and offers a range of hats on his site, custom made using rare vintage machines. The hat sported by Jimmy appears to be White’s “The Untouchable” model. White describes that his “fine-quality beaver felts are fine in rainy weather”, which is good for Jimmy since his final scene finds him sporting the fedora on a very rainy night in the summer of 1921.
The one other new aspect of Jimmy’s attire this season is the plain gold wedding band, found on the third finger of his left hand. Evidently, things are going well with Angela… despite her preference for the fairer sex.
How to Get the Look
As Jimmy’s trek for power advances, so does his wardrobe. Although he’s no longer a soldier, he still wears a personal uniform of sorts, as opposed to his colorful opponent and ex-mentor. Like his clothing, Jimmy Darmody is simple but threatening.
- Brown striped flannel suit, consisting of:
- Single-breasted 3-button jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets with flapped ticket pocket on right side, 4-button cuffs, half-belted back, and single rear vent
- Single-breasted 6-button vest with notch lapels, 4 welted pockets, and adjustable rear strap on patterned silk lining
- Flat front high-rise trousers with straight on-seam side pockets, jetted button-through rear pockets, rear suspender strap, and turn-ups/cuffs
- Royal blue lightweight cotton shirt with soft turndown collar, front placket, and button cuffs
- Gold collar pin
- Mustard gold knit necktie
- Dark striped suspenders with brass hardware
- Black leather combat boots with black laces
- Black dress socks
- Black leather ankle holster for 1918 Mk I trench knife
- Black beaver felt fedora with a thin black grosgrain band
- Gray herringbone tweed double-breasted “action-back” overcoat with peak lapels, 6×2 button front, 2 flapped box-pleated chest patch pockets, 2 flapped patch hip pockets, cuffed sleeves, half-belted back, and long single vent
- White cotton sleeveless undershirt
- Off-white cotton boxer shorts
- Steel tonneau-shaped wristwatch on a brown leather strap
- Plain gold wedding band, worn on left ring finger
Do Yourself a Favor and…
I died in the trench, years back. I thought you knew that.