Dean Martin as Sam Harmon, lounge singer, war veteran, and casino heister
Beverly Hills to Las Vegas, December 1959 through January 1960
Film: Ocean’s Eleven
Release Date: August 10, 1960
Director: Lewis Milestone
Costume Designer: Howard Shoup
Tailor: Sy Devore
The height of the Rat Pack’s heyday was 1960. Frank’s buddy Jack was elected into the White House, Marilyn was still alive, and the whole gang was living it up in Vegas while filming Ocean’s Eleven. The movie began after Peter Lawford heard the story from Gilbert Kay, who had heard it from a gas station attendant. Once Frank Sinatra was on board, there was no doubt that his famous pals Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. would fill out the rest of the top billing.
It was while filming the movie’s finale, an irony-laden funereal march in front of The Sands, that one of the most iconic of Rat Pack images was captured: the five main performers – Sinatra, Dino, Sammy, Lawford, and Joey Bishop – in front of their names on the Sands’ marquee. Suited up by the legendary Sy Devore, the five men look like they could run the world. And in Las Vegas, they did.
What’d He Wear?
Sam Harmon makes his first appearance in Ocean’s Eleven when he steps off a plane in Beverly Hills wearing a medium gray semi-solid wool suit, tailored especially for him by Sy Devore, the “tailor to the stars” who kept the Rat Pak sharkskin-sharp.
Martin was a regular customer of Devore’s, and a Los Angeles Times article written in the wake of the Ocean’s Eleven remake in 2001 and posted on SyDevore.com states that “Dino’s collar is slightly higher on the neck,” as he preferred.
Given Devore’s expensive-at-the-time price of $285 for a custom-made suit (or $200 for a sport coat and $85 for slacks), it makes sense to see Sam Harmon dressing efficiently throughout the movie, wearing only one suit (this one), two sport jackets, and – since he’s Dean Martin – a sharp dark tuxedo. Dino himself had a very economic sense of style, wearing the same clothes over the course of several years as opposed to his comedic partner Jerry Lewis. Despite Martin’s more debonair reputation, it was Lewis who was referred to in the article as “the biggest Devore clotheshorse in town” due to his sartorial habits of giving away suits at the first sign of soiling and never wearing a pair of socks more than once.
Martin’s gray suitcoat in Ocean’s Eleven is styled and tailored very similarly to his brown and blue striped sport jackets. The single-breasted jacket has a low two-button front and wide, padded shoulders that nicely reflect the relaxed, swinging demeanor of both the character and the actor. It also 3-button cuffs and the short double side vents that were fashionable throughout the early ’60s.
The suit jacket’s two hip pockets and the breast pocket are square patch pockets as seen on his other jackets. A dark red printed silk handkerchief cheekily pokes out from the breast pocket.
Martin’s flat front suit trousers have slanted side pockets – often for his hands – and plain-hemmed bottoms. He never unbuttons his jacket so additional details remain unseen, but they’re likely styled like his other trousers with belt loops and a jetted right rear pocket that closes with a button.
Dean Martin wears his usual white cotton shirts with button-down collars with every outfit in Ocean’s Eleven without exception, even when clad in his tux. The shirts, which Devore would create for $25 each, also had a front placket and button cuffs. Martin would request the button-down collars on his shirts to rise high on the neck, creating a substantially large collar that would dwarf the tight tie knots.
Both of Sam Harmon’s ties with this outfit are slim patterned silk ties. When first seen at the Beverly Hills airport, Sam wears a gray silk tie printed with repeating clusters of four silver dots connected in the center by a smaller black dot.
For the funeral finale in Vegas, Sam wears a more somber tie with wide right-down-to-left stripes that alternate between navy and burgundy. (A continuity error results in a different tie – the burgundy, dark navy, and forest green striped one previously seen swapped in with the brown striped jacket – worn while actually leaving the funeral during the credits. It’s this tie that shows up on the iconic poster seen above.)
Sam’s shoes are black leather plain-toe bluchers, worn with a pair of black silk dress socks.
Both of Dino’s accessories are sported on his left hand: a silver pinky ring and a steel chain-link bracelet.
What to Imbibe
As the very eloquent Teeritz once stated in a post on his blog, “Much has always been made of Frank Sinatra, his voice, and his legacy and I agree with most of it, but for me, Dino seemed like the one that I would rather have a smoke and a drink with. Even though the hard partying image that he portrayed on stage was a myth. His glass was usually filled with apple juice, not Scotch.”
Although Sam Harmon grabs a bottle of J&B at Spyros’ house, it’s quite likely that the actual contents consumed were his usual apple juice. J&B Rare is a blend of 42 Scotch whiskies that was developed for the American market and exploded in popularity after the repeal of Prohibition. In addition to being a real-life favorite of Dean Martin’s, J&B was known to be the preferred spirit for Truman Capote, who would order it only by its full name “Justerini and Brooks”, named for the Bologna-born distiller Giacomo Justerini and the company’s eventual buyer Alfred Brooks. It does make sense that Dean Martin’s favorite Scotch would still have such a strong Italian influence…
How to Get the Look
Dean Martin’s Sam Harmon wears his sharp tailored suit in a variety of situations, from being the coolest guy to step off a plane to looking slick even during a funeral march.
- Gray semi-solid wool tailored suit, consisting of:
- Single-breasted 2-button jacket with slim notch lapels, patch breast pocket, patch hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and short double side vents
- Flat front trousers with cuffed bottoms/turn-ups
- White cotton shirt with large button-down collar, front placket, and button cuffs
- Slim printed silk necktie
- Black leather plain-toe bluchers
- Thin black silk dress socks
- Burgundy printed silk handkerchief, worn “puffed” in breast pocket
- Silver pinky ring (on left pinky)
- Silver chain bracelet (on left wrist)
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Buy the movie.