Al Pacino as Carlito “Charlie” Brigante, paroled nightclub owner and former heroin dealer
New York City, September 1975
Film: Carlito’s Way
Release Date: November 3, 1993
Director: Brian De Palma
Costume Designer: Aude Bronson-Howard
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Carlito’s Way is one of the most popular criminal roles of Al Pacino’s later career. Pacino stepped into the shoes (and vintage leather jackets) of Carlito Brigante, the anti-hero of Judge Edwin Torres’ novels Carlito’s Way and After Hours, which were both adapted by screenwriter David Koepp for the big screen.
Unlike the famous drug kingpin that Pacino had portrayed ten years earlier, Carlito is apologetic and remorseful when it comes to his criminal past, hoping to use his street smarts in legitimate business to set himself up for a future in paradise.
Unfortunately for him, times have changed just a little too much and there isn’t enough room in East Harlem for a former wiseguy looking to go straight.
What’d He Wear?
For a badass like Carlito Brigante, a long dark leather coat is essential for maintaining a post-parole reputation in your neighborhood. However, some endeavors – like a visit to your lawyer’s office, spying on your ex in the rain, or a nighttime jailbreak – call for a more practical outerwear garment that won’t get in the way when attempting to free an overweight mob boss off of Riker’s Island.
Carlito wears a hip-length brown leather jacket with a single-breasted 3-button front in a style that was very common during the 1970s. The collar is notched with edge stitching. The chest is split by a horizontal yoke on each side of the front, and the self-belted back is split with a single vent up the center. The plain cuffs are devoid of straps, buttons, or snaps.
In Donnie Brasco, Johnny Depp (as Pacino’s titular protégé) wears a similar brown leather jacket, albeit with flapped pockets instead of open ones; Carlito’s jacket has vertical hand pockets on the side.
Carlito wears the jacket over a shirt and tie during an early visit to his lawyer’s office. The shirt is a darker, cooler shade of mottled brown with a long-pointed collar, a breast pocket, and double cuffs that he fastens with flat silver oval links.
Carlito wears a wide brown silk tie with a series of tan ovals that alternate between vertical and horizontal orientations across.
When he reunites with Gail, Carlito wears a similar shirt in mottled dark red with no tie. This shirt has an appropriately large collar for the ’70s but the collar points are rounded for a somewhat softer appearance, perhaps an attempt to make the bearded man standing in the rain with a garbage can lid over his head look slightly less threatening. The shirt has dark gray buttons down the front placket and one on each rounded cuff. Like the other shirt, it has a breast pocket.
For the aquatic Riker’s Island jailbreak, Carlito wears a plain black lightweight long-sleeve jumper, tucked into his black striped suit trousers under their matching suit vest. He buttons only the center three of the vest’s five buttons.
The black tonal-striped wool suit trousers are the same ones that he wears with their matching vest and the long black leather coat for the finale. The high-rise trousers have a flat front, slanted side pockets, and flared plain-hemmed bottoms. Through the belt loops, Carlito wears a dark russet brown textured leather belt with a brass half-oval single-claw buckle.
Despite the brown leather in the belt and jacket, Carlito wears his usual black leather Cuban-style ankle boots with high black socks.
He may not be consistent with the leather in his outfits, but Carlito shows a clear preference for gold jewelry and accessories. In Kleinfeld’s office, he wears a pair of gold-framed aviator sunglasses with brown rounded lenses and a brown decorative brow bar.
From Carlito’s right pinky, a large gold ring gleams with a black square stone bisected by a single gold line. On his right wrist, he wears a yellow gold chain-link identity bracelet. On the opposing wrist, Carlito wears his yellow gold wristwatch with its round dark blue dial and gold bracelet.
How to Get the Look
Carlito’s outfit of leather, earth tones, and gold makes it quite clear why he was such a popular guy in the ’70s.
- Brown leather single-breasted 3-button jacket with notched collar, vertical side pockets, plain cuffs, and single vent
- Dark brown shirt with long-pointed collar, front placket, breast pocket, and double/French cuffs
- Dark brown silk necktie with repeating tan oval motif
- Silver oval cuff links
- Black tonal-striped wool flat front trousers with belt loops, slanted side pockets, and flared plain-hemmed bottoms
- Dark russet brown textured leather belt with brass half-oval single-claw buckle
- Black leather Cuban-style ankle boots
- Black socks
- Gold-framed aviator sunglasses with brown curved lenses and brown brow bar
- Gold chain-link ID bracelet
- Gold wristwatch with dark blue dial on gold bracelet
- Gold pinky ring with black square-set stone
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Buy the movie.
You ain’t a lawyer no more, Dave. You a gangster now. On the other side. A whole new ball game. You can’t learn about it in school, and you can’t have a late start.