Michael Pitt as Jimmy Darmody, ambitious war veteran and “half a gangster”
Atlantic City, January 1920
Series: Boardwalk Empire
* “Boardwalk Empire” (Episode 1.01, aired September 19, 2010, dir. Martin Scorsese)
* “The Ivory Tower” (Episode 1.02, aired September 26, 2010, dir. Tim Van Patten)
* “Broadway Limited” (Episode 1.03, aired October 3, 2011, dir. Tim Van Patten)
* “Anastasia” (Episode 1.04, aired October 10, 2011, dir. Jeremy Podeswa)
Creator: Terence Winter
Costume Designer: John A. Dunn
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Jimmy Darmody’s death was a shocking loss to fans of Boardwalk Empire, especially in the pre-Game of Thrones “anyone can die” TV landscape.
When I revisited the first episodes to capture screenshots for this post, it was even more heart-wrenching to see the character’s potential and the tortured forces that were effectively dooming Jimmy from the outset… not to mention watching poor little Tommy Darmody, clearly unaware of how the events of the following decade would lead to him firing a bullet into the face of his father’s erstwhile mentor.
The world of Boardwalk Empire rewards ambition among the privileged and ruthless, dooming Jimmy’s scrappy but proud brand of ambition from the outset. Tragedy befalls anyone invested in Jimmy’s success, whether it’s a violent end (Angela, Pearl, and Richard Harrow) or an increasingly sad, unavoidable trajectory (Gillian being institutionalized, Tommy’s determination to kill Nucky, etc.)
On the other hand… Nucky gave up on him early and lived just long enough to retire; Jimmy’s father, the Commodore, dismissed him early and enjoyed a long life of ruthless, irascible corruption before Jimmy ended it; and Al Capone – not unsurprisingly – never stood up for his friend and would outlive the show’s time frame to die at his Florida estate after nearly a decade of retirement.
In the first episode, Jimmy bemoans to Nucky that all he wants is an opportunity. Nucky retorts: “This is America, ain’t it? Who the fuck’s stopping you?” You are, Nucky!
What’d He Wear?
Jimmy’s wardrobe during the early days of Prohibition make sense for his character, a lackey freshly returned from serving three years in the death-ridden trenches of France while his native Atlantic City marches on without him to the beat of hot jazz, uninhibited sex, and boisterous parties… all with no end in sight while Jimmy was seeing men his own age meeting their end face down in the mud.
I wrote in my post about Jimmy’s first “grown-up” outfit, a very popular blue tattersall check suit, that Jimmy’s “muted working class style” in these first episodes reflected a clear contrast against the loud pastels and bold checks of Nucky Thompson’s bespoke wardrobe. Jimmy returned from war more cynical than ever but his ambitions were far from tarnished. He knew the potential that the Volstead Act laid out for guys like him – skilled with a gun with nothing to lose – and was more than eager to make the transition from soldier to gangster. It makes sense that his outfit would reflect the colors and structure of the former occupation.
Jimmy wears two different brown cheviot tweed Norfolk jackets during his duration in Atlantic City over the show’s first three episodes. Originally designed as a loose, belted shooting jacket and named for either the Duke of or county of Norfolk, the Norfolk jacket became a country staple when it was popularized by the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) in the 1880s. A “Norfolk suit”, which Jimmy Darmody wears, is a moniker for a Norfolk jacket worn with matching tweed trousers.
Atlantic City is about as far as you can get from the English country, further marking Jimmy as an outsider in this new world of flashy printed suits, vibrant silk ties, and two-tone spectator shoes. The significance of Jimmy the soldier wearing a garment originally designed for hunting shouldn’t be overlooked.
Jimmy’s first Norfolk jacket, worn in the pilot episode only, was auctioned by ScreenBid with the matching trousers and vest in January 2015. The brown tweed is mixed with red, orange, tan, and green yarns.
This jacket is distinctive for its box pleat strips down the front and back, holding the belt in place. It is single-breasted, as a Norfolk jacket should be, with a high-fastening 4-roll-3 button front. The highest button is covered by the roll of the notch lapels, and the bottom button is on the self-belt located right on Jimmy’s waist. (This may even be a 5-roll-3 button front if there is a top button under the right collar to connect through the left lapel buttonhole!)
The box pleats are two strips of tweed fabric that extend down the front from the pointed chest yokes. The back mirrors the front with a double-pointed back yoke featuring box pleat strips that extend down over the belt to the bottom of the jacket. The jacket is entirely detailed with swelled edges, found on the lapels, pockets, yokes, and pleats. The only outer pockets are the traditional bellows pockets on the hips, located just behind the front box pleat strips. The shoulders are padded, the sleeveheads are roped, and each sleeve has 4-button cuffs at the end.
In “The Ivory Tower” (1.02) and “Broadway Limited” (1.03), Jimmy wears a more simplified Norfolk jacket in a slightly duller shade of brown with a new vest and trousers to match. Superficially the same with traditional details like a 4-roll-3 single-breasted front, notch lapels, and edge swelling throughout, this jacket’s notable differences are the absence of box pleats, the addition of a breast pocket, and a full belt held in place by waist loops.
This second Norfolk jacket has all of the buttons placed directly on the jacket rather than the belt. This belt hangs freer, held in place only through the three conventional waist loops rather than sewn into place under the box pleat strips. The lack of box pleats also frees up the chest area for a patch pocket over Jimmy’s left breast. The edge swelling appears more pronounced on this jacket as well. One other slight difference: this jacket has 3-button cuffs while the first episode’s jacket had 4-button cuffs.
Jimmy’s tweed flat front trousers match his respective jackets and feature era-correct styling from the long rise and button fly to the split “fishmouth” notched back of the waistband with a small button on each of the two notch points for his suspenders. His trousers have on-seam side pockets with swelled edges, button-through jetted back pockets, and straight legs down to the cuffed bottoms.
Though Jimmy abandons most of his old wardrobe after going suit shopping with Al Capone in Chicago, he does keep the snazzy suspenders from his tweed suit, a surprisingly colorful set of braces that may be a nod to the fact that – under the surface – Jimmy has the same criminal aspirations as his flashier mentor. These red argyle suspenders have an alternating pattern of overchecked tan and blue diamonds and hook to the trousers with brown leather fastening straps.
The suit has a matching tweed vest that he wears in the first episode (sans tie) and again in the second, third, and fourth episodes. Since Jimmy wears a different jacket for the following episodes, it’s possible that he was also fitted with a different waistcoat and trousers to match the tweed of this jacket, but all of the styling remains the same: a single-breasted, high-fastening, six-button front with four welt pockets and a notched bottom. The back of the vest is covered in a dark brown lining with an adjustable strap.
When not wearing the suit’s matching waistcoat, Jimmy rocks some sleeveless cardigan sweaters that stand out from the rest of his early wardrobe by incorporating more than one color. His most frequently seen sleeveless cardigan is a high-fastening red knit vest with brown accents on the edges, pocket welts, and entire back in a shade of brown similar to the color of the suit. This cardigan has six buttons up the front with a notched bottom and two low pockets.
Seen only in the first and third episodes, Jimmy wears a similarly styled bulky gray wool knit sleeveless cardigan with taupe trim on the edges, back, and pockets. It has six buttons and a notched bottom similar to the other vest, but this one has four bellows pockets, best seen when Jimmy is making his getaway to Chicago in “Broadway Limited” (1.03).
Jimmy’s drab-colored shirts continue to illustrate the deep divide between he and Nucky. While Nucky prefers boldly patterned and brightly colored well-starched dress shirts with crisp white detachable collars, Jimmy wears plain rough-and-ready work shirts indicative of his lower status in Atlantic City’s hierarchy. His cotton work shirts have a point collar and dark buttons down the front placket. His rounded cuffs close with a single button. Edge stitching is visible throughout.
Jimmy’s primary shirt is a mottled dark blue work shirt, worn in all four of the first episodes and paired with both the red knit cardigan and the suit’s matching tweed vest.
When sporting his gray knit cardigan vest, Jimmy wears a lighter mottled gray-blue work shirt with white hairline stripes. He wears this in the first episode as well as during his escape to Chicago in “Broadway Limited” (1.03) and “Anastasia” (1.04).
When he wears a tie, he opts for a dark olive-shaded ties that further nod to his military service, either a plain drab olive green cotton tie or a slightly fancier tie with a Deco-style pattern in olive and black silk.
Only 22 when he returns to Atlantic City, Jimmy has barely had time to re-establish himself since he was an 18-year-old who ran off from Princeton to join the American Expeditionary Force. Thus, he still wears a flat “newsboy cap” that, as a rabbi would tell Capone, is more indicative of a boy than a man. Jimmy’s cap is brown mixed tweed with the top panels collected with a single covered button on the top and another button attaching the front to the brim.
One part of Jimmy’s wardrobe that never changes over the show are his black leather ankle-high combat boots with black laces through six eyelets and four upper hooks. We don’t see yet whether or not he keeps his 1918 Mk I trench knife holstered in his left boot.
Jimmy’s Norfolk jacket serves a second functional purpose; this warm suit provides enough insulation to prevent him from needing an overcoat. Despite this, he still briefly sports a topcoat while making Greektown collections with Al Capone in Chicago during “Anastasia” (1.04). Jimmy’s black leather raincoat closes with three large plastic buttons widely spaced down the single-breast front. The coat has a half-tab on the cuff of each set-in sleeve that closes with a single button, open slanted handwarmer pockets, and a wide belted back above the long vent.
This outfit makes only a brief appearance during Jimmy’s tenure in Chicago, all featured in “Anastasia” (1.04) which includes a few extended scenes of Jimmy in his underwear, finding consolation in the arms of starry-eyed prostitute Pearl (Emily Meade) at the Four Deuces. His undershorts are beige cotton flannel with a notch on each side of the waistband with laces to fasten them around his waist; modern boxer shorts with elasticized waists were still a few years away as they would developed by Everlast founder Jacob Golomb in 1925 to replace the leather-belted trunks worn by pugilists in the ring.
“Anastasia” (1.04) also showcases Jimmy’s undershirt, a short-sleeve henley in a beige cotton flannel to match his undershorts. The henley shirt has three white buttons widely spaced over the placket and white stitching around the shoulder seams where the sleeves are set in. He was earlier seen wearing a similarly-styled but longer-sleeved henley in “Boardwalk Empire” (1.01).
How to Get the Look
Jimmy bridges his transition from military to mob in simple but practical tweed duds that both serve his purposes and reflect his modest position in life. The Norfolk jacket, developed for shooting purposes, is a perfect fit for a man who lives by the gun.
- Brown cheviot tweed single-breasted Norfolk jacket with notch lapels, high-fastening 4-roll-3 button front, full belt with box-pleated front and back, 4-button cuffs, and single vent
- Red knit sleeveless cardigan sweater with brown back and trim, brown pocket welt detailing, and single-breasted 6-button front with notched bottom
- Brown cheviot tweed high-rise flat front straight-leg trousers with button fly, 2-button “fishmouth” notched back, straight/on-seam side pockets, button-through jetted back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Dark blue-gray cotton work shirt with point collar, front placket, and 1-button rounded cuffs
- Dark olive and black-patterned necktie
- Red argyle suspenders with brown leather hooks
- Brown mixed tweed flat “newsboy cap”
- Black leather combat boots with 6 black-laced eyelets and 4 upper hooks
- Black ankle holster for trench knife
- Beige cotton flannel henley shirt with 3-button placket and short set-in sleeves (with white-stitched shoulder seams)
- Beige cotton flannel undershorts with side laces
- Black leather knee-length raincoat with single-breasted 3-button front, slanted handwarmer pockets, 1-button half-tab cuffs, and belted back with long single vent
By the time he buys his first “gangster suit” in “Anastasia” (1.04), his choice is made and his life begins following an inevitable path.
Although Jimmy would later notably arm himself with the popular .32-caliber Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless pistol, the only sidearm that he has during these early days in Atlantic City is a blued Smith & Wesson “Military & Police” revolver that he retrieves from atop a cabinet in his home before leaving town in “Broadway Limited” (1.03). It may be a memento from the war, as Smith & Wesson “Military & Police” revolvers were indeed fielded in small numbers by U.S. Army troops during World War I.
Originally known as the “Smith & Wesson .38 Hand Ejector”, this revolver has been continuously produced by Smith & Wesson since 1899. It received its current designation – the Smith & Wesson Model 10 – when the company began numbering its models in the late 1950s. It is every bit the classic service revolver with its six-shot swing-out cylinder, fixed sights, and venerable .38 Special chambering.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Look, you can’t be half a gangster, Nucky. Not anymore.