Robert De Niro as Sam “Ace” Rothstein, Vegas casino executive and mob associate
Las Vegas, Fall 1980
Release Date: November 22, 1995
Director: Martin Scorsese
Costume Design: Rita Ryack & John A. Dunn
It’s now December, a chilly month that means seeing plenty of red everywhere to celebrate the holiday season. For my office’s upcoming Christmas party, I’ll be choosing to channel the memorable red-and-black custom-made ensemble that Robert De Niro wore as idiosyncratic casino executive Sam “Ace” Rothstein in Casino.
The real Ace – Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal – was reportedly a loud dresser himself, known for sporting loud pastels and bold earth tones. Rosenthal’s shirtmaker, Anto Beverly Hills, was even contracted by the filmmakers to delve into its own archives to recreate Lefty’s distinctive shirts and ties for De Niro to wear on screen. (Now that would be a nice Christmas gift for someone, if you’re still looking for ideas…)
Costume designer Rita Ryack has stated that she wanted Casino‘s costume colors to reflect the surrounding level of chaos in the story. In this sequence, things have basically escalated to the same “powder keg” level as the Balkans in 1914. Ace’s mercurial ex-wife Ginger (Sharon Stone) has an expensive drug problem, an abusive pimp boyfriend (James Woods), and a terrible habit of tying up their youngest daughter so she can go out on the town with her new boyfriend… and, of course, that boyfriend is Ace’s frenemy Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci), a violently volatile gangster who sees Las Vegas as his own murderous playground. Mix in some Mafia overlords and a shotgun-toting Don Rickles and you’ve got yourself one hell of a situation… certainly the sort of situation that calls for a red silk sport coat.
What’d He Wear?
Into this pastiche of tackiness walks De Niro, a sartorial vision in a bright red jacket made of raw silk over all-black undergirding.
…even Chris Willman of the Los Angeles Times felt there was something notable about De Niro’s red silk jacket ensemble when writing the paper’s February 22, 1995 cover story about Casino. It’s an outfit that could only be so brazenly pulled off by a man like Sam “Ace” Rothstein: a slightly overconfident man whose sense of self-awareness has become so clouded by the “pastiche of tackiness” of 1970s Las Vegas that, to him, there’s simply no question that it’s an acceptable outfit for a night on the town.
In a three hour movie with dozens of costume changes, few cinematic attention is paid to this outfit. It doesn’t get the grand pan-up shot that introduced the adult Henry Hill to Goodfellas audiences by the way of his alligator loafers and gray silk suit; Scorsese matter-of-factly presents Sam Rothstein’s red silk jacket as merely another loud set of clothing that we would expect from a man who has at least three different mint green sport coats.
Ace’s bright red raw silk jacket is single-breasted with characteristic styling of the 1980s like the low two-button stance, extra wide lapel notches, and heavily padded shoulders that hangs the jacket loosely on De Niro’s frame to create an even more powerful, imposing presence as he looms over Nicky.
The three spaced buttons on each cuff are the same dark red plastic as the two on the front and are purely decorative and non-functional. Although ventless jackets would become fashionable during the ’80s, Ace’s red sport coat has a single vent in the back. There is a straight flapped pocket on each hip and a welted breast pocket, where Ace wears a multi-folded red-trimmed black silk display kerchief.
As that red jacket is certainly enough on its own, Ace simplifies the rest of his outfit with a total monochromatic color scheme. His black shirt, tie, and trousers – or “undergirdling” as Willman called it in his L.A. Times piece – takes on a blue shine in certain light, but both the shirtmaker Anto and behind-the-scenes raw footage confirmed that it is, indeed, black.
The shirt and tie were made by Anto from the same black silk with the satin side used to create the tie and the dull side used for the shirting. In addition to the long “1977 point collar” used by Anto on most – if not all – of De Niro’s Casino shirts, the black dress shirt features the distinctive “Lapidus” single-button tab cuffs seen on many of Ace’s shirts.
The black trousers appear to be the same ones that he wore earlier with his cream fleck jacket when confronting an angry Nicky in the desert. They have a darted front with frogmouth pockets and a fitted waistband devoid of adjusters or belt loops. The flared bottoms are plain-hemmed with a full break.
Contrast footwear would disrupt the flow of Ace’s loud outfit, so he continues the black theme with his black leather apron-toe loafers with smooth back counters, raised heels, and a high vamp that nicely works with his black socks to cleanly continue the black trouser leg line into his shoes.
The angles used on screen and the longer break of the trousers makes the details of Ace’s shoes difficult to accurately ascertain, but buyers seeking Ace-appropriate shoes can look to some of the shoemakers that supplied De Niro’s footwear in Casino: Bally, Bruno Magli, Di Fabrizio, Florsheim, and Johnston & Murphy. On the high end of that spectrum, Bruno Magli offers the Raging slip-on moc-toe loafer for $415, while Florsheim offers the Forum or the Midtown for $110 (or the Rally for $10 less), and Johnston & Murphy offers the Goodwin Moc-Toe Venetian for $150.
A red-faced watch like the one he wore with his ivory suit and red-on-red silk shirt and tie might have been the obvious choice for this outfit, but a close look at some promotional photos reveal that Ace’s flat silver-toned wristwatch actually has a blue square dial. It is likely one of the several 14-carat white gold vintage watches by Bueche Girod that were obtained for production.
This is backed up by the blue synthetic emerald-cut stone on his 14-carat white gold pinky ring, as Ace almost always matches his rings and watches. Don’t you?
Since Casino is set in the usually toasty climate of Las Vegas, very few overcoats are seen. However, this scene is set during the colder fall or winter months (in reality, this incident was early September 1980), so Ace dons a black wool overcoat when he and Billy Sherbert follow a police-accompanied Ginger to the bank as she retrieves her cash and jewels. The single-breasted overcoat has notch lapels that roll down to a three-button front. It is structured similarly to the red jacket beneath it with wide, padded shoulders and a center back vent.
This fan favorite outfit is the last newly seen* of De Niro’s in the film and is featured second-to-last on the bottom of Ibraheem Youssef’s distinctive poster that illustrates all of Ace’s suits and odd jackets.
* Excluding the gray polka-dot silk robe he briefly wears when federal agents present him with photos of Nicky and Ginger, and excluding the salmon-colored jacket that was previously seen during the flash-forward prologue.
Expecting trouble overnight but not about to lounge around in plebian attire, Ace wears a navy silk dressing gown over his shirt and trousers. The robe has tan piping on the belt, the gauntlet cuff edges, the pockets, and the wide shawl collar. The entire garment is also covered in a printed tan pattern that looks like a series of panthers or some other four-legged animal.
This robe had been previously featured in earlier scenes when Ginger was desperately asking for money for Lester leading up to Ace’s ivory-suited confrontation with him in the diner, when Ace and Nicky use their wives to coordinate their ultimately final desert meeting, and when Ace kicks Ginger out of the house. Something about wearing this robe tends to mean a confrontation in Ace’s future…
How to Get the Look
Ace Rothstein’s red-on-black silk outfit is one of the most memorable from Casino, signifying the dramatic shift that the storyline has taken toward frantic paranoia as opposed to the more serene earth tones of the early establishing scenes… not to mention that it allows Robert De Niro to fit in perfectly while puffing away on Dunhill cigarettes in an animal-print decorated Vegas nightclub to the sounds of Devo’s “Satisfaction”.
- Red raw silk single-breasted 2-button jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and single back vent
- Black dull silk dress shirt with long point collar and 1-button “Lapidus” tab cuffs
- Black satin silk tie
- Black darted-front trousers with fitted waistband, frogmouth front pockets, and flared plain-hemmed bottoms
- Black leather apron-toe slip-on loafers with high vamps and raised heels
- Black dress socks
- Black wool single-breasted 3-button overcoat with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, hip pockets, single back vent
- White gold vintage wristwatch with blue square dial on link bracelet
- White gold 14-carat pinky ring with synthetic blue emerald-cut stone set in geometric polished shank
A plain black pocket square would simply be too plain for a bold outfit like this, so Ace wears a red-trimmed display kerchief poking out of his jacket’s breast pocket, custom made by Anto to perfectly match the black shirt and tie while also calling out the surrounding redness of the silk sport coat.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
Listen to me – listen carefully. You ever touch her again, you ever do anything like that again, I’ll fucking kill ya, pure and simple. You hear me? Pure and fuckin’ simple.
I mentioned Devo’s “Satisfaction” as the soundtrack to this scene. Perhaps a nod to just how far things have come from Ace and Nicky’s more “idyllic” friendship in the ’60s, Scorsese uses Devo’s cover of The Rolling Stones’ 1965 hit single “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” as the backdrop, building up to Ace’s phone call to Billy Sherbert that ends with him asking: “You got a gun at home?”
Devo released their cover of “Satisfaction” as a single in 1977; it also appeared the following year on their debut album Are We Not Men? We Are Devo!
Apparently, even celebrity impersonators have picked up on the importance of this Casino outfit. Robert Nash (“DeNiro Guy”) advertises his services with a header image that is undoubtedly inspired by this scene.
I’ll be honest: I’ve been looking forward to writing about this outfit!