A Goodfellas Christmas: Henry’s Red Velvet Jacket

Joe Pesci and Ray Liotta as Tommy and Henry, respectively, in Goodfellas (1990)

Joe Pesci and Ray Liotta as Tommy and Henry, respectively, in Goodfellas (1990)

Vitals

Ray Liotta as Henry Hill, New York mob associate and ex-con

Queens, NY, December 1978

Film: Goodfellas
Release Date: September 19, 1990
Director: Martin Scorsese
Costume Designer: Richard Bruno

Background

Following the record-breaking Lufthansa heist on December 11, 1978, Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) hosted a few of his nearest, dearest, and soon-to-be-deadest Mafia pals over to Robert’s Lounge for some Christmas cheer.

Robert’s Lounge was a real-life mob hangout in South Ozone Park, Queens, only a few miles away from the Lufthansa terminal at JFK International Airport (formerly Idlewild) from which Jimmy’s crew had just stolen more than $5.8 million in cash and jewels. Robert’s Lounge hosted both the planning and the celebration of the crime.

Jimmy may have appreciated taunting law enforcement by celebrating the heist’s success in a location so close to its execution, but he certainly does not appreciate the guys bringing around their new Cadillacs and fur coats to give probable cause… unfortunately for these gangsters, Jimmy also used the basement of Robert’s Lounge to dispose of several of their corpses.

Although likely meant to be set at Robert’s Lounge, the Christmas sequence among others was filmed at Neir’s. Originally opened as “The Blue Pump Room” in Queens in 1829, Neir’s Tavern is the oldest operating bar in New York City, beating out McSorley’s by 25 years as documented by the Daily Mail.

What’d He Wear?

Christmas Party

Henry and Karen’s arrival at Jimmy’s Christmas party isn’t ostentatious enough to earn Jimmy’s ire, unlike Johnny Roastbeef and Frankie Carbone. After greeting a temporarily jubilant Jimmy, Henry takes off his winter outwear, a tan gabardine overcoat and a white silk scarf with long fringe. The double-breasted coat has sweeping peak lapels with six brown urea buttons on the front (with two to button) and three on each cuff.

Things certainly look jolly from the outset...

Things certainly look jolly from the outset…

Never one to shy away from loud colors, Henry wears a rust red velvet blazer in a color befitting the season. The jacket is single-breasted with large notch lapels and swelled edges. The hip pockets slant slightly toward the back with wide flaps, and there is a welted breast pocket. The sleeveheads are slightly roped, and there is a single back vent.

Why wouldn't Henry be grinning ear-to-ear after getting a gift like that?

Why wouldn’t Henry be grinning ear-to-ear after getting a gift like that?

For an added touch of festivity, the two buttons on the front and the two smaller buttons on each cuff are red plastic sew-through buttons with gold edges.

You know it's a good Christmas party when no one can stop hugging each other.

You know it’s a good Christmas party when no one can stop hugging each other.

Henry’s dress shirt is light ecru silk with an extra-long point collar that works with his lapel width, flared trouser bottoms, and hairs to make him quite the fashionable man in 1978. The shirt has a front placket, single-button cuffs, and “HH” monogrammed on the left breast.

Henry seems to be enjoying himself, but Jimmy's expression would stop me dead in my tracks.

Henry seems to be enjoying himself, but Jimmy’s expression would stop me dead in my tracks.

The texture of Henry’s wide black tie looks duller than silk, suggesting cotton twill.

Jimmy and Henry look understandably disappointed. To be honest, is there really any other expression when looking at a man named Johnny Roastbeef?

Jimmy and Henry look understandably disappointed. To be honest, is there really any other expression when looking at a man named Johnny Roastbeef?

Best seen when the Hills are celebrating their Christmas at home, Henry wears dark brown flat front trousers with a long rise and a self-belt like many of his other pants in Goodfellas. They appear to have side pockets and jetted back pockets. The plain-hemmed bottoms flare out slightly, though not to the extent that some trendy trousers in the ’70s did…

Henry also sports a pair of dark brown leather tassel loafers with brown silk dress socks that contribute to the domination of earth tones in the outfit. Henry seemed to prefer loafers – whether with horsebits, tassels, or penny slots – to the degree that I don’t believe we ever see him wear any laced dress shoes as an adult.

The Hills enjoy a quiet Christmas at home.

The Hills enjoy a quiet Christmas at home.

Henry wears his usual jewelry with a ring on each hand – a gold pinky ring on his right hand and his thin plain gold wedding band on his left. He doubles up on his right wrist for the party, wearing both a flat all-gold wristwatch and a yellow gold ID bracelet.

It seems like a fun party and all, but Henry and Karen are wise to pull an Irish goodbye once Jimmy and Morrie start their "Baby, It's Cold Outside" karaoke duet.

It seems like a fun party and all, but Henry and Karen are wise to pull an Irish goodbye once Jimmy and Morrie start their “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” karaoke duet.

Christmas at Home

For Christmas at home with the wife and kids, Henry takes a more casual approach by ditching the jacket and tie but wearing a similarly styled shirt in pale pink poplin with a white contrast collar and cuffs… and yes, it’s the same extra-long point collar as on his other shirts. He wears the top few buttons worn open to reveal his usual white ribbed cotton sleeveless undershirt beneath it… as well as his gold necklace with both the Catholic cross and Star of David to represent his religious affiliations.

To truly get into the spirit of the holidays, you should always try to match your shirt to your Christmas tree. Way to go, Hendry!

To truly get into the spirit of the holidays, you should always try to match your shirt to your Christmas tree. Way to go, Hendry!

Although more casual in his dress, he ups his watch game by sporting a yellow gold Rolex Day-Date wristwatch with a champagne dial and gold “President” link bracelet.

Go Big or Go Home

Henry Hill knows the perfect gift for both Christmas and and Hanukkah when he hands Karen (Lorraine Bracco) a fat stack of cash… now that’s the gift that keeps on giving the whole year.

A gold Rolex would also make for a fine Christmas gift... *cough cough*

A gold Rolex would also make for a fine Christmas gift… *cough cough*

Naturally, Scorsese digs out the perfect Christmas music for the background of Goodfellas‘ holiday scenes, subtly decreasing in energy from frantic and fun when everyone is riding on the high of the Lufthansa heist to slow and somber just before the wave of murders.

His arms outstretched for the biggest of hugs (awh!), Jimmy greets Henry at Robert’s Lounge while The Ronettes’ rendition of “Frosty the Snowman” plays, from the masterful 1963 holiday album A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector.

Once Jimmy has sufficiently berated enough mobsters, another terrific track kicks in – Darlene Love singing “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”, an energetic ballad of loneliness from the same great album. Originally, this song was also supposed to be a Ronettes contribution to the album but Love was brought in when Ronnie Spector was unable to deliver the “emotion and sheer vocal power” that Rolling Stone noted when ranking the song highest on its list of The Greatest Rock and Roll Christmas Songs.

Finally, the Christmas sequence ends with Henry handing off his very thoughtful gifts to Karen to the tune of The Drifters’ “The Bells of St. Mary’s”. Originally appearing in the 1945 film of the same name (which Michael Corleone took Kay to see in The Godfather!) during a Christmas pageant, “The Bells of St. Mary’s” is actually not directly a Christmas song with more explicit lyrical suggestions of fall than winter or the holidays.

Nonetheless, the song has become a tradition on holiday albums with The Drifters recording it as the B-side to their doo wop “White Christmas” single in 1954, a track that itself appeared in both Home Alone and The Santa Clause.

What to Imbibe

This drink here is better than sex, babe.

Stacks Edwards (Samuel L. Jackson) is briefly shown pouring shots of green liqueur into glasses full of white wine to impress his date. This is almost definitely a reference to the drink that Nicholas Pileggi mentions Henry’s crew enjoying before Henry was sent off to prison six years earlier: “At eleven o’clock, Henry and his pals were at the bar at Maxwell’s drinking Screaming Eagles – shot glasses of white Chartreuse dropped into large goblets of chilled champagne.”

I have yet to take Stacks up on his dubiously bold claim about this drink, but I'd say it's at least worth a try.

I have yet to take Stacks up on his dubiously bold claim about this drink, but I’d say it’s at least worth a try.

Other than the context, the only major difference from page-to-screen is Stacks’ choice of using the stronger (110 proof) and more colorful green Chartreuse rather than yellow, which is milder and sweeter at 80 proof. (Pileggi refers to “white” Chartreuse when he likely means the yellow version; production of White Chartreuse ended in 1900, more than seven decades before any of these scenes are set.)

How to Get the Look

Henry injects some late ’70s festivity into his holiday party attire, sporting some subtle earth tones with his decidedly-less-subtle rust-colored velvet blazer.

Ray Liotta as Henry Hill in Goodfellas (1990)

Ray Liotta as Henry Hill in Goodfellas (1990)

  • Rust red velvet single-breasted 2-button blazer with welted breast pocket, slanted flapped hip pockets, 2-button cuffs, single vent, and gold-trimmed red plastic sew-through buttons
  • Ecru silk dress shirt with long point collar, front placket, monogrammed chest, and single-button cuffs
  • Black cotton twill tie
  • Dark brown flat front trousers with self-belt, side pockets, jetted back pockets, and slightly flared plain-hemmed bottoms
  • Dark brown leather tassel loafers
  • Dark brown silk dress socks
  • White ribbed cotton sleeveless undershirt
  • Tan gabardine double-breasted overcoat with wide peak lapels, 6×2-button front, 3-button cuffs, long single vent
  • White silk scarf with frayed edges
  • Rolex Day-Date yellow gold wristwatch with champagne dial and gold link “President” bracelet
  • Yellow gold ID chain-link bracelet
  • Pinky ring, worn on right pinky
  • Plain gold wedding band, worn on left ring finger
  • Yellow gold necklace with Catholic cross and Star of David

For an extra pop of color, swap out the ecru shirt for a pale pink shirt with a large white contrast collar and cuffs!

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Buy the movie. And, if you’re throwing your own Goodfellas style holiday bash, grab a copy of A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector to play in the background.

The Quote

Morrie, relax, okay? It’s Christmas.

One comment

  1. Simon

    Great movie! I love the Phil Spector tracks too. He did some great work in the 1960s.

    I picked up a velvet jacket just like this a few months ago and am tempted to wear it for Xmas in a few days, except the weather forecast here in Australia is 32c degrees for Xmas Day. A bit hot for velvet….

    Like

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