Carlito Brigante’s Black Striped Suit

Al Pacino as Carlito Brigante in Carlito's Way (1993)

Al Pacino as Carlito Brigante in Carlito’s Way (1993)

Vitals

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

Background

After his parole, Carlito’s “street uniform” is typically a cool ’70s leather jacket in black or brown, but nights that find him hosting in his hot spot –  El Paraíso – call for a slick black three-piece suit.

What’d He Wear?

Carlito wore elements of this suit during the movie’s climactic sequence that leads him from El Paraíso to Grand Central Station and, thus, as a blend of both his street and nightclub roles, he wore the suit’s vest and trousers under a badass black leather coat.

The three-piece suit is comprised of a jacket, vest, and trousers in black wool with black tonal striping. A popular fashion of 1970s men’s suits was the revival of wide peak lapels on single-breasted jackets and this suit is no exception with its extra-long lapel points and gorges pointed up toward each padded, roped shoulder.

You know it's the '70s when you see lapels like that.

You know it’s the ’70s when you see lapels like that.

The two-button suit jacket also has three-button cuffs, long double vents, straight flapped hip pockets, and a welted breast pocket where Carlito frequently wears a black silk display kerchief for a just a subtle touch of luxury.

CARLITO'S WAY

Not much of a fashion plate, Carlito likely only wears suits because he is aware of the respectability that comes with them as he tries to make his “way” in legitimate business. He wears the suit’s matching vest almost as an after thought, fastening just a few of its five buttons and allowing the notched bottom to ride high over his waist line, exposing both his shirt and trouser belt.

The single-breasted vest has four welted pockets and a self-lined back with an adjustable strap along the bottom.

Carlito's tense meeting with Lalin (Viggo Mortensen) also serves as a de facto fashion show for sartorial bloggers looking for details of his outfit...

Carlito’s tense meeting with Lalin (Viggo Mortensen) also serves as a de facto fashion show for sartorial bloggers looking for details of his outfit…

The low rise of his flat front suit trousers is a poor match with his waistcoat, and Carlito makes the additional faux pas of wearing a belt (and an easily exposed one, at that) with a three-piece suit. Despite the faux pas, his black leather belt matches the black leather Cuban-styled ankle boots that he wears. His socks are likely black, unseen under the slightly flared plain-hemmed bottoms of his trousers.

Carlito struts into his new job.

Carlito struts into his new job.

Carlito first wears this suit for a brief meeting with Saso (Jorge Porcel), the original owner of El Paraíso. He wears a mustard brown silk shirt with a point collar and button cuffs, and his gold printed silk tie provides only a subtle contrast against the solid-colored shirt.

CARLITO'S WAY

On several occasions, Carlito wears the suit slightly more dressed down with a black shirt with a muted blue and purple foulard check pattern. This shirt has a front placket and a long point collar, which he wears open with no tie.

Carlito is wowed after a visit to Gail's strip club.

Carlito is wowed after a visit to Gail’s strip club.

Although it is the least formal shirt that he wears with his suit, this shirt has double (French) cuffs that Carlito fastens with a pair of silver ovular links.

Carlito's all-black attire in this scene further draws the line of contrast between "old school" Carlito and the brash, flashy, and irresponsible Benny Bianco in his bright red three-piece suit.

Carlito’s all-black attire in this scene further draws the line of contrast between “old school” Carlito and the brash, flashy, and irresponsible Benny Bianco in his bright red three-piece suit.

The third shirt that Carlito wears with this suit, most notably for his meeting with paraplegic informant Lalin, is likely the same mottled mulberry purple shirt that he wore in other scenes with his brown leather jacket. The shirt has a breast pocket and a large collar with long but soft points. The buttons on the front placket, cuffs, and gauntlets are all dark gray plastic.

As he did with the gold shirt, Carlito wears a similarly colored but subtly patterned silk tie, this time featuring a small light blue ovals on a muted purple ground.

CARLITO'S WAY

Carlito may be trying to stay legit after his parole, but his propensity for gold jewelry gives him away as a gangster at first sight. Luckily for him, of course, this is the mid-’70s during the height of men’s tacky jewelry, making his gold pinky ring and gold chain-link ID bracelet subtle when compared to his contemporaries in the decade.

Carlito and Gail enjoy a drink together to the bumpin' sounds of '70s disco.

Carlito and Gail enjoy a drink together to the bumpin’ sounds of ’70s disco.

Carlito’s watch is also yellow gold, worn on his left wrist as opposed to the rest of his jewelry which adorns his right hand. Supposedly, the book calls out Carlito’s wristwatch as an 18-karat Piaget, but that certainly doesn’t confirm that this was his on-screen choice as well.

How to Get the Look

Carlito defines his nightclub host persona differently than his street persona, although his black suit and gold jewelry still mark him more as a gangster than the legitimate businessman he aspires to be.

carlito5suit-crop

  • Black tonal-striped wool three-piece suit, consisting of:
    • Single-breasted 2-button suit jacket with wide peak lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and double vents
    • Single-breasted 5-button vest with four welt pockets and notched bottom
    • Flat front trousers with belt loops, slanted side pockets, jetted back pockets with button loops, and flared plain-hemmed bottoms
  • Black blue/purple-foulard patterned shirt with long point collar, front placket, and double/French cuffs
  • Silver oval cuff links
  • Black leather belt with gold rectangular single-prong buckle
  • Black leather Cuban-style ankle boots
  • Black socks
  • Gold chain-link identity bracelet
  • Gold wristwatch with dark blue dial on gold bracelet
  • Gold pinky ring with black square-set stone

For extra touches of color, Carlito wears a solid dress shirts and matching printed ties in shades of gold and purple. He always wears a black silk display kerchief in his breast pocket, despite the color of his shirt and tie.

The Gun

As noted in an earlier post, Carlito Brigante’s preferred sidearm of a Beretta 92F is slightly anachronistic for the film’s 1975 setting; the first Beretta 92 wasn’t introduced until that year with the 92F only appearing a decade later.

Carlito shows an impressive familiarity with a firearm that won't even be developed for another ten years.

Carlito shows an impressive familiarity with a firearm that won’t even be developed for another ten years.

Kept in his office safe, Carlito’s Beretta is indeed one of the 92F models produced in the mid-1980s, similar to the one famously carried by Bruce Willis in Die Hard, although Carlito opts for the more practical carry method of his waistband rather than taping it to his bare back. Like the earlier Beretta 92 and the later 92FS, the Beretta 92F is a full-size semi-automatic pistol with a traditional double-action trigger and chambered for 9x19mm Parabellum ammunition.

If the filmmakers were so hell-bent on Carlito carrying a full-size 9mm Beretta, a more chronistically-appropriate choice may have been the Beretta M1951, which was produced from the 1950s through 1980 in Italy, where it was the standard sidearm of the Italian Navy, Carabinieri, and national Polizia Stradale highway patrol.

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Buy the movie.

The Quote

What, you think you like me? You ain’t like me, motherfucker. You a punk. I’ve been with made people, connected people. Who you been with? Chain-snatching, jive-ass, maricón motherfuckers. Why don’t you get lost? Go ahead, snatch a purse. Come on, take a fuckin’ walk.

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