Goodfellas: Joe Pesci in Glen Plaid

Joe Pesci as Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas (1990)

Vitals

Joe Pesci as Tommy DeVito, volatile and violent Mafia associate

New York, Spring 1979

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

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

We always called each other “good fellas.” Like you said to somebody, “You’re gonna like this guy. He’s all right. He’s a good fella. He’s one of us.” You understand? We were good fellas. Wiseguys.

The line may have been an afterthought to explain the new Goodfellas title after Scorsese was unable to use the book’s original Wiseguy title, but it provides the perfect context and framework for Tommy DeVito prepping for his “made man” ceremony, especially against the optimistic driving piano exit of Derek and the Dominoes’ “Layla”.

Of course, little does Tommy know that he’s in for the ultimate case of the [Mafia] Mondays…

What’d He Wear?

This isn’t the first Mafia “made man” ceremony covered in BAMF Style, so we know from Christopher Moltisanti on The Sopranos that this is a time for an ambitious mafioso to look his best…and shoot his cuffs.

Tommy DeVito has a closet full of sharp silk suits and jackets that we’ve seen throughout Goodfellas, but this is the most prominent appearance of this sportcoat in black and white Glen Urquhart plaid silk with a blue overcheck.

The details of the jacket are proportional for Joe Pesci’s 5’4″ height such as the single-button closure and the short double vents, a more flattering style for a shorter guy than the exaggeratedly long vents that were characteristic of late ’70s jackets. Esquire’s The Handbook of Style suggests single-button jackets for “the short guy” as it lengthens the silhouette and “the deep V will give length to your torso,” although Pesci doesn’t take full advantage of that since he wears his jacket open.

The single-breasted jacket has wide-notched lapels and a single blue-gray button that fastens at his waist line, but Tommy wears his jacket unbuttoned and open. The jacket has sporty slanted flap pockets over the hips and a welted breast pocket for his black satin display kerchief. At the end of each sleeve is the same distinctive 1″ turnback cuff that differentiates most, if not all, of Tommy’s jackets in the film, accented by two non-functioning buttons.

Tommy preps for his big day.

Tommy preps for his big day.

Tommy’s white shirt has thin white satin stripes for a touch of contrast. It has a front placket, a box-pleated breast pocket with Tommy’s monogram, and double (French) cuffs that he fastens with a set of gold ball cuff links.

This shirt features the same long “spearpoint” collar distinctive to Mafioso in Scorsese’s films. This collar, marketed alternatively as a “Goodfella collar” or “Tony collar” by some retailers, has an almost non-existent spread with a consistently narrow tie space between the long collar leaves. His wide black silk tie thus appears to explode out from the collar as the knot is almost completely hidden by the collar.

The black and white tones of his outfit make Tommy's blood all the more jarring as the stark red splashes all over his clothing.

Speaking of exploding… the black and white tones of his outfit make Tommy’s blood all the more jarring as the stark red splashes all over his clothing.

Tommy wears black silk flat front trousers with a high rise that perfectly meets his jacket’s fastening button and his tie blade at his waist. The trousers have a fitted waistband, worn sans belt. The trousers’ plain-hemmed bottoms are worn over the decoratively stitched shafts of his black leather cowboy boots, a fitting choice for Tommy in terms of both form (evocative of his wild “cowboy” reputation) and function (adding an inch or two of height).

Crime doesn't pay!

Crime doesn’t pay!

Tommy wears all of his gold jewelry on his left hand, a square-cased wristwatch and a diamond pinky ring.

The Dressed-Down Polo

This jacket makes a brief appearance earlier in the film when Tommy meets Henry and Jimmy at the Department of Probation to discuss their burgeoning cocaine business. (Odd choice of venue, no?)

Tommy dresses down his jacket, wearing a black knit long-sleeve polo shirt with a large collar. All other elements, including his black trousers and cowboy boots, remain the same.

Henry got pretty dolled up for his probation officer, didn't he?

Henry got pretty dolled up for his probation officer, didn’t he?

How to Get the Look

The Goodfellas gangsters are frequently colorful dressers, but Tommy dresses for the solemnity of the occasion in subdued but stylish black and white… unknowingly giving his murderers a stark visual palate for his violent murder.

  • Black-and-white Glen Urquhart check silk single-breasted single-button sport jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, slanted flapped hip pockets, 2-button “turnback” cuffs, and short double vents
  • White-on-white satin-striped dress shirt with long “spearpoint” collar, front placket, monogrammed box-pleated breast pocket, and double/French cuffs
    • Gold ball cuff links
  • Black silk tie
  • Black silk flat front high-rise trousers with fitted waistband and plain-hemmed bottoms
  • Black leather cowboy boots
  • Gold square-cased wristwatch
  • Gold diamond pinky ring

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Buy the movie.

Footnote

Fans of Goodfellas know that Joe Pesci’s character, Tommy DeVito, was primarily based on real life mobster Thomas “Two-Gun Tommy” DeSimone, a burly associate of the Lucchese crew who shared Pesci’s on-screen temperament if not his physical characteristics.

The real DeSimone was killed in the months following the December 1978 Lufthansa heist in relatively similar circumstances as his on-screen death in Goodfellas. “It was revenge for Billy Batts, and a lot of other things,” explains Henry’s on-screen narration, although Hill himself didn’t explain the “lot of other things” until his 1994 book Gangsters and Goodfellas.

Already unpopular among mob leadership for his violent volatility, DeSimone sealed his fate by attempting to rape Karen Hill, not only the wife of then-imprisoned associate Henry Hill but also the mistress of capo Paul Vario. Vario went to the Gambino crew, explaining that Tommy had killed two of its members without permission and developing the plan to lure DeSimone to his death under the pretense that he will be formally inducted as a “made man”.

Hill accompanied Jimmy Burke to Florida in the last week of 1978 with DeSimone remaining in New York for his supposed ceremony. Burke called from Florida to ask about the ceremony and, as seen in Goodfellas, reacted to the news of Tommy’s murder with overwhelming sadness, slamming the phone down and crying. Hill posits that the notorious John Gotti, who had been a personal friend to one of Tommy’s victims, was the actual triggerman.

Henry’s narration in Goodfellas explains that “they even shot Tommy in the face so his mother couldn’t give him an open coffin at the funeral,” but the actual corpse was never discovered. Tommy’s wife Cookie reported him missing on January 14, 1979, a few weeks after the last time she had seen him. By that time, Burke had already started his wave of post-Lufthansa killings that would lead to a dozen violent deaths of mob associates and their girlfriends, including DeSimone’s mistress Theresa Ferrara, a former fashion model found dismembered in Barnegat Inlet the following month.

The Quote

Oh, n-

GOODFELLAS

9 comments

  1. Preston Fassel

    Another collar comment– is there any historical precedent for this type of shirt collar being popular, among the mafia or otherwise? Every website I’ve ever read about it on always links it back to the film, indicating that Scorsese or someone in wardrobe invented it especially for the film, to evoke a particular idea about the mob, if not the authentic image.

    Like

    • Tom G

      They’re really just an exaggerated version of “spearpoint” collars, which were very popular in the 1930’s and 40’s. It harkens back to classic Gangster and Film Noire movies of that time, movies that inspired Scorsese and other directors of his generation. They fell out of style in the late 1940’s but returned in the 1970’s.

      It was also a style close to the streets, then. My great-grandfather (who ran numbers and took bets in Brooklyn) used to wear shirts with very similar collars.

      Like

  2. Ryan Hall

    You can’t go wrong with a Glen Plaid sports jacket, I prefer pairing a grey glen plaid jacket with charcoal slacks, but black will always work.

    Like

  3. Athanasios

    Black leather cowboy boots ? Come on ! That is just…wrong in so many levels. Black oxfords would be better but cowboy boots that is just…DAMN !

    Like

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