Mahershala Ali as Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes, mob boss and nightclub owner
Harlem, November 2015
Series: Luke Cage
Episodes: “Code of the Streets” (Episode 1.02) & “Just to Get a Rep” (Episode 1.05)
Streaming Date: September 30, 2016
Directors: Paul McGuigan (Episode 1.02) & Marc Jobst (Episode 1.05)
Costume Designer: Stephanie Maslansky
Key Tailor: Cherie Cunningham
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Happy birthday, Mahershala Ali! Following a multi-season stint as Remy Danton on Netflix’s House of Cards and a breakout 2016 that included his Oscar-winning role in Moonlight, Ali returned to Netflix to play the charismatic, powerful, and dangerous crime boss Cornell Stokes in Marvel’s Luke Cage.
What’d He Wear?
Flanked by his lackeys, Cornell Stokes struts into Pop’s Barbershop at the outset of the second episode wearing a silky gray three-piece suit that immediately establishes his position and his flashy confidence.
Costume designer Stephanie Maslansky, who has impressively established the signature look of Marvel’s heroes and villains across multiple Netflix series, sourced much of Cottonmouth’s wardrobe from exclusive Italian fashion houses like Dolce & Gabbana and Zegna, and this suit is no exception.
After some research, I found that Mahershala Ali appears to be wearing a Dolce & Gabbana suit similar to the “Three Piece Single-Breasted Wedding Suit” still offered by Dolce & Gabbana as of February 2018 with the hefty – but crime boss-friendly – price tag of $3,195. There are subtle style differences, notably in terms of pocket details and other smaller features, that tell us that this isn’t the exact suit worn by Ali, but it likely formed the basis for it. The suiting is a solid gray blend of 82% virgin wool and 12% silk, giving the suit its noticeable sheen under various light.
Single-breasted tailored jackets with peak lapels cycle through fashion every 40 years or so, spiking in popularity in the 1930s, the 1970s, and the current decade. Cottonmouth Stokes first appeared in the original Luke Cage comic series in June 1974, and his adaptation to television in 2016 brings some of that retro mentality and “’70s kingpin” mindset to the forefront, particularly through his flashy fashion sensibilities.
This single-breasted Dolce & Gabbana suit jacket has peak lapels, though fashionably slimmer than what one would have encountered in the ’70s, that roll to the top of a medium-to-low two-button stance. The jacket is shaped with darts to build up the shoulders with its roped sleeveheads and gently suppress the waist to enhance Cottonmouth’s imposing presence. It also has long double vents, four-button cuffs, straight flapped hip pockets, and a welted breast pocket where he wears a variety of colored pocket squares to coordinate (but not match) his ties.
The suit has a matching waistcoat (vest) with a single-breasted, five-button front with a notched bottom. Darts shape the fit through the torso with welted lower pockets in line with the fourth button down.
The back of Cottonmouth’s waistcoat is dark gray rayon with a satin finish to match the lining of his suit jacket, with an adjustable strap and a small notch on the bottom.
The low rise of the darted-front trousers is most notable as Cottonmouth has his jacket removed following an extended period of sitting in Pop’s barber chair in “Code of the Streets” (Episode 1.02), also revealing that his trouser waistband is fitted with side-tab adjusters rather than belt loops, another alteration from the currently available D&G suit. There are slanted side pockets augmented by two welted coin pockets, and there are two jetted button-through pockets in the back. The fit is slim and straight through the legs down to the plain-hemmed bottoms.
The high break of the trouser bottoms doesn’t hide Cottonmouth’s footwear, a pair of dark brown leather plain-toe derby shoes worn with black socks.
For this suit’s first appearance in “Code of the Streets” (Episode 1.02), Cottonmouth wears a blue-gray and white Bengal stripe shirt with the character’s signature cutaway spread collar, plain front, and mitred cuffs. The single button on each cuff is set slightly further back from the hand than the center.
Cottonmouth’s tie in “Code of the Streets” (episode 1.02) is a dull olive brown ground with a field of neatly arranged rows of squares that alternate between gray and taupe, with a black dot in the center of the latter taupe squares. Embellished with a gold shield-shaped stickpin with an emerald stone, the tie is worn in a wide Windsor knot, coordinating well with the broad tie space of the spread collar on Cottonmouth’s shirt.
Three episodes later in “Just to Get a Rep” (Episode 1.05), the silky gray suit returns with a pale blue herringbone-woven cotton shirt with a subtle blue-and-gray overlapping windowpane grid check. Like his other shirt, this has a cutaway spread collar, plain front, and single-button cuffs set back from the wrist, though these cuffs are rounded on a long curve rather than mitred.
Cottonmouth wears two ties in this episode, a dark gray textured silk tie and a blue macclesfield silk tie, both worn in Windsor knots and with a hexagonal-shaped diamond stickpin. In both instances, Cottonmouth coordinates the color of his patterned silk pocket square to his ties without committing the faux pas of an exact match.
Cottonmouth’s stylish wristwatch has a polished stainless steel case on a black leather strap. The white-bordered blue “tuxedo dial” reminded me of the Omega DeVille Hour Vision, but I’m still not sure.
On his right pinky, Cottonmouth wears a silver ring with a set-in round blue stone.
Cottonmouth wears emerald-set earrings for most of the show’s run. In the Forbes interview, Maslansky explained that “the beautiful earrings he wears, they have emeralds in the center. He always has a subtle piece of green, somewhere, little things that reference that snake-like aspect to his character.”
What to Imbibe
Cottonmouth has a wall of booze in his office that would make Don Draper green with envy (or with cirrhosis.) One bottle of premium liquor that actually makes it to the crime boss’s desk in “Just to Get a Rep” (episode 1.05) is DeLeón, which markets itself as “a new level of luxury in tequila”.
“DeLeón® Tequila is made from the finest 100% Highland Blue Weber agave sourced from the rich earth of the Los Altos region of Jalisco,” explains the tequila’s official website. “DeLeón achieves astonishing depth of flavor in just two distillations – allowing the tequila to retain the unique character acquired during the fermentation process. Our master distiller artfully cuts the beginning and end of the distillation, allowing only the absolute best portion, or Corazon, to find its way into every bottle, creating a subtle taste profile with unrivaled smoothness.”
It is offered in five bottlings: Platinum, Reposado, Diamante, Extra Añejo, and Leóna. Cottonmouth is sipping the Platinum, a smooth tequila blanco with a finish described as warm spices and vanilla. In certain states, you can order a bottle for $35 online.
How to Get the Look
Cottonmouth Stokes is a powerful, live-by-the-moment gangster who communicates this with his trendy and flashy three-piece suit that takes some cues from classic gangster style.
- Gray wool-silk tailored Dolce & Gabbana suit:
- Single-breasted 2-button jacket with slim peak lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, 4-button cuffs, and long double vents
- Single-breasted 5-button vest with lower welted pockets and notched bottom
- Flat front straight-leg trousers with side-tab adjusters, slanted side pockets, jetted button-through back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Striped or checked cotton dress shirt with cutaway spread collar and 1-button cuffs
- Subtly patterned silk tie
- Diamond stickpin
- Dark brown leather plain-toe 3-eyelet derby shoes
- Black cotton lisle socks
- Polished stainless steel wristwatch with round blue-and-white dial on black leather strap
- Silver pinky ring with round blue set-in stone
- Emerald-set silver earrings
After the explosive climax of “Who’s Gonna Take the Weight?” (episode 1.03) found him attempting to take out his prey with a missile launcher, Cottonmouth Stokes has returned to a somewhat more practical sidearm two episodes later in “Just to Get a Rep” (episode 1.05) when he is seen picking up a blued 1911-series pistol from his desk and dispatching a comrade with a single shot. This weapon has been identified by IMFDB as a Smith & Wesson SW1911SC.
Despite James Bond’s insistence in Dr. No that a rival’s 1911-style pistol was a Smith & Wesson (and a six-shot capacity one, at that), the Massachusetts manufacturer only entered the 1911 game in the 21st century with the introduction of the Smith & Wesson SW1911 in 2003. The product line has been expanded over the last 15 years to include a number of variants that customize the weapon for the ultimate user experience while remaining true to John Browning’s original M1911 design.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out Luke Cage on Netflix! Non-Netflix subscribers can also find the first season available for purchase at Amazon.
Jesus saves. I don’t.