Sonny Corleone: Dressed Down for a Beat-Down
James Caan as Santino “Sonny” Corleone, hot-headed mob chief
New York City, Summer 1948
Film: The Godfather
Release Date: March 15, 1972
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Costume Designer: Anna Hill Johnstone
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
For this midsummer #MafiaMonday, BAMF Style is taking a look at this much-requested outfit from Sonny Corleone’s street takedown of his abusive brother-in-law Carlo Rossi (Gianni Russo).
It’s a hot June day in New York City. Carlo and his cronies are all out on the street, loafing around, listening to the radio, and not expecting much from their day… until a black sedan squeals to a stop, and out charges Sonny Corleone, charging after Carlo with designs on at least ruining the latter’s orange two-tone leisure suit.
What’d He Wear?
We first catch up with Sonny as he leaves an assignation with his comare, half-dressed in the waistcoat and trousers of a gray wool suit with a subtle windowpane check. Due to the weather and the casual nature of the situation, he doesn’t bother with wearing the jacket or even buttoning up the waistcoat.
The single-breasted waistcoat (or vest, as some of we Amerigans call it) has a six-button front and two welted pockets at the hip level. The back is gray satin with a wide adjustable cinch-strap.
Sonny wears a light blue satin-striped silk shirt that appears to be the same shirt he wears for the iconic later scene when he is gunned down at the causeway. He wears only the top button of his shirt undone, covering up his white ribbed cotton sleeveless undershirt and the gold Catholic cross that we know he wears on a gold necklace.
The shirt has a large point collar, per 1940s fashions, a front placket with the two top smoke-blue plastic buttons undone at the top, a breast pocket monogrammed with “SC” in navy stitching, and double (French) cuffs fastened with round gold links.
Sonny’s tie is abstractly striped in dark navy, blue, cornflower blue, orange, and cream in an “uphill” direction.
The high-waisted trousers have double reverse pleats and tall belt loops at the top, though these go unused as Sonny wears suspenders (braces) in lieu of a belt. The trousers have vertical side pockets, two jetted back pockets that each close through a button, and turn-ups (cuffs) on the bottoms.
Sonny makes a snappy impression for his beatdown with a pair of black-and-white leather oxfords, worn with black socks. These spectator shoes have white vamps, a black toe cap, black lace panels with five eyelets for its black laces, and black heels.
Since Sonny didn’t have time to grab a pair of brass knuckles, he just has to hope that his gold pinky ring with its single inset diamond is solid enough to do some damage when he connects with Carlo’s jaw (…or doesn’t, as James Caan’s pulled punch has been spotted by many a Godfather fan.)
Only the yellow gold case of Sonny’s tank watch can be seen as he’s laying into Carlo, but it is almost definitely the same watch with the gold bracelet that he wears throughout The Godfather.
How to Get the Look
Though it’s an “incomplete” look with the missing jacket, unbuttoned waistcoat, and untied tie, Sonny Corleone’s outfit when he beat up Carlo has proven to be a fan favorite.
- Gray windowpane check wool suit:
- Single-breasted 6-button waistcoat with welted hip pockets, gray satin silk back, and adjustable back strap
- Double reverse-pleated high-rise trousers with belt loops, straight/on-seam side pockets, jetted button-through back pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- Light blue satin-striped shirt with large point collar, front placket, double/French cuffs, and monogrammed breast pocket
- Large flat gold round cuff links
- Navy blue suspenders/braces
- Black-and-white calf leather 5-eyelet spectator oxfords
- Black socks
- White ribbed sleeveless undershirt
- Gold square-cased tank watch on gold bracelet
- Gold pinky ring with inset diamond
- Gold necklace with a large plain cross pendant
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the series.
What’s the matter with you, huh? What am I going to do? Am I gonna make that baby an orphan before he’s born?
Although he only wore it for this one scene, this memorable and colorful outfit was used as Sonny Corleone’s default costume in the 2006 video game released by Electronic Arts.
James Caan joined fellow cast members Robert Duvall and Abe Vigoda as some of the original actors who lent their voices and likenesses to the game, and Caan was actually nominated for Best Supporting Male Performance at the 2006 Spike Video Game Awards, though he lost to James Gandolfini in the similarly themed game The Sopranos: Road to Respect.
Just for curiosity: Weren’t leisure suit popular during the 70s, or were they were also wore back in the 40s?
You’re correct that the quintessential leisure suit was indeed a product of the ’70s, and Carlo’s outfit differs from that.
However, casual garments like what Carlo wears here were often marketed during the postwar years as a “leisure coat” or “Hollywood jacket”. With his matching trousers, I think we’re seeing the origins of the leisure suit that brightly shone during the disco era!
Sir , l have always been curious about the shirt Material . How can one be sure that it is silk and not a high twist cotton with Satin Stripes ?