Johnny Depp as Joe Pistone, aka “Donnie Brasco”, undercover FBI agent infiltrating the Mafia
New York City, Fall 1979
Film: Donnie Brasco
Release Date: February 28, 1997
Director: Mike Newell
Costume Designer: Aude Bronson-Howard & David C. Robinson
#MafiaMonday has become something of an occasional tradition for BAMF Style, but there’s no reason why every celebration of mob style needs to feature an actual gangster. Take the case of Joe Pistone, a real-life FBI agent and undercover pioneer whose six years infiltrating the Bonanno family of the New York Mafia was so effective that NYPD investigations and even some FBI files had mistakenly marked the agent as a mob associate named Don Brasco. Pistone was ordered to end his operation in the summer of 1981, despite the agent hoping to at least be “made” and inducted into the ranks of the mob.
Pistone’s undercover assignment was dramatized in the 1997 film Donnie Brasco, starring Johnny Depp as the young agent and Al Pacino as Benjamin “Lefty” Ruggiero, the three-time loser who eagerly takes on “Don the Jeweler” as his mentee in the mob.
What’d He Wear?
Leather outerwear is practically a required uniform for the mobsters in Sonny Black’s crew, and Donnie himself wears at least three sharp leather jackets, including a saddle brown car coat, a similar coat in black, and this brown leather blazer that is prominently worn for two scenes: one of cruelty and one of compassion.
The former finds Donnie, Lefty, Sonny, and the other fellas stepping out to dine at a Japanese restaurant, where the cultural custom of removing one’s shoes endangers Donnie blowing his cover for the tape recorder he keeps in his boot. (And, reportedly, the real Pistone’s tapes of the mobsters were provided to screenwriter Paul Attanasio for an added touch of realism.)
The second finds Donnie joining Lefty in the hospital after the latter’s son Tommy is hospitalized following another overdose and his heart stopping “like a watch”. Donnie hopes to make amends for all but abandoning Lefty in favor of a role working for the more ambitious Sonny Black, but the bitter old mafioso will have none of it: “I don’t want you here, Donnie. You and Tommy is both peas in a fucking pod. You don’t listen. You got your own ideas. You do what you want to do up on your high horses. Everything’s a joke.”
Donnie’s brown leather sports coat dates itself to the late ’70s with its wide notch lapels that stretch the better part of a foot toward the roped sleeveheads. The jacket has a single back vent and three patch pockets: one breast pocket and one on each hip.
Though arguably meant to be a product of the disco era, the back of the jacket is styled with a half-belt and side pleats, reminiscent of the “action back” suits and sport jackets that enjoyed their greatest popularity during the 1930s.
For the group’s outing to the Japanese restaurant, Donnie wears a solid navy blue knit polo with a large collar and a four-button placket, consistent with the styling of most of his other polo shirts.
Donnie first wears the jacket with a pair of dark olive wool flat front trousers with full plain-hemmed bottoms that fit easily over his high-rise cowboy boots. He wears his usual belt, a slim strip of tan leather with a rounded, gold-toned buckle.
Japanese waiter: Take your shoes off.
Joe/Donnie: Take my shoes off? You take your pants off, what the fuck.
Donnie can only get away with so much demonstrative, Paulie Walnuts-type rhetoric before the waiter grows insistent on the patron removing his boots before his party can sit down to eat. As mentioned above, doing so would reveal the fact that Donnie has been recording the boys’ criminal deeds for the feds, so he reverts to more racially charged language that sadly leads to the increasingly incensed mobsters beating the poor waiter to a pulp.
The footwear that Donnie chooses to conceal his mini broadcasting studio is a pair of brown exotic leather cowboy boots with pointed toes and ornate green stitching up the shafts.
Later, after Lefty’s son is hospitalized, Joe/Donnie comes to visit him wearing the brown leather blazer with an earthy polo and taupe trousers. The knit polo is forest green with a brown collar and brown piping down the half-zip placket. The zipper has a dark brass rectangular-frame pull tab.
Donnie’s gold watch from other scenes doesn’t make any prominent appearances during these sequences, though he still wears his usual gold Claddagh ring on his left ring finger and almost certainly still has his gold necklace with a cross pendant.
How to Get the Look
Unlike some of his criminal colleagues, Donnie Brasco keeps his look fashionable but ultimately timeless by avoiding the extremes of late ’70s style… lapel width notwithstanding. After all, a brown leather jacket with a dark polo and slacks is always going to be acceptable.
- Brown leather single-breasted sport jacket with wide notch lapels, two-button front, patch breast pocket, patch hip pockets, “action back” side-pleated back with half-belt and single vent
- Navy knit polo shirt with four-button placket
- Dark olive wool flat front trousers with belt loops, side pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Brown slim leather belt with rounded gold-toned single-prong buckle
- Gold necklace with cross pendant
- Gold Claddagh ring on left ring finger
Do Yourself a Favor And…
I’m gonna stay here with you. You want to kick the shit out of me? I’m gonna be right here. All right?