Larry David as himself, a neurotic comedy writer
Los Angeles, Summer 2002
Series: Curb Your Enthusiasm
Episode: “Chet’s Shirt” (Episode 3.01)
Air Date: September 15, 2002
Director: Robert B. Weide
Creator: Larry David
Costume Designer: Wendy Range Rao
The comedian, writer, and creator of Seinfeld was born 72 years ago tomorrow—July 2, 1947—in Brooklyn. After a career spent behind the scenes, first as a writer on Saturday Night Live before he teamed up with Jerry Seinfeld, Larry finally decided to take a primary role in front of the camera by portraying an even more neurotic version of himself on Curb Your Enthusiasm. What began as an hourlong HBO special has turned into ten seasons and counting of an improvisational comedy masterpiece.
Larry’s latent passion for menswear rears its head in “Chet’s Shirt”, not only regarding the titular top but also his choice to make a major investment in an elegant new restaurant… almost certainly for the sole reason that he would be put in charge of determining the waitstaff’s uniforms.
Larry: Hey, how ’bout this?
Jeff: That’s what you want the waiters to wear?
Larry: Yeah, why not?
Jeff: So you want the waiters to dress like you?
Larry: Why’s that bad?
What’d He Wear?
Two years after Curb Your Enthusiasm premiered with an opening shot of Larry David’s “pants tent”, the third season began with yet another clothing-focused episode, this time the eponymous “Chet’s Shirt”, a classic black-and-cream silk shirt that Larry envies after spying it in a photo of his friend Barbara’s deceased husband Chet.
“Boy, I love this shirt. That is exactly the kinda shirt that I would wear, don’t you think?” After some uncomfortable prodding of Chet’s widow, Larry finally finds out from Barbara (Caroline Aaron) that the shirt was likely purchased from Caruso’s on Wilshire Boulevard.
Sure enough, the next time we see Larry, he’s happily jaunting along Ocean Avenue with Jeff, sporting a black-and-cream silk shirt that could only be his latest purchase from Caruso’s, one of only three from the store’s remaining stock in the episode’s narrative. When they get to their lunch meeting, even Ted Danson can’t help but to comment on what he rightly refers to “really nice” shirt and ask where he got it. “Actually, I saw a dead guy’s picture,” Larry responds evasively—but not inaccurately.
After Ted’s compliment, Larry decides to buy the two remaining shirts from Caruso’s—one as a gift for Ted and one as a personal backup. “I always ruin my shirts, I stain ’em, and I like it; it’d be good to have an extra one. Is it crazy to have two of the same shirt?” Larry asks. Larry’s in luck, as the salesman is able to find the two last shirts in Caruso’s stock and holds them up, revealing the signature gold-embroidered-on-black Nat Nast label.
“Come on, feel this material, this is beautiful,” Larry urges his wife, and you get a sense that George Costanza’s material-feeling gaffe may have had some genesis with the real-life Larry. He has a point, though, as Nat Nast has offered this “Rockabilly” shirt in several luxurious fabrics, including a 70/30 silk-viscose blend as well as 100% silk. Likely made from the latter, Larry’s shirt has long sleeves that button at the cuffs with a one-piece “Italian-style” camp collar, five smoke-gray plastic sew-through buttons down the plain front, and back side pleats. The mostly black shirt has wide cream panels on the front that extend from the shoulder seams down to the bottom of the shirt with cream contrast stitching along the inside.
Like all of his shirts, Larry’s new acquisition is oversized, dwarfing his already slim frame with its baggy fit. He wears it over a cotton crew-neck short-sleeve T-shirt in charcoal gray, just a shade lighter than the black of his shirt but hardly much of a contrast. His black trousers are likely pleated and worn with a belt.
Unfortunately, Larry counters his all-time style high of the Nat Nast shirt and black pants with a pair of uninspired gray sneakers and white tube socks. “I’m really happy with my new sneakers,” Larry shared in the previous season’s fifth episode. “You know, ’cause they’re gray. And, if you think about it, it’s a good color, ’cause white is really too bright and black is like a pair of shoes. And gray is kind of like right in the middle. They look good.”
You can read more about Larry David’s approach to sneakers in this 2017 article by Alec Banks for High Snobiety. The shoes seen in this episode do not appear to be New Balance, Nike Jordan, or Simple OS, all brands or models often associated with Larry’s real-life favored footwear.
Larry wears his usual watch through these earlier seasons, characterized by a silver-toned case (likely white gold) with a squared rose dial and a tan crocodile strap, which some have suggested to be a Baume & Mercier, Longines, or Patek Philippe Gondolo.
Larry also continues to wear his usual round-framed glasses with transition lenses, which Oliver Peoples claims as its own MP-3 model.
The Sopranos Connections
Despite his “character” being cast in a Martin Scorsese joint by the season’s end, there’s still little about Larry David that looks like the classic Italian-American gangster…until you realize that Chet’s shirt makes numerous appearances on The Sopranos. Interestingly, the shirt is always worn by men of considerable girth, the opposite in body shape from the lean and lanky Larry David.
Almost midway through “Two Tonys” (Episode 5.01), the fifth season premiere, Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) enters his uncle’s home to visit an older mobster recently released from prison. Tony wears a black-and-cream Nat Nast “Rockabilly” shirt, identical to Larry’s in every respect except that Tony wears the short-sleeved version as opposed to Larry’s long-sleeved shirt.
Two episodes after Tony graced his kitchen with his own short-sleeved version of Chet’s shirt, his uncle Corrado “Junior” Soprano (Dominic Chianese) is flipping through the channels of his newly obtained cable service and catches sight of Larry and Jeff on Curb Your Enthusiasm, mistaking the pair for himself and his overweight caretaker Bobby Bacala (Steven R. Schirripa).
As Junior frantically tries to decipher Larry and Jeff’s misadventures with a Judy doll in the famous episode “The Doll” (Episode 2.07), his drowsy, elderly caretaker Tommy Di Palma (Ed Setrakian) tries to reassure him that the episode is nothing more than a TV pro-grum.
In the very next scene, Bobby himself strolls into the back room of the Bing… wearing a black-and-cream color-blocked shirt almost identical to the Nat Nast “Chet’s Shirt” that Tony had worn two episodes earlier. Bobby’s shirt, however, appears to be a lighter-weight linen or linen-silk blend as opposed to the full-silk version that Tony wears.
A season later, Vito Spatafore (Joseph R. Gannascoli) wears his own black-and-cream short-sleeved Nat Nast “Rockabilly” during his idyllic retreat to Dartford, New Hampshire. The shirt briefly appears in “Johnny Cakes” (Episode 6.08) while Vito subjects himself to the inane conversation of his fellow B&B guests. Despite being such a Jersey-friendly shirt, the only time Vito wears it is when he’s away from his mob colleagues.
Tony’s Nat Nast fandom reappears in full force in “Irregular Around the Margins” (Episode 5.05), first with a brown-and-cream silk short-sleeved shirt and finally a unique black-and-navy version in the same cut and style, both times for scenes that end in Tony arguing with Carmela about his supposed sexual interlude with an underling’s fiancee.
Before Larry David or any of the tough guys in Tony Soprano’s crew pulled theirs on, an early TV model for this specific Nat Nast shirt appeared in the unlikely form of Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry) on Friends. Chandler rocked his Rockabilly shirt during the cold open at the start of the seventh-season finale “The One with Monica and Chandler’s Wedding”, which aired May 17, 2001.
Chandler’s Nat Nast shirt appears almost identical to the camp shirts worn by HBO’s characters, though Chandler’s chest panels appear to be a purer white than the creamy shade sported by Larry and Tony’s crew. His blue jeans and visible white undershirt also differentiate how he wears the look, though we can imagine Larry would have endorsed Chandler’s white sneakers.
During the Thanksgiving episode of the following season, “The One with the Rumor”, Chandler would again pull out a Nat Nast shirt, this time a long-sleeved version in the same black-and-navy colorway that Tony Soprano had worn in “Irregular Around the Margins”.
How to Get the Look
Larry David may not be known for his sense of style, but there’s a reason that both he and Ted Danson find themselves so drawn to this classic silk shirt.
- Black-and-cream color-blocked silk Nat Nast “Rockabilly” long-sleeve camp shirt with five-button plain front and button cuffs
- Charcoal cotton crew-neck T-shirt
- Black pleated trousers with belt loops and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Black leather belt
- Gray sneakers with white laces and white outsoles
- White tube socks with black top trim
- Oliver Peoples MP-3 glasses with round transition lenses
- White gold wristwatch with rose rectangular dial on tan leather strap
Though the Rockabilly is no longer available from Nat Nast’s collection, older versions are relatively abundant from used clothing sellers online at places like eBay and Poshmark. I was able to purchase for myself two short-sleeved versions on eBay—one linen, one silk—that are very comfortable.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out Curb Your Enthusiasm, and find this episode at the start of the show’s third season.
I don’t like talking to people I know, but strangers I have no problem with.