The Sopranos: “Acting Boss” Silvio in Silver Flecked Silk
Steven Van Zandt as Silvio Dante, Jersey mob consigliere and “acting boss”
New Jersey, Spring 2006
Series: The Sopranos
Episode: “Mayham” (Episode 6.03)
Air Date: March 26, 2006
Director: Jack Bender
Creator: David Chase
Costume Designer: Juliet Polcsa
Happy birthday, Steven Van Zandt!
While The Sopranos introduced him to new audiences after the show’s premiere in 1999, “Little Steven” had been a longtime guitarist with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Van Zandt first toured with the Boss in the 1970s before embarking on his own successful solo career and launching a series of ventures where he could share his encyclopedic knowledge of rock and pop music as a radio host, Sirius program director, label producer, and more! Miami Steve had never formally acted before taking the role of Silvio Dante on The Sopranos, and the cool-headed (but cold-hearted) consigliere quickly rose to become a fan favorite, known for his bouffant and his bold, idiosyncratic fashion sense that wasn’t unlike the man portraying him.
After five seasons behind the scenes of the show’s fictional DiMeo crime family, Silvio received his moment in the spotlight after mob boss Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) was comatose from a shooting incident at the start of the sixth season. The loyal Silvio was tapped to serve as the family’s “acting boss” until Tony’s recovery… no doubt to the delight of Stevie’s fans in the music world where he had first rose to fame working with a different kind of Boss.
“I never saw myself as that kinda guy,” Silvio explains to his wife Gabriella (Maureen Van Zandt, Steven’s real-life wife), regarding the opportunity. “I’m more behind the scenes… advice, strategy.” Despite Silvio’s reluctance, he does share that he had reportedly been a contender to fill Jackie Aprile’s shoes when that fellow well-coiffed mobster died of cancer years earlier, creating a brief leadership vacancy that Silvio had considered taking.
Of course, we see that sometimes the most talented employees aren’t always management material, and the stress of Silvio’s new job triggers an asthma attack that lands him in the same hospital as his recuperating boss.
What’d He Wear?
Let’s start at the beginning of Silvio Dante’s day, when Benny Fazio (Max Casella) comes to pick up the new acting boss as he’s having his breakfast of Kashi and coffee, dressed in the lush loungewear of a black-and-gold cross-streaked silk robe with solid black satin shawl collar, cuffs, and pocket piping. Between the lapels of the robe, we see that Sil wears as much gold jewelry as his boss, if not moreso as he has doubled up on the number of gold necklaces with both a gold cross and a gold pendant—likely with the likeness of a Catholic saint—that hangs slightly lower over his chest.
From there, we go upstairs and get a much-needed glimpse into Silvio Dante’s massive, colorful wardrobe as he picks out the suit that will guide him through his first day as acting boss. Series costume designer Juliet Polcsa had explained to The Independent in 2014 that “Stevie Van Zandt felt some of his character’s sartorial choices should be influenced by the way De Niro dressed in the film Casino,” and that flashy old Vegas sense of sartorialism clearly drives his outfit in this scene.
We’re treated to some delightful scenes of Silvio and his wife Gabriella “Gab” Dante—made all the more fun by the knowledge that they’re portrayed by real-life married couple Steven and Maureen Van Zandt—as she tenderly helps him get ready for his first day “on the job”, towing the line between a sweet, supportive partner and a more influential Lady Macbeth who admires his “strength in crisis” and reminds him that he wouldn’t sneeze at the opportunity to sit in “the big seat” on a more permanent basis.
First day at a new job? Sure, a gray suit is always a good idea- oh, I see where you’re going with this one, Silvio.
As a flashy mobster, Silvio eschews the gray worsteds or flannels that you or I may select to make a good impression on our first day at a new job, instead sporting a slick shark gray two-piece suit in a nubby black-streaked and white-flecked suiting suggesting dupioni silk, the “luxurious shantung-type silk fabric made from a double silk fiber from two cocoons nested together,” as described by Alan Flusser in Dressing the Man. “Mayham” isn’t the only appearance of this particular suit, which Silvio also effectively wears with the jacket orphaned in other episodes.
The single-breasted jacket has wide, razor-sharp peak lapels that roll to a single button, covered in the same silk cloth as the rest of the suit. The wide shoulders are padded to build Silvio’s intimidating silhouette, though the shoulders threaten to swallow his neck when Silvio burrows his head in the midst of his trademark scowl. In the jacket’s welted breast pocket, Silvio wears a burgundy silk pocket square that effectively coordinates with his colorfully abstract tie without matching it.
Silvio’s suit jacket has four functioning buttons on each cuff, also covered in the same silk cloth as the single button on the front. The jacket is split with long double vents, and the straight hip pockets are each covered with a flap.
Sil’s matching suit trousers have a single forward pleat on each side of the fly and wide belt loops around the waist, though he opts to wear suspenders (braces) that fasten to buttons along the inside of the waist instead. Finished with turn-ups (cuffs), these trousers have slightly slanted side pockets and slim-welted back pockets.
The suspenders are a dark brown twill fabric, possibly silk as suggested by the sheen, with a crossed pattern in scarlet red. Silvio’s suspenders have gold adjusters on the front with a dark brown leather back patch and matching dark brown leather ears that attach to three double sets of buttons.
Although the material of the suit makes it flashy, gray is still a relatively conservative color for Silvio, so the mobster adds characteristic color with an unorthodox coral-colored shirt with a slightly iridescent shine that suggests silk or a high-twist cotton.
As this is hardly a standard color for men’s dress shirts, gents hoping to tap into their inner Silvio Dante will likely either have to have their shirt made-to-order or made-to-measure or, on the opposing end of the quality spectrum, gamble with an off-the-rack alternative like this inexpensive Berlioni “convertible cuff” shirt made from a polyester/cotton blend. Despite the Italian brand name, the shirt’s material and the controversial convertible cuffs would likely disqualify it from a place in Silvio’s closet.
Silvio’s shirt has a spread collar, breast pocket, and a plain front that buttons up with white plastic buttons.
As Silvio prepares for his day, Gabriella lovingly adorns his shirt’s double (French) cuffs with a set of gold oval links, filled with red stones each accented with a diamond in the center.
And then there’s Silvio’s tie… To describe the pattern, one’s tempted to use the words “zebra-striped,” though I don’t believe there’s any naturally occurring zebra in the wild with a multi-colored coat like Silvio Dante’s bold neckwear. The black wavy stripes overlay the tie’s gradient-striped ground that fades from ivory to orange to red to burgundy, repeating and alternating its stripe under a chaotic field of black zebra stripes.
A discreetly photographed aerial shot when Silvio ducks into a bathroom stall with his coffee and newspaper reveals his black polka-dotted boxer shorts, though director of photography Phil Abraham thankfully keeps the camera from further invading Mr. Dante’s privacy.
While Sil’s the stall, we get a glimpse of all that his colleagues can see of him during their impromptu conference, the apron-toe fronts of his black leather loafers.
Mobsters may choose to present themselves in garish silks and pastels like Silvio Dante, dressed-down track suits like “Paulie Walnuts” and Christopher Moltisanti, or more subdued sport jackets and slacks like Tony Soprano and Johnny Sack, but one constant staple across all degrees of la cosa nostra dress code seems to be an abundance of jewelry, preferably yellow gold.
Given that his left wrist is occupied by his watch, Silvio dresses his right wrist with a flat gold herringbone bracelet, a slimmer and sleeker alternative to the chain-link bracelets favored by his criminal colleagues.
Silvio wears two rings—both gold, of course—though neither seems to be a wedding band. On the third finger of his right hand, Sil wears a large gold ring with a square-cut diamond. On the opposing hand, Silvio wears a slimmer-framed cross ring on his pinky.
In the fourth season of The Sopranos, Silvio stopped wearing the all-gold watch with the diamond-crusted bezel that he had worn for the first three seasons and replaced it with a black-and-gold watch consisting of a black case with a black dial and black bezel with gold number markers and a gold crown. The watch is secured to Sil’s left wrist on a gold mesh bracelet and can be clearly seen during a, uh, pivotal scene in the series’ penultimate episode, “The Blue Comet” (Episode 6.20).
How to Get the Look
Che palle! Silvio Dante’s style was unparalleled on The Sopranos, and he takes the opportunity upon reaching his highest on-screen rank to blend a more businesslike approach to his usual brash and colorful attire… though Sil’s idea of a gray suit for a day at the office differs from what the rest of us may consider appropriate. Then again, few of us are mobsters.
- Shark gray streaked dupioni silk suit (with self-covered buttons):
- Single-breasted 1-button jacket with wide peak lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, functional 4-button “surgeon’s cuffs”, and long double vents
- Single forward-pleated trousers with wide belt loops, inside-waistband suspenders buttons, slightly slanted side pockets, slim-welted back pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- Coral silk shirt with spread collar, plain front, breast pocket, and squared double/French cuffs
- Zebra-striped tie on an ivory, orange, and burgundy gradient-faded ground
- Dark brown silk twill suspenders with red cross-pattern motif, gold adjusters, and dark brown leather back patch and attachment ears
- Black leather apron-toe loafers
- Black polka-dot boxer shorts
- Gold necklace with cross
- Gold necklace with round saint pendant
- Gold flat herringbone bracelet
- Gold ring with square-cut diamond, right ring finger
- Gold cross pinky ring, left hand
- Black wristwatch with black rotating bezel (with gold number markers) and black dial on gold mesh bracelet
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the entire series.
“What, you speakin’ Norwegian?” is Silvio’s comeback during an attempt at conflict resolution between Bobby Bacala and Vito Spatafore, perhaps foreshadowing Van Zandt’s eventual show Lillyhammer. This entertaining fish-out-of-water comedy series was touted as “the first time Netflix offered exclusive content,” premiering in North America exclusively on Netflix in February 2012, a full year before the streaming service premiered its first original series, House of Cards.
For fans of Silvio, The Sopranos, and Little Steven, I highly recommend checking out Lilyhammer, in which Van Zandt stars as a mobster very similar to Silvio Dante that becomes a Mafia target and enters the federal witness protection program, through which he is transferred to Lillehammer, Norway.
You know me… all I ever wanted was to carve out a little piece.
I was pleasantly shocked to spot Miami Steve portraying Jerry Vale in Scorsese’s “The Irishman”!
He wears a St. Francis medal, I am 100% sure.