Scent of a Woman: Al Pacino’s Glenurquhart Plaid Suit
Al Pacino as Frank Slade, blind and bitter retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel “who likes to spit in everybody’s eye”
New York City, Thanksgiving 1992
Film: Scent of a Woman
Release Date: December 23, 1992
Director: Martin Brest
Costume Designer: Aude Bronson-Howard
Tailor: Martin Greenfield
On the eve of Thanksgiving, today seemed like a fitting occasion to address one of the most requested suits I’ve heard from readers: Al Pacino’s freshly tailored Glenurquhart check three-piece suit as the cantankerous Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade in Scent of a Woman. Pacino turned in a landmark performance in his prolific career, winning his sole Academy Award after six nominations (with one additional nod the same year for Glengarry Glen Ross), a result of the intense method actor’s painstaking research in meeting with clients of New York’s Associated Blind to understand life—from mood to mobility—as a person without sight.
After 26 years in the Army, a nearly blind Frank “Don’t Call Me ‘Sir'” Slade spends his days sitting in the darkened corner of his modest home, filling lowball glasses to the brim with Jack Daniel’s, berating his family, and spitting anger at anyone brave enough to visit him, including Charlie Simms (Chris O’Donnell), the mild-mannered prep school student hired by Frank’s niece Karen to take care of her uncle through Thanksgiving weekend. “His bark is worse than his bite,” Karen (Sally Murphy) assures Charlie, who soon finds himself swept away on an unpredictable ride to “freak show central… New York City” with the colonel, who is seeking one “little tour of pleasures” before committing suicide.
This movie was considered by Wook Kim for TIME to have one of the top 10 Thanksgiving scenes as Frank and Charlie—both outfitted in stylish new duds—divert from their high-living interlude in New York City to pay a surprise visit to Frank’s “miserable” brother, W.R. Slade (Richard Venture), “the original bulging briefcase man,” and his family for a contentious Turkey Day:
Say hello to the potluck party from New York City!
While the Thanksgiving dinner is memorable, entertaining, and a deep dive into why Frank Slade is who he is, Scent of a Woman‘s arguably most famous sequence finds Frank and Charlie arriving for afternoon drinks at the Pierre Hotel when Frank sniffs out “a nice soap-and-water feeling down there,” inviting the lovely Donna (Gabrielle Anwar) to drink with them and eventually to join him on the dance floor. Donna may think she’s doing a favor for an aging blind man who has to ask for assistance from Charlie (“I need some coordinates here, son”) before Frank wows both her and the crowd with an impressive tango to “Por Una Cabeza” that reportedly took two weeks of practice and three days to film.
No mistakes in the tango, Donna, not like life. Simple. That’s what makes the tango so great. If you make a mistake, get all tangled up, you just tango on.
What’d He Wear?
♫ It’s a lovely day today, so whatever you gotta do, you got a lovely day to do it in, that’s true… ♫
Frank Slade didn’t include among the description of his “little tour of pleasures” that he would begin the day by getting tailored for a fine suit, but Charlie awakens the next morning to find Frank gleefully trying on this Glenurquhart check three-piece masterpiece.
“This is Sophia, Charlie,” introduces Frank. “She’s a magician with a needle. Sophia’s working me up a little glen plaid number, and I’ve asked her if she’d put something together for you.”
This statement suit’s classic styling recalls a bygone era of elegance, elevating it beyond the 1990s production and setting, taking the viewer to a time when being a man meant not only knowing how to drink but also knowing how to dance. Similar finery may have hung in the closets of Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, or Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and seeing the plaid three-piece suit in service alongside Bradley Whitford’s baggy denim shirt and vaguely geometric-patterned tie serves only to bear Pacino’s suit farther aloft.
Patterned in a sharp black-and-white glen plaid with a pink overcheck, Pacino’s wool three-piece suit in Scent of a Woman has caught the eye of many a style enthusiast. The suit was the focus of a fine appreciative piece by Benedict Browne for The Rake in 2018, though Browne’s description of the “Prince of Wales check suit with lovely, subtle and fine tangerine overcheck” begs the question: what’s the most accurate way to describe Frank Slade’s plaid suiting?
Though I’ve seen the appellation “Prince of Wales check” broadly applied to everything from a basic two-color glen plaid to the arguably incorrect houndstooth check, let’s allow one of the film’s tailors himself define the pattern. In addition to Martin Greenfield, whose venerated Brooklyn shop tailored Pacino’s suits including this famous three-piece, Alan Flusser contributed some clothing to Scent of a Woman. In his seminal style tome, Dressing the Man, Flusser defines the Prince of Wales check:
The name widely, but incorrectly, applied to the glenurquhart check and similar checks with a colored overcheck. The authentic Prince of Wales check was designed by King Edward VII, grandfather of the famous Duke of Windsor, when he was Prince of Wales, as livery for his shootings at Abergeldie House in Scotland’s Deeside. It is of similar pattern to the glenurquhart but nearly twice its size, on repeat with colors of red-brown on a white ground, with a slate gray overcheck.
To accurately define the Glenurquhart check, Flusser sends us deeper into his glossary, informing us that it’s “a woolen or worsted suiting or coating material made with the ever popular glen plaid with an overplaid effect weave in both warp and filling directions.”
Thus, would Flusser call Pacino’s famous suit a true Prince of Wales check? I would be cautious, for fear of misusing sartorial terminology is a high crime in the court of public opinion when it comes to certain segments of men’s style enthusiasts. Frank’s own description of the suit as “a little glen plaid number” is a safer bet, though the pink overcheck takes it into Glenurquhart check territory.
Martin Greenfield described in his 2014 memoir, Measure of a Man:
Given the film’s famous tango, we took extra care to create a suit that looked spectacular while still allowing Al to move freely for those all-important scenes. Afterward, Al said to me, “Martin, I’ve never danced in a suit like the one you made for me.” A terrific compliment from a terrific actor—and dancer!
Al Pacino is far from being among the taller Hollywood actors to grace the silver screen, but Alan Flusser himself describes in Dressing the Man how a suit can be tailored to flatter a shorter and slimmer man like the 5’7″ Pacino, suggesting that “the single-breasted, three-button jacket would be welcome here, as when worn unbuttoned”—as Frank always does—”each side forms a panel down the front that creates an illusion of verticality.” In Frank Slade’s case, the wide peak lapels gently roll over the top button, creating a 3/2.5-roll effect that doesn’t obscure the top button like a full 3/2-roll though it discourages buttoning the top.
Rigging Frank’s single-breasted suit jacket with peak lapels, typically a double-breasted rever, suggests the interwar “golden era” of menswear when the style was at its peak… if you’ll forgive the pun. Though the single-breasted, peak-lapel jacket has been the subject of infrequent revivals, first in the 1970s and again during the most recent decade, Flusser noted in 2002 that “this mildly offbeat suit model remains pretty much confined to the custom-tailored crowd… rarely found on ready-to-wear racks.”
“Flaps or patch pockets add weight to the jacket’s proportionally smaller hip, effecting a better overall balance between the top and bottom halves of the jacket,” Flusser adds in his evaluation of how to tailor for a body type like Pacino’s, and indeed the straight pockets on the hips of Frank’s jacket are each covered with a flap. The jacket also has a welted breast pocket, four-button cuffs, and long double vents. The wide, well-built shoulders of the jacket, slightly roped at the sleeveheads, add breadth to Pacino’s shoulders to shape his silhouette into a more flattering and subtly imposing hourglass type.
The addition of a waistcoat (or vest, as we Americans have colloquialized) enhances the throwback nature of Frank Slade’s suit, though the opening of his single-breasted waistcoat is slightly lower than the high-fastening models popular during the interwar era. Frank’s waistcoat has six buttons, and he correctly wears the lowest unbuttoned over the notched bottom. There are four welted pockets—two on each side—and the back is lined in a dark gray satin to match the jacket lining, with a strap across the back of the waist with a buckle to adjust the tightness through a buckle.
While some men recoil at the thought of “old-fashioned” pleated trousers, Flusser celebrated their revival in Dressing the Man, stating that “the most fortuitous development in recent trouser fashion occurred in the eighties, when pleats and suspenders returned dress trousers to the flattering sanctuary of the man’s natural waist.”
Frank’s trousers, which properly rise to Pacino’s natural waist with the top neatly covered by his waistcoat, are classically designed with two forward-facing pleats that work in harmony. Farther back, a vertical pocket is cut along each side seam with two jetted pockets on the back seat. The bottoms are finished with turn-ups (cuffs), another polarizing detail that makes modern men scoff but can add a degree of elegance when properly employed.
Frank’s belt loops go unused in favor of suspenders (braces) that connect to buttons along the inside of his trouser waist line, beginning with a wide set of khaki rayon suspenders with a white elasticized strap between the brown leather back patch and the single set of ears in the back. These light brown suspenders have gold-toned adjusters and leather details—two sets of ears in the front and one in the back, as well as the back patch—in a light brown shade of leather often called “English tan.”
WIth this suit, Frank primarily wears a white cotton shirt with a wide front placket and button cuffs, though the most significant detail is the natty addition of a tab collar. Popularized by the Prince of Wales (of course!) during the waning years of the roaring ’20s, the tab collar sits somewhere on the spectrum of sophisticated to fussy, suggesting a gentleman who wears his clothes with attention and care as a correctly worn tab collar with flatteringly knotted tie can have a very neat appearance… while any misstep in a tab collar completely ruins the effect, making it a particularly bold and ultimately effective choice for a man without sight.
“Bay rum… Windsor knot…” Frank talks himself through his final preparations before his appointment with the escort. Luckily, Frank is at least incorrect about his latter point, instead wearing his maroon polka-dot tie in a classic four-in-hand knot rather than the wider Windsor. His tie is patterned in a field of substantial white polka dots, organized in staggered rows.
Polka-dot ties are a classic pattern that are thankfully abundant among the offerings of neckwear manufacturers, from high-quality tie makers like Sam Hober and Turnbull & Asser to more budget-friendly products offered by The Smart Man (with matching pocket hank) and The Tie Bar.
Frank foregoes a pocket hank for his surprise visit to his brother’s Thanksgiving dinner, perhaps a subtle nod to his disregard to that branch of his family, though he would dress the following day with a white pocket square neatly folded into the jacket’s welted breast pocket.
When visiting the high-priced escort that Friday evening, Frank swaps out the white pocket square for a more romantic “red foulard” display kerchief, though he corrects Charlie’s assurance that it’s “real dark red” by clarifying:
Burgundy, Charlie. Burgundy.
“26 years in the service, never let an aide shine my shoes,” Frank notes after the shoeshiner finishes his work on the colonel’s brown wingtips. Made from chestnut brown calf leather, Frank’s oxford-laced wingtip brogues are accordingly perforated and serrated along the edges with a decorative perforated toe.
Why are these imitation punchings such an integral part of the beloved brogue? They recall the functional perforations of the bróg shoe that originated centuries earlier in Ireland and the Scottish Highlands, drilled into the then-deerhide shoes to allow water to drain out after a day traversing particularly wet terrain. Today, the brogue still suggests a more rugged connotation than its more formal bal-type and derby cousins, though any man expecting his Allen Edmonds or Cleverley brogues to self-drain after a rainy commute to work would be sorely disappointed.
Frank wears his brown oxford brogues first with black ribbed cotton lisle socks, changing into navy socks on Saturday that are best seen as he stumbles around Manhattan in a melancholic haze after his Ferrari test drive is brought to an abrupt end.
Frank’s undershirts are exclusively white cotton short-sleeved T-shirts, though he alternates between a V-neck style and a round crew-neck style, the latter most prominently seen when he wakes up on Saturday afternoon.
“You ever given any thought to a braille watch, Frank?” asks Randy (Bradley Whitford), Frank’s rightfully resentful nephew. “Stevie Wonder wears one, or do ya rank on him too?”
While Frank doesn’t share his thoughts on Stevie Wonder, he foregoes a watch with his sole accessory being the sterling silver chain-link ID bracelet on his right wrist, ostensibly engraved with his name and rank in the spirit of the military identification bracelets associated with American servicemen.
Frank wears a stylish double-breasted overcoat that’s evidently also the product of his tailor, made from a fawn-colored soft woolen cloth. The coat mimics the suit jacket beneath it with structured shoulders and elegant peak lapels, though in this case they roll to the top of two fastening buttons on the six-button double-breasted front.
The coat has a long single vent, three-button cuffs, and straight flapped hip pockets in addition to a flapped ticket pocket on the right side.
To combat the chill of late autumn in New York City, Frank frequently dons a burgundy scarf also made from a soft wool, likely cashmere, with fringed ends. He typically wears the scarf draped around his neck but untied, perhaps to avoid covering the details of his suit, shirt, and tie beneath his coat.
Frank wears black leather three-point gloves, so named for the three lines of decorative stitching on the dorsal side.
We arrive at Saturday, the day that Frank never expected to live through, expecting only to wake, don his dress blues, and shoot himself. Luckily, Charlie was there to find one more thing to live for, the possibility of driving a Ferrari. Frank dresses for the occasion in his new tailored three-piece suit, though he presses a new shirt and tie into service. With its tab collar and button cuffs, the shirt is styled similarly to his white shirts though patterned with slate-blue bengal stripes on a white ground.
Frank pulls a tie that I believe we had seen hanging next to his closet as Charlie packed him for the trip, a black or dark navy foulard silk tie with a repeating pattern of small bronze square-within-a-square designs on rows that alternate between standard squares and squares rotated at 45°.
What to Imbibe
“Try to keep him down to four drinks a day,” Karen requests when Charlie begins his first day as Frank’s caretaker. “If you can keep him down to 40, you’re doing good,” her husband Donny (Michael Santoro) adds, arguably unhelpfully. It’s going to be a hard task for the young man, as Frank Slade keeps both his home and his liver well-stocked at all times. His home bar has several bottles on display, including two kinds of Scotch (J&B and Johnnie Walker Red Label), Beefeater gin, and Martini & Rossi sweet red vermouth, though it’s John Daniel’s that fuels him each miserable day.
Wait… don’t I mean Jack Daniel’s? “He may be Jack to you, son, but when you’ve known him as long as I have…” Frank jests.
Jack Daniel’s gets plenty of screen time and screen mentions, though Frank Slade’s boorish behavior under its influence doesn’t give the brand much equity from its appearance on screen. He tends to drink it on the rocks, ordering a double on the rocks when at a restaurant, though the ice seems to melt when he’s enjoying one glass far too many at his brother’s Thanksgiving dinner table.
“Where’s the booze? Flowin’ like mud around here!” Frank often asks, first within a minute of ordering his drink at the Oak Room and then again upon making his unwelcome surprise appearance at his brother’s White Plains home. “I meant to pick up some vino on my way up, but I blew it!”
Charlie: Where did you get a gun, Colonel?
Frank: “Piece” or “weapon”, Charlie. Never a “gun”.
The weapon—or piece, if you will—that Frank Slade plans to use to “blow my brains out… on my big, beautiful bed at the Waldorf” is a Colt MK IV Series 80, a civilian model of the venerable M1911A1 service pistol that the U.S. Army had used for more than a half-century before phasing it out in favor of the Beretta-based M9 pistol during the 1980s. The pistol can be identified by its shining blued steel finish, white three-dot sights, and gold Colt medallions on the wooden grips.
Friday morning, the day after Frank crashed his brother’s Thanksgiving dinner, Charlie wakes up to the sound of Frank disassembling his Series 80 in the bedroom of their shared suite at the Waldorf. “Time me!” Frank barks, and Charlie steps closer to watch Slade swiftly and expertly assemble and disassemble the weapon, all the more impressive as he’s doing so without sight. “That felt like 25,” Frank observes, citing his ability to reassemble the piece in less than 30 seconds. “You ought to be able to do a .45 in 25.”
I’m a Lieutenant Colonel, United States Army, I’m not giving my fuckin’ gun to anyone… now, what are you drinking?
The Colt MK IV Series 80 is presented as though it were Lieutenant Colonel Slade’s issued sidearm as an Army Ranger, though the U.S. military never authorized the Series 80. This civilian series began in 1970 with the introduction of the Colt Government MK Series 70 with accurized split barrel “collet” bushing, superceded in 1983 with the development of the MK IV Series 80, considered the first major improvement of the classic 1911 design as it introduced an internal firing pin safety and new half-cock notch on the sear. Although the collet bushing had the intended effect of improving accuracy, it proved to be prone to breakage and was dropped in favor of the original bushing in 1988.
For the most part, the Colt MK IV Series 80 follows the same specifications as the classic M1911A1 with an 8.5″ overall length and a 5″-long barrel, though the magazine carries an additional round of .45 ACP, bringing the total magazine capacity to eight rounds. Other versions of the Series 80 were built to chamber 9×19 mm Parabellum, .38 Super, and even 10 mm ammunition, though the .45-caliber option would be the only choice for an officer like Frank Slade as:
An officer never relinquishes his .45.
Charlie goads a despondent, suicidal Frank out of bed on Saturday morning with the promise of a ride, aware that a Ferrari is “a very, very distant second” to women on Frank Slade’s list of things he likes. They head to a New York City Ferrari dealer, where the salesman Freddie Bisco (Leonard Gaines), who is proudly “known from coast to coast like butter and toast,” is reasonably hesitant to let a 17-year-old and his blind companion test drive the prized Ferrari Testarossa.
Frank: How many Ferraris you sold this month ?
Freddie: That’s not relevant to this discussion.
Frank: Freddie, the 80s are over. Are you tryin’ to tell me these are just walkin’ outta the store?
Freddie: This is a Ferrari, this is the finest machinery made in the automobile industry.
Frank: Well, if you like it that much, why don’t you sleep with it. Why are you sellin’ it?
Eventually, Frank works his charm—and a $2,000 bribe—on Freddie Bisco, and he finds himself a still-gloomy passenger as Charlie tamely navigates the bright red 1989 Ferrari Mondial t cabriolet through Manhattan.
“Drop her into neutral, slide her into second… pop the clutch,” Frank advises when Charlie stalls out, and the student realizes that the old soldier will need a turn at the controls to truly turn his mood around. After a doddering start, Frank gets the feel behind the wheel and slides the Ferrari into high gear, speeding through the streets and narrowly missing potentially fatal obstacles.
Charlie: You’re gonna get us killed!
Frank: Don’t blame me, Charlie, I can’t see!
While the Ferrari Mondial series never reached the prestigious heights of iconic Ferrari models like the 308 GTS, F40, or Testarossa, Mark Pearson wrote for a May 2015 issue of Autocar that “…the V8 sings and the chassis is a delight, with many thinking it sweeter in the ride and handling than the equivalent two-seat models…Find a good one and you’ll get one of Ferrari’s most reliable and inexpensive cars.”
The first Mondial was introduced in 1980, boasting a design by by Leonardo Fioravanti of Pininfarina in Turin, with whom Ferrari had been working nearly 30 years. The somewhat heavier car met with some criticism for perceived compromises like the four-seat layout, and Ferrari quickly went back to the drawing board to roll out the better-received Mondial Quattrovalvole (QV) for the 1982 model year, introducing a convertible cabriolet the following year. In 1985, Ferrari boosted the V8 engines powering both the 328 and the Mondial to 3185 cc (3.2 L), redesignating the latter as the Mondial 3.2.
For the 1989 model year through 1993, the marque produced the final—and some consider best—evolution of the Mondial, the Ferrari Mondial t, with “t” indicating the shape formed by the relationship of the transverse gearbox to the newly longitudinal mid-engine. The Mondial t was the only generation of the model where convertible production surpassed hardtop coupes with 1,017 cabriolets produced as opposed to only 858 coupes. In 1991, Car & Driver reported that “not only does the Mondial t Cabriolet offer all the right pieces, but it also tingles your soul with all the right sensations,” which is evident as we see an excited Frank Slade come alive while piloting the car through New York’s narrow alleyways.
1989 Ferrari Mondial t
Body Style: 2-door cabriolet (2+2 seater)
Layout: mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive (RWD)
Engine: 207.8 cubic-inch (3.4 L) Tipo F119D/G V8
Power: 300 hp (224 kW; 304.5 PS) @ 7200 rpm
Torque: 238 lb·ft (323 N·m) @ 4200 rpm
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Wheelbase: 104.3 inches (2650 mm)
Length: 178.5 inches (4535 mm)
Width: 71.3 inches (1810 mm)
Height: 48.6 inches (1235 mm)
More than 20 years after the movie was made, the screen-used Ferrari Mondial t could be visited at the Ferrari Museum in Maranello, Italy. (Source: Herald Sun)
How to Get the Look
Okay, Sophia, suit him up! Make him pretty!
Scent of a Woman presents Al Pacino at his most stylish, taking Thanksgiving dinner and a subsequent tango to the next level in this classic Glenurquhart check three-piece suit, tailored to perfection by Martin Greenfield.
- Black-and-white (with pink overcheck) Glenurquhart check plaid wool three-piece tailored suit:
- Single-breasted 3/2.5-roll jacket with peak lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, 4-button cuffs, and double vents
- Single-breasted 6-button waistcoat with four welted pockets, notched bottom, and adjustable back strap
- Double forward-pleated trousers with belt loops, straight/on-seam side pockets, jetted back pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- White cotton shirt with tab collar, front placket, and single-button cuffs
- Maroon polka-dot silk tie
- Khaki rayon suspenders with gold adjusters and brown leather attachment ears and back patch (with white lower back strap)
- Brown calf leather wingtip oxford brogues
- Black ribbed cotton lisle socks
- White cotton short-sleeve undershirt
- Sterling silver military ID bracelet
- Fawn soft woolen double-breasted overcoat with 6×2-button front, peak lapels, straight flapped hip pockets with flapped ticket pocket, 3-button cuffs, and long single vent
- Burgundy cashmere scarf with fringed edges
- Black leather three-point gloves
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie. If you’re interested in learning more about style and supporting the sartorial craftsmen who have dressed some of the most fashionable gents of the silver screen, I recommend Martin Greenfield’s Measure of a Man and Alan Flusser’s Dressing the Man as required reading… and as fine Christmas gifts for the style enthusiasts in your life!
Thank you for this particularly extensive review. So much detail…wow. I always thought Flusser had exclusive reign over this film. I didn’t know he was just part of the tailoring team.