James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, New Jersey mob boss
New Jersey, Winter 2000-2002
Series: The Sopranos
– “Nobody Knows Anything” (Episode 1.11, dir. Henry J. Bronchtein, aired 3/21/1999)
– “The Telltale Moozadell” (Episode 3.09, dir. Dan Attias, aired 4/22/2001)
– “Pine Barrens” (Episode 3.11, dir. Steve Buscemi, aired 5/6/2001)
– “Whoever Did This” (Episode 4.09, dir. Tim Van Patten, aired 11/10/2002)
Creator: David Chase
Costume Designer: Juliet Polcsa
Let’s kick off the first 2020 post about James Gandolfini’s expansive wardrobe on The Sopranos by looking ahead this week to Wear Red Day, the American Heart Association’s annual observance on the first Friday of each February that encourages people to wear red to show their support for the awareness of heart disease.
What’d He Wear?
I was always particularly drawn to the rich knit long-sleeved polo shirts that Tony Soprano wore in various shades of red across the series, differing from a pinkish mauve to an inky dark burgundy. These rich pullover shirts have been depicted as a casual staple in Italian-American mob fiction dating back to the era represented in Goodfellas, and the red shades of Tony’s shirts evoke power, passion, and—ultimately—the blood spilled by the Soprano family’s dangerous profession.
Though they differ in color, all three of Tony’s red knit long-sleeved polos share a soft structure lent from their luxurious cashmere or silk construction that includes a soft collar and elasticized hem and cuffs. All three shirts also have three-button tops with slightly contrasting plastic buttons on the gray-to-black color scale. He always wears them tucked into slacks with a dark belt and coordinating bit loafers.
These shirts, practically lightweight sweaters with a collar and button-top, are not to be confused with the more pedestrian pique short-sleeved polo that Gandolfini wears with black trousers à la Tiger Woods (or a post-coital Ron Swanson) during his panic attack in the pilot episode.
Brick Red in “Nobody Knows Anything” (Episode 1.11)
Tony wears the first of these red knit long-sleeve polos in the first season episode “Nobody Knows Anything”. His troubled acquaintance, corrupt detective Vin Makazian (John Heard), has just thrown himself off a bridge and Tony enjoys a moment of consolation with Debbie (Karen Sillas), the madam who ran the high-end brothel frequented by Tony’s cronies as well as Vin. We next see Tony at dinner with his family, interrupted by an unannounced visit from his capo Jimmy Altieri (Joseph Badalucco Jr.) The visit convinces Tony that Jimmy is a government informant and he hurries to get ahold of Paulie Walnuts (Tony Sirico) to make sure Paulie hasn’t already whacked their suspected friend Pussy:
You answer me like I’m Jesus Christ himself and, if you fuckin’ lie to me, may your mother die of cancer of the eyes! Where’s Pussy?
This rich brick red knit silk-blend shirt has a soft, polo-style collar with three flat smoke-gray plastic buttons at the top, which Tony wears with only the lowest button done. He occasionally pushes his sleeves up his forearms, which puts pressure on the elasticized ribbing on the cuffs and can lead to excessive loosening over time.
Tony wears dark charcoal pleated trousers with a dark leather belt, likely dark burgundy leather to coordinate with his shoes. His dark burgundy split-toe loafers have silver horsebit detailing and are worn with dark socks.
Dark Burgundy in “The Telltale Moozadell” (Episode 3.09)
Two years later on Carmela’s birthday in “The Telltale Moozadell”, Tony kicks off the celebration by giving her a sapphire ring from Harry Winston, which she would wear with decreasing pride over the next few episodes.
Based on the cut, style, and his identification of a similar black shirt worn in “Amour Fou” (Episode 3.12), my friend who runs the @tonysopranostyle Instagram account deduced that this dark burgundy shirt is almost certainly a product by Axis.
As a lighter contrast to the dark shirt, Tony wears the standard issue trousers of the suburban dad: pleated khakis. These slacks have single reverse pleats, side pockets, back pockets, and turn-ups (cuffs) on the bottoms, and they’re worn with a dark brown leather belt that closes through a squared gold-toned single-prong buckle.
Tony again wears Gucci-style loafers with this outfit, perfectly suitable for a small celebration at home more dressed down than the graduations and confirmation parties that have been celebrated at the house. While I recognized that they were likely made by Allen Edmonds, the esteemed shoemaker preferred not only by Tony but generations of U.S. Presidents, my friend @tonysopranostyle was able to lock down the likely model as the Allen Edmonds “Verona”, still available via Amazon in black, brown, and walnut tan. These black Italian leather moc-toe loafers have a strap across the vamp detailed with gold horse-bit ornamentation. Tony wears them with dark brown ribbed cotton lisle socks.
Mauve in “Pine Barrens” (Episode 3.11) and “Whoever Did This” (Episode 4.09)
The third and last of the reddish knit long-sleeve polos that Tony wears on The Sopranos is the lightest-colored of them all, shaded in a purplish tone somewhere between mauve and a muted cerise. The shirt has a short three-button French placket, like the others, with three black slightly recessed plastic 4-hole buttons.
Unlike the others included in this post, this shirt appears more than once, first during the therapy session closing out the famous “Pine Barrens” episode and again when Svetlana (Allia Kliouka Schaffer) comes calling after Junior (Dominic Chianese) took a tumble on the courthouse steps.
In both episodes where Tony wears this shirt, he wears a businesslike pair of dark gray pleated slacks with belt loops, side pockets, and cuffed bottoms with a pair of black calf cap-toe oxfords, a perhaps excessively formal choice for this dressed-down approach.
By the fourth and fifth seasons, costume designer Juliet Polcsa was phasing polo shirts out of Tony’s wardrobe, later explaining her reasoning in a 2014 interview with Christopher Hooton for The Independent: “Less polo shirts became more of a necessity as Jim Gandolfini gained more weight. He wasn’t comfortable in knits that clung to him.”
Tony’s Accessories and Jewelry
After the first episode, Tony wore essentially the same gold jewelry and accessories through the duration of the series. Around his neck, he wears a gold necklace with a round St. Jerome pendant that he keeps under his shirt. His right wrist is adorned with a gold bracelet with a custom curb link that @tonysopranostyle describes as the ostensible result of “a Cuban curbed link chain and an Italian Figaro link chain with a twist.” Tony wears his usual gold ruby-and-diamond bypass ring on his right pinky with his gold wedding band on the third finger of his opposing hand.
Tony’s luxury watch is an 18-karat yellow gold Rolex Day-Date ref. 18238 “President”, so named for its distinctive link bracelet with a hidden clasp. This chronometer has Roman numerals around the champagne gold dial with a long display for the day of the week at the top and a date window at 3:00.
The quartz Seiko SGF206 is strapped to a Jubilee-like bracelet while the automatic Seiko SNKK52 has a bracelet that more closely resembles the President while the dial itself is considerably different.
What to Imbibe
The Sopranos firmly established the drink preferences of its inhabitants; no meal was complete without Ruffino Chianti, Tony would turn to Scotch in good times and in bad, and Adriana had to learn to love White Russians when she couldn’t stomach anything much stronger.
One more rarely seen drink is the Coffaro beer that Tony and Junior are drinking in “Whoever Did This” (Episode 4.09). Now defunct, this “Italian Style” beer had once been brewed in Brick, New Jersey, about an hour and a half south from Junior’s pad in Newark.
According to a press release dated June 2003, Tony Coffaro explained that the beer and branded swag were delivered to the show on request: “They asked us to supply them with props such as cases of beer, umbrellas, neon signs, etc., to be used in the background of the sets. You can catch a glimpse of these various items in the last 3-4 episodes. Currently, HBO is filming their fifth season of the hit show and we dropped off about 30 cases for the cast and staff. There is no guarantee that the props will be used in the upcoming season, but the fact that they asked us for more leaves us hopeful, so keep watching.”
While some of the additional merchandise and boxes do make sporadic appearances, I believe the only other time we see a character actually drinking Coffaro beer was Bobby Bacala (Steven R. Schirripa) in “Where’s Johnny?” (Episode 5.03).
How to Get the Look
Tony Soprano wore a few different variations of the long-sleeved red knit polo and slacks, but this comprehensive approach should get you started in the right direction if you want to channel a favored casual look from The Sopranos‘ dynamic boss.
- Red cashmere-blend knit long-sleeve polo shirt with soft collar, dark gray three-button top, and elasticized cuffs and hem
- White ribbed cotton sleeveless undershirt
- Dark gray pleated trousers with belt loops, side pockets, back pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- Black or burgundy leather belt with rounded gold-toned single-prong buckle
- Black or burgundy leather horsebit loafers
- Dark cotton lisle socks
- Rolex Day-Date “President” 18238 chronometer watch in 18-karat yellow gold with champagne-colored dial and “President” link bracelet
- Gold curb-chain link bracelet
- Gold pinky ring with bypassing ruby and diamond stones
- Gold wedding ring
- Gold open-link chain necklace with round St. Jerome pendant
If you like the style, I recommend checking out some of the following:
- Cashmere Heartland 4 Ply Men’s Polo Cashmere Sweater in burgundy cashmere ($229, Cashmere Heartland)
- Corneliani Burgundy Silk, Merino Wool, and Cashmere Jumper in burgundy 35% cashmere/35% merino/30% silk ($428, Corneliani)
- Ermenegildo Zegna Men’s Long-Sleeve Jersey Polo Shirt in medium red cotton/cashmere ($545, Neiman Marcus)
- Orvis Cotton/Silk/Cashmere Long-Sleeved Polo in currant cotton/silk/cashmere ($89 to $119, Amazon)
- Zanone Cashmere Polo in burgundy cashmere (€599, Frans Boone)
All prices up to date as of January 2020.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Why does everything gotta be so hard?