The Irishman: Pacino’s Burgundy Polo as Hoffa
Al Pacino as Jimmy Hoffa, pugnacious and passionate labor official
Detroit, Summer 1975
Film: The Irishman
Release Date: November 1, 2019
Director: Martin Scorsese
Costume Design: Sandy Powell & Christopher Peterson
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
In addition to today famously being St. Valentine’s Day, it’s also the birthday of Jimmy Hoffa, who was born February 14, 1913, and was most recently portrayed by Al Pacino in The Irishman. The crime drama epic was released on Netflix more than three months ago with considerable fanfare, eventually garnering ten Academy Award nominations (but no wins) including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor for both Pacino and Joe Pesci.
“Nowadays, young people, they don’t know who Jimmy Hoffa was. They don’t have a clue. I mean, maybe they know that he disappeared or something, but that’s about it. But back then, there wasn’t nobody in this country who didn’t know who Jimmy Hoffa was,” Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) introduces the labor leader in his narration.
Charles Brandt’s book I Heard You Paint Houses rose to the top of sales charts soon after its 2004 release, finally providing what some believed to be a definitive—or at least viable—solution to the nearly 30-year-old case of Hoffa’s disappearance. Brandt cited deathbed confessions and his own research to corroborate the theory that Hoffa was, in fact, murdered on orders of the mob with the triggerman none other than his bodyguard, confidant, and friend Frank Sheeran.
Fifteen years after the book was published, a new generation of viewers were introduced to the story via Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, spanning the last six decades of Sheeran’s life including his suggested involvement in the slaying of Jimmy Hoffa in a suburban Detroit residence on July 30, 1975. “This is according to the book,” Scorsese admits in the Netflix documentary The Irishman: In Conversation. “This might be as good as any. The point is, he disappeared.”
“The theories that he wound up in a drum somewhere on the East Coast is ridiculous,” De Niro adds. “And it’s such a simple story.”
The film depicts Sheeran arranging an ostensible peace meeting for Hoffa, who was to wait at the Machus Red Fox restaurant in Bloomfield Township. Though the mobsters’ late arrival is a no-no in his world, the cantankerous Hoffa is somewhat calmed when he spies his pal Frank Sheeran sitting in the back of the red Mercury driven by his own adopted son, Chuckie O’Brien (Jesse Plemons).
It’s almost heartbreaking watching Frank muster the mannerisms to assure his old pal Jimmy that it’s safe to get into the car that will lead him to his death… and even showing him the .38 snub he’ll use to do it. Hoffa’s reasonable hesitation is assuaged by a subtle nod from Sheeran to indicate that it’s safe… but also perhaps signaling to Jimmy that the inevitable time has come: this is it.
After all, Hoffa had already been repeatedly warned: it’s what it is.
What’d He Wear?
Al Pacino spent much of The Irishman dressed in a rotation of business suits reflecting the real Jimmy Hoffa’s wardrobe of off-the-rack suits, all invariably—and inadvisably—worn with white socks. By default, I found myself more drawn to his less frequently seen casual wear, fashionably rooted in the mid-1970s but approached with a more timeless sensibility as the concept of a burgundy short-sleeved polo shirt, khakis, and horsebit loafers would be just as effective in the nearly half-century since Hoffa disappeared.
Despite his earlier-seen bombastic denouncement of any man who attends a meeting wearing less than a suit and tie—even in the heat of a Florida summer—Hoffa takes a casual approach for this mid-summer meeting in suburban Michigan with his short-sleeved shirt and slacks. While it’s possible that he may have a sport jacket waiting for him in his Pontiac, the mobsters in the Mercury work to quickly usher him into their car before he has time to reconsider the situation… or arm himself.
“He was wearing a pullover short-sleeve short shirt and dark slacks,” Sheeran recalled of the fateful afternoon in I Heard You Paint Houses. “He most definitely didn’t have his piece on him. Not in that outfit.”
The Irishman‘s Oscar-nominated costume designers Sandy Powell and Christopher Peterson designed an outfit for Pacino that took cues from Sheeran’s description of the real Hoffa on July 30, with the actual pieces featured on the movie’s official Instagram feed in December 2019.
Pacino’s burgundy knit shirt has a wide collar, piped on the ends in scarlet red and white, matching the piping on the narrow top placket with its three burgundy plastic 4-hole sew-through buttons. The ends of the short sleeves and hem are narrowly ribbed, and the even weave that texturizes the front of the shirt body is broken up on the right and left sides from shoulder to them with a long interlocking lattice stitch pattern.
Under the burgundy short-sleeved shirt, Pacino wears a white undershirt that is either a V-neck T-shirt or a sleeveless A-shirt as it doesn’t show under the open collar of his polo shirt. Though the burgundy shirt is untucked, he tucks the undershirt into his trousers.
Pacino wears tan low-rise trousers with pick-stitched edges, including the fly and the “frogmouth” pockets. Frogmouth pockets were a popular and sporty trouser detail, particularly in the late 1960s through the 1970s as pleats were decidedly giving way to plain fronts as the prevailing style, angling down on each side of the trouser front and often with a sharp, almost 90°-angled opening on the ends. These trousers also have jetted back pockets, plain-hemmed bottoms, and thin belt loops for Pacino’s black leather belt with its gold-toned single-prong buckle.
Thanks to the post on The Irishman‘s official Instagram feed, we know that the black leather moc-toe horsebit loafers worn by Pacino in this sequence were made by Florsheim, the venerable Midwestern brand founded in Chicago in 1892. Pacino’s screen-worn shoes have gold accent bits attached to thin straps over the vamps, but the company’s currently offered bit loafer—the Florsheim Tuscany Bit (available via Amazon or Florsheim)—appears to only offer shoes with silver-toned bit detailing.
Hoffa’s famous white socks are visible with all of his on-screen outfits, from suits to sports wear, prominently seen as he’s sprawled out inside the front door of the Detroit house where Sheeran kills him. However, a continuity error clearly depicts Hoffa wearing black socks when the mob packages him up to cremate him. In addition, you can also tell that his loafers were replaced with similar black horsebits but with a cap-toe rather than the moc-toe shoes Pacino was wearing when his character was killed.
Hoffa wears a sporty gold wristwatch with a bulbous case and a beige crested dial with gold non-numeric hour markers, strapped to his left wrist via a black leather band. I enlisted the help of my friend Aldous Choi, whose horological expertise has been invaluable in identifying watches featured in BAMF Style posts. The unique crests on the dial—almost certainly a Teamsters logo in recognition of the union that Hoffa felt so passionately about—pointed Aldous in the direction of the custom presentation watches manufactured independently by Hamilton’s awards department.
“The problem with identification is that the awards department ran fairly independently from the regular company, often stocking models that the regular division stopped producing years earlier, and nothing they did was cataloged,” Aldous told me, pointing to the comprehensive Hamilton Chronicles site where he specifically pointed out two similar contenders from among the likely base models: a 1972 Dateline A-593 and a 1973 Auto Date Buccaneer. Several watchmakers specialized in presentation timepieces during the era, but both the look of Hoffa’s screen-worn watch as well as the character’s own “buy American” credos would support the theory of a Hamilton.
Despite the roadblocks to definitive identification, I’m confident in Aldous’ theory as it would befit Hoffa’s character to have been presented with a gold watch, likely at a union function not unlike the “Frank Sheeran Appreciation Night” depicted on screen where Sheeran is presented with the gold Mathey-Tissot he wears over the last 30 years of his life (when not in prison, of course.)
Interestingly, Sheeran himself also seems to wear a Hamilton presentation watch crested with the IBEW logo (similar to this one) after he ascends to the presidency of his local in the 1960s.
How to Get the Look
The Irishman‘s Oscar-nominated costume design team took inspiration from the real Jimmy Hoffa’s approach to dressing for developing Al Pacino’s summer-friendly casual outfit on what would turn out to be the last day of the famed labor leader’s life.
- Burgundy interlocking lattice knit short-sleeved polo shirt with large red-and-white-piped collar, three-button piped placket, and ribbed sleeve-ends and hem
- Tan flat front trousers with thin belt loops, frogmouth front pockets, jetted back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Black leather belt with gold single-prong buckle
- Black leather moc-toe horsebit loafers with gold bit detailing
- White ribbed socks
- White ribbed cotton sleeveless undershirt
- Gold custom Hamilton presentation watch with round tan dial (with Teamsters logo) on black leather strap
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie, currently streaming on Netflix.
Listen to me. Never put a fish in your car. You never get the smell out… Remember that. It’ll help you in life.
The most important thing is: What type of fish did Hoffa’s son got?
Chuckie O’Brian was his adopted son, not his son in law.
Ah, right – thank you! Made the fix.