Robert Duvall as Tom Hagen, levelheaded Mafia lawyer
Lake Tahoe, Fall 1958
Film: The Godfather Part II
Release Date: December 12, 1974
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Costume Designer: Theadora Van Runkle
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
The second Thursday in June is recognized as National Seersucker Day in the United States, an observance that began in Congress during the late 1990s to celebrate the traditional congressional summer dress in the days of the early 20th century before air conditioning reached the Capitol.
Apropos his quiet persona, Tom Hagen makes his inconspicuous return in The Godfather, Part II, seen almost in silhouette against the window as he greets the smarmy, crooked, and proudly blunt Senator Pat Geary (G.D. Spradlin) in the Don’s Lake Tahoe estate on the day of his son’s first communion. The party kicking off the film recalls the start of The Godfather as the Corleone family celebrated another family milestone with Connie’s wedding to the late traitor Carlo. At that time, Tom Hagen was Vito Corleone’s trusted consigliere, but there’s a new Don in town and Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) has kept Tom relegated strictly to the role of family lawyer, privy to only a select few meetings while most others remain restricted for more privileged members of his inner circle.
What’d He Wear?
Context clues tell us that, despite the Catholic tradition of hosting this ceremony in the spring, the young Anthony Corleone’s first Communion is likely in the fall of 1958, not long before Christmas and the Battle of Santa Clara that effectively ended the Cuban revolution in favor of Fidel Castro’s movement on New Year’s Eve. Despite the cooler season, it’s all warmth at the Corleone compound in Lake Tahoe as the members of New York’s preeminent Mafia family take to the dance floor in their shining summer-friendly outfits like Fredo’s eye-catching plaid dinner jacket, Connie’s burgundy strapless dress and off-the-shoulder furs, and Michael’s dupioni silk suit.
It’s this latter outfit that’s particularly targeted by the racist tirades of the crooked Senator Geary, displeased with the Corleone family and their “kind of people… with oily hair, dressed up in those silk suits,” though his coded language excludes the fourth surviving Corleone sibling, their half-brother Tom Hagen, sitting quietly in the corner of the Don’s office in his two-piece seersucker suit.
While the silk suits may code the Corleones as gangsters to Senator Geary, Tom’s choice of seersucker is significant not only for the cool-wearing fabric appealing to his practical sensibilities but also its association with his chosen profession as it was Southern lawyers like the fictional Atticus Finch who popularized seersucker suits after they were established by New Orleans haberdasher Joseph Haspel in 1909 and spread across the country in the half-century to follow. The thin cotton fabric had reportedly originated as a silk first used in British India, its word derived from the Hindi sirśakar (Persian shir-o-shakar, meaning “milk and sugar”) according to Alan Flusser in Dressing the Man.
More than a hundred years after Joseph Sr. recognized what the Haspel website calls “the power of the pucker” for men’s businesswear, the brand has been re-launched by his great-granddaughter Laurie Haspel, offering a range of quality menswear from suit separates and silk ties to swimwear and sunglasses and, of course, the original seersucker suit. Haspel’s modern seersucker construction is a blend of 99% cotton with 1% elastane, offered in “Audubon” classic fit and the tapered “Toulouse” modern fit and an array of regional colors like blue bayou, fountainbleu, cayenne red, mardi green, oyster gray, and beignet tan.
Tom’s seersucker suit is made from the classic blue-and-white “hickory” or “railroad”-striped cotton with dark blue plastic sew-through buttons closing through dark blue-threaded buttonholes that contrast against the light-colored suiting.
Tom’s single-breasted jacket could be described as a “3/2.5-roll” as the notch lapels gently roll over the top button without fully obscuring it like the traditional 3/2-roll. The jacket has a welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, a single vent, and two non-functioning buttons at the end of each sleeve.
The only Corleone insider to have completed a college education, it serves to reason that Tom Hagen would continue to embrace timeless Ivy styles even after being fully immersed in his criminal career. Freshly returned from World War II, Michael Corleone was still an Ivy dresser at the outset of The Godfather, but his rising role in La Cosa Nostra replaced the corduroy jackets and button-down shirts in his closet with slubbed silks and dramatic point collars.
Tom appropriately appoints his seersucker suit, an Ivy staple, with a light blue oxford cloth button-down (OCBD) shirt and a dark navy woolen tie that provides a textural complement to the puckered seersucker. (Audiences may have found the look familiar, as it was also favored by Darren McGavin during the contemporary TV series Kolchak: The Night Stalker.)
Tom’s flat front suit trousers have side pockets and are finished on the bottoms with turn-ups (cuffs). They are held up with a black leather belt that coordinates with his professional but perhaps unseasonal choice of black leather derby shoes, worn with black socks that provide a significant contrast against the light suit.
While Michael Corleone’s gray suede tassel loafers may be too uncharacteristic for Tom, this could have been an occasion for a lighter-colored pair of shoes (or at least socks!)
Tom appears to be wearing no wristwatch or any jewelry aside from a plain gold wedding band on the ring finger of his left hand.
How to Get the Look
The voice of reason in the violent world of the Corleone family, Tom Hagen dresses as sensibly as he preaches, sitting through a tense day of celebration, confrontation, and champagne cocktails in that most classic of warm-weather menswear: the seersucker suit.
- Blue-and-white “railroad stripe” seersucker cotton suit:
- Single-breasted 3/2.5-roll jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, non-functioning 2-button cuffs, and single vent
- Flat front trousers with belt loops, side pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- Light blue oxford-cloth cotton shirt with button-down collar, front placket, and rounded button cuffs
- Dark navy woolen tie
- Black leather belt with squared steel single-prong buckle
- Black leather derby shoes
- Black socks
I tend to find black shoes and socks too somber and unseasonal to accompany the cool-wearing seersucker suit, so I would likely swap out of some of Tom’s choices for a brown leather belt, tan bucks, and light blue socks to more harmoniously continue the
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