Al Pacino as Jimmy Hoffa, pugnacious and passionate labor official
Miami, Summer 1972
Film: The Irishman
Release Date: November 1, 2019
Director: Martin Scorsese
Costume Design: Sandy Powell & Christopher Peterson
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
It was on this day in 1975 that James R. Hoffa was last seen outside the Machus Red Fox restaurant in a suburb of Detroit. The outspoken labor leader had spent his decades in and out of power making dangerous enemies from law enforcement and the Mafia to the executive branch and his own union. Martin Scorsese’s latest epic, The Irishman, was released to Netflix last year, adapting Charles Brandt’s I Hear You Paint Houses that purportedly “closed the case” on what happened to Hoffa after he disappeared 45 years ago today.
That afternoon, Hoffa had been planning to meet with Anthony “Tony Jack” Giacalone and Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano, two La Cosa Nostra capos, though The Irishman suggests that the animosity that stemmed from a prior meeting between Hoffa and Tony Pro made disaster inevitable for the pugnacious Teamster boss.
Three years earlier, we’re in the back room of an otherwise empty Florida restaurant with Hoffa and his taciturn friend and bodyguard, Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro). Over Hoffa’s soft drinks—Coca-Cola for Frank, and the usual Canada Dry ginger ale for Jimmy—he grumbles about Tony Pro’s lateness:
You don’t keep a man waiting. The only time you do is when you want to say something… when you want to say fuck you.
Frank had been warned from the get-go about Hoffa’s intolerance for tardiness, so he knows it’s in everyone’s best interest to not inflame the situation, but there’s nothing he can do when Tony Pro (Stephen Graham) finally strides into the room with Tony Jack (Patrick Gallo) in tow, 15 minutes late and adding sartorial insult to unpunctual injury with his decision to wear a boldly printed sports shirt, short white shorts, Gucci loafers, and sunglasses.
What’d He Wear?
“You’re making a point? You makin’ a point dressin’ like that?” asks an offended Hoffa. “This how you dress for a meeting?”
“And this is how you dress in Florida?” counters Tony Pro. “In a suit?”
“For a meetin’? Anywhere! Florida, Timbuctu, I dress in a suit… for a meetin’,” responds Hoffa, adding, “and you’re late.”
While I’m prone to defending the virtue of an aloha shirt, I would have to argue that Hoffa has decorum on his side—summer in Florida or not—and he still dresses for the context and climate, leaving his darker and heavier suitings in the closet while choosing an effective tan summer suit for his summit with Tony Pro.
Costume designer Sandy Powell noted in a video recorded for Vanity Fair that she intentionally dressed Hoffa and Sheeran in “lighter tones, softer colors” as a welcome relief from the “dark, somber-looking suits,” though Hoffa was still making concessions with “more of a casual-looking suit for him.” Now that the timeline had shifted into the ’70s, costume designer Christopher Peterson indicated that polyester suitings were more commonplace and this suit with its subtle sheen seems to be no exception, though polyester doesn’t breathe as well as natural fibers, making it a less than ideal suiting for a warm climate (which may further explain Hoffa’s irritability!)
Hoffa was considerably less interested in fashion than the mobbed-up characters of The Irishman, so his suits were designed to resemble what he would’ve purchased off the peg at a local menswear outfitter, perhaps altered here or there but ultimately not tailored to fit. With its single-breasted, two-button jacket and traditional styling, Hoffa isn’t looking to break any sartorial ground, he merely wants to wear what he feels a given situation calls for with minimal discomfort.
Hoffa’s suit jacket reflects its era with the broad, pick-stitched notch lapels that cover plenty of real estate between the jacket’s front openings and the shoulders, built up for an appropriately intimidating appearance with padding and roped sleeveheads. Each sleeve is finished with three-button cuffs. The wide-flapped hip pockets and long double vents are also typical of the early ’70s, and—consistent with this non-fussy dresser—he doesn’t wear a pocket square in the jacket’s welted breast pocket.
Hoffa’s large-collared shirt and wide tie are also consistent with the fashions of the decade. The white cotton shirt was likely made by Geneva Custom Shirts, the New York-based shirtmaker who crafted many of the shirts for The Irishman‘s leading and supporting actors as well as shirts that Al Pacino wears in real life. In addition to the large spread collar, the shirt has a front placket, breast pocket, and double (French) cuffs.
The wide tie, which likely extends to four inches wide, is grounded with a hairline-width ribbing in beige, tan, and black and cross-striped with balanced “uphill” orange-and-yellow stripes. Hoffa wears it tied in a thick Windsor knot that covers much of the tie space between the shirt’s collar leaves.
Pleats were out of fashion by the early ’70s, so Hoffa’s suit trousers are flat front with belt loops and gently flared bottoms. He wears a black belt to match his shoe leather; a sartorial guideline that basic was made for simple dressers like Hoffa.
Before I get too ahead of myself in defending Hoffa’s suit against Tony Pro’s garish garb, I should point out that Hoffa would have done himself a service to swap out his usual and unstylish white socks or even just a slightly more colorful warm shade of beige or tan hosiery… but, of course, he doesn’t even yield here to what would have been a simple style upgrade for the sake of his personal convenience and preference. He wears black horsebit loafers, potentially the same moc-toe Florsheim shoes with gold bit detailing that he wore for the scene depicting his famous disappearance.
Unlike Tony Pro, who wears his sunglasses throughout the scene, Hoffa keeps his tinted shades of the table. The black browline-framed sunglasses, popularized in the early ’60s by models like the Ray-Ban Clubmaster and Shuron Ronsir, would have been about a decade out of date by the time this scene was set, though it makes sense that Hoffa didn’t prioritize picking up a pair of more fashionable shades after spending four years in prison.
An accurate wristwatch is essential for a punctilious timekeeper like Jimmy Hoffa, so we can assume he takes care of his gold-toned watch, bedecked proudly with a Teamsters logo on the gold dial and strapped to his left wrist by a black leather band. My friend Aldous Choi has suggested that Hoffa’s watch is almost certainly a custom presentation watch from the period not unlike those manufactured independently by Hamilton’s awards department. If Hoffa is wearing a Hamilton, Aldous further deduced from researching Hamilton Chronicles that we’re likely seeing either a 1972 Dateline A-593 or a 1973 Auto Date Buccaneer.
Hoffa’s only other visible accessory or piece of jewelry is a thick gold pinky ring on his left hand.
How to Get the Look
Jimmy Hoffa may get some ribbing from the colorfully costumed Tony Pro for wearing a suit in Florida, but you have to applaud Hoffa for knowing to leave his blues and grays at home up north and sports a summery tan with his businesslike white shirt and striped tie.
- Tan polyester suit:
- Single-breasted 2-button suit jacket with wide, pick-stitched notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and long double vents
- Flat front suit trousers with belt loops and gently flared bottoms
- White cotton shirt with large spread collar, front placket, breast pocket, and double/French cuffs
- Gold-on-beige/tan/black ribbed “uphill”-striped tie
- Black leather belt
- Black leather moc-toe horsebit loafers
- White socks
- Gold pinky ring
- 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, as well as Charles Brandt’s source book I Heard You Paint Houses.
You can see photos of the screen-worn costumes worn by Graham, Pacino, and De Niro in this scene at Hollywood Movie Costumes and Props, which also includes the costumes Carrie Bufalino (Kathrine Narducci) and Irene Sheeran (Stephanie Kurtzuba) wore during the road trip with their husbands.