Tony Sirico as “Paulie Walnuts” Gualtieri, mob captain and Army veteran
New Jersey, early 2000s
Series: The Sopranos
– “From Where to Eternity” (Episode 2.09, dir. Henry J. Bronchtein, aired 3/12/2000)
– “Second Opinion” (Episode 3.07, dir. Tim Van Patten, aired 4/8/2001)
– “…To Save Us All from Satan’s Power” (Episode 3.10, dir. Jack Bender, aired 4/29/2001)
– “Army of One” (Episode 3.13, dir. John Patterson, aired 5/20/2001)
– “Mergers and Acquisitions” (Episode 4.08, dir. Dan Attias, aired 11/3/2002)
– “Whoever Did This” (Episode 4.09, dir. Tim Van Patten, aired 11/10/2002)
– “Where’s Johnny?” (Episode 5.03, dir. John Patterson, aired 3/21/2004)
– “The Ride” (Episode 6.09, dir. Alan Taylor, aired 5/7/2006)
– “Made in America” (Episode 6.21, dir. David Chase, aired 6/10/2007)
Creator: David Chase
Costume Designer: Juliet Polcsa
Heh, heh… happy #MafiaMonday, folks. In response to a request I received from a BAMF Style reader, today’s subject would be particularly recognizable for fans of The Sopranos as a sartorial signature from the wardrobe of the singular Paulie Walnuts.
While most of the series’ talented cast has been rightly praised for completely inhabiting their characters, Paulie remains an anomaly for how much of actor Tony Sirico’s own eccentricities, from his biographical details to his peculiar sense of style from head (those famous hair wings) to toe (those white shoes.)
As Michael Imperioli and Steve Schirripa’s Talking Sopranos podcast begins exploring the landmark series’ third season, entertaining stories continue to emerge about the influence Sirico wielded on how his character would be portrayed. From the beginning, Sirico—who had originally auditioned for the role of Uncle Junior—was insistent that his character never become “a rat.” As the show progressed, the actor maintained control of the character that was arguably a fictionalized version of himself, warning the writers what would happen if they tried to replace his white loafers with cement shoes.
“Let me tell you something,” Sirico informed writer and director Terence Winter. “If you ever write a script where I die? First, I die. Then, you die.”
What’d He Wear?
Paulie Walnuts may be most remembered for his tracksuits (and rightly so, as he wore literally dozens over the course of the show), but the most frequently seen item from Paulie’s wardrobe was arguably his black leather-and-suede blouson jacket that debuted toward the end of the second season and would be worn sporadically through the rest of The Sopranos‘ run, including an appearance in the series finale.
For such a prominent piece of the show’s wardrobe, it may be surprising that there’s so little documented or known about this jacket… or perhaps it’s less surprising, considering that I suspect it belonged to Sirico in real life and—like many of the actor’s own quirks—was “borrowed” by Paulie Walnuts on screen. Assuming that this was indeed a favorite piece from the Sirico collection explains why it was never worn for any stunt-heavy sequences where it could be potentially ruined by fake blood, dirt, sweat, or snow.
The black leather jacket first appeared in “From Where to Eternity” (Episode 2.09) when Paulie visits Christopher in the hospital, where the harsh florescent lighting showcases the contrast between the smooth-sided leather that makes up most of the body and the black napped suede detailing across the front and around the collar. The large, long-pointed suede collar suggests a disco-era provenance to me, possibly dating back to when Paulie “lived through the ’70s by the skin of my nuts when the Colombos were goin’ at it.”
The additional suede detail include vertical strips down the front from each shoulder seam to the waistband, connected over the chest by a horizontal strip of the same width that intersects with the vertical strips just in front of each armpit. The front zip is also flanked by about an inch of suede on each side so that, when zipped up, it creates the effect of a third suede strip up the center. The jacket has set-in sleeves which fall slightly off Sirico’s shoulders and a squared tab with a single-snap closure.
In “From Where to Eternity”, Paulie wears this jacket zipped up a few inches at the bottom over a charcoal button-up shirt printed in a balanced, all-over zigzag pattern. Based on Sirico’s gestures in the scene and the manner in which he wears the jacket’s cuffs unsnapped and rolled back over each wrist, we can ascertain that the shirt is likely short-sleeved.
Over the years to follow, Paulie would alternate between favoring button-up shirts or knitwear under the jacket. For each of its third season appearances, he opts for crew-neck sweaters:
- When Paulie leads a panty-sniffing search of the Moltisanti abode in “Second Opinion” (Episode 3.07), his cream-colored sweater is arranged in blocks consisting of five raised bars that alternate between horizontal and vertical orientations.
- Overseeing Christmas preparations at Satriale’s in “…To Save Us All from Satan’s Power” (Episode 3.10), Paulie wears another off-white sweater, this one patterned with an askew “harlequin print” of repeating black diamond shapes with the neutral space between them alternating between pale blue and off-white diamonds. The narrowly ribbed crew neck is off-white to match the sweater body.
- Paulie installs his appreciative at
Captain Teeb’sGreen Grove retirement community in “Army of One” (Episode 3.13), dressing for the occasion with a black box-patterned sweater under his familiar jacket. Under the high black crew neck, the front of the sweater is organized into a grid with small boxes comprised of four horizontal lines each, the shades of gray alternating by row between light and dark.
I’m not aware of any of the specific brands that made this knitwear, though I know auctioned clothing Sirico wore in the show was made by Italian-originated brands like Massoti and Tuscan.
For the jacket’s back-to-back appearances in The Sopranos‘s fourth season, Paulie wore it over light-colored button-up shirts. Interestingly enough, its first appearance is back at Green Grove in “Mergers and Acquisitions” (Episode 4.08) when Paulie wears it over a light cream long-sleeved dress shirt to meet with the facility’s social director. This shirt has a point collar, worn open at the neck, with a breast pocket and button cuffs.
In the following episode, “Whoever Did This” (Episode 4.09), Paulie is unsympathetic to the Cifaretto family’s plight when he arrives at the Bing with his jacket zipped over an ivory long-sleeved shirt with an abstract “bossa nova” print motif, also worn with the top two buttons of the plain “French placket” undone to show his graying chest hair and the top of his undershirt.
The jacket makes its sole fifth season appearance in “Where’s Johnny?” (Episode 5.03) for a classic moment of Paulie pettiness as he’s cruising through the neighborhood in his champagne-colored Cadillac Eldorado and stops to inflict some damage in a literal turf war between landscaping companies.
Paulie’s back to wearing knitwear under his jacket, this time sporting a baby blue crew-neck sweater split into vertical divisions created by alternating knitting patterns. The wide ribbing on the crew neck is reminiscent of the sweater he wore in “Second Opinion”, suggesting the same manufacturer of both.
The La Manna vs. Vitro landscaping war gives us our first real look at Paulie wearing this jacket in action. To this point, we’d seen little of the trousers he wears with this jacket, aside from seeing that they tend to be dark. In fact, Paulie often coordinates the shade of his trousers to his shirt. In this case, with his baby blue sweater, he wears navy trousers.
Paulie frequently wears polyester Sansabelt trousers, so named for their ability to be worn sans belt due to their signature elasticized inner waistband that holds the trousers up while offering a clean tuck for the shirts worn with them, though he often wears them with suspenders under his untucked knit shirts. Paulie favors flat front trousers, rigged with Western-style “frogmouth” front pockets and an extended waistband tab that closes through a single button. These trousers also have button-through back pockets and plain-hemmed bottoms… bringing us to his shoes.
Paulie’s white loafers have become legendary in Sopranos lore, finally given their opportunity to shine on screen during a brief vignette in “Remember When” (Episode 6.15) as Paulie packs three of four identical pairs of his signature all-white Vikings loafers before his trip to Florida with Tony. A favorite of Sirico’s in real life (of course), these comfortable-looking slip-on shoes have white leather uppers with a split toe and top-stitching that follows the curve of the front quarters over the insteps. Given his stated distaste for shoelaces, we shouldn’t be surprised that Paulie almost exclusively wears non-laced loafers.
The jacket makes two appearances in “The Ride” (Episode 6.09), set during the annual Feast of Elzéar of Sabran, for which Paulie is responsible for organizing activities as well as the titular ride. He makes the rounds of the festival wearing this jacket over a beige button-up shirt, grid-patterned with every other square outlined in a higher-contrast brown. The long-sleeved shirt has a structured point collar and mitred barrel cuffs and is worn with a pair of tan Sansabelt trousers resembling these “taupe” Par Mélange pants still available on the Sansabelt website as of October 2020.
By the episode’s end, Paulie has made peace with Nucci (Frances Esemplare), the older woman he had believed to be his beloved “Ma” but was, in fact, his aunt. When he visits her that night to join her in watching “the Lawrence Welk program, channel 55,” he’s wearing the jacket over a slate-gray knit pullover quarter-zip with a white grid and white zipper tape, sported with what looks like more traditional dark gray slacks.
Paulie briefly wears the jacket again in the series finale, “Made in America” (Episode 6.21), when he returns to the now-closed Bing and briefly recalls his vision of the Virgin Mary on stage in “The Ride”. This final appearance of the jacket marks one of the few times Paulie wears it completely unzipped, revealing the printed shirt he wears tucked into his brown Sansabelt trousers. The ecru shirt is printed with an abstract pattern of sketched gray trapezoids and open-center squares, styled with a point collar, plain “French placket”, and rounded cuffs that he wears buttoned.
Paulie shares his fellow wiseguys’ preference for white ribbed cotton sleeveless undershirts. Emblematic of his Catholic faith and upbringing, he wears a gold textured cross on a gold rope-chain necklace.
Another staple of wiseguy accessories are chain-link bracelets, and Paulie is naturally no exception with the heavy yellow gold figaro-link bracelet he wears on his right wrist.
“I’ve been wearing it for 30 years,” Tony Sirico told Ilene Rosenzweig for “Ba-Da-Bing! Thumbs Up for the Pinkie Ring,” a January 2000 article in The New York Times article that published the same night that the second episode of the second season aired in January 2000. “It’s part of my life.”
Mr. Sirico was discussing his pinkie ring, the same one he wears when playing Paulie Walnuts on The Sopranos, the HBO mob opera that started its second season last week. “They say Mafia wear pinkie rings, but men of style wear pinkie rings,” Mr. Sirico said. “So long as they’re not gaudy and the man has a nice hand — not too feminine a hand.” Mr. Sirico, who favors what he called a “sexy” black onyx look, said he was unaware that pinkie rings had gone out of style.
In the first two seasons, Paulie wears a gold pinkie ring with mesh-like sides and a round black onyx stone. By the fourth season, he would switch to a smooth-sided ring with the square-shaped onyx setting bordered by mini diamonds. As the show approached its final seasons, Paulie appeared to be wearing yet another ring, similar to the previous one but with just a plain, raised rectangular onyx setting with mitred corners and no diamond ornamentation.
For most of the series, Paulie wore steel Movado Esperanza wristwatches, both in yellow gold and silver-toned stainless finishes. The Movado is a perfect watch for Paulie’s character: distinctive-looking and Italian-sounding (though Swiss in origin) but ultimately inexpensive, at least when compared with the boss’ $10,000 gold Rolex.
Movado, ref. no 0607059, has the marque’s minimalist “museum dial” in matte black with a gold-toned concave dot at 12:00 and gold hands. The case is 39mm yellow gold PVD-finished stainless steel, worn on a matching “free-falling bracelet design with signature open links and push-button deployment clasp,” according to the official website description of the Movado Esperanza.
Paulie had been wearing his Movado watches as early as the second episode, “46 Long” (Episode 1.02), though he often alternated between his watches over the series’ first two seasons. “From Where to Eternity” (Episode 2.09) features a stainless Movado, though the scene where he debuts this jacket in Christopher’s hospital room shows him wearing a different wristwatch. This timepiece is styled like a flat gold rice-grained bracelet with a flush white square-shaped dial.
How to Get the Look
More than any other actor on The Sopranos, Tony Sirico brought his real-life peculiarities to the character of Paulie Walnuts, from mannerisms to menswear. Of the latter, one of the foundations of Paulie’s wardrobe was a black leather blouson, distinctively patterned with strips of suede crossing over the front of the jacket to match the wide collar, worn in nearly every season of the show and almost always with his signature beltless trousers and white leather loafers.
- Black leather zip-up blouson jacket with large black suede collar, black suede horizontal and vertical strip detailing, side pockets, and single-snap cuffs
- Crew-neck sweater
- Neutral-toned polyester Sansabelt trousers with fitted waistband, extended single-button front waist tab, “frogmouth” front pockets, jetted back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- White leather split-toe Vikings loafers
- Black socks
- Movado Esperanza 0607059 gold-coated stainless steel watch with black minimalist dial on gold-finished “free-falling” open-link bracelet
- Gold pinky ring with black onyx stone
Do Yourself a Favor and…
For fans of the show, I always recommend picking up a copy of The Soprano Sessions by Matt Zoller Seitz and Alan Sepinwall.
A lot of things used to be!