Al Pacino as Frank Slade, blind and bitter retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel
New York City to New Hampshire, Fall 1992
Film: Scent of a Woman
Release Date: December 23, 1992
Director: Martin Brest
Costume Designer: Aude Bronson-Howard
Tailor: Martin Greenfield
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Happy birthday, Al Pacino! As the legendary actor’s 81st birthday coincides with the Academy Awards tonight, let’s take a look at Scent of a Woman, Martin Brest’s 1992 drama that resulted in Pacino’s sole Oscar to date.
Pacino played retired Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade, a blind and irascible alcoholic who secretly plans on spending the Thanksgiving holiday with a lavish weekend in New York City before ending his life. Somewhat reluctantly along for the ride is Charlie Simms (Chris O’Donnell), a mild-mannered prep student hired to care for Frank, though the cantankerous colonel seems more than willing to watch out for himself.
Frank reveals his plan to Charlie during their first night on “a little tour of pleasures” with dinner at The Plaza’s famous Oak Room:
I said I was gonna blow my brains out. Try one of these rolls, Charlie, I buttered it for ya.
The reckless retiree is only one of Charlie’s headaches for the weekend, as he’s being pressured by his school headmaster, Mr. Trask (James Rebhorn), to divulge the identities of his prankster friends that had vandalized Trask’s car before the break.
Several tailored suits and tire-squealing Ferrari rides later, Charlie successfully intervenes in preventing Frank from carrying out the final step of his plan. He returns to school to face a formal inquiry into the prank, only to learn that his weaselly pal George (Philip Seymour Hoffman) had enlisted the support of his wealthy father to pass the burden onto Charlie. Despite the increased pressure, Charlie maintains his silence, prompting Trask to recommend his expulsion… and prompting Frank to rise and speak on behalf of his young friend:
Not only does Frank’s rousing speech succeed in humiliating the domineering headmaster, it also garners a round of applause from the students in attendance, clears Charlie’s name, and earns Frank the admiration of political science instructor Christine Downes (Frances Conroy), providing Frank with some hope that Charlie’s theory of Frank someday finding romantic happiness could come true.
What’d He Wear?
During his weekend in New York, Frank Slade gets swiftly tailored for a glenurquhart plaid three-piece suit that often steals the spotlight among Al Pacino’s costumes in Scent of a Woman, though he cycles this with a stylish navy wool suit, subtly self-striped in alternating single and double sets of narrow track stripes.
Also made for Pacino by venerated Brooklyn tailor Martin Greenfield, this navy suit follows the same ’30s-inspired cut and detailing such as the wide-shouldered, single-breasted jacket with peak lapels, which additionally serves to provide a powerful silhouette to match Frank’s oft-intimidating personality. Alan Flusser, who also contributed clothing to Scent of a Woman, described how the jacket’s cut could flatter a shorter and slimmer man like the 5’7″ Pacino, writing in his seminal tome Dressing the Man that “the single-breasted, three-button jacket would be welcome here, as when worn unbuttoned, each side forms a panel down the front that creates an illusion of verticality.”
The right lapel gently rolls over the top button, creating a “3/2.5-roll” effect rather than the full 3/2-roll. Like the glen plaid suit, this suit jacket has four buttons dressing the cuffs of each sleeve and double vents. The jacket’s straight hip pockets are covered with flaps, adding weight that Flusser suggests can create “a better overall balance between the top and bottom halves of the jacket” when tailoring for a man of Pacino’s physique. When Frank presses the full suit—including the waistcoat—into service for Charlie’s inquiry, he folds a white cotton pocket square into the welted breast pocket.
The night that the boys arrive in the Big Apple, Frank changes out of the khaki brown sports coat he had worn on the plane and into this navy suit for dinner at the Oak Room, though he dresses it down (by Frank Slade’s well-manicured standards, of course) by foregoing the waistcoat and pocket square and pairing it with a non-white shirt.
The gray cotton shirt Frank wears to the Oak Room is a shade of slate that coordinates with the dark blue of the navy suiting. The point collar adds another degree of vertical dimension to Frank’s appearance as well as echoing the sharp angles of his peak lapels. The single white pearl button closing through the breast pocket matches those on the placket and the single button to close each rounded barrel cuff.
Frank’s tie is patterned in a balanced “uphill”-directional brown stripe with shadowed edges that alternates against a dark navy stripe, itself detailed with a single row of repeating small beige circles.
When Frank dresses up his navy striped suit for Charlie’s inquiry, he chooses one of the white cotton shirts he wears with the glen plaid suit, characterized by its button-fastened tab collar. The shirt also has a front placket and single-button barrel cuffs; for all his fussy detailing, button cuffs are a wise choice for the blind Frank so he needn’t bother fumbling with cuff links, which can provide challenges for sighted men as well!
The sophisticated tab collar, popularized by the Prince of Wales during the roaring ’20s, pushes forward the tight four-in-hand knot of Frank’s dark navy silk tie with its taupe paisley print.
The formality of Charlie’s inquiry also calls for Frank to wear the suit to completion, that is with the addition of the matching waistcoat (vest) that he had foregone during dinner at the Oak Room. While the rest of Frank’s suit hearkens to styles of the interwar era, the waistcoat has a more contemporary rise rather than the higher-fastening pieces seen during the ’20s and ’30s. Despite this, Greenfield still managed to effectively rig the waistcoat with six buttons, with Pacino correctly wearing the lowest unbuttoned over the notched bottom.
As with the glen plaid suit, this waistcoat has four welted pockets—two on each side—and likely an adjustable strap in the back to tighten around the waist and echo the silhouette created by the jacket.
Frank’s suit trousers appear to be styled the same as those that are part of his glen plaid suit, double forward-pleated in the “golden era” tradition that was undergoing a revival through the ’80s and into the ’90s and rigged with belt loops that go unused in favor of suspenders that remain unseen as Frank never removes his navy suit jacket or waistcoat. There are likely also on-seam side pockets and jetted back pockets, and the bottoms are finished with turn-ups (cuffs).
Frank’s dark brown leather oxfords appear to be his usual same chestnut wingtip brogues, worn here with dark navy socks that effectively continue the leg line from his trousers.
In addition to the elegant fawn-colored double-breasted overcoat that Frank wears over his glen plaid suit, the colonel also has a more functional trench coat to keep him dry in inclement weather, a wise layer for spending an autumn weekend in New York. The trench coat’s origins as a lightweight, water-resistant layer for British officers during World War I make it an appropriate choice for Frank, a man greatly shaped by his 26 years in the service.
Made from an olive gabardine that suggests the classic drab green Army uniform, Frank’s trench coat has the traditional storm flap across the back and over the right side of the chest, layered over each shoulder with a long shoulder strap (epaulette) that buttons at the neck where the seam of each raglan sleeve begins. The sleeves end with belted cuffs, echoing the full belt around the waist that Frank typically wears unfastened. The ten large mixed olive-and-white four-hole buttons are arranged in a double-breasted layout of five rows of two buttons.
Frank’s only piece of jewelry is a sterling silver chain-link ID bracelet on his right wrist, likely engraved with his name and rank in the spirit of the military identification bracelets associated with American servicemen.
Frank’s retro-inspired sunglasses are appropriate for a gentleman with classic sartorial sensibilities. The light tortoise frames support a pair of gently rounded dark lenses, recalling the shapes of early sunglasses before the popularity of aviator, browline, and Wayfarer frame styles.
A Spotern contributor suggested that Pacino wore Matsuda 2808H sunglasses, though—while there are similarities in the overall frame and shape—the temple details and bridge structure differ too greatly between the screen-worn shades and the Matsudas for this to be the likely answer.
What to Imbibe
“Bring us a menu and a double Jack Daniel’s on the rocks,” Frank requests as he’s seated at the Oak Room for his first night in New York City. This time-honored Tennessee whiskey has been publicly associated with no-nonsense men of style and swagger from Frank Sinatra to Keith Richards, so it makes sense that Frank Slade would choose Jack for everything from mid-flight refreshments to family Thanksgiving dinners.
“Where’s the booze? Flowin’ like mud around here,” Frank complains when he doesn’t receive his drink within a minute of ordering it.
How to Get the Look
Frank Slade’s glenurquhart three-piece suit may command most of Scent of a Woman‘s sartorial attention, but Al Pacino looks just as debonair and domineering in this navy self-striped three-piece suit, also tailored to perfection by Martin Greenfield with its “golden era”-inspired cut that adds a touch of contemporary “power suit” sensibilities without sacrificing its ultimately timeless nature.
- Navy tonal track-striped wool three-piece tailored suit:
- Single-breasted 3/2.5-roll jacket with peak lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, 4-button cuffs, and double vents
- Single-breasted 6-button waistcoat with four welted pockets, notched bottom, and adjustable back strap
- Double forward-pleated trousers with belt loops, straight/on-seam side pockets, jetted back pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- White cotton shirt with tab collar, front placket, and single-button cuffs
- Navy paisley-printed silk tie
- Brown calf leather wingtip oxford brogues
- Dark navy cotton lisle socks
- White cotton short-sleeve undershirt
- Sterling silver military ID bracelet
- Olive gabardine trench coat with storm flaps, 10-button double-breasted front, slanted side pockets, full belt, raglan sleeves with belted cuffs, and single vent
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie. If you’re interested in learning more about style and supporting the talented tailors who have dressed some of the most fashionable gents of the silver screen—including Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman—I recommend Martin Greenfield’s Measure of a Man and Alan Flusser’s Dressing the Man.
As I came in here, I heard those words, “Cradle of Leadership”. Well, when the bough breaks, the cradle will fall. And it has fallen here, it has fallen. Makers of men, creators of leaders. Be careful what kind of leaders you’re producing here. I don’t know if Charlie’s silence here today is right or wrong. I’m not a judge or jury, but I can tell you this: he won’t sell anybody out to buy his future! And that, my friends, is called integrity. That’s called courage. Now that’s the stuff leaders should be made of. Now I have come to the crossroads in my life. I always knew what the right path was. Without exception, I knew. But I never took it. You know why? It was too damn hard. Now, here’s Charlie. He’s come to the crossroads. He has chosen a path. It’s the right path. It’s a path made of principle that leads to character. Let him continue on his journey. You hold this boy’s future in your hands, committee. It’s a valuable future. Believe me. Don’t destroy it. Protect it. Embrace it. It’s gonna make you proud one day, I promise you.