James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, New Jersey mob boss
New Jersey, Fall 2000 and Spring 2002
Series: The Sopranos
– “Proshai, Livushka” (Episode 3.02, dir. Tim Van Patten, aired 3/4/2001)
– “Whitecaps” (Episode 4.13, dir. John Patterson, aired 12/8/2002)
Creator: David Chase
Costume Designer: Juliet Polcsa
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
As spring gets warmer during the march toward summer, I wanted to revisit some of the festive fashions worn by TV’s favorite mob boss on #MafiaMonday with the help of my friend Gabe, who curates the must-follow Instagram account @tonysopranostyle.
Thanks in part to Gabe’s tenacious work tracking down the specific brands and patterns that constitute much of Tony Soprano’s closet, there’s been a revived wave of interest in the Skip’s shirts—as cited by Drew Schwartz for Vice—particularly those bold printed button-ups that costume designer Juliet Polcsa explained to Christopher Hooton that she progressively chose James Gandolfini in as the actor’s size increased over the series (source: The Independent.)
Given the variety of these eye-catching shirts, as well as the depth of Tony’s wardrobe given his wealth as don of New Jersey, Gandolfini was rarely seen wearing the same print in more than one scene, let alone more than one episode. Thus, this Burma Bibas shirt that appears in both “Proshai, Livushka” and the fourth season finale “Whitecaps” became a particularly holy grail for Gabe.
What’d He Wear?
Not only is the shirt notable for featuring across two different episodes, but Tony also wears it as two significant eras in his personal life come to an end, first with his mother’s unexpected—but not unwelcome—death in “Proshai, Livushka” (Episode 3.02) and again when his marriage comes to an abrupt end in “Whitecaps” (Episode 4.13).
Tony Soprano isn’t one to be demonstrative of any emotion aside from anger, but in this case the shirt cries tears for him, each rounded rhombus not unlike a field of teardrops reflecting the dissolution of his family as he knows it. After all, the pilot episode had established an early breakthrough in Tony’s therapy as he tearfully realized that he’s constantly “full of dread” about losing his family.
Constructed of 100% silk with a subtle broken twill weave, this shirt was made by Burma Bibas, the luxury outfitter based in New York City that made more than a dozen of the jauntily printed shirts that Gandolfini wore throughout the series. The taupe ground is patterned with an all-over print of large rhombi that alternate in color between shades of beige, sage, and mint. These rhombus shapes have softly rounded corners, presenting more like teardrops than diamonds, and are detailed with “atomic” retro-inspired black embroidery over each that range from a single, straight vertical line or two interwoven vertical lines with a colored circle at each end to a single horizontal line crossing the vertical line perpendicularly or a series of irregular horizontal lines against the single vertical line for a “grated” effect.
The shirt is styled like a classic warm-weather casual shirt with its elbow-length sleeves, straight hem meant to be worn untucked, and the camp collar rigged with a loop for the smaller button under the right collar leaf. In addition to this smaller button that goes unused, there are six white recessed two-hole buttons up the plain “French placket” front, matched by the button that closes the matching patch pocket positioned over the left breast.
In both episodes, Tony wears the shirt with black pleated trousers—probably his favorite style of triple-pleated chinos by Zanella—styled with slanted side pockets, jetted back pockets, turn-ups (cuffs), and belt loops to be used with the black leather belt that goes mostly unseen under the untucked shirt hem.
He continues the funereal black into his shoes and socks, wearing a pair of leather apron-toe derbies that are likely Allen-Edmonds.
Tony wears his usual assortment of gold jewelry, including the thin gold open-link necklace with a gold St. Jerome pendant. A gold ring sparkles from his right pinky with its diamond and ruby bypass stones, and he wears a gold bracelet that @tonysopranostyle describes as resembling “a Cuban curbed link chain and an Italian Figaro link chain with a twist” on his right wrist.
Rolex had introduced its unique “President” bracelet in tandem with the self-winding Day-Date chronometer in the 1950s, quickly living up to its moniker as the favored watch of national leaders like JFK and LBJ over the decades to follow.
From the second episode of The Sopranos onward, Tony asserted his leadership with his timepiece, an 18-karat yellow gold Rolex Day-Date “President” with the signature three-piece semi-rounded link bracelet. BAMF Style readers have pinpointed the Skip’s exact model to ref. 18238, its champagne gold dial bedecked with the day of the week in a curved window across the top, the date under a window at 3:00, and non-numeric hour markers inside the fixed fluted bezel.
After learning of Livia’s death in “Proshai, Livushka”, Tony and Carmela (Edie Falco) drive a few minutes south to Livia’s home in Verona. Tony layers for the trip in a black leather jacket, one of several similar zip-up blouson jackets he would wear during the series. I believe this is the first appearance of this particular jacket, characterized by its double rows of edge stitching along the collar and zipper.
Assuming he was dressing for the day when his confrontation with Meadow’s “friend” Noah Tannenbaum (Patrick Tully) led to another food-induced panic attack in “Proshai, Livushka”, Tony’s underwear consisted of his usual white ribbed cotton sleeveless A-shirt and light blue cotton boxer shorts.
What to Imbibe
Livia’s one-legged nurse, Svetlana Kirilenko (Alla Kliouka Schaffer), makes her second appearance in “Proshai, Livushka” as she pours some Stolichnaya for Tony and Carmela to join her in the eponymous toast.
Having been born in Russia like her cousin—Tony’s one-time comare Irina—Svetlana would undoubtedly be familiar with Stoli as the state vodka produced by the erstwhile USSR, where it was first manufactured during the years following World War II. Stoli was one of the first Russian products available in the West during the Cold War following a much-publicized 1972 trade deal with PepsiCo, and its popularity only expanded after the dissolution of the Soviet Union with the expansion of its offerings to more than a dozen different flavors as well as the stalwart 80-proof “Red Label” and 100-proof “Blue Label”.
What to Watch
“Proshai, Livushka” is framed by interludes to William A. Wellman’s classic The Public Enemy, first watched by Meadow and Noah and then revisited four times by Tony throughout the hour as he handles the impact of Livia’s unexpected passing.
A cornerstone in establishing the subgenre of the American gangster film, this pre-Code crime drama from Warner Brothers catapulted James Cagney to stardom as the violent hoodlum who spills plenty of blood and beer during his ruthless quest to the top of the underworld in Prohibition-era Chicago. Despite his countless crimes and indiscretions, he never loses the love of his adoring mother… stirring tears from Tony as he mourns the mother he never had.
“It’s never clear whether Tony is obsessively rewatching the entire film while dealing with his mother’s death, or if it just takes him forever to get through it,” write Matt Zoller Seitz and Alan Sepinwall in the definitive The Sopranos Sessions. “Either way, it gains a talismanic power as this hour unreels, until by the end it transcends its plot function, illustrating a truth about how movies can explain us to ourseelves even when we weren’t looking for insight.”
How to Get the Look
When not in his elegant tailored suits or sport jackets or lounging at home in a velvet tracksuit, Tony Soprano’s daily attire frequently consists of a retro-inspired printed camp shirt with understated trousers—pleated to comfortably accommodate his size—and his gold jewelry and accessories including his luxury Rolex watch and that gangland style staple, a sparkling pinky ring.
- Taupe silk (with beige, mint, and sage rounded rhombus all-over print with black “atomic”-overlaid embroidery) short-sleeve camp shirt with loop collar, plain front, and button-through breast pocket
- Black pleated trousers with belt loops, slanted side pockets, jetted back pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- Black leather belt
- Black leather apron-toe derby shoes
- Black cotton lisle socks
- White ribbed cotton sleeveless undershirt
- Light blue cotton boxer shorts
- Rolex Day-Date “President” ref. 18238 self-winding chronometer watch in 18-karat yellow gold with champagne-colored dial and Presidential link bracelet
- Gold open-link chain bracelet
- Gold pinky ring with ruby and diamond bypass stones
- Gold open-link chain necklace with round St. Jerome pendant
Do Yourself a Favor and…
You should also watch The Public Enemy!
What are you gonna do?