James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, New Jersey mob chief
North Caldwell, New Jersey, Summer 1998
Series: The Sopranos
Episode: “The Sopranos” (Episode 1.01)
Air Date: January 10, 1999
Director: David Chase
Creator: David Chase
Costume Designer: Juliet Polcsa
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Father’s Day today often means cookouts and looking ahead to the start of summer. From its first episode, The Sopranos centered around the two “families” beleaguering Tony Soprano: the network of gangsters comprising the DeMeo crime family and as the suburban dad at the head of his biological family.
On a day celebrating dads and to honor James Gandolfini on the ninth anniversary of his death, let’s revisit the final scenes from the pilot episode as the actor ably balanced both of Tony’s “family” roles during a backyard cookout ostensibly for his son Anthony Jr.’s birthday.
The first attempt at A.J.’s birthday party had been ruined not just by “no fuckin’ ziti” but also by Tony’s panic attack. Following a covert Prozac prescription and an initial therapy breakthrough, Tony again resumes his grillmaster duties… despite using mesquite, which “makes the sausage taste peculiar,” according to his mother Livia (Nancy Marchand).
Encouraged by Tony’s therapeutic revelations that “talkin’ helps”, the Soprano backyard becomes an impromptu forum for malcontent, from chef Artie Bucco (John Ventimiglia) airing his grievances about his destroyed restaurant to the moody Christopher Molitsanti (Michael Imperioli) moping about not getting made after his murder of a rival mobster. Not exactly the usual family cookout banter.
What’d He Wear?
Perhaps after his revelation in therapy that his breakdowns have been brought on by the fear of losing his family—that is, his wife and kids, not wiseguys like Paulie and Silvio—the next we see Tony, he’s dressed more like the typical suburban dad than we’d ever be used to seeing him, albeit with his usual touches of gold jewelry.
Tony’s light sage-green camp shirt has a white plaid overcheck and is made from a lightweight puckered fabric, suggestive of linen or a linen/cotton blend. The short-sleeved shirt has a camp collar with a loop on the left, ostensibly to connect with a button under the right collar leaf, with six more flat sage-green plastic 4-hole buttons up the plain front.
Walk into any backyard BBQ on a summer afternoon, and you’ll likely see a dad working the grill in shorts. Tony follows this unspoken sartorial tradition in a pair of pleated knee-length shorts made from a washed taupe-gray chino cotton and styled with on-seam side pockets.
“John said he went to a cookout at your house… a Don doesn’t wear shorts,” Tony would be advised four seasons later by the aged mob boss Carmine Lupertazzi, Sr. (Tony Lip), an exchange reportedly inspired by a real-life gangster who had similarly advised James Gandolfini after The Sopranos‘ pilot aired. Carmine’s comment may seem trite when taken literally, but it could also be a metaphorical reflection of Carmine’s old-school thinking that a boss shouldn’t socialize with his employees.
Much in the manner that some men wear sockless boat shoes in the summer, Tony wears a pair of russet-brown leather tasseled loafers.
Filmed two years before the rest of the first season, The Sopranos had yet to establish Tony’s regular jewelry, though the template had been set dictating a pinky ring, wedding band, and gold wristwatch.
Beginning with the second episode, Tony would famously wear an 18-karat gold Rolex Day-Date on a “Presidential” bracelet, but his watch in the pilot episode is the somewhat more modest TAG Heuer Professional 200M (S94.006) quartz watch, as identified by my friend @tonysopranostyle. The stainless steel TAG Heuer is plated in 18-karat yellow gold, including the 37mm case, the unidirectional rotating bezel, and the “rice-grain”-style bracelet with its deployable clasp. The dial is also a light shade of gold, with luminous, non-numeric hour markers and a date window at 3:00.
In addition to his gold wedding ring on his left hand, Tony wears a diamond-studded gold ring on his right pinky, though this would be replaced in the following episode by the more familiar ruby-and-diamond bypass ring that he inherited from his father. The second episode would also add a chain-link bracelet to Tony’s jewelry collection.
What to Imbibe
The DeMeo crew generally sticks to classic American beers for cookouts at Tony’s. Budweiser and Rolling Rock rule this particular party, with Tony taking pulls of the latter while grilling sausage and steaks for the rest of the party.
Rolling Rock lager was first brewed in 1939 by the Latrobe Brewing Company, headquartered in my neck of the woods in western Pennsylvania.
There are multiple suggestions for the prominence of the number “33” printed over Rolling Rock’s distinctive glass bottles, some sharing that it commemorates the year 1933… both the year that Prohibition ended and the founding year of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who train in Latrobe. Theories abound to also include the 33 words that comprised Latrobe Brewing’s original pledge of quality or the numbers of steps from the brewmaster’s office in the original brewery, while others have proposed it’s merely a guide that was mistakenly added by the original bottle printers. Even after the beer was sold to Anheuser-Busch in 2006, the “33” legacy—and the mystery of its origins—lives on.
How to Get the Look
A Don may not wear shorts, but a dad can wear whatever he wants!
- Sage-green plaid puckered linen short-sleeve camp shirt
- White ribbed cotton sleeveless undershirt
- Taupe-gray chino-cotton pleated knee-length shorts
- Russet-brown leather tasseled loafers
- Diamond-crusted gold pinky ring
- Gold wedding ring
- TAG Heuer Professional 200M gold-plated steel quartz watch with rotating bezel, round dial with luminous non-numeral hour markers and date window, and rice-grain bracelet
- Gold necklace with St. Anthony pendant
Do Yourself a Favor and…
You know what I’m figurin’ out lately? Talkin’ helps.