The Irishman: De Niro’s Golden Suit

Robert De Niro as Frank Sheeran in The Irishman

Robert De Niro as Frank Sheeran filming The Irishman (2019)


Robert De Niro as Frank “the Irishman” Sheeran, tough Mafia enforcer

New Castle, Delaware, Summer 1962

Film: The Irishman
Release Date: November 1, 2019
Director: Martin Scorsese
Costume Design: Sandy Powell & Christopher Peterson
Tailor: Leonard Logsdail


I recently had the pleasure to rejoin my friends Pete Brooker and Ken Stauffer (@oceansographer) on Pete’s podcast From Tailors With Love, discussing The Irishman with master tailor Leonard Logsdail, who crafted many suits for the movie’s principals.

While recording the episode—released today and available to download via iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify—I had the opportunity to ask Leonard firsthand about one of my favorite sartorial moments from the film, the gold-suited reveal of a newly elevated Frank Sheeran as president of his local union, Teamsters #326, headquartered about 40 miles southwest of Philadelphia in New Castle, Delaware.

The Irishman dramatizes the decades-long association between Sheeran, labor leader Jimmy Hoffa, and the mob, uniting cinematic tough guys Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, and Harvey Keitel with director Martin Scorsese in a movie that’s less a flashy chronicle of mob history (like Goodfellas and Casino) and more a meditation on age and loyalty in a violent world.

The Irishman and its source material, Charles Brandt’s nonfiction bestseller I Heard You Paint Houses, both present a theory that “solves” the generations-old mystery of Hoffa’s fate, pointing a self-accusatory finger at his one-time friend and bodyguard Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, who narrates:

What can I say, I owe it all to Jimmy. He took me out of a meat truck and gave me my start. He gave me my first charter, he gave me my first union!

Through his duties as the new Teamsters #326 president, Sheeran vets which truckers would or would not inform on colleagues who steal for the mob, echoing his own questioning by Bill Bufalino nearly a decade earlier.

What’d He Wear?

Our first look at Frank Sheeran as the newly elected president of his local Teamsters union is an extreme close-up of his silver lapel pin, which depicts an old-fashioned Mack-style truck above the word “TEAMSTERS” against a blue navy enamel ground, above a navy-scripted “326” in the center of a scroll positioned beneath “LOCAL” in relief. These coin-sized IBT membership pins are still plentiful from online sellers like eBay.

The close-up also details the light brown worsted birdseye fabric of the suit that Sheeran wears following his ascension to the presidency, its golden sheen reflecting the Midas touch of his new friend and mentor, Jimmy Hoffa, as well as the then-fashionable “mustards and olives” that costume designer Sandy Powell told The Hollywood Reporter she wanted to capture from the ’60s.

During our From Tailors With Love conversation, tailor Leonard Logsdail explained that the suit’s silky iridescent finish was actually the result of a fabric that had woven in some degree of polyester, which felt like sacrilege to his craft but provided the intended look for how his final product would appear on screen.

Robert De Niro as Frank Sheeran in The Irishman

Logsdail intentionally tailored his suits for The Irishman to reflect the trending fashions of the time period depicted on screen. This particular scene was set at the dawn of the 1960s, as suit design was leaning toward narrower details like lapels and pockets, though retaining some of the previous decade’s flatteringly full chest and intermediate-length jackets.

Sheeran’s single-breasted, two-button suit jacket incorporates many of these more minimalist hallmarks, particularly narrow—and narrowly notched—lapels. In addition to the standard welted breast pocket, the straight hip pockets are jetted, contributing to a cleaner, more minimalist look by lacking flaps. The shoulders are straight and padded, giving Sheeran the intimidating silhouette apropos a dangerous mob enforcer. Each sleeve is finished with three non-functioning buttons at the cuff. While we can’t see the back of Sheeran’s jacket, it’s likely finished with a single vent per the prevailing American tailoring of the era and his other suits.

Robert De Niro as Frank Sheeran in The Irishman

Steven Zaillian’s screenplay signifies the importance of Frank’s suit in this vignette: “As Frank enters the trucking company owner takes one look at Frank’s suit and union pin and pulls an envelope from his desk to give him. Frank shakes his head no.”

The suit’s matching trousers rise to Sheeran’s natural waist, where they’d held up by a black leather belt with a gold-finished rectangular single-prong buckle. These trousers appear to have been tailored with front darts, a cleaner alternative to pleats that Matt Spaiser efficiently described for Bond Suits as “essentially a pleat that is sewn shut.” While presenting like a flat front, darts function similarly to pleats in how they allow the trousers to curve over the hips, thus aiding the 74-year-old Robert De Niro while portraying a man nearly half his age. The cuffed trouser bottoms break cleanly over his black calf leather plain-toe derby shoes, worn with black cotton lisle socks.

Robert De Niro as Frank Sheeran in The Irishman

With his stylish gold suit and handsome new Lincoln Continental, Frank Sheeran has clearly transformed from the leather-jacketed trucker we met at the start of The Irishman.

Less a “gangster” in the traditional sense than we’re used to seeing in Scorsese movies, Frank Sheeran’s neck is spared from the razor-sharp spearpoint collars that had previously appeared in movies like Raging BullGoodfellas, and Casino. His all-white self-striped shirt made by Geneva Custom Shirts has a traditional spread collar and squared double (French) cuffs, which he appropriately fastens with chunky gold triangle-imprinted links that match his suit.

Sheeran brings the color palette together with his striped silk ties, beginning with a narrow tie heftily block-striped in black, brown, and golden-tan, following the classic American “downhill” direction. When we next find Sheeran behind his desk, completing an interview with a mob-friendly trucker, he wears another earthy downhill-striped tie, though patterned with a series of balanced stripes with black shadow stripes alternating between narrow and narrower, all under a gradient cast that evolves from a near-black green at the top to a lighter brown toward the blade. Sheeran fastens his ties in place with a straight gold clip, detailed with a “downhill” diagonal ridge and positioned at mid-chest.

Robert De Niro as Frank Sheeran in The Irishman

Sheeran’s newly prominent position shines from his hands in the form of a gem-studded ring and a new watch. Gleaming from the third finger of his right hand, Frank’s new gold ring boasts a cluster of multi-colored gemstones, with perhaps green, white, and amber stones shining most prominently, though that may just be me looking for deeper significance in a movie about a man nicknamed “The Irish-man.”

The wristwatch has a mixed-metal finish, its stainless steel case offset by a gold fluted bezel and crown. The large round white dial has numeric hour markers and a large IBT logo at the center, as often bestowed as a gift to Teamsters for milestones or retirement. Though almost certainly not a Rolex (as these were typically sourced from American watchmakers like Bulova and Waltham), Sheeran’s watch is worn on a mixed steel-and-gold five-piece link bracelet similar to the “Jubilee”-style introduced with the Rolex Datejust in 1945, harmonizing with the Datejust-style bezel fluting.

How to Get the Look

Robert De Niro as Frank Sheeran in The Irishman

Robert De Niro as Frank Sheeran filming The Irishman (2019). Note one of the de-aging guides fixed to the collar of his left lapel.

The criminals across The Irishman distinguish themselves among Martin Scorsese’s mobbed-up filmography with a quieter sense of style, though Frank Sheeran’s almost celebratory gold suit for his ascension to the head of his local Teamsters union illustrates the potential intersection of flash and good taste, particularly in the hands of a skillful tailor like Leonard Logsdail.

  • Golden brown worsted suit:
    • Single-breasted 2-button jacket with narrow notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight jetted hip pockets, and 3-button cuffs
    • Darted-front trousers with belt loops, straight/on-seam side pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
  • White self-striped shirt with spread collar and double/French cuffs
  • Dark earth-toned “downhill”-striped silk tie
  • Gold single-ridged tie clip
  • Black leather belt with gold-finished rectangular single-prong buckle
  • Black leather plain-toe derby shoes
  • Black cotton lisle socks
  • Gold multi-gem ring
  • Stainless steel watch with gold fluted bezel, round white IBT-printed dial, and steel-and-gold Jubilee-style five-piece link bracelet

If you’re a member (or president!) of your local union, finish the look by affixing that pin to your left lapel. If you’re not… well, let’s just say the Teamsters wouldn’t be too pleased to find out you were lying about being a member.

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Check out the movie, currently streaming on Netflix and also released on Blu-ray via the Criterion Collection. I also recommend reading Charles Brandt’s 2004 source volume I Heard You Paint Houses, centered around his interviews with the real-life Frank Sheeran. And be sure to check out the latest episode of From Tailors With Love!

You can read more about The Irishman‘s costume design in these contemporary features and interviews with Sandy Powell and Christopher Peterson:

The costume designers also cited the invaluable help of assistant costume designer Brittany Griffin, the real Frank Sheeran’s granddaughter, who provided archival photographs and personal items that belonged to her grandfather.

One comment

  1. John

    The gems adorning his ring are the birthstones of his four daughters, as revealed in the book I Heard You Paint Houses. A family man, indeed…

    Great read as usual.

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