Tony Soprano’s Depressed Dad Duds in “Isabella”
James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, depressed New Jersey mob chief
Montclair, New Jersey, Fall 1998
Series: The Sopranos
Episode: “Isabella” (Episode 1.12)
Air Date: March 28, 1999
Director: Allen Coulter
Creator: David Chase
Costume Designer: Juliet Polcsa
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Since 1949, May has been observed as Mental Health Awareness Month. The first day of May aligning with the informal BAMF Style observance of “Mafia Monday” feels fortuitous as it was The Sopranos that helped me get more in touch with my own anxiety and depression.
I was starting college when I first watched The Sopranos, just months after the final episode stymied audiences when it cut to black. I had long loved movies like Goodfellas, Casino, and The Godfather, so I was excited when my roommate introduced me to this acclaimed HBO series centered around the mob… and I was instantly intrigued when it pulled me into a deeper exploration of identity, masculinity, and mental health. Tony’s psychiatric treatment with Dr. Melfi helped me recognize symptoms that I thought were just “normal” sadness as brought me to a point where—with the added help of real-life professionals (of course!)—I was more comfortable with healthy expression than repression.
The twelfth episode, “Isabella”, arguably presents Tony Soprano at his lowest point—heavily medicated to the point of hallucination, barely dressing himself, and hardly enough wits to fight back during an attempted assassination as two gunmen corner him on Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair. But fight back he does, subconsciously proving himself that—despite the numbness of his depression and the medication he’s been prescribed to treat it—he wants to continue living.
“Tony’s stuck in neutral, but he roars back to life when the two hitmen approach him by the newsstand,” write Matt Zoller Seitz and Alan Sepinwall in The Sopranos Sessions. “Tony’s murder of Febby showed he’s not a man to be trifled with physically, but Tony’s resistance is even more impressive given that he’s being ambushed and has to emerge from a deep stupor to survive. It’s animal instinct: Tony baring his fangs and growling, using the car as a weapon while exploiting his would-be assassins’ bad aim… ‘To tell you the truth, I feel pretty good,’ Tony tells Melfi later. ‘Every fuckin’ particle of my being was fighting to live.'”
What’d He Wear?
When it debuted, The Sopranos marketed much of its appeal around the dual meaning of the word “family” as it applied to Tony as both a suburban dad and mob boss—“If one family doesn’t kill him… the other family will,” drolly observed the first season’s promotional material.
From my recollection growing up in the ’90s, few dads had frequently wore flashy printed silk shirts and Italian knitwear or gleaming pinky rings and stately gold Rolexes, all staples of Tony’s wardrobe as accounts like my friend @tonysopranostyle have chronicled.
Depressed and dulled by lithium at the start of “Isabella”, Tony foregoes his usual drip, barely able to change out of his wardrobe. When he does finally leave the house, he’s pulled together a comfortable outfit of basics that—unlike the silk patterned shirts and Tabasco sauce polos—could be realistically found in any suburban dad’s closet.
Tony wears a light sage-green pique long-sleeved polo shirt, with a narrowly ribbed collar and three-button placket of mixed brown plastic buttons. The shirt has a straight hem, with a short vent at each side seam. During his struggle with the assassins in his Suburban, we briefly see the manufacturer’s dark blue label with its white-embroidered italicized logo, but I’m not equipped to identify it from this brief and blurry glimpse.
In the fourth season finale of Seinfeld, Jerry berates George for his lazy fashion choice: “You know the message you’re sending out to the world with these sweatpants? You’re telling the world: ‘I give up! I can’t compete in normal society… I’m miserable, so I might as well be comfortable!'”
Say what you will about Jerry Seinfeld’s style, but he’s right on the money when describing a mental state that would result in the typically well-dressed Tony venturing out in public wearing elastic-waisted sweatpants. While there does seem to be some cultural leeway granted to gangsters in tracksuits, Tony’s sweatpants in “Isabella” aren’t even that, instead the basic heathered light gray cotton or cotton/polyester-blend sweatpants from Champion, Gildan, or Reebok that you could cop for less than $20 at TJ Maxx.
Perhaps the most stereotypical “’90s dad” part of Tony’s costume are his all-white Nike sneakers, the familiar trainers that have so long been associated with suburban fatherhood that no less than Esquire, Glamour, and the Wall Street Journal have touted the current New Balance-led renaissance of “Dad Shoes”. Tony wears his with light sage-green ribbed socks that almost match his shirt.
Tony wears a pared-down assortment of his usual gold jewelry, leaving his Rolex and pinky ring at home. Instead, he wears his gold wedding ring, his gold necklace with a St. Anthony pendant, and the gold chain-link bracelet on his right wrist—all three items that he wears even while sleeping and thus wouldn’t need to bother actively putting on in the morning.
My friend @tonysopranostyle describes the Skip’s gold bracelet as resembling “a Cuban curbed link chain and an Italian Figaro link chain with a twist.”
What to Imbibe
This section typically details a character’s cocktail or spirits of choice, but when you’re feeling low, it’s more important to focus on rehydrating and getting nutrients and vitamins rather than boozing. Luckily, depressed Tony has the foresight to buy some orange juice… though you can tell the difference in his mental state as the Tropicana Pure Premium Original variety he purchases from the newsstand has no pulp! And Tony likes some pulp!
So what is the definitive Tony Soprano orange juice? Over the course of the series, we see the Soprano household stocked with different varieties of Farmland, Florida’s Natural, Minute Maid, and Tropicana, with the latter seemingly being Tony’s preferred brand. He only protests against the Tropicana Grovestand Calcium with Pulp that Carmela bought him in “Second Opinion” (Episode 3.07), and she notably stocks the house with Tropicana Homestyle in the fifth season after Tony had moved out.
Though we most frequently see him drinking pulp-less Tropicana, his pro-pulp declaration in “Second Opinion” and the on-screen appearance of Tropicana “Some Pulp” at the beginning of the following season would suggest this to be the ideal Tony Soprano orange juice.
How to Get the Look
While I’d encourage anyone to pull it together enough to at least not wear sweatpants outside the house, Tony’s presentable polo with sweatpants and sneakers reminds me of how I started dressing when working-from-home became the norm during COVID lockdowns: an easy-to-wear collared shirt on top for video calls, paired [off-screen] with my comfiest sweatpants.
- Light sage-green pique long-sleeve polo shirt with 3-button placket
- Light heathered gray cotton/poly sweatpants with drawstring waistband and side pockets
- White Nike sneakers
- Light sage-green ribbed socks
- Gold open-link chain bracelet
- Gold wedding ring
- Gold open-link chain necklace with round St. Anthony pendant
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the entire series.
You should call 988 if you or a loved one are in distress and thinking about suicide. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline (previously the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) is a national network of more than 200 crisis centers that offer trained crisis counselors, available 24/7. They can help people experiencing mental health-related distress, including thoughts of suicide or any other kind of emotional distress.