Adam Sandler as Howard Ratner, gambling-addicted jeweler
New York City, Spring 2012
Film: Uncut Gems
Release Date: December 13, 2019
Director: Josh Safdie & Benny Safdie
Costume Design: Miyako Bellizzi & Nawaal Hendricks
Costume Consultant: Mordechai Rubinstein
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Happy 57th birthday to Adam Sandler, born September 9, 1966. The Sandman turned in an arguably career best performance in Uncut Gems, the Safdie brothers’ excellent and stress-inducing callback to gritty ’70s crime cinema, set during the 2012 NBA finals. The uncut gem at the center of the story is a rare black opal that we follow from the mines of Ethiopia to New York City’s Diamond District—specifically KMH, a store run by the frenetic Howard Ratner.
Howard Ratner has a pain in his ass. More than one, in fact, though our introduction to Howard is literally crawling through his bowels in the middle of a colonoscopy (“I know, I know. Jews and colon cancer. What is that? I thought we were the chosen people!”) In addition to the cancerous results of that already invasive exam, Howard has a girlfriend (Julia Fox) who “works” at his shop whenever she feels like it, an understandably frustrated wife (Idina Menzel) counting the minutes until their post-Passover divorce, and at least $100,000 in gambling debts to his brother-in-law Arno (Eric Bogosian). He doesn’t make his life any easier, constantly pawning jewelry (whether it’s his or not) for the quick cash he needs to compound his bets and ignore his debts. Writing for Vogue, Liana Satenstein wrote that watching Howard’s compounding schemes are “like having an IV full of Red Bull nailed into your aorta.”
As with all gamblers, Howard considers his salvation just one big win around the corner—in this case, the aforementioned opal that he plans to auction for at least $1 million. Of course, Howard can’t keep out of his own way and his desire to impress leads to his immediately flashing the valuable rock to Boston Celtics superstar Kevin Garnett, playing himself in one of the most effective instances of an athlete playing himself on screen. Howard’s loudmouthed tendencies sell KG on the power of the opal… even though it was never for sale in the first place, and the Big Ticket insists on “borrowing” the rock for luck during that night’s playoff game in Philadelphia, offering his own championship ring as collateral and with Howie’s shifty colleague Demany (LaKeith Stanfield) in tow.
Though reluctant to part with the prized opal, Howard grows optimistic about Garnett’s chances in the game and pawns the ring, using the proceeds to place a six-way parlay on KG’s performance against the Sixers. When his successful bet promises a massive payday, Howard believes his troubles are all over… when they’re actually about to get considerably worse.
What’d He Wear?
To craft an authentic look for Howard Ratner, costume designer Miyako Bellizzi collaborated with style consultant Mordechai Rubinstein (aka “Mister Mort”) with whom she had previously worked on the Safdies’ 2017 thriller Good Time. Bellizzi spent two months researching in the Diamond District, observing the extensive frequency of rimless Cartier glasses, Ferragamo belts, and everything in between as they interviewed jewelers and even were welcomed into their closets to clock the subtleties of their oft-unsubtle wardrobes.
Bellizzi explained to Sam Schube for GQ that she envisioned that Howard’s “style hasn’t really changed in the last ten years… he’s in his mid-40s or early 50s, but he is wearing the same clothes that he was wearing, like, in his 30s. So even though this movie takes place in 2012, his style probably hasn’t changed since the early 2000s.”
Liana Satenstein described the result for Vogue as “endearing schmuck style at its finest: It’s gaudy. It’s flashy. It’s even kind of nasty… a car-wreck wardrobe made up of clueless sleaze and cash bands, and I couldn’t look away… Howie wants to fit in and get a piece of the pie, but all while wearing a big ole Hugo Boss jacket and a mustard-hued shirt. He’s a man set in his ways. You hate to love it.”
Based on the way he talks to bookies, loan sharks, and their no-nonsense enforcers, it’s clear that Howard sees himself as a tough guy, illustrated by the well-worn black leather jacket that is a staple of his wardrobe through the first act of Uncut Gems.
Leather blazers may be long out of vogue, but this is just a testament to the authenticity of Uncut Gems‘ costume design, as “Forty-seventh Street’s stuck 20 years ago,” Mordechai Rubinstein explained to Sam Schube for GQ. Schube reports that the decision for Howie’s leather blazer came from co-director Josh Safdie spotting a guy wearing one to a Midtown lunch, “probably with a divorce lawyer.”
“It says business, it says grit, and it says chic. But it also says, ‘If you come near me, I will slap the shit out of you,'” Safdie elaborated, consistent with the leather blazer’s prominence in gangland pop culture from Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) wearing a brown one while delivering a memorable beatdown in Goodfellas through Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) projecting power in his black leather sports coat across the later seasons of The Sopranos.
Bellizzi intentionally sourced a secondhand jacket from eBay, explaining to Liana Satenstein for Vogue that “it had to be worn-in, it had to be oversized, we wanted it to be that he had [it] for 10 or 20 years: he’s gained weight, he’s lost weight—it is his favorite sport coat.”
Howard’s black lambskin leather Hugo Boss single-breasted sport jacket has notch lapels and a three-button front consistent with menswear trends around the time it was likely produced in the late 1990s or early 2000s. The breast pocket and hip pockets are all patch pockets, with the hip pocket openings and lowest button aligned with a seam that rings around the waist of the jacket. The ventless jacket also has three buttons at the end of each sleeve.
Howard has an interesting approach to introducing color to his wardrobe. He typically favors wearing as much black as possible, making it all the more noticeable when he dons an oversized pink shirt to a nightclub or a pink sports coat and coordinated trousers and striped polo for Passover.
At the start of Uncut Gems, he breaks up his all-black look with a mustard-colored shirt, tying in to gold being his secondary color as represented by his jewelry and Ferragamo buckles. Made by New York-based fashion label Theory, the short-sleeved polo shirt was purchased by Bellizzi from the discount department store Century 21 (“for added authenticity,” offers A24’s auction listing for the screen-worn shirt.)
The thin shirting is 60% silk and 40% cotton, with a body in a mustard-hued shade of yellow that Theory calls “Gobi” with a slim black collar that continues around the two-button covered-fly placket that Howie wears undone.
Howard wears black double reverse-pleated slacks that Schube reports were “from a never-picked-up made-to-measure order at Zegna.” These trousers have side pockets and a full fit through the legs down to the plain-hemmed bottoms.
He holds them up with a smooth black calfskin Salvatore Ferragamo belt with a gold-toned double “Gancini” buckle that was one of the staple pieces Bellizzi observed worn by many real-life jewelers during her Diamond District research. “Gancini” literally means “literal hooks” in Italian and, shaped like a backwards horseshoe, has been a signature of the Ferragamo brand since 1972. This hardware allows many double Gancini belts to be reversible, with brown leather on one side and black leather on the other. Sandler’s screen-worn Ferragamo belt was also among the items auctioned by A24 in May 2020.
Howard takes the convention of matching belt and shoes to a new level by regularly wearing black calfskin Salvatore Ferragamo loafers, naturally ornamented with the same gold-toned double Gancini as his belts. These slip-ons emerged in the 1970s as Ferragamo’s answer to the iconic horsebit-detailed Gucci loafers that had been introduced by its rival two decades earlier. The latest “Rolo” model moccasin features tubular hand-sewn uppers and, while the leather is (obviously) not reversible as on the belts, the metal bit can be reversed to show either the gold- or silver-toned palladio side.
Howie wears them with black socks that neatly continue the trouser leg-line into his shoes without any dramatic contrast.
The next day, Howard swaps out his yellow polo for a black cotton crew-neck T-shirt that maintains a monochromatic look with his leather jacket, Zegna slacks, and Ferragamo leatherware. He may be glad he was dressed the part of a tough “man in black” when accompanying Demany to Philly in the hopes of recovering his overdue opal from Kevin Garnett, but he undoes any potential intimidation factor by enthusiastically taking over basketball practice. The all-black looks even more out of place that night when he attends his kids’ choral concert… where he loses the entirety of his wardrobe to Arno’s henchman, right down to his black boxer shorts.
An essential piece of Howard’s look are his Cartier C Décor 140b (CT00520 002) rimless glasses. “The Cartier glasses, that’s a jeweler staple,” Josh Safdie was quoted saying by Sam Schube for GQ. “That’s the same thing as a basketball player wearing Jordans.” “When he wore them, we wanted him to transform,” Bellizzi shared with Liana Satenstein for Vogue.
The rimless rectangular 52mm-wide lenses are connected by a simple gold bridge, with gold hinged temples connected to distinctive 140mm rosewood arms. Sandler’s screen-worn glasses were auctioned by A24 for $2,500 in 2020.
Howard begins Uncut Gems wearing a stainless steel Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph that he has taken from him within the first few minutes by Arno’s enforcers, prompting him to scream into Arno’s voicemail that “they watch they took from me is worth $20,000!” and demanding it be deducted from his $100,000 debt.
We get only a fleeting glimpse at the watch before Phil (Keith William Richards) pulls it from Howie’s wrist, with Danny Milton theorizing for Hodinkee that it’s likely the ref. 25860ST. This watch was again the result of exhaustive attention to detail, as prop master Catherine Miller sent back the brand-new Royal Oak chrono she had been supplied with, instead requesting a more period-correct model for the 2012 setting.
Howie’s chrono follows the distinctive Royal Oak design with its satin-brushed steel octagonal bezel with eight screws—one at each corner—against the steel 39mm case. The black grid-textured dial has luminous non-numeric hour indices and hands and a chrono’s requisite trio of sub-registers. The watch is worn on the classic integrated no. 344 bracelet that Audemars Piguet innovated in 1972 with the introduction of the Royal Oak, comprised of large steel links (connected by pairs of small rectangular studs) that taper from 25.9mm wide down to 15.9mm at the center.
“According to Miller, the watches were written into the script and were an important component for the Safdies,” writes Milton. “Ratner was originally supposed to wear two watches, but the directors thought it would be funnier (this film is in no way a comedy) if he had two watches stolen from him throughout the film, so he ends up wearing three.”
After his Audemars Piguet is taken, Howie doubles down on the opulence by strapping on a diamond-studded Rolex Day-Date with a bright red dial. The 18-karat yellow gold 36mm case may be the only visible part of the watch left unscathed by the gaudy aftermarket icing—the fixed bezel has been encrusted by a ring of 31 densely packed diamonds, the gold Roman numeral hour indices against the red dial have been accented with small diamonds, and even the three-piece “President”-style link bracelet has been dusted with gemstones.
Catherine Miller explained to Danny Milton for Hodinkee that she, the Safdies, and Sandler unanimously selected this ostentatious red-dialed Day-Date from among a selection of 15 iced-out Rolexes lent to her by a Diamond District jeweler. “I walked up to this little jewelry store with my little backpack,” she recalled. “I threw the watches in my bag and walked down the streets of New York. I think I had about $250,000 worth of watches in there.”
Miller was a better guardian of this variety of borrowed watches than the fictional Howie was of his own Day-Date, which—like the Audemars Piguet before it—was stripped from his wrist alongside the rest of his clothes when Phil and Nico stuffed him into the trunk of his own Mercedes on Arno’s orders. (After this, Howie changes into his third and final watch, a stainless Breitling Chronomat with gilt bezel and details—of Howie’s trio of timepieces, this Breitling is my favorite.)
All of Howie’s jewelry is yellow gold, including the gold Torah pendant he wears on a flat gold necklace under his shirt… which is sadly not the gem-laden Furby he proudly shows Kevin Garnett.
This extends to his right wrist, where he wears a chunky curb-chain link bracelet, and the trio of rings he wears across both hands. On his left hand, he wears a thick but unadorned wedding band on his ring finger as well as a hefty pinky ring with the surface cut in the shape of the Star of David—a large raised diamond mounted the center, surrounded by ten smaller stones filling each of the six star points.
It may be difficult to ascertain how much of Howie’s ostentatious wardrobe he actually cares about, but you can tell he actually treasures Tom Riker’s championship ring from when the New York Knicks won the 1973 NBA finals, making it all the more painful when he needs to pawn it to get KG’s 2008 Celtics championship ring back.
This massive 14-karat gold player’s ring has a large round face with “NBA WORLD CHAMPIONS” in relief against black enamel, encircling a raised diamond at the center of a silver basketball. The right panel has “T. RIKER” etched in a gold bar above the gold Knicks logo, flanked by “NY-4” and “LA-1”, all against a black enamel ground. The left side of the ring has a gold relief of the NBA logo bisecting “1973”, all against a black enamel ground.
The replica championship ring used on screen sold for $3,750 when A24 auctioned costumes and props from Uncut Gems in 2020.
You can see more of the screen-used costumes and props from the A24 Auction here.
How to Get the Look
I can’t promise that dressing like Howie from Uncut Gems will be how you win, but if you can manage to keep your clothes on without getting them stolen (and getting stuffed into your own car trunk in the process), that could be considered a win.
- Black leather single-breasted 3-button sport jacket with notch lapels, patch-style breast pocket, patch-style hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and ventless back
- Hugo Boss
- Mustard-yellow silk/cotton short-sleeved polo shirt with narrow black collar and covered two-button placket
- Black wool double reverse-pleated trousers with belt loops, side pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Black calfskin leather belt with gold double-Gancini buckle
- Black leather moc-toe loafers with gold double-Gancini bit
- Black socks
- Rimless rectangular-lensed glasses with gold bridge, gold hinges, and rosewood arms
- Cartier C Décor 140b
- Gold flat necklace with gold Torah pendant
- Gold New York Knicks 1973 NBA championship ring with center diamond
- Gold wedding band
- Gold pinky ring with diamond-studded Star of David
- Audemars Piguet Royal Oak satin-brushed stainless steel chronograph with 39mm case and octagonal bezel, black grid-textured dial (with 3 sub-registers), and integrated tapered link bracelet
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
You can also read more about the costume design and jewelry in Uncut Gems at these sources:
- The Cut — “I Want to Wear Tinted Glasses in the Club Like Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems” by Emilia Petrarca
- GQ — “The Most Stylish Character of the Year: Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems” by Sam Schube
- GQ UK — “Inside Adam Sandler’s wardrobe on Uncut Gems” by Sam Schube
- Hodinkee — “Adam Sandler’s Three Watches In ‘Uncut Gems’” by Danny Milton
- InsideHook — “How to Dress Like Adam Sandler in “Uncut Gems”” by Lee Cutlip
- Time + Tide — “3 badass watches from Netflix’s Uncut Gems” by James Robinson
- Vogue — “How Uncut Gems Finds the Beauty in Schmuck Style” by Liana Satenstein
- Vogue — “You Can Now Buy the Costumes From Uncut Gems and Midsommar” by Liana Satenstein
That’s a million-dollar opal you’re holding. Straight from the Ethiopian Jewish tribe. I mean this is old-school, Middle-earth shit.