Five Men’s Style Lessons From The Sopranos
Mr James Gandolfini in “Full Leather Jacket”, Sopranos Season 2, Episode 8 (2000). Photograph by HBO.
It’s irrefutable. Over the course of its six-season run, HBO’s cult show The Sopranos taught us some indispensable life lessons. Such as if you’re looking for an appropriate response to a situation (ie, any and every), there is no better retort than “Oh!” or “Ho!”, thanks to the staggering range of emotion with which you can imbue each syllable. Or how therapy, even if you’re an outwardly hyper-masculine New Jersey mob boss, is a perfectly acceptable thing to do to look after yourself (a pretty forward-thinking concept when you remember The Sopranos first aired more than 20 years ago).
On paper, Tony, Paulie, Silvio, Christopher and crew didn’t immediately scream sartorial icons, but just as appreciation for the show has grown in the two decades since it debuted, so has our understanding of The Sopranos as moodboard for bold menswear decision-making. This year, as The Sopranos prequel The Many Saints Of Newark hits cinemas and streaming services and many of us have revisited the original box set, we decided it was high time we demonstrated how the world’s greatest television show (don’t @ me) had some choice style lessons for us too. Let’s go.
Upgrade your sweats
Messrs Michael Imperioli and Joe Pantoliano in “For All Debts Public and Private”, Sopranos Season 4, Episode 1 (2002). Photograph by HBO.
Whether you’re pro- or anti-loungewear, there’s no denying its now cemented status in any self-respecting wardrobe, especially after a year-and-a-half of WFH in which we barely wore anything else (on the bottom half, anyway). Case in point: Mr Timothée Chalamet attending this year’s Met Gala in some buttery white sweatpants by Rick Owens, complemented by a pair of clean white Converse Chuck Taylors and a satin blazer by Haider Ackermann.
If you’re looking to sharpen up while keeping comfort levels high, consider upgrading to a tracksuit like Christopher Moltisanti (Mr Michael Imperioli) here. With more structure, more weight and an actual jacket that needs zipping up, opt for a pair of bottoms with a front seam and you’re ready for anything the day throws at you, except maybe a game of Red Light, Green Light. In fact, it might be best to steer clear of green tracksuits altogether.
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Go gold or go home
Mr James Gandolfini in “Pax Soprana”, Sopranos Season 1, Episode 6 (1999). Photograph by HBO.
Steel-on-steel Speedmasters are all well and good – handsome, subtle, utilitarian timepieces. But sometimes you want to strap something onto your wrist that says, “Ho! 1980s power move over here!” Is there anything that says, “Ho! 1980s power move over here!” more than a gold watch? Think Mr Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort and his “$40,000 gold fucking watch” in The Wolf Of Wall Street (actually a gold-plated, $1,000 TAG Heuer Professional 1000 series).
Look at Tony Soprano, played by the late, great Mr James Gandolfini, and you see a low-key man – the belly, the camp-collar shirts, the slacks, the loafers (albeit ones made by Gucci). It’s all pretty everyman, but Tony knew he had to project power and status, hence the Rolex Day-Date President on his wrist.
It’s not for everyone, but if you are minimalist elsewhere, a splash of gold is an easy way to add flair to your outfit. And if you’re not exactly rolling in money from the mob, there are plenty of gold-plated options to choose from, too.
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Jump into a jumpsuit
Messrs James Gandolfini and Jerry Adler in “Pax Soprana”, Sopranos Season 1, Episode 6 (1999). Photograph by HBO.
Boiler suit, overall, jumpsuit. Whatever you want to call it, this humble piece of workwear has some serious menswear pedigree. Worn by numerous style icons from Messers Paul Newman and David Bowie, all the way to Mr Kanye West and Tyler, the Creator, the hardworking staple of mechanics, fighter pilots and artists is about as versatile as they come.
Go loose and dress down with a plain white T-shirt and sneakers or, if you fancy smartening up, pick a slimmer cut and layer with a contrasting button-down shirt, as Tony Soprano’s unofficial consigliere Hesh (Mr Jerry Adler) does here. Effortless, stylish and we’ll wager far more comfortable than Tony is in this image. I mean, a separate shirt and trousers? Fuhgeddaboudit.
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Get your shirt together
Messrs Steven Van Zandt and James Gandolfini in “A Hit Is a Hit”, Sopranos Season 1, Episode 10 (1999). Photograph by HBO.
What’s the one thing that sticks in your mind when you think about the shirts in The Sopranos? OK, it’s Furio Giunta’s outrageous Versace silk party shirts, emblazoned with Italian Renaissance-inspired prints in luxurious hues of black, gold, red and purple. Tony’s Neapolitan foot-soldier-on-loan aside, it’s the crew’s staggering array of loud, firmly American camp/Cuban collars, am I right?
Rising to prominence in the 1950s, the camp-collar is the foundation of the bold-striped bowling and floral-print aloha shirt (and a Mr P. favourite). Boxy and breezy, the camp-collar shirt offers its wearer numerous ways to keep it fresh. Rapper Anderson .Paak went neon and oversized, wearing his with a bucket hat and shades. Actor Mr Chris Pine tucked a tasteful take into tailored trousers on the red carpet. And fellow actor Mr Jonah Hill wore a natty pineapple number paired with stone-washed denim and black adidas sneakers for a look that was straight out of the 1990s – not unlike Tony and Silvio here, whose shirts boast bold, contrasting graphics for an air of IDGAF cool.
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Large and in charge
Messrs Tony Sirico and Michael Imperioli in “The Test Dream”, Sopranos Season 5, Episode 11 (2004). Photograph by HBO.
As a rule of thumb, when it comes to suits, your best bet is to opt for a slimmer cut – you know, like Don Draper in Mad Men – because, simply put, a closely tailored suit will never go out of style. Over the past five years or so, though, suits have been getting bigger. This season, we’ve seen designers eschewing classic tailoring for roomier tops and bottoms that not only drape, they also forgo the lapels and restrictive padding that we’re used to seeing.
In this case, Paulie and Christopher’s suits are a clear result of the 1980s and 1990s, in which suits got really big (in a not good, let’s just make everything two sizes bigger way). In 2021, when we just want to feel and look good in our clothes, they kind of fly, especially considering the anarchic way in which Christopher is wearing his: no shirt, no tie, just a loud-as-anything T-shirt that, in true Sopranos style, oozes braggadocio, fun and individuality in equal measure. Gabagool? Over here!
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