The style lessons you should learn from The Godfather

With Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece celebrating its 50th anniversary, we’ve started putting a little more ‘mobster’ into our menswear…

There are a great many mistakes made in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather. Whether it’s Fredo betraying Michael, Don Corleone initially refusing Sollozzo’s request for investment or Sonny choosing that lane at the tollbooth, some of the family’s foolish blunders will have you screaming at the screen. (Just be thankful they didn’t leave the cannolis…)

But these oversights aren’t what really rattle us. After all, it’s the faults and errors of the characters that drive the The Godfather’s plot, ensuring it writhes and winds its way to a startling finish — and remains a highly-regarded, masterful milestone of cinema. No, the problems we’d like to discuss are flaws with the fashion.

Because there are some howlers. From ruffle-front shirts to naff flat caps, the first film in the cult crime trilogy takes some serious style missteps. But it’s not all bad. Look closer and, amidst the gunfire and questionable male jewellery, you’ll find some top wardrobe tips. So, if you’re looking for a new, stylish way to celebrate Coppola’s seminal film, here’s how to introduce a little ‘mobster’ into your menswear…

Nothing looks smarter than a three-piece suit

It’s a gangster go-to; a mobster mainstay. Tailored trousers, a sharply-trimmed jacket and a well-cut waistcoat — the three-piece suit has cropped up everywhere from Goodfellas to Peaky Blinders. And for good reason. Because nothing looks smarter or sharper than a three-piece suit, and this classic piece of menswear plays a key role in some of The Godfather’s most biting, knife-edge scenes.

Brando’s Don Vito Corleone wears one whenever he means — or executes — business. Michael even exudes power when, conflicted and cowed, he has to kill Solozzo in the restaurant. To get the look, we’d start with a classic black option, something like this subtly-checked option from Hugo Boss. There’s also the iconic gangster pinstripe, from Ralph Lauren, or a bolder blue option from British-based Paul Smith. 

The style lessons you should learn from The Godfather

Hugo Boss Checked Three-Piece Suit

£695

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The style lessons you should learn from The Godfather

Ralph Lauren ‘Kent’ Three-Piece Suit

£2060

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The style lessons you should learn from The Godfather

Paul Smith ‘The Soho’ Three-Piece Suit

£1115

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An overcoat will bulk up your silhouette significantly

Al Pacino is not a tall man. The American actor is around 5’6″ tall; which isn’t the most intimidating of builds for the boss of a crime family. And yet, there are sequences throughout The Godfather, from funerals to his talking ‘business’ with Diane Keaton’s Kay above, when Pacino — and many of his on-screen caporegimes and consiglieri — look larger than they are in real-life. And that all comes down to their coats.

Because a good overcoat, both wide in its shoulders and long in its length, can bulk up your silhouette significantly. Something like Thom Sweeney’s slightly structured option, in heavy twill herringbone. Or this deep navy double-breasted coat from Club Monaco. To really command presence, however, follow in Brando’s footsteps — and wear an extra-long, extra-tweedy coat, such as this from Richard James. 

The style lessons you should learn from The Godfather

Thom Sweeney Double Breasted Overcoat

£1995

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The style lessons you should learn from The Godfather

Club Monaco Double-Breasted Coat

£495

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The style lessons you should learn from The Godfather

Richard James Wool-Blend Tweed Coat

£1195

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A pair of statement frames can strengthen your identity

The Godfather doesn’t commit the cardinal sin of most gangster films; giving otherwise-menacing mobsters nicknames that knock off their rough, murderous corners. And, although the novels by Mario Puzo, upon which the film trilogy is based, fall somewhat into this trap (Mortie “Whiteshoes” — really?), the first film successfully creates signature looks through outfits and accessories alone.

It’s an effective tool, deployed no more memorably than with sunglasses and spectacles. Characters from John Cazale’s Fredo Corleone to Alex Rocco’s Moe Greene are given statement frames to ensure we remember who they are — even when they could be lost among large crowds, or if they disappear from our screens for a spell. It’s a perfect way to establish your own character in real life, using retro-flavoured frames from Oscar Deen, Cubitts or Monc to give yourself a distinctive, unique look. 

The style lessons you should learn from The Godfather

Oscar Deen ‘Carril’ Sunglasses

£135

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The style lessons you should learn from The Godfather

Cubitts ‘Collier’ Sunglasses

£125

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The style lessons you should learn from The Godfather

Monc ‘Príncipe’ Sunglasses

£230

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Button up a long-point collar to make an impression

There are a lot of collars being buttoned up in The Godfather. James Caan’s Sonny Corleone often wears shirts with soft, rounded collars. Some of Barzini’s men go for spread collars. Brando’s ageing boss buttons up a wing-tip collar with his dinner suit. And Pacino’s Michael can be seen wearing button-down collars.

But by far the most prevalent style is the long-point collar. There’s something almost symbolic about the design; sharp points sitting like blades around the character’s necks — reminding us of the knife-edge upon their lives rest. It’s also, happily, a pretty natty look. Just look at Turnbull & Asser’s idiosyncratic attempt at the style; the patterned ‘Eamon’ shirt. It’s a similar approach to Drakes’ western-influenced option. Or, for a blend of Brando and Pacino, go for this button-down long-point shirt, from Eton. 

The style lessons you should learn from The Godfather

Turnbull & Asser ‘Eamon’ Shirt

£950

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The style lessons you should learn from The Godfather

Eton Button-Under Collar Shirt

£135

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The style lessons you should learn from The Godfather

Drakes Long-Point Western Shirt

£195

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For off-duty suiting, go for textured tailoring

Perhaps our favourite outfit in the entire epic belongs to Al Pacino. When Michael suggests that he kills Sollozzo and McCluskey — to the initial amusement of Sonny and Robert Duvall’s Tom Hagen — the youngest Corleone is wearing a button-down shirt, striped tie and corduroy blazer. It’s a sufficiently Ivy League look for, as Sonny brands Michael, “a nice college boy”. But boy, do we like that blazer.

It’s a similar textured style to one Michael’s father wears earlier in the film — when Brando pairs a woollen jacket another patterned tie. So, if you’re looking to spruce up your off-duty suiting, what better than with something a little less slick? Hackett do a magnificent tweed option, if you’re looking to follow in Brando’s footsteps. Or, for Pacino’s classic cord look, why not go for a ridged cotton blazer from either Boglioli or SIRPLUS?

The style lessons you should learn from The Godfather

SIRPLUS Organic Cotton-Corduroy Blazer

£250

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The style lessons you should learn from The Godfather

Hackett Tweed Silk Wool Blazer

£475

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The style lessons you should learn from The Godfather

Boglioli Corduroy Blazer

£735

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Want more black tie tips? Here’s how to master the formal dress code without breaking the bank…

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