Elements of the cast’s wardrobe have the same trigger-happy effect as that opening
scene, transporting you back to the era so quickly it gives you whiplash. Take those spearpoint collars for example,
with their elongated tips that practically meet at the end, always white and always starched to within an inch of
their life. Scorsese’s mother, who plays Tommy’s ‘ma’ in the film, was supposedly brought on set to help iron the
collars and tie the ties ‘just so’ to align with Scorsese’s vision, yet there’s something unsettling about the
oversized collars that fight for attention with the oversized ties and oversized egos. Their sharp points and stiff
collar bands encircle the men’s throats, a physical reminder of the stronghold the gang has over each individual.
The crisp white also evokes a clerical collar, and while it could be argued that both a vicar and a violent mobster
are equally convinced of their own moral standing, there’s a chafing irony in the parallel drawn.
The wardrobe, curated by Richard Bruno, tracked several decades, changing fashions,
and Hill’s rise and fall. As a young lad, Hill’s first suit causes his mother to exclaim “You look like a gangster!”
with more than a hint of concern in her voice; ‘regular’ people from her neighborhood didn't dress this way. It’s
too big, and too beige, but Hill wears it with pride, the equivalent of a young sportsman being given his first
jersey. As the film progresses, Hill’s own dress sense comes into focus as he grows out of the hand-me-down suits
and into his own more mature aesthetic.
Cutting to 1963, the audience is positioned as an admiring onlooker, with a camera
shot that travels slowly up Hill’s profile. Starting from the ground up, Liotta’s character wears brown alligator
leather tassel loafers, olive green socks, a grey single-breasted sharkskin silk suit over a button-through knitted
polo with vertical stripes and gold jewellery (including a Rolex Day Date with Champagne dial). The waistline is
lower than the typical business suit of the 1950s, the silhouette slimmer, and the moneyed accessories intentionally
conspicuous.It’s a killer look, figuratively and – as it turns out –
literally.A later shot of his wardrobe shows he has a serious collection of
tailoring and footwear, yet aside from suits, a constant in Hill’s wardrobe is the colour red. Scorsese is renowned
for using the colour to intensify emotion, focus one’s attention, foreshadow violence and drench a scene in a sense
of danger (particularly inRaging Bull), and it’s no accident that Hill’s leather blazer is oxblood-red, in the scene where he pistol-whips an
unsuspecting victim. Later, a vibrant red velvet jacket worn to the soundtrack ofFrosty the Snowmansignals ‘tis the season, but also creates a sense
of foreboding in anticipation of the killing spree Jimmy (played by De Niro) embarks on soon after.
Hill’s aesthetic as a whole is a crash-course in how style can place you at the top
of your game – but also how it can shackle you in an era. Now, those collars are dated, that opulence considered
tasteless and the silk-textured suits look cheap, but Bruno’s vision for the character nonetheless treads a fine
line between costume and classic. Between the timeless sophistication of a double-breasted camel coat with peaked
lapels and strong shoulders (worn at Hill’s peak during the Lufthansa heist) and the vintage feel of knitted shirts
worn untucked and unbuttoned, Hill pulls off the highs and the lows with the arrogance that comes with thinking