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How to Dress Like a Gangster

How to Dress Like a Gangster

When I think gangster the cliched side of my brain instantly gropes for Goodfellas and when a young Ray Liotta turns up to his mothers house in a new suit and asks “What do you think?” She shrieks… “Oh my god you look like a gangster.” 

With the passing of the Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs recently I thought we could have a topical run down of some of the best dressed gangsters in movies. 

American Gangster: Frank Lucas 

Of course not every gangster wants to flaunt his wealth by use of flashy attire. It was the flamboyant style of Frank Lucas who was one of America’s biggest heroin smugglers, that lead to his downfall. 

When he was seen ringside wearing a fur chinchilla coat, he was instantly put on the FBI’s radar. It was his wife that encouraged him to wear the coat and as they say, behind every great gangster is a woman determined to get him shot or pinched. 

Carlito’s Way: Benny Blanco 

“Hey remember me? It’s Benny Blanco from the Bronx.” He only wanted to be friends with Carlito. Pacino thought about being chums but opted for taking him into the back alley to serve him a good old fashioned beating. But at least Benny Blanco looked the part whilst he got his ass handed to him in a sling.

How to Dress Like a Gangster

Casino: Lester Diamond 

Lester is the best dressed pimp that’s ever graced the silver screen. He had Sharon Stone on a leash in that film, and it had to be down to his white Evel Knievel esque jump suits. 

Robert Deniro told Lester in the cafe before setting the dogs on him in the car park, “Be a man, don’t be a f*#king pimp.” A strange coincidence for me because those were the same words my grandma would say to me as a young boy, just before dropping me off at nursery. 

The Untouchables: Jim Malone 

OK not technically a gangster, but what a remarkably dapper wardrobe Connery had during this film. AND only Connery can pull off the Horse and Hound look whilst simultaneously pounding gangsters in the Jacob’s with the business end of a shooter. Thatscch the sccchicago way!

Reservoir Dogs: Nice Guy Eddie 

Chris Penn died so young, but not before turning up in this film as the brilliant Nice Guy Eddie. You have Keitel, Roth, Madsen, Tarantino all looking cooler than a gaggle of cucumbers walking down the street in the black suit, white tie combo, smoking cigarettes in slow motion to Little Green Bag. 

Then you have Chris Penn in the background cracking wise in a nasty Nike mid-80s throw back shell suit. Timeless. Well not really, the look probably died in the late 80s, but you know what I mean.

Interview with the Potash Twins

Interview with the Potash Twins

Ezra and Adeeva Potash are jazz-playing wonder-twins with throwback style and a big following from their hometown of Omaha, Nebraska to their college campus, New York City. 

By day, Ezra studies bass trombone and sousaphone at Manhattan School of Music while his brother Adeev (“Dee”) studies trumpet at SUNY Purchase. By night, they mingle with their mentor, jazz legend Wynton Marsalis, play shows from New York’s clubs to Austin’s SXSW and entertain at Manhattan’s hippest restaurants. 

MenswearStyle checks in with the Potash Twins to talk about the enduring coolness of jazz, what to listen to, what it’s like to have Wynton Marsalis as a mentor and the twin wardrobe conflict. 

How did you begin playing music and at what point did you both realize this is the world you want to live in forever? 

“Adeev: If you know anything about us, you know we love to talk. Music and especially jazz is just another way of having a conversation, whether that’s with your twin brother or an audience. Playing together is definitely our schtick. We always love the opportunity to perform at Jazz at Lincoln Center – it is by far the most amazing venue for jazz. SXSW was also a great experience. After one of our shows, we led a classic New Orleans “Second-Line” parade down 6th St. (in Austin, TX), which ended up being featured on NPR.” 

Explain your theory of ‘Twintuition’, which you recently discussed in a TEDTalk 

“Adeev: Well, here’s where things get interesting. Being twins, we share a close bond that most siblings don’t have. Because of this, we also communicate differently than most people. Little needs to be said in order for us to understand each other. We apply this on and offstage. In everyday life, we do funny things like finish each other’s sentences, and even just burst out into laughter without even saying a word. Onstage, we feel this connection especially while improvising. We share the same reactions to notes we hear and rhythms we feel, allowing us to communicate smoothly through the music.” 

You boys are often seen in coordinating prints and colors – is this twintution or careful planning? 

“Ezra: A little of both – for casual meet-ups we don’t usually talk about what we’re going to wear, but for big shows and parties we always coordinate. We definitely express ourselves through clothing. Because there are two of us, it’s just a bigger canvas to showcase our style.” 

As identical twins, did your parents make you dress the same way growing up? 

“Ezra: They never really dressed us alike. I think it was mainly because they had trouble telling us apart.” 

As showmen, you take that extra step of putting on a suit for your audience – what inspired this inclination? 

“Adeev: This is something that Wynton (Marsalis) actually taught us. He’s told us that he dresses up when he plays jazz because it shows respect to the music. We feel very similar. We absolutely wear suits when we perform for respect to the music and the audience. When people come to hear us play, they’re taking time out of their day to listen to us and that alone deserves respect. Now unlike Wynton, we wear pretty crazy colored suits. It’s kind of our elaboration on Wynton’s view: we wear nice clothes out of respect, but we wear crazy clothes to show people you can be respectful as well as creative. And if the music ever fails, at least we look good trying!”

Interview with the Potash Twins

Wynton Marsalis has played a big part in your young careers. How did you meet him?

“Ezra: Our first encounter with Wynton was after a concert he had in Nebraska. We were sophomores in high school, and being cute young twins, we schmoozed our way backstage. He asked what we played, and when Dee responded with “trumpet,” Wynton asked if Dee would like to have a lesson with him. We made our dad sprint to the car to get Dee’s horn. I’m pretty sure he gave Usain Bolt a run for his money. After a successful lesson, Wynton told us to call him whenever we were in NYC. We took him up on it several times, leading to being guests at a few concerts and even a photo-shoot for his upcoming album. he even helped us with our college essays! And when we got into the top NYC music schools, we knew (whom) to thank. Today we see him a couple times a month. He always makes sure we’re keeping up on our practicing and staying afloat in school.”

Improvisation is at the heart of jazz. As you’re playing a note, are you thinking about what’s next or turning your brain off and grooving? 

“Ezra: Improvisation is what’s so great about jazz. It’s all about living in the moment. When it’s time to solo, I just zone out and get in the groove.” 

From skinny ties to Ray-Bans, jazz has traditionally had a strong relationship with cool, offbeat fashion. What is the state of the style behind jazz today? How would you describe your own style?

“Ezra: Our style is… hipster-conservative. Although jazz musicians like Miles Davis and Roy Haynes definitely had their associated styles, I don’t think there is a standard uniform for jazz anymore, and if there is, we definitely don’t use it as a guideline. We like to be trendsetters. Our goal is that when we’re walking down the streets of NYC without our horns, people still know we’re jazz musicians.

For casual, we love button-up shirts with crazy designs like paisley or polka-dots from places like J. Crew or from a place in Omaha called Parsow’s. For formal, a unique jacket never hurts. We like to shop for jackets at Penguini’s at Bryant Park. Warby Parker, Eye-Bob’s and OGI glasses are where it’s at and (for hats), Penguin’s baseball style caps and Arth’s pork pie hats. For watches, we’re huge fans of Tissot, Movado, Taki and Funboy. And we are almost always seen in Nike sneakers.”