Jimmy’s mother is the former showgirl Gillian Darmody, who was raped at the age of thirteen by the Commodore Louis Kaestner. The result was the birth of Jimmy. The then-Sheriff Nucky Thompson brought her to the commodore and due to the feeling of guilt, he was the substitute father for Jimmy since the Commodore was not interested in him. Nucky groomed Jimmy as his successor and arranged that Jimmy could enroll as a student at Princeton University. However, when WWI broke out, Jimmy
enlisted in the army, in spite of Nucky’s opporsition.
At the beginning of season one, Jimmy has just returned from a hospital, where he was recovering from a shrapnel wound. He starts out as Nucky’s driver and is eager to become a gangster sooner rather than later. His journey through the ranks is well-documented in his clothing.
Jimmy Darmody’s Clothes Evolution
Initially, he wears only muted colors and working class tweed caps, with nary a gangster suit in sight. For example, in this outfit he wears a grey-green shirt, olive green tie, reddish knit cardigan and a cheviot coat. A little further down the line, we can see him in a Norfolk Jacket with a waistcoat. This garment was designed for the country and not for town, but it is definitely an upgrade for him. In this scene, you can also see how his left pocket is all bunched up and overall he looks a little careless – something you’d never see from Nucky. Early in the season, he makes the acquaintance with Al Capone and the two become friends. During a longer stay in Chicago, Jimmy and Capone go the tailors and have some proper suits made for themselves.
Jimmy’s First Suit
Jimmy’s first good suit is a navy blue three piece suit with a small white and blue overplaid. Compared to Nucky, his single breasted suit and waistcoat are rather muted, especially since he combines it with a mid blue broadcloth shirt and dark gold or silver grey ties. Unlike Nucky, Jimmy’s shirts have a soft turndown collar which often hangs out of the vest unless he wears them with a collar pin. Although this is the standard today, it was more fashionable back then and only younger chaps wore it, while the more seasoned gentleman remained with the white detachable collars. Also, he wears cuff links only on occasion and often goes with the button cuff, which was another new trend that evolved back then. His trousers are cut very narrowly, with a high rise and a fishtail mouth back for suspenders.
Later we see him in a couple of different suits, but they always remain dark and rather monotone. Just take a look at this plain grey single breasted suit, with a green-grey shirt and a grayish tie. Same thing in this other outfit where he wears a brown shadow stripe suit with a grey shirt, gold and black dotted tie with a collar pin. His favorite overcoat is a mid grey double breasted herringbone 6×3 garment with raglan sleeve, cuffs, and patch pockets with flaps, which is also true for the chest pocket. This is a detail you will rarely find on modern day topcoats.
Interestingly, we rarely get to see Darmody’s shoes and if so, he wears black ankle boots. Nucky, on the other hand, either wears spectators or Balmoral boots with a suede inlay of a different color. It seems to me that Jimmy is more practical about his clothes and wears them in order to achieve his objectives, while Nucky seems to derive much more pleasure from his clothing.
With regards to hats, we can see the same development as with the rest of Jimmy’s clothes. First, he wears tweed caps, which were less expensive than felt hats and were hence worn by working class people or in the country. As Darmody’s suits become more refined, his hat wear evolves to nicer felt hats. However, you will not spot him in bowlers or Homburgs, but much rather in dark snap brim hats. Just like the softer turndown collar, these hats were considered to be less formal and the younger generation was willing to adapt to such fashions more quickly than the older gentlemen.
Unlike Nucky, we see him wearing a boutonniere only on very special occasions, which is just another element distinguishing him from the older generation.
Altogether, it is a lot of fun to observe the different characters and see how they differ from each other sartorially. I really like that John Dunn and his team tried to underline the actor’s character with their choice of clothes, although most people today will probably not know that the Homburg used to be formal while the snap brim was an informal accessory.
© 2010, 2011 for all pictures HBO.