Before, Jimmy had tried to make things right and done a favor for Chalky White – played by Michael Kenneth Williams – who is the leader of Atlantic City’s black community. Although Chalky has the role of a supporting character, his flamboyant and colorful clothes certainly stand out above all.
Chalky is the head of Atlantic City’s African American community and is also heavily involved in trading liquor illegally. Since he also controls the “black vote”, he is a business partner of Nucky. In the second season, the viewer learns more about his background, his personality and his family. As a poor kid, he basically grew up eating rice and beans. Involved in crime from an early age, he is illiterate and unafraid of violence. He wishes that his family and children enjoy a better life than he did, and hence he invests in their education and wants them to have good manners. Ironically, this creates a certain distance between his children and him: while they play the piano, he works in the garage and when his little girl asks him whether he can help her with some homework, her brother remarks that “mommy should probably do that”.
Chalky White’s Suits
Mr. White is African American and as such, his position in the Jim Crow society of the 1920’s is difficult to say the least. As a leader of the black community who gets a cut of everyone’s business, he must be visible and hence he dresses in a flamboyant manner.
Nucky knows he needs the support of Chalky and his constituencies and so he supplies him with benefits such as a new car, since he certainly would not need any help with his clothes. Interestingly, the cut and style of his suits are influenced as much by the Edwardian age as Nucky’s are. By dressing in the same manner as the white elite, just two notches more colorful, he elevates himself to the same level without losing his in leading position in his community.
When you see Chalky in full you often notice that his coats and especially his vests are overly long and the buttoning point is very high.
Double Breasted Checked Suit
One of Chalky’s suit that can be admired on a regular basis is a mid-grey blue and red checked double breasted suit. The small peaked lapels are accompanied by a pointed flap on the chest pocket. He combines it with a salmon pink shirt with a white contrasting collar and vividly colored bow ties.
Navy Orange Plaid Suit
One of Chalky’s signature suits is his 3 piece navy/orange plaid suit. The cut is very Edwardian in the sense that the buttoning point is very high. Although it is a single breasted coat with three buttons, the lowest button is on the natural waist and the highest on the chest. Consequently, the peaked lapels are rather short. On the other hand, the coat itself is extremely long. The matching cuffed trousers are combined either with a single breasted vest with lapels or a natté silk waistcoat with cloth covered buttons. In order to match the vest with the ensemble, they are cut very long.
Apart from these two garments, Chalky wears two other suits on occasion. One is a mid-grey flannel suit with a purple overplaid and the second is a green tweed suit with a large windowpane overplaid that, by traditional suit standards, would make for a good shooting suit.
With regards to fit, his suits do not seem to be superb. You can often see gaping collars and other imperfections. Considering the colorful fabrics and outward appearance of Chalky White, I doubt this was done so intentionally by the costume designers, though I do not know that for sure. They definitely choose to tailor him long coats and vests and made him into something like the forefather of the zoot suits – though in moderation.
Sartorially speaking, Chalky is definitely a highlight especially when looking
at the mass of rather uniform modern day navy and charcoal business suits.
The second season of Boardwalk Empire will air in the UK shortly and the third season is on the way for 2012.