Nucky Thompson, played by Steve Buscemi, is the brains and the power in Martin Scorsese’s new HBO series Boardwalk Empire. Buscemi is not noted for his looks. Remember in the movie Fargo when everyone described him as the “funny looking guy?”
But if clothes make the man, then his costumes, especially the men’s formal wear that he dons, endow him with power. Buscemi in Prohibition Era white tie looks about as dapper and in control as a man can be. This is especially true when his look is contrasted with someone else in the garb of the working stiff. When we see him in his white tie talking to his driver, who is wearing the basic clothes of the day, we’re given a visual representation of the power structure.
White tie is often defined as ultra-formal men’s wear. Bescemi’s white tie includes a white wing collar shirt, peak tailcoat with cuffed sleeves and a red carnation. Throughout the series, Buscemi appears in elegant attire, making his despotic, power wielding character look civilized.
The outward, public look he projects is one of style, conformity and goodness. He looks like a businessman, but he is a gangster. His stylish costumes are a huge contrast to what everyone else wears. They define his public appearance. What does Buscemi as Thompson dress like when he’s not in public?
More often than not we see him stripped down to his boxers having sex, about to have sex or just having had sex with a beautiful woman. That’s the private man in his nakedness. Boardwalk Empire uses trendy clothes and men’s formal wear to cover up the naked truth about its conniving, booze-running, murderous main character. It does it with amazingly striking fashion.