Cinematic Style: Ray Liotta's Goodfellas Jacket

Undoubtedly one of the greatest films of all time, Goodfellas also throws up the odd classic style piece. Ray Liotta's don't mess with me leather jacket for example...
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Undoubtedly one of the greatest films of all time, Goodfellas also throws up the odd classic style piece. Ray Liotta's don't mess with me leather jacket for example...

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Mention Goodfellas to me and two things spring to mind: Billy Ward's rendition of Stardust, a beautifully performed doo-wop take on the jazz standard, and the infamous 'pistol whip' scene. You'll remember, Ray Liotta’s girlfriend complains that their neighbour has tried to cop a feel and reacted badly when his advances were turned down. Liotta rectifies this by marching across the street and pistol whipping said neighbour into a bloody pulp on his front driveway. It takes the audience by surprise almost as much as it does the lad with the wrong end of a Smith and Wesson smashed into his bonce; an act of animal brutality equally shocking for the fact it's carried out so habitually.

But what is it about that scene which makes it stick in my mind more than any other? The sound of the gun butt cracking against his skull? The overpowering feeling of masculine aggression in the name of female honour? Nope. It's Ray Liotta's brown leather blazer.

We’re watching the bravado of an Italian, chocolate brown two-button, sticking two fingers up at flat fronted chino America

To you and I, the leather blazer should be approached with extreme caution. Get it wrong (which is very easily done) and you'll look like you spend your weekends in Games Workshop, but when Ray wears it, the jacket provides the crowning moment of an outstandingly well-dressed film (Scorsese worked with long-time costume designer Richard Bruno).

We’re not just watching a Mafia gangster smash fuck out of a jock here - we’re watching the bravado of an Italian, chocolate brown two-button, sticking two fingers up at flat fronted chino America. It’s a simple statement of : “I’ve got the balls to wear a leather blazer and black shirt. You don’t. I win.” That should give the jock something to think about while he’s cleaning the claret off of his (actually quite nice) lemon Lacoste Harrington.

In fact, the entire outfit is glorious, and as ever, the beauty is in the detail. A white cotton vest peeking out from an open collar, the gold watch under the sleeve, mother of pearl shirt buttons, and best of all, the gun tucked under an off-centre trouser buckle. The leather itself: so delicate you could leave your fingerprint on it, so fresh a good vet could bring it back to life. This is a man who knows what he likes and does what he wants without needing to pretend otherwise, too reckless to even be accused of sprezzatura.

If ever a jacket told you: “Don’t fuck with me”, this was it.

@tomdisco