The Gangster Suit - Pinnacle of Style in the 1920s

Is there a more iconic male figure of the 1920s than Al Capone wearing his classic gangster suit? Probably not. 

At every costume party this Halloween, you will find a couple dressed as a Gangster and his "Moll." Most people think to dress the part you need the right suit matched with a fedora hat.

That's it. So what really makes the look work, how is a gangster's suit different from a regular men's business suit?

Mostly it has to do with the accessories, the shirt, hat and tie you wear. The colors you mix and match are important, but so is the way you wear it. 

American Vintage ClassicAmerican Vintage Classic

The Pattern of the Suit

The pattern of a man's suit has been basically unchanged since the late 1920s. Gangsters, living a life of women, booze, crime and cars had the money to buy the finest fabrics and hire the best tailors.

The basic pattern of the gangster suit should be black, navy blue, or white.


Your typical gangster costume has pinstripes, usually these are of the "chalk stripe" variety, though this wasn't the case in the 1920s.

I think you can pull off the look with a nice seersucker or Prince-of-Wales check suit too. Brooks Brothers mas been producing high-quality, reasonably priced suits in New York City since 1818.

Brooks Brothers suits are American classics, and the company offers a complete line of accessories to flesh out your distinct "American gangster" look. 

Dress Shirt

Typically what distinguishes the gangster suit isn't part of the suit at all, it is the shirt and tie underneath.

A dark dress shirt matched with a dark tie, looks powerful and gives a mysterious air to a man. But the look is often pulled off poorly by buying a nice high-quality suit and matching it with a poor quality shirt and tie.

The fabric of the shirt, ideally, should compliment the gangster suit in color, but contrast it in fabric to add depth and dimension. For example a nice matte suit, should be contrasted by a dark shirt that has a hint of shimmer in the fabric. 


The tie you match to your gangster suit should "pop". For example, wearing a dark suit/dark shirt combo you should match with a deep red or even a brightly colored silk tie, with enough heft to create a heavy "knot." This will give substance to your look and give the impression of "I can wear what I want because you can't stop me." 

The Right Shoes

Gangster in Chalk Striped Suit and his Gun Moll

Often, getting the right shoes to match with a gangster suit or costume is an overlooked detail.

If you're attending a formal occasion, and you're wanting to give the impression or hint of "gangsterism" you will want to match your suit with a high-quality shoes with "closed-laces" meaning the laces close the top of the shoe so none of the tongue is exposed. In the 1920s, Oxford's and Brogues were typically worn.

A good pair of formal dress shoes can set you back a few hundred to a thousand dollars, so you'll have to make the choice whether the investment is worth it. 

If you're going to be attending a costume party with lots of drinking and dancing, I'd skip taking a high quality pair of shoes. A simple pair of black "dress" shoes you wont mind getting scuffed and spilled on. Shine them up nice and pretty beforehand. 

Handkerchiefs, Belts, Suspenders

I bet you forgot you NEED a handkerchief. There is really any accessory that is as important and qualifies a man more than the kerchief he wears in his jacket pocket. It is the sign of a true gentleman (so don't blow your nose in it).

You wear one ever time you are wearing a jacket, regardless of whether you're wearing a tie. Look for a handkerchief that picks up the subtle hues of your suit and shirt.

You can also use the handkerchief to contrast the color of your tie for a more daring look. Buy several nice handkerchiefs and choose the right one to get the look you want.

Belt should simply fade into the background of the entire gangster suit. Use them mainly to hold your pants up, not to make a statement. Understated and elegant is key.

Same goes for suspenders, you can get a cool gangster look with a pair over a dark shirt.

You'll want to avoid looking like an accountant, or Larry King. Be precise with your intentions, and make sure you have a fedora to match.

I hope these tips help you when you're buying or or trying to put together the right gangster suit for a formal occasion or costume party.