Celebrating Classic Gangster Fedora Hats on The Godfather’s 50 Anniversary

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When it comes to gangster films, one stands above the rest. It’s a tour de force of excellent writing, acting, cinematography, and, of course, the gangster fedora hat. We’re talking about The Godfather, which premiered in March 1972, which means March 2022 marks part one’s 50th anniversary. So, we wanted to take a trip through our Wayback machine and see how this movie influenced cinema, fashion and gangster fedora hats.

An Overview of The Godfather, Part I, II & III

The original Godfather was based on the book of the same name, written by Mario Puzo in 1969. The film was directed by Francis Ford Coppola and released by Paramount Pictures. Coppola would direct the next two installments, The Godfather: Part II (1974) and The Godfather: Part III (1990). Paramount also released each film. 

This trilogy is one of the most award-winning, with a combined 56 awards and 73 nominations across a vast spectrum of ceremonies. 

Francis Ford Coppola accepts three Oscars for The Godfather
Caption: Director Francis Ford Coppola holding three Oscars for The Godfather at the 47th Annual Academy Awards in 1975 (Photo by Michael Montfort/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
  • The first Godfather won three Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Marlon Brando), and Best Writing. 
  • Part II won six Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Robert DeNiro), Best Writing, Best Art Direction, and Best Music. 
  • The third installment didn’t collect any wins, but it was nominated in all the major categories (Picture, Actor, Director, etc.). 

The Characters (and Fashion) of the Main Characters

Al Pacino in a military cap with James Caan, The Godfather
Caption: Al Pacino wearing a peaked combination cap, and James Caan wearing a tux, The Godfather, 1972 (Photo by Paramount/Getty Images)


Since the films occur in the 40s, 50s, and 60s, many characters wear memorable hats and outfits that fit their larger-than-life personalities. Here’s a rundown of the main cast in parts one and two and the styles that made them iconic. 

Don Vito Corleone – Marlon Brando

Personality

As an aging crime boss, Vito doesn’t suffer fools. He also makes sure to present himself as the strong, decisive mafia Don he’s cut out to be. When he makes you an offer, you don’t refuse. 

Wardrobe

Marlon Brando gets some news in The Godfather, 1972
Caption: Marlon Brando wearing a tux, The Godfather, 1972 (Photo by Paramount/Getty Images)

Vito exudes class, from his black tux from the opening wedding scene to his full-length trench coat for going out. As we see in his younger days in Part II, Vito has an affinity for three-piece suits. 

Hat Types – The OG Gangster Fedora Hat

Vito wears both a Homburg and a fedora. While both hats look similar, there’s one noticeable difference. A Homburg has a center crease, often called a gutter crown, with no pinch at the front. A fedora, however, has a distinct pinch. Also, a Homburg’s brim is narrowly upturned all the way around, while a fedora’s crown is flat. Usually, fedoras have the front brim turned down with the back turned up. Vito is the king of the gangster fedora hat trendsetters.

During the wedding scene, Vito wears a black Homburg. Later in the movie, we can see him wearing a gray fedora. Notably, it shows up in the scene where he suffers a heart attack while playing with his grandson. 

Michael Corleone – Al Pacino

Al Pacino and Will Cicci in flat caps in The Godfather, 1972
Caption: Al Pacino and Will Cicci wear flat caps in The Godfather, 1972 (Photo by Paramount/Getty Images)


Personality

In the first film, Michael is reluctant to go into the family business. However, as he gets closer to his father, he realizes that organized crime is in his blood. Once he decides to be a part of the Corleone crime family, he becomes a ruthless and calculating mafia Don. 

Wardrobe

When we first meet Michael, he’s wearing a military uniform. His uniform is complete with a peaked cap. Later, he starts sporting three-piece suits, much like his old man. During Michael’s time in Sicily, he adopts a more countryside wardrobe, with a white shirt, pinstripe vest, and newsboy hat. 

The bodyguard behind between the father and the alter bot wears a black felt mob boss topper that is not unlike the Johnny Depp Hats we covered in another post.

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Al Pacino getting married in a scene from the film ‘The Godfather’, 1972. (Photo by Paramount/Getty Images)


Hat Types

Michael wears many hats, both literally and figuratively. Literal hats include: 

  • Peaked Combination Cap – This is a military dress hat with a flat, round crown that tilts upward. The term “peak” refers to the short, black visor. The forest green hat comes complete with an EGA device above the visor and a quatrefoil (lace cross) draped across it. 
  • Homburg – Michael wears both a gray and a black Homburg, much like his father. These hats have a gutter crown with an upturned brim. The hat also comes with a black hatband. This hat is also often known as the gangster fedora hat, although it’s more unique.
  • Flat Cap – Both Michael and a young Vito wear flat caps in Sicily. Another term is the “newsie” or “newsboy” hat, although those are a bit more floppy. The flat cap is a rounded hat with a small, stiff brim in the front. These hats are often made of tweed or wool, which gives them a herringbone or chevron pattern.
Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, James Caan, and John Cazale in The Godfather
Al Pacino in a military cap, Marlon Brando in a black men’s gangster fedora hat, James Caan, and John Cazale in The Godfather


Fredo Corleone – John Cazale

Personality

Fredo is something of a black sheep in the Corleone family, and not strong and resilient like his brothers or his father. We don’t see much of Fredo in the original Godfather. But, he has a bigger role in Part II, where we see his spineless and weaselly ways. 

Wardrobe

As a reflection of his personality, Fredo’s wardrobe changes depending on who he’s trying to emulate. In the original film, he sports a tux and a trench coat to be more like his father. In Part II, Fredo ditches suits for blazers and loungewear, much like his mentor Moe Green. 

Hat Types

Fredo doesn’t wear many hats. In The Godfather, Fredo wears a gray fedora. In The Godfather: Part II, he wears a white trilby, which resembles a Panama hat. The trilby has a narrower, fixed brim (usually around two inches). In this case, the brim turns down in front and up in the back, with a black hatband. This hat also has a dented crown with a slight crease in front. 

Young Vito Corleone – Robert Senior

A young Robert DeNiro in a corduroy flat cap in The Godfather, Part II
Caption: Robert DeNiro wearing a flat cap, The Godfather: Part II, 1974 (Photo by Paramount/Getty Images)


Personality

As an older man, Vito is somewhat relaxed. However, in his youth, he had to be ruthless. Young Vito is deeply loyal to his family, but plays his cards close to the chest and doesn’t show his emotions very much. Quiet and intense. 

Wardrobe

Vito starts his affinity for three-piece suits, although he started off with a flat cap and wool coat. As he made his way up the ranks, Vito’s style became more refined and elegant. 

Hat Types

Robert DeNiro and Bruno Kirby in The Godfather: Part II
Caption: Robert DeNiro wearing a flat cap, and Bruno Kirby wearing a brown bowler hat, The Godfather: Part II, 1974 (Photo by Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images)


Young Vito wears two kinds of hats – a brown flat cap and a fedora. As with his wardrobe, his hats go from youth (aka, a newsboy-style hat) to manhood (the fedora). He would carry the gangster fedora hat through to old age. This idea was also imitated in the HBO series Boardwalk Empire with Al Capone’s character. 

Supporting Characters in the Godfather Films

There are plenty of stylish gangster fedora hat styles to go around in all three Godfather movies. Fedora hats for men are very popular in these films. Most side characters wear fedoras, such as Willi Cicci (played by Joe Spinell) or Mr. Cannoli himself, Peter Clemenza (played by Richard S. Castellano). In Part II, Clemenza wears a brown bowler hat, and he’s played by Bruno Kirby

Other notable supporting characters include: 

  • Luca Brasi (Lenny Montana) – Luca only wears a hat during the scene in which he’s assassinated. The big man wears a brown fedora with a brown hatband.
  • Emilio Barzini (Richard Cone) – The Barzini crime family wants to take out Vito Corleone and his kin, but Michael has other plans. Barzini goes down while wearing a gray Homburg, similar to the Corleone patriarch. 
  • Don Fanucci (Gastone Moschin) – Fanucci liked to play the part of a mafia don. But, he didn’t have the muscle to back up his claims. He wore a snappy white suit with a black men’s fedora (complete with a bow on the left side of the hatband). Too bad the suit got bloody when a young Vito assassinated the weak Don. 
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NEW YORK – 1974: Robert De Niro with Gastone Moschin wear a black gangster fedora hat in The Godfather Part II directed by Francis Ford Coppola in 1974 in New York, New York. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images)


Female Characters and Styles in the Godfather Films

Talia Shire gets sung to by Al Martino in The Godfather
Singer Al Martino crooning to Talia Shire with bridesmaids wearing sun hats for women in the foreground. The Godfather, 1972 (Photo by Paramount/Getty Images)


Female characters are few and far between in the Godfather movies, with one notable exception – Kay Adams-Corleone, as played by the iconic Diane Keaton. Most of the women in the films are hatless, save for the wedding scene. In this scene, you can see various floppy sun hats of different colors. In that scene, Keaton’s character wears a tan floppy sun hat with a red hatband. Later in the movie, she also wears a red cloche hat when looking for Michael, who has fled to Sicily. 

What’s most notable about Kay is that she adds some fresh color to her scenes, particularly in the first film. With all the men wearing blacks, browns, and grays, Kay stands out with red and orange hues. It’s as if she represents a different, brighter path for Michael if he chooses her over his family. However, we all know how that goes.

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SICILY, ITALY – 1974: Robert De Niro and Francesca De Sapio in women’s straw sun hat and children in Jackie Kennedy style caps in The Godfather Part II directed by Francis Ford Coppola in 1974 in Sicily, Italy. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images)


Beyond Kay, most of the women’s wardrobe is on display during the wedding scene, including Mama Corleone (Morgana King) and Connie Corleone (Talia Shire).

Godfather Memes You Can’t Refuse

One way to tell the staying power of a movie or franchise is the memes it generates. Although The Godfather came out decades before the internet, it’s still ripe for meme templates. Some of the most popular include: 

Kiss the Ring

A meme about flaunting your superiority. You’re such a powerful being that others kiss your ring to show respect. 

Look How They Massacred My Boy

Crying over Sonny’s mutilated body, Vito Corleone struggles to hold back the tears when he says, “Look How They Massacred My Boy.” Use this meme to show distaste for anything that’s been changed. Useful for remakes and reboots. 

I Will Do You This Favor

It’s a classic tit-for-tat situation. You do something for them, and someday you’ll call upon them to repay the debt (although the day may never come). 

It’s not personal. It’s just business

Michael Corleone offers to kill two men who tried to assassinate his father. When he’s told he’s taking things personally, he responds by saying, “It’s not personal. It’s just business.” Use this meme when you want to take the upper hand without feeling guilty.

I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.

Other famous Don Vito Corleone quotes are: Revenge is a dish best served cold. Don Vito Corleone: “A friend should always underestimate your virtues and an enemy overestimate your faults.” Use these memes when you want to share to desire for power with friends and colleagues.

I believe in America.

This is what Bonasera says to the Godfather at the opening in the first movie, before asking for a favor on the Don’s daughter’s wedding day: “I believe in America. America has made my fortune. And I raised my daughter in American fashion. I gave her freedom, but I taught her never to dishonor her family.” After agreeing to dispense justice, Don Vito Corleone says, “Someday, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day, accept this justice as a gift on my daughter’s wedding day.”

FAQs About the Godfather

Al Pacino sits in a green chair and a three-piece suit, The Godfather: Part II
Caption: From left, Al Pacino wearing a peaked combination cap, Marlon Brando wearing a black Homburg, James Caan and John Cazale wearing tuxes, The Godfather, 1972 (Photo by Paramount/Getty Images), Marlon Brando wearing a tux, The Godfather, 1972 (Photo by Paramount/Getty Images), Al Pacino wearin

Where was the movie filmed in Sicily?

The filmmakers didn’t use a studio backlog to portray Sicily. Instead, they shot on location in the towns of Savoca and Forza d’Agrò. There’s actually a town called Corleone, from which several real-world mafia bosses have been born and raised. 

What was the mafia’s reaction to the Godfather?

One notable real-life crime boss, Joe Colombo, greatly opposed the film, claiming that it created negative stereotypes of Italian Americans. Ironically, Colombo was deeply involved in organized crime and was even assassinated while delivering a speech to the Italian-American Civil Rights League in 1971. 

His protest encouraged producer Al Ruddy to remove any mention of the words “mafia” and “La Cosa Nostra” from the finished script. Even though Colombo died before the film was released, Paramount caved in to his requests. 

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James Caan punches Gianni Russo in a scene from the film ‘The Godfather’, 1972. (Photo by Paramount/Getty Images)

The Hat Stops Here

The Godfather franchise is iconic for its depiction of organized crime and the felt hat fashion of the mafiosos who perpetrated the on-screen crimes. Discover more about the history and making of these films and how their gangster fedora hat style continues to impact modern society.

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