The Krays were hot to trot. Al Capone – epitome of the roaring 20s, even the cigar smokin’, gun toting Bonnie and Clyde had a certain style.
There’s something that separates your run of the mill criminal from the big names. We think it’s got something to do with their choice of clothes and shoes.
Here we take look at dress sense – hoodlum style.
In public, Al Capone was immaculate; the fedora, the tailored pinstripe suits and spectator brogues were sheer class. In private, he was a prohibition era bootlegger, pimp and extortionist. In his own words, he was, “a businessman, giving the people what they want.”
Three deep knife wounds to his left cheek earned him the nickname, Scarface, but despite his looks, Capone was a celebrity. Thanks to his legendary generosity, the eponymous crook was widely viewed as the Robin Hood of 1920s Chicago.
But in 1929, at the peak of his notoriety Capone’s reputation took a broadside. Seven members of Bugs Moran’s rival north side gang were gunned down in a garage and Al was blamed. The St Valentine’s day massacre, proved to be the beginning of the end for Capone.
Law enforcers began to take a serious interest in his business affairs and on 17th October, 1931, Al Capone – the snappy dressing crime boss – was sent down for 11 years for tax evasion.
Bonnie and Clyde
Young, wild and indulging in extramarital sex. It may sound like your average 18 – 30 holiday to our modern ears, but in the America of the great depression, such high jinks were the stuff of newspaper headlines. Add some photos of a glamourous couple, armed to the teeth and smoking cigars as they pose before their stolen car, and you’ve got a legend in the making.
Bonnie in her long figure hugging dresses, and Clyde in dapper suits and open neck shirts; at a time when millions were living at or below the poverty line, theirs was a story that fired the imagination of the tired and dispossessed.
But while they looked like they were having the time of their lives, reality was rather different. Bonnie had been bored and dissatisfied with her life as a waitress. Clyde was a petty crook before a spell in the pen that saw him, according to a fellow inmate, “change from a schoolboy to a rattlesnake.”
From the get go, their rampage was a desperate, doomed affair and both Bonnie and Clyde knew it. Finally ambushed on a desolate road in Louisiana, they were both died as they had lived – riddled by bullets. Bonnie’s fancy clothes were stolen and auctioned off by a light fingered bystander.
“They were the best years of our lives. They called them the swinging sixties. The Beatles and the Rolling Stones were rulers of pop music, Carnaby Street ruled the fashion world… and me and my brother ruled London. We were f****** untouchable…” – a quote from Ronnie Kray’s, autobiography.
Ronnie and Reggie Kray, hid in plain sight. At their zenith, the twins, wore razor sharp Savile Row suits and mixed with rock stars, MPs and the aristocracy. Their chain of nightclubs and scrap metal dealerships, masked their true identity. Vicious criminals, they ran protection rackets and dealt in robbery, hijacking and arson.
Murder was nothing to these men. In 1966, Reggie shot and killed criminal rival, George Cornell, in the Blind Beggar pub in Whitechapel, sparking a crime war.
Worse was to come, when the following year, the twins decided to wreak vengeance on one of their own for failing to fulfill a contract. Jack ‘the Hat’ McVitie is alleged to have been stabbed so many times by Reggie that his liver fell out and was later flushed down the toilet.
They may have worn the smartest Oxfords, but their soles were steeped in blood. McVitie’s body was never recovered, but the Krays were eventually jailed for the murders; their sentence 30 years without parole.
Wearing a knee length chinchilla coat with matching fedora today, would incite crowds of animal rights aware citizens to riot. But back in the 1970s, Frank Lucas was a big time drugs baron. He could wear what he liked – and you’d better like it.
Lucas, it has to be said, was more usually to be seen sporting a very well cut, but inconspicuous suit – his wardrobe paid for by drug smuggling on an unprecedented scale. The dude from Harlem made it big by breaking the Mafia stranglehold on the New York drug trade.
He travelled to South East Asia where a family connection helped him set up an import business. Vast quantities of exceptionally pure heroin were smuggled into America, it’s claimed, in the caskets of dead soldiers being returned from Vietnam.
In his heyday, Lucas had tens of millions of dollars stashed in accounts in the Caymen Islands and owned property all over the United States, including a cattle ranch in North Carolina. He’s reported to have lost the lot after he was finally busted in 1976, but Lucas, who turned 83 this week is still a pretty snappy dresser, so who knows..