Circling Back is where GQ revisits the little things about the big things in pop culture.
Italy is responsible for producing magnificent art that has endured throughout the centuries, from the Sistine Chapel to the Mona Lisa, from David to the Pietà. But I’m not here to talk about any of that. Instead, let us open our hearts and our minds to some Italian masterpieces of equally astonishing beauty: Furio Giunta’s shirts on The Sopranos.
In season two of the mob drama, the gang goes to Naples. Christopher spends the whole trip strung out; Paulie tries and fails to Eat, Pray, Love; and through some wheeling and dealing with a sexy and superstitious female boss, Tony Soprano acquires a fearsome new foot soldier in Furio. Off camera, in preparation for his new life in America, Furio diligently packs a suitcase exclusively filled with ponytail holders and dozens of luxurious silk party shirts. Andiamo!
While the other mobsters mostly opt for track suits, bowling shirts, and dark suits, Furio has never met a flamboyant button-down he isn’t passionate about. And it’s no wonder: the shirts are tremendous. They surprise and delight more than anything else on the show. I would watch an entire Sopranos spinoff about Furio going shopping. (I would watch another spinoff about Artie Bucco’s earring.) Shirts aside, I have always felt a bit of an affinity for Furio. Like Furio, my father is a born-and-bred Italian. Unlike Furio, he is a refined Milanese man. Like Furio again, I sense that he is often gravely disappointed in me. And I, too, refuse to understand the game of “golf.”
When he arrives in America, Furio enters the new world shirt-first. Tony throws a welcome party in his honor, which Furio attends with his long locks flowing, wearing a glorious black and gold number that looks like an area rug made love to an Oxford. Feast your senses.
Courtesy of HBO
I asked my GQ colleague and author of the fashion newsletter Opulent Tips, Rachel Tashjian, to expertly assess the, well, opulence at play. Her review? “The power of these shirts comes down to their bold ability to combine two elements which would be entirely opulent on their own: wild scrollwork borrowed from Italian Renaissance/baroque architecture, and silk fabric,” she told me. “The prints echo the height of human achievement in fusing the decorative with the utilitarian. The luxe fabric is an expression of male decadence—one of the defining issues, of course, of The Sopranos. Together, they convey the irresistible seduction of working for Tony: labor and pleasure are impossibly entangled.”
Also curious as to how stylish Furio is compared to his comrades, I consulted Emilia Petrarca, a fashion news writer at The Cut and creator of the Instagram account Every Outfit on The Sopranos. “I wouldn’t say Furio has more or less style than anyone else, but he maybe has more Italian designers in his closet, which would explain the range of incredible silk shirts he owns,” she wrote to me. “That said, he doesn’t seem like someone who really cares about big designer labels. He likes to get his hands dirty, or wrap them around a ball of mozz. If I saw Furio in the real world, I’d think: That man has style. And I’d trust him with my life.”
Never one to shy away from a bold and bellissimo daytime look, Furio dons the same black and gold color scheme when visiting the Soprano home. He enjoys a pastry with Carmela, Carmela enjoys his shirt, and we enjoy witnessing their undeniable sexual tension.