The vicuna overcoat – menefreghismo to the max


coat front

Nick Tosches’ Dean Martin biography Dino: Living High In The Dirty Business Of Dreams memorably defines its subject as a menefreghista – “one who simply does not give a fuck”.

And if ever there was a garment which oozes menefreghismo, it is the vicuna overcoat.

“The finest fibre in the world”, vicuna is recognised for its softness and warmth, woven as it is from the fur harvested once every three years from the Vicuña, a llama-like creature which inhabits the Andes. The Incan reverence for the fabric barred all but royalty from wearing it.


Vicuna is also one of the most expensive fabrics in the world, lending a glamour to everyone from the gentry to gangsters, films stars and world leaders. When Gucci added a vicuna topcoat to its 2005 collection, the retail tag was $33,000.

Al Capone’s coat made from the fabric was such a signature part of his look that generations of wise guys and goodfellas have since sported the vicuna topcoat.

And such is its luxurious status, the biggest scandal of the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower revolved around a vicuna coat his chief of staff accepted as a gift.




In THE LOOK the late British showbiz tailor Dougie Millings – who designed the round-collared Beatle suit – recounts the commissioning of a bespoke vicuna topcoat for Sammy Davis Jr in the early 60s.

“At the time, vicuna cost £40-£50 a yard, compared with an average of £2 a yard for a nice bit of cloth,” said Millings. “It was difficult, and a lot of strain to work with, like cutting gold leaf, but I came up with a floor-length overcoat and charged him £250. A year or so later, he came back and ordered a knee-length one in Vicuna, and gave the original to my son Gordon. These days, those coats would cost something like £20,000 apiece.”

And the one pictured here is up for sale on eBay and about to enter its final day at auction – see here.

This has been in the owner’s possession since the 70s, when it was purchased from a US vintage dealer, and dates from the late 50s/early 60s. Our favourite detail is the interior satin shoulder loop enabling it to be worn over the shoulders, OG-style.


Now that is menefreghismo.

Grace said,

December 20, 2010 @ 11:30 pm

MMM, I love this coat! I wish the buttons where a tad shinier & bigger though, but very old school mafioso!

rockpopfashion said,

December 21, 2010 @ 8:48 am

Yes, but if they were they would maybe attract attention…

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