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The real 'Mob Wives' aren't offended that you want to dress like them

Anneta Konstantinides   

The real 'Mob Wives' aren't offended that you want to dress like them
  • The "mob wife" trend has been filling TikTok with fur coats, black clothes, and leopard print.
  • "Mob Wives" creator Jennifer Graziano and stars Renee Graziano and Natalie Guercio told us their thoughts.

Throw out your snoozy neutrals and basic athleisure — the "clean girl" aesthetic is out.

In millions of TikTok videos, 2024 has officially been hailed as the "year of the mob wife." The style is big, bold, and often involves a (real or faux) fur coat. There's no "quiet luxury" here, honey — a true mob wife always makes an entrance.

@ktrivz manifesting a 24 carat diamond tennis necklace to match my mob wife energy #greenscreen ♬ original sound - kayla trivieri

Where TikTok goes, the rest of the world follows. Vogue has offered up its own "how to dress like a mob wife" guide, and every celebrity wearing a fur coat or an animal print is being hailed as a trendsetter. Even Jeff Bezos' fiancée, Lauren Sánchez, has tried the trend.

But has anyone bothered to ask what real mob wives think? After all, they're the experts.

"I came out wearing a fur coat," Renee Graziano, who starred in the VH1 series "Mob Wives," told Business Insider with a laugh. "I had my first diamond nameplate at 7 years old. I've probably worn more black than a nun. If you want to talk about the mob wife aesthetic, who better to do it than a Sicilian mob princess?"

"Mob Wives," which aired from 2011 to 2016, was created by Renee's sister, Jennifer Graziano. It followed the lives of several women whose husbands and fathers were connected to the Italian-American mafia in Staten Island.

We asked the Graziano Sisters and Natalie Guercio, who appeared on two seasons of the show and now runs her own beauty brand, to share their thoughts on the new trend, the ensuing accusations of cultural appropriation, and what it really takes to dress like a mob wife.

The real-life Sopranos

The fictional women featured in iconic mafia films and shows, including "The Sopranos," "Goodfellas," and "Casino," have all been cited as inspiration for the "mob wife" trend. But nothing was fake about the "Mob Wives" stars' lives.

"Being a daughter was very, very traumatizing," Renee said of her upbringing. "When I say 'Goodfellas' depicted the life better than anything, that's the truth."

Renee and Jennifer's father, Anthony Graziano, who died in 2019, was a consigliere of the Bonanno crime family in New York City. Renee's ex-husband, Hector Pagan Jr., was also involved in the Bonanno family before he became an FBI informant, which led to Anthony's 2012 conviction, according to the Huffington Post.

Their unique childhood inspired Jennifer to start writing a scripted series, but she changed gears as the various "Real Housewives" shows began dominating Bravo and pop culture in the mid-2000s.

"I realized I had the 'Mob Wives' version of that under my nose my entire life," Jennifer told BI. "I did a quick pivot."

It was a savvy move for Jennifer, who realized few networks would touch any scripted show resembling "The Sopranos."

"It was done so well and done so perfectly. It was such an iconic television show," she said. "So they stayed away from it for a while."

Jennifer believes the mob wife trend is now all over our social media feeds because this year marks the 25th anniversary of the premiere of "The Sopranos." The returning spotlight has brought renewed interest in the styles of Carmela Soprano and Adriana La Cerva.

"Carmela Soprano walked so you bitches could run," Kayla Trivieri — who is credited with launching the "mob wife" movement on TikTok — declared in her first video about the trend.

While some believe the mob wife aesthetic is just a genius HBO marketing plan, Jennifer thinks the trend is a natural reaction to the last few tumultuous years in the US.

"We just went through a lot of hard times in terms of COVID and the economy," she said. "It's time to live a little bolder and a little louder. It's going to give people some license to go out there and have fun — both in their lives and with their fashion."

'The perfect mob wife looks like she's going to a funeral'

In the dozens of articles dictating how to dress like a mob wife, the defining characteristics seem to be black clothes, animal prints, a fur coat, and red lipstick.

Renee confirmed that a fur coat and bold lips are signature to the aesthetic, but please don't get carried away with the leopard print.

"Me personally, we never wore leopard — that's more Peggy Bundy than it is 'mob wife,'" she said with a laugh, referencing Katey Sagal's iconic character in the Fox sitcom "Married… With Children" that aired for 10 years, premiering in 1987.

For Guercio, who grew up in the 1980s among mob wives in the Sicilian-American neighborhoods of South Philadelphia, the true aesthetic is "all about class."

"The fur coat, yes, that's a symbol," she said. "The big chunky glasses like Sophia Loren used to wear. I remember all these different styles coming out, but everything had a boldness to it, whether it's a bold lip or a big statement jacket or statement jewelry."

"It's definitely a rich, wealthy look," Jennifer told BI. "The lifestyle itself was big and bold. Even though it was underground and secret, they lived such loud, large lives. And the fashion and the jewelry and the furs were just indicative of the lifestyle."

"Thinking back to my mother, she had such beautiful jewelry — big chunky bracelets, big standout earrings," she added. "I think that's what's probably missing right now from what I've been seeing."

The mob wife aesthetic is a far cry from the "quiet luxury" trend that dominated 2023 after Sofia Richie's wedding left TikTok enraptured. The style was all about wearing muted neutrals whose worth was communicated via their fabric or structure rather than their sparkle or logo.

But bold and loud brands like Gucci and Versace are back thanks to the "mob wife" trend. After all, they've always been integral to the aesthetic.

"Back in the day, everyone I knew wore Versace," Guercio said. "All the Italians, all the mob guys, the big glasses for the women, the fur coats — it was always Versace, Versace, Versace."

The mob wives aren't offended that you want to dress like them

Not long after the mob wife trend took off on social media, some critics claimed it was cultural appropriation. Others have argued that the trend is glorifying mafia violence and making light of the real dangers that mob wives face.

But the "Mob Wives" stars believe the trend is all in good fun and should stay that way.

"I don't think by putting on your 'mob wife' outfit, you're saying violence and crime is acceptable or great," Jennifer said. "And it's universal. Anyone can dress in the mob wife aesthetic. I don't think it's really specific to Italians, and I don't think anyone's trying to pigeonhole Italian women at all. Anyone who feels they want to live large and out loud and big and bold can slap on anything they want."

"We're not glorifying the men who are in the mob; we're talking about women being powerful," Guercio added. "To me, the mob wife aesthetic is about confidence."

That confidence is displayed through their signature big and bold fashion, which is why the "Mob Wives" stars are so excited to see the pendulum swing away from simpler aesthetics.

"I feel like women nowadays hardly even get the chance to dress up; everything is workout clothes," Guercio said. "So, I think it's actually a great idea for that 'mob wife' sense of style to come back. I would love to see the trend stay. That classy look and the sophistication that came along with it, I think women need that."

Nothing lasts forever, especially on TikTok, but the "mob wife" trend will never die for the real "Mob Wives."

"The mob wives from my series never did give up on that style, especially Renee," Jennifer said. "Renee has been wearing the mob wives aesthetic since birth."

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