The Man from U.N.C.L.E.: The Black and White Check Suit

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James Bond isn’t the only spy Ian Fleming created. Fleming also created Napoleon Solo, the main character in American television series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. played by Robert Vaughan. Though Solo, like Bond, is a well-dressed spy, his clothes have decidedly American characteristics. His suits are in an updated version of the classic American sack style, updated both for the 1960s and for a more international look. The second series episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. titled “Alexander the Greater Affair”, which was later turned into the feature film One Spy Too Many, features Napoleon Solo wearing a black and white glen check suit in a hopsack weave with a large repeat. The cloth is very similar to what James Bond’s three-piece checked suit in Goldfinger is made from, but this suit’s cloth is not as fine.

Click the image for a close-up of the glen check cloth and ribbed tie

Click the image for a close-up of the glen check cloth and ribbed tie

Like the classic American sack jacket, this suit’s jacket has no darts in the front. Instead, the jacket is shaped through the underarm dart and side seam. The shape of an English jacket is not possible without the front darts, but Solo’s jacket still has waist suppression and doesn’t look like a box. The lack of front darts has a clear benefit on this suit: it allows the large check to be uninterrupted on the front of the jacket. Solo’s jacket is updated from the ordinary sack with only two buttons on the front instead of three rolled to two, and the traditional natural shoulders are replaced with padded shoulders that have a slight concave—or pagoda—shape. The jacket has the popular 60s trends of narrow lapels and short, four-inch double vents. The jacket also follows the American tradition of two buttons spaced apart on the cuff, and it also has jetted hip pockets. Black buttons on the jacket match the black in the check but contrast with and complement the cloth as a whole.

The suit trousers follow the American tradition with a flat front, but the trousers are updated with a more tapered leg. The hems are finished without turn-ups, which goes against the traditional method of finishing sack suit trousers. Yes, the American tradition is for flat-front trousers with turn-ups. The lack of turn-ups of Solo’s trousers allows the hem to be slanted, which helps the narrow trouser opening cover more of the shoes.

Man-From-UNCLE-Check-Suit-3Solo’s cream shirt, which is likely pinpoint oxford, has a mismatch of styles. It mixes an informal button-down collar, which was a popular collar in the 1960s in America, with dressy double cuffs. Cary Grant was known to wear this incongruous combination, and it can be seen in Notorious. Solo’s narrow, solid black ribbed tie—which is in the spirit of James Bond’s dark textured ties—is tied in a four-in-hand knot. His shoes are black short ankle boots with elastic, similar to the boots Sean Connery wears in Goldfinger and Thunderball. A black leather belt holds up Solo’s trousers.

Apart from The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’s obvious similarities to the James Bond series, this episode has another connection to the Bond series. Teru Shimada, who would go on to play Mr. Osato in You Only Live Twice, plays the president of a small country who the villain of the story attempts to kill.

Navy Silk Dressing Gown

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James Bond briefly wears a navy silk dressing gown in Thunderball that he likely found in his large, luxurious room at the Shrublands health clinic. It has a shawl collar, turnback cuffs and a belt around the waist. The dressing gown is clearly sized for the average shorter man, since the sleeves end at the middle of Sean Connery’s forearm, and the length reaches the middle of his thighs. At 6’2″, Connery needs a longer dressing gown than what most men need. Though it’s too short, the gown’s shoulders are also much too large. Dressing gowns are often made as one size to fit all, but they don’t always have to fit poorly. Compare this dressing gown to the much better-fitting example in Goldfinger.

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The Infamous Clown Suit

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The clown suit in Octopussy is often considered the lowest point of Roger Moore’s James Bond wardrobe, but it proves to be an effective disguise until his original red costume is discovered. Since the clown suit is a disguise—complete with white makeup and a red nose—is it fair to remember Roger Moore as the James Bond who donned the clown suit? Would there be a better disguise for Bond at a circus? Earlier in Octopussy he hides inside a gorilla costume, which is even more absurd than wearing a clown suit. Whilst Roger Moore is known for being the most humourous of the Bonds, he gives one of his most serious performances of the series when he’s dressed for the circus.

Octopussy-Clown-Suit-2The clown suit is yellow with a windowpane of turquoise lengthwise stripes and black crosswise stripes. There is a red rectangle at the points where the stripes intersect. The suit’s pattern is printed, and the cloth is likely polyester. The button two jacket is cut like an oversized lounge suit jacket, though it is unstructured. It has notched lapels, open patch hip pockets, a welt breast pocket, a non-vented skirt and black buttons. The ultra-high-waisted trousers match the jacket and are held up by thick red braces.

Octopussy-Clown-Suit-3The clown costume includes a white wing-collar shirt that has two large black buttons on the front. The buttons have a jagged edge. The costume also has a giant red bow tie with black polka dots, and there is a matching pocket square stuffed into the jacket’s breast pocket. The clown hat is a bowler with a red ribbon and red edge trimming. A fake yellow flower is attached to the left side of the hat, and thick red hair is build into the hat. White gloves that button at the wrist and the oversized orange oxford shoes with white wing tips finish off the clown outfit.

Silva: Cream Jacket and Printed Shirt

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Raoul Silva, played by Javier Bardem in Skyfall, is one of the most flamboyantly-dressed villains, yet he’s a well-tailored one. His cream silk jacket fits almost perfectly, the only problem being that the sleeve are too long. It’s made by Mayfair tailor Thom Sweeney, so it’s nice to see a second character in Skyfall—the first being Gareth Mallory—wearing bespoke English tailoring. The button two silk jacket is elegantly-tailored in the English style with softly-padded shoulders, roped sleeveheads, a clean chest and a suppressed waist. The jacket is tailored with classic proportions; the lapels are a balanced width, the length covers his behind and the jacket is closely fitted but not tight. The jacket has slanted hip pockets, double vents, four buttons on the cuffs, and dark brown corozo nut buttons.

Silva-Cream-Jacket-2Under the jacket, Silva wears a waistcoat and trousers in dark olive tropical wool or mohair. The waistcoat has five buttons, and Silva unstylishly fastens the bottom button. However, if he left the waistcoat’s bottom button open the shirt underneath may be exposed since the trousers have a somewhat low rise. The trousers’ waistband is visible in the notch of the bottom of the waistcoat. The waistcoat has narrow lapels and a small, full collar that are worn flipped up. The trousers have a flat front and plain hem.

Silva-Cream-Jacket-3Silva’s shirt from Prada is the flashiest part of his outfit. The shirt’s printed pattern consists of tan tiles with a white border and navy tiles with a tan border on a black ground. The shirt has a point collar, rounded single-button cuffs and dark buttons. Silva wears the collar button and first button open. Because of how flashy the shirt is, the necktie isn’t missed. It can be awkward to wear a waistcoat without a tie, but the waistcoat’s purpose here is to tone down the outfit by covering the shirt rather than to dress up the outfit. By flipping up the waistcoat’s collar and lapels, Silva rejects the additional formality that the waistcoat would ordinarily give the outfit. This is not a way I would recommend anyone wear a waistcoat, but when you’re a Bond villain you can dress as you please.

Silva’s medium brown chelsea boots add an additional level of flamboyance to his outfit. Though chelsea boots are typically very clean and sleek, Silva’s chelsea boots have an excessive amount of brogueing and far more seams than typical chelsea boots. They have a toe cap as well as a decorative strip of leather across the vamp. Apart from brogueing on every seam, they also have a toe medallion. The boots have thick double leather soles.

Costume designer Jany Temime dressed Silva appropriately in a garish and outrageous manner that perfectly suits the insane Bond villain.

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Bond in a Women’s Bathrobe

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Like most of Bond’s bathrobes and dressing gowns, the bathrobe Bond wears in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is not his own. In fact, it’s not even a men’s bathrobe. Tracy (Diana Rigg) wears the bathrobe after she breaks into Bond’s hotel suite, and she leaves the bathrobe behind when she disappears from Bond’s balcony in the middle of the night. Since her dress is on the bed when we first see her in the bathrobe, Tracy probably found the bathrobe in Bond’s hotel suite closet. The bathrobe is likely provided by the hotel in every suite’s closet.

Tracy-BathrobeBond puts on the bathrobe when he wakes up and finds it laying next to him in bed. The robe’s short length is what gives it away a women’s bathrobe, and when Bond sits in the bathrobe it just barely covers the parts that it needs to. On Tracy, the bottom of the bathrobe hits at her upper thigh. Diana Rigg 5’9″ tall, and the short bathrobe plays up the sex appeal of her long legs. Bond, however, is 6’2″ tall and for obvious reasons needs a longer bathrobe. The brief shot of Lazenby just barely wearing the bathrobe that is too short for him may have been for the same reasons Diana Rigg wears it. After all, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service features a new younger and fitter Bond.

Bond-Womens-Bathrobe-2The terrycloth bathrobe is white with a windowpane of double navy lines. The lines are thicker in the vertical than in the horizontal, which is an attempt to make the pattern more slimming by emphasising the vertical lines. There are two sets of three navy stripes follows by a single navy stripe around the shawl collar and the ends of the sleeves. The sleeves are worn folded up. A belt ties around the waist.

This may be the only piece of women’s clothing I ever cover on this blog, unless Bond again wears women’s clothing. It’s a shame we don’t get to see Bond wearing the gold silk pyjama suit with blue piping laid out on his bed.

Gold: Dressing Up a Bold Shirt

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Gold features Roger Moore in a James Bond-esque story but in a slightly more flamboyant wardrobe. Like Moore’s navy double-breasted suit in Gold, the beige jacket in that film could have been picked straight out of Live and Let Die or The Man with the Golden Gun. The jacket—perhaps made of a silk and linen blend—is tailored by Cyril Castle in the same style as the single-breasted suits that Moore wears in his first two Bond films. The button two jacket has softly-padded shoulders, a swelled chest, a nipped waist and medium-width lapels. It is detailed with slanted pockets, deep double vents and flared link cuffs. The tan wool trousers, though similar in value, contrast in texture and hue. have a darted front, a coin pocket below the waistband and a slightly flared leg.

Gold-Beige-Suit-2The shirt is where Moore breaks from Bond style. It has a rust and navy check on a cream ground. Whist the pattern is bolder than something Bond would wear, the shirt has the same spread collar and cocktail cuffs that Moore’s Frank Foster shirts in Live and Let Die have. Such a bold shirt needs a simple tie, and Moore wears a solid rust-coloured tie that pulls out the rust in the shirt’s check. He ties it in a four-in-hand or a double-four-in-hand knot. Though the tie works well with the jacket and shirt, the bold shirt could keep the outfit interesting without a tie. This is the kind of outfit that can be worn well without a tie, but the tie keeps the outfit “tied” together. With the suit, Moore wears dark brown shoes, a wide dark brown belt and aviator sunglasses.

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The Ipcress File: Grey Tweed Jacket

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Michael Caine stars as the unsophisticated spy Harry Palmer in 1965 film The Ipcress File, produced by James Bond film producer Harry Saltzman. Palmer is quite the opposite of James Bond and lives a very unglamourous life. Unlike Bond, Palmer never looks perfect, he wears glasses, he does desk work, he wakes up alone and he shops at the supermarket. Palmer’s clothes, however, aren’t completely unlike Bond’s, but they still leave something to be desired. 1980s Bond tailor Douglas Hayward was famously Michael Caine’s tailor, but it is unknown if he made the clothes for The Ipcress File.

Broken-Twill

Broken Twill

Palmer is introduced wearing a tweed jacket in black and grey broken twill. Broken twill has a similar look to barleycorn but is also like a very small herringbone weave. Herringbone is actually a type of broken twill. A grey broken twill tweed jacket actually isn’t so far from the type of jacket Bond would wear. Palmer’s jacket is a button two with natural shoulders. It has narrow lapels with a very gradual roll, making the button two jacket look almost like a button three jacket.

Ipcress-File-Tweed-Jacket-2The jacket also has double vents, a single button on each sleeve—the jacket’s buttons are black plastic—and hip pockets with narrow flaps. Palmer sometimes wears the pocket flaps tucked in, like when he carries a folded newspaper in his hip pocket (see image at the end of the article). Keeping small items in outer pockets does enough to disturb the jacket’s lines without having items sticking out from the pockets. Palmer demonstrates the way no gentleman should carry his newspaper.

Palmer wears medium grey worsted wool trousers under the jacket. They have a darted front, slanted side pockets, an extended waistband, buckle side adjusters and a tapered leg with turn-ups. There ought to be a little more contrast between the jacket and trousers, and a shade lighter in grey would be enough to give the two pieces more separation. The trousers most likely come from the suit Palmer wears later in the film. Palmer’s black shoes keep within the city tones of the outfit.

Ipcress-File-Blue-Shirt-FlannelsPalmer’s pale blue shirt is the least refined part of his outfit. Though the spread collar has a good width, the length of the collar points is rather puny. The collar is stitched 1/8 inch from the edge rather than the traditional 1/4 inch. The shirt has square single cuffs for cufflinks. These are not the stiff single cuffs that one wears for full evening dress but instead cheap, flimsy cuffs similar to the modern convertible cuffs that can be worn either with a button or with cufflinks. Palmer’s shirt has a breast pocket, which further brings the origin of Palmer’s shirt into question.

There is one item that Palmer takes from Bond’s wardrobe: a navy knitted tie. Bond wears a navy knitted tie in Goldfinger, made just a year earlier, and he wears it again in You Only Live Twice and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Palmer ties his knitted tie—most likely—in a half windsor knot like George Lazenby ties his knitted ties as Bond. But unlike Bond, Palmer wears a tie bar, and it suspiciously does not keep Palmer’s tie in place.

Tie askew and newspaper in the outside hip pocket

Tie askew and newspaper in the outside hip pocket

Felix Leiter: The Seersucker Suit

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Rik Van Nutter’s Felix Leiter in Thunderball wears a blue and white striped suit made of a thin, puckered cotton cloth called seersucker. The blue and white seersucker suit is an American warm-weather staple and an fitting suit for a CIA agent in the tropics. The stripes on Leiter’s suit are narrower than usual for seersucker, but they aren’t nearly as narrow as the stripes on the related pincord suit are.

Leiter-Seersucker-2Whilst Cec Linder—Van Nutter’s predecessor as Felix Leiter in Goldfinger—dresses all out in the American Ivy League style in a suit with natural shoulders and an undarted front, Van Nutter wears his American classic in an updated cut. His button three suit jacket has straight shoulders, a draped chest and a darted, suppressed waist. The lapels are a classic width and reach halfway from the collar to the edge of the shoulder. The jacket also has flapped hip pockets, double vents and three buttons on the cuffs. The suit’s buttons are made of mother of pearl. The suit trousers have reverse pleats, tapered legs and plain bottoms. The suit is more of a 1950s style than a 1960s style, but Leiter still looks cool and confident in it.

Leiter-Seersucker-3Under the suit Leiter wears a white shirt with a spread collar—another break from the traditional American style—and button cuffs. His black silk knitted tie is tied in a four-in-hand knot. He wears black shoes and a narrow black belt. The black accessories may be unimaginative, but they provide a needed gravitas to his otherwise casual outfit. Leiter carries with him a fedora-style straw Panama hat that has a tall C-crown and a black ribbon. Leiter’s black sunglasses look like they’re by Ray-Ban, but if anyone knows better than I do feel free to comment below.