Remington Steele: Opting Out of Black Tie

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Black tie events these days are mostly “black tie optional”. The best-dressed men would only wear a dinner jacket to such events, but a dark solid suit is a stylish choice for those who opt out of the dinner jacket. Pierce Brosnan as Remington Steele, in the first series episode of Remington Steele titled “Etched in Steele”, wears a charcoal three-piece suit to a black tie party. Considering the way Mr. Steele looks over the people at the event when he arrives, he probably didn’t expect the party to be black tie. Steele is rarely underdressed, and he is actually known to overdress. Nevertheless, Steele would be appropriately dressed in his dark charcoal suit for an event where black tie is optional. Anyone who comes dressed like Steele to a black tie optional event would be a very well-dressed—though still not the best-dressed—gentleman.

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The charcoal of Steele’s suit is so dark that it looks black in dim lighting and only shows its true colour when up against true black. A dark navy suit would serve the same purpose at a black tie optional event, and may even be preferable due to its richer colour. Though Steele wears a three-piece suit, a two-piece suit would have been just as appropriate for a black tie optional event.

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Steele’s button two suit jacket has narrow pagoda shoulders with roped sleeveheads and a clean chest with a suppressed waist. It has slanted flap pockets, three-button cuffs and double vents. The notched lapels have a steep gorge, a characteristic of 1980s suit jackets, but both the gorge and button stance are at classic heights. Overall, the suit jacket has a classic cut with timeless and balanced proportions. The waistcoat has five buttons, and Steele leaves the bottom button open to follow tradition. The trousers have a flat front and straight legs with plain hems. Steele unfortunately wears the trousers with a belt, which leaves a lump under the waistcoat. Due to the suit’s dark colour and quality of the DVD, the lump is hardly noticeable.

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Steele wears the only colour shirt that would be appropriate at a black tie optional event: solid white. It’s really the best colour shirt for any dressy evening occasion, though cream works slightly better for those with a warmer complexion. The shirt has a point collar worn with a gold collar pin, a front placket and double cuffs. Steele’s tie is red with small tan polka dots. Red is a great accent colour for the evening, and it’s the only bold colour that can be traditionally worn along with the black and white of black tie. Red is a classic colour for cummerbunds, and James Bond twice wears a red carnation with his dinner jackets. The only colour that would have been better for Steele’s tie is silver. Black can look rather funereal with a dark three-piece suit, but it’s not an inappropriate choice either for black tie optional. The small tan polka dots in Steele’s red tie coordinate with Steele’s gold collar pin and cuff links. The red silk pocket square coordinates with the tie but lacks the tie’s polka dots to avoid the dreaded matching tie and pocket square. It is folded in sort of a winged puff, but it looks more circular, rather like the red carnations that Bond wears.

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Steele’s usual choice of black slip-on shoes is very Bond-like, though it’s not the most appropriate choice for a three-piece suit, especially not in the evening. Though Steele wears his slip-ons well, black cap-toe or plain-toe oxfords would be the ideal choice.

50 Years of James Bond in Black Tie Infographic

I’ve created an infographic that breaks down James Bond’s 28 black tie outfits by every part of the outfit. All illustrations are based on examples from the James Bond films. For instance, the first three dinner jackets are based on the midnight blue dinner jacket from Thunderball, the black dinner jacket from Casino Royale and the ivory dinner jacket from Goldfinger. Can you figure out the where the next four dinner jacket illustrations are from?

Though there are 28 dinner jackets, there are 29 shirts. George Lazenby wears two different ruffled shirts with the same dinner jacket in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Also, shoes are unfortunately missing from this infographic since they are rarely seen in the films.

Feel free to share this infographic. You can enlarge it by clicking the image below.

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The Zorin Industries Blouson

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To blend in at Max Zorin’s mine in A View to a Kill, James Bond discards his brown leather blouson for a Zorin Industries blouson that he steals. The waist-length, zip-front, lightly padded Zorin Industries blouse jacket is essentially a bomber jacket. It looks teal-grey in the film, though in most promotional stills the jacket looks blue-grey, in a cool shade similar to air force blue. It is either made of cotton or a cotton blend with nylon or polyester. The zip fastening is brass.

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Except for a small portion in front, the jacket’s hem is ribbed and elasticised to fit closely around the top of the hips. The cuffs are also ribbed and elasticised. The ribbed stand-up collar has a tab sewn on the left side, which can extend across the neck and button on the opposite side. Bond leaves the collar open with the tab folded back and held in place with a button. The front of the jacket has four patch pockets with pointed flaps secured with poppers. The top edge of the pockets slopes downward to the outside. The bottom two pockets take up the entire bottom half of the jacket, as seams just below the flaps across the waist in front would indicate.

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The back of the blouson has the Zorin Industries logo on a large patch. The logo is a large “Z” with a white outline, and it has a diagonal lowercase “i” inside it. The “Z” sits on a green circle that has an inset white border. Bond steals a grey hard hat, which also has the Zorin Industries logo on the front.

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Under the Zorin blouson, Bond wears the same outfit that he wears under his brown leather blouson in the preceding scenes. His sky blue shirt, which is probably made of oxford cloth, is made by Frank Foster and has a button-down collar, front placket with the stitching close to the centre and rounded, single-button cuffs.

The dark, cool brown flannel trousers are without pleats and have wide legs with plain bottoms. The socks are dark brown to match the trousers. The trousers are worn with a black leather belt, and the shoes are black slip-ons with leather soles, Moore’s usual shoes. Brown shoes would have been a better match for the brown trousers and casual nature of the outfit, but the black shoes don’t clash since the trousers are a very cool brown.

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Shirt Collar Width, Height and Point Length—and Poll!

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Sean Connery wearing a spread collar in From Russia with Love

The shirt’s collar is one of the most important parts of a man’s outfit because it frames the face. Whilst fit ranks paramount for all parts of a man’s outfit, the collar’s shape and proportions rank equal to its fit. The width of the spread between the collar points is often mentioned, but collar height and point length are equally important. The three most basic collar styles are the spread collar, the semi-spread collar and the point collar. A wider collar is slightly dressier than a narrow collar, but James Bond has worn collars of all widths for different purposes throughout the series.

Collars

The Spread Collar

The spread collar is the wide, classic English collar. It may also be known as an English spread collar or a semi-cutaway collar. The English may call this a classic collar since it’s the standard collar for shirtmakers there. A wider collar such as the spread collar best flatters and balances people who have an angular jaw like Sean Connery, Roger Moore and Daniel Craig. On the other hand, the wide spread collar emphasises a wide face and should be avoided by people with a very round face or square jaw.

Sean Connery wears a spread collar, usually made by Turnbull & Asser, in all of his James Bond films except Dr. No (which is discussed below), and the collar flatters his angular jaw. George Lazenby wears a spread collar on his Frank Foster shirt for the wedding outfit due to the more formal nature of the black lounge coat, and it returns to the series in Roger Moore’s on his Frank Foster shirts in his three Bond films in the 1980s: For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy and A View to a Kill. Pierce Brosnan brings them back again on his Turnbull & Asser shirts in Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough. The spread collar is Bond’s favourite collar to wear with black tie, even when he wears other collars with his regular suits.

George Lazenby wears a point collar in On Her Majesty's Secret Service

George Lazenby wears a point collar in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

The Point Collar

The point collar has the narrowest spread of the three basic collar. It is sometimes also called a forward point collar or a straight collar. Americans may call this a classic collar. The button-down collar is usually a variation on the point collar with a softer or no interfacing and buttons that hold down the collar points. The point collar best flatters men with a round face or square jaw, whilst it would extended a long face or an angular jaw.

Bond has worn very few point collars in the series. Many of George Lazenby’s Frank Foster shirts in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service have point collars, but a large amount of tie space prevents the collars from looking too narrow. It isn’t the ideal collar for Lazenby, but it doesn’t look bad on him either. Roger Moore’s Frank Foster shirts in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker also have point collars, and even without the oversized they collars are too narrow for Moore’s angular jaw.

Daniel Craig wearing a semi-spread collar in Quantum of Solace

Daniel Craig wearing a semi-spread collar in Quantum of Solace

The Semi-Spread Collar

The collar that almost any man can look good in is the semi-spread collar. It is a moderate spread collar that is narrower than classic spread collar but wider than a point collar. Some call this the Kent collar, after Prince George, Duke of Kent. Some in England also call this the classic collar, proving that there is no consensus on that term. When the collar spread is around a 45º angle is can be described as neither narrow nor wide, which makes the semi-spread collar a rather neutral collar. It’s the safest collar for any situation and won’t offend conservative dressers on either side of the pond.

The semi-spread collar is the collar James Bond wears most often throughout the series. However, it works best for people with an oval face like George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan. George Lazenby wears semi-spread collars on some of his Frank Foster shirts in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Roger Moore wears them on his Frank Foster shirts in Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun, Timothy Dalton wears them on his shirts in The Living Daylights, Pierce Brosnan wears them on his Sulka shirts in GoldenEye and Daniel Craig wears them on his Brioni shirts in Casino Royale and his Tom Ford shirts in Quantum of Solace.

Collar-Height

Height and Point Length

The height of the collar and the length of the collar points should always be considered, especially since there is a considerable variety available. Today, collars with a short height and shorts points are trendy because they complement the narrow lapels that are also popular. However, most men are not flattered by such skimpy collars. A short collar with short points flatters a man with a short neck and an overall smaller head. On most men, however, a short collar will make their neck look awkwardly long and their head look too large in proportion to the rest of their body. Timothy Dalton’s undersized spread collars in Licence to Kill are not a good choice for him. Whilst his neck looks fine with a short collar height—a slightly taller collar would still be better—his head looks large against the short collar points. Apart from in Licence to Kill, Bond has avoided wearing short collars.

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Roger Moore wearing a tall spread collar with long points in Octopussy

On the other hand, a collar that is too tall with points too long will overwhelm the face. A short neck will disappear under a tall collar, and a long points shrink the head. Roger Moore is known for wearing tall collars with long points, especially in his films from The Spy Who Loved Me and later. These large collars work for Roger Moore, and not just in the context of his wide lapels. His neck is long and his head is fairly large. In Live and Let Die, Moore wears a spread collar that is so tall it fastens with two stacked buttons. Few men have such a long neck that they truly need a two-button collar, but the second button provides a necessary rigidity so it can withstand the pressure from a tie. Daniel Craig’s tall Brioni collars in Casino Royale shorten his neck, though the point length is a good medium. The long Tom Ford collar points in Quantum of Solace make Craig’s head look a little small.

Extreme-Collars

Extreme Collars: Cutaway, Narrow Point and Beyond

The extreme collars, such as the cutaway collar and narrow point collar, are for those who want to make fashion statements. The spread collar is sometimes called a cutaway collar, but the cutaway collar term is ordinarily reserved for the especially wide examples. Some may call the wide cutaway collar a Windsor collar. Like the spread collar, the cutaway can only look good on someone with a very angular face. But even the most angular faces will still look best in a regular spread collar. Rather than widen a narrow, angular jaw, the contrast from a cutaway collar may start to emphasise it. Likewise, the roundest faces will not be flattered more by a very narrow point collar than by a classic point collar. A very narrow collar cannot balance the weight of a large head and will end up looking like a balloon on a string.

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Sean Connery wearing a cutaway collar in Dr. No

These extreme collars have only been worn occasionally in the Bond films. Sean Connery wears cutaway collars on his Turnbull & Asser shirts throughout Dr. No, Roger Moore wears a cutaway collar on his Frank Foster shirt with morning dress in A View to a Kill and Pierce Brosnan wears Brioni shirts with cutaway collars in Die Another Day. Pierce Brosnan’s collars get wider with every Bond film he does, though the cutaway collar is certainly too wide for his oval face. The extreme cutaway collars that are trendy today are more severe than James Bond’s examples, whilst Bond’s cutaway collars are more like the collar originally made popular by the Duke of Windsor.

The tab collar that Daniel Craig wears on his Tom Ford shirts in Skyfall is like a variation on the narrow point collar. A narrow point collar would not flatter Daniel Craig’s angular face, but the his tab collar is a little different. The curve around the tie softens Craig’s angular jawline, and the collar points flare out below the tab to give the collar some needed breadth. If the collar just went straight down without the curves and flare it would not be the least bit flattering to Daniel Craig’s face. Still, a spread collar is a better choice for Daniel Craig’s angular jaw.

Daniel Craig wearing a tab collar in Skyfall

Daniel Craig wearing a tab collar in Skyfall

What collars do you wear?

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Mainly Millicent: Roger Moore’s First Appearance as James Bond

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In an episode of the BBC sketch comedy show Mainly Millicent from July 1964, Roger Moore played James Bond nine years before he officially played the role in Live and Let Die. Mainly Millicent starred English actress Millicent Martin, and in this sketch she plays Russian spy Sonia Sekova on holiday. James Bond is also on holiday and is dressed down in a light grey tweed sports coat with a small, subtle check. The sketch can be found on the Live and Let Die DVD and Blu-ray disc as well as on YouTube.

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In this sketch Roger Moore’s James Bond outfit is almost identical to his Simon Templar outfits. Access to Moore’s wardrobe for The Saint wouldn’t have been difficult since both The Saint and Mainly Millicent were filmed at ATV’s Elstree studios (http://www.tvstudiohistory.co.uk/studio%20history.htm), which are in Hertfordshire just outside of London. Moore actually first wears this sports coat in The Saint’s second series episode “The Work of Art” in 1963. In a January 1964 episode titled “Luella”, Simon Templar convinces a woman that he is James Bond, and he is wearing this sports coat. That episode also features Moore’s Live and Let Die co-star David Hedison. This grey tweed jacket made it into the colour episodes five years later, and I previously wrote about how Moore dresses it down in the episode “The Death Game”. See it in colour!

The same grey tweed jacket in "The Death Game"

The same grey tweed jacket in “The Death Game”

Cyril Castle made this jacket in the usual button three single-breasted style he made for Moore throughout the 1960s. The cuts of the suit jackets and sports coats vary a little in the shoulders and chest, depending on how dressy they are. This is one of the least dressy sports coats and thus has natural shoulders without roping and has more drape in the chest. The waist is cut closely in the back, though from the front it looks a little shapeless. Interestingly, the quarters are cut more square and not as rounded as they ordinarily are on Cyril Castle’s jackets. This jacket is detailed with swelled edges, single-button cuffs, open square patch pockets with rounded corners, a welt breast pocket and short, six-inch double vents.

Like most of Moore’s jackets from The Saint, this jacket has very narrow lapels that aren’t all that flattering to Moore, especially due to the drape in the chest. The drape cut was developed in the 1930s when wide lapels were trendy and complemented the wide chest, so ultra-narrow lapels don’t go well with most of Moore’s jackets in The Saint. Despite the narrow lapels, Cyril Castle’s jackets are cut very well.

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In Mainly Milicent, Moore wears this jacket with dark trousers that are probably charcoal. They actually look black, but it is unlikely that they would be. They are cut with narrow, tapered legs. If they are like Moore’s other trousers from this era they have a darted front and frogmouth pockets. He wears his usual shirt from The Saint: ecru with a classic spread collar and double cuffs. The tie, however, is where Moore dresses more like James Bond than Simon Templar. Whilst Templar’s solid ties are satin silk and brightly-coloured, for his first appearance as James Bond he wears the classic Bond tie: a black knitted silk tie, tied in a four-in-hand knot. During a fight, Moore’s tie becomes dislodged from inside his jacket and hangs outside of it for the rest of the sketch, revealing the square bottom. Moore’s shoes are black and have very tall, two-inch “cuban” heels, which were made popular at the time by The Beatles. They’re the trendiest part of the outfit and certainly not something James Bond would wear, but they’re hardly seen.

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It’s not surprising that Moore wears his Saint wardrobe in this sketch, but the black knitted tie is the perfect touch. Someone on the staff for Mainly Millicent must have read Ian Fleming’s novels and knew that James Bond wears a black knitted tie. It was a simple way to dress Simon Templar more like Bond. Since this episode is from the summer of 1964, Goldfinger had not yet been released and that would be the first time the film Bond wears a knitted tie.

The grey tweed jacket in Luella in the scene where Bond whispers to a woman that he is James Bond

The same grey tweed jacket in the Saint episode “Luella” This is from the scene where Templar whispers to a woman that he is James Bond

The Saint: A Glen Urquhart Check Suit

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The Saint’s first episode “The Talented Husband”, which premiered a day before Dr. No on Thursday the 4th of October 1962, briefly introduces Roger Moore’s incarnation of Simon Templar quite similarly-dressed to Bond in a black shawl-collar dinner jacket. However, the first lounge suit Moore wears in this episode is a Glen Urquhart check suit, most likely in grey and cream but possibly in brown and cream. It has a light-coloured overcheck that is probably light blue, which would go well with either a grey or a brown check. The first lounge suit of the series established the generally pared-down look for Roger Moore’s tailored wardrobe in the show’s first four black-and-white series. All of Moore’s suits for The Saint were made by Cyril Castle of Conduit Street in London. Moore later wears this Glen Urquhart check suit in the first series episodes “The Loaded Tourist”, “The Element of Doubt”, “The Man Who Was Lucky” and “The Charitable Countess”, and in second series episodes as well.

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The suit jacket is cut with natural shoulders, roped sleeveheads, a full-cut—but clean—chest and a suppressed waist. A low button stance makes Roger Moore’s chest look more masculine and imposing, and narrow lapels add to this effect. The lapels are roughly the same width as Sean Connery’s lapels in his mid-1960s Bond films, but these lapels are the widest of all the suits’ lapels in The Saint. Most of Moore’s other suits’ lapels are a bit narrower and less flattering to Moore’s build.

The jacket is detailed with straight, flapped hip pockets, a flapped ticket pocket and three buttons on the cuffs. This jacket has one major difference from all of Moore’s other suit jackets in the black-and-white episodes of The Saint; whilst most of them have a single vent, this suit jacket has roughly 8-inch double vents. The buttons match the overall colour of the suit—either light grey or light brown—but the buttonholes contrast in a much darker colour. The suit’s trousers have a darted front and frogmouth pockets. The legs are full-cut through the thigh and tapered neatly to much narrower plain hems.

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With this suit Moore wears what is most likely a pale blue shirt, which would match the suit’s blue overcheck. If the shirt isn’t blue it would have to be ecru. It has a spread collar and rounded double cuffs. His narrow, medium-dark satin tie—which I guess is red—is tied in a small, asymmetrical four-in-hand knot. His shoes are light brown slip-ons, which are an appropriate match for this sporty suit. Moore wears a straight-folded white linen handkerchief in his suit jacket’s breast pocket.

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This episode features the Bond girl actress Shirley Eaton, who, two years later, would go on to play her most famous role: the gold-painted Jill Masterson in Goldfinger. She gives a solid performance with Moore for a great start to the seven years of The Saint.

A Blue Anorak for a Mountaintop Battle

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For On Her Majesty’s Secret Service‘s climax battle at Piz Gloria, James Bond wears a medium blue anorak with matching trousers or salopettes. The suit of anorak and trousers is made of wind-proof and waterproof material and is lined for warmth. An anorak is similar to a parka, but it is distinguished by being hip-length instead of knee-length, is a pull-over and has drawstrings to cinch the waist. The waist drawstrings prevent the bulky anorak from being completely shapeless, but they also help retain warmth. These features of the anorak are all present on Bond’s example. The anorak also has a large hood that cinches around the neck with drawstrings.

The anorak’s full fit does not impede movement, and Bond moves quite well in it. It has straps with a slide-buckle on the sleeves to keep the arms warmer. It is detailed with inset pockets on either side of the top of the chest, which have velcro-secured flaps. There are also inset hip pockets on either side that close with a zip fastening.

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Bond’s anorak also has a strap that connects the bottom of the front with the bottom of the back between the legs. I am unable to tell how the strap is fastened, though I would guess it uses velcro. It keeps the coat secured when Bond is jumping and sliding about, as well as in strong winds, but it should hopefully come easily undone if there is too much stress on the strap. A strap between the legs is one place a secure fastening is not a good thing! Whilst the strap pulls the anorak tightly in front, it hangs looser in the rear. The coat was probably designed for winter sports, and that’s why it has the strap.

Notice the strap between Bond's legs.

Notice the strap between Bond’s legs.

The medium blue trousers that match the anorak are tucked into black weather-treated suede or suede-like ankle boots with thick black rubber soles. They have a thin strap over the vamp that fastens with a steel buckle over the sole on the right side of the boot. Bond wears black leather gloves with a thick insulating lining, and the seams are sewn on the inside. The gloves are gathered at the wrist and secure with a slide-buckle on the sides.

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The jumper’s collar and cuffs peak out from the anorak

Under the anorak, Bond wears a very thick steel blue wool mock poloneck jumper. Only a peak of the ribbed polo neck collar and a ribbed cuff of the jumper is seen, and the jumper is seen only very briefly.

Draco wears the same outfit as Bond, though he wears a light brown leather utility belt over his. Draco’s men dress similarly in white anoraks and white trousers, but in the same mock polo-neck jumpers and black boots that Bond and Draco wear, and a little more of the jumper can be seen on them. Bond’s outfit is provided by Draco and is neither his own outfiit nor something provided by MI6.

Draco in the same outfit as Bond, but with a utility belt.

Draco in the same outfit as Bond, but with a utility belt.

Not Mad About Benz’s tailor

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“Not mad about his tailor, are you?” says Bond to Kerim Bey about Benz’s suit. Benz is a Russian security agent played by English actor Peter Bayliss in From Russia with Love. Why doesn’t Bond like Benz’s suit? The first thing that stands out about this suit is not due to the tailor’s work but is the suit’s garish cloth. The suit is light grey with large horizontal ribs and black chalk stripes, which are muted by the grey base. Dark stripes can sometimes work on a suit, but not against the contrast of a light grey ground. The black chalk stripes immediately mark Benz as an enemy.

Benz-Stripe-Suit

It’s no surprise that Bond does not favour Benz’s tailor’s work. The button one suit jacket has a very full drape cut, which had become very unfashionable in the 1960s. It looks like it was made in the 1940s. The chest is full with a lot of drape and the waist is gently suppressed. The shoulders are wide, but they are well done with natural-looking padding and cleanly-draped, full sleeves. The cut of the jacket is meant to make Benz look like a much stronger man than he is, but that deception is apparent when Bond turns his suit jacket into a straight jacket and exposes Benz’s shoulders.

The suit jacket is detailed with jetted pockets, no vent and four-button cuffs. The lapels have a steep gorge, which both makes the lapels seem wider than they are and makes the medium gorge height seem lower than it is. The lapels have a very wide notch. The suit’s buttons are black plastic to match the black stripes and sewn with grey thread to match the suit. The suit’s trousers are full-cut with pleats and have wide legs with turn-ups.

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Benz wears a rather cheap-looking cream shirt with his suit. It has a short, moderate spread collar and square single-button cuffs. The collar and cuffs are stitched 1/8″ from the edge, which is mostly what lends a cheap look to the shirt. Most top-quality makers have 1/4″ stitching on the collar and cuffs, and whilst there are some high-end makers that stitch the collar and cuffs 1/8″ or closer to the edge, it’s mostly done on poor-quality shirts.

Whilst Benz’s black satin silk tie complements the suit’s black stripes, the navy satin silk pocket square—folded in a winged puff—clashes with the tie. However, the navy pocket square matches Benz’s navy socks, which is quite creative. Benz’s shoes are black.

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Benz briefly is seen with a black felt hat, but the type of hat is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Instead of the crown tapering upward, the crown bells out like on a top hat. The crown is much shorter than a top hat’s crown, and the top is domed. The brim is turned down all the way around. The hat has a black grosgrain ribbon with a large bow. Is anyone familiar with the style of Benz’s hat, seen on top of his briefcase below?

Benz-Hat

Ian Fleming did not write about Benz’s suit in the From Russia with Love novel, but he wrote about Benz’s dressing gown:

Reluctantly, his heavy face pale with anger, the M.G.B. man who called himself Benz stepped out into the corridor in a brilliant blue silk dressing-gown. The hard brown eyes looked straight into Bond’s, ignoring him … Bond noticed the bulge under the left arm of the dressing-gown, and the ridge of a belt round the waist. He wondered if he should tip off the plain-clothes man. He decided it would be better to keep quiet. He might be hauled in as a witness.

At least Fleming’s Benz had fine taste in loungewear, though all he wears in the film is his one striped suit.