The Avengers: Steed’s Signature Suit

Steed-Brown-Suit-Velvet-Collar

With the first day of September here, it’s time in the Northern Hemisphere to look toward autumn clothes. John Steed of The Avengers, played by Patrick Macnee, wears mostly autumn appropriate clothes with some of the most interesting details. Previously I’ve written about his navy high button two suit and his grey three-piece suit with covered buttons, but now I’m finally getting around to writing about one of his signature suits. This signature suit jacket style has a button one front, no breast pocket and a velvet collar that usually matches the colour of the suit. The jackets have different pocket and vent styles. Macnee said of his signature suits:

I like the idea of velvet for the collars, it helps mould and complement the suits. There are no breast pockets and only one button to give the best moulding to the chest. Plus a deliberately low waist, to give the effect of simplicity, but with an individual style.

According to the book Reading between Designs by Piers D. Britton and Simon J. Barker, Macnee designed his own suits with the help of tailor Bailey and Weatherill of Regent Street. Steed’s signature style made its way in various forms throughout all the seasons of The Avengers and The New Avengers.

Notice the mother-of-pearl buttons on the waistcoat

Notice the mother-of-pearl buttons on the waistcoat

The pale brown flannel suit featured in this article—he also wears his signature suit in other shades of brown, grey, blue, olive and burgundy—is taken from the 1967 episode “The £50,000 Breakfast” and has a button one front, a velvet collar and no breast pocket. Single-button cuffs, double vents placed further to the sides than usual, and slanted, jetted hip pockets contribute to the ultra-sleek look of the suit. The jacket is cut with straight shoulders on the natural shoulder line, a clean chest, closely-fitted waist and flared skirt. The low waist that Macnee mentioned in the quote above is particularly flattering to his not-so-slim figure. The suit’s waistcoat has six buttons and a straight-across bottom. The trousers have a trim, tapered leg and probably a flat front. The buttons on the suit are black mother of pearl.

Steed-Brown-Suit-Velvet-Collar-4Steed wears a cream herringbone silk shirt with a wide spread collar—it’s not quite a cutaway collar—that has a copious amount of tie space. Such a wide collar is not flattering to Macnee’s very round face, and a more moderate spread would be ideal for him. However, the wide collar and large amount of tie space provide plenty of room for the windsor knot he uses to tie his steel blue repp tie. A simple tie is necessary because there is so much going on in the suit’s details. Steed’s umbrella has a pale brown canopy that matches his suit and a whangee wood handle. His sandy beige bowler hat has a dark brown ribbon. Steed’s shoes are light grey suede slip-ons with cap-toe and monk strap, but the vamp is low like on a slip-on shoe rather than high like on a monk shoe. The shoes are actually very similar to George Lazenby’s shoes in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Steed’s light grey socks match his shoes.

Few people could get away with dressing like John Steed, and even Steed looks somewhat ridiculous. But his clothes show creativity in a way that doesn’t look garish or sacrifice good tailoring, and they serve as an excellent inspiration for those looking to have a little extra fun when bespeaking a suit.

The Avengers: The High Button Two Suit

John-Steed-Escape-in-Time-Suit

Once again, let’s take a look at a suit worn by a man who has a lot in common with James Bond: John Steed. This three-piece suit made in a light navy tone-on-tone plaid is featured in The Avengers fifth series opening titles. It first appears in “Escape in Time” and is used in a number of subsequent episodes. The suit was made by Hammond & Boyle, located at 22 New Quebec St. in Marylebone.

John-Steed-Escape-in-Time-Suit-2

The suit jacket is unusual on two levels. The first part that makes the jacket different is that is is single-breasted with peaked lapels. Peaked lapels on a single-breasted suit jacket were common in the 1930s and 40s, and they have recently seen a resurgence. The lapels are a little narrower than halfway across the chest, a marginal concession to 1960s fashions. The other thing that sets this jacket apart is the high stance of the two buttons on the front. It’s cut like a button three jacket but without the bottom button. This is an older style that was popular earlier in the twentieth century and pre-dates the modern button two style. This jacket is to a button three as a button one is to a button two. In “Escape in Time” Steed does up both buttons, but in some other episodes he only fastens the bottom button, which is placed at the waist. The jacket is tailored with straight shoulders, a clean chest, a very shaped waist and a flared skirt for a very British silhouette. It has a welt breast pocket, slanted flap pockets and a single-vented skirt. The cuffs have an open vent with no overlap and no buttons. The suit trousers have a flat front and narrow leg. The waistcoat is a button six with lapels, a straight hem, two upper welt pockets and two lower flap pockets.

John-Steed-Escape-in-Time-Suit-3Steed’s shirt is a fine white on white stripe with a wide spread collar and double cuffs. His tie is an ancient madder print of magenta on a dark indigo ground with mustard yellow accents, and he ties it in a windsor knot. Steed’s shoes are black chelsea boots and his hat is a black bowler. He carries an umbrella with a Whangee handle and black canopy.

John-Steed-Escape-in-Time-Suit-4This suit was auctioned at Profiles in History in Calabasas Hills, CA on 11 June 2010 for $6,000. You can see it here. In episodes after “Escape in Time” that feature this suit—if it is actually the same suit—a linked button is added to close the cuff and the vent is closed. It’s difficult to tell if the suit in the auction has the linked button on the cuffs. It’s not uncommon for a production to have multiples of each wardrobe item, though it’s less likely for a television show.

You can see my previous article about another one of John Steed’s suits here.

John Steed: The Man Two Girls Left For Bond

Avengers John Steed Grey Suit

Before James Bond came to the screen in 1962, a few secret agents had already been established on camera. Patrick MacNee may be best known to Bond fans for his role as Sir Godfrey Tibbett in A View to a Kill. Years earlier in 1961 he first starred as John Steed in The Avengers with future Bond girls Honor Blackman and Diana Rigg, and by 1962 he had established himself as one of the dandiest spies known for his bowler and umbrella. His suits were English and had an Edwardian flair, just as Roger Moore’s suits in colour episodes of The Saint have. But rather than having narrow lapels, shorter jackets lengths and drainpipe trousers, MacNee’s suits are classically proportioned in all ways. MacNee chose to set his suits apart with unique details such as velvet collars and cloth-covered buttons.

For the first four season MacNee wore English-tailored suits. The clothes in the fifth series are credited to Pierre Cardin, though later in that series MacNee again starts wearing some of his own English-tailored suits from the forth series and earlier, like the suit pictured here that dates back to the first series. Patrick MacNee was even credited for designing his own suits in the sixth series of the show, which very much resemble the suits from the fourth series and earlier with the single-button front and velvet collar. He was not credited for his wardrobe before the sixth series, but they were most likely created at his direction.

Avengers John Steed Grey Suit Cuff

This mid grey three-piece suit pictured in this article has a timeless cut that is undeniably the Savile Row cut, with a straight shoulder on the natural shoulder line, a fairly clean chest, closely-fitted waist and flared skirt. The jacket buttons one and has double vents, slanted flap pockets with a ticket pocket and a flap breast pocket. The jacket’s flared cuffs have a vent but neither a button nor an overlap. It’s a far more elegant option to not have buttons on the cuffs than it is to leave one open, as many choose to do these days. It also does a great job at framing the shirt’s double cuffs. Roger Moore later wore this style cuff on his adventurous double-breasted suit in The Man Who Haunted Himself. The waistcoat buttons six with very wide notch lapels and a straight bottom. All buttons on the jacket and waistcoat are covered in the suit’s grey cloth. The trousers have a flat front with cross pockets and plain bottoms.

MacNee wears a light blue shirt with a cutaway collar—a traditional cutaway that’s not as extreme and today’s fashionable variations can be—and double cuffs. The tie is mid grey with white polka dots, and it’s tied in a Windsor knot. MacNee often wore black ankle boots with elastic gussets with this type of suit, and a grey suede variation on occasion.

Avengers John Steed Grey Suit

The images of this suit come from one of it’s few appearances in colour, in the fifth series episode “You Have Just Been Murdered.” Though we’re seeing this suit in 1967, it was quite an adventurous style for when it was tailored in 1961. This appearance of the suit lacks Steed’s trademark bowler and umbrella, but we’ll see that and more the next time I write about The Avengers.

See the book Reading between Designs by Piers D. Britton and Simon J. Barker for a comprehensive overview of John Steed’s wardrobe.