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.

19 thoughts on “The Avengers: The High Button Two Suit

  1. Is an interesting example of new edwardian style mixed with mid 60s trends.
    I think that today this suit could be fashionable.
    Notes that this suit is slender,but not “skinny”.

  2. Tightly nipped at the waist and quite dandyish. I agree that this is something that would be accepted in today’s fashion.

  3. I agree that this strongly resembles the suits being cut today by many fashionable designers. My biggest complaint about this style (and the prevailing look right now) is that it makes the wearer look more like a boy than a man.

    • I don’t think this suit resembles current fashions at all. They have two things in common: a fitted waist and narrow trouser legs. But today’s fashionable suits are smaller in every way, not just in the waist. Fashionable suits today are cut with jackets a size smaller and a length shorter than what they traditionally would measure, the trousers have a narrow leg with a low rise. I don’t think the narrow waist on Steed’s suit make him look like a boy because there is still fullness in the right places. And though they have a narrow leg, the trousers aren’t skin tight and have a proper rise.

      • I also include the high button stance as a similarity. Although I understand that the button placement here is acceptable due to the deliberate styling of the suit, it still produces something that is visually much closer to today’s too-high button stance than to the traditional two-button placement. The length, at least in the final picture, also appears to be on the short side of traditional and the lapels are quite thin.

        I agree that this suit is more tastefully proportioned than those currently popular. However, I still find enough of a resemblance to current fashions that I am comfortable saying that this suit would not look out of place on the streets today.

        • Really? I measured out the proportions of the jacket to the body and I find that the jacket is slightly long, like the traditional English cut. He appears to have long arms. I wouldn’t compare this to the currently fashionable high button stance either because both the cut and the intent is completely different. On the modern 2-button the waist is raised up a few inches. On this jacket the waist is right where it should be, but at the bottom button. Picture this suit with a third button at the bottom and then you get a very traditional equestrian silhouette. But you’re probably right that this suit could fit in today, due to the narrow legs and peaked lapels.

      • Matt,

        I agree that this is a quite masculine and adult silhouette. The only thing I’m not crazy about are the open-vent cuffs.

        • Someone else didn’t like the open cuffs either. After this episode, a link-button was added to these cuffs, though it looked a bit tight. Roger Moore also wore open cuffs like these on a suit in The Man Who Haunted Himself.

  4. So this isn’t a Paddock coat/jacket then? Or is it?

    Despite going back and looking at your article dealing with Paddock coats, I confess I’m still having difficulty telling them apart.

  5. Matt have right.
    The trend of today is a sort of degenerate version of early-mid 60s fashions.
    But is ready to wear.
    The strange thing is that this Steed suit should be the bespoke silhouette of today,
    instead on the rack we have the ugly Pee Wee Herman model,and the tailors cut and sew suits that look to eternal 30s,like double breasteds with large lapels.

    • “The trend of today is a sort of degenerate version of early-mid 60s fashions.”
      I couldn’t agree more with you, and it’s really a shame. We see this terrible cut of today in every actual movie, from Skyfall (no comment…) to The Great Gatsby.
      But why do you talk about a “bespoke silhouette” ? Even if tailors often have a typical style, at least “historic” tailors do, the whole interest of bespoke is that there’s no predefinite silhouette and that you could ask a 30s, 50s, 90s style suit, or whatever style you want ! Off the rack style limits don’t exist anymore. At least it’s my humble opinion.

      “the tailors cut and sew suits that look to eternal 30s” : being particulary fan of this style and this era, would you mind being more precise ? I am just curious, I can’t afford bespoke suits at all, but what tailors have you in mind ?

  6. While there is a lot about this suit that I like, the high button stance doesn’t do Macnee any favors, the previously shown one-button suit was a much better design for him. I was wondering if this was one of the Pierre Cardin suits?

  7. The suit itself is an interesting exercise of neo-edwardian style. I wonder why it’s not double-vented, adn with a ticket pocket, for an all British look.
    Otherwise I don’t think the very nipped waist and slender look flatter Steed at all. In the second picture, the suit looks a little like it can explode any moment if Steed moves abruptly…
    I like the open cuffs and tie pattern though, even if it’s barely seen.

    • In 1966, single vents were still more common for single-breasted suits. Double vents became standard a few years later. Ticket pockets aren’t usually put on city suits like this.

      • Really ? I thought it was a very typical English feature, at least it’s supposed to be today. I remember Lindy Hemming adding it on several Brosnan suits to anglicize them, as she said. But I guess it’s a feature better suited for a sport jacket, or a tweed suit, rather than on a 3-piece suit. Connery had one on his Goldfinger suit, but I suppose you will answer it’s a glen plaid, so it’s less formal…
        But this suit itself has a plaid pattern, as you wrote it ! :)

        • It’s a typical English feature on sports coats and country suits, but there’s no reason for it here. It’s not typical on city suits. The slanted pockets and waistcoat details already add enough country flavour to this suit, and a ticket pocket might be a step too far. The suiting here is more formal than a light grey plaid.

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