The Avengers: Steed’s Signature Suit

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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.

Marnie: A Glen Check Suit Appropriate For Bond

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In honour of Sean Connery’s 84th birthday earlier this week, let’s look at a glen check suit he wears in Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie that’s quite befitting for James Bond. The lightweight black and white glen check cloth is in a hopsack weave, and it’s very similar to the cloth of the glen check suit that Connery wears in Goldfinger. However, the two-and-two—or puppytooth—section of the glen check has a smaller repeat. The cloth is approximated in the diagram below.

Marnie-Glen-Check

The button three suit jacket has narrow lapels that roll through the top button but not down to the middle button. The jacket is cut with a full chest, natural shoulders and roped sleeveheads, and it has no vent, three buttons on the cuffs and pockets with very narrow flaps. The buttons are grey horn, as opposed to the grey plastic buttons that are on Sean Connery’s worsted Anthony Sinclair suits for Bond. Not much of the trousers can be seen, but they most likely follow the other suit trousers in the film and have double forward pleats, turn-ups and button-tab side-adjusters.

Marnie-Glen-Check-1

The white shirt—it looks cream, but I suspect that’s due to the way the film is treated because all of the colours have been warmed—has a spread collar, rounded single-button cuffs and a placket stitched close to the centre like on Frank Foster’s shirts. The narrow black repp tie—which isn’t as interesting as the textured dark grenadine ties Sean Connery often wears as Bond—anchors the overall light-coloured outfit by giving the outfit the necessary contrast to flatter Connery’s cool, high-contrast complexion. Because the tie is so narrow, it’s difficult to tell if the symmetrical knot he is using a Windsor or Half Windsor knot. Connery secures his tie with a tie bar that is mostly obscured by his jacket, slightly angled downward and placed about an inch below the jacket’s top button.

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Kerim Bey: Light Grey Suit

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Kerim Bey, played by Pedro Armendáriz in From Russia with Love, is not only one of the most charismatic characters of the James Bond series, but he is also one of the best-dressed. In a number of scenes he wears a light grey pick-and-pick wool suit, made of different shades of grey for more depth in the cloth than a solid light grey would have.

Kerim-Bey-2The suit jacket has straight shoulders, a clean chest and three buttons down the front. The buttons are spaced closer together than on a contemporary button three jacket, and the middle button is placed at the waist level. This jacket could look good either with the top two buttons fastened—the way Bey wears the jacket—or with only the middle button fastened. The lapels have a nice roll above the top button, but that roll would continue further down if only the middle button were fastened. The jacket has moderately narrow lapels, and a long collar makes the lapel notches smaller than usual for a more fashionable 1960s look. The jacket also has three buttons on the cuffs, jetted pockets and no vent. The suit trousers have a tapered leg with turn-ups, and, most likely, reverse pleats.

Kerim-Bey-3Bey wears a cream shirt with a spread collar, placket and double cuffs, and he shows a folded white linen handkerchief in his jacket’s breast pocket. He wears two ties with this suit. His first tie is charcoal grey satin with a pairing of a white stripe and a slightly wider black stripe going down from the Bey’s right shoulder to his left hip, opposite the traditional English direction. Bey wears this tie when he first meets Bond and on the Orient Express. The second tie’s stripes go the other direction, up from Bey’s right hip to his left shoulder. This tie has a silver satin ground with a thin black stripe, a wide dark grey stripe beneath it with a space in between, another thin black stripe with a wide dark grey stripe touching it beneath it, and a thin brown stripe spaced below. Bey wears the second tie when he discusses with Bond the plans to steel the Lektor. Bey’s shoes are black.

A Well-Cut Suit from a Cut Scene

Quantum-Cut-Scene-Grey-SuitA scene deleted from the end of Quantum of Solace has James Bond in a grey suit that isn’t used in the final cut of the film. The suit is made of a medium weight serge wool, with light grey in the warp and charcoal in the weft. The resulting medium-dark grey is more flattering to Daniel Craig’s light, warm spring complexion than the dark suits he wears throughout the final cut of the film are. This suit, however, does not give Bond the meaner look that the dark suits give him.

The grey suit is made by Tom Ford in the same Regency model that the other suits in the film are made in. The suit jacket has three buttons with the lapels rolled to the middle button, which gives the suit a button two silhouette. It has slightly-pagoda-shaped shoulders with pronounced roping at the sleeveheads. The cut is clean through the chest and suppressed in the waist. The jacket also has straight flapped pockets with a ticket pocket, double vents and five buttons on the cuffs. The suit trousers have a flat front and side adjusters. Under the suit, Bond wears a white Tom Ford shirt with a spread collar and double cuffs. The Tom Ford tie is navy with a pattern of small white dots, tied in a Windsor knot.

Below I’ve illustrated how this suit is more flattering on Daniel Craig than a darker suit is. The image in the middle is of the grey suit from the cut scene, unaltered by myself. On the left I darkened the suit to be a deep charcoal grey like the suit he wears in London in Quantum of Solace. The dark suit, especially with contrast of the white shirt, overpowers his complexion and washes him out a little. It’s not really that bad, but it could be a lot better. On the right I’ve kept the suit medium dark grey but turned the white shirt into sky blue to show how the outfit could further be improved. A sky blue shirt, like the shirts Daniel Craig wears in Skyfall, is the best on Daniel Craig. Not only does the sky blue flatter his skin tone, it also brings out his most important feature: his blue eyes.

Suit-Shirt-Comparison

Tailoring a Suit to Conceal a Firearm

There's a slight bulge in Sean Connery's suit concealing a PPK

There’s a slight bulge in Sean Connery’s Anthony Sinclair suit concealing a PPK

In every Bond film except Moonraker, James Bond carries a small pistol, and it’s usually in a shoulder holster concealed under his suit jacket. The pistol is either a Walther PPK, a Walther P99 or, in Octopussy, a Walther P5. Due to the magic of filmmaking, the prop department can hold onto Bond’s gun and place it and/or the holster inside the jacket only when needed. Consequently, Bond’s suits usually do not need to tailored to fit a gun underneath. Bond only needs to wear his gun inside his suit jacket when he’s about to pull the gun out or when he removes his jacket. Many of Bond’s suit jackets could not realistically hide a gun.

The-Man-with-the-Golden-Gun-Concealed-Carry

There’s a noticeable bulge in Roger Moore’s Cyril Castle jacket, which clearly isn’t cut to fit a gun.

Sean Connery’s, Timothy Dalton’s and Pierce Brosnan’s suits would be the best at concealing a firearm since they are cut full in the chest. The closer fits that George Lazenby, Roger Moore and Daniel Craig wear would not be so effective at concealing a firearm. A fit that hugs the body won’t leave any room for a firearm, and the tight suits in Skyfall that hardly leave enough room for Daniel Craig certainly won’t fit his PPK. An open jacket can conceal the gun well and also allow quick access. Wearing the jacket open works better with suits made in heavier cloths that won’t blow open in the wind. A three-piece suit is more presentable when the jacket is worn open

Roger Moore's double-breasted dinner suit has a low button stance that allows easy access to his PPK

Roger Moore’s double-breasted dinner suit made by Douglas Hayward has a low button stance that allows easy access to his PPK

High-buttoning single-breasted suits and double-breasted suits are the worst for carrying a gun in a shoulder holster because the smaller opening makes it difficult to access the gun. Roger Moore manages to pull his PPK out from inside his buttoned double-breasted suits on numerous occasions with impossible ease. Lower-buttoning double-breasted suits like Roger Moore’s dinner suit in A View to a Kill aren’t so much of a problem.

When a suit is tailored for concealed carry, the chest has extra fullness and is shaped around the gun. A stiffer canvas like what English tailors traditionally use helps prevent “printing”, which is when the gun leaves a visible imprint in clothing. Anthony Sinclair’s suits had the characteristics that a good suit for concealed carry should have. Sinclair spoke about his suits in a GQ article in 1965:

If you use a good woollen, tailor the insides properly, you should be able to take the suit, roll it into a ball, shake it out and have it fall into perfect shape. It’s the fabric and canvas and inner work you invest in a garment that should do the work.

Notice the bulge in Pierce Brosnan's dinner jacket

Notice the bulge in Pierce Brosnan’s Brioni dinner jacket

This kind of resilience will also help to hide a firearm. Softer Italian suits need to be cut even fuller to better conceal a firearm.

I have never carried a gun myself, so I do not write from personal experience. If you have personal experience in concealing a gun under a suit, feel free to share below.

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.

Felix Leiter: The Seersucker Suit

Leiter-Seersucker

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.

Driving in a Suit

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When you drive, do you wear your suit jacket or hang it up? James Bond always chooses to drive in his suit jacket because he’s usually in a hurry to get in or out of his car. Besides that, it just wouldn’t look elegant for him to remove his jacket to simply get in the car. There’s no need for Bond to remove his jacket in the car because the magic of filmmaking means that Bond’s suit won’t be wrinkled when exits his car. And since his suit only has to last for a small part of a single film he doesn’t need to worry about seatbelt abrasion. The problems of wrinkling and abrasion have become more noticeable to the average suit wearer with the rise in popularity of lighter cloth weights and higher super numbers, which both make the wool less wrinkle resistant and more prone to shining with abrasion.

Driving-Dr-NoBut what about the physical act of driving in a suit? A well-fitting suit shouldn’t constrict movement. The key to being able to move the arms is high armholes. That means the armhole is smaller and hugs the armpit. Feeling the bottom of the armhole in your armpit may give the impression of being constricting, but it is actually quite the opposite. A higher armhole means that less of the suit jacket moves when the arm is raised, and it helps the arm to move more independently of the rest of the jacket. A little ease over the shoulder blades also gives the arms more range of movement. Nevertheless, it helps to unbutton the jacket when driving.

Driving-TWINEThe higher armhole is demonstrated whenever Bond is driving. The jacket sleeve rides up to reveal most of the shirt cuff, which shouldn’t ride up as much as the jacket sleeve does. If the armhole is too low or the suit is too tight, the jacket sleeve will ride up more.

The same goes for riding a motorcycle as it does for driving a car, though James Bond is probably the only person who rides a motorcycle in a suit. In Skyfall, Daniel Craig wears a suit specifically made with longer sleeves for riding a motorcycle (below) so that the amount of shirt cuff that shows when he is riding is consistent with the amount that shows when he is standing with his arms at his side. It’s nonsensical to expect the same amount of shirt cuff to show no matter the arms positions, and I find it absurd that Skyfall’s costume designer Jany Temime felt that a special suit needed to be fitted for riding a motorcycle. Since the sleeves are expected to rise up when the arms are bent, it looks like the sleeves are too long. Plus, it’s a missed opportunity to show off Bond’s cufflinks!

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