The Man from U.N.C.L.E.: Dinner Suit and Backless Waistcoat

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Napoleon Solo, Ian Fleming’s creation for the American television series The Man from U.N.C.L.E played by Robert Vaughan, wears black tie just as well as James Bond does. Solo’s black tie style is not as pared-down as Bond’s is, and his clothes incorporate a little more 1960s fashions than Bond’s do. In the 1965 episode “The Virtue Affair”, Solo wears a midnight blue dinner suit with midnight blue satin silk trimmings and a double-breasted backless waistcoat.

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The dinner jacket is a button one with gently-rolled, narrow midnight-blue satin silk peaked lapels. The jetted pockets and single-button gauntlet cuffs are also trimmed in midnight blue satin silk. Silk-trimmed pocket jettings are not as traditional as body-trimmed jettings, which is the way James Bond’s dinner jackets typically are. Napoleon Solo’s dinner jacket has no vent. The shoulders are straight and narrow with a little padding, the chest is clean and the waist is gently shaped, though the jacket probably follows the American tradition and does not have front darts. The flat front trousers have a midnight blue satin stripe down the side of the leg and braces buttons on the outside of the waistband, which are not used.

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Solo’s backless waistcoat is made of midnight blue silk. The waistcoat’s shawl lapels are made in satin silk to match the jacket’s lapels but the waistcoat’s body is made in a fancier watered silk. Backless waistcoats are wear cooler than full-back waistcoats, so they’re often used as a warm-weather alternative to the cummerbund. Still, they can also be worn year-round. With the dinner jacket on—and it should always stay on when in the company of others—the backless waistcoat looks just the same as regular waistcoat. It looks rather unattractive when the jacket is off, as Solo demonstrates in his jail cell. It has an adjustable strap across the back of the waist like on a cummerbund, and it has an adjustable strap that curves around the back of the neck. This allows the off-the-peg waistcoat to fit a large variety of figures. Whilst Solo’s waistcoat appears to be ready-to-wear, bespoke tailors can make backless waistcoats as well. Solo’s waistcoat is double-breasted and has six buttons with three to button in a keystone arrangement. The waistcoat is in the low-cut evening style so the buttons have little vertical space between them.

With the dinner suit Solo wears an ivory dress shirt. It has a spread collar and double cuffs fastened with large round silver cuff links. The front has small pleats, which are also known as “swiss” pleats or “pin tucks”. The front placket has interesting scalloped edges and is fastened with three black studs. The back of the shirt has shoulder pleats. The bow tie is black and does not match the rest of the silk trimmings in the outfit, but it is not a significant faux pas considering it can be difficult to find proper midnight blue bow ties. Solo’s shoes are black patent leather plain-toe slip-ons.

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For more on Napoleon Solo, see the post I did on his black and white glen check suit.

The Persuaders: The Tweed Norfolk Suit

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In the 1971 episode of The Persuaders titled “A Home of One’s Own”, Roger Moore wears an old-fashioned Norfolk suit. The brown herringbone tweed sporting suit is made up of a Norfolk jacket and matching tweed trousers. The tweed in a light brown and dark brown herringbone is a classic cloth for the country, whilst also flattering Moore’s warm complexion. Though elements of the Norfolk jacket were popular in 1970s fashion, Moore’s is a very traditional model apart from the late 1960’s trouser cut. For background on the Norfolk jacket, I refer to some of the best menswear writers:

Alan Flusser writes in Dressing the Man that the Norfolk jacket is “considered the first sport jacket.”

Riccardo Villarosa and Giuliano Angeli describe the Norfolk jacket in The Elegant Man as “one of the first garments created especially for sporting activities”. They write about the origins of the jackets name: “It appears as if its name derives from the fact that it was cut for some of the guests at the Duke of Nofolk’s hunting party”.

Bernhard Roetzel writes about the Norfolk jacket in Gentleman: A Timeless Guide to Fashion: “It was especially made for shooting, and was therefore a real ‘designer jacket’ in the sense of being designed for a particular purpose, according to the principle that ‘form follows function'”.

Roger Moore’s character Lord Brett Sinclair appropriately wears his norfolk suit in the English country, and it is practical at keeping him warm. However, he does not wear the Norfolk jacket for it’s intended hunting purposes.

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Cyril Castle made Roger Moore’s Norfolk suit jacket in the same cut as the other suits in The Persuaders, with straight shoulders on the natural shoulder line, roped sleeveheads and full, but clean chest. This jacket follows the traditional button four front of the Norfolk jacket, as opposed to the standard three buttons on a regular tweed jacket, and all four buttons are meant to fasten. Though Norfolk jackets most often have a straight front, it’s an acceptable variation for the quarters to the slightly cutaway and curved like on Moore’s jacket. Moore usually has all the buttons fastened on his Norfolk jacket, but sometimes the top or the bottom button is left open in a continuity error. Whilst traditionally the Norfolk jacket has a deep single vent to the belt, Moore’s has deep double vents. It is detailed with swelled edges and two buttons on the cuffs, and the jacket’s buttons are made of dark brown horn.

Though bellows pockets are the most traditional style of hip pocket on a Norfolk jacket, Moore’s jacket has the less sporting but equally casual style of flapped, rounded patch pockets. Compared to standard patch pockets, these have a little extra fullness sewn into bottom of the pocket to make it more useful if Moore wanted to use them.

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The Norfolk jacket ultimately has two defining features: the belt and the sewn-down braces. The belt buttons through the jacket’s middle button and secures to the right of it with another button. Traditionally the belt is removable, but on Moore’s jacket the belt is sewn down to the back and sides. The braces-like straps are attached from the top of the front hip pockets, up over the shoulder and down to the belt at the waist in the rear. According to Villarosa and Angeli in The Elegant Man, the stitched braces are “designed to support the weight of cartridges in the pockets”. Since the braces go over the chest, the Norfolk jacket does not take a breast pocket.

The suit trousers with the Norfolk jacket match the style of the other trousers in The Persuaders and are made by Cyril Castle’s trouser maker at the time, Richard Paine. They have a dart on each side of the front, and an offset jetted frogmouth pocket cuts through the dart. The trousers legs are tapered to the knee and straight from the knee down in the style popular in the late 1960s. Fashions had already moved to wider and flared legs by the time of this show.

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With the Norfolk suit, Moore wears a beige poplin shirt made by Frank Foster with a spread collar, a front placket and button-down one-button cocktail cuffs. He first wears the collar open with a yellow, gold and brown floral silk day cravat, which keeps the outfit looking casual whilst guarding his neck from the cold. Later in the afternoon for drinks and cards at a local Inn where he is staying, Moore switches the day cravat for a buttoned collar with a gold tie that has a faint self-stripe pattern. He ties it in a four-in-hand knot. His shoes are brown side-zip boots with a square toe.

Moore also wears this Norfolk suit in the episodes “Greensleeves” and “The Time and the Place”.

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Crossplot: A Double-Breasted Pinstripe Suit from The Saint

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Roger Moore’s 1969 film Crossplot is like a cross between an episode of The Saint and a James Bond film. Moore plays talent scout Gary Fenn, who is identical in appearance to The Saint character Simon Templar except he has a more fashionable haircut that’s combed forward with longer sideburns. The Cyril Castle suits—an iridescent blue and red dinner jacket, a navy pinstripe double-breasted suit and a charcoal multi-stripe suit—and shirts in the film were taken straight out of Moore’s wardrobe for the final season of The Saint, which had just ended production.

The same suit in the episode of The Saint "The Scales of Justice"

The same suit and shirt, but with a grey tie, in the episode of The Saint “The Scales of Justice”

The navy double-breasted pinstripe suit, which this article will focus on, first appeared in The Saint‘s sixth series episode “The Time to Die” and later in “The Scales of Justice”. The suit’s cloth has very closely-spaced white pinstripes on navy, which from a short distance mixes with and mutes the navy to give the suit a semi-solid charcoal blue effect rather than a classic navy pinstripe look. Suits with closely-spaced pinstripes were something Roger Moore wears throughout The Saint and later wears in Moonraker.

Crossplot-Navy-Pinstripe-Suit-2The suit jacket is four-button double-breasted with two to button. It is similar to the classic six button double-breasted jacket but lacks the two vestigial buttons at the chest. Like Cyril Castle’s usual double-breasted suits, this one has a narrow wrap—or overlap—for a slimming effect on Moore. It is cut with natural shoulders and a full chest. It has narrow peaked lapels, which aren’t quite as narrow as the notched lapels Moore wears on his single-breasted suits in Crossplot and The Saint. The narrow peaked lapels are a little more flattering than his ultra-narrow notched lapels. The suit jacket is rakishly detailed with single-button gauntlet—or turnback—cuffs, slanted hip pockets with narrow flaps, and double vents. The suit trousers have a darted front, cross pockets and a tapered narrow leg, and they are worn with a black belt.

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Moore’s cream shirt is made by Bond-series shirtmaker Frank Foster in the same style as all of the shirts that Moore wears in the final series of The Saint. The shirt’s spread collar is larger in proportion to the tie and lapel width. Fashion typically dictates that shirt collar point length and tie and lapel width should match, but it’s usually more flattering to wear a collar that matches the face rather than the jacket’s lapels. The shirt has two-button cocktail cuffs, a plain front and a darted back. The shirt length is short compared to the traditional length of a tucked shirt, but in Frank Foster’s typical manner the shirt’s hem is only slightly curved and has vents on the side.

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The secretary ties Moore’s tie in a four-in-hand knot around her own neck, loosens it and then places it around Moore’s neck. It is solid light blue, and unstylishly Moore wears a matching light blue silk handkerchief in his breast pocket. But it is placed in the pocket in an unstudied two-point fold. It look as if he just stuffed it in his breast pocket and the two points formed naturally, but that is most likely not the case. Moore wears black socks, and his shoes are black slip-ons.

Crossplot-Navy-Pinstripe-Suit-BoxersSince we get to see Roger Moore dress into the suit, we get a look at parts of his outfit under the suit we don’t ordinarily get to see. Though we never get to see what James Bond wears under his trousers, Roger Moore’s underwear in Crossplot may give us a clue. When he changes his trousers we see his boxer shorts. They are light blue—perhaps purposely matching his tie—and probably a fine cotton poplin, which is one of the most comfortable types of woven cloths to wear as boxers.

Crossplot-Navy-Pinstripe-Suit-ShowerUnfortunately, the suit is ruined and shrunk in Crossplot when Moore is pushed off a boat into the water. Because of he is a gentleman, he leaves his suit, shirt and tie on when taking a shower to warm up when in the company of a lady.

For an additional James Bond connection, Bernard Lee, who plays M in the first 11 Bond films, appears in Crossplot.

Get Smart: A Creative Three-Piece Suit

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The 1960s was an adventurous time for men’s tailoring. Though Sean Connery’s James Bond wears some of the most conservative suits of the decade, Roger Moore’s suits in The Saint and Patrick Macnee’s suits in The Avengers show more creative tailoring. Most American tailors weren’t quite as audacious as some of the English tailors, but Don Adam’s tailor for Get Smart showed a lot of inventiveness. Adams played Maxwell Smart, an incompetent secret agent whose clothes were far more sophisticated than his manner. In the first episode of Get Smart’s second season “Anatomy of a Lover”, Adams wears a unique navy three-piece suit with a narrow-spaced pinstripe. Not uncommon for 1966, the jacket has only one button on the front. It is tailored with straight shoulders, roped sleeveheads, a draped chest and no vent. The jacket has a short length, which both follows the 1960s trends and makes the 5’9″ Adams look taller by extending the perceived length of his legs. The jacket is detailed with jetted pockets and single-button cuffs to match the single button on the front of the jacket. The jacket has a royal blue lining.

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The lapels and collar is where this jacket strays from convention. Though the jacket has the narrow lapels that were typical of the era, the lapels are peaked rather than notched. Today it’s not uncommon to find narrow peaked lapels on single-breasted jackets, but it wasn’t a popular trend of the 1960s. But there’s more that makes this jacket truly unique. The pinstripes on the lapels and collar interestingly follow the direction of the stripes on the front of the jacket. Ordinarily the stripes on the lapels follow the angle of the lapels and the stripes on collar follow the direction of the stripes on the back of the jacket. The stripes on the collar and lapel are superbly matched, which is made easier by the stripes’ narrow spacing.

Get-Smart-Navy-Pinstripe-Three-Piece-Suit-4The suit’s waistcoat has five buttons, two pockets and a straight bottom. The back of the waistcoat is made in a royal blue lining, but the inside of the waistcoat is lined in white. The suit’s trousers have a darted front and frogmouth pockets. The wide waistband extends across the front and is split in the rear to better contour to the back. The trousers are supported by navy boxcloth braces with black leather ends. Boxcloth is a heavy felt-like woollen that makes for very warm braces. Unlike on other braces, the excess length hangs down in front rather than being taken up underneath out of sight.

Get-Smart-Charcoal-Pinstripe-Three-Piece-Suit-3Adam’s pink pinpoint oxford shirt has a pinned collar and double cuffs. The pinned collar is made with eyelets for a pin to pass through, and the pin has a knob that unscrews on one end to pass through the holes in the collar. Though the collar is small, it is in proportion with both the jacket’s narrow lapels and the size of Adams’ head. The black tie has pink dots that match the shirt, and it is tied in a four-in-hand knot. Adams tucks his tie into his trousers so it doesn’t extend below the bottom of the waistcoat. A puffed red silk handkerchief in his breast pocket loosely coordinates with the lighter pink shirt. Adams’ shoes are black slip-ons and his socks are navy to match his trousers.

Though Ron Postal is credited as the costume designer in many episodes throughout the series, his names is not mentioned in this episode’s credits. It is still possible that he was involved in creating this outfit since nobody else is credited for the clothes. Between the peaked lapels, unique stripe direction on the lapels and collar, pink shirt with a pinned collar and boxcloth braces, Maxwell Smart sports quite the dandified look, and he is certainly not a secret agent who blends in to the crowd.

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.

Peter Lorre’s Le Chiffre

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In the 1954 “Casino Royale” television play on CBS’s Climax!, the legendary Peter Lorre became the first actor to play Le Chiffre. Lorre wears a warm-weather dinner jacket like the dinner jacket Barry Nelson wears as Bond, but Lorre’s double-breasted dinner jacket is slightly lighter than Nelson’s buff (pale yellow-brown) or burma (pale red-brown) dinner jacket. Lorre’s dinner jacket is probably light buff, with lapel facings in a similarly-coloured satin silk. Anything but a self facing on a warm-weather dinner jacket’s lapels is not traditional, and it may have been trendy in the 1950s. The satin lapels add an unnecessary flashiness to the dinner jacket, but the flashiness is appropriate for a Bond villain.

Le-Chiffre-Dinner-Jacket-HomburgLorre’s dinner jacket has four buttons with one to button, and the two rows of buttons are evenly spaced about and below the waist. The jacket has natural shoulders with roped sleeveheads, and the jacket’s chest is clean but cut with a little fullness. This contrasts with the large shoulders, oversized fit and low button stance of Barry Nelson’s dinner jacket, which now looks very outdated. The natural shoulders and clean fit keep the corpulent Peter Lorre from looking any larger than he needs to, whilst the classic proportions and higher button stance keep the 5’3″ Lorre from looking any shorter than he needs to. He may be very short, and nothing can hide that, but he still looks as menacing as always.

The jacket also has three buttons on the cuffs, jetted pockets and no vent. The type of buttons on the jacket is difficult to determine, but they are dark and very shiny like black mother of pearl. Lorre wears traditional black trousers—which probably have a black stripe down each leg and are supported by braces—with the dinner jacket. The white dress shirt has a point collar, double cuffs and a wide placket. The black bow tie is in a thistle shape. Briefly, Lorre carries a black homburg hat with him, and you can see it on the table in the photo above.

Notice the different dinner jacket

Notice the different dinner jacket

In Lorre’s final scene, he wears a different, but very similar, dinner jacket. Either the original dinner jacket was damaged, or this dinner jacket is an accidental continuity error. This jacket doesn’t flatter Lorre nearly as well as the original dinner jacket does, which is because the new dinner jacket has larger shoulders and a lower button stance like Barry Nelson’s dinner jacket has. The lapels are darker and narrower, and the lapel peaks point more upwards than outwards like the original jacket’s lapels do. The buttons are white or cream. The top of the trousers shows at the bottom of the dinner jacket’s opening.

Robbie Coltrane as Valentin Zukovsky wears a very similar dinner jacket in The World Is Not Enough.

The Saint: A Classic Safari Jacket

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Roger Moore wore the safari jacket before he was James Bond and before the late 1960s when Yves Saint Laurent and Ted Lapidus made it a fashion item. In the 1965 episode of The Saint titled “The Sign of the Claw”, Moore wears a mostly traditional British safari jacket, which is probably in the classic khaki. The episode takes place in the Malayan jungle, where the tropical climate and British colonial history makes the safari jacket an entirely appropriate piece of clothing.

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Moore wears a leather utility belt over the safari jacket’s belt.

The safari jacket has four buttons down the front plus a button at the collar. The shirt-style, two-piece point collar is stitched close to the edge. The front of the jacket has four button-down-flapped patch pockets. The upper two pockets each have a box pleat in the middle, and the lower two pockets each have bellows for extra usability. Though the jacket is slightly shaped with a dart on either side in the front, a belt made of the same cloth as the jacket cinches the waist. The belt has a shiny metal two-prong buckle. The jacket’s long sleeves have square-cornered button cuffs. The back has a long, deep inverted box pleat from the bottom of the yoke to the belt, and a long single vent from the belt to the hem. Of course, the jacket wouldn’t be a proper safari jacket without the obligatory shoulder straps.

Saint-Safari-Jacket-BackThough this safari jacket closely follows the traditional model, it breaks from tradition in one area. Instead of begin made from military cotton drill, this jacket is likely made from a linen and silk blend. It looks softer and lighter than cotton drill, it has a few slubs and it shows some wrinkles. Though the cloth may not be typical for a safari jacket, the jacket is still more classic compared to the slightly more modern safari clothes that Roger Moore wears in The Man with the Golden Gun, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker and Octopussy.

The trousers possibly match the jacket, but since this episode is black and white, the match is difficult to make out. Under the jacket’s collar, Moore wears a silk day cravat, which is probably cream. It is not a practical item, but Moore plays a gentleman who almost always keeps his neck covered. Moore’s shoes are taupe suede 2-eyelet desert boots. At one point in the episode, Moore wears a dark leather utility belt over the jacket’s belt.

For some James Bond-related trivia, this episode features Burt Kwouk, who was in Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice.

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 1960s trends of narrow lapels with very small notches 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.

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Solo’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.