The Avengers: Grey Suit with a Velvet Collar


We lost another great actor from the James Bond series on Thursday, Patrick Macnee. Macnee played Sir Godfrey Tibbett in A View to a Kill, but he’s most well known for playing the secret agent John Steed in The Avengers. In the sixth series, Macnee’s wardrobe was updated with new suits in the style of his fourth series signature velvet-collar suits. In these new suits, designed by himself, a long single vent replaced the double vents and slanted or straight flap pockets replaced the slanted jetted pockets. Some of the new suits have breast pockets. In memory of Patrick Macnee let’s look at one of his grey three-piece suits from The Avengers‘ sixth series.

This mid-grey flannel three-piece suit made by Bailey and Weatherill of Regent Street first features in the second episode of the sixth series, “Game”. “Game” is the show’s first episode after Diana Rigg’s departure and the second episode with Linda Thorson, and it features new opening titles with Macnee wearing this same grey suit. The suit jacket has a traditional English equestrian cut, with strong straight shoulders, a clean chest, a closely fitted waist and a very flared skirt.


The suit jacket continues in the same style as the previous velvet-collar suit jackets with a single button on the front, a single button on each cuff and a dark taupe velvet collar. The skirt has a long single vent, which adds to the equestrian look of the suit. The jacket has no breast pocket and slanted hip pockets with flaps. The earlier suits in this style didn’t have flaps on the hip pockets. The pocket flaps make this jacket look bottom heavy due to the lack of a breast pocket.

The six-button waistcoat has a straight bottom and two welt pockets. The trousers have tapered legs, a flat front and likely slanted side pockets. The suit’s buttons are grey plastic.


With this suit in “Game”, Steed wears an ecru shirt with a spread collar, which looks better with Steed’s round face than the wider cutaway collars that he previously wore looked. The shirt has rounded two-button cuffs, and Steed only buttons the second button. The tie is woven with magenta in one direction and sky blue in another direction like a Solaro cloth, making parts of the tie look sky blue in parts and magenta in other parts, depending on the angle you look at it. The tie is tied in a windsor knot. We don’t see the shoes, but they are likely the grey-green short chelsea boots that he wears with this suit in other episodes.


In the sixth series opening titles

In the opening titles, Steed wears periwinkle shirt with a spread collar and button cuffs. His tie is a printed pattern in pink, orange and white, and he ties it in a windsor knot. The tie is  pinned about an inch below the knot with a deep red polished stone tie pin. He also adds a red carnation in his lapel.

WIth the suit, Steed wears his trademark bowler hat and carries an umbrella. This bowler is in grey with a grey ribbon to match the suit. The umbrella has a grey canopy, also to match suit, and a light whangee curved handle.


The Avengers: Creative Eveningwear in Red


The first episode of The Avengers in colour, “From Venus with Love” in 1967, takes full advantage of colour by placing Patrick Macnee’s John Steed in a claret red dinner suit. I was inspired to write about this outfit after seeing Selma star David Oyelowo wear a very similar—and equally effective or ineffective, depending on your opinion—outfit at the Oscars last week. Though Steed breaks the rules of black tie, he does so in a creative way. If one is going to break the rules of black tie, breaking the rues should not turn a dinner suit into an ordinary lounge suit. More than one button on a single-breasted dinner jacket, flapped pockets and single vents (or even double vents by some standards) and very boring and pointless ways to mess with black tie tradition. If you are going to break black tie, at least be original! Steed demonstrates how to be creative with black tie, as he does with all of his tailored clothes. If you don’t like this dinner suit, which I’m sure many of you will not, there are photos of Mrs. Peel here to make this article more enjoyable.

Rather than the traditional black or midnight blue, Steed’s dinner suit is made in a colour often used for the garment that inspired the dinner jacket: the smoking jacket. Claret red is a rich colour appropriate for the evening, unlike the shades of grey that a number of men wore to the Oscars this year. Additionally, the dinner suit is made of silk, a luxurious and appropriate for evening clothes. It reflects a lot of light, making it look lighter than it is in a brightly-lit room.


This dinner jacket follows Steed’s signature style: a button one jacket with slanted hip pockets, no breast pocket, double vents and a velvet collar. This style is partially inspired by riding jackets, but it works well for an adventurous dinner jacket. Steed’s signature style already has a single button on the front, as a dinner jacket should. The slanted pockets aren’t a big deal since they are jetted. Though the traditional dinner jacket has no vents, double vents are the more acceptable—and dressier—vent style over a single vent. The burgundy velvet collar may be the oddest part of this dinner jacket, but it’s not entirely inappropriate since it recalls the material the smoking jacket is made from. The dinner jacket has buttons covered in silk, and there is one button on each cuff.

The dinner jacket’s notched lapels are faced in burgundy watered silk to contrast them from the plain, slightly lighter-coloured silk of the dinner jacket’s body. Some may argue that notched lapels are inappropriate on dinner jackets, but they were historically worn for less formal black tie occasions, like private dinners. Since a red dinner jacket isn’t appropriate for any proper black tie occasion, notched lapels fit the dinner jacket’s uses. I would argue, however, that peaked lapels would have been a better choice, though they would take away from the dinner jacket’s intended sporting look.


Tailor Bailey and Weatherill of Regent Street tailored this suit in a traditional English equestrian cut, with strong straight shoulders, a clean chest, a closely fitted waist and a flared skirt. The equestrian cut is similar to the military cut and has a very formal look that is appropriate for a dinner jacket. The dinner suit’s matching trousers are tailored with narrow, tapered legs and are without pleats. They do not have a stripe down the legs.

Steed not only makes bold choices with his dinner suit but also with its accessories. A pale lilac dress shirt—which may be made of silk—stays in the red family but still contrasts with the bold dinner suit. It has a wide spread collar, double cuffs and a plain front. The bow tie is red velvet, which matches the dinner jacket’s collar rather than lapels. Proper black tie means that the bow tie must be black, but since so many other rules are broken here it doesn’t really matter. Steed’s socks are dark burgundy and his chelsea boots are black. Chelsea boots work well for black tie because of their sleek plain-toe, side-gusset design, and they look neat with the narrow trouser legs.


Ultimately, John Steed’s claret red dinner suit would be best worn for a “creative black tie” dress code, or by the host an intimate black tie dinner. It breaks the rules of black tie in creative ways, but it perhaps breaks the rules so much that it doesn’t even resemble a dinner suit much anymore. Nevertheless, it is suit inspired by black tie that certainly looks like it is meant to be worn in the evening, and for that it is a successful design. The outfit’s contrast of intense and muted colours has the same effect as the traditional black tie outfit’s black and white contrast. Steed may not be dressed conservatively like James Bond in an episode with a Bond-inspired title, but not all spies need to be inconspicuous.


Unrelated to this dinner suit, “From Venus with Love” has an amusing scene where Steed takes an eye exam of hat styles on shelves rather than letters on a chart. “From the top, if you please”, says the ophthalmologist. “Trilby, homburg, bowler, cap. Jockey, porkpie, topper, boater, busby, fez,” replies Steed, as he passes the eye exam swiftly and perfectly!

The Avengers: Steed’s Signature Suit


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 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


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.


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 cutaway 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.