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.
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.
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.