Remington Steele: Opting Out of Black Tie

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Black tie events these days are mostly “black tie optional”. The best-dressed men would only wear a dinner jacket to such events, but a dark solid suit is a stylish choice for those who opt out of the dinner jacket. Pierce Brosnan as Remington Steele, in the first series episode of Remington Steele titled “Etched in Steele”, wears a charcoal three-piece suit to a black tie party. Considering the way Mr. Steele looks over the people at the event when he arrives, he probably didn’t expect the party to be black tie. Steele is rarely underdressed, and he is actually known to overdress. Nevertheless, Steele would be appropriately dressed in his dark charcoal suit for an event where black tie is optional. Anyone who comes dressed like Steele to a black tie optional event would be a very well-dressed—though still not the best-dressed—gentleman.

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The charcoal of Steele’s suit is so dark that it looks black in dim lighting and only shows its true colour when up against true black. A dark navy suit would serve the same purpose at a black tie optional event, and may even be preferable due to its richer colour. Though Steele wears a three-piece suit, a two-piece suit would have been just as appropriate for a black tie optional event.

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Steele’s button two suit jacket has narrow pagoda shoulders with roped sleeveheads and a clean chest with a suppressed waist. It has slanted flap pockets, three-button cuffs and double vents. The notched lapels have a steep gorge, a characteristic of 1980s suit jackets, but both the gorge and button stance are at classic heights. Overall, the suit jacket has a classic cut with timeless and balanced proportions. The waistcoat has five buttons, and Steele leaves the bottom button open to follow tradition. The trousers have a flat front and straight legs with plain hems. Steele unfortunately wears the trousers with a belt, which leaves a lump under the waistcoat. Due to the suit’s dark colour and quality of the DVD, the lump is hardly noticeable.

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Steele wears the only colour shirt that would be appropriate at a black tie optional event: solid white. It’s really the best colour shirt for any dressy evening occasion, though cream works slightly better for those with a warmer complexion. The shirt has a point collar worn with a gold collar pin, a front placket and double cuffs. Steele’s tie is red with small tan polka dots. Red is a great accent colour for the evening, and it’s the only bold colour that can be traditionally worn along with the black and white of black tie. Red is a classic colour for cummerbunds, and James Bond twice wears a red carnation with his dinner jackets. The only colour that would have been better for Steele’s tie is silver. Black can look rather funereal with a dark three-piece suit, but it’s not an inappropriate choice either for black tie optional. The small tan polka dots in Steele’s red tie coordinate with Steele’s gold collar pin and cuff links. The red silk pocket square coordinates with the tie but lacks the tie’s polka dots to avoid the dreaded matching tie and pocket square. It is folded in sort of a winged puff, but it looks more circular, rather like the red carnations that Bond wears.

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Steele’s usual choice of black slip-on shoes is very Bond-like, though it’s not the most appropriate choice for a three-piece suit, especially not in the evening. Though Steele wears his slip-ons well, black cap-toe or plain-toe oxfords would be the ideal choice.

Woman of Straw: A Brown Houndstooth Suit and Donegal Tweed Overcoat

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Most of Sean Connery’s tailored clothing in Goldfinger was first featured in the 1964 film Woman of Straw, which was made just before Goldfinger. Some of the suits fit the Woman of Straw setting much better than they fit Goldfinger. The brown houndstooth check suit is especially more fitting for Woman of Straw than it is for Goldfinger. In Woman of Straw Connery wears the suit on a country estate, whilst in Goldfinger he wears it to the office for briefing from M. James Bond occasionally knowingly breaks the rules, and I certainly don’t just mean the rules of how to dress properly. Nevertheless, wearing this country suit to the office is not likely something M appreciated. In Woman of Straw we get to see this beautiful suit in its intended setting.

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The suit is a somewhat heavy mid brown and black fine houndstooth check made by Anthony Sinclair. The button two jacket is cut with natural shoulders, a draped chest and a gently suppressed waist. It has country details like slanted flap pockets with a ticket pocket and a long single vent. The jacket has four buttons on the cuffs. The trousers have double forward pleats, button-tab side-adjusters and tapered legs. Unlike in Goldfinger, Connery does not wear an odd waistcoat with this suit in Woman of Straw, though he does wear that beige waistcoat with his barleycorn tweed hacking jacket. The lack of waistcoat gives this suit a much different look than it has in Goldfinger.

The suit's cloth close up

The suit’s brown houndstooth check cloth close up

A blue shirt and blue tie also make the suit look much different than it does in Goldfinger. Blue offers a nice colour contrast to brown whilst cooling down the brown outfit to better flatter Sean Connery’s cool complexion, but for blue and brown to work together they need to have contrast in value. Dark brown and navy don’t go so well together, and neither does light brown and light blue. See the image below of the light brown overcoat and light blue shirt for a combination that doesn’t clash but doesn’t quite work so well either. But light brown with navy works and dark brown with light blue works. The latter is evident here.

The pale blue shirt is made in the same style as Connery’s shirts in Goldfinger, with a wide spread collar, rounded double cuffs and placket stitched close to the centre. The steel blue repp silk tie is tied in a very small four-in-hand knot. Like in Goldfinger, Connery wears this suit in Woman of Straw with a white linen handkerchief folded in a single point in his breast pocket. It may have just been left in the pocket from Woman of Straw when he wears the suit in Goldfinger.

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Over this suit Connery wears a light brown donegal tweed overcoat that is not worn in Goldfinger. The coat is like a cross between a single-breasted coat and a double-breasted coat in that it has a large overlap and peaked lapels, but the overlap isn’t as large as most double-breasted coats and there is only one column of buttons to fasten. The additional overlap is there for extra warmth. The coat has a fly front that hides the buttons, but if the one column buttons showed they would be off-centre. The coat has slanted hip pockets with flaps, a breast welt pocket, a single vent in the rear and plain cuffs with a short vent.  The coat’s length is to just below the knee, making it a very warm, practical coat for the country. This overcoat may have also been made by Anthony Sinclair.

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Bill Tanner: A Modern English Navy Pinstripe Suit

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Rory Kinnear, who appeared as M’s aide Bill Tanner in Quantum of Solace and Skyfall, will return to the roll next year in Spectre. Tanner’s suits in Skyfall have a modern English look; they’re slightly more modern-looking than Mallory’s bespoke Timothy Everest suits but not fashion-forward as James Bond’s shrunken Tom Ford suits. One of Tanner’s three suits in Skyfall is a basic button-two navy suit with grey pinstripes. Grey pinstripes are more subtle than the traditional white pinstripes or bolder rope stripes and chalk stripes, but they’re good for the man who doesn’t want to draw undue attention to himself. The shoulders are lightly-padded, the chest is full and the waist is suppressed. Unlike Bond’s suit jackets in Skyfall, Tanner’s suit jacket is made to a tradition length that covers the buttocks. The button stance is high—a trend that started in the previous decade—but it doesn’t agree with Tanner’s figure. Judging by the pulling around the waist, the suit is most likely ready-to-wear.

The jacket has slanted pockets with a ticket pocket, and the front edges of the pockets are rounded much more than pockets ordinarily are. There are double vents in the back. The cuffs have four buttons, with the buttons spaced apart in groups of two. The suit’s trousers have a flat front, low rise and tapered legs with turn-ups. The low rise is most fashionable aspect of the entire suit, and it unfortunately causes the shirt and tie to show beneath the jacket’s button.

The unique spacing of the jacket's four cuff buttons

The unique spacing of the jacket’s four cuff buttons

Based on the arrangement of the cuff buttons as well as the suit’s style and silhouette, the suit is most likely from the English brand Hackett London. It particularly resembles Hackett’s “Chelsea” cut suit. The Hackett website has an interesting description for their “Chelsea” model:

For the classic Hackett Chelsea cut, think James Bond, who never lets trivial matters such as saving the world from super-villains get in the way of rocking a good suit … It tapers in to define the waist, with double venting used at the rear to ensure that the snug fit doesn’t become constrictive when sitting, or grappling with Russian spies. As you would expect with classic British style, combining subtlety and sharpness is the key here; high armholes accentuate a strong chest, but little to no padding allows the shoulder to gradually slope down, providing a more natural silhouette than Italian suits.

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Tanner wears this navy pinstripe suit on two occasions in Skyfall, and he wears it with a different shirt and tie each time. He favours stripes shirts. The first shirt is white with a pattern of thick light blue, medium blue and navy stripes, and the second shirt is cornflower blue with thick white stripes. Both shirts have a spread collar with medium-length points and a  considerable half-inch of tie space. The collar is too wide and short for Tanner’s round head. A more moderate spread with longer points would better flatter Tanner’s face. The shirts have double cuffs.

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When pairing a striped shirt with a striped suit the stripes need to be considerably different so they don’t clash. Usually the difference is achieved in the scale; the stripes on the second shirt (see below) are spaced much closer together than the stripes on the suit are. Though the spacing of the first shirt’s stripes is similar to the spacing of the suit’s stripes, the much more intense stripes on the shirt prevent it from clashing with the very subtle pinstripes on the suit.

The tie that Tanner wears with the first shirt is navy with small white boxes arranged in a grid. The tie he wears with the second shirt is navy with larger pink squares in a diagonal layout. He ties his ties in four-in-hand knots. With all of his suits, Tanner wears black oxfords with a chiseled toe and black Dainite studded rubber soles, and his trousers are supported by black belt that matches his shoes.

The second shirt and tie that Tanner wears with his navy pinstripe suit

The second shirt and tie that Tanner wears with his navy pinstripe suit

The November Man: The Grey Silk Suit

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Pierce Brosnan returned to the spy/action genre earlier this year in Roger Donaldson’s The November Man. Brosnan plays Peter Devereaux, a retired CIA officer who has no reservations about killing or torturing people. The character would certainly not be mistaken for an older James Bond as he is certainly not a gentleman by any means. However, Olga Kurylenko, who played Camille in Quantum of Solace, plays a similar character to what she plays in her Bond film. Brioni, Pierce Brosnan’s suit supplier for his Bond films, provided some of the clothes for The November Man, according to a Brioni press release.

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One of Peter Devereaux’s nicest outfits in the film is his slubby grey and white pick-and-pick silk suit that he wears with a black shirt. The outfit is not Devereaux’s own but one that Olga Kurylenko’s character Alice Fournier picked out for him from the closet in an apartment they broke into. The grey suit flatters Brosnan’s very cool complexion, though it brings out the grey in his partially-dyed hair. The suit jacket is updated from the boxy, built-up jackets that Brosnan wore in his Bond films to one with more shape and straight shoulders on the natural shoulder line. It fits well, has balanced proportions and has a classic length that covers his rear. Like Brosnan’s Bond suit jackets, this jacket has roped sleeveheads, double vents and slanted hip pockets with a ticket pocket. There are four buttons on the sleeves, and the buttons are sewn in an overlapping “waterfall” style, a common method for tailors in Naples, Italy. The jacket has contrasting button in black plastic, which dress down the suit.

Unlike the darted Brioni suit trousers with a medium-high rise that Pierce Brosnan wore in his last two James Bond films, Devereaux’s suit trousers have a flat front and a lower rise. The lower rise does not flatter Brosnan, who is now almost beyond a middle-aged man and has a paunch. It also doesn’t help that he lets the trousers sag below his stomach. He keeps them loose so he can stick a gun in his trouser waistband, a bad habit that Brosnan’s Bond had as well. Brosnan wears the trousers with a black belt.

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Though black shirts (and other dark shirts) should not usually be worn with suits, Devereaux’s silk suit is not a business suit but rather one that can be dressed up or down for social occasions. Devereaux dresses the suit down with a dark shirt sans tie. The black shirt nicely contrasts with the suit in the same way a black necktie would, but without a tie a light-coloured shirt wouldn’t provide enough contrast with the light-coloured suit to balance Pierce Brosnan’s high-contrast winter complexion. The shirt has black buttons, a spread collar, a plain front and two-button scalloped cuffs, which Devereaux wears unbuttoned.

Devereaux’s shoes are the Nike Free Run 2 in all black. Though trainers such as these are inappropriate with a suit, the filmmakers—no doubt on purpose—show very little of the shoes. They are really only noticeable if one pauses the film during the three split-second shots when the shoes are visible. Since Pierce Brosnan is 61 years old, and The Novmeber Man requires him to do many action scenes, trainers are unfortunately necessary. When he was James Bond he was in much better shape and able to do the same kind of action in proper shoes.

The Nike trainers

Nike Free Run 2 black trainers

The Naked Face: A Needlecord Suit

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In the 1984 film The Naked Face, Roger Moore plays psychiatrist Judd Stevens who dresses in seasonal autumn clothing in the Anglo-American tradition. I previously wrote about Moore’s blue and beige barleycorn tweed jacket in The Naked Face, and most of the clothes in the film follow in a similar vein. Of all the tailored clothing in the film, only a light brown needlecord suit appears to be made by Moore’s regular tailor at the time, Douglas Hayward. Hayward made Moore’s beautiful tailored clothing for For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy and A View to a Kill. This suit is more casual than what Hayward made for the Bond films, and, though the cut is the same as what Moore wore as Bond at the time, it’s probably not a suit Bond would wear. Needlecord, also known as pinwale, is a fine wale cotton corduroy that is perfect for autumn in Chicago, where the film takes place.

The-Naked-Face-Needlecord-Suit-4Like Roger Moore’s Douglas Hayward suits in his last three James Bond films, this suit jacket is cut with a clean chest and natural shoulders with gently roped sleeveheads. The button-two jacket also has the same low button stance and is identically detailed to most of Moore’s Bond suit jackets with flapped pockets, three buttons on the cuffs and double vents. The suit trousers are also like Moore’s trousers in his Bond films at the time: they have a straight leg and frogmouth pockets and are worn with a belt. Apart from the jacket’s low button stance, the suit looks timeless.

The-Naked-Face-Needlecord-Suit-2All of Moore’s shirts in The Naked Face are made by his regular shirtmaker Frank Foster, who made shirts for Moore in all of his Bond films. Moore wears this suit with two different shirts: a blue and white hairline stripe shirt with a spread collar—which is very similar to the shirt he wears with his navy suit in Octopussy—and an ecru shirt with a button-down spread collar. The button-down collar is much wider than the typical American button-down collar, but it still has a gentle roll. This is possibly what Roger Moore’s button-down collars in A View to a Kill would look like if worn buttoned with a tie. Both shirts have a placket with Foster’s identifying stitching close to the centre and extra-rounded single-button cuffs. Though the buttons aren’t clearly seen on these two shirts’ cuffs, another blue and white hairline stripe shirt in the film has a large cuff button like on Foster’s “Lapidus” tab cuffs. It’s possible that these two shirts also have the same large button on the cuffs.

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Notice the poorly-ironed shirt collar. On collars with a sewn interfacing, they can easily bunch up at the stitching. Judd Stevens is well-dressed, but he isn’t faultless like James Bond

With this suit Moore wears a grey-purple knitted wool tie with flat ends. Wool ties go especially nice with corduroy since they complement the rustic, autumnal look, and they have more contrast with corduroy than they do with the other traditional pairings like flannel and tweed. Knitted wool ties are slightly less formal than knitted silk ties, which makes them a great match for such a casual suit like corduroy. The tie’s colour, grey with a hint of purple, is rather dull compared to the rest of the outfit and slightly washes out Moore’s warm complexion. Moore ties it in a four-in-hand knot, and the knot ends up quite wide due to the tie’s bulk.

Moore’s slip-on shoes and belt are dark brown, and the belt’s brass buckle goes well with the light brown colour of the suit. Moore wears dark brown leather gloves with the suit.

The-Naked-Face-Camel-OvercoatOver the suit, Moore wears a single-breasted camelhair overcoat. The full-length overcoat hits just below the knee, which keeps Moore decently warm in the cold and windy Chicago. Like the suit, it has natural shoulders with roped sleeveheads. The overcoat has set-in sleeves, three buttons down the front, swelled edges, straight flapped hip pockets, a welted breast pocket, three buttons on the cuffs and a single vent. He wears the collar turned up for extra warmth. He also keeps warm in a light brown wool flat cap, something James Bond would never wear. They’re associated with older working class men, a category Bond is never associated with. With the cap and large glasses on, Moore looks nothing like James Bond. Over the suit and under the overcoat, Moore drapes a a checked Burberry—or Burberry-style—scarf around his neck. The scarf’s base colour is pale green, the scarf’s check has navy and sky blue stripes lengthwise with black and cream stripes crosswise, and the scarf has a navy lengthwise overcheck and a rust-coloured crosswise overcheck.

Though Roger Moore’s needlecord suit in The Naked Face may not be something James Bond would wear, it’s an elegant suit for informal cool-weather wear. The outfit has a timeless look that would look just as great during this autumn season as it did thirty years ago.

In Memory of Richard Kiel

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With great sadness, on Wednesday 10 September we lost Richard Kiel, the actor who twice played the henchman Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. I’ve never heard Roger Moore speak of anyone so kindly and with so much respect as he does for Richard Kiel. When I saw Roger Moore speak at Book Revue in Huntington, NY in 2008, a child asked Moore, “What was Jaws like in real life?” Moore responded, “Well, Jaws in real life is seven-foot-two, and he’s what I call a gentle giant. He is such a nice man, so kind, and we were in Canada a few years ago. Every time he would bring up the subject of UNICEF so I could talk about it. A good man.”

Jaws-Three-Piece-Suit-2Only a month ago I wrote about Jaws’ azure double-breasted blazer in The Spy Who Loved Me, but now let’s look at his more tasteful charcoal chalkstripe three-piece suit that he also wears in the film. It’s a very conservative suit for 1977, and Jaws appropriately wears it for two meetings with his boss, Karl Stromberg. In comparison to the other clothes he wears throughout the film, the three-piece suit is the only outfit that makes him look like a truly menacing character. A man of Jaws’ size must certainly have his suits made for him, and the same tailor or costumier who made the azure blazer probably made the suit as well. The single-breasted suit jacket has the same large, imposing shoulders that the double-breasted blazer has, but it has much more shape through the body for an elegant look. The jacket is a button two with a medium button stance and wide notched lapels. A slightly long jacket helps to anchor Jaws at the cost of emphasising his towering height. The jacket pulls at the button, which may be the result of Jaws’ body type being difficult to tailor. His jacket sleeves are also too long, covering the top of his hands. The jacket is detailed with slanted, flapped pockets and double vents. The suit’s waistcoat most likely has six buttons and the trousers have a slightly flared leg with plain hems.

Jaws-Three-Piece-Suit-3Jaws’ light grey shirt is an unconventional choice that flatters his cool winter complexion. It has a fashionably large point collar that has a generous amount of tie space. The shirt’s placket is stitched 1/4″ from the edge to match the collar and cuff stitching. Jaws’ tie is black with a red diamond motif that has a small black square in the centre of each diamond. He ties it in a four-in-hand knot. Jaws’ shoes are black.

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 Vaughn. 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 with a large repeat.

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.

Silva: Cream Jacket and Printed Shirt

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Raoul Silva, played by Javier Bardem in Skyfall, is one of the most flamboyantly-dressed villains, yet he’s a well-tailored one. His cream silk jacket fits almost perfectly, the only problem being that the sleeve are too long. It’s made by Mayfair tailor Thom Sweeney, so it’s nice to see a second character in Skyfall—the first being Gareth Mallory—wearing bespoke English tailoring. The button two silk jacket is elegantly-tailored in the English style with softly-padded shoulders, roped sleeveheads, a clean chest and a suppressed waist. The jacket is tailored with classic proportions; the lapels are a balanced width, the length covers his behind and the jacket is closely fitted but not tight. The jacket has slanted hip pockets, double vents, four buttons on the cuffs, and dark brown corozo nut buttons.

Silva-Cream-Jacket-2Under the jacket, Silva wears a waistcoat and trousers in dark olive tropical wool or mohair. The waistcoat has five buttons, and Silva unstylishly fastens the bottom button. However, if he left the waistcoat’s bottom button open the shirt underneath may be exposed since the trousers have a somewhat low rise. The trousers’ waistband is visible in the notch of the bottom of the waistcoat. The waistcoat has narrow lapels and a small, full collar that are worn flipped up. The trousers have a flat front and plain hem.

Silva-Cream-Jacket-3Silva’s shirt from Prada is the flashiest part of his outfit. The shirt’s printed pattern consists of tan tiles with a white border and navy tiles with a tan border on a black ground. The shirt has a point collar, rounded single-button cuffs and dark buttons. Silva wears the collar button and first button open. Because of how flashy the shirt is, the necktie isn’t missed. It can be awkward to wear a waistcoat without a tie, but the waistcoat’s purpose here is to tone down the outfit by covering the shirt rather than to dress up the outfit. By flipping up the waistcoat’s collar and lapels, Silva rejects the additional formality that the waistcoat would ordinarily give the outfit. This is not a way I would recommend anyone wear a waistcoat, but when you’re a Bond villain you can dress as you please.

Silva’s medium brown chelsea boots add an additional level of flamboyance to his outfit. Though chelsea boots are typically very clean and sleek, Silva’s chelsea boots have an excessive amount of brogueing and far more seams than typical chelsea boots. They have a toe cap as well as a decorative strip of leather across the vamp. Apart from brogueing on every seam, they also have a toe medallion. The boots have thick double leather soles.

Costume designer Jany Temime dressed Silva appropriately in a garish and outrageous manner that perfectly suits the insane Bond villain.

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