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.

Drax: The Three-Piece Double-Breasted Suit

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Though the most memorable pieces of Hugo Drax’s wardrobe in Moonraker are his Mao jackets, his double-breasted, three-piece black flannel chalk stripe suit is perhaps the nicest suit that anyone wears in Moonraker. It is Drax’s only outfit that is reminiscent of what the character wears in the 1955 Moonraker novel by Ian Fleming. Drax is actually one of the few villains in the novels that dresses in good taste, and elements of literary Drax’s clothes are taken from Fleming’s own wardrobe:

Bond concluded his inspection with Drax’s clothes which were expensive and in excellent taste—a dark blue pinstripe in lightweight flannel, double-breasted with turnback cuffs, a heavy white silk shirt with a stiff collar, an unobtrusive tie with a small grey and white check, modest cuff-links, which looked like Cartier, and a plain gold Patek Philippe watch with a black leather strap. (Moonraker, Chapter 3)

The film Drax, played by Michael Lonsdale, also wears a double-breasted flannel suit, though it’s not exactly the same as what the literary Drax wears. The suit is not so lightweight and is black instead of dark blue. Though well-dressed men avoid solid black suits for all occasions other than funerals, the striped black suit isn’t treated the same way as its solid cousin. The soft, light grey chalk stripes break up the large sea of black so the suit doesn’t look too dreary. Chalkstripes on black flannel are also better than pinstripes and rope stripes on worsteds because they aren’t as bold. Strong white rope stripes on black give the suit a gangster-esque look, but Drax’s soft, grey chalk stripes make his black suit an elegant one. A black chalkstripe suit can still be difficult for most people to pull off, but Drax has a cool, high-contrast winter complexion, so the black does not overpower him.

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The literary Drax’s suit is assumed to be a two-piece suit, but in the film the suit is a three-piece. The three-piece double-breasted suit went out of fashion around the time of World War II. Few men today could actually benefit from the intense warmth of a flannel, double-breasted, three-piece suit.

Though the double-breasted three-piece suit recalls the 1930s, Drax’s suit jacket is timeless and has medium-width lapels and—unlike 1930s double-breasted suit which were made without vents—double vents. The jacket is in the classic double-breasted style of six buttons with two to button. It is cut with straight shoulders on the natural shoulder line and gently roped sleeveheads. The chest is clean but full, and the waist is slightly shaped. There is only one lapel buttonhole in the peaked lapels, in the left lapel. The jacket also has jetted pockets, double vents and four buttons on the cuffs.

Not much of Drax’s waistcoat is seen since so little of it sticks out above the suit jacket, but enough of it is seen to tell that it is single-breasted and has no lapels. Both single-breasted and double-breasted waistcoats, with or without lapels, are appropriate with a double-breasted suit, and Drax wears the leanest option since his flannel double-breasted suit jacket already has so much bulk. Drax’s suit trousers have wide, straight legs.

Drax’s white shirt is has a sheen, so it’s probably silk like the literary Drax’s shirt is. It has a point collar with a generous amount of tie space and square double cuffs with the link holes off-centre towards the fold. The cuffs are attached to the sleeve with pleats. Drax’s square cuff links are black with a gold frame, and they could possibly be from Cartier like in the Moonraker novel. Drax wears a black knitted silk tie, tied in a symmetrical half windsor knot. It’s the same tie that the literary James Bond wears but tied in a knot he would not approve of. A knitted tie may seem too informal for a double-breasted, three-piece suit, but the knitted silk texture is a good complement to flannel no matter the fastening style or the presence of a waistcoat. Pinned to his breast pocket he wears a brass Drax industries badge, which takes the place of a pocket square. Drax’s shoes are black.

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Q’s Glen Urquhart Check Suit in The Living Daylights

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Q has a long tradition of wearing glen check suits, starting with Desmond Llewelyn’s first appearance as Q in From Russia with Love. Most of the time the suits have a button three jacket, and the suits are often three-piece suits. The suit Q wears in his lab in The Living Daylights is very similar to the suit he wears in From Russia with Love in that it’s a three-piece black-and-white glen check suit with a button-three jacket, cut in a very classic and very English style.

This suit is a black-and-white Glen Urquhart check with a light blue overcheck. The suit jacket has natural shoulders with slightly roped sleeveheads, and it is cut with a little drape in the chest and a gently suppressed waist. The jacket’s natural shoulders go against the trend in the late 1980s for large, extended, padded shoulders, yet Q has very large shoulders himself and more than a little padding would look completely unnatural on him. His natural shoulder line is almost horizontal! The jacket has slanted flap pockets with a ticket pocket, but Q wears the flaps tucked in. However, in a continuity error sometimes the left pocket flap is untucked. Like most classic English tailoring in the 1980s, the suit jacket has double vents. The jacket is detailed with four buttons on the cuffs, and the suit’s buttons are black plastic.

The suit’s waistcoat has six buttons, and Q follows tradition by leaving the bottom button open. The suit trousers are full-cut without pleats or turn-ups. Non-pleated trousers were not very popular in the late 1980s and make Q look outdated to those who followed fashion trends at the time. It’s quite the opposite of what most people think today about trouser pleats, however, the full cut of Q’s trousers through the thigh would still make him look old-fashioned today. Q’s trousers don’t necessarily look outdated so much as they look sloppy.

Q-Glen-Urquhart-Check-Suit-The-Living-Daylights-Tie-2With the suit, Q wears a sky blue shirt with a spread collar, front placket and double cuffs. His regimental tie is black with a double gold stripe. The tie has a motif of silver Prince of Wales’s feathers badges. The Prince of Wales’s feathers is a symbol of Wales that consists of three ostrich feathers emerging from a coronet. The tie also has a motif of red and green roses. Though I don’t know exactly what this tie represents, I suspect it represents a Welsh regiment of the British Army, going by the badge and welsh actor Desmond Llewelyn’s service in the British Army during World War II. If anyone knows what this tie represents, please leave a comment below. Q also wears an identification tag pinned to his lapel.

Q-Glen-Urquhart-Check-Suit-The-Living-Daylights-3Q’s tobacco suede two-eyelet derbys are an interesting choice of footwear for a Glen Urquhart check suit worn in London. The English are known for wearing black shoes with their suits in town, so wearing light-coloured suede shoes with his suit is a dandyish, but stylish, choice. The contrast between the shoes and the suit is unfortunately accentuated by Q’s unstylish choice of black socks. Grey or coloured socks would be a better choice to link the shoes with the rest of the outfit. Q is not intended to be a fashionable or particularly stylish character, though he is well aware of the way he is dressed and there is always plenty of charm in his outfits.

The Rocketeer: A Purple Dinner Jacket

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1991’s The Rocketeer is one of the few films to feature Timothy Dalton in well-tailored 20th century clothing. Since the film takes place in 1938, what Dalton wears is more costume rather than clothing. However, not all of the clothing is accurate to the late 1930s. Dalton plays movie star and Nazi villain Neville Sinclair, who wears a muted dark purple dinner jacket that is fitting for his character. Purple is quite an unusual colour for a dinner jacket, but it’s not unusual for a smoking jacket, an ancestor of the dinner jacket. I don’t know if purple dinner jackets were popular in the late 1930s, but purple had seen a rise in popularity a few years before The Rocketeer was made. Jack Nicholson famously wore a purple suit as the joker in Batman two years earlier, and Miami Vice popularised purple and lavender clothes for men. A purple dinner jacket is less formal than the traditional black or midnight blue jacket, which makes it an acceptable—but nevertheless flashy—choice for a night out as Sinclair wears his.

Rocketeer-Purple-Dinner-Jacket-2The purple dinner jacket is cut with straight shoulders, roped sleeveheads and a clean chest. The jacket is full-cut, but it still fits well and isn’t a size too large like the jackets in Licence to Kill are. The jacket drapes elegantly without any extra folds of cloth. The wide, dark purple silk peaked lapels elegantly roll down to the jacket’s single button. The buttons are covered in the same dark purple silk that the lapels are faced in. The jacket has no vent, jetted pockets and three buttons on the cuffs. The black trousers have double reverse pleats and the traditional black silk stripe down each leg.

Rocketeer-Purple-Dinner-Jacket-4The black brocade waistcoat is one of the least historically-correct parts of this outfit. The waistcoat has five buttons with the bottom left open, peaked lapels and a full collar. A proper evening waistcoat, which is low-cut with three or four buttons, would have been worn at the time rather than a high-buttoning daytime-style waistcoat in a fancy evening cloth. Sinclair’s white-on-white stripe dress shirt has a point collar, double cuffs and a placket with two black onyx studs. His bow tie is black barathea silk in a batwing shape. His shoes are patent leather.

Rocketeer-Purple-Dinner-Jacket-3Sinclair also wears a red boutonnière pinned to his lapel. Besides looking unsightly, pinning a boutonnière to a silk lapel can easily damage the facing. Ideally, the boutonnière’s stem should be stuck through the lapel’s buttonhole and held in place by a loop sewn on the back of the lapel. One should only resort to pinning a boutonnière when the lapel has no buttonhole. But there is a buttonhole hiding behind Sinclair’s boutonnière, so he has no excuse for pinning it to his lapel.

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.

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.

Minister of Defence: A Flattering Three-Piece for a Corpulent Figure

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Minister of Defence Frederick Grey, played by Geoffrey Keen, is a recurring character in the six Bond films from The Spy Who Loved Me through The Living Daylights. He’s always well-dressed and very traditionally dressed for the city. Though his clothes are very sober and don’t particularly stand out, they’re remarkable in that they are always very flattering to his short and corpulent figure. Whilst tall and slim men don’t need much help to look good, a well-tailored suit can do wonders for the not so fortunate. The minister almost certainly wears bespoke suits, and they perhaps could be Geoffrey Keen’s own. For someone who is rarely in more than two brief scenes in each Bond film, it’s hard to imagine the film production would spend for a bespoke suit for each film. The Minister appears in two scenes in A View to a Kill, and he wears the same three-piece suit in both his scene at the beginning of the film and his scene at the end of the film.

Minister-of-Defence-A-View-to-a-Kill-2The Minister’s suit in A View to a Kill is dark warm grey with very closely-spaced light grey pinstripes, with about six stripes to the inch. The closely-spaced pinstripes have the effect of making the suit overall look more like medium grey. The suit jacket has a traditional English cut, with lightly-padded straight shoulders and roped sleeveheads. The chest is full cut to give the impression of a smaller waist, and the chest darts are placed further to the side than they typically would be to give a flattering shape to the Minister’s corpulent figure. The button two suit jacket has classic proportions—the lapel width, gorge height and button stance are evenly balanced and do not look dated. That balance is also key to flattering the Minister’s larger figure. The jacket has a single vent, three buttons on the cuffs and slanted hip pockets. The waistcoat has five buttons. The suit trousers aren’t seen, but double forward pleats and braces are likely.

The Minister's second appearance in A View to a Kill, with a light blue shirt and navy tie.

The Minister’s second appearance in A View to a Kill, with a light blue shirt and navy tie.

The Minister’s shirt in his first scene is cream and has a classic English spread collar with a quarter-inch of tie space and button cuffs. With the cream shirt he wears a navy tie with white dots, tied in four-in-hand knot. The Minister’s shirt in his second scene is light blue with a more moderate spread collar, and his tie is navy, again tied in a four-in-hand knot.

Largo’s Charcoal Suit and Camel Coat

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The always well-tailored Emilio Largo, played by Adolfo Celi, is introduced in Thunderball wearing a charcoal three-piece suit. The suit is probably made of worsted flannel since it has a fuzzy nap but doesn’t look as heavy as the typical flannel. The button three jacket is tailored with very strong, straight shoulders and a clean chest. The narrow lapels gently roll over the top button. The jacket also has jetted pockets, three-button cuffs and no vent. The overall cut as well as the stylistic details are all very characteristic of a continental suit. Since the jacket has little fullness in the chest or flare at the shirt, it doesn’t look like an English suit. And neither the Italian character Largo nor the Italian actor Adolfo Celi would have likely used an English tailor. An Italian tailor would most likely have made this suit.

Largo-Charcoal-Suit-2Little is seen of the waistcoat and trousers. Since the top button of the waistcoat isn’t particularly high, I would guess that the waistcoat has five buttons. The trousers have a tapered leg with turn-ups. They are probably pleated, and I would guess they have reverse pleats since the suit is likely of Italian origin. The Italian tailors almost always make their trousers with reverse pleats.

Largo’s cream shirt has a spread collar and double cuffs. He uses a four-in-hand knot to tie his black tie with white polka dots. His socks and shoes are black.

Largo-Charcoal-Suit-3Over the suit Largo wears a three-quarter-length camelhair coat. The button three coat has notched lapels, swelled edges, turnback cuffs and a single vent. He wears the coat draped over his shoulders as if it were a cape, and I wouldn’t recommend wearing a coat in such a manner since that seems like something only a flamboyant villain would do. He also wears his charcoal trilby like a dandy: tilted and with the brim turned up all the way around. The hat’s crown has a centre dent and a front pinch, and the roughly 2 1/4″ brim has a sewn overwelt. His cream leather gloves take his outerwear yet another step further into flamboyance.