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 sleeve heads. 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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25 COMMENTS

  1. This is perhaps the finest of all the suits shown in MR. The style is classic and timeless in the best sense of the word. Indeed showing “Godd taste” as you said – totally ignoring any flashy 70s fashion influences. I also like his silk shirt. Only the golden “Drax” badge on his chest is a bit irritating.

    Matt, I must admit that IMHO Drax’ Mao suits are the most forgettable items of his wardrobe. The black one’s O.K. (a bit stiff perhaps) but it suits his character very well. However the light brown one is awful – the colour does not match Drax’ dark and cool complexion. Perhaps costume designers are to blame for that – it’s possible that they made the poor man a 70s victim just because brown was very much “en vogue” at that time. Simply dreadful.

  2. I agree this is timeless. It should have been used more than it was in the film. Drax is barely in the first half of the film, sadly, and is in full on villain mode when he comes back in his Mao suit. I never understand the full benefit of anyone wearing a waistcoat, though, if it cannot be seen unless it’s a cold day. Living in California as Drax is, here, it can’t be for warmth.

    (PS, RE Tie knots: I prefer the half Windsor knot myself. I agree with Bond/Fleming that the Windsor is too wide, full and fussy. As Bond doesn’t distinguish a specific hatred of the half Windsor, I justify that as it being ok to use. Along with Connery’s occasional use of it. I prefer the knot to look like a triangle, not a skinny, lopsided arrowhead.)

    (PPS: “Can I press you to a cucumber sandwich?” sounds like a perverted request the way Drax says it here. “May I also squish half a grapefruit into your face?”)

  3. Interesting post Matt and yes, Lonsdale’s outfits in the movie are a bit colored by what one remembers which are the more colourful ones. Yet, this is, as you say, as classic as they come. Also, his hunting regalia which was very much traditional mid-European hunting clothing.

    Speaking of three pieces and double breasted, it would be interesting to cover a 3 piece single breasted suit with a DB waistcoat. Roger wore one, as you know, in grey in a number of episodes of the 1966/67 colour “Saint” series.

  4. Drax’s light brown Mao suit is of course a reminiscence of the suit Blofeld (Donald Pleasence) wore in YOLT. Although not a copy it is quite similar in material (=silk) and style. But it didn’t suit neither Pleasence nor Lonsdale.

  5. Fantastic suit!
    Who was the tailor,eas British or French?
    Anyway is better of Angelo of Rome (that for my taste is too much fashionable).

    I have reread “Moonraker”; is a great book.
    I think that a more faithful trasponsition could be better.
    What lost opportunity!
    In a perfect world Moonraker could be a fantastic 007 movie with Sean Connery (or at least George Lazemby) as Bond and Orson Welles as Hugo Drax!

    • I thought that at first, but it’s the chalk stripes that make the suit look lighter. Plus, if you’re going by the images here, I lightened them a little to show detail.

  6. Hello, I write with a recommendation for my fellow SoJB fans: watch “The Day of the Jackel.” It’s a satisfying thriller, shot in several European locations in the early 70’s about a fictionalized threat against the life of Jacques de Gaulle a decade earlier. Big-money, Euro-location shooting still looks great. The film features a fast car, plus a bunch of bad-ass Citroens. And, for my fellow readers, perhaps the best part is the nicely-tailored appearance of all the French ministers excreting bricks. Double cuffs were worn then, apparently, the way we wear denim now! Ohh, I recommend this film now because the here is portrayed by Michael Lonsdale. Thank you for another interesting post, Matt!

    • That’s an excellent film, and there are a few Bond connections, since Edward Fox would later play M in Never Say Never Again, and according to legend Roger Moore was a contender to play the titular role before Fox was signed.

  7. Matt, I meant “hero” in the next-to-last sentence. Also, the book on which the film was based is good reading.

  8. A bit of topic: Christoph Waltz was just announced as villain in the next Bond-movie “Spectre”. I’m looking forward for some nice suits.

  9. Also Matt I’d be interested to see what you think of Ralph Fiennes’ suit at the Spectre announcement, seemed like he was wearing a button one with high rise trousers worn with braces?

    • He was actually wearing a button two jacket with the bottom fastened instead of the top. It looks as if someone threw him the suit and said he had to be on stage in 30 seconds.

    • Yes you’re right. I also noticed that Sam Mendes had the bottom two buttons of his button three jacket fastened!

    • Except for Craig and, possibly, Waltz, all the other men were shoddy, adolescent-looking and almost pathetic. I shudder at the thought that the Bond legacy is in their hands, at least with regard to style. Terence Young mentored Connery and Peter Hunt mentored Lazenby in matters of style; Moore and Brosnan didn’t need much mentoring, and Craig is sui generis, but who will teach the next Bond in the pipeline to look and act like a grownup?

    • All true. However, there will be the equisite Monica Bellucci who at 50 years of age still leaves 99% of the other Bond women standing!

  10. This suit reminds me of what my grandfathers wore as “Sunday Best” in the 20s and 30s, judging by the photos taken of them. And Drax’s suit, as described by Fleming, sounds like the attire of his close friend and former PM Sir Anthony Eden – one of the most elegant British men of the 30s. Daytime black is just right for a man who wants to wipe out humanity. I second the view that Lonsdale was also superb in The Day Of The Jackal. But please avoid the dreadful 90s “re-imagining” of this great thriller.

  11. I understand that the ” Stiff Collar ” on the silk shirt refers to the Detachable Collars that we lawyers have to wear at Court , and the kind which were popular in the 1910s. Given that Moonraker , the Novel was made in the 1950s , wouldn’t a detachable collar shirt be SERIOUSLY outdated by then ? I mean , people in our legal field have to wear them twice a week and even we hate putting them on ( the studs bury into your neck and can be particularly painful on hot days ).

    • Some traditional men in London in the 1950s were wearing detachable collars. Roger Moore portrays an old-fashioned businessman in The Man Who Haunted Himself in 1970, and he puts on a stiff collar every day. The character was someone unable to change, and he was likely wearing the same clothes every day since the 1940s.

    • It might have been a little old fashioned in the 1950s but I don’t think that the wearing of detachable collars would have been that unusual. In the days before everybody had a washing machine and clothing wasn’t as cheap as it is now, it wouldn’t have been uncommon for men to wear the same shirt body for more than one day and change the collars.

      As for the uncomfortable nature of collar studs, they really aren’t that bad. I wear almost every working day and you quickly become used to them. Vintage studs often have rounded enamel backs which lack the hard edges of modern plastic ones.

      • Sir , your insight is most valuable. Actually , l think you can help me with an issue. Do you know any way how we can make the Detachable collars a bit more comfortable to wear ? It would be a very big help since l am a lawyer and l have to wear them up to 5 hours a day , twice a week .
        My shirts are made by New and Lingwood in light blue silk and have Detachable white collars and white Cuffs. I find the detachable cuff option to be very sophisticated. You can wear double cuffs , single cuffs , one button cuffs , two button cuffs , three button cuffs , Cocktail cuffs , lapidus cuffs or any of these options in white.
        But the Collars can be incredibly painful to wear . How can l remedy this ?

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