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 sleeve heads, 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.

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The 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.

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Adam’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.

22 COMMENTS

  1. Another fantastic article.

    I’d argue that with many of the cases Max investigated (exotic Embassy balls, parties with international fashion models and High Society socialites right down to the various Bond Supervillain clones he encounters) his clothes do leg him blend into the crowd he runs in.

    Certainly More so than say Simon Templar or Mr Steed who I’d class as more dandified than Max.

  2. It’s striking how contemporary this outfit is. It would certainly be at home today on the pages of GQ. That said, I find it quite unappealing. Particularly the narrow peaked lapels, which is an unsightly trend.

    • You are correct. The trousers have a traditional cut that is certainly not reflected in today’s trends. However, I don’t think the trousers flatter Adams. His torso is too short to wear pants with a natural rise. He would benefit from a medium rise in my opinion.

      • The trousers effectively rise to the bottom of his waistcoat. What you see without the waistcoat on isn’t meant to be seen, so I don’t think the extra rise matters. Plus the benefit of the longer rise is that the trousers are more comfortable.

    • I have to admit that the last comment stymies me – how in the world would higher rise trousers be more comfortable? In 30 years of contemporary fashion, as well as wearing vintage clothing, I’ve worn trousers with very high rises, low rises, and mid-rises and have never detected a difference in comfort. How would the greater “comfort” manifest itself?

      • I’ve found that when the waistband is up at the natural waist, the trousers move better with the body since they are sitting closer to the body’s fulcrum than lower trousers, which especially makes sitting down more comfortable.

    • I don’t know, I agree with him here too. Even jeans with a low rise are less comfortable than ones with the rise an inch higher to me. But honestly I don’t see how these trousers would look bad even if he wore the jacket sans waistcoat.

    • I agree with respect to comfort, no question. I was speaking merely from my own aesthetic point of view with Adams’ diminutive frame in mind.

      Jovan, where on earth do you find jeans with a medium rise? I’ve seen nothing but low rise for years.

  3. I agree overall with FS. Indeed this distasteful little ensemble does look quite contemporary and for all the wrong reasons.

    While I would bow to Matt on the trousers, the rest is not at all pleasing and very reminiscent of modern “monstrosities” (to use the phrase often bandied about in relation to other characters’ clothing choices on this blog!); notably the too short jacket and the lapels not to mention the awful shirt. This hardly makes the diminutive wearer more imposing. Funny enough, the previous outfits posted re: “Get Smart” weren’t actually all that bad.

    While Steed was certainly “dandified” his finely tailored wardrobe is light years away from this and while Simon Templar was a natty dresser he wasn’t a “dandy”. His Cyril Castle suits were far more restrained, conservative and tasteful and therefore made him far more likely to blend in with fine society than this would but “horses for courses” I suppose.

    • The cut of this suit is actually very similar to what Moore wears in The Saint. The chest is full-cut on both suits, the lapel widths are the same (but Moore’s are never peaked on a single-breasted suit, of course), and Moore’s jackets are a little short as well. The jacket isn’t as short as what Daniel Craig wears in Skyfall.

  4. I have many GQ magazines of late 50s and early 60s,and many Esquire magazines of that period too (bought on web).
    Narrow peaked lapels was a trend for sophisticated “continental” suits of that years (1958-1961).
    In mid 60s this feature was less common.
    I think that Smart dress in that that can be considered contemporary English style,see with American eyes and with an American touch.
    I like very much; i think also that John Steed could dress this suit (with another shirt).

  5. I like this suit and many of the old Bond suits but I disagree with most people here on contemporary suit trends. Slim fitting suits are nice if they are not too tight and can be very flattering on some men.

    • I don’t think anyone objects to a close fit. It’s come to be that “slim fit” now means a suit that’s too small, like Daniel Craig’s suits in Skyfall. That’s why people object to “slim fitting” suits.

  6. At least it isn’t the laser blazer, with which Max unwittingly destroyed swathes of Hong Kong. The shirt brings to mind a common sight of the ’80’s – the polycotton shirt with a pinned collar, often sold as a boxed set with a tie and matching handkerchief. Yes, I owned a couple. A shame these low quality items turned people off the collar pin or bar, which I think is a very elegant accessory. And, as said of the Dr. No suit trousers, the rise of Max’s trousers makes sense in the context of the suit he is wearing. The waist moves about a lot less than the hips when one walks.

  7. And 4+ years later, I find this! Thanks for covering Get Smart – I loved it as a 4-year old and it actually got me into the 60s spy genre. Despite the fact that I had been watching the show since the early-70s, I never noticed what a great dresser Max was until I was a late teen, long after I was admiring the suits of Steed, Templar, Hand, and Drake.

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