Get Smart: Smartly Dressed in a Grey Three-Piece Suit

23

Get-Smart-Grey-Suit

Though I’m an American, I haven’t shown much American inspiration here. When I was a young child, there was a spy I preferred to watch over James Bond: Maxwell Smart in the American television show Get Smart. Get Smart spoofed James Bond on countless occasions—and featured a Sunbeam similar to the car Sean Connery drives in Dr. No—but it spoofed many other things other than Bond, and even went beyond the spy genre. Maxwell Smart, played by Don Adams, was not a very smart spy, but he was always smartly dressed. Smart was voted one of the “Ten Best-Dressed Spies” as mentioned in an episode of the show.

Get-Smart-Grey-Suit-Waistcoat

In the ninth episode, “Satan Place,” Adams wears a grey pick-and-pick three-piece suit with a button-one jacket and a double-breasted waistcoat. The jacket has straight shoulders, a clean chest and a shorter length. The shorter length helps to lengthen Don Adam’s legs and make him look a little taller—he was 5’9″. The jacket’s single button cuffs match the single button on the front, which both were popular in the 1960s. The jacket has short double vents, which were also very popular in the 1960s. The pockets are slanted, and the breast pocket is flapped. Though the lapels are narrow, the width isn’t exaggerated and would fit in well with today’s trends.

The double-breasted waistcoat has six buttons with three to button, notch lapels, two welt pockets and a straight bottom. The trousers have a darted front, slanted side pockets and a tapered leg. They have turn-ups and no break, which was the standard in America at the time. Though the jacket’s shorter length is a trend that has returned today—and returned in a more exaggerated way—the trousers are unlike modern trousers and have a traditional cut. They sit at the waist, which is especially important in a three-piece suit because the waistcoat needs to reach the top of the trousers without a gap. Fashionable three-piece suits today lengthen the waistcoat so it reaches the trousers, but that throws off the proportions of the body.

Get-Smart-Grey-Suit-Cocktail-Cuffs
Notice the cocktail cuffs

Besides the beautiful suit, this ecru shirt is another reason I chose to include this outfit.  This episode is one of only a few where Don Adams wears a shirt with cocktail cuffs. Adams usually wears double cuffs. A number of actors on 1960s American television wore cocktail cuffs, including Martin Landau and Dick Van Dyke, and the latter wore them consistently for a few years. The shirt also has a plain front and a tall, moderate spread collar with 2-buttons to help shorten Don Adam’s long neck. The tie is red with a small pattern or texture that I can’t make out. Adam’s shoes are slightly taller slip ons with a plain toe and tall heel. Maxwell Smart needs a slip-on shoe that is easy to take off when he needs to use his shoe phone. Since shorter trousers were trendy at the time, taller shoes were also popular so less sock is shown. These shoes aren’t boots, but the little bit of extra height around the ankle helps keep the socks hidden.

Get-Smart-Grey-Suit-Red-Tie
Notice the 2-button collar

The costume design in the credits is as follows: “Maxwell Smart’s Special Wardrobe Design by…RON POSTAL”. Postal is also credited as a “Mr. McQueen’s Wardrobe Consultant” in the Thomas Crown Affair. Later in Get Smart, Botany 500 is credited for the wardrobe.

23 COMMENTS

  1. Wow, thanks for writing this post, and I hope we see more of Max here. I don’t know much about fashion (though I like to think I’m making progress, thanks to your posts) but I know what I like, and every time I watch “Get Smart” I’m impressed by how terrific Agent 86’s suits look.

    This is particularly remarkable as Don Adams, wonderful talent and great guy that he was, was not exactly what you’d call a classically handsome fellow. Whenever I see him in later appearances on game shows, the Love Boat, interviews, etc I’m always shocked at what a schlub he seems to be, with big curly hair and cheesy moustaches, but most remarkably how slight, stoop-shouldered and “wimpy” he looks in casual wear and various 70s atrocities. In a way, you could treat him as the ultimate example of just how much a great suit can do for a man; until he stands next to a taller co-star on “Get Smart” (which is just about everyone!), I usually don’t even notice he’s a little fellow, thanks to those suits.

    Apropos of nothing, my young children have just discovered the show and literally beg me every night to put in a DVD, so I think I’ll be spending a lot more time looking at Max’s wardrobe, even if you don’t. 🙂

    • I’m glad you’ve enjoyed this post, and I’m glad your children enjoy the show. When I was 3 years old I couldn’t get enough of it, and there’s no better way to get young kids interested in the spy genre. I never thought Don Adams looked especially tall, even in these suits. But I’ve long admired his suits and I had meant to write about Get Smart sooner. I’m also going to feature the clothes from another one of my favorite 60s shows, The Dick Van Dyke Show. I’ve hinted on a few occasions about how much I like Van Dyke’s clothing from that time, which is actually similar to this but a little simpler. Green Acres is another American 60s show that featured some excellent clothing.

      • And of course there is some Bond synchronicity with Van Dyke, as he was the star of Cubby Broccoli’s adaptation of Ian Fleming’s children’s novel Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
        Recently, Dick Van Dyke mentioned in an interview with Kevin Pollack that during the production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Cubby approached him to possibly take over the role of Bond from Sean Connery, who had just left after You Only Live Twice. And people say the Moore films are goofy!!

  2. See, this is why I don’t understand people who think the early to mid ’60s was nothing but a sea of “boring” grey suits. If you look beyond the costuming in period pieces like Mad Men or Catch Me if You Can and into actual programming from then, there was a lot of creative dressing outside Madison Avenue and government agencies that still maintained a good taste level.

    • Absolutly!
      Boring suits?? That absurdness!
      Were clean,trim and elegant.
      I have fear that this horrible Tom Brownesque – Pee Wee Herman style of suits of today can carry a reaction aganist the clean silhouette and a return at 80s-90 baggy and loose fit.

      • The “80s-90 baggy and loose fit” will indeed come back into style – it’s just a question of when. I’ve lived long enough now to see that *everything* comes back around eventually, or at least a version of it. When I was in high school in the mid- to late-80s just seeing a picture of someone wearing flared trousers was enough to make us burst out laughing at how “stupid” they were to have worn them. Even worse was the idea that someone would wear…brown!

        And guess what we were all wearing 10 or 12 years later…

      • For this i admire peoples that have a precise style and remain faithful at it all lifetime.
        People like Douglas Fairbanks Jr or Gianni Agnelli,or (after the youth years) Prince Charles. (but there are a lot of these peoples unknown).

  3. Max’s wardrobe was incredible and I appreciated the nod in the Steve Carell remake to just how cool The original Agent 86 was.

    Like many of us I appreciated Get Smart’s humour but it was Max’s appropriation of key elements of Bond and the fact he looked so darn cool in those suits that made me such a fan.

    I think there’s plenty more shows that can be mined for this blog: Dangerman, U. N. C. L. E and their ilk. Heck I’d even like to see well suited PIs like Rockford and Magnum given a blog post or two (I love the infrequent Remington Steele posts). I think many a Bond aficionado would appreciate an overview of well dressed like minded men of action.

    • Some of the finest men’s clothes I’ve ever seen on the screen were featured in a little-known Tom Selleck movie titled “Lassiter”. He played a proto-Simon Templar gentleman thief with an absolutely killer late 30’s wardrobe. Those clothes would certainly be worth a post.

    • I second the UNCLE suggestion. Especially in light of the new film in production with Henry Cavill (who I think is probably the front runner to take over as 007 after Craig is finished).

  4. According to wikipedia, Ian Flemimg was a consultant to The Man From UNCLE and helped conceive the character of Napoleon Solo.

    • That is correct. I watched re-runs of the show when I was younger, mainly due to my affinity for Bond and the similarities between the two. It is definitely in the vein of the other spy shows of that era.

      • UNCLE had the working title of “Ian Fleming’s Solo”.

        It was his second attempt to get Bond or a Bond like character on to US TV screens. There’s a Girl From UNCLE out there somewhere too. It only lasted a season but was a weird Avengers/Get Smart hybrid.

  5. An attractive example of 60s tailoring and – as you rightly point out – showing many features that have recently returned to fashion: narrow cut, short jacket, single button front and even double-breasted waistcoat. Here, however, done rather better than much modern fashionable tailoring manages.

    Will single sleeve buttons and flapped breast pockets also make a return?

    • I don’t think flapped breast pockets will return due to the current popularity of pocket squares. If companies can sell pocket squares they will sell suits that they can be worn in. One-button cuffs may return since they save the manufacturer a little money. I get the impression that the current suit fashions are due to the recession since that’s when they started. By shortening the jacket 2 inches and the trouser rise 3-4 inches, plus convincing people to wear a size too small, they use considerably less cloth, thus saving money. Fewer buttons also saves money.

      • You have a point there Matt. Very slim lapels also help saving more cloth… And I noticed that jackets with jetted pockets -often with a ticket pocket, and slanted, unfortunately- were also more popular.
        That’s pushing it a bit too far when you compare these suits to the utility suits of the WWII… For a similar size I am sure there would be the double amount of cloth in the utility suit.

  6. I keep meaning to comment to say how much I appreciate the Get Smart articles. It’s the first spy show I was into and it led me to Bond, UNCLE and all the rest. (I must admit, I never really noticed Max’s tailoring; I was too busy looking at whatever groovy outfit Agent 99 was rocking.)

  7. Would you say this is a balanced or relatively low button stance? The whole outfit makes him look
    very sophiscated indeed.

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