The typical dandy will often attempt to combine an outfit of four patterns. The outfit might consist of a suit in a wide stripe, a shirt in a narrow stripe, a tie in a large foulard pattern and a pocket square with a finer pattern, usually with a focus on one colour with a secondary accent colour and either warm or cool neutrals. But that’s not how James Bond dresses. Bond rarely wears more than one patterned item, and he frequently dresses without any pattern.
Bond prefers to use texture instead. I wrote a blog a few weeks ago about how to coordinate textures, which focuses on mixing items of complementary textures. For my outfit pictured here, I wanted to work with textures rather than with patterns, using items with either tactile texture or visual texture. Since it’s winter, it’s easy to find seasonal items in my wardrobe that are full of texture. This outfit is made up entirely of Bond-inspired pieces but combined in a way that looks more appropriate for a Bond villain. Or maybe a Great Gatsby-themed costume party.
I started with one of my best suits for the cooler half of the year, a vintage blue birdseye suit from Turnbull & Asser made in England by Chester Barrie. The blue birdseye suit is a staple of the Pierce Brosnan Bond films, though his suits are made of a lighter weight than mine is. My suit is about a 13-14 oz weight, so it is more insulating for cold weather and has a better drape. Compared to the typical lightweight modern suit, this suit doesn’t feel so much heavier to wear, but it does feel heavy when holding it on a hanger.
This birdseye cloth is made of black and light blue yarns, so overall it looks like a dark blue-grey while being a shade lighter than ‘charcoal blue’ but darker than air force blue. It’s one of the best suit colours for my cool, low-contrast complexion. The birdseye weave and corresponding pattern both create texture, and the two-colour pattern emphasises the texture of the weave. Since this suit is on the heavier side, the pattern and texture are more pronounced than on the average birdseye suit today.
The suit jacket has a button-two front, double vents and slanted pockets with a ticket pocket. The trousers have a flat front with straight legs, and they’re held up with braces.
For a different look than what I usually wear, I decided to pair an odd waistcoat with this suit for extra warmth. Since I wrote a blog about odd waistcoats a few months ago, the look as been on my mind. I wore this suit for an occasion located within my neighbourhood, and I didn’t want to bother with wearing a topcoat for only a short walk. The temperature was 41°F/5°C, so the waistcoat kept me comfortable outside but I wasn’t too warm to overheat indoors. However, if I had to be outdoors for a longer time, I would have needed a topcoat in addition to the waistcoat.
I’ve had this ready-to-wear cream doeskin waistcoat from Polo Ralph Lauren, made in Italy by Corneliani, for about 15 years but I don’t wear it often. It’s made in a traditional English style with six buttons, notched lapels and four welt pockets. The bottom button placed on the cutaway so it can’t fasten.
I was originally inspired to get this waistcoat because of the waistcoat that Sean Connery wears in M’s office in Goldfinger. This one is a couple shades lighter but is made of a similar wool doeskin in a 12-13 oz weight that provides a good amount of warmth. Doeskin is a type of flannel, so it has a nap that not only gives the cloth character but also makes it wear warmer. Since this waistcoat is seasonally appropriate, I thought it would be a good pairing with this suit. The cream colour means it goes well with just about anything.
Because this waistcoat is cream, it makes it a more formal waistcoat. Cream waistcoats are a traditional choice for morning dress, and doeskin is a classic option for a cool-weather morning dress waistcoat. While a darker odd waistcoat can dress down a suit, a light-coloured waistcoat dresses it up, albeit in a more dandy way than a matching three-piece suit does.
One reason why I don’t often wear this waistcoat is because it’s too long for me by about an inch and a half. It’s a problem I see with most waistcoats these days, often due to the popularity of low-rise trousers. This waistcoat, however, predates the popularity of low-rise trousers for men (they were a women’s fashion at the time this waistcoat was made), but it’s probably long to help it fit a wider range of men even though its an ‘R’ length. I may have this waistcoat shortened, but it it could be difficult to do well because the lower pockets are close to the bottom of the waistcoat.
The pink end-on-end shirt from Mason & Sons (branded Anthony Sinclair) introduces another texture, though this texture is purely visual. End-on-end is often called a weave, but it’s merely a pattern that produces a crosshatch look. The actual cloth is cotton poplin, which is woven in a simple plain weave for a smooth feel. In this shirt, the warp is white while the weft alternates between pink and white yarns, which creates a visual texture.
I thought about wearing a shirt with more tactile texture, like a herringbone or pinpoint cotton shirt, which would also be warmer. I ultimately settled on this shirt because end-on-end is slightly more formal.
I also chose this shirt for the colour it brings to this outfit. When I was getting dressed I recalled an outfit Don Adams wore on Get Smart that pairs a pink shirt with a muted navy suit. Since little of the shirt is seen because of the waistcoat, I thought that the pink shirt would nicely add some colourful accents that complement and contrast with both the suit and the waistcoat. I wanted a shirt with some colour or pattern that wouldn’t get lost against the cream waistcoat, so I avoided wearing a white or cream shirt, and I wanted something more interesting than a typical blue shirt.
The shirt has a spread collar and cocktail cuffs. The inspiration behind getting this shirt was originally the pink shirt from You Only Live Twice, which Bond wears more casually. His shirt is a similar lightweight cotton styled with cocktail cuffs. Unlike Connery, I haven’t often dressed down in this shirt; instead I usually find myself wearing this shirt more dressed up.
I wanted a simple Bondian choice for the tie, so it had to be a solid grenadine tie because I wanted to add another texture. I didn’t think a knitted tie was dressy enough for this outfit, whereas a grenadine tie has texture and is much more formal. While a smooth repp tie would work, more textures helps to prevent an outfit of solids from looking monotonous, even if it isn’t literally monotonous. Unlike with four patterns, it’s difficult to overdo four textures.
The tie’s colour proved to be difficult. All of my blue grenadine ties except a light blue clash with the suit, but the light blue tie doesn’t have enough contrast against the pink shirt. Most other colours don’t go well with both blue and pink. Introducing a third colour to the outfit would also make it look too busy. A grey tie would have paired well with both the suit and the shirt, but it would compete with the cream waistcoat.
I ended up with a black grenadine tie because there’s black in the suit, and the contrast against the shirt and waistcoat makes the black tie a good focal point for the outfit near the face. The black tie also complements and bookends the black shoes.
This black grenadine garza grossa tie is from Hilditch & Key. I have other black grenadine ties from Turnbull & Asser and Mason & Sons, but I chose this one because it was the first one I happened to grab. Sean Connery wears black grenadine ties in Thunderball and Diamonds Are Forever.
I wore a folded white linen pocket square because it’s the basic Bondian choice, and it goes with everything. It also picks up the white in the shirt’s weave.
The trousers are being held up with braces from Albert Thurston in a navy and red stripe and have black leather ends. I didn’t think much about pairing the braces since they wouldn’t be seen, and they were already attached to the suit trousers from the last time I wore the suit. In any case, I always wear braces when wearing a waistcoat to ensure the shirt does not show between the bottom of the waistcoat and the top of the trousers. Since this waistcoat is too long, that wouldn’t have been a problem, but braces give the outfit better lines nonetheless.
In the manner of James Bond, I chose black shoes. In my mind, brown shoes of any shade clash with a suit that is woven of black and light blue yarns, though the American in me would allow this suit to be paired with burgundy shoes. These shoes are black calf full-brogue slip-ons with leather-trimmed side gores from Crockett & Jones in their ‘Cranbourne’ model. Though these are slip-ons, they have the same formality as full-brogue oxfords. Pierce Brosnan occasionally wears black full-brogue oxfords as James Bond with his suits.
My gold watch is a vintage Jules Jurgensen, which I got because it closely resembles the unidentified gold watch that Sean Connery frequently wears in his Bond films.
Photos by Janna Levin Spaiser
I don’t know enough about clothing to say why this works but it really does. I think it controls the contrast really well as the pink shirt could be a bit overwhelming. But having the waistcoat as a neutral colour controls the flash of the pink. And the dark suit keeps it formal.
You would look better without the waistcoat
Yes definitely. My visceral reflexive reaction on seeing the pic was that the waistcoat doesn’t work here. Of course the variance in how we see colours on monitors and phone screens may be a contributing factor.but assuming I’m seeing it in its correct colour it looks jarring. I would have worn an undershirt if needed for warmth and ditched the waistcoat.
My preference would have been for a dark navy tie. I own a black grenadine and haven’t had it on except for a funeral, it seems that dark blue or dark navy are always more optimal for me.
All other aspects look fine!
The waistcoat is a matter of taste. I personally find that cream/ecru goes well with just about everything. What may be the issue here is that the pink shirt and the waistcoat together may be taking this outfit a step too far. If my shirt were a blue stripe, the outfit would basically be monochrome so there wouldn’t be both the focus of an unusual shirt colour and an unusual waistcoat competing for attention. I don’t have any undershirts that can provide the warmth of a thick wool waistcoat.
I have too many navy ties. They all clash because the suit has a black base. The black tie goes much better with it.
I think it’s very much an issue of personal taste. To my eyes there is definitely a clash here and I think it must be the combination effect. I like the shirt and tie with the waistcoat and would also like the shirt and tie worn with just the suit but when all combined, they clash for me. Not quite sure I’m able to explain why other than personal taste.
You look quite dapper in this ensemble. A further viable option could be a pocket watch and chain; however, your vintage Swiss wristwatch is entirely appropriate here.
Excellent ensemble and again well photographed. Even though I rarely wear waistcoats this works for you except for the fact it is far too long, otherwise color and textures here mix well.
Knowing New York and transiting it via JFK on numerous occasions I have a difficult time how your fellow citizens would view you like this, perhaps more like Roger Moore, especially if you topped it off with a serious top coat !? Live and let die anyone?
It really is a shame about the length of the waistcoat, it’s so close to being perfect, and looks like it fits nicely through the body. How long is the waiscoat, if you don’t mind me asking?
I’ve really come around on the solid black necktie, and I wear them often now ever since I was inspired by your article on them, Matt. It’s now my go-to way of grounding an outfit with otherwise bright colours or grand textures.
Once again for the most part I love that birdseye suit. Since you said that color is great for those with cool low contrast complexions, what are some other colors that look good? I may be a summer complexion myself but I’m not sure.
The best colours are anything that isn’t too dark or vivid. Mixes with black or white like the suit and shirt here are ideal for someone with a cool, low-contrast complexion. Browns need a rosy undertone rather than a golden one.
The outfit is certainly not bad but I think perhaps there are too many colours (5) going on simultaneously. I agree that the pink shirt and the waistcoat are somehow competing and may be taking this outfit a step too far. The waistcoat per se in not the problem and would have worked better with a white shirt, which would also have matched the colour of the pocket square, and hence limited the outfit to four colours instead of five. I like the idea of the solid black grenadine tie to correspond with the black shoes to bookend the silhouette.
In real life the waistcoat looks much more neutral, so I think of the outfit as two colours plus a few neutrals that aren’t competing with the blue and pink. The shirt and waistcoat don’t look so close in real life.
Very good example to demonstrate texture. I agree when you mentioned that the outfit looks like a Bond villain because of the waistcoat. It reminds me of Goldfingers waistcoat even though the color is different. The birdseye suit has a great drape and I think the outfit is an interesting change from your normal wardrobe Matt.
Gotta agree with some of the folks, Matt, that the shade of the waistcoat cannot do. If it was worn with navy or midnight blue suits, I’d totally recommend the idea. But for a shade halfway in between like your suit here, would have been better with darker shades. The contrast does not add up in the current setup.
Still, this is inspiring. Now, how do I waste my paycheck after the tax season…
Coming back to this article out of pure whim, but honestly, I think it’s necessary. Apologies for the wall of texts about to come.
I will not lie, I was an obnoxious prima donna. Waistcoat must be part of a three piece, or else none at all. But the last couple of years shown differently. The weather is violent, conditions are much harder, everything worsen, and we all have to do something to survive. Outside of nutrition and basic housing, we also have to rely on our garbs. It is no longer a joke to say “Dress wisely”; it’s a requirement. We all have to survive, somehow.
Part of that somehow would be a waistcoat, or “vest”.
For summertime, a waistcoat has no real purpose, other than being a decorative accommodation. But the Winters had been vengeful as of the last four years, and I find myself coughing up blood as of this one. I, therefore, highly recommend we all have some kind of vest/waistcoat. Leather, corduroy, wool – tweed, doeskin, velvet, coating cloth, velvet – whatever you can get, get one.
Waistcoats/vests keep you warm, provide extra pockets, and an additional layer, where it counts. In a different shade, and if the coat is buttoned up, it distinguishes a person, and it still remains polite and discreet. It also eliminates the need for a coat during the colder seasons, and it gives a better reinforcement effect.
I’m getting extra odd waistcoats/vests. I would recommend all of you to do much the same. Tough times ahead aren’t just on monetary matters alone.