M: The Double-Breasted Grey Flannel Suit

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M-Dr-No

Ralph Fiennes isn’t the first M to wear a double-breasted suit. Fifty years earlier in Dr. No, Bernard Lee wore his one and only double-breasted suit as M. Like many of Lee’s suits and Fiennes’ double-breasted suit, this suit is flannel. In particular, this suit is a mid grey woollen flannel, which has the old-fashioned look that’s well-suited for the character. Whilst Fiennes’ suit is traditional and not characteristic of any era, Lee’s suit is very characteristic of suits from the 1950s. Its large, padded shoulders and wide lapels were outdated for 1962, as was the buttoning style. The jacket has four buttons in a keystone arrangement with one to button, which was never a very popular style with English tailors. It wasn’t uncommon in the 1940s and 1950s, but by the 1960s the low-buttoning double-breasted suits were out of fashion. The style returned in the 1980s and has been out of fashion since the mid 1990s. It’s not as classic as the style of Ralph Fiennes’ double-breasted suit, but if it is cut well—which can’t usually be said for the baggy 1980s examples—and fits well it can be a good choice for shorter or heavier men.

Lee’s jacket has jetted pockets, 3-button cuffs and no vents. As is traditional on a double-breasted jacket, both peaked lapels have a buttonhole since both sides of the jacket have fastening buttonholes. For From Russia With Love, Bernard Lee wears a more contemporary suit, though it’s still a little more traditional than Sean Connery’s suits.

M-Dr-No-2Though Bernard Lee’s M’s is known for his bow ties, he wears a black four-in-hand tie that has a fancy self pattern in his first appearance in the James Bond series. The tie is a fashionable, narrow width and it’s much narrower than his lapels. Though the narrow tie is a bit incongruous with the wide lapels, it works much better than the opposite would. He uses a tie pin to anchor the tie to his shirt. Lee doesn’t return to wearing four-in-hand ties until the final act of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. His shirt is a fine bengal stripe in light grey and white, which complements his grey hair and grey eyes. The shirt has a spread collar, plain front and double cuffs. He wears a white linen pocket handkerchief that is mostly obscured by his wide lapels.

13 COMMENTS

  1. Such a great look. A bit more sophisticated than Connery’s sober and minimalist style, a bit more old-fashioned too.
    I certainly prefer this suit to Mallory’s, but it’s just personal.
    I presume the trousers have double forward pleats, but unfortunately we’ll never know… I wouldn’t be surprised if he wore braces with it too.
    Matt, I guess the jacket has a draped chest ?

  2. I guess the fact that it looked rather 50’s is intentional. As M’s suits are probably some from the 50’s.
    I have a question regarding the lapel buttonholes, Matt. Do all double breasted suits have buttonholes on both sides of the suit? And do people use them like the boutonniere on a single breasted?

    • All double-breasted suits should have a buttonhole in both lapels, but many don’t. Roger Moore’s jacket from Cyril Castle only have one on the left side, but his jackets from Douglas Hayward have a buttonhole in both lapels. George Lazenby’s blazer has a buttonhole in both lapels. Only the left one should be used for a flower, just like on a single-breasted jacket.

      • Matt, that’s funny, I don’t agree with you at all on this point !
        I think today, almost every double breasted suit in ready-to-wear has a buttonhole in each lapel, mostly because of the symetry, it’s just a common feature.
        On the contrary, I think the fact of having only one buttonhole on the left lapel is typical of bespoke tailoring ; if the customer wants just one buttonhole -after all, the one on the right lapel will never be used- and not the common two, then he can get it.
        Your example of Moore’s double breasted jacket by Cyril Castle clearly shows it, in my opinion.
        French actor Jean Gabin, for example, also wore only bespoke double breasted suits with a buttonhole on the left lapel only in the French noir Touchez pas au Grisbi, as well as in some other films of the 1950s.

        Another anecdote -I guess you know this classic !- : in The Big Sleep, Bogart wore suits made by a tailor -which name I forgot- who disliked the idea of having both the pocket square and the boutonniere on the same side, thinking it was too much. So, in the movie, every single breasted suit has a buttonhole in the right lapel only !

        This conforts me in the idea that choosing the number and the position of the lapel buttonholes is -or should I say was ? it’s rare to see such suits today- one of the multiple advantages of bespoke.

      • Of mine, Polo has one, Paul Stuart has two, Zegna has two and Hackett has two. In looking up how others do it, Brooks Brothers does one, Ted Baker does one, Armani does one, Oxxford does mostly one, Hickey Freeman does two, Brioni does two, Kiton does two, Gieves and Hawkes (ready-to-wear, English and American) has done it both way and Tom Ford has done it both ways. I can’t find a correlation between country of origin or quality. Two buttonholes is a little more common, and looking through bespoke double-breasted suits on eBay I found that more than two thirds of bespoke suits and blazers have two buttonholes. I would sooner guess that the number of buttonholes is a house style rather than a customer preference. Bespoke in the details is more about house style than what the customer wants.

  3. M’s suit almost looks dark grey, it isn’t far from it. was it common for someone to wear a mid-grey suit in London during the late 1950’s or early 1960’s ? does anyone know ?, Matt ?. In Mad Men set in 60’s America Roger Sterling and Don Draper often wear light grey suits in warm weather. I wonder if that was common place in America during that time ?

  4. Just wondering: how come the low-buttoning double-breasted suit can be a good choice for shorter men? I thought only tall men looked reasonable in double-breasted suits.

    • It’s a common misconception that only tall, slim men can look good in a double-breasted suit. Lower-buttoning double-breasted jacket can look good on a shorter man because the longer lapel line lengthens the torso by creating a long diagonal line. The longer the lapel line the closer to vertical it is. And the longer this line the more it can make a man look taller. Any general style (double-breasted jackets or pleated trousers, for instance) can work for anyone as long as the fit is good. It’s the specifics of how those styles are executed that make a difference for certain body types.

  5. I’m not short but I have always avoided them because I heard that only tall thin people benefited from them. I think I see what you mean by the lapel line now. Modern double-breasted suits that I’ve seen seem to have a much less vertical line than ones I’ve seen in pictures from the 80’s.

  6. Harrison Ford looks good in a navy dbl breasted suit as Indiana Jones. From memory, the button stance was low in that suit as well.

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