The Man from U.N.C.L.E.: Dinner Suit and Backless Waistcoat



Napoleon Solo, Ian Fleming’s creation for the American television series The Man from U.N.C.L.E played by Robert Vaughn, wears black tie just as well as James Bond does. Solo’s black tie style is not as pared-down as Bond’s is, and his clothes incorporate a little more 1960s fashions than Bond’s do. In the 1965 episode “The Virtue Affair”, Solo wears a midnight blue dinner suit with midnight blue satin silk trimmings and a double-breasted backless waistcoat.


The dinner jacket is a button one with gently-rolled, narrow midnight-blue satin silk peaked lapels. The jetted pockets and single-button gauntlet cuffs are also trimmed in midnight blue satin silk. Silk-trimmed pocket jettings are not as traditional as body-trimmed jettings, which is the way James Bond’s dinner jackets typically are. Napoleon Solo’s dinner jacket has no vent. The shoulders are straight and narrow with a little padding, the chest is clean and the waist is gently shaped, though the jacket probably follows the American tradition and does not have front darts. The flat front trousers have a midnight blue satin stripe down the side of the leg and braces buttons on the outside of the waistband, which are not used.


Solo’s backless waistcoat is made of midnight blue silk. The waistcoat’s shawl lapels are made in satin silk to match the jacket’s lapels but the waistcoat’s body is made in a fancier watered silk. Backless waistcoats are wear cooler than full-back waistcoats, so they’re often used as a warm-weather alternative to the cummerbund. Still, they can also be worn year-round. With the dinner jacket on—and it should always stay on when in the company of others—the backless waistcoat looks just the same as regular waistcoat. It looks rather unattractive when the jacket is off, as Solo demonstrates in his jail cell. It has an adjustable strap across the back of the waist like on a cummerbund, and it has an adjustable strap that curves around the back of the neck. This allows the off-the-peg waistcoat to fit a large variety of figures. Whilst Solo’s waistcoat appears to be ready-to-wear, bespoke tailors can make backless waistcoats as well. Solo’s waistcoat is double-breasted and has six buttons with three to button in a keystone arrangement. The waistcoat is in the low-cut evening style so the buttons have little vertical space between them.

With the dinner suit Solo wears an ivory dress shirt. It has a spread collar and double cuffs fastened with large round silver cuff links. The front has small pleats, which are also known as “swiss” pleats or “pin tucks”. The front placket has interesting scalloped edges and is fastened with three black studs. The back of the shirt has shoulder pleats. The bow tie is black and does not match the rest of the silk trimmings in the outfit, but it is not a significant faux pas considering it can be difficult to find proper midnight blue bow ties. Solo’s shoes are black patent leather plain-toe slip-ons.


For more on Napoleon Solo, see the post I did on his black and white glen check suit.


  1. This I find, overall, a very unattractive outfit. Your right about the backless waistcoat, Matt. I had never heard of such an entity. It looks quite bizarre when the jacket is removed. I mean, why? Why wouldn’t one just wear a normal, traditional waistcoat? How hot could it be? Bond moved in warm temperatures and never saw fit to wear such an ugly looking garment, after all. As for the rest; the suit is nondescript. Nothing to see here and the shirt screams out cheap for some reason. Like something from a chain store. Shabby. Plus, he wears a vest under it and it shows through the shirt and this is another faux pas. To be honest, Dalton’s LTK monstrosity looks good beside this mess and that’s saying a lot!

  2. Very interesting article via that link, Matt. Thanks. I think a flat bottom waistcoat like what is shown from 1935 looks quite appealing but I wouldn’t contrast the buttons. I can appreciate the practicalities of a backless waistcoat but I think it’s the elements of the ensemble as a whole which Vaughn sports here which I find distasteful. The only 007 we have seen wearing 3 piece evening dress so far has been Brioni wearing Brosnan and I can only surmise that a polished Brioni evening suit with a backless waistcoat, were they to construct such an item, would be poles apart from this outfit.

  3. The suits of Napoleon Solo have a guilt,are too much fashionables,they scream continuously “1965”!
    No one claim Savile Row,but a honest wardrobe from Brooks Brothers or JPress would have been better.
    Besides the cut and the fit of Solo’s suits are mediocres,as the copy of a stylist suit buy to cheap wall market.
    Get Smart wear incomparably better.

    Said this,is a thing that i have not ever understood in American style:
    the lack of darts.
    Darts add shape to figure and not necessarily make uncomfortable the coat,
    I thing that the American sack would be better and more elegant with darts,so why not incorporate they?
    I think that this is one of reasons for the decline of Ivy league style.

    • Some people like the sack jacket’s clean front without darts. For the reasons you mention, makers like Paul Stuart started adding darts to their natural-shoulder suits to give the American cut some more shape.

    • “Some people like the sack jacket’s clean front without darts”.

      Yes,i understand.
      Florentine tailors for this reason make oblique slanted darts.
      I love much the “mid atlantic” or “update American style” of 50s and 60s.
      Paul Stuart and Norman Hilton make great suits in this style.

  4. Apart from the thin bow tie and narrow lapels (which are made to look even narrower given how much roll they have), this is a pretty smart outfit. I will politely disagree with David and say this is still miles above the LTK dinner suit.

    Re: the black bow tie, this is why it makes more sense to just have the facings in black on a midnight dinner suit. First being that it’s easier to pair bow ties, second that silk doesn’t reflect light the same way as wool does, making it unnecessary.

  5. In my opinion moderate narrow lapels and ties are more elegant that large lapels and ties.
    The secret is not exceed in narrowness.

  6. Greetings to all,
    As a diehard MFU fan since I was 10 years old, ( I’m 63 now) I always liked Napoleon’s Tuxedo/Evening Dress. As a tribute to the late Robert Vaughn, I changed my hairstyle from Leroy Gibbs to Robert Vaughn. Darned if my wife didn’t love the change!!!! Believe you me, She DOES!!!! Now She would like me to duplicate his tuxedo. Does anyone know the name of the company that made it? I admit, I have the shoulder holster and a non functioning Mauser ( as opposed to the Walther P-38). Any help Anyone can give me will be much appreciated. Great job Matt! Cheers,

    • This was most likely made by a tailor who is no longer around. However, using a proper bespoke tailor—preferably one with an backrgound in American tailoring—you should be able to use the information provided in this article to create a fair replica.


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