“Not mad about his tailor, are you?” says Bond to Kerim Bey about Benz’s suit. Benz is a Russian security agent played by English actor Peter Bayliss in From Russia with Love. Why doesn’t Bond like Benz’s suit? The first thing that stands out about this suit is not due to the tailor’s work but is the suit’s garish cloth. The suit is light grey with large horizontal ribs and black chalk stripes, which are muted by the grey base. Dark stripes can sometimes work on a suit, but not against the contrast of a light grey ground. The black chalk stripes immediately mark Benz as an enemy.
It’s no surprise that Bond does not favour Benz’s tailor’s work. The button one suit jacket has a very full drape cut, which had become very unfashionable in the 1960s. It looks like it was made in the 1940s. The chest is full with a lot of drape and the waist is gently suppressed. The shoulders are wide, but they are well done with natural-looking padding and cleanly-draped, full sleeves. The cut of the jacket is meant to make Benz look like a much stronger man than he is, but that deception is apparent when Bond turns his suit jacket into a straight jacket and exposes Benz’s shoulders.
The suit jacket is detailed with jetted pockets, no vent and four-button cuffs. The lapels have a steep gorge, which both makes the lapels seem wider than they are and makes the medium gorge height seem lower than it is. The lapels have a very wide notch. The suit’s buttons are black plastic to match the black stripes and sewn with grey thread to match the suit. The suit’s trousers are full-cut with pleats and have wide legs with turn-ups.
Benz wears a rather cheap-looking cream shirt with his suit. It has a short, moderate spread collar and square single-button cuffs. The collar and cuffs are stitched 1/8″ from the edge, which is mostly what lends a cheap look to the shirt. Most top-quality makers have 1/4″ stitching on the collar and cuffs, and whilst there are some high-end makers that stitch the collar and cuffs 1/8″ or closer to the edge, it’s mostly done on poor-quality shirts.
Whilst Benz’s black satin silk tie complements the suit’s black stripes, the navy satin silk pocket square—folded in a winged puff—clashes with the tie. However, the navy pocket square matches Benz’s navy socks, which is quite creative. Benz’s shoes are black.
Benz briefly is seen with a black felt hat, but the type of hat is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Instead of the crown tapering upward, the crown bells out like on a top hat. The crown is much shorter than a top hat’s crown, and the top is domed. The brim is turned down all the way around. The hat has a black grosgrain ribbon with a large bow. Is anyone familiar with the style of Benz’s hat, seen on top of his briefcase below?
Ian Fleming did not write about Benz’s suit in the From Russia with Love novel, but he wrote about Benz’s dressing gown:
Reluctantly, his heavy face pale with anger, the M.G.B. man who called himself Benz stepped out into the corridor in a brilliant blue silk dressing-gown. The hard brown eyes looked straight into Bond’s, ignoring him … Bond noticed the bulge under the left arm of the dressing-gown, and the ridge of a belt round the waist. He wondered if he should tip off the plain-clothes man. He decided it would be better to keep quiet. He might be hauled in as a witness.
At least Fleming’s Benz had fine taste in loungewear, though all he wears in the film is his one striped suit.
“The button one suit jacket has a very full drape cut, which had become very unfashionable in the 1960s. It looks like it was made in the 1940s”.
Is funny that in late 50s and 60s the stereotyped soviet suit was a 1940s full drape-full cut (and bad cut) suit: pratically an American ready to wear suit from 1946.
I believe that this stereotype was derived from Nikita Khrushchev’s suits.
I’m don’t know if this was true,sincerly USSR suits of that age seems to me not copies of 1940s bold look,but only contemporary 50s/60s suits badly cut.
Who knows if the Benz’s suit was a costume created from the movie,or some ugly and garish late 40s/early 60s British suit found by costume department.
The one button configuration is very British and unusual on coats of other countries.
Anyway the departure from 40s/very early 50s silhouette (that were an evolution-involution of 30s drape silhouette) was in 50s total.
This almost looks like a leftover from an old Vaudeville act.
It would have to be a very full cut for Bond to pull the jacket down off his shoulders and bind Benz in the way he does. I was wondering if that would be an effective way to restrain someone. I tried it and couldn’t do it (to myself) with any of my jackets/sportcoats. I couldn’t button them with the jacket around my arms like that either.
I seem to remember Bond doing a similar thing to Grant during the Train Car fight. I suppose if nothing else it would restrict one’s movement even more than a padded jacket already does.
I think that the hat Benz had would have been a fedora with either a very straight-sided full crown, or one with reverse taper to begin with, causing the effect of the front and back jutting out like a certain low crowned top hat. The reverse taper effect was common for dress hats prior to the middle or late 1950s, and especially the period before World War II.
The late ’50s and early ’60s would have been the time narrow brims and lower, more tapered crowns were fashionable, so I think a point was made with this character to make his attire seem out of fashion. Benz’s suit certainly looks more late 1940s and early 1950s than early 1960s, although suits of that past era could look very nice well tailored to the wearer. I prefer the fashions of suits between the late 1950s through the mid 1960s, narrower trouser legs and all, although the same cuts with wider lapels and ties look nice as well.
As for hats, my preference is toward the older fashions of wider brims and higher crowns, like the Australian Akubra company’s Federation IV fedora made and sold today. I own a brown and a tan one. I also own a pale grey hat with a black ribbon, very similar to the one worn by Alain Delon’s character in Le Samouraï. The clothes in that film look great, yet it is neither British nor a spy film, but a French neo-noir involving an underworld assassin in Paris. I would recommend seeing it for the amount of influence it has for the sub-genre of crime films involving solitary hitmen characters.
Poor Benz! Just a poorly paid Soviet resident agent doing his job. His suit was well out of style by the time of FRWL but Benz was hardly a leading light in the spy community. The boxy cut reminds me, also, of the suits Nikita Khruschev wore as Premier. In my view Red Grant could have killed Kerim Bey without also killing Benz , but Grant was a psychopath. At first I believed the hat to be a scaled down Gondolier’s winter hat. That is just ridiculous, so I now think it was an attempt at a Catholic priest’s Cappello Romano. It was not unheard of for British agents to disguise themselves as priests when operating in Turkey, and the hat could be a remnant of Benz trying the same thing.
The hat is indeed strange and rather ugly.
The suit however looks really similar to one Dick Powell wore in Murder, my Sweet (1944). If the director of FRWL was an American, I’d say it’s a possibility it’s the same suit reused…
The Benz hat is a very old fashioned (think 1920s era) Homburg hat, the brim is not turned down, just the front and back of the brim’s continually up-turned and rolled brim dip downward in the front and back, while the sides arc upwards. The top of the hat is not domed, and it is actually quite a tall hat, however, the height is lessened by the typically deep central crease which also accounts for the front and back of the hat being bowed outward.
I have a nearly identical Homburg hat from 1890 or so, the only major difference, is that the one in the film has much narrower proportions, in keeping with its date of filming, whereas my Homburg hat has a moderately taller crown, and brim, and my hat has a pencil rolled brim.
If you look up photographs of Homburg hats from the 1880s through to the 1920s, you will notice the identical conformation of those hats to the hat in question.
This might be old new from 2012 – it shows a pretty well known person wearing a suit in pretty much the same garish fabric as Benz (second picture in the article) – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2215642/Rich-Dad-Poor-Dad-bankrupt-dad-Best-selling-author-files-corporate-bankruptcy-losing-24m-judgement.html
While I don’t condemn the said person’s legacy, it just seems funny how movie villain-like some real life people dress.
Not made about his tailor either!