OSS 117’s Alpaca Dinner Suit

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It’s almost the end of another year. For many people New Year’s Eve means black tie, and Jean Dujardin’s example in the French spy spoof OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies is just as good as any of James Bond’s. OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies is similar in its humour to Get Smart and is one of the best spy spoofs of the past decade. In the 2006 film that takes place in 1955, Dujardin plays Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, a.k.a. OSS 117. The OSS 117 novels by Jean Bruce and original serious films predate James Bond novels and films, respectively. There is much inspiration taken from Sean Connery’s James Bond films in OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies.

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“Ce sera l’occasion de porter mon smoking en alpaga/A perfect occasion to wear my alpaca dinner jacket.” —Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath

Bonisseur de La Bath says that his black dinner suit is made of alpaca, and since the cloth has a bit of a sheen it is certainly possible that it truly is alpaca. Alpaca wool is unusual for a dinner suit, though its silky and luxurious hand makes it appropriate for evening wear. However, it wears warmer than ordinary sheep’s wool, making it a rather poor choice for the hot and dry desert climate in Cairo. Mohair would have been a better choice, though “alpaca tuxedo” sounds more humourous.

The suits for OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies were beautifully made for Jean Dujardin by Parisian tailor Joseph Kergoat. The dinner jacket has a traditional button one front and medium-width, satin-silk-faced peaked lapels without a buttonhole. The jacket is cut with wide, lightly-padded shoulders, gently roped sleeve heads, a full chest and a gently suppressed waist. The jacket has satin silk pocket jettings, three-button cuffs and no vent. The jacket’s buttons are black plastic. The dinner suit’s trousers have a darted front, tapered legs and a satin silk stripe down each leg. Though much of this film is modelled on Sean Connery’s Bond films from the 1960s, non-pleated trousers are inconsistent with both what Connery wears in his 1960s Bond films and what was popular in the 1950s. These trousers should have had pleats to be more accurate, though pleats were becoming very unfashionable at the time the film was made.

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Bonisseur de La Bath wears a white dress shirt with a short spread collar, double cuffs and a pleated bib with twelve pleats on each side. The front is fastened with three mother-of-pearl studs—with regular buttons the rest of the way down below the bib—and the cuffs are fastened with matching mother-of-pearl cufflinks. With the outfit he wears a black satin silk batwing bow tie, a black satin silk cummerbund and a folded white linen handkerchief in his breast pocket.

Bonisseur de La Bath’s shoes are black patent leather cap-toe oxfords. The patent leather shoe for black tie traditionally has a plain toe since it is dressier than a cap toe, but a patent leather oxford with a cap toe isn’t a serious faux pas. The shoes are the Crockett & Jones “Chatham” model, which has cemented soles instead of welted soles. Cemented soles cannot be replaced like welted soles can, but they look more sleek since they don’t have a welt and thus can be trimmed close to the uppers.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. As a Frenchman on this blog (yet another…), I’ve been looking forward for this one for some time. You made my day! The two “OSS 117” films are great and I must say the clothes—especially this dinner suit—aren’t bad at all.
    I hope you’ll cover more of it in the future. Why not, in the second film, OSS 117: Lost in Rio, the dinner suit with the ruffled-front shirt…
    One thing that struck me about Dujardin’s wardrobe in the film: despite the obvious tribute to Sean Connery (be it only for his acting),it just seems to differ from Connery’s style in almost every detail: plain-hemmed trousers with a flat front and worn with a belt; three-button jackets; French cuffs and point collars for the shirts; pattened ties; oxford shoes…

    • I will certainly write more about OSS 117. You’re right that the clothes really didn’t emulate Connery’s style. The clothes are more like typical 1960’s clothes. The film attempts to emulate the style of 1950s and 1960s spy films, and not only James Bond. Perhaps emulating Connery’s dress would make the character look too English, and they wanted him to look more continental since he is a French spy.

  2. Can you please do analysis of brosnan’s outfits in the November man? I know you did one already. He’s my fav bond, the one I grew up with and i miss seeing him as a spy. The November man was awesome, and I really hope you can do more reviews of his outfits.

  3. This is the first time I’ve heard of this movie but it sounds really interesting. A 60s James Bond spoof with Jean Dujardin as the lead character. And from the wiki page, this movie predates Casino Royale by a few months as well.
    I think it’s an excellent dinner suit indeed. I just realized that the French word for tuxedo is “smoking”. Did it come from the English term “Smoking Jacket”?

  4. OSS 117 is one of the funniest spy spoofs out there. If you understand French it’s even better. Thanks, I love the way that Dujardin carries himself. He’s not really emulating Connery, in fact he said he was more inspired by Paul Newman in Harper. The way Newman carried himself on set, and the way he wore a tux, are both much more evident in Dujardin’s character. Again, thank you, and everyone should go out and find this film!

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