The Ipcress File: Grey Tweed Jacket


Michael Caine stars as the unsophisticated spy Harry Palmer in 1965 film The Ipcress File, produced by James Bond film producer Harry Saltzman. Palmer is quite the opposite of James Bond and lives a very unglamourous life. Unlike Bond, Palmer never looks perfect, he wears glasses, he does desk work, he wakes up alone and he shops at the supermarket. Palmer’s clothes, however, aren’t completely unlike Bond’s, but they still leave something to be desired. 1980s Bond tailor Douglas Hayward was famously Michael Caine’s tailor, but it is unknown if he made the clothes for The Ipcress File.

Broken Twill

Palmer is introduced wearing a tweed jacket in black and grey broken twill. Broken twill has a similar look to barleycorn but is also like a very small herringbone weave. Herringbone is actually a type of broken twill. A grey broken twill tweed jacket actually isn’t so far from the type of jacket Bond would wear. Palmer’s jacket is a button two with natural shoulders. It has narrow lapels with a very gradual roll, making the button two jacket look almost like a button three jacket.


The jacket also has double vents, a single button on each sleeve—the jacket’s buttons are black plastic—and hip pockets with narrow flaps. Palmer sometimes wears the pocket flaps tucked in, like when he carries a folded newspaper in his hip pocket (see image at the end of the article). Keeping small items in outer pockets does enough to disturb the jacket’s lines without having items sticking out from the pockets. Palmer demonstrates the way no gentleman should carry his newspaper.

Palmer wears medium grey worsted wool trousers under the jacket. They have a darted front, slanted side pockets, an extended waistband, buckle side adjusters and a tapered leg with turn-ups. There ought to be a little more contrast between the jacket and trousers, and a shade lighter in grey would be enough to give the two pieces more separation. The trousers most likely come from the suit Palmer wears later in the film. Palmer’s black shoes keep within the city tones of the outfit.


Palmer’s pale blue shirt is the least refined part of his outfit. Though the spread collar has a good width, the length of the collar points is rather puny. The collar is stitched 1/8 inch from the edge rather than the traditional 1/4 inch. The shirt has square single cuffs for cufflinks. These are not the stiff single cuffs that one wears for full evening dress but instead cheap, flimsy cuffs similar to the modern convertible cuffs that can be worn either with a button or with cufflinks. Palmer’s shirt has a breast pocket, which further brings the origin of Palmer’s shirt into question.

There is one item that Palmer takes from Bond’s wardrobe: a navy knitted tie. Bond wears a navy knitted tie in Goldfinger, made just a year earlier, and he wears it again in You Only Live Twice and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Palmer ties his knitted tie—most likely—in a half windsor knot like George Lazenby ties his knitted ties as Bond. But unlike Bond, Palmer wears a tie bar, and it suspiciously does not keep Palmer’s tie in place.

Tie askew and newspaper in the outside hip pocket
Tie askew and newspaper in the outside hip pocket


  1. Well, may he carry a newspaper in a non-desired way but supposedly that’s a convenient place for a bunch of paper. Nowadays gentlemens tote their tablets stuffed elsewhere and that’s much worse look.

  2. For me, James Bond will always be the one and only George Lazenby. When I was “Bunny Deana” at the London Playboy Club, more than 40 years ago now, I was privileged to have been crowned Playboy Bunny of The Year by George, and I shall treasure the memory forever. The very precious (to me at least) photo of George performing the crowning, immaculately dressed in his beautiful Bond-style suit, (Prince of Wales check I think) is a proud part of my personal Bunny Deana’s Playboy Photo Album online.

  3. Thanks for the article on a poorly dressed spy! While I haven’t seen the film, it sounds like the clothes perfectly fit the character of a regular guy who happens to work in espionage. I don’t Palmer looks that bad. Sure he’s not going to get women jumping into bed as readily as Bond does, but I would mind sharing a cup of tea with Palmer.

  4. Of the 4 Harry Palmer films, Caine is better dressed in the stylishly European based Funeral In Berlin & the somewhat psychadelic Billion Dollar Brain. Don’t bother with Bullet To Beijing.

  5. I was just about to suggest moving onto “The suits (clothes) of Michael Caine” – the Italian Job is a rich field for research al by itself. Then you have Alfie, the Harry Palmer movies, and on and on…

  6. ‘e’s a bleedin’ ‘ero, that bloke. Sorry, that was a Caine line from Too Late The Hero (1968), a great flick. The Ipcress File references actual Soviet interest in chemically affecting individuals identified as enemies of the state. Harry’s shirt does let the side down somewhat but it should be remembered that the fountain pens of that era were notorious for leaking. A ruined shirt is not as tragic as a ruined suit. Also, in some cultures, placing someone’s business card in a trouser pocket is a gross insult. Caine mentions in his autobiography that the crew called him “003 and a 1/2” during the shoot.

  7. Interesting article but the author seems to miss the point. Palmer is labour and not management. The reason he wears off-the-peg suits is because his character probably lacks the money and the inclination to shell out a small fortune on clothes.

  8. The lack of contrast between the jacket and trousers makes outfit dresser and this is probably what they were trying to do. Also they were maybe trying to make do with the limited clothes they had for the film as well by using the trousers off the grey worsted suit.

  9. He may wake up alone, but Palmer most certainly has had his share of women (even though not as many as Bond has bedded.) As much as I admire James Bond, I gravitate toward Palmer because I wear glasses and am a pretty good home chef.

  10. Write about other Harry Palmer suits and some other real life inspired spies like George Smiley and Alec Leamas


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.