Sunday, July 26, 2015

Kingsman: The Secret Service -- Colin Firth's Suits in Detail

Based on a graphic novel, Kingsman: The Secret Service got a lot of well-deserved press upon release for its style and being a pretty fun movie. But sadly what has been published isn't a very complete picture. A few friends of mine asked if I could write up an article about the suits of the movie, even those who normally aren't into menswear. I went looking for an article, any article, that described the clothing in detail. Sadly most gloss over details besides that they are double breasted. Because Harry Hart (Colin Firth) is the most prominently tailored character in the movie, so I've decided to focus on his suits.

Martin Nicholls London, a Savile Row bespoke firm, made the suits bespoke for all the movie's principles. He might have also made the sport coats worn by other characters in the movie, but it is unclear. The suits sold in Mr Porter's off the peg Kingsman collection are produced by Crewe Tailored Clothing, until recently known as Cheshire Bespoke. They are better equipped for the demands of mass production and copy Nicholls' style well. The look of the "Kingsman Tailors" shop was inspired by H. Huntsman & Sons Ltd but their services were ultimately not used for the film. Though director Matthew Vaughn has been a customer since he was 18, they may not have been able to meet the needs for an action film production. Typically a few copies of each costume are made or purchased for stunts, such as wearing a wirework harness, and in case they get damaged during filming. Arianne Philips designed the costumes for the movie and did a most excellent job in her choices.

Warning: Minor spoilers of the movie may follow.

"The first thing a gentleman needs is a good suit..."
Harry Hart -- codename Galahad -- wears five suits throughout the movie, all cut and styled identically. The other briefly-seen Kingsman agents and his protégé Gary "Eggsy" Unwin (Taron Egerton) wear the same style of suits. They are said to be bulletproof in dialogue. The first suit, seen in the prologue, is navy worsted twill with white chalk stripes. The one seen most often in promotions for the film is charcoal heavyweight worsted with a unique chalk stripe; white and rust side by side. His most briefly seen suit is solid, medium grey whipcord which is an appropriate defence against cold London winds. Another suit that gets pretty short shrift is a dark grey plaid in woolen flannel, used in a lunch scene with his superior. The next suit looks light grey at first glance, yet is actually black and white Glen Urquhart Check in worsted flannel. The navy chalk stripe suit is reused for a climactic scene despite taking place 17-18 years later. It's either a testament to the durability of Kingsman suits or the timelessness of good bespoke tailoring. Possibly both.

Navy chalk stripe as seen in the opening of the movie.

The coat is double breasted with six buttons, two to close. The top two buttons are spaced further apart to emphasize the chest and present a more masculine appearance. Harry leaves the bottom button undone as do the other characters wearing the same style. One can use both buttons if they wish, unlike on a single breasted suit, but the former choice makes sense if you'll find yourself thrashing goons in a pub and need unrestricted movement. There are standard length side vents in back, which are the only appropriate choice for double breasted jackets. The peak lapels are traditional in width and have some "belly", or curve, to the underside. They are not as narrow as current fashions yet avoid the excesses of '70s tailoring. Double breasted coats sold today mostly have a lapel hole on the left side but Nicholls puts them on both sides, cutting them sans keyhole per Savile Row custom. Not only does it recall the golden age of menswear, it provides more visual balance to all the buttons and overlapping of fabric.

Galahad wearing his charcoal chalk stripe suit in a promotional image. This is a pretty good shot of most of the details.

The sleeves have functional, four button "surgeon's cuffs". This was once reserved for bespoke, but recently many off the peg retailers copy it straight from the factory. It's best to avoid those unless the sleeves fit you precisely; any length alteration past a half inch will be difficult or costly. Harry occasionally leaves the last button undone on his sleeves to show off this feature. Clothing purists mostly advise against this practice, decrying it as gauche or even outright vulgar. But is it really that distasteful?

Harry may just be thumbing his nose at the establishment. After all, he makes his dislike of classism known early on.

The front coat pockets are gently slanted and flapped, wider than average in proportion to the lapels. The welted breast pocket is also gently slanted. There is subtle pick stitching on the lapels, collar, and pockets. It is easy to miss if you are not looking for it, but pick stitching should not be that visible to begin with since its purpose is to keep edges crisp and neat. The buttons are polished horn with recessed domes for the thread, something often seen on bespoke suits.

Recessed dome buttons as seen on a Kingsman Mr Porter suit.

The coat has straight, lightly padded shoulders with a bit of roping at the sleeve head. Not exactly "natural", but also not as built up as some other tailors on the Row. It has a nipped waist and flared skirt. The sleeves are also slightly flared at the end. Naturally, the armholes are cut high for more movement which probably helps when fighting or aiming a gun. Most off the peg suits have rather large/low armholes, but a smaller armhole is superior both aesthetically and comfort-wise. Overall, Nicholls' house cut looks like what many would associate with Savile Row, even if there is a lot of variation between its tailors in reality.

Medium grey whipcord suit with dark navy, white pindot tie.

Harry's trousers are perhaps the most modern aspect of his suits. They have a medium rise, flat front, and plain hems. There may be darts in front, but they are difficult to discern if so. Most bespoke tailors prefer to do this over a true flat front since they better curve over the hips. The legs are straight cut and trim but not fashionably skinny. In front there is an extended waistband with hook and eye closure which makes for a cleaner look than the typical button type. They are held up with slide buckle tabs instead of a belt as one would expect of an English bespoke suit. There is likely rubber grip tape sewn on the inside of the waistband to aid holding them in place. In back there are two welted button-through pockets and a split waistband. The latter expands when sitting, keeping the trousers more comfortable to wear.

A good view of trouser fit from the 1997 prologue. Most men were actually wearing full cut double pleated trousers at this time, whether or not they were made bespoke.

Harry wears a white poplin spread collar, double (french) cuff Turnbull & Asser shirt with all his suits. Though the collar resembles their "Classic" spread, it lacks the signature under curve. T&A creates personalized collar shapes specifically for the wearer on their bespoke shirts. Like many English double cuffs, the link holes are closer to the fold than on American or Italian shirts. This makes cufflinks easier to see when wearing a jacket. The fit is close and darts help shape the waist even further in back. Unlike most "slim fit" shirts today there are shoulder pleats which surely ease in aiming a gun.

Behind the scenes look with costume designer Arianne Phillips. You can just make out the shoulder pleats and darts.

A straight folded, white linen pocket square is worn with every suit. Some may assume it was chosen to coordinate with the shirt, but it's really a wardrobe staple one can wear with a variety of shirt and suit colours. It is likely made by Drake's of London and has hand rolled edges just like the Mr Porter Kingsman pocket squares.

Surprisingly there are only two ties worn in the movie, both made by Drake's of London and knotted in a half-Windsor. The most prominent is the club tie of Kingsman Tailors which features two pale pink stripes framing a burgundy stripe on a dark blue ground. Mr Porter offered a grenadine version (now sold out) of this striped tie, but the actual film version is cavalry twill with satin stripes. Magnoli Clothiers sells a more accurate version for those interested, though the quality won't be as nice at $60 compared to Drake's $195. The stripes go in the British direction, from left shoulder to right hip. The other tie is dark navy satin with white pindots. It sometimes appears black depending on the lighting. The Mr Porter Kingsman ties measure three inches wide at the bottom, but the film versions look a touch wider in proportion with the suit lapels.

Glen Urquhart Check suit

The cufflinks are rose gold plated ovals embossed with a crest and connected by a short chain. They are made by Deakin & Francis. Double sided cufflinks like these dress both sides of the cuff and thus look higher class. Despite being harder to put on than the common hinge back design, another advantage is that they come out less easily.

Unknown if this is specifically a Kingsman crest or one pertaining to Hart's family.

"Oxfords, not brogues."
The shoes are black cap toe oxfords (balmorals to Americans), made bespoke by George Cleverley. Like most English dress footwear they have a sleeker shape, or last, and smaller sole/heel profile compared to American brands such as Allen Edmonds or Alden. The toes have an elegant, rounded chisel shape. This looks less dated than the very angular or pointy chisel toes that have been fashionable for the last decade. The writers unfortunately make a gaffe in the script when Harry refers to oxfords as having "open lacing". Oxfords actually have closed lacing at the the throat, whereas derbies (bluchers) have it open.

Not sure why he has brogued wingtip oxfords on display if he advises against them, or shoes that just happen to fit Eggsy despite them actually being bespoke, or why only the cap toes have a hidden blade... ah, never mind.

"A bespoke suit always fits."
Since Eggsy's two suits are nearly identical to Harry's, they are worth a brief mention. The most significant difference is that they fit closer to the body, perhaps to accentuate his youthfulness and chiseled physique. They also fasten higher, creating a smaller "V" of shirt and tie. Egerton is four inches shorter than Firth at 5'10, so this was probably considered more flattering by Martin Nicholls. It also disproves the myth that only men over 6' can wear double breasted suits.

Eggsy's closer fitting copy of Harry's first suit. 

His first suit is of the same navy chalk stripe as Harry's. There are a couple of minor fit issues. One is that the shoulders dimple slightly, indicating they are a bit tight. Secondly, the trousers do not drape as cleanly due to the fit. For whatever reason, his next suit is superior in fit to the first since the shoulders do not dimple. It is the same charcoal chalk stripe fabric as the suit Harry introduces himself in. Egerton may have gained more muscle mass after fitting for the first suit, explaining the problems. And despite Mark Strong's line, bespoke clothing actually requires multiple fittings and certainly much more lead time than the movie implies! These suits are worn with the same accoutrements as Harry's, the only difference being that his glasses have black instead of tortoise frames.

The second and final suit donned by Eggsy. Note that the shirt collar is smaller spread to better frame Egerton's features.

Please let me know if you have any questions about the movie's costumes. If there is demand for it, I will write a bit more about the other characters' tailored clothing. A big thanks goes out to Matt Spaiser of The Suits of James Bond for inspiring this post and helping out a great deal with the terminology and identification.

Screencaps taken by

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Personal style and changing standards

Greetings, readers. I know it's been a while and I apologize for that. A combination of work and other things have kept me away or not that inspired. (Which is ironic considering my work involves menswear yet it leaves little time in the evening for blog writing. On my days off I still couldn't find inspiration.)

But I've finally come to a subject I'm fascinated by: Personal style. Or rather, how it evolves. Those who have read for a long time or looked in the archives will notice a bit of a shift in my preferences. I used to be all about the vintage, 1930s style clothing and found little to no inspiration in modern clothing. I was also into the '60s proportions almost exclusively for a while, coinciding with my "Trad" obsession. Now, as I've gotten older and experienced more, I've actually become more tolerant. I still think those 10" rise trousers are pretty bad, make no mistake, but I'm not quite as into the high rise stuff I used to be. Actually, if anything, a mid-rise seems to suit me better and feel more comfortable. I also think there's something to be said for a lot of the clothing being made by designers like Tom Ford that use classic proportions in some areas (like the lapels and shoulder width) yet update slightly in others (like the trouser fit).

When I started this blog, my ideal would have been a heavyweight suit with three buttons and a ventless back, spearpoint collar shirt, and lightly lined vintage tie in some obscure repp stripe. My ideal outfit now is more like a lightweight darted suit with three roll two closure and side vents, spread collar shirt, and robustly lined tie in a small repeated pattern. To say nothing of the difference in fits, accoutrement choice, and other details. I still have a fondness for all those other styles I adopted,

Why the change of heart? I don't know, besides that for some time I was feeling a little frumpy in what I wore. Those baggy, reverse pleat, WWII-style Polo chinos I used to treasure about eight years ago are far from what I'd wear now. There's still value in secondhand clothing, but I've limited my impulse purchases to things that fit well and suit my personal taste to begin with. Working in a menswear store for a while has also exposed me to a variety of personal styles and more modern fits. I've also learned more about clothing alterations and how to fit a variety of body types.

Again, there are some limits. For example, I still more or less adhere to The Black Tie Guide's definition of what is proper for tuxedos, even though I will rent or sell whatever my customer prefers. I can steer them a bit if they don't have a clue what they want. Oftentimes they think they want classic black tie only to go back and choose a bright red waistcoat and long tie with a two button slim fit tuxedo. But that's their call, not mine. I'm only there to guide them.

What is different now from when you started getting into menswear? Please share in the comments.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Sebastian Ward -- 20% off first order

For those meaning to give them a try but find their prices a bit high, here is a referral link to 20% off your first order. Check out my review here.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Bold look resurfacing

Perhaps a bit lower rise and slimmer fit than it was before, but it's coming back nonetheless. And as much as I've been a fan of narrow (but not skinny) lapels and ties for a while, I think this is a good change of pace.

Tom Ford is leading the charge, as always, with his wide peak lapels, pocket flaps, and ties paired with trim fitting jackets and trousers. Though I think his own jacket fits need some help (particularly the collar gapping and button pulling) and the trouser rise could stand to be an inch or two higher, I'm pretty okay with his default style. When the narrow, narrow, NARROW trend was in full force in 2008, his clothing in Quantum of Solace showed that traditionally masculine proportions were still relevant. It says something that the suits, shirts, and ties still look fresh seven years later. Only now are the fashionistas realizing that the very tight cuts were never flattering on anyone -- too late, as always. Tom Ford seems to agree, thinking that super skinny fits and micro-lapels look like you're cutting costs on fabric. (Worth noting that he only developed the Skyfall suits under orders from Jany Temime. The fit is not at all his preference.)

From the set of Spectre. Still a bit tight, but overall it fits Craig's mesomorphic build much better.

Besides suits, high semi-spread and spread collars with longer points seem to be getting a little more love now. Certainly, they look better than any number of really tiny point collars young celebrities have been wearing in the last several years, though the high stand looks better on men six feet and taller or those with long necks. You can see such an example in the Sebastian Ward collar shape, which is semi-cutaway. What I'm most attracted to now are the collars that have longer points and almost look like semi-spread collars due to the slope. Such an example is below.

A very nice looking long point, tall band spread collar from Proper Cloth.

Now you may ask, "Why the sudden interest in wider stuff?" Well, I've always had an interest (much of my early clothing knowledge came from looking at 1930s stuff) but recently found that, contrary to the common claim that skinny guys need skinnier ties and lapels, it suits me and my body proportions better. As it does most men, really. There is nothing particularly wrong with narrow ties and lapels, so long as they don't get downright anemic. But this rediscovery has me making use of long-abandoned ties in my collection from around 8-10 years ago, when 3.75" was still standard. I'm sure the average male office worker will be relieved that his old ties didn't have to go to Goodwill, as well.

I personally can't wait until fashion shifts even more this direction. It will make shopping for my body type and preferences a lot easier.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Review: jT Undershirts

Some abhor undershirts, saying they are purely an "American" thing (which I don't get considering I've seen more undershirts overseas than here). Others of us depend on them day in and day out. Some only wear them in winter. Whatever your style of undershirt wearing, it can be a struggle to find one that fits well, performs well, and doesn't cost too much.

I've already covered RibbedTee a couple times, but found out about jT Undershirts through a colleague who also reads The Suits of James Bond. I was struck by the way that there was no collar on them in the traditional sense, which makes it easier to conceal under dress shirts when worn open. They call this the "two button hidden guarantee". I don't wear my shirts quite that open, but was nevertheless intrigued. Some have noted that the undershirts are strikingly similar to a discontinued International Male (now known as Undergear) product called "The Scoop", so is it really an innovation? Regardless of anyone's opinion on that, someone stepped up to the plate and filled a niche. I contacted the proprietor, Jesse T. Szynal, about the undershirts and after a bit we decided trying it for myself would be the best way to go.

To wit, he sent me one jT Original in grey, jT-V, jT Modal, and a three pack of jT Tank, all the rest of which only come in white. All of these performed pretty well (though I don't normally wear tank tops -- I missed the sweat wicking ability of undershirts with sleeves) in my extensive testing. The fit is slim but not form-fitted. For that you'd need to buy one of their Compression models. As promised, there was no collar to ride up and be seen (which can be a bit of a problem with even my best v-necks) and I could even unfasten two buttons without anything showing. With my Ledbury dress shirts which have a lowered second button, it was just teetering on the edge of showing. But those are not too common so I can't exactly fault jT for not thinking of that. Enough of my manly, muscular cleavage is showing anyway.*

The fabric and construction is pretty good for the most part. Only a few loose threads here and there. The fabric, even in the basic model, is buttery soft. It gets even better if you choose the 100% modal version, which not only felt wonderful, but gave a bit of warmth on cold winter days. The only shortcoming was with the jT-V's white jersey fabric, which shrunk much more than expected with just one wash and wear. The second wash and dry (on low/gentle -- which I do for all my underwear) made it shrink so much it could barely be tucked. On the other end of the spectrum, the Modal didn't shrink at all, which is not too surprising. It was almost too long, some could argue, coming past my butt. I'm guessing they used the same pattern as they did for everything else, not taking into account shrinkage allowances.

The only other slight disappointment was that the products were made in China. I don't have anything against Chinese manufacture so long as the workers are paid appropriately and work in good conditions. However, I wish for the asking price that they were made in the US or Canada. In fact, I would be willing to pay a bit more for that.

I actually ended up wearing these under a dress shirt and tie half the time, as my day job at a menswear retailer requires those at minimum. Naturally, they're going to show more under white or other light fabrics. It prompts me to wish they'd make something in the opposite direction -- an undershirt with a classic, high crew neck. Many of today's are a bit low and show awkwardly under one's tie knot.

All in all, these are pretty good undershirts for guys who wear one or two buttons unfastened and pretty comfortable even when wearing a tie. I'd like to see what else they have in store for the future.

DISCLAIMER: Nouveau Vintage received material compensation for this review. However, every effort has been made to remain objective.

*This is a joke. Anyone who has seen me on this blog knows that I'm a pretty slender guy even with regular exercise.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Hope you all had a great year!

Soon to come are my reviews of Dragon Inside (the grey flannel suit seen here) and jT Invisible Undershirt (worn here but not seen, obviously).

Merry Christmas and a happy new year!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Review: Sebastian Ward Shirts (Blue & White Stripe)

I first heard about Sebastian Ward as I do many new clothing companies, on the Ask Andy Forums. It came up in a discussion about the merits of taller collars for longer necked people. Most off the rack shirt collars are made in just one height. It can be a little frustrating to those of us who want a taller collar for our giraffe necks but mostly have to make do. Of course, they are passable and most people but us won't notice. One of our newest yet quite knowledgeable members mentioned Sebastian Ward as an option for those who are looking for such an animal. It was easy to see why he was a satisfied customer, looking at the website. The features these shirts boasted were ones normally only available by bespoke. For good reason -- the shirts are made by Mel Gambert Bespoke of Newark, New Jersey.

The taller, curved, wide spread collar is a feature listed as "helping frame the face", though I believe it's best worn by taller people or those with a longer than usual neck. Otherwise it may simply overwhelm your features. The sleeves are done a bit differently from most shirts, instead having a snug cuff and longer length to allow for more movement in concert with the higher armholes. I found it had the added benefit of keeping your hands dressed at all times and ensuring the shirt cuffs never disappear into your jacket sleeves. (An annoying habit some shirts can have even when you get just the right amount of cuff showing.) I'm not going to say one way is necessarily right over the other. Merely a matter of preference, even to bespoke shirtmakers.

About a month ago I came into contact with Christopher Berry, founder of Sebastian Ward, and we agreed to do a review to give some constructive feedback and spread the word about his brand. To that end, he sent me a blue and white striped shirt which is essentially a Bengal stripe. This is actually a good idea for shirt reviews since it shows how skilled in pattern matching the tailors are. He explained the genesis of how he designed these shirts, being inspired by Victorian clothing (much of which was designed for horseback riding, necessitating a full range of motion) and the frustration of shirts that didn't let him move around as well as he'd like without binding uncomfortably or becoming untucked in the process. In designing the shirts, he got his hands on every book about drafting shirt patterns as he could and designed probably the best Australian mother of pearl shirt button I've seen. Basically, he had already done most of Gambert's homework for them. What a guy. We need more like him.

Overall, I really do like the shirt. However, I think there needs to be an actual fused, folded over placket for stability rather than the soft French (seamless) front on these. It would cause less gaping between the buttons when seated. It's not as if this shirt is any slimmer than the ones I have either. Which is good, as I agree with them that tighter is not better -- there needs to be enough fabric that it's still comfortable and looks like a man's shirt. In fact, upon measuring, the fit in a 16/36.75 (I normally wear a 35" sleeve) is nearly identical to Ledbury's in a 16/35 down to the extra long shirt tails. I suppose great minds think alike? The sleeves and hips are a bit slimmer than Ledbury, but that's about it.

Another area that could improve is in the sewing of the buttons, despite how well designed they are. Ledbury and many other shirts in this price range have thread wrapped button shanks. This is especially noticeable in how short the slack is, causing a bit of a "bubble" effect around the seamless placket.

While we're comparing to Ledbury, it's worth noting that the collar bands are similarly fused from the outside in, giving it better stability and making it more comfortable to wear around the neck.

The fabric is beautiful, soft, and light two-ply 100s broadcloth. It irons pretty easily and doesn't wrinkle like hell. But then, I'd expect no less of Thomas Mason fabric.

More observations (and actual pictures!) below.

Simple, sturdy little box. Unseen is the neat little plastic window at the top side, perhaps used at the warehouse to identify the shirt fabrics at a glance.

Fairly standard tissue wrapping.

Some may be disappointed at the lack of a split yoke, though some shirtmakers disagree about how useful they are, especially in ready-to-wear shirts.

Here you can see the unique, seamless way they integrate the stay pockets into the rest of the collar. It's a small thing to be sure, but it makes the collar look even cleaner in design when worn with a tie.

Gussets. Though controversial with some clothing addicts and shirtmakers, I think these actually help since they expand when sitting.

Darts in back, something I like as it gives shirts a little more shape than side seams alone can. I used to dislike them from a distance, but upon trying on Ledbury's original line of shirts my opinion changed. I was later disappointed when they took them off due to customer complaints.

The barrel cuff design. The buttons are close to the bottom edge so a watch can be worn while still maintaining the snug cuff and longer sleeve. Brooks Brothers and Mercer & Sons do this on their shirt cuffs, though for different reasons. Some say it was originally to fold back and keep your cuffs clean when writing with fountain pens.

Reinforcement at the bottom of the placket on both sides. Nice touch.

The plastic collar stays have some jagged edges and might do some damage to the stay pockets over time. Not great for a $175 shirt and something that needs immediate improvement, in my opinion.

True to their word, my watch slid inside the cuff pretty easily and still shows the right amount with a jacket.

This is the only area where the collar design falls short, no pun intended. The points are certainly long and flamboyant, but the stays tend to creep up within minutes of wearing and a good 3/4" of the ends are flat against my chest. Though I understand wanting to make sure the collar points meet the lapels, they do not quite need to be 4.25" long.

Nice pattern matching from yoke to sleeve.

So, would I recommend this shirt? Yes. With some slight reservations. Namely that the collar design is not universally flattering and the stays definitely need better quality control. Some of the aforementioned issues could simply be attributed to the way Mel Gambert makes their shirts. Still, for $175, consumers rightfully demand that things be perfect.

This is only the "first phase" of their clothing line. Christopher plans to add more options and a MTM service for shirts later on, with other clothing items currently in the planning stages. Tomorrow, their showroom will have its grand opening in New York City. Check it out if you're in the area! Tickets are free and it sounds like it's going to be a blast.

DISCLAIMER: Nouveau Vintage received material compensation for this review. However, every effort has been made to remain objective.