“A suit is a modern gentleman’s armor.”
The aptly-named agent Galahad knew what he was talking about when he uttered that sentence to his protégée Gary “Eggsy” Unwin, more a ballcap-and-saggy-jeans yobbo than gentleman, at least until…ah, but that would be telling!
And a gentleman never tells.
Kingsman: The Secret Service is a movie that, like Hot Tub Time Machine, has absolutely no right to be as good as it is. A spy comedy thriller in the Austin Powers tradition (but with better fight scenes and arguably better clothes, depending on how you feel about the Mods) it tells the tale of Eggsy, a fatherless product of council estates (welfare projects) who’s turned his back on a promising future in the Royal Marines to please an abused mother who fears he may die in action like his secret agent father. His rescue from a life of petty crime and petty grime at the hands of agent Galahad changes him inside and out, releasing the potential which had hitherto been an embarrassment to the erstwhile street tough.
But enough about the characters: let’s talk about the wardrobe, for lo, it is a thing of beauty and a joy forever.
So beautiful, in fact, that before the movie even premiered it was featured in a collection of ready-to-wear on the haute menswear site Mr. Porter, at prices ranging from £295/$450 for a Swaine Adeney Brigg umbrella (unlike the one in the movie, this one is neither bulletproof nor equipped with a stun gun) to $2,495 for Galahad’s double-breasted suit. We should mention the suit is not, as real Kingsmen suits are, actually bulletproof. Hey, when you go from bespoke to ready-to-wear, you have to make some sacrifices.
The costume designer, Arianne Phillips, was instructed to create an archetypal British look: double-breasted suits, even if they’re rare these days, tortoiseshell specs, proper brolly, and, famously, “Oxfords, not brogues,” a passphrase of real power among Kingsmen, and among well-dressed men in general. Director Matthew Vaughn himself patronizes Savile Row, well-represented among the suppliers of the Kingsman look. The headquarters themselves were modeled on Huntsman, the famous tailors. He had some strong opinions on the British look he wanted for the film.
“I was sick of those skinny eighties-style suits. I prefer the forties,” he told the Hollywood Reporter. To the Financial Times he elaborated, “"I told them, when I was getting my first suit made in the 1980s it was all about double-breasted, and as far as I can tell fashion is circular — and they can look beautiful. I wanted to recreate that classic English gentleman suit in a modern-day way. I think even the Bond suits are not really gentleman’s suits — they’re a little bit too trendy.” He also holds strong opinions on accessories, telling the FT, “If you’re going to have an umbrella, why not have one you’re not embarrassed about? I’ll feel very proud if in a year’s time I see a lot of people with umbrellas and double-breasted suits.”
Let’s look at those suits, shall we? We’ll start with the mentor whose story arc frames the film: Galahad, Harry Hart, played by Colin Firth.
The first we see in the film belongs to Harry Hart, aka Galahad, a Kingsman agent. It’s a beautiful, subtle bronze chalk stripe double-breasted number with peaked lapels, each featuring a boutonniere, which is a unique and clearly bespoke accent. You won’t find that in an off the rack suit anywhere. Although the suit is double-breasted, it’s cut slim and close to the body, featuring six buttons, the top two tapering down to the functional bottom four, lending emphasis to the wearer’s fit masculine silhouette. Bottom button always undone, and set off with a crisply folded pocket square, tortoiseshell spectacles, a preppy haircut that used to be known as the “Goldman Sachs,” a good shirt with just enough French cuff showing, and a Kingsman signet ring on the pinkie of the right hand.
Throughout the film, Harry takes part in fight scene after fight scene in one suit after another and, since we at Claymore Brothers get our fabric from the same supplier in Huddersfield, England as was used in the film, we can confirm there is not a stitch of Lycra anywhere in these outfits; they are all natural fibres.
Harry also wears softer grey Prince of Wales check suit in the same cut but a less rigid fabric, which is less intimidating for interrogations. He accessorizes with a royal blue, textured tie with white tiny dots. His immaculate white shirt is the same cut as always. Shows rather a lot of collar, as befits a man in his late 40's plus, but only the perfect amount of cuff. This is a better look than the high-contrast pinstripe when you’re trying to coax a professor into explaining the Gaia Hypothesis.
He wears the same cut of suit, but in a high-status pinstripe, to deal with some yobbos down at the pub. Mr Porter lists it for $2,200. The suit is a 120s wool/cashmere blend.
When recuperating from his interaction with the professor, Harry’s loungewear reflects the old adage that an officer should always be attired in the uniform appropriate to his activity. Unconscious and on a respirator, he sports a practical hospital gown. Once he’s mobile, he favours a classic crimson dressing gown in cozy wool with royal blue piping and the frippery of a flashy blue fringe on the belt. His pajamas are white with royal blue piping. Harry says yes to aftershave. For shuffling around his hospital room, he wears proper velvet slippers with a crest.
For dinner with the villain, he wears a beautiful midnight blue shawl collared smoking jacket in velvet with grey matte silk lapels, a crisply folded pocket square, particularly lush butterfly tie, mother of pearl studs on his proper tuxedo shirt, and daringly, grey shadow plaid pants. In service of his legend, i.e. cover identity, the look reeks of money. Midnight blue is a perfectly proper, albeit unusual, choice for evening. It photographs particularly well, showing details, in contrast to the way black tends to swallow them.
All told, Harry’s look is perfectly gentlemanly, perfectly appropriate, perfectly sophisticated, and at those Mr Porter prices, perfectly aspirational. As tailors we’d applaud a return of the classic British double-breasted suit; today’s fit frames can wear them particularly well. As there’s already a second Kingsman film on the way, and a second Kingsman fashion collection too, it looks like we’ll get our wish.