What Spy Films Can Teach you About Style

It's no secret – the espionage look is big this Autumn

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Bond is back in a few weeks. Spectre opens here on 26 October and once again we’ll be joyfully immersed in a world populated with sharply dressed spies, conniving baddies, well-armed beauties and menacing pussy cats.

For some reason, spies and style have often gone hand in hand.

Way back in the Sixties, there was a glut of dandified assassins: as well as James Bond, there was a bowler-hatted John Steed in The Avengers (played by Patrick Macnee, who died last June); Michael Caine as Harry Palmer in The Ipcress File; Roger Moore’s Simon Templar in The Saint; and The Man From Uncle with Robert Vaughn and David McCallum (black polo necks ahoy).

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Earlier this year, there was Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman with Colin Firth playing a snappy-suited spy whose secret service HQ was in a Savile Row tailor’s (and whose clothes are available from mrporter.com), and this summer marked Guy Ritchie’s remake of The Man From Uncle with Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer.

For now, though, it’s all about Daniel Craig once again looking pristine in his bespoke Tom Ford tailoring. Happily for us, we will all be able to get our own slice of the action.

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Although the Bond beauties may not be readily available, Q’s gadget-infused arsenal is not to be recommended, and we probably wouldn’t want Blofeld’s long-haired Persian moulting all over our suiting, much of the traditional spy’s British-inspired wardrobe is coincidentally in fashion this autumn.

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1 | The pinstripe suit  

This espionage essential – Daniel Craig wears a particularly fetching Tom Ford pinstripe suit in Spectre – was taken up by many of the designers for winter. Everyone from Givenchy and Saint Laurent to Ami and Bruno Cucinelli showed their take on this classic. To bring it up-to-date, and lose the Eighties feel, the cut was slim and the jacket shorter.
 

2 | Herringbone

Pinstripe’s elder bother, herringbone, has also been a spy favourite for decades – particularly when said spy has been invited to partake in country pursuits by an eager-to-impress evil entrepreneur. It was used handsomely for both suiting and overcoats by designers such as Valentino, Etro, Marni and Tom Ford.

3 | The Sharp Coat

The sharp coat is another popular item in the gentleman spy’s wardrobe: Steed was rarely seen without one; and Bond wears a neat-fitting navy Crombie-style coat in Spectre. A new coat is something every man should invest in each autumn and there are plenty of covetable versions: Calvin Klein Collection and Maison Margiela have some desirable double-breasted designs, and Givenchy and Officine Generale some neat-looking single-breasted ones. If you want to blow your cover, this is the time to do it: the “statement coat” (ie, “Bloody hell, that’s brave, mate”) was popular on many of the catwalks – especially the big, bold, checked ones by Casely-Hayford, JW Anderson and Raf Simons.
 

4 | Black and grey

Even the colours most designers chose to dwell on for their autumn collections were undercover friendly. After a few seasons of bright colours for winter and summer, black and grey were definitely back in fashion. Black needs no introduction, but the way to wear grey this autumn is to mix different shades of it at the same time: as exemplified by designers such as Bottega Veneta, Acne and Public School.


5 | Chelsea boots

This menswear stalwart, popular in the Swinging Sixties, is the perfect shoe for the spy who needs to look smart and run fast. And it looks good teamed with your slim-fitting Sixties-inspired tailoring. There are some great versions available at the moment: Alfred Dunhill and Tom Ford have some particularly smart designs, but check out, too, those by Guidi and Common Projects.

There are a couple of other big trends for this winter that I should point out, as is traditional in an October issue, but they don’t really tick the spy style box. Well, they do, but the only spy who really embraced them wholeheartedly is Austin Powers. If I had included The Spy Who Shagged Me in the list of films at the start of this column I fear it might have undermined my argument.

However, both shearling and velvet have made a comeback as part of the Seventies trend that is infiltrating the menswear world at the moment. And, despite the Austin Powers association, they look rather good. Richard James, Burberry Prorsum, Oliver Spencer and Haider Ackermann all presented a modern-looking velvet for suiting and jackets, while Coach, Belstaff, JW Anderson and Tom Ford presented shearling 2.0. Check them out: they look quite dapper.

If this is too much, stick with items one to five – more appropriate if you’d prefer to make a Spectre rather than a spectacle of yourself.

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MORE LANGMEAD:

Underwear
How To Wear A White Suit
Wardrobe Management
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