In manner of speaking, they are everything the modern gentlemen longs to be: their handsome, cultured, polished, dashing, and seasoned tacticians both between the sheets and out in the field. Fast cars, suspense, gorgeous women, money — they all naturally fall upon their custom-made shoes.
Missions Parameters: Day-to-day office and field work; formal soiree infiltrations; recon, interrogations, briefings, & situations calling for Romeo Spy seductions
SPORT THEM WELL: Keep it simple and refined like a gentlemanly spy by teaming it with a muted dress shirt + tie (or bowtie) combo, event specific footwear, and proper accoutrements. As such, one can never go wrong (modernly) with a crisp white cutaway collared shirt (underneath a suit of any colour) accompanied by a tie of either blue (for the matching suit) or black/grey (grey suiting) and a complimentary shirt matching pocket square (in silk). For you see, the importance of the crisp, nondescript suit can never be overstated and a spy knows this: it can get him into any location (upscale or down) and carry him through any scenario that presents itself. And that is why he keeps it simple and toned down — he merely requires entry to a location while desiring no further attention. Accordingly, his footwear always consists of either brown or black oxfords for navy or grey suiting, respectively, while naturally demanding nothing but black for more formal attire (tuxes/white dinner jackets/etc.). An idea of what the ideal outfit formula would look something like this: blue suit + white shirt + blue tie + white pocket square + brown/black dress oxfords. For after all, the suited spy look is one all about colour neutrality and timeless spy minimalism. Its objective purpose is to allow the spy to fit in whilst not sticking out while also affording him the detailed sharpness to look sartorially lethal and utterly enchanting.
Well, they are often the battered protagonists who are irrevocably put in the line of fire — a rarefied breed perpetually teetering on the brink of extinction — while being obligated to being cryptic in judgement, explicit in morality, AND fundamentally optimistic and ambiguous in outlook. A perplexing notion if there ever was one, and one in which is only further exasperated by way of the desirable recruitment traits of a stoic disposition and an emotional frigidity of inhuman proportion. A spy is supposed to be evasively hardened to any personal emotional attachments, but not even the best of them ever manage this.
And that's fitting because this fashions them into being truly relatable characters (we are all flawed)— they too are indeed human, and just like we all are prone to do, they feel and develop relationships organically. And that is why they are revered by all, they have the best of both worlds: their lives are filled with stylish adventure AND the personal relationships that give it true purpose (that make it worth living). They find a way to break the rules set out for them in a gentlemanly, yet rebellious and forthwith manner that allows them to still be gainfully employed while living a life filled with intrigue, utter elegance, and monetary security. A life cloaked in unquestionable embellishment and alluring temptation.
So naturally, when asking others to conjure up an image of the stylish archetypical gentleman it is painlessly obvious why the collective reply would most assuredly be that of the suave, debonair, and worldly spy — with the man with the 00 license to kill (James Bond ) being the likeliest of choices. Nevertheless, while Mr. 007 may reign supreme, he is most certainly not the only gentlemanly spy in the field as there are many classic and contemporary challengers who have taken a stab at giving him a run for his sartorial crown. Those like Napoleon Solo (The Man From U.N.C.L.E.); Sir Galahad (Kingsman: The Secret Service); Harry Palmer (The Ipcress File); Maxwell Smart (Get Smart); and, may I surprisingly add, a certain animated secret agent named Sterling Archer (although, his mannerisms speak not of a gentleman; Archer)— even Mr. Bean himself cleaned up reasonable well to play the role of Johnny English.
Fact being, that the gentlemanly spy is highly regarded as being the King of the sartorial royalty paradigm; he is beholden to a very specific and distinctive style expectation, whether it be in the office or out in the field saving the world. But, in a manner of speaking, he is nothing but an average citizen if he heads not to the curated legacy of his haberdashery, for without his comprehensively (mission specific) precise detailing, there is nothing special about his attire, save the bespoke quality. Without the additional professional craftsmanship he would be but only another conservatively-dressed man. As such, explicit features like soft, natural shoulders and a draped chest on a bespoke suit jacket; specialized (cocktail/French/etc.) cuffing on his dress shirts; a grenadine weave on his tie and monogrammed cuff links; properly polished formal footwear; and a physique flattering fit, are but a few example of how he sets himself apart and make what he sports stand above all others. And it is these finer — and to the untrained eye — seemingly inconsequential details that help spies to consistently look a step above their counterparts, and to continually escape problematic conditions in utter style erstwhile still conforming to a visibly neutral and chameleon-like aesthetic.
Missions Parameters: Alpine rendezvous and tactical ski-trips; clandestine secret lair infiltrations (in jungle volcanos at night or built within frigid mountain ranges); seaside vacations + casual travel in the Mediterranean
SPORT THEM WELL: Just like the spies do by pairing a thin fine gauge turtleneck (or mock neck) in black/grey with an all black look (for going out at night); underneath a precisely tailored grey suit/casual jacket (elegant look); or solo with some charcoal trousers or tactical pants. For fair isle sweaters & cardigans, they can be sported with everything from tailored denim jeans to smart (suit) trousers. Just keep it fresh, practical, and functionally appropriate.
Because no matter how naturally gifted he is in seduction, how athletic he may be, or how highly cultivated his tactical craftsmanship is, if he doesn't aesthetically acclimate to his situation at hand then he has already failed his mission. After all, it's the abstract minutiae that make all the world of difference in the matters of international espionage.
In that vein, a spies sole primary task is that of assuming the role of the omnipresent chameleon; he must always conform to his surroundings, irrespective of the given situation or locale — his objective success and ultimately his very livihood are contingent upon successfully fulfilling this vocational imperative. For most that would result is a wardrobe that is unassuming and rather pedestrian, but the spies that we are privy to — those glorified in cinema and literature — are what is at discussions hand. For you see, every exalted spy from James Bond, to Sterling Archer, too T.R. Devline, is repeatedly presented with (sartorially) ideal dastardly plots and conspiracies to contend with, ones that lay forth scenarios that demand the highest pedigree of sartorial consideration.
From immaculately bespoke suiting and outerwear to tailored casual/leisurewear and menswear basics (polos/swimwear/chinos/henleys/leather jackets/harringtons/etc), a spy is — as a result of implied expectations and standards — consistently bedecked in mission specific curated looks that are truly aspiring and endlessly fancied by men world round; they are masters of disguise and of a wholly refined worldly style. Black-tie soirees, clandestine meetings in the French Riviera, (super)car chases through the winding Alps, these dilemmas demand a classy and sophisticated aesthetic that the covert agent is happy to oblige to.
As per se, the modern spy personifies the perfect unison of traditional gentlemanly values and mannerisms while adapting to the behavioural etiquette and style of the contemporary world. But what truly elevates him to another level — making him unique — is his unrelenting dedication to said sartorial standard. A standard that defies and weathers stylishly, if I may add, the onslaught of dangers, vexes, and tantalizingly compromising distractions that he is privy to on a daily basis. He ambles out of every dire situation whilst always retaining a level of style and manner that would be unimaginably difficult to maintain given the parameters of his dangerously varied predicaments. Yet, he continually succeeds where all others would fail, and in the process crafts a personal gentlemanly manifesto of sorts ( a template) that is something for all gents to truly aspire towards.
Missions Parameters: Underwater infiltration + beach reconnaissance; asset seduction + handling
SPORT THEM WELL: This look could not be more simple: the shorts work on there own as a solo standout piece of sartorial mastery (a specialized diving top would also be of help come deep sea diving excursions + a harpoon gun). But, if one finds himself venturing away from the sea, a simple white tailored polo shirt should do just fine, or even better, a white short-sleeved linen button-up with rolled up sleeves for a more formal look when teamed with a pair of espadrilles or woven slip-ons (bypass sandals altogether if possible) and a set of immaculate sunglasses like The Marko sunglasses by Tom Ford that Bond sported in Skyfall.
Besides there mastery of all matters sartorial in nature, spies are also infamous for their resourcefulness, duplicity, and a daring and rakish pleasure seeking demeanour defined by their very actions. But, they have eternally forgone any criticism by being uniformly unperturbed by distraction, obsessionally composed, and utterly nuanced in preparation — by simply being the stylishly handsome hero at the end of the day they can do as the please. So, toss asunder the mentions of narcissistic obsessions, because in their world every little detail and action makes the biggest of differences.
And that is fittingly proper because they have a distinctly personal appreciation for quality and practicality unmatched by any other. Quintessential tailored suiting is just the icing on their ceremonial sartorial cakes on account of their modern armour being nothing without its perfectly conscripted haberdashery — cuff links, watches, shoes, ties, eyewear, pens, umbrellas, headwear...the list is exhaustive yet always fully accounted for when the gentlemanly spy is involved. The job necessitates it because without these added touches of detailed operative elegance, the entire look (and their overarching mission) could result in abject failure...or possibly death! The totality off each and every look renders him instantly nondescript yet disarmingly charming, allowing him to easefully blend into any covert scenario whilst equally crafting the irresistible mystified disposition from which his suaveness and confidence spout forth — the gentlemanly aura that is unmistakingly seductive and daringly provocative all the same.
The underlying fillers to the curated wardrobe of the gentlemanly spy. These render the aesthetics of the spy as the whole being greater than the sum of its parts; without these accoutrements, his style would be rather pedestrian, mundane and boringly elementary.
An overcoat (formal) + a bomber (tactical work) + a leather jacket (all naturally tailored to fit); dark-rinse denim, slim fitting t-shirts and henleys (field work); fountain pen; Oxford dress shoes or monk-straped suede/leather brogues or boots; cufflinks; tie-bars and pocket squares; French-cuffed formal shirting; sunglasses; encrypted cellphone; leather gloves; hatting; umbrellas; passport; burn bag
SPORT THEM WELL: Accessorize according to the situation — and elements — at hand…
But how does a spies style translate to an everyday modern — and wearable — wardrobe for the gentleman of our era? Turns out, effortlessly, as it provides a simple style template that is, respectively, both collectively aspirational and inspirational. The classically neutral aesthetic nature of a spy is instantly transferable because they partake — more often then not — in real life scenarios and activities, in common situations that all gentlemen, at one juncture or another, will willingly (or begrudgingly) encounter in life. We all have job interviews (the suit), black tie parties (tux), and everyday errands to run (jeans/jackets/sweaters/etc.) from which we can draw style inspiration from their wardrobes; these activities could be utilized as jumping off points for adapting his iconic style as our own. So while they may be fictionalized, their worlds, the missions they face, and ultimately their style, are all grounded in our contemporary reality.
Yet, if there is one spy ideal that I hope resonates strongly with you, it is that of the little details making the biggest differences. Matters such as the cut of a suit, nailing the sought after trident of proportion (shirt collar + lapels + tie in matching size), and properly dressing for an occasion, are always all handled infallibly by a spy in his pursuit of gentlemanly (and mission) perfection. And, they are matters that you (as a gent) should also pay special attention too because they are appropriately relatable.
Nevertheless, what is of a matter of importance is the fact that the aesthetics of a spies style are completely adaptable looks for any discerning gent pining for a more refined and sophisticated wardrobe, searching for an elevated sense of self-worth that does not call for the putting of ones life on the line to accomplish. As such, the modern gentleman should look to emulate the style of a spy at a more sensible (ie. no expense account) and calculated level.
The gentlemanly spy: He is mysteriously intriguing yet still the life of the party; strong, silent and yet undeniably charming, stylishly assertive, and oozing with sexual appeal; groomed but equally rugged; a worldly traveller with seemingly all the time in the world and the financial security to live freely without reservation.
Judging simply on those merits, the spy could be misconstrued as being a sensationalized paradox, for how can one possibly all of that and still be willing to get down and dirty when the situation dictates. Yet, perfection is his M.O, and he leaves no stone left unturned in his pursuits of success — both professionally and personally. Characteristically speaking, he is continually dedicated to adhering to the highest order of sartorial standards that he sets upon himself to accomplish his goals. For what is a gentleman if he cannot keep his word and his mental fortitude but merely a boy falsely masquerading as a gentleman in the domain of men. Both the job and his gentile beliefs require and demand it, but he would never see it fit in any other manner anyhow.
And this is why he is the archetypical gentleman: he will attack any situation presented with panache and unrelenting style, while always keeping his moral compass in check, and his gentlemanly manner about him.
KEY PIECES: Three-Piece Navy Herringbone Suit (Tom Ford); N-Peal NPG-300 Mock Turtle Neck; Crockett & Jones Camberley double monk boots; Omega Seamaster 300 or Aqua Terra with a NATO Strap; Belvedere Voka: 007 Spectre Special Edition; Mulberry cashmere-lined black leather gloves; John Varvatos Suede Racer Jacket; Sony Experia Z4 (launching soon)
With over 50 years of history and experience under his belt, James Bond is nothing if not an icon of style and a seasoned master of covert espionage. He has won over legions of fans with his extremely refined and luxurious aesthetic, his seemingly contradictory icy yet homely disposition, and his unrelenting dedication to King (or in his case Queen) and country. He is, plain and simply, the one true chosen one, sartorially and professionally unmatched by any other.
And to that account, here is a little tune from British sound mastermind, Labrinth, which I feel could be (but alas won't) a great opening sequence song for Spectre. It has a vibe and tone befitting of a 007 theme song.
Picture almost any scene, be it a careening car chase through the alps, an interrogation in a hidden underground safe house, or a black-tie Romeo seduction scenario, with every environmental detail vividly displayed. Now match that level of detail and intrigue with a wardrobe of paralleled sophistication. That is what the spy is tasked with daily, and it is why he has been able to master the art of being both a stylish modern gentleman and a sartorial chameleon that blends in erstwhile still making a statement.
They say manners maketh the man, and that does hold some truth, but a spy's clothing is what truly defines him, because in his world first impressions are paramount — and are often all that truly matter. Dressing the part is the key factor to success, the mission within the mission, so to speak. And it is only when he has mastered the art of true elegance and utter refinement that he is then able to hide in plain sight. And a spy is nothing if he cannot immacultely acculturate.
And that is why the spy is the archetypical modern gentleman. He is worldly and cultured, classical mannered, modernly styled, and absolutely unrelenting in the perfection of his gentlemanly pursuits. From the successful completion of his operative tasks to his wardrobe mastery, he stands second to none in every facet of life, from mannerisms, to seductive capabilities, to occupational purpose in life — but none more so then that of his sartorial nature. He is the king of tailored killer precision…in more ways then one would imagine.
Orbis Non Sufficit!
~ Lyle Eero ~
Do you think of the spy as the archetypical modern gentleman (womanizing aside)? What’s your favourite signature piece of spy attire? …Oh, and if you are looking for the one look to truly steal (which is also a trendy option this fall), make it the brown suede bomber jacket (The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) or its counterpart the grey/black suede racer jacket (Spectre). Both are go-to fall/winter options that won't fail!
RELATED POSTS: The Modern Gentleman ~ A Manifesto + The SUIT: The Foundation of Your Wardrobe