In retrospect owing much (if not everything) they've come to iconically epitomize to the literary fiction of luminary (real life) spies turned novelists Ian Fleming and John le Carré (as well as others past and present such as Jospeh Conrad and graphic novelist Frank Miller), masters of the craft whose seminal creations to this day hold considerable sway and influence upon not only the modern cinematic espionage landscape (from Bourne through, yes, even Johnny English) but also the general tastes, distinguished mannerisms, and aspired wardrobe curation of gents much alike you and I, it is certainly worth noting that the debonair spy has indeed managed to weather every storm that has sought to depose him with rakish panache on route to becoming a timeless referential figure in most every sartorial regard to this day.
Inasmuch, you could say that these skilled tacticians (i.e. Fleming/Le Carre) effectively proffered to the world what is now considered to be two similar (smart, conservative, detailed oriented) albeit still opposing aesthetic brush strokes of the genteel spy -- Fleming's Mr. Bond being romantic, opulent and pure fantasy; Le Carre's George Smiley being gritty and grounded in realism — that have respectively come to uniquely illustrate what life in the field may be like (or rather not like) as well as why the accompanying lifestyle would perhaps necessitate the sort of distinctive wardrobe and characteristic savoir-faire to which they (more so 007) arguably pioneered for all those in their wake to pay heed to whether operating in the shadows or more inconspicuously upon the global stage.
Having said that, and in spite of each having respectfully earning worldly accolade and sartorial acclaim for their contrasting personifications of the IO (intelligence operative/spy), it is however Mr. Bond who is of immediate note in regards to both the nature of this feature and all those who are intent upon romantically referencing the rakish spirit of the spy as we've come to accept it for he alone is arguably responsible for setting in stone the ionic styling blueprint to which nearly all that try to take up his genre/vocational mantle continually pay homage to — from Kingsman's Harry Hart through The Ipcress File's Harry Palmer (the latter, it is said, was modelled to be the anti-Bond yet still revelled in wearing a fine charcoal worsted suit and stately outerwear in the vein of Bond).
To wit, the spy (chiefly 007) is now held in high-esteem worldwide as one of the most eloquently genteel archetypes for any aspiring gent to ascribe to, a role, as it were, in which he has dutifully lorded over since the day Sir. Sean Connery first rakishly introduced Mr. Bond, James Bond to the world in his trademark midnight blue dinner suit in Dr. No (1962).
An iconic moment forevermore immortalized in cinematic history, he, on that fateful day, all but set in motion both the romantic tone and golden sartorial standard to which (fictional) spies of all cuts and affiliations have come to commonly be measured up to erstwhile also effectively tabling the de facto timeless wardrobe template — pristine Savile Row suits, gentlemanly evening attire, tactical turtlenecks, military outerwear — to which his disciples (be it gritty agents Bourne and Ethan Hunt or rakes alike Sterling Archer and Napoleon Solo) get continually adjudged upon (and compared to).
Taking that into account, it bears particular note that what has made spies like 007 transcendent style icons thusly rests not in their simple donning of bespoke formalwear (i.e. suits + ties) or a penchant for sporting only the finest luxury leisure wears available to man (or woman mind you) but rather in the manner in which they carry themselves, endeavour to styling their keystone wardrobe staples as they see fit, and how they approach adding little details and nuances — those such as bow-ties with diamond pointed ends or cocktail cuffs on a shirt — in design, cut and provenance of their wears so as to immediately bolster their perceptive savoir-faire, elevate their style, and make it seem as though they always know how to carry and present themselves no matter what awaits.
Be that as it may, what you could say they are most well-versed in (or rather acutely aware of) is the fact that the key to looking good — above all else and at all times — rests in wearing habiliments that are at once cut to flatter ones distinctive physique (i.e. hug the contours of your unique frame) and properly accentuate/align with their chosen lifestyle — whether in reality or (fictional) deep cover.
In that regard always purposefully calculated, elegantly understated, and practical in both its tactical and social utility, the signature wardrobe of the spy is without question characteristically smart and inconspicuous yet ever as much stately in its sartorial positing so as to always being immaculately rendered whilst continually bearing the marks of a gentleman who has a true sense of occasion and savoir-faire about him that is dutifully reflected in his discerning selection of only the finest, most notably well-appointed wears.
All that having been said, is it truly surprising then as to why the enduringly iconic sartorial heritage of such exalted (fictional) figures has understandably been obsessively toiled over, studied, and referenced for well over a half-century by casual fans and menswear snobs alike? Not particularly considering spies tend to proffer the sort of elegantly nuanced silhouettes that are truly worth note and coveting seeing as they consist of universally flattering wears that are both refined in their character and pleasurable in their promise of a sophisticated gentlemanly aesthetic — ageless wardrobe staples of the highest order that have withstood the trials of time without fail.
In respects to the rakish style of the spy, the latter tends to thankfully hold true in no small part due to an accompanying signature aesthetic and lifestyle that have become so heavily steeped and ingrained into our literary heritage, cinematic lore, and cultural psyche that they have taken on ageless qualities of their own whilst being cast upon an elevated sartorial pedestal from which the genres most revered icons continually enrapture and inspire the style masses in perpetuity with their rakish on screen turns.
Indeed, the genteel style of the (fictional) spy is without question iconic, and the man himself considered an individual of magisterial style and substance; In truth, he is an aspirational figure whose enduring referential merits are above all else driven by an intoxicating marriage of an innate characteristic savoir-faire, a permanently fashionable wardrobe, and an adventurous career that is more often then not steeped in fantasy rather then reality.
Denudations of fantasy and real life utility aside, at the end of the day these gents irrefutably stand as a tactful testament to the notion that the spy has — in style, mannerisms and spirit — come to idealistically represent what many believe the archetypical modern gentleman should be: refined, charming, witty, worldly, loyal and driven.
In that respect, spies like Bond, Palmer, and Hart are arguably everything many a gentleman longs to be: handsome, cultured, well-rounded, debonair, and seasoned tacticians in a variety of social and professional arenas — from the sheets to the streets.
Luxury automobiles (as well as riva boats and planes/helicopters), gorgeous women, international intrigue, and finery of the highest order — all these alluring lifestyle draws naturally fall upon their feet with ease.
Inasmuch, what follows is a series of features that delve further into the rakish persona of the spy: the three most iconic and timeless of his spy accoutrements to readily invest in today (or tomorrow); how to best proceed in channelling the cultivated sartorial intelligence of Agents Bond, Archer and Eggsy in everyday life; and why each of these fictitious figures has a signature style and rakish spirit that without fail continually enthral the masses at-large to the end of influencing culture to such a degree that they have all but become both the prevailing archetypes and masculine ideals for any with aspirations of becoming more stately modern gentleman of elevated style and substance.
So whether its the finest luxury tailoring from Kingsman’s Savile Row HQ, the rugged preppy American heritage wears of CIA analyst Joseph Turner, the James Bond inspired sartorial musings of one Sterling Archer, or the grail style of Mr. Bond himself, here’s to all those nattily dressed gentlemanly spies whose impeccable style and spotless wardrobe commitments tend to capture the discerning imagination of most every style-conscious gentleman out there who has perhaps become besotted over the years by their riveting and inspired takes on an otherwise gritty profession and its conservative wardrobe that would be rather quite run-of-the-mill sans their unique touch and sartorial savoir-faire…
In that vein often painted as consummate gentlemen who possess a unique charm, sophistication, efficiency, style and affability that collectively ensure they are dutifully well-equipped to charmingly circumnavigate the world with aplomb, the storied sartorial legacy of such figures is a seemingly convoluted one that swivels back and forth from pure fantasy to tangible reality/accessibility (given you have luxury boutique/Savile Row money) on account of the fact that what they fashionably proffer for our explicit viewing pleasure and inspired shopping needs is often both beyond our means yet still readily available in specialized 'costume to capsule' collections that typically accompany the most notable releases (such as the most recent Kingman film or even Spectre).
My general point being is that the iconic signature style of the rakish spy has proven itself in being an attainable fantasy for some but not others whose enduring sartorial draw is as enticing as the various storylines that tend to bookend their uniquely staged adventures.
On that note, it is worth mentioning that beyond the primus inter pares of fictitious spies — the one and only Mr. Bond, James Bond — rests an entire realm of rakishly poised IO’s whose highly cultivated skill-sets and dually astute wardrobes have taken them in entertaining fashion from the heart of Savile Row in Mayfair (i.e. the nexus of handcrafted/bespoke British fashion) through the Big Apple, the Italian Riviera and most of the Caribbean at large — both in an officially sanctioned and privately funded operational capacity.
Whether to or fro, each one after another has refined tastes in clothing, women, cuisine, drinks and cars that are comparable to those of their pioneering forefathers before them as well as a penchant for not only specializing in saving the world but in doing so whilst being both impeccably bedecked in the finest bespoke and luxury wears known to man and field testing the most cutting edge gadgets and finery to come out of their respective research divisions (i.e. Q-Branch).
Some of cinema’s most rakish turns and sartorially iconic moments arriving courtesy of the spy genre’s most stately gentlemen whose near imitable sartorial savoir-faire typically renders them as being at complete (and equal) ease whether tasked with seducing a mark/asset with their charm and good looks, dispatching enemy combatants with their martial arts training or marksmanship, or conducting surveillance/penning intelligence (HUMINT) reports with a shot of scotch in one hand and an upcoming mission dossier awaiting review in the other.
I imagine one would be hard-pressed to surmise otherwise given the sartorially heralded world of espionage has a veritable smorgasbord of iconically revered figures that represent everything many amongst us hope to be when getting dressed up in the morning (or evening as it were): stately, refined, intriguing, dangerous, cultured and charming.
Fittingly, the wardrobes of such gentlemen have understandably been co-opted worldwide by the masses at-large as there is indeed no shortage of fictitious figures to reference whether it be the espionage elephant in any room (i.e 007) or the exquisite platter of alternative riches that is awaiting discovery (and subsequent reverence): from the aforementioned animated (and self-professed world's most dangerous spy) Mr. Sterling Archer in FX’s Archer, the reimagined Napoleon Solo (Mr. Henry Cavill) in Guy Ritchie’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E (2015) or Michael Caine’s trench coat clad and notably bespectacled Mr. Harry Palmer in The Ipcress File (1965) right through to Cary Grant’s T.R. Devlin in Hitchcock’s Notorious (1946), Robert Redford’s sartorially bookish (herringbone tweed + pea coat loving) CIA analyst Joseph Turner in Three Days of the Condor (1975), and, of course, the trio of Eggsy, Galahad and Merlin (played respectively by Messrs Taron Egerton, Colin Firth and Mark Strong) in the newfangled Huntsman-sporting spy series Kingsman.
And yet in spite of each of those gent's being as rakishly poised and sartorially riveting as the last, it nevertheless remains Mr. Bond who is regarded by most as being the cinematic/gentlemanly pinnacle of sartorial tact and characteristic savoir-faire as is evidenced in the reality that most every conversation on spy craft and style will invariably either begin or end with note being made of Sir. Ian Fleming’s seminal creation who has for well over five decades— 24 films and counting as we speak — come to not only set the standardized style tone for all spoofs, homages and contemporary competitors to follow in kind but who has also characteristically defined the parameters for what has become the fastidiously curated, polished and nuanced gentlemanly espionage aesthetic that we’ve all come to wholeheartedly hold near-and-dear to heart (and closet): traditionally British, impeccably tailored, and understatedly opulent.
Focussing rather on a glamorous and romantic portrayal of the spy (despite Craig bringing the character back to his darker roots in recent outings) rather then on the gritty realism of a specialized profession that would otherwise paint the picture of a secret world whose seedy denizens often live in a bubble that necessitates trusting nobody (a la Le Carre), what 007's many inspiring silver screen turns indeed do well is in never scrimping on the sartorial detailing, nuances in dressage and etiquette, and day-to-day spy craft minutiae that many have come to accept as both the definitive marks (despite being a touch misguided) of espionage and its accompanying luxuriously poised wardrobe.
What I am referring to specifically is, of course, those previously alluded to ‘little details’, or rather sartorial intricacies, that scores of bloggers and sartorial gentlemen alike obsessively toil over on a daily basis; those such as vintage cocktail cuffs on a shirt, soft natural shoulders on a summer sports coat, a herringbone weave present within a divine overcoat, or a luxe dinner jacket whose shawl lapels match in colour and fabrication that of its accentuating bow-tie — subtleties in styling and craft that warrant further inspection and retrospective celebration for their ability to rakishly elevate his quite conservative business and formal wears into extraordinary feats of tailoring craft and personal style.
The devil, as they say, is indeed in the details, details in which the various signature pieces adopted by spies tend to be simply overwrought with and simply begging for further attention; those that often go unnoticed to the untrained eye as indistinguishable features that contrarily delight any with a fastidious eye for detail.
Details, as it were, that are markedly notable and present throughout the first of the three most prominent/iconic wardrobe staples in a spies arsenal that I would actively table for your investment consideration, his…
Often intricately designed, purposefully cut, classically inspired and immaculately tailored so as to pay homage to an impeachable signature uniform template that has for well over a half-century championed the sort of elegantly refined silhouette that they've come to regard as the golden standard, most spies have an enterprising turnstile of suits cut in both British (fully/half-canvassed chest, full/half lining, slightly padded shoulders with a subtle waist taper, trouser cuffs, mid-weight: 9-11oz; wools, etc.)) and Italian (deconstructed, natural shoulders, lightweight, unlined, higher armscyes, lightweight linens, cashmere and wools, and significantly more tapering in various areas) tailoring traditions that you could say quite often read off as a highly covetable laundry list of lust-worthy, ‘tactical’, business and leisure iterations that make for both a pleasure in wear and a worthy investment in spite of their initial (and often astronomical) price tags.
Starting with Bonds trailblazing turn in Dr. No in 1962 — and his introduction to the world in the aforementioned exquisitely nuanced midnight blue dinner suit — and leading up to the upcoming 25th film in the franchise as well as the latest Kingsman film, both 007 as well as all his vocational disciples take great pleasure in wearing a broad spectrum of tailored suits on a daily (and nightly) basis. And rightfully so, as it is in their wearing of suits wherein they are most aptly adjudged and said to either excel or fall short in the realms of fashion and professional respectability.
In such a regard, every on-screen spy from Harry Palmer and Jason Bourne through Austin Powers and George Smiley, no matter how subdued or outlandish their signature formalwear may be, has tabled to the world a collection of suits that continually incite opinion and foster either obsession or ridicule. Polarizing as they may be to some, the gentlemanly spy will nonetheless first-and-foremost always be referred to as a wearer of only the finest tailored garments and suits to which you could say provide reflective insight into who is as a man as well as his rich tastes, tactical/social needs, and, of course, his genteel comportment, cultivated tact, and sartorially-inspired masculine sensibility.
It should be no surprise then that to most, Bond in a dinner suit is considered the epitome of stylish dressing.
In having touched upon that, and in spite of however romantic and sartorially astute they may be commonly painted as, its worth a brief aside to state that there is plenty about the romantically posited life of a spy that makes it, as Bond himself referred to it, a career with a relatively short lifespan.
But, whats not to love you may ask?
I'd imagine being an embattled and battered protagonist who is irrevocably put in the line of fire — a rarefied breed perpetually teetering on the brink of extinction as it were -- is not on the top of any list nor is being someone who is cast under the inscrutable obligation to being incredibly cryptic and aloof in all his relationships as well as continually judgemental in his daily observations, questionable in his moral compass, AND fundamentally ambiguous in his guarded lifelong dedication to one singular craft (i.e. espionage) — spies, it is said, live in a grey zone/specialized bubble that is occupied by only a select few others to which you can openly converse and share the intimate details of your life with.
To that effect,, being a real life spy requires you to dedicate yourself wholeheartedly — in mind, body and soul (as well as style to a lesser extent) — to the career and cause at hand (or Queen and country for Mr. Bond) in every sense of the manner; it is, in truth, a life consuming profession romantically staged on screen but rarely ever so in the real world.
Perhaps it is only fitting then that to some it is the more casually framed sequences in the fictional lives of spies like 007 that better prove their credible style icon status. Consider, if you will, Sean Connery’s rakish tonal (baby) blue swim and resort wears in Dr. No, Sir Roger Moore’s Mcqueen-inspired rollneck look in Live and Let Die (1973), or Daniel Craig’s leisure and tactical wear en masse throughout his four (and counting) turns as Bond as proof to the fact.
In light of that, more relatable and easy-to-wear leisurewear staples therein enter the espionage fold with no singular style being of more immediate consequence to spies then knitwear, and more explicitly the turtleneck.
Being arguably the choice (and operationally ideal) knitwear preference of spies dating back to professional time immemorial (and the second iconic staple investment selection of yours truly), espionage stalwarts such as fine-gauge rollnecks and cable knit turtlenecks effectively help 'normalize' what are otherwise quite stately figures who also — despite the pristine besuited visage and globe-trotting lifestyle — take great comfort in wearing luxe knitwear both on and off the clock whenever presented with or given the opportunity.
In design and cut fashioned to look and feel nearly impenetrable whether worn in the field or office, turtlenecks are without question jack-of-all-trades marvels as well as the transitional crowns in any spies wardrobe arsenal; they are, in effect, an ageless, multipurpose garment that seemingly marries the best and worst of both worlds (smart + casual) whilst being prized by spies for their elegant yet functional silhouette, social bridging operational utility, and, of course, tactical endowing benefits (warmth, smart layering, sartorial tractability).
Whether sussed up with a suit or dressed down with boots, the turtleneck operates in a chameleon like capacity for a spy so as to better position them to tactfully bend (i.e. a turtleneck with a dinner suit) or break dress code parameters before them in a very gentlemanly, yet rebellious and sartorially forthwith manner.
Whether its Craig in his eye-catching, form-hugging retro striped La Perla swim trunks in Casino Royale (2006), of which were a considered wardrobe selection that played upon the notion of Bond as a sexual icon, Archer's amnesia bearing striped board shorts in the episode Fugue & Riffs (Season 4), or Connery's more sensible turnstile of 60s' cut swimming trunks from Thunderball (1965) and Dr. No (1962), spies throughout history have demonstrated a considerable knack for knowing how to channel their rakish sartorial savoir-faire upon the beach and open sea in what one could deem a most tastefully sensible manner. From the aforementioned swim shorts through a variety of plush towelling polo and linen short-sleeved Cuban collar shirts through skin-tight lycra diving suits, the swimwear of a spy is as notably considered and flattering as is his professionally besuited uniform of choice.
Taking all three of those iconic spy wear staples into account (as well as honourable mentions for iconic espionage accessories such as watches, glasses, oxfords and cufflinks), it may very well be considerably more evident (if it wasn't already that is) as to why, should you ask others to conjure up an idealistic image of the stylish archetypical gentleman, that the collective reply will more often then not 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, and while Mr. 007 does indeed reign supreme within his fictionalized vocational field, he indeed has many classic and contemporary challengers alike who have always vied for his sartorial crown. Those such as Napoleon Solo (The Man From U.N.C.L.E.; a checked suit adherent); Galahad, Eggsy and Merlin (Kingsman I & II; all double-breasted formalwear savants); Harry Palmer (The Ipcress File; A bespectacled working-class sophisticate with a taste for classical music and cordon-bleu cooking); Maxwell Smart (Get Smart; grey flannel suit champion); Joesph Turner (the bookish and preppy casual American heritage wear stalwart); and, may I surprisingly add, a certain animated secret agent named Sterling Archer (the 'creator' of the tactleneck who lacks the mannerisms of a true gentleman) all immediately come to the fore.
In that regard you could say that the rakishly fictitious spy as we know him can be one of two things: a cookie-cutter traditionalist or an individual who is as varied in his tastes, habits, comportment and mannerisms as he is characteristically flawed and revered for being the King of the sartorial royalty paradigm; a stately figure through-and-through of considerable style, professional tact and merited substance who lives a romantically framed life forevermore cloaked in the prospect of sartorial elegance, self-fulfillment, and the spectre of globetrotting intrigue awaiting around every bend — a gentleman of style and substance beholden to none other then his (perhaps Queen and) country.
That having been said, and in coming full circle back to that of what makes the spy at once an icon and gentlemanly archetype above all else, it is worth noting one final time that he would be nothing but an average dressed conservative businessman (albeit one with above average etiquette/tastes) should he be remiss in continually paying heed to the rakish legacy, fastidious attention to detail and timeless wardrobe foundations of his forebears for without his keen eye for detail and reflective savoir-faire there is nothing special about the nature of his attire, save for its quality and provenance..
Ergo, if I had to describe the style of a spy in but one succinct sentence it would be as thus:
Chameleon-like yet extraordinarily detailed as well as elegantly staged in a very endearing and classically distinguished manner.
To wit, it therein stands to reason that his accentuating wardrobe — whilst forevermore marked by a certain set of timeless foundational staples — must nevertheless be capable of constantly evolving so as to correspond to the express requirements of a variety of covert operations and cultural guises — to being rational, tangible, disarming, subtly nuanced, and forever adaptable.
Because no matter how naturally gifted he may be in seducing a mark, how athletic or accomplished his physical prowess is, nor how highly cultivated his tactical spy craft may be, if he is not rakishly accustomed to always sartorially rising (or lowering himself) to the occasion — of aesthetically acclimating to any given operational parameter — at hand then he has likely already failed in his mission before it starts for it's within the abstract minutiae and small details that most objective tasks are either won or lost — the right attire can indeed truly make or break any mission.
Taking that into account, the preeminent skill of the spy is without question that of mastering the role of an unassuming sartorial chameleon; he must always be fastidiously equipped to naturally conform and ingratiate himself to his surroundings, respective of the given objective, task or locale at hand as his operational success, and ultimately his very existence, are contingent upon successfully fulfilling this vocational imperative.
Of course this, for most, would entail curating a wardrobe of rather mundane wears that would not be the cause of attracting unwanted attention, but the (fictional) spies that we are privy and accustomed to seeing — those glorified in cinema and literature -- would never be satisfied with such overt contrivances nor pedestrian wears. For you see, every exalted spy from James Bond and Sterling Archer through Eggsy and Galahad is repeatedly presented with immaculately staged plots, conspiracies and events to which one is always expected to dress to the highest sartorial pedigree (to the nines as it were).
From immaculately bespoke suiting and outerwear to tailored casual/leisurewear and luxurious menswear basics (think towelling polos, tailored swimwear, fitted chinos, smart topcoats, etc), the spy is — through a coalescence of operational demands and dress code standards — consistently attired in eloquent yet masculine wears that have become iconically revered, inspirational, and endlessly fancied by men world round. Black-tie soirees, clandestine meetings in the French Riviera, (super)car chases through the winding Alps, these are but typical social events upon their calendars that demand a sophisticated aesthetic that the covert agent is more then happy to sartorially acquiesce to.
To that end, they have become masters of both disguise and of a wholly refined worldly style that is accepted everywhere.
Being one and the same glamorous and gritty, their stately and elegantly posed signature style stands as a shining beacon in a world otherwise plagued by what has become an incessant turnstile of seasonal trends to contend with and the unrelenting prospect of gross mass consumption to cater to. They have, to that effect, continually been (decade after decade that is) true blue to the genteel mannerisms, ideological pursuits, and — most importantly — the pleasing sartorial aesthetics of their forefathers since cinematic time immemorial.
So, toss asunder any associative notion of hollow narcissism, outdated conventions, or superfluous sartorial posturing as the spy is indeed a most notable modern gentlemanly archetype of considerable merit whose balanced equality of style and substance is dutifully illustrated in the fact that they both take great pleasure in the way they dress and are well apprised as to why it all matters to the job at hand,
On that note, here is an apropos (albeit paraphrased) quote from the nefarious Mr. Big in Live & Let Die that I feel describes the styling habits and cultivated substance of a spy to a tee…
Quintessential tailoring and suiting, it so happens after all, makes for just the icing on their iconic sartorial cake seeing as their wardrobe at-large consists of a variety of wears — smart/casual + formal/tactical — that effectively enable them to seamlessly blend into any locale, function or covert scenario with comported ease whilst they further champion that irresistible, mystified and iconic disposition from which their characteristic flair, style and confidence spout forth from — unmistakably seductive and daringly provocative indeed.
All that having been said, fictional IO’s (rather then their real life counterparts), it bears note, require (both out of taste and professional necessitation) a wardrobe that not only looks great and helps them assimilate with their surroundings but that can also perform and endure the physical rigours of extraneous activities such as commandeering motorcycles to careen across rooftops in pursuit of double-agents, skydiving out of planes into enemy territory, or engaging in high-octane martial art tete-a-tete's with insidious henchmen. Inasmuch, they need wardrobes that are faultless in form and quality as well as at once sartorially impeachable, tactically sound, and perceptively a seamless component of the very cultural fabric and world their characters and storylines inhabit.
Ergo, you could say that what follows could subjectively constitute as a definitive answer to the commonplace inquiry of: What wardrobe staples should I invest in should I want to dress like, or rather recreate the exact style of, some of the world’s most rakishly poised, tactfully cunning, and dangerous (fictional) spies?
Well, to answer that I’ve crafted informative “Sartorial Intelligence” dossiers on three of the most rakishly revered secret agents in existence — Eggsy, Archer and Bond — whose besuited uniforms make for refined blueprints to follow for any working professional or the sartorially driven and informed amongst us who finds themselves pondering or posing just such a pressing question…
Inasmuch, they are acutely aware of the critical (vocational) importances of always dressing the proper part and curating a chameleon-esque wardrobe (their tools of the trade as it were) that they can reliably fall back upon with confidence whose various accoutrements have each come to be characteristically marked by those 'little details' that instantly elevate their style credentials to the next tier whilst dually bolstering their ability to achieve objective success.
In a manner of speaking, this of course predicates that they need gather specialized intelligence — beyond HUMINT, SIGINIT or EQ — not only on what may be an enemies pressure points (family, vices, etc.) or physical/lifestyle frailties, but also in regards to matters pertaining as to why one should never wear a wing-tip collared shirt with black tie nor a tie that is lighter then his shirt in hue.
Be that as it may, everything they wear, as well as how they proceed to styling each respective piece or adding subtle details in either its design or personalization, has purpose, precedence, and mission specific objective indoctrination to account for/adhere to.
To that end, and from elegant horned glasses and luxury timepieces through (tactical) umbrella's and signature scents, spies are understandably anal about addressing every detail and characteristic mark within their daily uniforms — be it a uniquely flattering cut, properly shined shoes or adopting seasonally/climate apropos fabrications — as their personal M.O's, not to mention their adoptive covers, often rely upon everything being properly set in its place without exception.
Take for example Mr. Bond, Matt Spaiser (of “The Suits of James Bond“ acclaim) aptly states that there is indeed “a lot to learn from the small details in Bond’s clothes, as well as from the big picture for without all the details there is nothing special about Bond's clothes.” What he is alluding to, naturally, are the little things such as natural shoulders and a draped chest in a suits jacket structure (Connery’s grey 2-piece suits namely), the elegant drape of a stately Officer's coat upon one's shoulders, and even design subtleties such as a grenadine weave in a tie that each individually make his clothing special and his aesthetic a step above all other conservatively-dressed men.
Howbeit, it is with a highly trained eye, as well as a professional approach to wardrobe curation that prioritizes classic conservative business attire rather then trendy fashions or gaudy accessorizing, that spies like 007 are capable of sartorially blossoming and achieving operational (and carnal) triumph at will. For you see, and should a spy not be adept at properly addressing such matters sartorial, not only may he be outed as an imposter or attract unwanted attention, but he may very well end up paying the ultimate price.
To wit, any spy who aspires to excelling within the realm of his chosen craft should be capable of feeling as equally comfortable and dashing in a henley and leather jacket as he does in his finest business and dinner suits.
The answer: that would be a most definitive yes as they prefer (most often that is) keeping it simple and understated in their adoption of what is commonly a classic solid navy or charcoal besuited uniform that is tonally accentuated by a solid white/light blue spread collar cotton dress shirt, navy/grey silk grenadine or black knit tie, black whole-cut or cap toe oxfords, and a calculated selection of the finest formal accoutrements — diving/dress watch, socks, pocket square, tie clip and glasses (either reading or sun).
On the whole, you could say that one could never go wrong by following the failsafe styling blueprint above should he either work in a professional environment (just mix it up with different accessories that pop or that reflect your persona/membership in clubs/organizations/alma maters) or take great pleasure in wearing suits at leisure whether sussed up or in a more casually dressed down state — in such matters the importance of a crisp solid navy or charcoal suit truly cannot be overstated.
Why? Perhaps because they are smart/versatile conservative linchpins of near impenetrable stature that can be elevated in their wear by subtle nuances in styling, design and weaving; they are something that can be customized however you see fit and still be capable of blending in everywhere (i.e. Is the universal business standard) life takes you.
To that account, the iconic uniform of the rakish fictional spy certainly makes for a most classically astute, well-poised, and tried-and-true option for any gentleman to continually pay heed to—- investment worthy.
Just as fitting, and falling in line with that of their inconspicuous uniform of choice stated above, is their preference for a neutral, predominantly muted metropolitan colour palette that is typically underscored by a profoundly elegant silhouette that is at once both relatable and aspiring in its accentuation of his true blue gentlemanly habiliments.
So, it stands to reason that whether its wearing suits on the job or upon interviews or dates, dinner jackets to weddings and New Year's Eve parties, or chinos, turtlenecks and chukkas whilst running daily errands, it should be quite evident as to why the stately yet conservatively posited wardrobes of the likes of Messrs Bond, Archer and Eggsy have become timeless sources of styling inspiration.
In any event, and while they themselves may be fictionalized, the worlds they inhabit, the operations they undertake in, and most notably the wardrobes and professional business ready attire they readily equip, are all grounded in adaptive reality and as such are tried-and-true aspirational reference points for any discerning gent who either pines for a more refined and sophisticated aesthetic, is searching for a well-appointed means to elevate his conservative style, or is insistent upon aping the signature styling of spies on a more sensible (i.e. affordable) and calculated level.
On that note, and aside from the specialized go-bag wardrobe capsule in the introduction of this feature, here is a list of classic spy accoutrements — their tools of the trade — to consider coopting into your wardrobe today that have each dutifully earned their vaunted positioning in the revered sartorial espionage pantheon.
Equip any or all as you see fit so as to all but ensure your next secret mission (or rather simple work day) is endearingly marked by a sense of charm, poise and, most importantly, sartorial savoir-faire that rivals even the best silver (and small) screen IO’s out there…
Be that as it may, the rakish spy, faults and all, nevertheless remains as one of the modern world's most highly esteemed gentlemanly archetypes, a man who has proven time-and-again to be as tactfully adroit at dressing up for any occasion or toppling any opposition presented before him with comported panache as he is at (nearly) always keeping his moral compass in check and his gentlemanly mannerisms about him.
To that end, you could say that he has arguably mastered the specialized arts of tactically keeping his cards close to his chest, his wits about him, and his wardrobe both well-appointed and pertinaciously presentable to the account of being a chameleon standing alone atop his own elevated style pedestal to which there is arguably no other fictional entity capable of holding a candle up to his highly cultivated sartorial (and emotional) intelligence, tactical stealth wealth, and tastefully framed bravado.
To wit, their roguish masculinity, charismatic charm, innate savoir-faire, and seductive physical prowess have each dutifully become as highly covetable and heralded as the last.
And their (not so) secret to it all, as it were?
A small, rakishly understated wardrobe capsule of timeless foundation pillars and accentuating accoutrements that collectively have withstood the trials of time and can take a gentlemanly spy anywhere the job entails — from opulent black tie galas through wild tropical rainforests.
Just as well, their simple key to unabated operative success (as well as social and self-fulfillment) thus rests in having an impenetrable collection of suits and casual/leisure/field wears that are reliable, instant confidence boosters, and an apropos characteristic reflection of not only their tastes but the worlds they commonly frequent as well. Their signature style is by no mistake considered the epitome of sartorial elegance for good reason after all.
So whether its the finest luxury tailoring from Kingsman’s Savile Row HQ, the rugged yet bookish preppy American heritage wears of CIA analyst Joseph Turner, the 007 inspired sartorial bravado of one Sterling Archer, or the holy grail aesthetics of Mr. Bond himself, here’s one last time to raising a glass to all the nattily attired gentlemanly spies whose impeccable style and spotless wardrobe selections continue to enthral the style-conscious amongst us en masse with their riveting and inspired takes on an otherwise gritty (i.e. betrayals, murder, subterfuge, et al.) real world profession whose stereotypically conservative accentuating wardrobe would be, without their unique touch of styling nuance and savoir-faire that is, rather quite run-of-the-mill and aesthetically underwhelming.
Henceforth, there is no shame in both admiring and channeling the elegant restraint, good taste, and permanent fashionability of such exalted figures in your everyday life as they are indeed acutely aware that we do live in a (superficial) world where first impressions are paramount, dressing the proper part is a key factor to success, and where pursuing cultivated elegance and characteristic refinement are considered dying arts to which a gentleman should nevertheless still wholeheartedly dedicate himself to through contestable thick-and-thin.
Howbeit, and in coming back full circle to addressing their merited positing as the archetypical modern gentleman of style and substance, it should be rather quite evident at this juncture as to why you could indeed regard the (fictitious) spy in practice, style, and professional conviction as just such a revered paragon in that he is most assuredly a worldly, well-appointed, classically mannered, sartorially rakish, and characteristically relentless figure who is dutifully dedicated to both his chosen craft and the lifelong pursuit of characteristic development and refinement — a true gentleman in most every discernible right.
Truly dressed to kill and thrill indeed!
Do you think of the spy as the archetypical modern gentleman (womanizing aside)? And, what’s your favourite signature spy craft wardrobe pillar from throughout history?
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