Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo, smooth CIA operative
Berlin and Rome, Spring 1963
Film: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Release Date: August 2, 2015
Director: Guy Ritchie
Costume Designer: Joanna Johnston
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is one of the more stylish films released in recent years, transporting audiences back to the oft-romanticized height of Cold War spying in mid-’60s Europe. The movie reboot serves as a prequel for the popular TV show, which starred Robert Vaughn and David McCallum as American spy Napoleon Solo and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin, respectively.
Henry Cavill’s interpretation of Solo retains much of the easygoing efficiency and sophistication originated by Vaughn in the role, and I left the theater wishing I was heading directly to the shop of Timothy Everest, who tailored Cavill’s distinctive and debonair suits for the film.
For my inaugural Solo post, in response to requests from readers Noel and Andrew, I am choosing to focus on a flashy suit that gets plenty of screen time.
What’d He Wear?
Blue and gray are often considered to be very conservative color options for suits, but the interesting suiting of Napoleon Solo’s exclusively blue and gray-toned suits throughout The Man from U.N.C.L.E. illustrate that a well-designed wardrobe in the hands of a talented tailor remove limitations to creativity.
Solo actually wears two different blue-toned windowpane suits; the first is a darker navy double-breasted suit briefly seen under his raincoat during a fight with Illya in a Berlin bathroom. The second blue windowpane suit, which Timothy Everest’s site describes as “a teal check suit” gets far more screen time, beginning with a shopping expedition in Berlin through the team’s arrival in Rome to the sunny final shot on the hotel balcony.
Costume designer Joanna Johnston described her process to Charles Thorp of Men’s Journal at the time of the film’s release, explaining that she took inspiration from Steve McQueen in The Thomas Crown Affair and provided “fine Italian fabrics” for Timothy Everest to tailor each suit, particularly to fit Cavill’s broad shoulders that were enhanced by his role as Superman. Everest noted Johnston’s desire for British inspiration in Solo’s wardrobe; as Esquire notes: “Despite his character’s American roots, Cavill’s inspiration comes from across the pond. Nothing says ‘British gentleman’ like a windowpane suit.”
The wool suiting consists of a light blue and dark navy wide-scaled windowpane plaid on a bold teal blue ground. The navy windowpane is more muted while the lighter blue windowpane check’s shadow bordering gives it a more pronounced “pop”.
The detailing of the three-piece suit – from the covered buttons on the jacket and waistcoat to the trouser waist tabs – proudly indicate its bespoke nature. “We were referencing the latter part of the 1960s rather than the early years, with details including covered buttons and squared off front edge,” explains Timothy Everest’s site. “We needed to create confident looks for someone debonair, suave and dashing.”
The somewhat boxy “swinging London” suit is a different take than Vaughn’s more American wardrobe, but there’s no denying that it works for Cavill. The single-breasted jacket has notch lapels that end high over the three-button front, of which Solo often wears the top two fastened. The padded shoulders slope down Cavill’s muscular shoulders to very roped sleeveheads. The functional 4-button “surgeon’s cuffs” at the end of each sleeve are covered to match the three buttons on the front.
Solo’s suit jacket has straight flapped pockets on the hips, including a ticket pocket above the right that adds an additional touch of traditional British tailoring. The jacket has a welted pocket, where Solo rakishly wears his silk display kerchief of light blue dots on a navy ground. Johnston explained to Men’s Journal that she “grabbed armfuls of different options” during a visit to the Turnbull & Asser store on Jermyn Street. “It’s important not to be too matchy,” she stated, seemingly agreeing with Illya Kuryakin’s approach to clothing…
Solo: It won’t match.
Kuryakin: It doesn’t have to match.
The single-breasted waistcoat has five covered buttons down to the straight-cut bottom, one of the more obvious elements lifted from McQueen’s Thomas Crown suits. This vest has two lower welted pockets and a dark brocade satin back with an adjustable strap. A short notch on each side of the waistcoat separates the windowpane-suited front from the satin back.
Solo’s flat front suit trousers have no belt loops, instead fitting around the waist with buckle-tab adjusters on each side of the waistband. There is a straight pocket on each side and a jetted back pocket on the right (none on the left!) The narrow leg tapers down to the plain-hemmed bottoms.
The pale blue dress shirt provides a gentle, flattering contrast to the bold blue suit without overwhelming like a white shirt. The shirt has a narrow point collar, plain front, and side darts on the upper back. Solo wears black-faced silver cuff links in the shirt’s rounded double (French) cuffs.
Unlike James Bond, who seemingly wore only solid ties throughout the 1960s, Solo often sports more complexly patterned ties with shades that flatter his suits and shirts. Both ties that he wears with this blue windowpane suit are foulard silk ties with varying degrees of blue present.
For the shopping trip in Berlin and the balcony finale in Rome, Solo wears a blue-on-lighter blue foulard silk tie.
For the team’s arrival in Rome, Solo wears another foulard tie with small light blue-on-navy spots connected over a maroon ground.
A snappy dresser like Napoleon Solo would naturally know that the finest suit can be ruined by bad shoes, so Joanna Johnston collaborated with venerable English shoemaker Crockett & Jones to keep her sharp American spy looking fashionably British. Solo seems to exclusively wear Crockett & Jones “Courtenay” oxfords in dark brown calf leather with his suits. These five-eyelet subtly punched shoes have single leather bark-tanned soles. The plain toe is soft and round, characteristic of Crockett & Jones’ 363 last. The Crockett & Jones site prices these Courtenay oxfords at $860.
Solo appropriately always wears blue socks when wearing this suit. He nicely matches the suit with a pair of dark navy dress socks in Rome, but – evidently feeling more jaunty – he wears a pair of powder blue dress socks in Berlin that provides a flash of contrast between his trouser legs and brown shoes.
Henry Cavill is an Omega watch wearer in real life, so it’s no surprise that he sports a timepiece from that venerable brand associated with spies, presidents, and astronauts as Napoleon Solo. According to Men’s Journal, Johnston delved into Omega’s expansive archives to find the vintage gold chronograph that Cavill wears on screen.
Finally, Solo wears a gold signet ring on his left pinky that was custom made for the production.
How to Get the Look
Real life spies tend to fly under the radar, but fashionable agents like Napoleon Solo are more than comfortable showing the fruits of their profession with bold, beautifully tailored three-piece suits and luxury accessories.
- Blue multi-toned windowpane wool tailored three-piece suit, tailored by Timothy Everest and consisting of:
- Single-breasted 3-button suit jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets and ticket pocket, functional 4-button cuffs, long single vent, and covered buttons
- Single-breasted 5-button waistcoat/vest with two lower welted pockets, straight-cut bottom, and dark brocade satin back with adjustable strap
- Pale blue dress shirt with narrow point collar, plain front, side darts, and double/French cuffs
- Silver-edged black rectangular cuff links
- Blue-on-blue foulard silk tie
- Dark brown calf leather Crockett & Jones “Courtenay” five-eyelet plain-toe oxfords/balmorals
- Blue dress socks
- Gold vintage Omega chronograph wristwatch with round white dial (with 3:00 and 9:00 sub-dials) on black leather strap
- Gold signet ring
Solo’s sidearm of choice is a Browning Hi-Power, although it doesn’t get much use in these scenes beyond a brief (but very clear!) shot of it in his suitcase toward the end. After decades in design, the Hi-Power was introduced in 1935 as a high-capacity response to John Browning’s 1911 pistol. It is a single-action semi-automatic pistol that carries a 13-round magazine of 9x19mm Parabellum ammunition.
The “Fabrique Nationale Herstal” printed on the slide indicates that this is a Belgian-made Hi-Power with a classic pre-1973 ring hammer.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Buy the movie, and check out the original series too!
Take it like a pussy.