Sidney Reilly’s Blue Argyle Sweater

Sam Neill as Sidney Reilly in Reilly: Ace of Spies (Episode 11: "The Last Journey")

Sam Neill as Sidney Reilly in Reilly: Ace of Spies (Episode 11: “The Last Journey”)

Vitals

Sam Neill as Sidney Reilly, shrewd anti-Bolshevik and former British agent

London, Fall 1925

Series: Reilly: Ace of Spies
Episode: “The Last Journey” (Episode 11)
Air Date: November 9, 1983
Director: Jim Goddard
Costume Designer: Elizabeth Waller

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Sidney Reilly is just settling into life with his latest – and final – wife, the glamorous actress Nelly “Pepita” Bobadilla (Laura Davenport), when he is visited by Georgi and Maria Schulz, the Soviet double agents who have come to ensure him of his safe passage through Russia to meet with The Trust.

Of course, The Trust is secretly an counterintelligence operation to help Felix Dzerzhinsky’s OGPU identify and capture anti-Bolshevik resistance agents like Sidney Reilly, who had been sentenced to death in absentia in 1918.

The series suggests that Reilly may have been aware of The Trust’s true nature and that sacrificing himself, a high-profile spy, would terminate the operation. Whether he knew the group’s true means or not, Reilly had waited seven years for an opportunity to return to Soviet Russia, and he immediately begins packing for what would become – as the title suggests – his last journey.

What’d He Wear?

Sidney Reilly showcases plenty of nattily dressed-down ensembles for receiving visitors at home during his postwar life in London, including a Fair Isle knit vest in the ninth episode, a gray wool shawl-collar cardigan in the tenth episode, and this blue v-neck sweater with a classic argyle pattern in the eleventh and penultimate episode.

The traditional argyle pattern consists of a series of diamond shapes in two or three colors, typically overlain by diagonal lines that create a diamond-shaped grid. The pattern dates back to the Clan Campbell of Argyll (an alaternate spelling) in western Scotland as well as the “tartan hose” socks worn by Scottish Highlanders beginning in the 1600s. Centuries later, the argyle pattern became fashionable for knitwear first in England, followed by the U.S., in the years immediately following World War I. Pringle of Scotland developed is “iconic Pringle argyle design” in the 1920s, and the trendsetting Duke of Windsor’s propensity for wearing argyle golf jerseys and socks only increased the pattern’s popularity during that roaring decade. (You can follow my lead and learn more about the history of argyle from this Wikipedia article and its sources.)

Thus, we find Sidney Reilly spending a quiet afternoon at home in the fall of 1925, sporting a long-sleeved argyle wool sweater at the height of the pattern’s newfound popularity. Reilly’s argyle pattern covers his chest with sky blue, gray, and pale blue-gray diamonds with a light gray cross-check overlay. The rows of pale blue-gray and gray lozenges are five across; the sky blue lozenges are stacked four across. The rest of the sweater – the ribbed v-neck, the long-ribbed hem line, the back, and the set-in long sleeves with their ribbed cuffs – are all sky blue.

British spy meets Wall Street prepster as Sidney Reilly dons an argyle sweater, Winchester shirt, and bow tie.

British spy meets Wall Street prepster as Sidney Reilly dons an argyle sweater, Winchester shirt, and bow tie.

Reilly wears a striped “Winchester shirt” with navy candy stripes on a white ground. The large white contrasting point collar may be detachable. The shirt also has a front placket with mother-of-pearl buttons and barrel cuffs that fit more comfortably under the long sleeves of a sweater and would be more consistent with Reilly’s dressed-down weekend aesthetic.

These later episodes portray a more matured Reilly who always wears proper neckwear even when not leaving the house. The real-life Really was known to fancy bow ties later in his life per this well-known 1924 portrait which I compared to a similar outfit in the miniseries.

Reilly maintains his cooler blue tones with this outfit by sporting a dark navy butterfly-shaped bow tie with neat rows of white dots.

The sign of a strong relationship: Reilly and Nelly are still smiling after putting up picture frames in their new home.

The sign of a strong relationship: Reilly and Nelly are still smiling after putting up picture frames in their new home.

Reilly wears a pair of dark gray flannel trousers with double forward pleats, side pockets, and jetted back pockets – or at least definitely a pocket on the back right.

REILLY: ACE OF SPIES

The trouser bottoms are finished with turn-ups (cuffs), breaking clear of his brown calf leather cap-toe oxfords.

Reilly sees off his visitors. Does he trust them? Time will tell.

Reilly sees off his visitors. Does he trust them? Time will tell.

Having cast aside his pocket watch after returning from Russia in 1918, Reilly follows the post-WWI trend of wearing the sportier wristwatch, a particularly wise choice with this more casual outfit. It appears to be a gold tank watch with a white square dial and a black leather strap.

Reilly's wristwatch slips up his wrist as he assures Nelly that he'll be careful so that he may return to her.

Reilly’s wristwatch slips up his wrist as he assures Nelly that he’ll be careful so that he may return to her.

How to Get the Look

Sidney Reilly sets a standard for guys looking to spruce up their fall weekend casual looks with a bold argyle sweater and a coordinating bow tie.

  • Sky blue wool v-neck long-sleeve sweater with gray and pale blue-gray argyle chest pattern
  • Navy candy-striped Winchester shirt with contrasting white point collar, front placket, and button cuffs
  • Dark navy white-dotted silk butterfly-shaped bow tie
  • Dark gray wool double forward-pleated trousers with side pockets, jetted right back pocket, and turn-ups/cuffs
  • Brown leather cap-toe oxford shoes
  • Gold tank watch with white square dial on black leather strap

If you’re seeking an exact replica of Reilly’s double gray-on-sky blue argyle jumper, the nearest approximation I’ve been able to find online is this Club Room sweater that channels the spirit – though certainly not the exact look – of Reilly’s garment. Instead, I urge using Reilly’s outfit as a guideline for finding what works best for you personally.

The Tie Bar offers two lovely bow ties in navy woven silk; you can check out the “Mini Dots” or their larger-scaled cousin, the “Pindot”, but be advised that neither field white dots is arranged quite as orderly as Captain Reilly’s neckwear. Both of these The Tie Bar options are available for less than $20 each as of October 2017.

The Gun

Even when I was working on this page as an administrator for IMFDb, I had some trouble identifying the pocket pistol carried by both Reilly and his friend Captain George Hill (Hugh Fraser) in the series’ later episodes.

My best guess is that it is a subcompact Beretta model, possibly the era-correct Beretta Model 1919 in .25 ACP (6.35mm).

Reilly will need a lot more heat than he plans on packing for his return to cold Soviet Russia.

Reilly will need a lot more heat than he plans on packing for his return to cold Soviet Russia.

The Beretta Model 1919 was the predecessor of the Beretta 418, the .25-caliber pistol that Ian Fleming initially chose when arming his fictional secret agent James Bond in the first five of 007’s novelistic adventures. It would be an appropriate homage given the real-life Reilly’s role in inspiring Fleming’s hero, as the author himself once reportedly said: “James Bond is just a piece of nonsense I dreamed up… he’s not a Sidney Reilly, you know!””

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Check out the series.

The Quote

I shall be very, very careful.

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