James Coburn’s Corduroy Suit in Charade
James Coburn as Tex Panthollow, larcenous former OSS commando
Paris, April 1963
Release Date: December 5, 1963
Director: Stanley Donen
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
As portrayed by the brilliant and versatile James Coburn, Tex Panthollow makes his dramatic introduction in the beginning of Charade as the second of three mysterious men who show up to “pay respects” at the funeral of their one-time brother-in-arms Charles Lampert, each one increasingly perplexing his widow Reggie (Audrey Hepburn) with their behavior. Par examplum: Tex draws a hand-sized mirror from his inside breast pocket and holds it directly under the deceased’s nose to ensure that he’s really passed from this world before sneering: “Arrive-derci, Charlie.”
The trio begin terrorizing Reggie in their campaign to recover $250,000 in gold that they and Charlie “liberated” from the Germans during World War II. Reggie’s companion, played by Cary Grant, manages to arouse suspicion among the three men by suggesting that one of them already has the money, though Tex finds the idea “distasteful… us bein’ veterans of the same war and all.”
What’d He Wear?
When he closes the door we can see "TEX" PENTHOLLOW, a slim, rangy man with sandy-colored hair, a weatherbeaten face, washed-out blue-eyes -- also in his forties. He wears a velvet-corduroy suit, string tie and a bright yellow flower in his lapel. A bulldurham tag hangs from his outside breast pocket, dangling from its string.
Screenwriter Peter Stone had always envisioned the corduroy suit—complete with tobacco tag hanging from his pocket—as part of Tex’s image, though the “string tie” was lost in the adaptation in favor of a more timeless and traditional straight tie.
“A tall man in a corduroy suit,” is how Reggie remembers Tex when describing him to CIA administrator Hamilton Bartholomew, leaving out the unnecessary detail of the yellow flower in his lapel as he had left that with Charlie in the casket.
The corduroy of the suit itself has a wale so thin—often referred to as “needlecord” or “pinwale”—that it can barely be discerned, even in close-ups. The color is similar to the elusive shade of puce, a light taupe-brown with a pinkish cast.
Tex’s single-breasted 3/2-roll needlecord suit jacket could easily be orphaned and repurposed by a more casual modern wearer as an odd jacket with chinos or even jeans. The jacket has a single vent, three-button cuffs, and patch pockets with straight flaps. From the welted breast pocket dangles the tag of his tobacco pouch, suspended from a yellow string.
The flat front trousers sit low on Coburn’s waist, especially for 1963, but there are no suspenders, belt, or side-adjusters to hold them up; the only suspension is an extended waistband tab with a hidden hook closure. The trousers have frogmouth front pockets and plain-hemmed bottoms.
Despite his cowboy reputation, Tex foregoes the classic riding boot in favor of the more mod Chelsea boot, defined by Hardy Amies only a year later in 1964 as “the plain-fronted, elastic-sided short boot (covering the ankle) [that] is the basis of the whole boot trend in footwear today.” The Chelsea boot phenomenon is often traced back to the Beatles, who would hit their first #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 with “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, just shy of two months after Charade was released.
With his black calf leather Chelsea boots, Tex wears a pair of black cotton lisle socks.
While the venerated gingham check had long been associated with rural style and characters like Judy Garland’s Kansas farm girl in The Wizard of Oz, the pattern was emerging as a favorite among mods in the mid-’60s when James Coburn wore this navy-and-white gingham shirt in Charade. Tex’s shirt has a button-down collar, plain front, and button cuffs.
Tex completes his look with a slim and straight dark navy knit tie, likely no wider than two inches and flat across the bottom.
Jean-Louis: Are you a real cowboy?
Tex: Yeah, sure I am, kid.
Jean-Louis: So where’s your gun?
Tex rises to Jean-Louis’ bait, drawing a massive Colt New Service revolver from his trouser waistband, though you can tell Tex is the type just itching for people to ask to see his sidearm.
The Colt New Service dates back to the time of the final years of the 19th century that found the United States at war with Cuba and the Philippines. During the latter conflict in particular, American troops were finding themselves woefully undergunned with their sidearms, the Colt Model 1892 revolver chambered in .38 Long Colt and outfitted with the revolutionary swing-out cylinder that has all but replaced the previous loading gate and top-break mechanisms of earlier revolvers. The U.S. military was able to reach into its existing stores to reissue the slower-loading but powerful Colt Single Action Army revolver chambered in .45 Long Colt, but it was clear that new sidearms would be needed that combined the innovation of the new revolvers with the man-stopping ability of the old. Enter the Colt New Service.
Though Colt first introduced the large-framed New Service in 1898, it wasn’t until 1909 that the Army officially replaced the M1892 with the 5½”-barreled New Service chambered in .45 Colt, adopting it across the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. In the decades to follow, the Colt New Service would be available in most popular larger-caliber cartridges from .357 Magnum, .38 Special, and .38-40 Winchester up to .44-40 Winchester, .44 Russian, .44 Special, and .455 Webley as well as standard American military rounds .45 Colt and, in 1917, the rimless .45 ACP semi-automatic pistol cartridge with half-moon clips to hold them in position.
How to Get the Look
An American in Paris, Tex Panthollow doesn’t leave his all-American sense of style—an Ivy-inspired aesthetic with a cowboy attitude—at home.
- Taupe-puce needlecord cotton suit:
- Single-breasted 3/2-roll jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped patch pockets, 3-button cuffs, and single vent
- Flat front trousers with extended waistband tab, frogmouth front pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Navy-and-white gingham check cotton shirt with button-down collar, front placket, and button cuffs
- Dark navy knit straight tie
- Black calf leather Chelsea boots with elastic side gussets
- Black cotton lisle socks
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie, and be sure to find one of the high-quality versions like the recent Criterion Collection release. The film’s decades under public domain meant an abundance of lower-quality versions opportunistically released on home video to take advantage of the film’s high profile and cast recognition.
Oh, poor old Herman. It seems like him and good luck always was strangers. Well, maybe now he’ll meet up with his other hand some place.
I’ve been waiting for this one, thanks brother !!!