Sidney Poitier as Matt Younger, widowed father and clinic physician
London, Summer 1972
Film: A Warm December
Release Date: May 23, 1973
Director: Sidney Poitier
Wardrobe Supervisor: John Wilson-Apperson
Despite its title, Sidney Poitier’s second directorial effort A Warm December is actually set during a summer in London. (The title is contextualized during one of the film’s final scenes, so I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it!) Poitier plays Dr. Matt Younger, a recent widow who brings his daughter across the pond for what he hopes to be a mindless vacation spent riding his motorbike until he makes the acquaintance of the mysterious and magnetic Catherine (Ester Anderson) and falls for her.
A physician in a Washington clinic, Matt soon recognizes the symptoms of sickle cell anemia in Catherine, confirmed after she undergoes an evaluation with the help of his fellow doctor pal Henry (George Baker). With the truth out between them, Matt proposes that Catherine marry him and join him and his daughter Stefanie in the United States.
What’d He Wear?
A Warm December‘s sole costume credit recognizes John Wilson-Apperson, who had also been credited as the wardrobe supervisor for To Sir, With Love, again starring Sidney Poitier as an American in London. Poitier had established himself as a style icon with movies like To Sir, With Love, in which he display his mastery of classic menswear staples like a navy odd jacket and gray slacks and the classic gray business suit.
Half a decade later, the early 1970s saw not only an expansion of lapel widths but also a general expansion in the range of colors, cuts, details, and patterns available for men’s closets, illustrated by Sidney Poitier’s wide-ranging wardrobe in A Warm December. Matt Younger’s wardrobe includes the requisite navy blazer, camel sports coat, and gray lounge suit, but the good doctor’s sartorial creativity reaches its apex with this sporty, unconventional suit and open-necked shirt that both experiment with unique patterns and details.
Worn for this scene alone, Matt’s suit appears to be constructed from a double-knit polyester, a newly fashionable fabric in the 1970s that allowed for more creative patterns like this particular suiting that appears to be a low-contrast old gold diamond grid on a stone-colored ground.
The single-breasted jacket has fashionably wide notch lapels that roll gently over the top of the the three closely spaced buttons, with the lapels and pocket flaps detailed with sporty welted edges. The jacket is roped at the sleeveheads, and each sleeve is finished with three buttons at the cuff. The jacket’s long double vents are also contemporary with early 1970s trends.
Aside from the suiting itself, the most creative aspect of the jacket’s design is the breast pocket, not only for being set-in and flapped but also dramatically angled downward to echo the slanted equestrian-style hacking pockets on the hips. The military-inspired detail of breast pocket flaps was making a gradual return on sportier suits over the late 1960s and through the ’70s, approximately a half-century after they had been an element of Edwardian menswear.
Matt begins his day wearing a brick-shaded brown silk tie that he removes when he returns to his hotel room and doesn’t put on again when taking Catherine back to see Henry.
While some may counter a flashy suit like this with a subdued shirt, Matt takes a decidedly bolder approach with a colorful leaf-printed shirt in an autumnal motif of gold, sage, and puce-toned leaves. The shirt has a spread collar, front placket with white buttons, and unique single-button tab cuffs.
The suit’s matching trousers are fashioned like the rest in Matt’s on-screen wardrobe, fitted through the hips with no pockets, slightly flared in the legs at the plain-hemmed bottoms. He wears a thick dark brown leather belt, edge-stitched in a low-contrast thread and fastened through a large gold-toned single-prong buckle.
Much as the rest of Younger’s outfit reflects menswear trends (albeit to the occasional extreme), so too do his footwear. Since the development of the “weejun” loafer by G.H. Bass in the 1930s, American men had been favoring the casual comfort of the slip-on shoe with increasing frequency, and loafers were even finding acceptance with suits in U.S. offices by mid-century. More fashion-forward Brits began adopting similar practices, and even the English author Ian Fleming had garnered such a distaste for lace-up shoes that he passed the trait on to his famous literary creation, James Bond, in his spy novels of the 1950s and ’60s.
All that to say, a sporty suit and wild shirt like this would be incongruous if worn with formal black oxfords. Instead, Matt appropriately wears a pair of dark brown leather moc-toe loafers with a silver-toned three-piece bit detail on the strap across each vamp. The full break of the trouser bottoms tend to cover his dark socks, which are likely brown to tonally coordinate with the rest of his outfit.
How to Get the Look
Men’s suits underwent an unprecedented revolution in the 1970s that embraced creative colors, patterns, and details, exemplified by this eye-catching outfit that Sidney Poitier wears for a romantic stroll in A Warm December. While the details of the outfit would be too difficult—and perhaps inadvisable—to duplicate, the spirit of
- Gold-on-stone diamond grid-patterned suit:
- Single-breasted 3/2-roll jacket with wide notch lapels, slanted flapped breast pocket, slanted flapped hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and long double vents
- Flat front trousers with belt loops, no pockets, and slightly flared plain-hemmed bottoms
- Autumnal leaf-printed shirt with spread collar, front placket, and single-button tab cuffs
- Brick silk tie
- Dark brown edge-stitched leather belt with large gold-toned single-prong buckle
- Dark brown leather moc-toe loafers with silver three-piece bit detail
- Brown socks