A Warm December: Sidney Poitier’s Diamond-Grid Suit

Sidney Poitier as Dr. Matt Younger in A Warm December (1973)

Sidney Poitier as Dr. Matt Younger in A Warm December (1973)

Vitals

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

Background

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.

Note the low-contrast diamond-grid pattern and how it shines differently under different lighting conditions.

Note the low-contrast diamond-grid pattern and how it shines differently under different lighting conditions.

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.

A WARM DECEMBER

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.

James Bond fans may recognize Matt's pal Henry played by George Baker, who had the brief but notable role as Sir Hilary Bray in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969).

James Bond fans may recognize Matt’s pal Henry played by George Baker, who had the brief but notable role as Sir Hilary Bray in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969).

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.

An examination of Catherine's eyes confirms Matt's sad suspicions regarding her condition.

An examination of Catherine’s eyes confirms Matt’s sad suspicions regarding her condition.

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.

A WARM DECEMBER

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.

Matt spies the costume from Torunda that Catherine gifted to his daughter Stefanie.

Matt spies the costume from Torunda that Catherine gifted to his daughter Stefanie.

How to Get the Look

Sidney Poitier and Ester Anderson in A Warm December (1973)

Sidney Poitier and Ester Anderson in A Warm December (1973)

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

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Check out the movie, most accessibly available on DVD as part of a four-film “Sidney Poitier Collection” box set from Warner Brothers.

3 comments

  1. James

    Great period to look at. Details great as ever. No trouser pockets seems unlikly. Looks to me like frog mouth pockets. You can see the vertical seam next to the fly in the photo above.

    Like

    • luckystrike721

      Thanks! I appreciate you taking a closer look. I see what you mean in the photo you mentioned, though I revisited some of my other screenshots and I’m having trouble finding firm evidence of pockets. Instead, what looks like the vertical seams of frogmouth pockets may actually be front trouser darts to help curve the trousers over the hips without pleats; given the tightness of the trousers in the area, I think darts would make sense. Let me know what you think!



      Like

      • James

        Look in the picture “Matt spies the costume from Torunda that Catherine gifted to his daughter Stefanie” theres what looks to me like a jeans fifth pocket under the belt. With a horizontal line at right angles to the two seams, which would be the top of the main pocket.

        Like

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