Patrick McGoohan as Number Six, recently resigned secret agent
“The Village”, Fall 1967
Series: The Prisoner
– “Arrival” (Episode 1.01, dir. Don Chaffey, aired 9/29/1967)
– “Fall Out” (Episode 1.17, dir. Patrick McGoohan, aired 2/1/1968)
Created by: Patrick McGoohan & George Markstein
Wardrobe: Masada Wilmot & Dora Lloyd
Tailored by: Dimi Major & Douglas Hayward (Major, Hayward Ltd.)
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
The Prisoner debuted in the UK on this date in 1967, a passion project from Patrick McGoohan after his rise to stardom on the British espionage series Danger Man. Mystery continues to surround the series, which has been argued as a surreal explanation of ego and individualism within the trappings of the then-fashionable “spy-fi” genre mix, inspiring more questions than answers over its seventeen-episode run, including the true identity of McGoohan’s character known only as “Number 6”, suggested to be a continuation of John Drake from Danger Man or possibly even an allegory for the actor himself.
Number 2: I suppose you’re wondering why you’re here.
Number 6: The thought had crossed my mind… what’s it all about?
For decades, fans and followers of The Prisoners have dedicated themselves to unlocking the show’s mystery and meanings, including an exploration of the “true” order in which the episodes should be watched. (Check out the U.S. home page for The Prisoner, which made fantastic companion reading as I watched the series for the first time this year. I also enjoy the episode studies at Prisoner Pop Apostle.)
Co-created by McGoohan with George Markstein, The Prisoner wastes no time in establishing its unique espionage-meets-sci fi premise through an exciting opening credits sequence that was praised at the time and through the decades since. We follow McGoohan through the streets of London in his distinctive Lotus Seven following his contentious retirement from a shadowy secret service bureau, returning to his flat to hastily pack for what looks to be a tropical getaway… until he falls victim to an incapacitating agent gassed through the keyhole. The man awakens in what appears to be the same set of rooms, though transported to a seemingly idyllic seaside village where the title card tells us he has made his “Arrival”. Is it paradise or is it prison?
His questions pile on until he’s finally brought to the series’ first Number 2 (Guy Doleman, recognizable to James Bond fans as Count Lippe from Thunderball), who slyly confirms the latter when he asks “have you not yet realized there’s no way out?”
What’d He Wear?
I’ve had several requests to write about The Prisoner, including the rowing blazer and rollneck that would make up his everyday “uniform” in every following episode of the series, though several readers were also interested to read about Number 6’s own outfit that he wears in London and for his arrival in the village. As BAMF Style reader “Swordfish” suggested of this outfit, “his suit is really his own style and represents the individualism that his captors gradually try to strip away from him throughout the show.”
Mason & Sons has confirmed on their site that Patrick McGoohan was a personal client of Anthony Sinclair, the legendary Savile Row tailor who famously crafted Sean Connery’s suits as James Bond, though Sinclair likely had no hand in the clothing worn on The Prisoner, including the braided-edge blazer worn in every episode; a glimpse at the tag in a later episode instead suggests that Number 6’s everyday blazer was created by the British fashion house John Michael, confirmed by a Bonhams auction listing.
A separate Bonhams listing for this suit mentions a “Major, Hayward Ltd.” label that indicates it was crafted at the Fulham shop run by Dimi Major and Douglas Hayward, both of whom would go on to dress Bond actors George Lazenby and Roger Moore, respectively. (You can read more about the brief Major and Hayward partnership at Bond Suits.)
The charcoal lounge suit has a distinctive shine, suggestive of silk or perhaps mohair tonic, a then-fashionable blend of wool and mohair that was developed by textile company Dormeuil in the early 1960s and was embraced in England as the suiting of choice by mods throughout the decade. I’m more inclined to theorize that silk is the shining agent of choice on McGoohan’s suit as it lacks the subtlety of mohair.
The single-breasted suit jacket has notch lapels that roll to a lower two-button stance, detailed with welted breast pocket, straight hip pockets with narrow flaps, and double vents. The natural shoulders have slight roping at the sleeveheads and each sleeve is finished with three buttons at the cuff. Like McGoohan’s nailhead Danger Man suit that Bond Suits detailed, the jacket has a gently suppressed waist and front darts that extend to the bottom of the jacket, adding fullness to the chest.
Number 6’s suit has matching flat front trousers with a tapered leg down to the bottoms finished with turn-ups (cuffs). These trousers have side pockets and belt loops, worn with a black ridged leather belt.
Though it’s suggested that he’s a British agent, Number 6 has a less formal approach to daily dress than James Bond or even John Drake, though his choice to wear an untucked knit polo rather than a traditional shirt and tie may also be his way of showing disdain for the secret organization from which he’s resigning.
We never see Number 6’s shirt worn without the jacket, but the cloth is likely a soft, comfortable wool like merino or cashmere, worn over a white undershirt glimpsed as he attempts his desperate run from Rover on the beach. The shirt has three mother-of-pearl two-hole buttons, all worn fastened on a plain “French placket”, additionally detailed with an extra loop-fastened button at the top. Unlike many loop collars on traditional camp shirts, this additional button isn’t concealed by the collar so this exposed fourth button positioned just to the right of the top of the placket provides a distinctive, slightly askew look.
Appropriate for the less formal way Number 6 wears his suit, McGoohan wears black leather Chelsea boots with black elastic side gussets. Though this footwear style was at least a century old—developed during the Victorian era, reportedly for Queen Victoria herself—these elastic-sided paddock boots enjoyed a resurgence from the mod culture in mid-century England, specifically among the fashionable King’s Road set that led to their being dubbed “Chelsea boots.”
Perhaps worth noting, King’s Road was just a mile or two away from the Dawes Road shop where Major and Hayward were operating at the time McGoohan would have been fitted for his suit.
Number 6 cycles through a variety of watches across The Prisoner‘s series run, beginning with this steel-cased piece with a yellowed tan dial and worn on a textured black strap. This watch would be ruined by seawater in “The Chimes of Big Men” (the second episode to air but the fifth to be produced), so he would briefly swap it out for an Estonian agent’s steel watch on an expanding band.
In future episodes, we would notably see a stainless Camerer Cuss. & Co automatic watch on on a black leather strap and, on one occasion, a steel Tissot that he would dangle by its steel link bracelet to induce hypnosis in “A Change of Mind”.
Number 6 is told that his stylish suit is burnt during his overnight stay in the village infirmary in “Arrival”, leading to his being issued the now-famous everyday attire of a black piped rowing blazer by John Michael, navy rollneck, khakis, and boating shoes. (Check back in a few months for a full rundown on Number 6’s uniform!)
After the departure of co-creator George Markstein, The Prisoner grew increasingly surreal with episodes like “Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling” which starred Nigel Stock as Number 6, ostensibly as part of a body swap plot (in fact made to keep the show going while Patrick McGoohan was busy filming Ice Station Zebra.)
Stock was dressed in a manner likely meant to reflect Number 6’s suit from the opening credits, though even a cursory review makes it clear that the actor is wearing different clothes; the suit is a lighter slate-gray, made from a coarser flannel cloth and cut with a full three-button front, and the dark gray (rather than black) knit shirt has a plain three-button top of gray buttons rather than the unique 3+1 button configuration on McGoohan’s shirt.
Another of The Prisoner‘s latter-produced episodes, “The Girl Who Was Death”, brings the suit out of the closet for Number 6, albeit as part of his garb for a nighttime story he’s reading to the children of the Village. This time, he wears the suit with a French blue shirt with gold cuff links and a gold silk tie. He also dons a beige flat cap (with triple-snap brim) and raglan-sleeve raincoat, curiously wearing a pair of sand-colored suede chukka boots that coordinate more with this outerwear than the rest of the outfit.
The surreal sequence in “The Girl Who Was Death” continues with McGoohan wearing the same suit now included as part of a Sherlock Holmes-influenced disguise that includes a fawn-toned plaid sleeveless and half-caped overcoat worn with a white frilly double-cuff shirt, black string tie, and houndstooth tweed deerstalker cap as well as the decidedly non-Holmesian black-framed sunglasses. For this part of the episode, he’s also back to wearing black Chelsea boots.
After Number 6’s series-length struggle to regain his identity, he’s granted a reprieve in the finale episode, “Fall Out”, when the supervisor (Peter Swanwick, born today in 1922) leads him to a closet where a dummy in McGoohan’s likeness wears the clothes Number 6 had arrived in. “We thought you would feel happier as yourself,” the supervisor explains, allowing Number 6 to dress in these familiar duds.
What to Imbibe
Unlike some fictional English spies, Number 6 isn’t much of a drinker, most prominently imbibing after he receives a warning that his pint of beer was poisoned during the extended story-time sequence in “The Girl Who Was Death”. Number 6 calmly orders a shot from nearly every bottle within eyeshot, subsequently downing Courvoisier cognac, Vat 69 blended Scotch, vodka, Drambuie, Tia Maria, Cointreau, and Grand Marnier in rapid succession.
“Sir, you’ll make yourself sick!” the barmaid warns once he’s finished them all off, but that’s exactly what he intended. Similar to an action Daniel Craig’s 007 would take forty years later in Casino Royale, Number 6 lets the unwisely mixed liquors rebel in his stomach so that he can puke up the poisoned ale and live to spy another day.
Number 6 doesn’t typically have the opportunity to carry or use firearms until the chaotic finale “Fall Out” when he leads fellow prisoners in an armed revolt against the Village guards, mowing them down with his Thompson submachine gun against the juxtaposed reprise of the Beatles’ “All You Need is Love”.
With its vertical finger-grooved foregrip, 20-round box magazine, Cutts compensator, and the bolt handle on the top (rather than the side) of the frame, Number 6’s commandeered Tommy gun is clearly a pre-war Thompson, likely an M1921AC or M1928 popularized during the roaring ’20s “gangster era”.
While booze and guns may not be the standard trappings of Number 6’s preferred lifestyle, we do know that he has an affinity for automobiles, particularly his custom Lotus Seven that Patrick McGoohan drives around London during the famous opening credits.
Lotus introduced its tubular-framed, aluminum-bodied Seven in 1957 as its new entry level model, first rigging the open-top two-seater with a 1172 cc inline-four Ford engine that offered 40 horsepower. Though the Seven’s light weight and aerodynamic frame already aided its performance, it received an additional power boost with the launch of the Super Seven in 1961. This Series II Super Seven was powered by slightly larger engines from the Ford Consul Classic, modified by racing engineers at Cosworth, growing in size from 1340cc through 1498 cc to 1599 cc by the end of the generation’s production run.
The 1.6 L engine would be used in the final two iterations of the Seven, the Series III and Series IV. The latter was the largest, built on a squared fiberglass shell with a slightly longer wheelbase. After Colin Chapman planned to restructure his marque’s image away from the “kit car” styling, Lotus sold the rights to the Seven design to the newly formed specialized auto manufacturer Caterham Cars after the final Lotus Seven rolled off the production line in August 1973.
1965 Lotus Super Seven (Series II)
Body Style: 2-door open sports car
Layout: front mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive (FMR)
Engine: 1498 cc (1.5 L) Cosworth-modified Ford Kent OHV I4
Power: 75 hp (56 kW; 76 PS) @ 5200 RPM
Torque: 78 lb·ft (106 N·m) @ 2300 RPM
Transmission: 4-speed manual
Wheelbase: 88 inches (2236 mm)
Length: 144 inches (3658 mm)
Width: 56 inches (1422 mm)
Height: 43.7 inches (1110 mm)
The Prisoner lore tells that the original choice for Number 6’s car was a Lotus Elan. However, when Lotus marketing director Graham Arnold provided both an Elan and a Seven, McGoohan’s preference for the Seven made it his character’s signature set of wheels, painted in British racing green with a bright yellow nose and registered “KAR 120C”. McGoohan’s character proves to be just as invested in the car as the actor himself, explaining to Mrs. Butterworth in “Many Happy Returns” that he had assembled his Lotus himself from a kit and reciting the engine serial number: 461043TZ. (Curiously, McGoohan does drive an Elan in the episode “The Girl Who Was Death”.)
During the production gap before the finale was filmed, the screen-used Lotus had already been sold so Caterham reportedly converted an earlier Lotus to resemble Number Six’s green-and-yellow Seven for its appearance at the end of “Fall Out”, where it was driven by Caterham founder Graham Nearn.
A half-decade after The Prisoner concluded, Caterham Cars was officially founded and took over the reigns from Lotus as official producers of the Seven, continuing to offer both kits and fully assembled versions of the design. Among the thousands of the Caterham 7 cars manufactured in the nearly 50 years since production began, Caterham Cars did introduce a Prisoner-branded trim package in 1989 painted in Number 6’s preferred green-and-yellow livery.
You can read more about the series’ use of the Lotus Seven in this illustrated post at Sands Mechanical Museum.
How to Get the Look
Patrick McGoohan’s Number Six on The Prisoner provides a fashionably informal alternative to more traditionally tailored English secret agents of the ’60s, dressing for what would prove to be a transformative day in a charcoal silk suit paired with a tonally coordinated black polo buttoned to the neck with Chelsea boots.
- Charcoal silk tailored suit:
- Single-breasted 2-button suit jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and double vents
- Flat front trousers with belt loops, side pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Black wool-knit long-sleeve polo shirt with 3-button “French placket” and loop collar
- Black ridged leather belt
- Black leather Chelsea boots
- Black socks
- White cotton undershirt
- Stainless automatic watch with tan dial on black textured strap
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the series. Be seeing you.
I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered! My life is my own.