Tom Hardy as Ricki Tarr, disillusioned British spy
Istanbul, Fall 1973
Film: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Release Date: September 16, 2011
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Costume Designer: Jacqueline Durran
Happy birthday to Tom Hardy, born September 15, 1977. Following his debut in Black Hawk Down (2001), Hardy’s steady work through the decade established his stardom by the time he joined the ensemble cast of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, based on John le Carré’s famous 1974 spy novel of the same name.
The novel had been previously adapted as a seven-episode BBC miniseries starring Alec Guinness as British intelligence officer George Smiley, the same role that would be played by Gary Oldman in the 2011 film, which was released ten years ago tomorrow.
Ricki Tarr enters the story via his report to British undersecretary Oliver Lacon (Simon McBurney) that he’s now aware of a mole among the highest levels of MI6 leadership, known as the “Circus” for its [fictional] headquarters on Cambridge Circus in London. As the tip is consistent with a theory held by the agency leader “Control” (John Hurt), Lacon asks Smiley to investigate.
Tarr recalls to Smiley the circumstances of his mission to Istanbul, including his relationship with his Russian target’s common-law wife, Irina (Svetlana Khodchenkova), and her offer to trade information—including the mole’s identity—for a chance to live a new life in the West.
What’d He Wear?
Throughout his assignment in Istanbul (and briefly following his return to London the following spring), Ricki Tarr warmly layers in a tan shearling sheepskin coat made by Belstaff, the British clothing brand founded in 1924 and known for innovating waxed cotton for motorcycle jackets; Pete Brooker of the excellent From Tailors With Love podcast received confirmation from Belstaff that they custom-made the coat for Hardy.
The coat can be easily identified by the “rising phoenix” logo that Belstaff had introduced in 1969, though the logo patch’s placement—sewn onto the upper left sleeve—would be somewhat anachronistic as Belstaff didn’t standardize this placement until 1981, according to their official history.
Between this coat and the stone-colored Baracuta G9 that Hardy wears later in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, costume designer Jacqueline Durran explained to GQ that she found some inspiration screen legend and style icon Steve McQueen, who was frequently photographed wearing a light-colored shearling coat—albeit double-breasted—throughout the ’60s. Indeed, Tom Hardy would establish himself as something of a shearling icon of the 2010s, based on the basis of this film, his long coat as the villainous Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, and his Irvin flying jacket as the arguably more heroic RAF pilot in Dunkirk, evidently also getting some off-screen life out of the latter during a famously photographed visit to Five Guys.
Tarr’s single-breasted sheepskin shearling coat shows the fur pile lining around the broad shawl collar, which ends at mid-chest to make way for the three large mixed brown plastic buttons on the front. The sleeves are set-in, with a straight horizontal yoke across the back and curved front yokes that follow the contour of the shoulders. The four external pockets are jetted in tan leather, each reinforced on the end with a triangular tan leather patch, consisting of two vertical hand pockets positioned over the chest and two rear-slanting hip pockets below them.
For much of his mission in Istanbul, we see Tarr wearing an indigo-blue long-sleeved work shirt made from lightweight chambray cotton, with white plastic sew-through buttons and white contrast stitching along all edges and seams. Despite the chambray shirt’s military origins—specifically as work-wear authorized for the U.S. Navy in the early 20th century—Tarr’s shirt clearly reflects a more commercial evolution. The shirt is detailed with a point collar, a narrow front placket with close contrast stitching along the edges, and two patch pockets over the chest that each close with a single button through the narrow, rounded flap. The sleeves close with two buttons closely stacked on each cuff, plus an additional gauntlet button for good measure.
Tarr’s corduroy straight-leg trousers provide a fine textural harmony with the sheepskin jacket as another soft but rugged cloth. The olive-brown flat-front corduroys he wears with the chambray shirt rise higher on Hardy’s waist than modern trousers, held up by a brown woven leather belt with a dulled brass square single-prong buckle. Though they have jeans-style front pockets, the back pockets appear to be jetted. The fit through the hips occasionally strains the cloth, pulling at the fly to show the brass zipper.
Tarr coordinates the tone and texture of his shoes with the rest of his outfit, wearing dark brown low lace-ups in what appears to be sueded leather, echoing the softness of his shearling coat and the corduroy trousers. In at least one scene, he wears them with slate-blue cotton lisle socks that call out the shade of his chambay shirt.
Tarr primarily wears the coat in Istanbul with his chambray shirt and olive cords, though we also briefly see it worn over a sky-blue cotton shirt that’s styled more like a conventional dress shirt. Like the chambray shirt, though, the shirt has a narrower—and thus more timeless—point collar. The wider placket is stitched from the edges in a manner that divides it into three “strips” of equal width. The long barrel cuffs each close with a button. Tarr always wears the top few buttons of his shirts undone, revealing the white cotton triangle at the top of his crew-neck short-sleeve undershirts.
The aqua-blue corduroy trousers he wears with this lighter shirt would also reappear with his tan and blue sweaters when Tarr debriefs with Smiley in London. They’re cut and styled similarly to the olive-hued pants, and Tarr wears them with the same brown woven leather belt that divides the monochromatic nature of his low-contrast light blue shirt and trousers.
Tarr’s stainless steel watch is a Omega Speedmaster Professional, the triple-register chronograph immortalized several years before the film’s setting as the “Moonwatch” due to NASA authorizing these trusty Omegas to astronauts like Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, who famously wore theirs during the July 1969 moon landing. Tarr wears his Speedmaster on a black leather bracelet.
Briefly seen during an open-air ride with Irina in her black ’67 Mercedes-Benz 250 SL, Tarr sports a pair of gold-framed aviator sunglasses, a style indeed en vogue again in the 1970s.
How to Get the Look
Rather than the sophisticated suits some British agents prefer for their assignments in Istanbul, Ricki Tarr balances form and function with smart and timeless casual style staples of a sheepskin coat, chambray work shirt, and corduroy trousers, turning enough heads to ensure he won’t be spending his nights alone while also blending in just enough to avoid scrutiny from more dangerous contacts.
- Tan shearling sheepskin 3-button coat with shawl collar, vertical jetted hand pockets, and slanted jetted hip pockets
- Indigo-blue chambray cotton work shirt with point collar, front placket, two flapped chest pockets, and 2-button cuffs
- Olive-brown corduroy flat front straight-leg trousers with belt loops, slanted jeans-style front pockets, jetted back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Brown woven leather belt with brass squared single-prong buckle
- Dark brown suede lace-up shoes
- Slate-blue cotton lisle socks
- White cotton crew-neck short-sleeve undershirt
- Gold-framed aviator sunglasses
- Omega Speedmaster Professional stainless steel chronograph watch with black triple-register dial on black leather strap
Belstaff’s current suede and shearling offerings (as of September 2021) don’t offer much in the way of car coats like Tom Hardy wore as Ricki Tarr, though you may have more luck scrounging up jackets from past collections (like this one) or go vintage. You could also try your hand at snagging a new shawl-collar sheepskin coat from other outfitters, such as:
- Kelvin Men’s Shearling Sheepskin Coat ($799.99 and up, Sickafus Sheepskins)
- Overland Men’s Ketchum Shearling Sheepskin Coat ($1,495, Overland)
- Village Shop Men’s Shawl Collar Coat ($849.99, Village Shop)