The Prisoner: Patrick McGoohan’s Rowing Blazer as Number Six

Patrick McGoohan on The Prisoner

Patrick McGoohan as “Number Six” on The Prisoner (Episode 8: “Dance of the Dead”)

Vitals

Patrick McGoohan as Number Six, recently resigned secret agent

“The Village”, Fall 1967

Series: The Prisoner
Created by: Patrick McGoohan & George Markstein
Wardrobe: Masada Wilmot & Dora Lloyd

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Born 94 years ago today, Patrick McGoohan emerged as one of the most unique auteurs of ’60s television as the star and executive producer (and, occasionally, writer and director) of the allegorical and avant-garde “spy-fi” miniseries The Prisoner, which he co-created with George Markstein.

The Prisoner centers around its title character who, upon his contentious retirement from a shadowy British intelligence agency, wakes up mysteriously transported to a picturesque Italianate island village from which he would spend the duration of the series trying to escape. “The Village” is overseen by a rotation of administrators all designated “Number Two”, ranging in gender, age, and personality as well as the degree of their manipulations in trying to question, placate, or recruit our incorruptible hero into the island’s leadership.

Designated “Number Six”, the character has been speculated to be a continuation of McGoohan’s character John Drake from the more traditional espionage series Danger Man… or perhaps representative of McGoohan himself, a theory advanced by the fact that we never learn Number Six’s true name but he does describe his birthday as March 19, 1928, which he shares with his creator and portrayer.

There remain ongoing arguments and decryptions as to how The Prisoner‘s 17 episodes should be viewed but—for the sake of argument—I’ll refer to the episodes numbered by the order of their original UK and U.S. broadcasts as well as the 2009 home video release. I’ve only seen the series in its entirety once, but I know there are many The Prisoner devotees in the world, so I request both their patience—and their commentary—as I explore the signature outfit worn by McGoohan as Number Six.

What’d He Wear?

His identity and sense of individualism stripped from him, Number Six is issued the daily “uniform” of a rowing blazer, mockneck, khakis, and deck sneakers, all consistent with the pallid seaside surroundings. Number Six is also issued a flat straw boater and a lapel badge emblazoned with a red “6”, both of which he instantly discards.

Patrick McGoohan on The Prisoner

Number Six’s boater and badge don’t even last beyond their first scene, as seen in here when first decked in his Village-issued kit in “Arrival” (Episode 1).

Subtle variations of Number Six’s costume are seen across the series’ 17 episodes, often within the same episode (and even the same scene) with variations including the style of braiding around the edges of the jacket, the presence of a belt, sock colors, and the lace-eyelets of his sneakers. While these are likely the result of production-influenced continuity errors, they also contribute to The Prisoner‘s general sense of surreality.

The most distinctive piece of Number Six’s Village-issued uniform is the dark rowing blazer with its off-white edge braiding. Before the advent of the now-traditional navy blue blazer, the term had referred to jackets worn by members of rowing teams, striped or piped to distinguish their associated club or school.

Although the jacket often appears black on screen and has been referred to as such by auction listings and other materials, The Prisoner appreciation society Six of One and fan-site The Unmutual have both explained that these blazers were actually made of a dark charcoal brown woolen twill.

Patrick McGoohan on The Prisoner

“Checkmate” (Episode 9)

Although legendary London tailors Dimi Major and Douglas Hayward had crafted McGoohan’s charcoal silk suit worn in the series at the Fulham shop, Number Six’s far more frequently seen rowing blazers were from British label John Michael.

The brand was founded by John Michael Ingram, an innovative designer who opened his first shop in Chelsea in 1957. Known throughout London’s swinging ’60s scene for his innovative styles and trendsetting, Ingram eventually evolved from retail into fashion forecasting with his agency Design Intelligence, publishing fashion trend guides and delivering forward-thinking designs to retailers.

The white “John Michael | London” label can be briefly seen inside McGoohan’s jackets on screen, confirmed by a Bonhams auction listing for one of his jackets that describes the blazer as “black wool with white edging” (albeit noting later that “the colour of this jacket is very dark brown rather than black”) with the label inscribed in blue biro “P.McGoohan 25/8/66 E/52”, suggesting that the garment would have been brand-new when filming began on location in the North Welsh village of Portmeirion less than two weeks later.

Patrick McGoohan on The Prisoner

Number Six with his blazer buttoned as he strolls through the seemingly abandoned Village in “Many Happy Returns” (Episode 7).

The two buttons on the front and the single button on each cuff are black two-hole sew-through buttons. Apropos the rowing blazer’s sporty origins, Number Six’s jacket has patch pockets: one over the left breast and one on each hip. The shoulders are padded, and the silhouette is shaped by front darts.

The notch lapels are piped in an off-white braiding, which continues beyond the bottoms of the lapels and onto the edge of the jacket hem, wrapping around the ventless back.

Patrick McGoohan on The Prisoner

The braiding along the collar parallels the braiding around the hem, as seen here in “A. B. and C.” (Episode 3).

The off-white braiding around the edges of the blazer provide the clearest visual indicator of the different jackets used, specifically whether or not this detailing appears continuous or “broken” around the lapel notches.

Although Number Six’s first blazer—seen in “Arrival”—is continuously braided around the edges, the “broken”-braided blazer has been argued as the canonical choice as it’s seen with much more frequency, appearing in every episode of The Prisoner except “Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling”, where neither McGoohan nor his signature blazer appear at all. Although he principally wears “broken”-braided blazers in “The Schizoid Man”, “Checkmate”, and “It’s Your Funeral”, these two episodes mark the only appearances aside from the first episode to feature Number Six wearing a continuously braided blazer.

Patrick McGoohan on The Prisoner

The two types of Number Six’s rowing blazer’s edge braiding: continuous, as seen in “Arrival” (Episode 1) and “broken” behind each notch, as seen here in “Dance of the Dead” (Episode 8) and almost every episode of the series.

Number Six’s base layer is a navy-blue mockneck jumper, likely made of a lightweight wool like merino, with set-in sleeves finished with thinly ribbed cuffs. As seen during some of the physical scrapes Number Six finds himself drawn into, he wears it over a white or off-white undershirt.

The shorter and less complex mockneck emerged as a popular alternative to the full turtleneck (also known as a “polo neck” or “roll-neck”) during the mid-20th century, a fashionable byproduct of the rise of sportswear and the trends set by Beats and mods. As with many trending fashions, the mockneck has undergone waves of popularity every few decades, such as the baggier Gap-style pullovers seen during the ’90s Seinfeld era and the more form-fitting jumpers back in style today thanks to wearers like Daniel Craig’s James Bond.

The mockneck renaissance has extended to retailers for every budget, including, as of March 2022:

Patrick McGoohan on The Prisoner

“Nerve gas… one squirt, you’re paralyzed. Two squirts, you’re dead,” threatens the light-sleeping Curtis—made to resemble Number Six—in “The Schizoid Man” (Episode 5).

The unique exposition of “Many Happy Returns” finds Number Six seemingly alone on the island, so he commences to make his escape, layering a chunkier dark navy ribbed wool sweater over his mockneck in lieu of his blazer as there are no authority figures around to lambast him for appearing out of “uniform”. Though not a military garment, the hefty V-neck raglan-sleeve sweater creates a martial appearance appropriate for our hero, an ex-RAF officer.

Patrick McGoohan on The Prisoner

After a perilous journey, Number Six seems to have safely made it back to London in the appropriately titled “Many Happy Returns” (Episode 7), still wearing the heavy sweater that he donned for his escape in lieu of the Village-issued blazer.

Number Six’s Village uniform also includes a pair of light brown trousers, closer in shade to fawn than the traditional khaki. These darted-front slacks have the full-top “frogmouth” front pockets that saw their greatest mainstream popularity through the 1960s, even finding favor with Sean Connery’s James Bond. These trousers also have button-through back pockets and plain-hemmed bottoms.

Though we see the trousers worn beltless in several episodes like “A. B. and C.” and “Many Happy Returns”, Number Six does seem to generally prefer to hold these up with a black leather belt as seen in “Arrival”, “The General”, and “Once Upon a Time”. The belt closes through a small gold-toned square single-prong buckle.

Patrick McGoohan on The Prisoner

Number Six’s trouser belt and frogmouth pockets flash as he’s subdued by Village guards in “Free for All” (Episode 4) while we also get a look at the back pockets and hems while he scales the Village in “A. B. and C.” (Episode 3).

The Village issues Number Six a pair of plimsolls that, like his rowing blazer, nod to classic seaside style even if our eponymous prisoner isn’t exactly encouraged to take to the open waters. These deck sneakers are constructed of navy canvas uppers with thick white rubber outsoles which are siped on the bottoms, consistent with the non-slip soles pioneered by Paul A. Sperry in the 1930s.

The flat woven laces are dark blue to match the uppers, though the four sets of oxford-style eyelets alternate between being plain, silver-toned metal or the more sporadically seen blue-painted grommets (as seen in “A. B. and C.”, “The Schizoid Man”, “Hammer Into Anvil”, and “A Change of Mind”) that create a more monochromatic appearance.

 

Patrick McGoohan on The Prisoner

The usual metal eyelets shine from Number Six’s deck sneakers, worn here with brown socks in “Dance of the Dead” (Episode 8) vs. the similar shoes with blue-painted eyelets as seen in “The Schizoid Man” (Episode 5).

Dating back to early 20th century naval workwear and manufactured in various forms by all the usual footwear suspects from Converse to Sperry, these simple sneakers are still available from many retailers today:

Number Six cycles through various pairs of socks, with black or dark navy hosiery seen most frequently, though he also wears blue, brown, and ribbed tan socks.

Patrick McGoohan on The Prisoner

Number Six awakes on the beach in “Dance of the Dead” (Episode 8). Note his shoes’ siped soles, developed for traction on wet decks, and the dark socks he wears with them here.

The series’ focus on the meaning and significance of identity is highlighted in “The Schizoid Man” (Episode 5), in which Number Two replaces Number Six with a lookalike and reconditions the real Six to be the new Number Twelve… outfitting our hero in a reversed version of his usual blazer, this time white-bodied with black “broken” edge piping.

With its darted-front cut, ventless back, and patch pockets, the white blazer is a nearly identical inverse, except for the two-button cuffs rather than the single buttons on his dark brown jacket.

Patrick McGoohan and Patrick McGoohan on The Prisoner

One McGoohan, two blazers.

Though auction listings and other materials have explained that the famous rowing blazer was a John Michael product, the brand’s label is only clearly seen on screen when it’s pulled from Number Six’s closet.

In case the screen appearance wasn’t enough to confirm the maker, a Bonhams auction listing from 2005 also details the jacket as having an “inside pocket with john michel london inscribed in biro P.McGoohan 12/12/66 58”.

Patrick McGoohan on The Prisoner

As Number Six reaches into his closet to don the white blazer while posing as Curtis in “The Schizoid Man” (Episode 5), we see the John Michael label on the inner right breast.

Wristwatches of The Prisoner

Despite being cut off from the outside world and issued a limited wardrobe, Number Six still manages to cycle through a number of attractive wristwatches during his stay in The Village. He arrives wearing a steel-cased watch with a yellowing dial on a black band that is ruined by seawater during an escape attempt in “The Chimes of Big Ben”, requiring the temporary replacement of an expanding-band watch lent to him by an Estonian agent.

Before that, in “Arrival”, Number Six is given a stainless steel Hamilton Aqua-Date Super Compressor automatic diver by fellow prisoner Number Nine (Virginia Maskell), as it has an “electropass” he may be able to use to bypass the surveillance system to make his escape by helicopter. The stainless 37mm case has the Super Compressor’s characteristic dual crowns—positioned at 2 and 4 o’clock—with a silver dial marked with luminous non-numeric hour markers and a white date window at 3 o’clock. The rotating inner black bezel around the dial is marked at every 10-minute interval, and the watch itself is rigged to a steel five-piece link bracelet.

Patrick McGoohan on The Prisoner

Number Six takes Number Nine’s Hamilton in “Arrival”, immediately before her calls her out for her service to Number Two.

As Number Twelve in  “The Schizoid Man”, Number Six now wears a steel chronograph similar to the Omega Speedmaster “Moonwatch” with its black tachymeter, black dial with luminous non-numeric hour markers and three sub-registers at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock, and dual pushers flanking the center crown. He wears the watch on a steel three-piece link bracelet.

Patrick McGoohan on The Prisoner

His sparsely seen chronograph strapped to his wrist, Number Six beats the eponymous password out of Curtis in “The Schizoid Man”.

The beginning of “The Schizoid Man” also debuts Number Six’s most frequently worn wristwatch, a tastefully simple automatic dress watch on a plain black leather strap with a round cream-colored dial detailed only with slender gold non-numeric hour markers (slightly wider at 12 o’clock) and three gold hands. The small brand inscription against the top of the dial reads Camerer Cuss & Co., indicating a now-defunct London watchmaker that had began business in the late 18th century importing Black Forest clocks.

In addition to the very watch-centric episode “It’s Your Funeral”, the Camerer Cuss & Co. watch can be seen in “The General”, “Many Happy Returns”, “Hammer Into Anvil”, “A Change of Mind”, and “Living In Harmony”. Given its ubiquity and its resemblance to what he had worn upon his arrival, this most understated of Number Six’s timepieces would decidedly be the most canonical choice.

Patrick McGoohan on The Prisoner

Number Six’s Camerer Cuss & Co. dress watch.

In the midst of the action in “A Change of Mind”, Number Six stops Number 86 (Angela Browne) from reporting to Number Two by peeling a steel watch from his left wrist and dangling it in front of her face to induce hypnosis. Close-ups of the watch reveal an all-steel Tissot with a silver dial detailed only with short, non-numeric hour markers, worn on a steel link bracelet with a seven-piece rice-bead center. (In yet another continuity error, shots of McGoohan actually holding the watch show him holding a watch with an Rolex Oyster-style link bracelet instead.)

Patrick McGoohan on The Prisoner

Number Six dangles his Tissot to hypnotize the lovely Number 86.

How to Get the Look

Patrick McGoohan on The Prisoner

Patrick McGoohan as “Number Six” on The Prisoner (Episode 5: “The Schizoid Man”)

Despite some subtle variations in the blazer braiding, shoe eyelets, sock colors, presence of a belt, and watches, the definitive uniform issued to Number Six in The Village can be rebuilt to all of its nautical-adjacent charm with a very dark brown piped rowing blazer, navy mockneck jumper, fawn-colored slacks, and navy deck sneakers.

Just make sure Rover’s nowhere in sight if you plan on cribbing screen style from The Prisoner.

  • Charcoal-brown wool twill single-breasted 2-button rowing blazer with off-white piped edges, notch lapels, patch breast pocket, patch hip pockets, 1-button cuffs, and ventless back
  • Navy-blue lightweight wool mockneck jumper
  • Fawn-colored darted-front trousers with belt loops, full-top “frogmouth” front pockets, button-through back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
  • Black leather belt with squared gold single-prong buckle
  • Navy-blue canvas four-eyelet deck sneakers with siped white rubber outsoles
  • Navy-blue or brown ribbed socks
  • Stainless steel dress watch with round off-white dial and gold non-numeric hour markers and hands on smooth black leather strap

While Jack Carlson has revitalized the popularity of these jackets with his brand Rowing Blazers, you can find a replica of Number Six’s white-piped black rowing blazer available from the English school-wear brand Albert Prendergast.

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Check out the series. Be seeing you.

Be seeing you.

The Quote

I am not a number. I am a person.

3 comments

  1. Pingback: Patrick McGoohan's Arrival Suit on The Prisoner » BAMF Style
  2. Kenneth Pizzi

    Fascinating study into the fashion sense of our unnamed hero, No. 6 and the television series that still, to this day, leaves more questions unanswered than answered about its ambiguous ending.

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