Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Tom Hardy Echoes Steve McQueen’s Baracuta Jacket

Tom Hardy as Ricki Tarr in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Tom Hardy as Ricki Tarr in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

Vitals

Tom Hardy as Ricki Tarr, disillusioned British spy

Paris, Spring 1974

Film: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Release Date: September 16, 2011
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Costume Designer: Jacqueline Durran

Background

With increasingly warmer weather as spring continues through the Northern Hemisphere, I’m swapping out wool coats for windbreakers at the front of my closet. Of course, on some recent climatically chaotic days that start at temperatures around freezing and then rise to over 70°F by mid-afternoon with the occasional burst of rain, I often rely on smart layers to effectively dress for this unpredictable weather.

One of my favorite examples of smart casual layering that illustrates versatility for different weather and situations is the combination of a Harrington jacket over a light sweater and open-necked shirt. William Claxton had famously photographed his friend Steve McQueen dressed accordingly in 1964, and these headshots are still used to illustrate the enduring style of both the jacket and the King of Cool himself.

Steve McQueen

Steve McQueen, dressed in his stone-colored Baracuta G9, open-neck shirt, and V-neck sweater, as photographed by his friend William Claxton in 1964.

Decades after his death in 1980, McQueen remains a seminal style icon whose blend of practicality and toughness has influenced scores of men from stars to schlubs (like yours truly)… and a few movie spies, as well. McQueen’s legacy seemed particularly prevalent on silver screen espionage fashions beginning in the late 2000s as Daniel Craig’s James Bond fully embraced Harrington jackets, shawl-collar cardigans, and suede boots as particularly seen in Quantum of Solace, his 007’s action-packed sophomore adventure.

Three years later, costume designer Jacqueline Durran also saw McQueen as her muse when dressing a fellow British agent, the more grounded—and cynical—Ricki Tarr, as portrayed by Tom Hardy in Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation of the John le Carré novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

“We very much looked to that kind of ’60s Steve McQueen look for all of them,” Durran explained to GQ of Ricki Tarr’s costumes, first dressing Tarr in a Belstaff shearling coat often associated with McQueen before pulling together the lighter layers as seen in McQueen’s MGM headshot shoot with Claxton as the film approached its conclusion with Tarr in Paris, working to flush out an MI6 mole.

What’d He Wear?

The starring piece of Ricki Tarr’s Paris kit is his beige windbreaker, a style pioneered by Mancunian brothers John and Isaac Miller when they introduced their Baracuta G9 blouson in 1937. “Like many of its imitators, it was an unfussy cotton jacket with a stand-up collar, knitted cuffs, raglan sleeves, and slanted flap pockets,” Josh Sims wrote in Icons of Men’s Style of the G9, which the Millers had developed as a golf jacket (hence the “G”) alongside the looser G4.

Just over 20 years after Baracuta’s golf jacket was introduced, Elvis brought the G9 off the green when he wore one in King Creole and launched a trend among smart-dressing stars that would include, over the following decade: Frank Sinatra, Steve McQueen (of course), and Ryan O’Neal, whose association with the jacket on Peyton Place led to its enduring moniker as a “Harrington jacket” in tribute to his character, Rodney Harrington. Though more than a century has passed and Peyton Place remains all but forgotten, the “Harrington jacket” designation has been warmly adopted by the menswear-verse, to the extent that even Baracuta has included it among its marketing for the G9, which they now offer in a wide range of colors, fits, and even fabrics beyond the water-resistant cotton gabardine that had made the original jacket such a staple.

Despite these varieties, the signature styling of the G9 remain consistent: the front zips up to a standing two-button collar, the raglan sleeves have a full fit to allow a golfer’s greatest range of movement, with ribbed-knit cuffs echoing the waist hem, and the umbrella-inspired “wing back” yoke further serves to redirect rain. The two side pockets were designed to be large enough to hold golf balls, cut at a slant and covered with a flap that closes through a single button.

The distinctive plaid lining remains a clear differentiator between a genuine Baracuta and its scores of imitators, reflecting the green, blue, and white-on-red Fraser Tartan that the Millers had been granted the right to feature on their jackets by Brigadier Simon Christopher Joseph Fraser, 15th Lord Lovat and 25th Chief of the Clan Fraser.

Tom Hardy as Ricki Tarr in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Ricki Tarr wears his Harrington jacket unzipped to flash the Fraser Tartan lining indicative of a genuine Baracuta G9.

  • Baracuta G9 Classic in "natural" cotton/poly blend (Amazon, $390)
  • Baracuta G9 Classic in "natural" cotton/poly blend (Baracuta, $429)
  • Baracuta G9 in beige cotton/poly blend (Coltorti, $348)
  • Baracuta G9 in beige cotton/poly blend (MR PORTER, $425)
  • Baracuta G9 in "natural"cotton/poly blend (Stuarts, $321)
All prices and availability current as of April 29, 2022.
Find other retailers' twists on the classic Harrington jacket, priced to fit any budget:
  • ASOS Design Essential Harrington Jacket in ecru cotton (ASOS, $24)
  • Ben Sherman Signature Harrington Jacket in sand cotton (Ben Sherman, $139)
  • Burberry Monogram Motif Harrington Jacket in soft fawn cotton (Burberry, $1,790)
  • Grenfell Harrington in peached beige cotton (Grenfell, $321)
  • Junya Watanabe Harrington Jacket in cotton/poly blend (MYTHERESA, $534)
  • Orvis Weatherbreaker Jacket in British tan nylon/cotton blend (Amazon, $169)
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Baracuda player logo Harrington jacket in tan cotton (ASOS, $204)
  • Private White Harrington 3.0 Jacket in stone cotton (Harrods, $635)
  • Pro Scottish Harrington Jacket in beige poly/cotton blend (Amazon, $65)
All prices and availability current as of April 29, 2022.

While a Harrington jacket alone—even a genuine Baracuta—isn’t necessarily a nod to McQueen, Ricki Tarr signs the King of Cool’s influence by sporting the same combination of a white oxford shirt and light-colored V-neck sweater as McQueen had worn for Claxton’s shoot. (The similarities aren’t exact, as McQueen had worn a beige sweater for Clax’s axe… though he did wear a powder-blue V-neck sweater three years earlier in The Honeymoon Machine.)

Tarr’s white cotton shirt has a button-down collar of an era-appropriate size, the degree of ’70s excess allowing for a particularly eye-catching roll. We see little else of the shirt other than the front placket, on which Tarr wears the top few buttons undone. The lightweight powder-blue sweater covers the rest, with a reinforced V-neck following his white shirt’s open neck line and raglan sleeves echoing those on the jacket worn over it.

Pushed up against the sweater’s ribbed left cuff, Tarr continues to wear his stainless steel Omega Speedmaster Professional, the triple-register chronograph which had launched to fame several years before the film’s setting as the “Moon watch” authorized by NASA for astronauts like Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to wear during their July 1969 mission to the moon. Featuring the classic black dial, Tarr’s Speedy is strapped to his left wrist on a black leather band.

Tom Hardy as Ricki Tarr in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

  • Brooks Brothers V-Neck Wool Sweater in light pastel blue wool (Nordstrom Rack, $56.22)
  • Canali Cotton V-Neck Sweater in light blue cotton (Nordstrom, $225)
  • Charles Tyrwhitt Merino V-Neck Sweater in light blue merino wool (Charles Tyrwhitt, $69)
  • Express Solid Merino Wool V-Neck Sweater in "ballad blue" merino wool (Express, $40)
  • Nordstrom V-Neck Cashmere Sweater in "blue chambray" cashmere (Nordstrom Rack, $57.97)
  • XRAY V-Neeck Sweater in azure nylon blend (Macy's, $24.49)
All prices and availability current as of April 29, 2022.

Tarr wears tan plaid flat-front trousers, detailed with the Western-style “frogmouth” full-top front pockets that were trendiest from the 1960s through the early ’70s, finished with plain-hemmed bottoms with a full break that slightly gathers atop his walnut-brown suede lace-up ankle boots.

These boots may be a final nod to McQueen, only seen from a distance but appearing to have the chunky charcoal crepe soles suggestive of playboy boots like the Hutton Originals that McQueen had worn throughout his career, beginning in the late ’50s.

Tom Hardy as Ricki Tarr in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

The Gun

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is more of a “slow burn” espionage story, rooted in a generally realistic pursuit to uncover a mole within the British Secret Service—perhaps inspired by the real-life “Cambridge Five”—and thus lacking much of the gunplay of more action-packed spy movies like the James Bond or Jason Bourne franchises, aside from some thrilling moments at the beginning and end of the story.

That said, we do get a few flashes of a pistol drawn by Ricki Tarr while working in Paris. The weapon clearly resembles the 1911 style pioneered by John Browning in the early 20th century, on a descaled frame consistent with the Colt Commander series that had been introduced in 1950 in response to the U.S. military seeking a lighter 9mm alternative to the venerable .45-caliber M1911A1 service pistol that could be issued to officers.

Tom Hardy as Ricki Tarr in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Ricki Tarr’s pistol clearly follows the 1911 design, though its smaller size and the covert nature of his work suggests a downscaled version like the contemporary alloy-framed Colt Commander.

Following the government’s parameters, Colt put forth a somewhat smaller and lighter version of the 1911A1, which received the appropriately martial designation “Commander” its entering production for the civilian market. Chambered primarily for the universal 9x19mm Parabellum round, this pistol maintained the 1911’s single-action trigger system and short recoil operation, but in an alloy-framed package with a barrel shortened three quarters of an inch to 4.25″ long.

As Colt’s first 9mm-chambered pistol in mainstream production, the Commander became a quick hit and was soon also offered for the .45 ACP and .38 Super rounds, which had been more traditionally associated with the 1911 platform. In 1970, Colt introduced an all-steel variant known as the “Combat Commander” with the earlier alloy-framed pistol renamed the “Lightweight Commander” to differentiate between the two. Given the nature of Ricki Tarr’s espionage duties, it’s likely that he armed himself with a Lightweight Commander that would be more comfortably carried while undercover in Paris.

How to Get the Look

Tom Hardy as Ricki Tarr in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Tom Hardy as Ricki Tarr in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

Following the example set by ’60s style icon Steve McQueen, Ricki Tarr smartly layers for his mission to Paris in the timeless combination of a Harrington jacket over an open-neck shirt, V-neck sweater, and slacks, completed with suede boots and a standout watch.

  • Beige cotton gabardine Baracuta G9 “Harrington jacket” with 2-button standing collar, zip-up front, slanted side pockets (with button-down flaps), raglan sleeves, ribbed-knit cuffs and hem, umbrella-style back yoke, and Fraser Tartan plaid lining
  • White oxford cotton long-sleeve shirt with button-down collar, front placket, and button cuffs
  • Powder-blue V-neck sweater with raglan sleeves
  • Tan plaid flat front trousers with full-top “frogmouth” front pockets and plain-hemmed bottoms
  • Walnut-brown suede derby-laced “playboy boots” with charcoal crepe soles
  • Omega Speedmaster Professional stainless steel chronograph watch with black triple-register dial on black leather strap

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Check out the movie and read John le Carré’s source novel.

2 comments

  1. MI6

    Talking of Tinkers and Tailors and espionage and given all the great spy films recently released such as The Ipcress File, Operation Mincemeat, Slow Horses and All the Old Knives there’s almost too much on the menu to cope with. Further, if you want to read all the relevant novels underlying these films you have an even greater demand on your time. That’s even truer for those of us already hooked on compelling and addictive espionage novels. How can we be expected to find time to read anything in a safe house far away from the tsunami of grim news we face in real life now? So, what’s on the menu today?

    For starters there are fictional thrillers like Charles Cumming’s Box 88, John Le Carré’s Silverview or Len Deighton’s noir anti-Bond masterpiece Funeral in Berlin. As for the main course, there are down to earth, raw and noir, often curious fact based Cold War thrillers you’ll never put down such as Bill Browder’s Red Notice, Bill Fairclough’s Beyond Enkription in The Burlington Files series or Ben Macintyre’s The Spy and the Traitor. As for dessert, maybe something laced with the distinctly sardonic and singular humour of Slow Horses from the Slough House ‘stables’ by Mick Herron. We are spoilt for choice.

  2. Pingback: Spy Movie Style from Cruise, Brosnan, Clooney and Hardy - Iconic Alternatives

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