The Guns of Navarone: Anthony Quinn’s Seersucker Suit
Anthony Quinn as Colonel Andrea Stavros, tough Greek officer
Middle East, Fall 1943
Film: The Guns of Navarone
Release Date: April 27, 1961
Director: J. Lee Thompson
Wardrobe Credit: Monty M. Berman & Olga Lehmann
Seersucker Thursday may be one of the few remaining bipartisan aspects of American politics. Inspired by the practice of early 20th century congressmen donning their tailored seersucker suits, Mississippi Senator Trent Lott reinstated the tradition in 1996, to be observed by men and women of the Senate on the second or third Thursday in June to coincide with National Seersucker Day, a standing celebration of the cool-wearing cloth.
There have certainly been more elegant showcases of seersucker suits in cinematic history, but one of the toughest examples can be seen with The Guns of Navarone‘s introduction of Colonel Andrea Stavros, the pipe-smoking officer of the Hellenic Army’s 19th Motorized Division.
“He’s from Crete. Those people don’t make idle threats,” Captain Keith Mallory (Gregory Peck) explains of the vindictive and serious Stavros. Mallory had reunited with the colonel to recruit him for a dangerous mission, despite Stavros having sworn to kill him, as their fellow commando Corporal John Miller (David Niven) learns.
Miller: Don’t you trust anyone?
Stavros: Nope. That’s why I have lived so long.
What’d He Wear?
Though seersucker cloth dates back considerably earlier, using the material for suits was popularized in 1909 by New Orleans tailor Joseph Haspel, crafting a summer-friendly solution for Southern businessmen and lawyers to maintain decorum without sweating their molasses off. The image of the strong Southern gentleman keeping cool in seersucker may have been best illustrated by Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, presenting the case for Tom Robinson’s defense in To Kill a Mockingbird.
In the decades following Haspel’s innovation, seersucker crept north, particularly among the Eastern seaboard, where it established itself among those ever-so-influential Ivy Leaguers. The Guns of Navarone suggests that seersucker suits had traversed the Atlantic by the time of World War II, as Peck’s co-star Anthony Quinn is introduced in a puckered clabber that’s clearly seen better days by the time Peck’s character tracks him down to a sweaty flop house somewhere in the Middle East.
If the seersucker suit had spent its first three decades associated with Southern sophistication, Colonel Stavros set out to undo its refined image with his weathered suit, made from cream-and-slate textured cotton arranged in the traditional “railroad stripe”. The single-breasted suit jacket presents much of the suit’s distress, particularly the sleeves, frayed at the edges to such an extent that suggests the cuffs themselves had been completely torn away.
The ventless jacket has wide, padded shoulders, notch lapels that hardly lay flat anymore, and three white buttons on the front, of which he appropriately wears only the center button fastened. Patch pockets over the hips and left breast dress the suit down to sportier levels.
The double forward-pleated trousers fall lower on Quinn’s waist, with no belt or braces to hold them up. As Stavros never removes his jacket on screen, we can see little of the trousers aside from side pockets and plain-hemmed bottoms.
Stavros wears cheap dark brown nubuck leather plain-toe shoes that have been worn so thin that the uppers have lost much of their structure. These shoes are laced oxford-style through three closely-spaced eyelets. He also wears dark gray ribbed cotton lisle socks.
Stavros daringly—some may say unwisely—mixes similar stripes by wearing a white-and-gray bengal-striped cotton shirt that clashes against his stripe seersucker suit. The shirt has clear plastic buttons up the plain front with a spread collar, breast pocket, and rounded single-button cuffs. His light gray Windsor-knotted tie reflects a shine that suggests silk, though the cloth has lost most of its luster in Stavros’ hard-lived travels.
Colonel Stavros carries his revolver in a shoulder holster, though—unlike secret agents like James Bond whose shoulder rigs are designed for concealment—it’s a more tactical rig with a cross-chest strap that would only be concealed if his jacket was buttoned… and perhaps not even fully then. Stavros’ rig resembles contemporary military shoulder holsters like the M7 issued to U.S. Army paratroopers. (This differs from the simpler M3 shoulder holster issued to tank crews, which was secured across the body by a wider shoulder strap.)
Like the M7, Stavros’ rig consists of a large russet-brown leather open-top holster molded to the shape of his sidearm, with silver rings in the upper corner and on the back. Two narrow straps are clipped to both rings at each end, including a strap worn over the shoulder (and which Stavros wears over the same shoulder as the holster itself) and a second strap that wraps around the wearer’s torso to secure it in place. A shorter strap, folded over itself and snapped in place to form a ring, extends from the bottom of the holster for extra retention around a belt, though Stavros’ lack of a belt means this looped strap hangs free.
Not much detail can be seen of Stavros’ watch, which has a round gold-toned case with a round white dial, fastened to his left wrist on a brown leather strap.
Colonel Stavros carries an Enfield No. 2 Mk I* revolver in his shoulder holster. The Enfield No. 2 Mk I was first produced in the early 1930s, when it entered British service alongside the Webley revolver, both chambered for the .38/200 cartridge (also known as .38 S&W Short), which had been adopted as the military’s preferred alternative to the heavy recoil of the powerful .455 round.
Developed at the Royal Small Arms Factory (RSAF) Enfield, “the design was a scaled-down Webley Mark VI with its ‘break-top’ frame and cylinder chambered for six rounds and firing a heavy-grain bullet,” as described by The Complete World Encyclopedia of Guns. In 1938, the revolver was retooled with a spurless hammer that rendered it double-action only, though it compensated for this with a lighter mainspring that eased the shot. This updated model was named the No. 2 Mk I*, differentiated by an asterisk rather than the perhaps more practical solutions of “Mk II” or even “No. 3”.
The Enfield No. 2 Mk I* was relatively accurate as it lacked the typically heavy trigger pull encountered with double-action only handguns. The spurless hammer added the benefit of preventing it from snagging on clothing or tank cabling and controls. After the war, existing stocks of Enfield revolvers were almost all converted to resemble the No. 2 Mk I*.
Like its Webley cousins, the Enfield No. 2 Mk I* remained in British service long after most other nations had updated their service pistols to semi-automatics, until the United Kingdom finally replaced its venerable six-shooters with the semi-automatic Browning Hi-Power (L9/L9A1) in the 1960s, as you can read about in my previous post.
How to Get the Look
The avowed warrior Colonel Stavros never looks totally at home in his tailored seersucker, though—with some cleaner touches here and there—the same philosophies could translate to a refreshingly light summer suit today, though you’d probably want to avoid Stavros’ gamble of a striped shirt under his striped seersucker.
- Slate-and-cream striped seersucker cotton suit:
- Single-breasted 3-button jacket with notch lapels, patch breast pocket, patch hip pockets, plain cuffs, and ventless back
- Double forward-pleated beltless trousers with side pockets and plain-hemmed bottoms
- White-and-gray bengal-striped cotton shirt with spread collar, plain front, breast pocket, and 1-button rounded cuffs
- Light gray silk tie
- Dark brown nubuck leather plain-toe 3-eyelet oxford shoes
- Dark gray ribbed cotton lisle socks
- Russet-brown paratroop-style shoulder holster
- Gold wristwatch with round white dial on brown leather strap
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie and read Alistair MacLean’s novel.
When the time came, I would find you.
Not mentioned in the film, but Colonel Stavros would probably be toting a suicide pill somewhere on his person. The Nazis had a special hatred for the gallant warriors of Crete. They inflicted terrible losses on the German paratroopers attacking Crete and their dogged resistance caused a ruinous delay to the invasion of Russia. And who better to play this brave man than Zorba the Greek?
Thanks for this, Luckystrike.