Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle, charismatic pagan cult leader
The Hebrides, Scotland, Spring 1973
Film: The Wicker Man
Release Date: December 6, 1973
Director: Robin Hardy
Costume Designer: Sue Yelland
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Happy Halloween! This year marks the 50th anniversary of The Wicker Man, Robin Hardy’s Scottish-set drama that helped define the folk horror subgenre.
After more than a decade portraying the debonair yet dangerous Count Dracula in a half-dozen Hammer films, Christopher Lee met with screenwriter Anthony Shaffer in 1971 to discuss collaborating on a more unique type of horror. Shaffer’s subsequent conversations with director Robin Hardy centered their focus on old religion, like the practices depicted in David Pinner’s 1967 novel Ritual, which Shaffer set out to adapting into what would become The Wicker Man.
The Wicker Man follows the devout and unimaginative police sergeant Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) to the remote island of Summerisle in the Hebrides, facing polite but firm resistance as he investigates a young girl’s disappearance leading up to the island’s annual May Day celebrations. Howie’s investigations direct him to the island’s much-discussed leader, the mannered Lord Summerisle who describes himself to Howie as “a heathen, conceivably, but not—I hope—an unenlightened one.”
In an interview with Total Film magazine, which named The Wicker Man as the sixth greatest British film of all time in 2004, Christopher Lee described it as “the best film I’ve ever made” of his approximately 200 appearances credited on screen up to that point.
What’d He Wear?
On the eve of the May Day celebrations, Lord Summerisle welcomes Howie at his estate, appropriately dressed for the countrified setting in a houndstooth tweed two-piece suit cut perfectly to proportion with the jacket’s buttoning point meeting the top of the trousers at Christopher Lee’s natural waist.
So named for its visual similarity to a canine fangs, the four-pointed houndstooth check shares tweed’s long association with Scottish textiles, making this durable cloth an appropriate choice for the steward of a Hebridean island. Lord Summerisle’s woolen tweed suiting is a larger-scaled houndstooth in brown, tan, and—to a lesser degree—olive.
Lord Summerisle’s single-breasted suit jacket is shaped with front darts and suppressed at the waist, resulting in a flattering hourglass-like silhouette. The jacket has notch lapels of moderate width that roll to a two-button stance positioned to fasten at Lee’s waist. The shoulders are padded, and the sleeves are roped at the shoulders and finished with three-button cuffs.
The jacket has a long single vent and flapped hip pockets that slant slightly rearward, consistent with the country-minded styling of sporty equestrian hacking jackets. Lord Summerisle dresses the welted breast pocket with the same burgundy silk pocket square he would wear the following day with his suede-detailed check sports coat and yellow turtleneck.
The matching flat-front trousers are styled with traditional turn-ups (cuffs), though we see little other detail as Lee keeps his jacket buttoned and refrains from putting his hands in his pockets. If they’re styled like the brown slacks he wears with the following day’s aforementioned sports coat, they would have “Daks top”-style button-tab side adjusters and quarter-top side pockets.
Lord Summerisle wisely wears brown shoes and socks that maintain the earthy color scheme of his outfit. His dark brown leather cap-toe lace-ups appear to have the closed-lacing system of oxfords.
Lord Summerisle’s green shirt and tie coordinate with the flecks of olive threading each of the suit’s houndstooth checks. The light sage-green poplin shirt has a spread collar, front placket, and double (French) cuffs fastened with gold-toned links. His forest-green woolen tie features flecks of colorful threads, its coarse texture harmonizing with his tweed suiting.
Lord Summerisle wears a gold ring with a black-filled surface on his left pinky. His little-seen wristwatch is the same gold watch with a round white dial and brown leather strap that we would see more prominently during the following day’s May Day celebration. (And yes, you’ll read about that sports coat and turtleneck as well… perhaps on May Day!)
How to Get the Look
As expected of Christopher Lee’s debonair on- and off-screen perosna, Lord Summerisle is a tasteful dresser, here paying tradition to Scottish heritage in his well-tailored houndstooth tweed suit that fits the context of his surroundings and status on the island, taking special care to coordinate the colors and cloths of his shirt and tie.
- Brown, beige, and olive houndstooth tweed suit:
- Single-breasted 2-button jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, slanted flapped hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and long single vent
- Flat-front trousers with turn-ups/cuffs
- Light sage-green poplin shirt with spread collar, front placket, and double/French cuffs
- Gold oval cuff links
- Olive mixed woolen tie
- Brown leather cap-toe oxford shoes
- Taupe-brown cotton lisle socks
- Gold wristwatch with round white dial on dark brown leather strap
- Gold pinky ring with black-filled surface
- Burgundy silk pocket square
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
We don’t commit murder around here… we’re a deeply religious people.