Somebody Does it Better
Those amongst us who pore over the minute details of James Bond's appearance and lifestyle choices — because he's a real person, you know? — have been comparing and contrasting the dress of the latter-day (film) Bond with that of new celluloid secret agent Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service.
The common consensus is that Harry Hart, played by Colin Firth in the film, pips Bond in the style stakes by a considerable distance. He certainly has a more obviously British (and flamboyant) style compared to Bond's rather austere modern look. What are your thoughts? Have we lost Bond to globalisation?
The Kingsman Collection - More British than Bond
By golly, the costume designer Arianne Philips put together an impeccable wardrobe for Kingsman.
From a studious viewing, my notes remind me that there were well-cut suits in classic colours, patterns and fabrics, including double-breasted numbers in abundance. I also spotted a velvet smoking jacket with tartan trousers, proper umbrellas, excellent pyjamas and house coats, and Turnbull & Asser shirts. Lock & Co. gets a mention as a recommended chap's hatterer. Not a bad tally for a film. The name Kingsman is also a play on Huntsman the Savile Row tailors. Hart's secretive organisation is hidden behind a tailor's shopfront of that name.
A tie-in collection for the film has been put together by Arianne in conjunction with Mr. Porter. Great British makers and designers that we know and love are supported in the collection, which is really rather splendid — all items, as far as I can discern, made in the UK. The aim of the 'Kingsman' clothing label is to select 'the best in British craftsmanship to produce each carefully considered garment'.
Here's a list of the rarefied names (and friends) involved:
Fox Brothers (fabric)
William Halstead (fabric)
Savile Clifford (fabric)
William Lockie (knitwear)
Turnbull & Asser (shirts)
George Cleverley (shoes)
Cutler & Gross (Sunglasses)
Pretty impressive, eh what?
From the collection you can see the incredible Chalk-Striped Wool Siren Suit above. Made in England in a grey and off-white chalk-stripe cloth. This is inspired by the one-piece suits Churchill wore in wartime. He liked to be as comfortable and warm as he could be, but still cut a dash, when the air-raid sirens were ringing like billy-o and a bomb could land on his Homburg-clad bonce at any moment. The chest pockets should fit a six-pack of his favoured Romeo y Julieta cigars. Already, I would say this thrashes any tie-in for the next Bond instalment. I could spend three seasons (not summer) in one of these, and I know you could too. Let's declare it our clothes item of the year (so far) — we have nothing to lose (or gain).
Piling on the Britishness is the Grey Double-Breasted Glen Check Suit. Bond probably wouldn't pick this from the hanger as he's more of a single-breasted chap. The suit is made in England from a checked wool produced by Yorkshire clothmaker Savile Clifford.
Moving on to high British evening wear: the Blue Velvet Smoking Jacket and Black Watch Tartan Trews below. The smoking jacket has a silk-grosgrain shawl collar and silk lining.
And something for the weekend: Brown Single-Breasted Brushed-Wool Checked Blazer in cloth from Dormeuil, Welsh-made by Corgi Chunky-Knit Cashmere Cardigan to be worn underneath, and a handsome pair of George Cleverley Suede Oxford Shoes.
Go take a look at the whole collection before it all sells out.
When a spy film is released starring Michael Caine, Mark Strong and Colin Firth we have to take proper notice. Kingsman: The Secret Service is based on a graphic novel, and was co-written and directed by Matthew Vaughn. The trailer promised Bond with additional British whimsy, but the film is more like Bond directed by Tarantino — lots of comic-book violence.
Harry Hart (Firth's character) works for Kingsman, an 'independent international intelligence agency'. The Kingsman agents are highly-trained; Hart comparing them to modern-day knights.
Harry takes a paternal interest in a bright young London hobbledehoy named Gary, whose father (training as an agent) had lost his life in service. He encourages the waif to veer away from a life of petty crime and apply to train as a Kingsman agent. There follows a period of intense training orchestrated by 'Merlin', played by the always-excellent Mark Strong. To emphasise the knight analogy, the Kingsman operatives all have Arthurian monikers.
Enter — stage right — the villain of the piece. Whilst the training is taking place, Kingsman is investigating a suspicious character named Richmond Valentine, played by Samuel L. Jackson. He is plotting something technologically fiendish, and it is up to Kingsman to put a stop to it.
Matthew Vaughn subverts the spy film cliches with self-awareness, parody and stereotypical characters; but not so much that the film becomes a pure comedy. The film retains enough drama and suspense to be considered a 'proper' action film. Quibble-wise, I'm not a fan of preposterous fight scenes or slow-motion effects. I prefer gritty realism in a spy film; bespectacled spies sucking a mint and quietly dispatching their counterparts in darkness without fuss. (We prefer dialogue-driven films at Tweed Towers overall, but good-looking films will suffice.) But if you take the film on its own merits, as an over-the-top — and brutal — spy pantomime, it has a certain entertainment value.
Conclusion: We stick with (novel) Bond, but this film wins on wardrobe.