Tinker Tailor Soldier Style: Recreating the 70s Spy

Posted on December 28, 2011


Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy has a lot going for it. For one, the plot already carries enough weight to pique the interest of the most plebeian of us all- a spy story that centers on Smiley called out of retirement to hunt down a mole within MI6, lovingly referred to by Le Carre as “The Circus”; Two, it happens to star a stellar cast of Colin Firth, Tom Hardy (who’s star is absolutely stratospheric at the moment with Warrior and Dark Knight Rises) and Benedict Cumberbatch (oozing geek sexuality in BBC’s Sherlock) and last, perhaps most importantly (at least from the perspective of this blog), a connection to Sir Paul Smith.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Style- Benedict with Gary

Tinker Tailor Soldier Style

Granted the film would be a lot more cerebral and a lot less visceral than the much loved Daniel Craig Bond films but director Tomas Alfredson, looking for accurate 70s English tailoring, sought the ever-dapper Paul Smith for costuming and photography and the effect of his sartorial touch shows in every inch of celluloid.

With the menswear bar raised by the likes of Boardwalk Empire and Mad Men on the small screen, that the big screen treatment needs to outclass media minnows; the power duo of Smith and Jacqueline Durran had  their work cut out for them, according to Oscar-nominated Durran, “With menswear it is all about detail, rather than making a splash with a big dress.”

And while the 70s (of which we are experiencing a momentary revival right now) were a battleground of patterns and colours, Jacqueline was took pains for accuracy by researching civil servants how they actually dressed. She explains, “Back in the day, many men bought suits a decade ago and stuck with them,” using that as a baseline, she managed to dig into earlier decades for creative direction as well.

Colin Firth cuts a Rakish figure as Bill Haydon

How Tinker Tailor Soldier and Spy Dressed

George Smiley, the ever sombre spy

Men of the era dressed for class (as I often espoused) and not fashion and they usually shopped at the standard ateliers and tailors within Piccadilly:

  • Savile Row
  • Jermyn Street
  • Fortnum & Mason

Each and every character in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy had a personality and style, for Gary Oldman’s George Smiley, the weary spy veteran, his was a sombre charcoal three piece with Aquascutum (odd they didn’t choose Burberry) trench coat. [Wired’s George Smiley breakdownThe debonair rake Bill Haydon played by Firth cuts a dashing figure with his sartorial arsenal provided by Savile Row fixture Huntsman replete with what I swear is a colour infusion of red socks inspired Paul Smith. Field Agent Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy) is the “wet work” man and with all the gun play, coupled with his Australian background, Jacqueline gave his character a more Steve McQueen feel with white tees, cord trousers and a Harrington jacket.

That said, it’s no accident that James Bond dressed the way he did, at the end of the day, he was cut from the same public school and MI6 cloth- it’s all about the suits really.


Posted in: men's style