When it comes to the topic of men’s style on film, the spy genre seems to have something of a corner on the market (as evidenced by the James Bond franchise). In recent years, the new kid on the block has been the Kingsman series–and today, we’ll analyze what its first film, Kingsman: The Secret Service (from 2014) gets right and wrong about classic men’s style.
Based on Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons’ comic book series of the same name, and directed by Matthew Vaughn, the Kingsman series has had two films released so far. A prequel is coming up next and a third film in the main series also in development. On the surface, these films seem to be right up the alley of a classic menswear enthusiast, with sharp suits, black-tie ensembles, and more. The cover for the Kingsman organization is even a tailor shop on Savile Row! But how close do these movies actually hew to the tenets of classic men’s style?
A Style Review of Kingsman: The Secret Service
Let’s begin our analysis by breaking down the individual styles of the film’s key characters.
Colin Firth’s character, Harry Hart, is also known by his Kingsman codename “Galahad.” He typically wears traditionally English-styled suits in terms of their cut and structure. They’re double-breasted in a six-on-two style, in traditional colors and patterns. His signature suit seems to be navy with white pinstripes though we also see Glen checks at other points in the film. His shirts are almost always plain white and they usually have a semi-spread collar and French cuffs, into which oval-shaped gold cufflinks with the Kingsman insignia are inserted.
Like many of the Kingsman agents, he favors repp-striped ties; usually, these are in blue with accents in pink and brown. Going by the related clothing collection from the film that was released by Mr. Porter, his ties are in a cotton silk-blend and a faille weave. When not wearing a repp tie, he usually favors a pin-dot pattern.
His other accessories include a plain white pocket square (presumably in linen) in a straight TV fold, a gold watch with a brown leather band, and a gold signet ring. His rectangular framed glasses are standard-issue for Kingsman agents, as are the watch and the ring, along with other gadgets including a pen, umbrella, and cigarette lighter. His shoes of choice which, again, are standard for most Kingsman agents, are black cap-toe oxfords–but we’ll revisit the concept of shoes in a little while.
Other outfits seen in the first film from Harry Hart include a blue velvet dinner jacket with black satin lapels, a white silk pocket square, and black velvet bow tie, tartan trousers, and black patent oxfords with a white plain front tuxedo shirt. We also see a red dressing gown with a curious almost ulster-like collar, white pajamas with edge-stitching, and velvet slippers with the Kingsman crest. Another outfit includes a white shirt, cream-colored cardigan sweater, and gray flannel trousers.
Overall, Harry’s style is generally well done. There are a few details that are less commendable, however. His jacket sleeves are long enough that he often shows little-to-no shirt cuff, he pairs a brown watch band with black shoes, and when in his black-tie ensemble, he appears to have skipped a waist covering.
Gary “Eggsy” Unwin
Next, we’ll discuss the new recruit and second main character of the film, Gary Unwin, called “Eggsy,” played by Taron Egerton. Through most of the film, Eggsy is seen in a variety of street-style ensembles, with things like striped polo shirts, bomber jackets, ball caps, jeans, sneakers, and bracelets. Even when going on a training mission with the Kingsman in a slightly more formal environment, he still keeps with this casual mode of dressing. Seen in a hoodie with a loud graphical motif, a white cap, black-and-gold polo, high-top shoes, and a gold necklace.
In the final scenes of the film, though, when Eggsy has fully embraced his role as a Kingsman, he adopts Galahad’s signature suit style: navy with white pinstripes and repp tie, though tied at first in a looser full Windsor knot that’s larger and bolder than what Colin Firth’s character typically wore throughout the film.
Eggsy does, then, show a progression from casual to formal ensembles in this movie–but we’ll discuss this in greater depth when we cover the sequel, so stay tuned for another post coming soon!
The Remaining Kingsman Agents
On top of the main characters, though, there are other important characters or particularly stylish outfits seen in the first film, which we’ll cover next.
Michael Caine’s Arthur also wears a double-breasted suit in a slightly softer flannel with an orange overcheck and an edged pocket square, and is shown wearing a grey scarf at another point in the film. His favorite tie throughout the film is a pink one with a black stripe for an accent. Another outfit consists of a pink shirt, mid-grey suit with a tan-and-black overcheck, blue pocket square edged in white, and some simple gold cufflinks.
Over the course of the film, Mark Strong’s Merlin character is usually seen in understated and slightly less formal neutral colors. He’ll wear things like v-neck sweaters and cardigans, solid ties, and of course, clubmaster glasses. Toward the end of the film, he’s also seen in a blazer, but this, of course, is part of a more traditional pilot’s uniform.
The first Kingsman we see to bear the codename Lancelot, played by Jack Davenport, shows up early in the film wearing a particularly stylish outfit of a tattersall shirt, green solid tie, olive three-piece suit with an overcheck, a red pocket square, and some brown shoes.
Potential Kingsman Recruits
When we first see the other potential recruits for the Kingsman program, they’re all wearing slightly different outfits, but we thought we’d give a brief mention of them here. Most of them consist of looks that generally fall within the Prep, Ivy, and Trad schools featuring things like repp ties, blazers, and sport coats with odd trousers, chukka boots, quarter-zip sweaters, some jeans, and also horse-bit loafers.
To give a nod to the female characters in the film: Amelia wears a bit more of a modern style, whereas Roxy’s first outfit is contemporary, though it does also seem to draw a bit from the tradition of British riding attire.
Once the recruits are out of their normal clothes, they’re all put into jumpsuits that do have traditional menswear patterns worn over white oxford cloth button-down shirts.
The character of Charlie, something of an antagonist for Eggsy, is shown to be a bit flashier in his style, wearing the aforementioned horse-bit loafers as well as an Hermes belt when we first see him. Later elements for Charlie throughout the film include things like a red velvet dinner jacket with a contrasting lapel, and white shirt red socks, and an ensemble with a navy blazer and loud yellow trousers.
Looks of Other Characters: Valentine & More
Turning more to casual wear, let’s discuss the style of the first film’s villain: Richmond Valentine, played by Samuel L. Jackson. Throughout most of the film, he wears a variety of outfits consisting of matching polos and baseball caps layered with shirts and other outerwear, high tops, lots of leather, and suede. Two outfits we can single out:a shirt and hat in plum color, a brown corduroy suit, brown and gray cardigan sweater, and a necklace, pictured here.
Another would be his first in the film, consisting of what appears to be a yellow oxford cloth button-down shirt, yellow v-neck sweater, parka white Yankees cap, chinos, snow boots, and his signature clear-framed eyeglasses. A notable departure from this character’s standard looks is when we see him in the Kingsman tailoring shop at which point, he’s put on a morning-dress ensemble. This outfit features a slipped waistcoat in buff color, a blue tie, and a Winchester shirt and a black top hat from Lock & Co., as well as black oxford shoes.
Mark Hamill’s Professor Arnold is seen in what would be considered more typical country wear, with a greater emphasis on textures and earthier colors. The first of his two outfits in the film consists of a brown corduroy jacket, micro pattern bow tie, corduroys, a Prince of Wales pattern shirt, herringbone cardigan, and some boots. The second outfit features a darker brown corduroy jacket, Fair Isle vest, white shirt, chinos, and brown shoes.
Swedish Prime Minister
Another character to cover here is Bjørn Floberg’s Swedish Prime Minister, who dresses more like a typical politician or government figure might be expected to. Outfits he’s seen in throughout the film include a solid navy blue suit, white shirt, and light blue solid tie; a black suit and grey tie; and a charcoal suit with a red tie and blue shirt. Meanwhile, his guards also wear fairly typical ensembles of black suits, white shirts, and striped ties.
The character known as the “Interrogator,” played by Richard Brake, is seen in two different ensembles in the film. The first consists of a white shawl-collared dinner jacket with pick stitching, a white shirt, and a black silk tie, and the second shows a black Nehru jacket.
Eggsy’s stepfather, Dean Baker (played by Geoff Bell) typically dresses fairly informally, but one outfit we see him in toward the end of the film is a bit more stylish. It consists of a navy Harrington jacket, red pin-dot day ascot, a patterned panel cap, and some leather boots.
Working-class characters are also depicted fairly realistically in the film. Examples of this would include Ralph Ineson’s policeman character, who wears a gray sharkskin suit with a 1990s style shirt-and-tie combo and an overall baggy fit. He does have a slightly more modern overcoat, however.
Finally, we’ll mention Corey Johnson’s pastor character, who wears an ensemble of a poorly fitting gray suit, mustard yellow shirt, and a fairly ugly paisley tie.
Our Thoughts On The Film’s Menswear Styles
In general, costume designer Ariane Phillips seems to have had fun designing the various looks for each of the characters. There are many interesting outfits for menswear enthusiasts to look at in this film. However, the devil is in the details, and for those with a truly exacting eye, some of these smaller points will seem a bit more sloppy.
As a case in point here, we’ll look at one of the first film’s most well-known quotes: “Oxfords, not brogues.” When giving Eggsy a tour of the various Kingsman gadgets, Galahad tells him that oxfords are “any formal shoe with open lacing.” However, this is actually incorrect, as oxfords have closed lacing, which defines them as such. Meanwhile, derby shoes have an open lacing style. If you’d like to learn more about the difference between oxfords, derbies, and bluchers, our guide has you covered!
Galahad makes a further error by classifying brogues as being mutually exclusive from oxfords. In fact, broguing is just any decorative detail of hole punching on a shoe, and it can be found on any shoe style, be that oxfords, derbies, or bluchers.
So overall, the style of the first Kingsman film isn’t bad, but it’s not quite as perfect as its well-tailored spy characters would like you to believe.
Is Kingsman: The Secret Service a Good Watch, Overall?
Setting aside the specific issue of the wardrobe choices for a moment, what do we think about the film itself? Speaking personally, I can say that I did find it enjoyable to watch, not only for the wardrobe but also for the plot itself. Of course, the film does have an R rating for its gratuitous action, violence, gore, and occasional crude humor and subject matter.
In other words, it’s not necessarily gentlemanly on all fronts, should that impact your desire to see it. Still, it does approach the world of menswear and the gentleman’s lifestyle overall with what could be characterized as an aspirational or appreciative tone. For that, we can give it praise. There are several worthwhile quotes from the film that exemplify this, including:
- “Manners maketh man.”
- “The suit is a modern gentleman’s armor.”
- “Being a gentleman has nothing to do with the circumstances of one’s birth. Being a gentleman is something one learns.”
- “Being a gentleman has nothing to do with one’s accent, it’s about being at ease in one’s own skin.”
They also feature a quote from the author Ernest Hemingway: “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man, true nobility is being superior to your former self.” These are certainly sentiments that, in the broad strokes, we can get behind. They dovetail nicely with guides we’ve produced in the past about What It Means To Be A Gentleman Today, as well as Lies That Men Are Sold by modern society. They also touch on other gentlemanly topics, like proper table manners and how to mix cocktails.
Overall, then, if the Kingsman films serve as an entry point into the world of classic menswear for young men, action film fans, or anyone else, we see this as a good thing. Just remember that their menswear advice shouldn’t be followed as strictly as the mission briefing of a super spy!