On the abandonment of ill-fitting suits: Or, Armitage resartus, part 3

Since the length of this exposition is getting out of hand, I promise to make this post the last detailed installment on this theme, at least until we see Mr. Armitage on the red carpet again. Despite my infinite capacity to grumble about detail, it’s been kind of distressing to note all of these recurring sartorial problems appearing on the body of someone of whom I’ve become so notionally and vicariously fond.

In that sense, anyway, this post does end well.

The punchline: Mr. Armitage, thank you so much for giving us a chance to see you in clothes that showed off not only your body, but also the most appealing aspects of your charisma.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Previously on “me + richard armitage”: I argued first that (1) Richard Armitage’s figure traits make off-the-rack buying and costume fitting difficult. (This unsurprising status does not separate him from most men buying off-the-rack; the three men I have bought suits with have all had figure traits that didn’t fit well in off-the-rack, and certainly not unaltered, and I assume the problem is widespread.) I postulated that these were matters around the proportions of his shoulders and upper body and a slight extension of the waist; the former is widely agreed upon and some disagreement persists about the latter. I largely left the question of trousers (which my idiom calls “pants”) out of those discussions, because I was thinking that someday I’d write something separate on the question of how he should buy pants / jeans. (That oversimplifies the issue since his posterior is on the flip side of his body and affects the lower body construction of his jackets, but one can only write so much in a day, and this is an indirect because usually camouflaged issue. I speculate a little bit more about this below.) The data in the first installment in essence hopes to support the thesis that his choice of clothing and costumes seem to reflect an (unnecessary) dilemma between accommodating his shoulders and his lower trunk.  To wit:

Random photo of Richard Armitage, Bromsgrove Advertiser, October 25, 2008, apparently taken at Five Women in Film Awards, July 12, 2007. Another picture that I really like for what it says about the construction of his face, and I love the slightly ironic smirk. Sartorially, though: Jacket shoulders fit loosely but on the border of acceptability; shirt construction also fighting with his body; it’s good we can’t see much from the button down because what we can see indicates it would be a mess. I’ll be silent on the pinstripes, though I am not a huge fan; he doesn’t really need them but they are popular in Britain and they don’t make him look bad, though these are a bit wide and loud. We see him in them a lot, and one possible conclusion is that he likes them at least a little. Or maybe they are economical? Every man should be allowed at least a few personal style preferences. Isn’t that generous of me? I’m getting a little annoyed by my own bossiness. Oh wait, is bossiness motherly?

Anyway, a lot of these clothes seem to do one or the other, but never both; they fit one body part well, but their non-fit of other body parts is frustrating to observe. Second, I presented evidence that some costume designers have noted the features of his body’s construction and exploited them to make his characters look gorgeous, especially Mr. Thornton, his signature role for many of us, and Guy of Gisborne. The point of that post, though, was not to say that Armitage should only appear in period clothing (love that period drama, but we don’t want people giggling at him).

Instead, as today in this installment, I was hinting that it is possible without that much difficulty to create clothes that fit his body or alter them to do so. I want to claim that his path toward stunning clothing on the red carpet is much like his (apparent) path toward everything else. Mr. Armitage needs to make the genre of men’s clothing he wears his own, instead of making half-hearted gestures toward a conformity of style with which his his appearances suggest that he quite pointedly does not sympathize. He doesn’t need to look like everybody else; but he does need a coherent statement that moves beyond his other frequent choice, which is to refuse to make one at all (see above). I think we saw a real move in that direction at BAFTA 2010, and that this glimpse of the possibilities was a part of what moved me so much about those pictures.

Richard Armitage at the 2010 TV BAFTAs, taken by JJ. Source: Her 2010 BAFTA report at Richard Armitage Net. I hope it’s ok to post this; if not I will remove it. Seriously, this picture brought tears to my eyes and is very likely my favorite Armitage picture of all time.

I. Why Richard Armitage should not wear black tie the way he’s been wearing it up till now

You can see here, despite our own love for the tuxedo as the non plus ultra of what passes for men’s formal clothing (at least in the U.S.), it’s a choice with details potentially fraught with peril for Mr. Armitage’s body.

Men who wear semi-formal clothes regularly for work usually have a suit altered or made specifically for them, but it seems unlikely that Armitage would make that choice, not only because of his lack of interest in wearing such clothing and the current infrequency of his appearance at events like this, but also because although he has appeared at different weights throughout his career, at least since Robin Hood he appears to be yoyoing up and down the scale with gleeful abandon for different roles. (Note to Mr. Armitage: we motherly fans are worried both about the challenges such activity presents to your metabolism and to your body ergonomics.) Adding mass and definition for series 2 Guy of Gisborne, losing a stone for the emaciated Lucas North of Spooks 7.1-2, gradually moving up to his apparent set point for Robin Hood 3 and Spooks 8, then adding upper body mass for Strike Back means changes on a figure that would challenge the most proactive alterations department. The point of owning your own semi-formal clothes is that you don’t have to have them constantly fitted, as when you rent them; all of these physique changes would thus defeat the purpose of ownership if they meant the clothes had to be altered before every wearing.

So what I write in this section assumes that Mr. Armitage is renting his black tie ensembles. RAFrenzy very kindly traces the narrative of Armitage’s BAFTA appearances here, including many visual examples, and in reflecting on his development, she makes an argument for the attractiveness of the ill-fitting suit as, at least initially, an index of the absence of glibness in his performance of self. I quote her: “Truth be told I miss the guy with the ill-fitting suit, long hair and shy grin, but he seems to still be there. I hope RA’s never so slicked up that guy is eclipsed, and I definitely hope he never becomes glib. My gut tells me that won’t happen, and I always go with my gut.” I am not only inclined to share her charity, I also swoon when I see him in black, but the nitpicker in me feels compelled to point out the real problems in these outfits. Most of these pictures were taken by fans who knocked themselves out to get them and have posted them on condition that they not be disseminated without permission, so I am linking to them here rather than reposting. I’m eternally grateful to the people who take all of these pictures, without which I’d never be writing this stuff.

In 2007: sleeve length too long; wrong shoulder span; jacket length just slightly too short in back and looseness in the skirt of the jacket; break (the hem of the trouser where it hits the shoes or boots) too low — I only mention this because I see it here; the length of the pant is something Armitage gets right about 90% of the time when wearing non-jeans, and it’s refreshing to see this, as U.S. men seem to like a bagging of the pant at the shoe that makes them look like mafiosi wannabes. (I’ve read that we owe the baggy break to Armani of the 1980s, but I can neither confirm nor deny.) It looks, though, like someone attempted to lengthen the jacket bottom and didn’t press out the alteration correctly, so that not only does the shortness of the coat emphasize the rounded posterior, there’s a little flip at the end of the line of the coat to underline it. The rear vent is always a good decision for him, but it looks sloppy here because the skirt of the jacket is loose. We see here also the familiar bagging at the waist of the jacket. Also in the 2007 outfit, we can observe faulty dimensions in the armholes, a wing collar that is really not right for his neck / throat, and uch, a ready-to-wear bowtie that’s so loose that it’s slipping off the collar. The mid-Victorian stiff, high collar worked for Armitage on Mr. Thornton precisely because it didn’t close in front; this closed-front wing collar, originating from the days of Edward VII, is being worn at a looseness to facilitate comfort, but that decision messes up the line of the shirt closure, and one thing we really want to see under a jacket like this is a gleaming, stiff shirt front. Moreover, for real classiness, the wing collar–which does not hide the long center of the tie band–should only be worn with a self-tie bowtie. The clip-together tie, especially when we can see the clip, as we do at times here, even though it tries to hide under the wings of the collar, looks a bit cheap.  That year we also saw shoulder / upper arm issues potentially created by the roundness of his shoulders and for which this jacket does not compensate.

Admittedly, we’ve seen him in more problematic ensembles than those he wore to red carpet events. Claude Monet (Richard Armitage), Auguste Renoir (Charlie Condou) and Frederic Bazille (James Lance) admire Edouard Manet’s work at the Paris Salon in The Impressionists, episode 1. Source: Richard Armitage Central Gallery.

Despite all of these nitpicks, like RAFrenzy, I don’t feel mean at all about this outfit. Indeed, it seemed to scream 1980s to me in a peculiar way, and I realized that the hairstyle (presumably maintained for Guy of Gisborne) and the slippery clip-on tie created an impression that reminded me of the groomsmen at my school friends’ weddings, which began around 1987. I wondered at the time if those outfits were channeling the public appearances of professional wrestlers in semi-formal garb, and Mr. Armitage does look a little bit like the Incredible Hulk from the rear in the 2007 photos. When viewing the awkward bulkiness of the jacket from behind or the side I seem to read it as an indication of protective strength. Even so, though, the overall impression was of a very large, out-of-place boy and not of a man in charge. I suppose, like any garment that resembles a uniform, it has the effect of focusing our attention on the individual, distinctive features of the person, like the face. And it can’t be denied that Armitage’s face was adorable. Even when he looked enervated, he looked sweet, like the 1980s boy next door dressed up for prom. I wonder, though, if adopting Robin Hood series 1 Guy’s 1980s hairstyle with the locks would have made him look more dangerous, or only silly?

One might object that he was 35 at the 2007 BAFTAs, and no longer a boy on the town. I don’t want to feel motherly about Richard Armitage. And indeed, by the 2009 event, his charisma in black tie had matured to the point that we would believe he was 37. The pictures from the event show him standing up straighter, moving with more authority; the retiring, furtive moments of the 2007 appearance have disappeared. His gravitas in general was aided because he could wear Lucas North’s hair, I think, and under that mane any smile looks distinguished as opposed to goofy. He also made some significant sartorial gains: the suit is of a stiffer fabric that stands up better to his movements, and any alterations that were made for him to wear it are not visible, as they were in the 2007 photos. Most obviously, he’d realized he shouldn’t wear the classic wing collar, and moved to today’s more conventional turn-down collar, which hides the sins of the clip-together bowtie and makes it acceptable semi-formal dress. At the same time, however, the collar on the shirt he chose really doesn’t suit him. It’s too long in proportion to the bow tie, so that its points distract from the tie, and when seen from the side, it shortens his neck in a way that makes his shoulders seem even larger. The coat seems to have correct shoulder and back sizing, but the lack of a rear vent is not flattering; from that angle, anyway, the shoes look cloddish. The shirt front is still not properly sized, and alternately bags and wrinkles. There is still some issue with either the armholes or the sleeveheads, and in the dilemma between shoulders and waist, this coat decided for shoulders, so that the few photos we see of the waist oddly imply that the jacket was too small. The rear perspective linked above suggests the same conclusion. He doesn’t have the second button closed in any of the photos from the event, which almost suggests to me, given his tendency to do so, that it would have been uncomfortable. All in all he looks way more distinguished, but also a great deal stiffer.

Richard Armitage at 2009 BAFTA TV awards. Source: Richard Armitage Net. Finger tension indicates he’s actually grasping that leg. Seriously, it looks like he’s holding his right leg over his left because his clothes don’t leave him enough room to move his ankle onto his knee. I am guessing this problem is created by the narrow waist of the coat and the missing back vent. Or maybe it’s just that the fabric of the pant is so slick that he can’t keep his leg propped up on it. Leaning on his right arm reveals that the shoulder is again cut all wrong. And really, the left arm should not wrinkle that aggressively, either.

Richard Armitage at 2009 BAFTA TV awards. Source: Richard Armitage Net. Subject’s posture is not great here, but we see strain in the suit at waist and arms and bagging at lower breast and waist. Also you can see the wrong-sized collar. Overall impression: unease.

My recommendations based on seeing the photos from 2007 and 2009, and based on my general reflections up until now, would have been as follows:

It’s no coincidence that most of us flip for Guy, whose outfits were –of necessity– all made to order. However, if it’s not reasonable for occasions that require semi-formal clothing –in the spawning ground of the bespoke suit— to purchase a custom-made ensemble, something that readers of this series have proposed as well, Mr. Armitage should at least obtain his own tailored shirt with a turn-down collar of the right size for his neck and in correct proportion to the tie he expects to wear. This shirt needs to have the correct chest dimensions for his upper body and the proper length for his torso, with the waist incorporated correctly at Armitage’s natural waist so that it doesn’t bag up and down or across the chest. It must also be made in a fabric that can be starched or ironed stiffly enough across the front to withstand the inevitable pull from his back musculature across his pectoral muscles. The shirt cuffs can be button or single French, but they must extend an inch beyond the cuffs of the jacket. (Mr. Armitage almost always gets this wrong, and it’s too bad, both because the shirt cuff makes a nice visual frame for the arm, and because it protects the wrist of the suit from sweat and other wear and tear.)  The most important fit feature in any jacket he rents are the shoulders; these need not only to accommodate the breath of the shoulders correctly (not too large!) at both shoulder and back seams, but also to make space for the upper body in the chest of the coat and the apparent forward rotation of the shoulders either in the sleevehead or the vertical width of the armholes. The collar of the jacket should fit snugly against the shirt collar. Any padding of the shoulder made in order to square the sloping shoulders or fill out the shoulder in other ways to accommodate the chest should be carefully examined and moved to fit well. Once a correct upper body fit is established, the waist of the jacket may need to be taken in slightly, or the waist button lowered, in order to keep the jacket from gaping everywhere when he moves his upper body. As a final note, a clip-together bowtie is acceptable, since tying this item is complicated and not many men or women know how to do it anymore. It would be nice, though, if it weren’t made of such a brilliantly shiny silk but conformed in texture and hue more closely to the fabric of the jacket. Once the ensemble is rented and altered, Mr. Armitage should try it on with his intended pair of shoes to make sure the alterations are suitable and he feels comfortable in it. 

II. Why there’s hope for Mr. Armitage in contemporary suits

The germ for this series of posts sort of emerged in February, as I’d been noticing these issues in his clothing, but one reason I didn’t write it then is that I was afraid I was going to sound too negative. Indeed, after writing all that down I need a little pick me up. Don’t you?

Do not be afraid, for I have come to bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all the Armitageworld. Maybe Mr. Armitage doesn’t need all this advice, because evidence exists to show that it’s possible to locate a proper fit for him, at least in a more casual look. I have no idea who selected these outfits, or whether they even belong to him or were the property of the photographer, but two of these bootleg photos that burst across the internet in late April say really promising things. I comment on them separately below, but they share two notable features: front darts, like those we would see on a woman’s jacket, to slim the waist under a protruding chest, and a waist button that lies noticeably below the point where the bottom of the lapels meet. This position for the button means that when the front of the jacket moves, as it unavoidably must when the wearer moves his shoulders, it won’t distort the line of the lapels that frame the chest for us.

Photograph of Richard Armitage by David Venni that appeared on the Internet toward the end of April, 2010, date uncertain, but possibly taken after October, 2009. Source: Русскоязычный Cайт Pичардa Армитиджa. What a weird background, but what an interesting coat. I’m not recommending it in general, because every side view of it that I saw suggested that the piece had a serious armhole problem, BUT. Love the details on the front (peaked collar for a very retro look, and asymmetrical pocket design is visually fascinating, and these are like arrows that again underline the upper body musculature). Most importantly, though, even despite the armhole issue, the front lapel construction makes it look like Mr. Armitage could move his arms actively without setting up gaping in the front of the jacket. The darts draw the jacket in nicely at the front (at least on the left side — the right side has something odd happening with the dart, perhaps because of the additional pocket). The waist is taken in slightly at the side in a very smooth but minor curve that makes him look as slender as he really is. The slanted pocket like those one sees on English men’s hunt coats pulls the eye down with the line of that curve. Importantly, the construction of the jacket allows his shoulders and chest to be as they are without giving his waist a disguising penalty. Not perfect by any means, but an intriguing entry that needs just a few more alterations.

Photograph of Richard Armitage by David Venni that appeared on the Internet toward the end of April, 2010, date uncertain, but possibly taken after October, 2009. Source: Русскоязычный Cайт Pичардa Армитиджa. The shirt wouldn’t fit correctly if it had to be closed, and he’s playing games with the shirt cuffs to imply they’re French when they probably are just too short and folded back, but look again at this jacket. Shoulders and armholes apparently proportioned correctly, darts that come down from the breast accentuating the real line of Mr. Armitage’s torso. (Looking again, I just noticed that the money shot of Lucas North has a front dart in the suit, but it’s in the wrong place for the shape of Armitage’s torso.) I wish I could see the bottom and back of the jacket. The darts may be a bit extreme here; it’s hard to imagine him sitting in this jacket without a fair amount of strain. But it’s the right idea, and it looks great here. After all the gazing at photos of ill-fitting suits, I had a hard time believing this jacket existed.

And then, though we didn’t know it at the time, we had a foretaste of things to come: the images from the Strike Back premiere. I’d really like to know if any of the fans who attended got close enough to this suit to see any details, because there were important things about it you can’t really see from this distance, but when I saw these photos, as with the ones above, I thought, “ooh … alMOST!” I’ll detail my reactions below, but I think the biggest problem was the genre issue; that is, worn in this way, the piece is casual and not semi-formal, but it reads in the context of these pictures as semi-formal worn too casually. I think I may be reacting this way because of the shirt choice. More below, but before we get into details, maybe best of all was that he appears really confident in this suit, like he knows it fits him. Mr. Armitage looks tired in many of the Strike Back premiere photos, but he never looks either uncertain, wrong-footed, or uncomfortable. And in some of them, he almost looks happy.

Richard Armitage at Strike Back premiere, London, April 2010. Source: Richard Armitage Net. The first thing you notice from this standing frontal view is that for once, the jacket is not fighting with his shoulders, even though you can see the shoulder protrusion clearly on his left side, and the slight ripple in the front of the jacket it is causing. We can see that in almost every photo of the jacket, but the sleeveheads are positioned so that they don’t need to encounter the shoulder construction except just to touch the side of his shoulder. Next, we notice that the waist button is placed to minimize gaping when his upper body is in its own plane, but also does not cause dragging across the waist of the jacket. It’s disguised by the pinstripes, but a subtle front dart on each side of the coat that lines up almost with the forward margin of the pocket, and the waist has been pulled in fairly dramatically but only briefly (you’ll see this more clearly in later pictures of this jacket). The suppressed waist silhouette of the jacket clarifies Armitage’s slender construction, but its brief duration assures comfortability of motion. I’m sure my eyes are deceiving me, but it almost looks like the pocket is placed over the side seam. Whoever altered this suit figured out a way to set up a garment that lets him move his shoulders, show off his waist, and still have room for his posterior. Bravo.

It’s not perfect, of course. Though this suit is absolutely great on him, you can still see here the potential for the shoulders to pull awkwardly to the sides, as we see below. What’s key, though, is that when that happens, it does not distort the entire waist of the garment. I also think it’s less visually distracting here because of the Italian-style thin lapels. Armitage’s suits usually have the medium or even the more conservative, wider lapel, but the thin lapel is not only more stylish at the moment, despite the notches, it also mimics the shawl collar frequent in semi-formal wear, which gives this jacket a more formal vibe than most suits. 

Shelley Conn, Andrew Lincoln, Richard Armitage and Orla Brady at the Strike Back premiere, London, April 2010. Source: Richard Armitage Net. Completely random side note: don’t Mr. Armitage and Ms. Brady look comfortable with each other here? I know they’re not romantically linked, but this pose suggests that they feel quite at ease with each other. He often seems to put his hand on the rib cages of women with whom he poses, but here it’s the hip. Friendly!

I’ve been wrestling with the shirt for a bit. First of all, we again have the problem that the shirt sleeve is not long enough. We need to see that cuff at least peak out from under the jacket sleeve. Also, two buttons open are one too many for this setting. The combination of pinstripes, the black color, and the thin lapels put this jacket on the high side of men’s casual wear, and we get a flash of chest that’s a bit too dramatic even for casual events, particularly in comparison to the way the open button works on Lincoln. Oddly the effect here seems to be that Lincoln is dressing up a casual suit, while Armitage is dressing down something more formal, and sadly, I think Lincoln wins, even though he appears to have been having severe problems with his waist button. Dressing something down always carries the risk of sloppiness. Moreover, the color of Armitage’s shirt makes it look just a little dingy, and thus fails to set off his face in the way a white shirt (and visible white cuffs) would have. I hesitate to say this because Armitage usually wears dark shirts with his suits and so I am sure someone recommended this color for some reason, perhaps to coordinate with the pinstripes? It’s ok. But it’s not great.

And one last issue, since I have so little to hassle him about regarding the jacket: when I saw the picture below, I felt like these were the wrong pants, as they are so tight around the upper thigh. I expect to see the crease from ironing all the way down the thigh, and Armitage’s musculature just completely pulls that crease out of the fabric. Slight horizontal creases all over the thigh also suggest that the fabric is slightly under strain, so that more material would be indicated. Usually with such a broad thigh and generous posterior, one at least considers a placket front or pleated pant, as they are more comfortable both to move and to sit in. On the other hand, he doesn’t need the pleats for his waist, so maybe he was concerned about adding extra bulk to the thighs? I didn’t like the pants when I saw them here or above, but I did wonder if the thighs only seemed so prominent because I couldn’t see the whole extent of the leg. 

Andrew Lincoln and Richard Armitage at the Strike Back premiere, London, April 2010. Source: Richard Armitage Net. I think the breadth of the thigh also makes the jacket look a teence too short, which it is not. It doesn’t help that Armitage’s hand position calls attention to the end of the jacket by sugesting that he is pulling it down. 

III. The triumph of the 2010 BAFTAs

If I had been asked, “should Mr. Armitage repeat the Strike Back premiere outfit for the BAFTAs?” I’d have said that it was too informal and he needed true black tie wear for the award ceremony. I would have been completely wrong. What a difference a full perspective on the model, the right shirt, and an amazing shoe choice make.

Richard Armitage arrives at the red carpet for the 2010 TV BAFTAs. An exit from the car that augurs well. All of those twisting body parts, and the outfit cooperates smoothly and without protest. Source: Richard Armitage Net.

Again, a lot of the photos with the best details were taken by fans who have asked that they not be disseminated, so click the links to see some of the evidence for these assertions if you haven’t seen the photos already. These are just really, really nice pictures. The suit is not perfect, but here it does the opposite of what it did at the Strike Back premiere, and the effect is right on: it takes an ensemble on the very high end of casual and dresses it up to semi-formal with a fantastic shirt and the bowtie, which involve not only the right style elements, but also fit correctly. Armitage looks stylish but not overdone, and above all comfortable and at home in his clothes, which is the basis of all good style.

The crowning touch, of course, are the boots with the single buckle at the base of the ankle, with which Armitage showed that he knows how to create a style that suits him, is fully appropriate, and incorporates his own personal signature. I also like the symbolism of an individual style choice that suggests he’s got his feet firmly on the ground, because that’s the beginning of everything else.

So bravo, Mr. Armitage! If you hadn’t just stated that you had no romantic life, I’d really have suspected that you’d gotten involved with a person who had taken your wardrobe in hand. Maybe it’s just a really effective personal shopper. Or maybe this is all you. Whatever the circumstances: I apologize for ever, ever doubting you (and for articulating the detailed reasons for my doubt in approximately twelve thousand words on the Internet over the course of the last week).

Let’s look at some more details.

Richard Armitage at 2010 BAFTA TV awards. Source: Richard Armitage Net. Most convincing: as in the Strike Back pictures, the collar and lapels of the coat fit perfectly. Everywhere you see it, the coat collar hugs the shirt collar precisely. I am annoyed by the visible top-stitching on the lapels, of course. Different from the Strike Back pictures: he’s wearing the perfect shirt here. It’s the right size for his upper body, so no bagging and wrinkling across the front, and the collar fits his throat perfectly. It is the right size and is worn low to the throat so we can see his neck. The bowtie is in correct proportion to the turn-down collar. From this view, everything is right.

Richard Armitage at the 2010 TV BAFTAs. Source: Richard Armitage Net. You can see here the effect of the waist suppression discussed above — it enhances both the waist and the shoulders — but also the briefness of the nipping in, one presumes in order to accommodate the posterior. The skirt of this jacket bears a certain similarity in shape to British hunt coats, which are designed to allow the splay of posterior and thigh that occurs while riding. You can also see the effectiveness of this waist construction from the side view. From that perspective, note also that the trousers’ break at the boots is absolutely right and totally swoonworthy. Even so, I feel confirmed in my judgment that these pants were either a bit too small, or should have been pleated, as the rear pressing creases are also stretched out of the fabric, but the rear vent reappeared here to advantage.

Richard Armitage at the 2010 TV BAFTAs. Source: Richard Armitage Net. The construction of the jacket facilitates relatively free movement that neither ruins the line of the garment nor disguises the figure of the wearer.

Richard Armitage at the 2010 TV BAFTAs. Source: Richard Armitage Net. Particularly from the front, the shoulders of the jacket appear solid, smooth, and stable, parting correctly from the front darts to outline Mr. Armitage’s upper chest musculature. Admittedly, the back of the jacket is a slight disappointment; this particular placement of the jacket’s sleeveheads, in very attenuated relationship to Mr. Armitage’s actual shoulders, appears to cause some pooling of fabric under the armpits. He almost always has the opposite problem of not enough material under the shoulders. But we’ve seen much, much worse in previous ensembles and probably should be grateful.

Richard Armitage at the 2010 TV BAFTAs. Source: Richard Armitage Net. He’s also gotten his hair cut since the Strike Back premiere, and I just wanted to say how nice it looks. Though that look, with the little curls at the nape of his neck, was sweet, this look is commanding. Indeed, the whole look is commanding, as the BAFTA photo of his arrival documents.

 Richard Armitage at the 2010 TV BAFTAs. Source: Richard Armitage Net. I also felt like he got real payoff from this suit in terms of how he wanted to appear as a presenter. If you are going to gesture with your arms to make a point, the suppressed waist jacket helps to make those gestures visible. In general, looking good in such a simple but individual way will almost never damage the performance of sincerity.

Richard Armitage at the 2010 BAFTA TV awards, seated next to the delightful Miranda Raison. Source: Richard Armitage Net.

Need to take the tie off, Mr. Armitage? I believe the canon of British manners requires that you obtain the lady’s permission before removing any garments at a formal occasion, but you’ve got mine even if you don’t have Ms. Raison’s. Go ahead, you really earned it.

This is what I thought, and I’ve now brought it to a laborious end by sharing with you every detail. Tomorrow: how I felt about it.

~ by Servetus on June 13, 2010.

39 Responses to “On the abandonment of ill-fitting suits: Or, Armitage resartus, part 3”

  1. A feast for the eyes – fascinating post! Interesting to see you mostly approve of his recent Bafta look ans why. The way he “dressed up” his suit – some see this as evidence he doesn’t know how to dress! Mind you this is a small group – ok, I counted 2 or 3 people 😀 – but it was still funny to read the few notes of disapproval.

    Btw the David Venni shoot happened in October or before that. The whole photoshoot had already been posted at Celebrity Pictures when the Daily Mail article came out in October ’09.


    • Thanks for your kind words and for the definite date; I’m grateful to have that information and I’ll alter that throughout the blog when I get the chance.

      The question you raise is interesting, i.e., is this evidence he doesn’t know how to dress or evidence that he’s deciding on his own what to wear and why. Some of the answer has to do with context, right? I found in looking at the other men’s outfits at the event that there was really a wide variety of interpretations of black tie. There’s one picture of a man with a cummerbund, for example, which is very traditional, serious black tie, and I can’t see Mr. Armitage ever going that far — it would be hard to keep in place given his posterior. Things may be different in Britain and several men there were obviously wearing things in place of a tie that were totally thumbing their nose at the convention. So I don’t think that outfit really belongs in the category of épater le bourgeois. Given his stated emphasis on the importance he places on politeness, it’s hard to believe that he’d be intentionally being rude.

      That leaves either: he doesn’t know how to dress, or he is making his own decisions. Given that he’s dressed conventionally the last two times he was at this event, he clearly knows how to dress. It just doesn’t really work for him, either with his body or his comfort zone.

      That leaves: he is making his own decisions. I think given the drastic change over the last year he must have gotten some help. But what’s decisive for me is how well he looks in this ensemble, both in terms of its fit and his own energy.

      I worry about him ending up in LA. It could be hard for him. People are really cruel.


  2. Truly fascintaing! I usually don’t mind having a look at what the ladies wear to such events, but the men never merit a second glance. I feel I’m learning a great deal about men’s tailoring, as well as being able to study Richard from every angle.

    Thanks for expanding another new horizon, servetus. It was actually a relief to learn that you liked what you saw at this year’s Baftas as you really know your stuff. I loved the look and thought the shoes/boots perfect. Tomorrow’s post sounds like the juiciest in your series.


    • Glad not to disappoint, MillyMe.

      First principle of buying a men’s suit: make sure the back seam, shoulders, and armholes fit correctly. Everything else proceeds from that.


  3. Maybe Sky people have something to do with the recent suit as he wore it to the SB premier and represented SB on the BAFTAs as well (he was announced as RA from SB or something, not from Spooks)? Everyone was well dressed at the SB premier (at least to my untrained eye) and they did seem to have some dress code to make sure they look good as a group, both RA and AL in dark suits with white shirts and open collar etc..


    • Good thinking. That seems really plausible to me, jane. It was Sky people who cranked up the Bond discussion again, and this change would fit in that pattern, as would that cheesy animation of him adjusting his tie in their online stuff. Though that suit doesn’t fit very well, and whoever put him in that tie has no idea how to tie a Windsor knot.

      I wondered, too, if they had coordinated the men’s outfits.


  4. Perhaps it’s also that he can now afford to rent, or buy, a better suit, or better sartorial advice. I’m thinking of the recently acquired steel-grey hardtop convertible BMW here – a decent income after years of scraping by may be allowing him to indulge a different image of himself these days. He may also be allowing himself to believe that premieres and award ceremonies are going to be part of his repertoire from now on – a role he can commit to and embrace.

    A really absorbing analysis Servetus – I itched to forward it to his agents, who you’d imagine would have a care about such things. Now I understand why those earlier pictures of Richard in ill-fitting togs always make me feel uncomfortable for him.

    I share your concern about how he might get burned by the bonfire of the LA vanities. Not that I have any in-depth knowledge of this, but I can’t forget his painful anecdote about trying to shake an LA film prducer’s hand, and being rudely rebuffed and having his confidence shattered. I don’t want him to ever get hardened to that kind of world.


    • I don’t know but I doubt somehow that we will see him more “polished” in the future and as a frequent guest of award shows and premiers. If he had wanted that he could have had it years ago, after all actors of a similar degree of fame appear publicly a lot more often than he does. And the car? That is fulfilling every boy’s dream as soon as he could afford it.


      • I put that badly jane – I don’t think either that he enjoys doing these public appearances, or wants to do more of them. He’s said that himself in interviews.

        But he may feel he’s established enough now to have to turn in a couple of these performances every year – so he might as well upgrade to a decent suit!


        • I can only compare this in my life to the choice to buy regalia for academic celebrations. I got the hood when I got my doctorate, but I didn’t buy all the other stuff. I’ve been wearing rented or borrowed regalia all these years (sometimes from universities I didn’t attend). There’s some kind of tipping point that one allegedly reaches where one commits and says “this is something I’ll be doing regularly even if I am ambivalent about it and I’ll buy the rig” or sticks with “I am so ambivalent about this I’m going to put up with the situation.” It’s early days, but this outfit tends to suggest he’s reached some kind of equilibrium with regard to this sort of obligation. It’ll be interesting to see if he repeats this outfit for the next similar event, regresses, or moves on to something different.

          The BMW is an interesting choice in terms of living out one’s car fantasies. I love them, but it’s not exactly wild and crazy. Just a high quality article with a corresponding price, which he apparently takes extremely good care of. One could see similarities to a really high quality bespoke suit there …


  5. Excellent. Keeping your posts for my (equally short, but sewing-trained friend – she knows a thing or two about making the clothes fit the woman!)

    Have long felt rather sorry for men, the shirt + tie conformity. Perhaps something similar applies to women on the Red Carpet. But is there not just a little more room for manoeuvre for us? Or is there? Well, I’m not an actress or Red Carpet, but the uplift bras and stiletto heels would have me tripping over the Carpet and gasping for breath…


    • Interesting question, who has more room for maneuver. An early BF for whom I tried to pick out ties asked me politely to stop, because he said he felt the tie was the only part of the ensemble he had any control over choosing himself. So I have the impression men think they have less room for choice. On the other hand, that makes some decisions easier, as long as there is an option one likes. Although of course one can choose to obsess over the correct tie as well.

      This question about how much room there is for non-conformity in men’s styles is one reason that the prospect of LA makes me nervous. This outfit was great but I could see it appearing in People magazine in one of those “this was the wrong choice” articles, precisely with the complaint that it was too informal. LA red carpets are really rigid in their expectations for men.


  6. It will be a long way from trying to get an audition for a TV series or a small part in a movie to appearing on red carpets in LA and be famous enough that People magazine would bother to notice him. So far not even British media have bothered to report about his red carpet appearances. If People mag takes notice of his existence it will be because he has made it, no matter if the suit is perfectly tailored or not. So many actresses get criticized for their cloths (and no wonder, they have to wear something different for every event) but does it really matter?


    • I think (or hope) it doesn’t matter to those actresses. And clearly some people like to get noticed for outrageous or egregious dressing. It’s just the Richard Armitage strikes me as belonging to neither of these categories. I am a bit motherly, I guess.

      My read on People mag is that it would pick up someone like Armitage as a sort of limited flavor of the month, as, e.g., it did with Goran Visnjic when he was starring in ER. IMO he’s unlikely to attain the sort of celebrity that would get him regular features (like Brangelina, etc.) unless he did either commit to working in the US indefinitely and did play a role with the visibility of Bond. It’s the smaller articles, where the B-list people appear, that are the most biting.

      I guess in sum I’d rather not see as a regular entry in the either the US or the British boulevard press. It seems more likely he could control that in England, though, than in the U.S. A lot of it depends on the advice he would get. If his U.S. agent told him to be more publicly visible, would he? Would he be up for the potential notoriety and constantly flashing cameras if that were a necessary prerequisite for obtaining the kind of roles he wants?

      Again, I am on record as loving this appearance. I only wanted to add the caveat that it wouldn”t play the same way at all in the United States.


      • My guess is that just like he does at the moment he would only do the minimum of the required interviews and public appearances. It has been five years since N&S and four since RH1 and he has managed to keep a low profile and keep himself out of the tabloids completely. Some of us expected that to change with growing fame, knowing that other actors in the same league are a lot more “visible” and get a lot more attention by the press, but so far this hasn’t happen. To achieve some kind of celebrity status might have been beneficial for his career (and I’m sure he doesn’t need advisors to know that) but according to some interviews it was intentional not to do that.


        • I did try to connect the shoes choice to the theme of having your feet on the ground.

          I hope you’re right. I just think he has no idea what would await him in LA. The marketing machine is so much bigger, the markets being played too so much larger, the things thought to be at stake so much grander. He gives us the sense that he’s smart and well-intentioned and ethical. It’s just that makes me fear he could be ground up.

          But perhaps my fears are groundless. Hope so. I want him to get what he wants.


  7. LA makes me very nervous, too, for more than sartorial reasons. Which is not a comment on the contributions of either Hollywood at its best, or some excellent TV series over the decades. More a comment on what today’s media can do to even serious actors.

    Actually, I think the People mags and rags self-styled experts are even more vicious toward the females on the Carpet. (They’re definitley “on the carpet”!)

    Well, everyone has to “migrate” to where the work is. Calculated (hopefully) risk.


  8. Thanks servetus for another very edifying post about men’s tailoring and another chance to look at our dear RA from many different angles. I never realized, (until you pointed it out) what it was about those suits that was not working, but I just knew unconsciously that it wasn’t quite right.
    I do think we are a bit motherly when it comes to RA. He seems so endearing that he invokes it in us.
    As for our fears about him coming to the film mecca of Hollywood, I think we should be assured that the “powers that be” might be able to see something of the qualities that we adore in him. He needs to do it, and I have every confidence that he will succeed!


    • Beg to differ phylly3, I am not a bit motherly when it comes to RA!

      Regarding the Hollywood thing, I can only echo servetus words ‘I want him to get what he wants’ although the proverb ‘Be careful what you wish for’ also springs to mind.


      • Yeah, I know kaprekar.:) I don’t feel very motherly either!:P But you could understand how he might think we are! 🙂


        • Yeah, I felt increasingly motherly as these posts got longer and longer. “Let me see how that looks on you.” “Stand up straight, son!” “Button your shirt!” I got a bit annoyed with myself.

          On the other hand, when he is well dressed all of that just fades away. Ill-fitting clothes make him look vulnerable; that calls forth the mother instinct. Well-fitting clothes make him look hot and provoke all kinds of distinctly non-motherly reactions.


  9. As much as I appreciate the minutiae of your observations, I didn’t read the entire post. In the end, I am not sure what point you are making.

    I thought he looked great in the winged-collar. It just suits a man with a long neck. Most men would not be able to get away with it.

    I would also like to see, if you are arguing the ripples and strains of clothing, that you provide pictures of perfection that are just as candid so that we can compare. Photos come from different angles with different lighting and different stances, etc., etc., so I think a lot of your argument is based on insubstantial premises.

    I think that in the end, all great clothing is simply pleasing to the eye, projects a pleasing figure. IMO his figure is pleasing a large part of the time. I very much agree as well with a commenter down thread that he has a worker’s body.

    Regarding the BAFTA’s suit’s nipped waist and tapering trousers- very Savile Row. And what you see as a “pooling” at the back of the jacket looks like creases to me. As for his trousers being too tight, I don’t think that they are. They are not loose or billowy, that is all.

    As for the boots, I think they make an anti-conformity statement but they’re subtle enough that it’s more like ambivalence. Whatever. I appreciate the effort. So let’s talk about the meaning of boot buckles, especially in relation to tuxedoes. 🙂 That, indeed, is not subject to the vagaries of photography.


    • Hey, pi! Obviously we aren’t going to agree about everything, and in argument in which I present so much detail, eventually there are going to be differences in perception and evaluation. I try to point to lots of detail to complicate the picture as much as to clarify it. Indeed, in the disclaimer to the first post, I said that I did not have access to every perspective and that camera angles and lighting often created problems in assessing the issues. This post was specifically focused on his physical attributes as they interact with the current conventions in men’s tailoring. Unfortunately in my looking (obviously I didn’t look everywhere) I did not find good pictures of him in suits where I could clearly see features of his body, either as himself or in different roles. I also think his figure is pleasing, or I wouldn’t have written over 10k words about it! Up till now the pictures of him that I’ve seen have suggested to me that he looks best and feels most comfortable in casual clothes and that he often looks uncomfortable in and wears illfitting semiformal and formal clothes. I felt like he surmounted that issue to a striking degree at these BAFTAs, and that was what moved me. I am still editing what I wrote about the emotional aspects of it, but part of the process of figuring out what I feel always seems to be tracking down the details that affect me either subliminally or consciously. In my case, that is always a lot of detail, unfortunately.

      The buckle on the shoe continues to intrigue me. A lot of his appearances as himself seem to reflect ambivalence, and that’s part of his charm for me, as I’m pretty ambivalent about everything. It seemed to me that the buckles on the boots, in this case, along with the decision for this particular suit style as opposed to the traditional tuxedo, actually made ambivalence a statement, as I said about the outfit in general torward the beginning of the post. It’s not thumbing one’s nose at convention so much as insisting on one’s right to form the convention or at least that what one wears in divergence to the convention is legitimate in its own right. If that was what was happening, and to me his energy in the outfit suggested that, it represents a real gain for him, IMO.


  10. Servetus — You had me hooked with this three part dissertation on Mr. Armitage’s clothing! I have noticed during his interviews that his boots are usually a bit well-worn. Have you noticed that? (For example (s): See interviews on GMTV and BBC Breakfast Show). It doesn’t seem like clothes are not huge priority for him. I always felt that there was something a bit “off” in these pics, so thank you for taking the time to explain it. As his star rises, it does seem as though the clothes are improving. I am sure a stylist was called in for the BAFTAs. Another question for you… I thought the pants were a wee bit too short. What are your thoughts on this?

    Also in early interviews, he can be seen sporting necklaces, this is a fashion statement that I am so happy to see that he has done away with! What are your thoughts on this?


    • Thanks, @Rob. Great questions about stuff I’ve wondered about, too.

      1) Shoes / boots being well-worn. Yes. I am very interested in shoes, too, though I have often had a hard time understanding or being in tune with what English or European men see as stylish shoes. He appears to have big feet, but I didn’t write about it because I think that the camera angles in which we get the best glimpses of the shoes or feet almost always foreshorten them and thus potentially distort our view of them by making parts of them look artificially large. He may also have shoe-fitting problems that we can’t discern from photos. His feet do seem to be in proportion to his body. One difference I noticed between the 2009 and 2010 BAFTAs was that in 2009 the style of shoe he had on had a generous toe, a not atypical feature of certain sorts of men’s formal oxfords but one that does make the foot look larger, which he absolutely does not need. This year the shape of the shoe tapered from the ball of the foot to the toe, which I suppose could make it more uncomfortable if it didn’t fit correctly, but definitely reduces its silhouette. I suppose one assumes when dressing for the purpose of talkshow interviews that the camera will not spend much time on the feet, so he may have chosen comfortable shoes. As someone noted on the BAFTA report page at Richard Armitage Net, shoes are often the place where people who are otherwise dressed quite well let themselves down.

      2. On the pants: I’d be interested to read why you think they are too short. To some extent the answer depends on your style perspective. I think they were the correct length for the classic men’s suit silhouette or even just a centimeter too long. Looking at the photo of the suit from the side that I referenced above


      there’s a chink in the line of the trouser around the shin in that particular stance (and he has both knees hyperextended, which actually makes the legs slightly longer) when the trouser line should be straight and unbroken from the place it appears under the jacket until it hits the shoe (the “break”). A pleat might have helped, though I am still not convinced he needed a pleat, just another centimeter or so in he overall style of the top of the pant. This is not a shoe issue, as presumably the top of the boot extends at least two inches further inside the bottom of the trouser. But they look just right from the front. In several pictures I also saw some problem with the back of the hem on the left pant leg — couldn’t tell if this was a hem falling apart or just a section of it getting caught on the complex construction of the back of the shoe. They *were* too short if you are thinking of U.S. men’s suit styles over the last fifteen years or so. But look here, where the length is just perfect with the flexed knee:


      I don’t think that his pants needed to be longer in this outfit. A longer trouser would have bagged at the ankle and made his legs look shorter. I agree that he doesn’t need to wear styles that make his legs look longer (e.g., Mr. Thornton outfits), but the long legs balance out the generous posterior. One of the most striking things about the BAFTA suit was the way that it balanced out every occasionally problematic proportion in his body. His shoulders look strong but not overwhelming, his waist is at the right place, his posterior and upper thigh are either covered or balanced out (mostly), and his legs look long and lithe.

      The more I look at this outfit the more I agree with pi, despite my reservations about the top of the trousers and the topstitching on the lapels, that it must have been bespoke. There’s no way that off the rack, even altered, could have created this impression.

      3. Necklaces: yeah, I am glad not to see them anymore, either, but I think he is still wearing them. If you look closely at the Varekai gala premiere pic, which was taken only about six months ago, you can see some kind of chain around his neck. I assume he is wearing it for personal reasons, i.e., there is some sort of significant talisman or memento there, or it’s something someone important to him has given him. Even if it is a style choice that he’s hiding because someone has criticized it, I didn’t comment on it, as it is no longer distracting, and what we can’t see doesn’t harm his image.


  11. After reviewing the pics, I have decided it doesn’t matter if he pants are a smidge too short, because I am still dazzeled. I see the “break” on the side. In any event, I am just crazy about a sharp dressed man! And as you said, so glad that someone has taken him in hand and put him in a proper fitting suit that shows off his “assests.” It is so good to see him happy and confident working the red carpet. It is amazing how clothing can transform a person.


    • LOL, because there is an Armitage fanvid to “Sharp Dressed Man” that I almost linked to these posts.

      I am still dazzled, too, after almost two weeks.


  12. […] developing into true stalking behavior. I thought about this when I pushed “publish” on the last of the clothing posts. “Now,” I thought, “you’ll never be able to try to meet the man in person. […]


  13. […] was horrified in June and July by the number of words I generated regarding questions of identity, Armitage’s formal clothing and on the problems around Genevieve O’Reilly in Spooks 8. Every attempt to write about Mr. […]


  14. […] I’ve been reluctant to make normative recommendations on larger issues, beyond things like what he should be looking for in a suit. That doesn’t mean I haven’t; aside from the discussion about what he should say about […]


  15. […] I guess. Cough again.) But I do have the protective impulse myself. It shows up in my case when I see him badly dressed (see photo at right). And I wonder where it comes from. Do George Clooney’s fans want to […]


  16. […] — either because I wasn’t prepared to confess to these things in public, like at the end of the “Armitage resartus” series, where I said I would talk about how I felt about his clothing transformation, and then never did […]


  17. […] Uch, the clothes. Seriously, what did I spend all this time on, writing about how you should pick clothes, if you’re just going to let people put badly fitting stuff on you anyway?? Mr. Armitage, […]


  18. […] BAFTA appearance has really marked a positive change in his public appearances in dress clothes. Whoever dressed him for that figured out how to back just slightly off the black tie standard in way… Clothes that fit well, enhance comfort, and allow you to forget yourself really enhance your […]


  19. […] Armitage involves an act of distancing. For example: I write three separate posts (one, two, three) about his wardrobe, but it takes me over a year to say what I really think about […]


  20. […] from writing about them. The Porter soldier desert army boots. The Guy of Gisborne S3 boots. The boots with heel buckle that he wore to the BAFTA 2010 red carpet. Something about even his personal shoe choices makes him seem so […]


  21. […] kind of discussion, you might enjoy three posts from 2010: Armitage resartus, part 1 and part 2 and part 3. Posted more recently but buried under the publicity for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey are two […]


  22. […] “On the abandonment of ill-fitting suits, or: Armitage resartus, part 3.” June 13, 2010. Continuation of #2, specifically about the BAFTA […]


  23. […] As for me — because people tend to hate it in when I say how I feel immediately — and by temperament, predictably, at some point, some detail of his clothing will catch my eye, as the cuff button did last year, or the trouser break. I live for the trouser break because I’m such an Armitage boots freak, and I’ll write a whole history of how The Armitage has worn or not worn this style feature before. That’s more or less my point of entry into this — I’m not dressing a man these days, even when I did I didn’t have high end brands at my disposal or men whose bodies fit well into those clothes, and so I don’t follow men’s high fashion very closely. I don’t know enough about what’s in to tell him whether he should wear Zegna or Tom Ford or Helmut Lang — I just know what I like in men’s clothing fit and features, can gush on about it for a long time, and can make basic recommendations about features to look for. […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: