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11. April 2021

Silver Screen Revisited — House of Cards (original UK trilogy)


Bob The wardrobe builder

Most of you probably know about (or have seen) House of Cards, the American political thriller, set in Washington featuring the ruthless power-seeking couple, Frank and Claire Underwood. It’s a safe bet, however, that fewer of you know about the original British House of Cards trilogy, a three-part mini-series made in the 1990s with another scheming pair, Francis and Elizabeth Urquhart. For me, this original version is political drama at its best. So much so that I have not felt the need to watch a single episode of the later US production. I’ll focus exclusively on the original. 

As ever in our Silver Screen Revisited pieces, we won’t spend much time on the content of the series, or on the characters’ personalities. We won’t be able to do them justice, nor do we want to provide any spoilers for those of you who have not seen the programmes. Instead, as we have done in previous SSR articles, we will focus on the classic menswear. And in the original HoC, there is so much style to talk about. 

There were twelve episodes in total, with three series — House of Cards (1990), To Play the King (1993) and The Final Cut (1995) — each having 4 episodes. When looking at the men’s style, Francis Urquhart is the best character to focus on, as he is the main protagonist and appears in every episode. FU’s style is that of a traditional British aristo — during the week, it’s all dark suits, white or subtly-striped shirts, and usually a striped tie (either from Eton College, or the Scots Guards). Sometimes, he wears ties with a small, discreet pattern. His shirt collars are semi-cutaway, his cuffs are double. And, guess what — he wears his ties with a banana knot! To top it all off, he is often wearing a covert coat with a velvet collar when outdoors in town. 

On the one hand, Urquhart’s style is almost cliché, ticking every stereotypical box you’d imagine for somebody with his background.  On the other hand, our main protagonist wears his clobber so naturally, with confidence and élan, that it would be difficult to imagine him dressed any other way. Indeed, when you are to the manor born, as FU was, it would probably never occur to you to dress differently. 

On weekends, his style is as traditional as that seen during the work week. Tweed jackets, corduroy trousers, tattersall shirts and knitted ties, mostly in very earthy colours, are his accoutrements of choice. With a sprawling house in the country and loads of land, this clothing lends itself to the rural pursuits that FU inevitably fills his Saturdays and Sundays with.

All of the above is quite compatible with the stuff we love at the House of Mogg. Classic British business and weekend wear tick most of our boxes, and Francis Urquhart wears it all as well as anybody ever has, either in real life or fiction. But (and you knew it was coming), we’d have a few small suggestions to make. FU almost always wears single-breasted lounge suits, 3-piece with a single-breasted waistcoat. And, to be sure, as we said above, the style really suits him. So, we probably couldn’t (nor shouldn’t) try to talk him over to our double-breasted style. Nonetheless, we would try to guide him towards our higher buttoning one- or three-button single breasted jackets. They’d look on point with his favoured 3-piece suits, and still be consistent with the look he wears regularly. 

Beyond this, because his traditional style is so appropriate for him, we wouldn’t try to push him too far off-piste (although we’d be tempted to get him in some of our brilliant multi-striped shirts). Urquhart, though, knows what he wants, likes what he likes, and is probably not one for our more aggressive style flourishes. And, that is perfectly fine. We at Bleibtreustraße could easily meet his sartorial needs!

BTwb / PPS