In the BBC TV series The Serpent gem dealer, conman and murderer Charles Sobhraj (Tahar Rahim) arrives in Hong Kong to the the wailing funk of James Gang, in a single breasted blue powder suit. The suit is cut from original DAKS fabric, has notched, wide-lapels, jetted skirt pockets and a single welt breast pocket.
The shoulders are reasonably wide giving him the illusion of strength. The suit jacket have two buttons and the break point meets the trouser waist which allow the lapels to drape. The jacket sleeves are equipped with 4 button working buttons. Charles doesn’t do up the first button allowing him more freedom of movement when handling the gems and drugging his victims with a sleight of hand.
About those sunglasses
The flat front trousers have a high rise and Charles contrasts the look beautifully with a black silk shirt. The frocks and suits were lovingly sourced from 70’s stock and redesigned by stylist Adam Howe.
A lot has been made of the vintage sunglasses worn throughout The Serpent and they were sourced through Bridges and Brows on Columbia Road, London. Brands used for the series were a mix of Silhouette, Metzler, Hilton, Safilo. Whilst not being particularly age appropriate they certainly achieved the desired effect.
We’re meant to believe that Charles has terrific style and can afford bespoke suits as he is measured for one in a montage scene. It’s important that he looks like the host of the party and he does this by being the most classically dressed. When he is not wearing a suit jacket his shirt is always tucked in, his hair is neatly swept, his denim jacket is fitted and colour co-ordinated.
Another small window into the characters psyche is given by the monogrammed detailing on the cuff that reads C.B. Perhaps a curious detail given that Charles was going under the alias Alain to his close friends, and various other aliases during the course of the show.
Nevertheless it is an indication that Charles plays close attention to details, and one could argue that a personalised detail like this on his cuff, can only compound his narcissism.
Another wonderful standout in the show is Herman Knippenberg, a ‘company man’ from the Dutch Embassy played by Billy Howle. Herman wears two suits throughout. One grey glen check with framed lapels, and this light grey cotton wool suit in a Birdseye fabric.
Like Charles’ powder blue suit this is also cut from 1970’s DAKS original. There is a deep single vent at the back and the trousers have a generous boot cut.
Whilst Herman isn’t afforded the showy flamboyance of Charles, he is nonetheless keen to make an impression and distinguish himself from his apathetic peers. Whilst other ambassadors wear regimental striped ties, he wears an assortment of psychedelic ties composed of luminous green, golds, purples cut from 70’s Gucci vintage and up-cycled fabric sourced in Bangkok. His spectacles are vintage Metzler and he wears a vintage Seiko watch throughout.
Ajay Chowdhury played by Amesh Edireweera is a willing accomplice in Charles’ grand scheme. However, Ajay is more emblematic of the hippie culture with his unkempt hair and 70s budgie jacket.
This look is perfect for the character who’s task it is to groom the unwitting travellers back to Charles’ hotel so they can be manipulated. Ajay needs to be seen as the life and soul of the party, but not the head of the network.
Information sourced through various Instagram feeds. Some images within this post are the copyright of their respective movie studio. They are reproduced here under the Fair Use doctrine. The Serpent is currently available on the BBC iPlayer. Listen to the soundtrack on BBC Sounds.
I am currently looking to identify the gold watch Charles wears. If you have any clue then please get in touch and I will credit you accordingly.
Update: Brian Dobson from JBR seems to think this could be a Vintage Longines. Do you agree?
Costume designer Rachel Walsh was recently interviewed for The Metro newspaper about her work on The Serpent.
The Serpent, is based on the book, On the Trail of the Serpent by