Photography by Mr Scott Trindle | Styling by Mr Dan May
Words by Mr Mansel Fletcher
Why do you always wear a suit?
Jarvis Cocker was once asked that. He said, "You never know who you might bump into." Which I thought was brilliant. I've never quite accepted the way I look, so I think that a suit, if properly made, is always going to be a better shape than I am. That's what people buy clothes for.
And why blue?
I respond to dark blue more than any other colour. I resist black, I don't know why I don't like black, but it doesn't make me comfortable. I feel uneasy even standing next to a man who's wearing a black suit.
Surely you wear black tuxedos, given your line of work?
Black dinner jackets are regrettable; I have a new midnight-blue barathea dinner jacket from the tailor at Dunhill which is very satisfying and takes away from the tyranny of the black evening suit.
Can anyone tell that it's blue?
Your brain would receive it in a more successful way. You'd relax, you may not be aware of it, but you'd relax in a way that you perhaps wouldn't if I was wearing a black suit. I think you'd feel better.
And the perfect suit is what?
Very simple, lightweight, two-piece, two-button and it'd be single vent, two buttons on the sleeve, not a particularly wide lapel, not particularly styled, not a waisted jacket. It would have a single pleat, relatively narrow trousers, which you'd wear reasonably short, so they hit the shoe correctly. My new quest is for a softer shoulder, structured but soft.
What image are you trying to convey?
John Pearse [a London tailor] made me laugh one time because we were talking about a raised seam on a pair of trousers, which I used to favour. I went to see him about a suit, and he said, "And will we persevere with the raised seam?" And I said, "Yes, I think we will. Do you not agree?" And he said, "Yes, I do agree, I think it goes some way to that artisan feel that we're always reaching for." It just made me laugh. It was the "reaching for". I said, "Is that what we're reaching for?" I don't want to look as if I come from Provence, I want to look urban, but people should be able to relax around me.
Is trouser length important?
Puddles [excess fabric] on the top of your shoes, that's a horror. I have a friend, a girl, who judges men by the way their trousers arrive on their shoes. It's such a delicate matter. My stomach turns when they pin them in a shop and say, "How's that?" They've just pinned it! It's so approximate, such a gamble.
Are you equally inflexible when it comes to shirts?
Generally. I don't know what it is? I've become phobic about white shirts. Blue is always going to be softer. I go to Margaret Howell for shirts.
What about shoes?
Church's makes very beautiful Oxfords. I don't think it gets better. I don't want anything longer, pointier or sharper. I can't relax around that - there is a point at which the conversation is over.
How do you dress when you're out of town?
Am I going to suddenly start wearing green, or brown? It's never going to happen! I once went to Chamonix. I made no concessions at all. I wore a two-piece navy suit, a Crombie coat, a trilby and a pair of black shoes. I turned up looking like the Blues Brothers.
Mr Nighy stars in Page Eight (2011) as a long-serving MI5 officer
Mr Nighy and Ms Romola Garai star in the 2009 WWII thriller Glorious 39
Mr Nighy's (third from left) upcoming release, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, follows a group of British retirees in an elderly home in Bangalore
Don't these strictures make for a boring wardrobe?
It's a limited palette for good reason. I've selected the things that please me, so it could be seen as a limited palette, or it could be seen as a distillation of all that's good.
Have you always dressed in such a conservative way?
There aren't many things that make me exult about myself, but one of them is that I never wore cowboy boots and - obviously - I never undid anything but the top button of my shirt.
What would be wrong with that?
There is no reason for undoing the next one. I can't rationalise or justify the unbuttoning of the second button. It would suggest that I want you to see more of my "top", and the only reason for wanting to see more of my top is that I consider it to be worth a look. And I don't.
So are guys wrong to think that girls will find it attractive if they undo a few shirt buttons?
Girls seem to like it. I made a film in India recently, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I play a rather buttoned-up Englishman and in the final scene I ride a motorbike and I was supposed to look as though I was free. I was persuaded to undo the second button and all the women were like, "There you are! That's better!" Like they'd been waiting. I said, "You're weirdos, all of you." Judi [Dench] was saying, "That's more like it." I really don't understand.
Is it fair to say you're not comfortable with your body?
I don't even want to be around myself when I've got nothing on. Even when there's no one else there, I still can't wait to get dressed in the morning. It's always going to be more pleasing if I'm wearing something.
So what do you wear on holiday? A linen suit?
I don't go on holiday, probably because I don't have anything to wear. I have a phobia of linen. You can never trust a man in a linen suit. I come from a long line of men who've been avoiding beige through history. John Pearse made a beautiful blue seersucker suit for when I was filming in India.
Is it fair to imagine you don't like shorts?
I wouldn't wear shorts. I don't think there's any excuse for that unless you're involved in some sort of sport.
How has all this madness impinged on your career?
I have turned down parts because you'd have to wear terrible things - it's a serious consideration. People used to say, "There's a certain lack of classical work on your CV." And I'd say, "It's because I can't operate in those kind of trousers." I used to say it as a joke, but it's true. I can only really operate in a decent lounge suit.
Mr Nighy plays Grandsanta in Arthur Christmas, a film from Aardman, the British animation studio behind Wallace and Gromit. Out now in the UK, 23 November in the USA and 24 November in Australia and Hong Kong.