The early years
In 1962, when Sean Connery was introduced as Lieutenant Commander James Bond in Dr. No, the movie established many of the habits that would be associated with the secret agent, including a penchant for impeccable clothes.
Even if the first movie had a rather tight budget of USD 1 million, the creators took a personal approach in building Bond’s wardrobe. According to costume designer Linda Hemming, the collar and the cuffs of the tuxedo Connery wore on screen were based on the details of author Ian Fleming’s own clothes.
In a favorite bit of trivia, Director Terrence Young, who had the suits made by his tailor Anthony Sinclair, was said to have instructed Connery to wear them constantly, even in his sleep, to make sure the actor acquired the sophistication necessary to pull off a dapper look. Royal Warrant shirt makers Turnbull & Asser created the double-cuffed look that Bond would later adopt as his signature. As a calculating, if suave operative, Bond was often decked in black, gray, and even more gray. To break the monotony, he donned a navy serge jacket with silver buttons over his gray trousers.
Single-breasted, two-button suits were favored, with Connery’s muscular physique softened by a nipped waist and draped chest. The result was a character that was well dressed but essentially anonymous, a nod to Fleming’s original intention of creating a character that could disappear in a crowd.
When George Lazenby took over as Bond in 1969 in the movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the franchise made the spy a bit more human. (Bond the womanizer actually gets married.) As well as uncharacteristically tender scenes, the movie also provided audiences with the indelible image of James Bond in full Scottish attire.
Adapting to the times
Roger Moore introduced a flashier 007 in Live and Let Die. He played Bond with more humor and flamboyance, qualities reflected in his clothes. While the understated hand of Savile Row tailors were evident in earlier Bond suits, the Moore era was marked by more contemporary fashion. Over the next 12 years, it would be more pronounced as Moore wore a gray and red plaid jacket paired with black trousers and a gold-buckled belt in The Man with the Golden Gun. The range of colors, the narrower cut of the chest, and the slight flare of the trousers referenced a more relaxed 70s.
The visual disparity between Moore’s Bond and the actors that played the spy before him was deliberate. The character was made more palatable to a modern, more free-spirited audience. Gone were Sinclair’s three-piece suits, replaced by sports jackets and trousers in brown and khaki. By the next decade, excess became the name of the game. Timothy Dalton’s Bond in The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill followed suit, wearing clothes with strong shoulders, wide lapels, and low-button stances. The roomier cut showed that 007 wasn’t afraid of either villains or extra fabric.
The Modern Bond
There was a six-year hiatus before James Bond made an appearance on film again. When he re-emerged, Pierce Brosnan brought him to the new century. The franchise, beginning with GoldenEye, had to reintroduce Bond to an audience unfamiliar with the spy and his habits. At the same time, the half-a-century-old secret agent needed millennial rejiggering.
In terms of plot, the Brosnan-led films were rooted in current realities. International cartels and terrorists replaced the single, powerful villain. The wardrobe turned international and cosmopolitan, too.
Bespoke suits made by a single tailor was out. The Italian company Brioni went to work on the new Bond suits. Linda Hemming, who returned to work on the movies, said that the use of a company with access to a factory was a matter of practicality. Filming the scenes, especially action sequences, required that several copies of the suit be made in a manner that kept with the production schedule.
Brioni came up with exquisitely finished suits that had button stances placed low to modernize their appearance. The suits were cut closer to the body for a leaner look. The length of the jackets took advantage of Brosnan’s long frame. The result was a look that was debonair as always but also luxurious. It wiped out the mysterious figure envisioned in Fleming’s novels and replaced it with a paparazzi-ready celebrity. As the latest Bond, Daniel Craig played a rough-around-the-edges spy in Casino Royale. Ergo, his wardrobe was made more accessible. In one of the chase scenes, Bond wears a pair of chocolate brown Converse Jack Purcells. In Quantum of Solace, he dons a pair white Levi’s.
But the dressed-down instances only put in relief the scenes showing Craig clad in a sharp Tom Ford tuxedo. When he emerges from the ocean in baby blue La Perla swim trunks, a reference to Connery’s blue shorts in Thunderball, the collective gasp is not just for Craig’s raw hotness but also for the style choices that hint at the trademark suaveness that’s to come.
This story first appeared in Vault Magazine "Bond Issue" 2012.