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The Spy Who Came out of the Closet - Part 4

27 May, 2005

It's not what Bond wears, but the way that he wears it.

To understand the reasoning behind the choices of the following items, I refer you all to the previous three articles in the series, especially part 3, which attempts to unravel Fleming's motivation in choosing one product or brand over another.

Read the previous The Spy Who Came Out of the Closet articles: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

The 'List'.

The first thing I should own up to is that this is not really a list at all. With so many sources it's often impossible to pin down a specific item in a given category. What I've attempted to do is discuss the more obvious items and some of the various alternatives that have been presented. Occasionally, where there is no specific item mentioned in the text or films, I've given a best guess based on various references such as Fleming's biographies or earlier manuscripts of the novels.

Part 4: It's not what Bond wears,
but the way that he wears it.

So, what exactly are these classic items?

Suits:savile row

I've covered the sources of the numerous suits fairly comprehensively in the previous articles and postings on the forum, but anyone wanting more specific detail is welcome to contact me.

This is probably the most expensive item in your wardrobe, and if it's your first or if you're only buying one, go for a plain fabric and style that can be worn on many occasions. Charcoal grey, single breasted is a good Bondian choice, though black or navy can be equally versatile. Look for 100% wool on the label, not an easy-care polyester mix which will always look cheap. Always try the suit on with the centre or 'balance' button fastened to check the fit, and get used to fastening this button while wearing a suit - it gives a much better look. You might feel the suit is too conservative, but it's the overall look that counts and all of the other wardrobe items add up to something with an understated class that has always looked good on Bond.

Avoid overtly fashionable details such as 4 or 5 button fronts, flappy lapels or flares - unless you're going for a '70's Moore theme. Two button is favoured by Connery but three can still be discreet if you only fasten the centre or lower button. The 1960s look is starting to transcend fashion and move into 'classic' status (proceed with caution here), and if you do want something with a sixties flavour, Oswald Boateng's collections take clear inspiration from the Conduit Cut. There are many high street brands that offer something of excellent quality, style and value, and as you go up in price you can experiment with the various stores 'tailoring' services, where an off-the-peg suit is adjusted for a better fit. As you spend more, look for quality details such as hand-stitching on the lapels, working cuff buttons and less fusing in the construction.

If you can afford the services of a real tailor, you can specify exactly what you want and go for a fully bespoke suit, where the tailor builds a suit around you rather than adjusting a pre-existing item to fit. But knowing exactly what you want and being able to translate this effectively to a tailor is something you only gain after years of experience in wearing suits. My advice would be to wear off-the-peg items until you feel sufficiently confident or frustrated over not being able to find what you're looking for. Working with a tailor can be a pleasant, if expensive way, to go quietly mad.

Shirts:

The infamous Bond shirt from the novels and films is a Sea Island cotton variety (although he also chose silk on some occasions) from Turnbull & Asser on Jermyn St, London. Although the firm isn't specifically mentioned in the novels, Fleming, Young, Connery, Lazenby, Moore and Brosnan all shopped here so it's as close to being the 'official' shirt as you're going to find. The definitive Connery item, which featured in all of the films up to and including TMWTGG, has what T&A call their 'standard' collar shape, which doesn't date, but you can be more flamboyant if you wish. The quality of construction is what you pay for in these shirts: single needle stitching for the seams and a collar made up from separate layers (rather than fusing again) that gives a much-prized, gentle ruffled effect after a few washes.

Fleming had a peculiar passion for short-sleeved shirts with a suit (never a good look), allegedly because he disliked dirty cuffs, but I've searched in vain for any definitive evidence that he passed this quirk on to his hero. In fact, even whilst in Nassau (Thunderball) Fleming describes Bond as wearing his normal suit, silk shirt and knitted silk tie with his only concession to the tropics being the black leather sandals on his bare feet. Not a good look, by the way.

If it's the film Bond you'd like to emulate, the shirt cuffs are important; although there were isolated incidents where links and French cuffs have been worn, the cuffs on all the shirts up until TSWLM were more usually of the turned back variety, without cufflinks. The esteemed Willie Garvin recently offered a very pragmatic argument for this, in that the choice was made specifically because the use of cufflinks might snag in a fight or other boisterous behaviour. I've never seen this validated anywhere, but it's a nice theory. Their use also gives a more expensive, bespoke look than a standard buttoned cuff, without the ostentation of a cufflink. What could be more Bondian than that? As a side benefit the sleeves are also easier to roll-up than with a cufflink-cuff. Brosnan-Bond wears French cuffs and links with his suits, despite all of Lindy Hemming's assurances that his is a 'back-to-basics' style.

One final observation is that Connery chose the turnback cuff for his turnback appearance as 007 in NSNA. There was a subtle variation to the cuff here, in that it featured a small button to secure the trailing edge, which used to constantly snag on his jacket sleeves during his earlier films.

As for other details, I always avoid having a front pocket, for a cleaner look. For colours, Bond chooses plain whites, pale blue and pale cream - an example you should follow, at least initially, and experiment from there. If you want to wear your suit without a tie (I'm not sure that Fleming would approve), you could try a subtle check.

It isn't known whether Moore switched allegiance to another firm from TSWLM-on, but the association between T&A survived on and off up until the fourth film of the Brosnan era; for DAD the traditional brand seems to have been supplanted with yet-more product placement for Brioni.

If you can't afford T&A Sea Island quality yet, look for the best 100% cotton shirts you can afford. And if you can't find turnback cuffs I'd go for the standard button fastening over cufflinks - it makes the shirts far more versatile.

Evening dress:

We can gain little information on Bond's dinner suits from the novels, so the films will have to provide inspiration. Dinner suit (Tuxedo) jackets should be single breasted and with either a shawl collar (Dr No) or with the peaked lapels more usually found on a double-breasted suit. The use of standard, notched lapels on a dinner suit is a travesty that has come about through modern manufacturers wishing to save costs and use the same jacket forms as their daywear suits, simply facing them in satin. A tip for those hiring their dinner suits: it is often cheaper to cruise the various charity shops on the high street than to hire. A recent expedition turned up a selection of three in my size, all hardly worn and less than the cost of hire - plus you get to keep it at the end of the evening.

As for dress shirts, Fleming gave little detail other than that these were of a heavy silk. T&A have every style and variety in their range, but none can be argued as 'correct'. I prefer the simplicity of a pleated front or the textured pique. The collar is particularly important, as it should be of the plain variety - Bond would never wear a wing collar, it's far too 'naff'. Wear proper, black-centred studs on the shirt front - your shirt will probably come with a set of these, which can be replaced for more expensive versions at a later date. Cuffs will be French and cufflinks (Cartier according to the original manuscript of Moonraker - if you can afford it) should be kept simple - no joke novelties please.

Regarding bow ties: black, obviously, and you should always buy one that you tie yourself - it's not a very difficult skill to learn and the result is a softer, more natural look than the stiff, pre-tied variety.

One final flourish to lift you above the masses is to stuff (don't fold it) a white silk handkerchief in your top pocket. It's surprising what a difference this will make to the overall impression and removes a lot of the 'hired suit' stigma.

Summer shirts:

Fleming inevitably stated a preference for Sea Island cotton. I'd agree with this for open-necked long sleeved, but for short sleeved I prefer linen. Whichever you prefer, it will be so much more stylish than a T-shirt. Choose white and navy as your basics, with straight-ish cut bottoms so that you can avoid tucking them into your trousers. I wouldn't recommend the Fleming look of wearing a leather belt on the outside of the shirt unless you're a purist who doesn't mind being laughed at. Summer shirts offer more scope for experimenting with patterns, but as always, subtlety is the key. If you want to know how it should be done, compare Connery's various short-sleeved shirts in Thunderball with Brosnan's Hawaiian number in DAD. If you still prefer Brosnan, I'm afraid there's no hope for you.

If you really must slum it in a T-shirt, at least choose a polo shirt as Connery did in Dr. No. He also wore a navy blue polo with (horror!) a Fred Perry logo inThunderball. Was 007 a secret Mod?

Ties:

This is an area that can make or break a suit. Connery's suits invariably featured an unpatterened plain tie, usually black (this look was also worn to great effect by Cary Grant in North by Northwest - surely the greatest suit film of all time). Fleming specified a knitted silk variety and purists can still obtain these in various colours from Turnbull & Asser, but similar items are available from other sources. Interestingly, it seems as though Connery only rarely wore the knitted variety; the triangulated bottom and flatter, smoother texture to most of his ties suggest it was often of a plain silk variety. Try to find something narrow if you're going for the slim-line sixties look. The source of Moore's ties is still a mystery but we know that Brosnan's were also T&A.

silk knit tie*As a side note, I just came across a small reference in YOLT which mentions the wearing of 'a cheap knitted-silk tie'. Presumably, silk itself is not enough and Fleming differenciated between the different varieties available. Those from T&A are of a much looser weave (and much more expensive) than most of the varieties commonly available, so I'd suggest that the purists plump for that.

With other ties, the only pattern you should consider is a pattern in the weave of the fabric itself, which can lend interest to an otherwise plain tie and prevent it from looking cheap and shiny. If you look back over Brosnan's and Moore's films, the suits usually still look great, but it's the ties that look dated. Remember what Coco Chanel said - Fashion is what goes out of fashion. If you must have a pattern, be subtle. No Homer Simpson varieties.

Oh, and one last thing, avoid Windsor knots unless you want to be branded as a cad, a foreigner or a traitor.

Shoes:

Chelsea Boot and a Church s Bristol LoaferOne of the more difficult areas of debate. Fleming states that Bond 'abhorred laces' and preferred a moccasin-type shoe. Whether the definition of a moccasin has the same meaning today, I don't know, but I've always presumed that these shoes might be along the lines of a plain Penny Loafer.

In translation to film, Connery generally wore a distintive, short boot (see the Thunderball PTS for a good view) with a long, narrow shape and fairly pointed toes. Broccoli has stated that Bond's cobbler was Lobbs, again of Jermyn Street, but this was just the kind of unqualified statement of which he was so fond. I'd like to imagine that Bond's shoes were of this quality but bought infrequently (around £2000+ at today's rates).

So, there's no definitive 'Bond shoe'; Moore usually wore a slip-on and Brosnan is a walking advertisement for the Church's range. Shoes are one item on which you may have to spend more - unfortunately, however good they might appear on the shelves, cheap shoes always look cheap once you've worn them a few times and the inferior leather starts to wrinkle. Around the £100 mark is generally where the leather and construction start to improve and there are plenty of excellent brands on the market for under £200. I've never been happy with the look of a loafer with a suit as it leaves an ugly gap of sock showing at the front. As I can't afford to shop in Lobbs, my modern-day preference is for the classic looks of the Chelsea boot (John Steed rarely wore anything else). These give a long, elegant sixties shape without the clutter of laces and look equally good with a suit or jeans. A black and a brown pair will see you through most situations (see image on the left), but buy a good pair as it's the cheaper elasticated sides that can wear badly. I also like the many lace-up varieties available, as long as they have that slim-line sixties look. As I said, these are only a personal preference for a sixties-look and not mentioned by Fleming or worn by any of the film Bonds.

Jeans:

On the subject of Jeans, I've often been asked whether Bond would wear them. As a few of you have pointed out, he did indeed wear a (black) pair when he travelled to Dr No's island in that novel. This was of course while he was on a mission and the clothes were bought locally; Bond merely selected the work clothes he felt were appropriate for the job. There is no suggestion by Fleming that Bond would consider wearing jeans in any other situation - Bond's preference for casual clothes seems to have always been plain navy trousers and a short sleeved Sea Island shirt, with black leather sandals in a hot climate.

Jackets:

There's no evidence for Fleming advocating the use of a sports jacket but it's a very useful item to wear for almost any occasion where a suit isn't required. And besides, Connery looked great in his, leaning on the DB5 in Goldfinger. You can dress it up with decent trousers and a tie, or dress it down with an open necked shirt and casual trousers. If you're on a budget, stick with the versatility of a plain tweed that's a close match to Connery's, but if you can afford two jackets, a Blazer can still look good. Avoid anything with little anchors on brass buttons - go for a blazer with plain buttons, or you might get away with the suit jacket of a navy suit if the cut isn't too formal.

Of course, for his off duty/weekend look, Fleming's Bond always relied on his "battered and slightly yellowing, houndstooth check suit". I've never been able to find a houndstooth check that doesn't make me look like a clown, but one day I hope to come across something sufficiently subtle.

For something more casual, Fleming specified a faded black windcheater jacket for Bond's weekend jaunts around the golf course. Navy is equally versatile.

Which Watch?

rolex and turnback cuff"Another Rolex? Probably. They were on the heavy side but worked. And at least you could see the time in the dark with those big phosphorus numerals." OHMSS.

This is such a hotly debated area of Bond apparel on many of the forums that I imagine many readers will have jumped straight to this section. It has been suggested that all of the references to a Rolex are retrospective of it's inclusion in the films - not so! I just re-readLALD from 1954 and it's right there in chapter 19. What's more, although the exact model isn't specified we'd have to assume, based on it's usage, that the example he's wearing is a diver's watch. The novel of OHMSS gives the fullest account, but even that is vague on the specific model, only listing the watch as a Rolex Oyster Perpetual on an expanding metal bracelet, which could describe many of the various models. The films plumped for a Submariner, and whether right or wrong, this has become regarded as the definitive Bond wristwatch. There are many members far more qualified than myself in this area who can no doubt give a definitive guide to the exact model numbers of Submariner and the width of the NATO strap, and I look forward to someone devoting an entire feature article on this subject alone.

I'll content myself with the basics; in FRWL Connery's strap looks like leather (though it's hard to tell) but Goldfinger famously features the close-up of the striped NATO/MOD fabric strap. I wear a 1980's Submariner, but I'm happy enough if the watch is one of the many models of stainless steel Rolex, as long as you wear it. Arguments such as "a big, clunky Diver's Watch isn't elegant enough for a dinner suit" fall flat on two counts: opinions of personal taste can't really dictate over these matters and there's no evidence from the novels or films that Bond owns more than one watch at any given time.

Did someone mention Omega? One of the finest watch-brands available, and worn on the Moon - I would have been just as happy for Bond to have worn an early Speedmaster or Seamaster as a Sub. But he wore a Rolex in the novels, so theOmega will always seem like a second-best, product endorsement to me.

On a budget? Hmm, tricky. All I can suggest is that you save up and buy second-hand.

Any other business...

Cufflinks:

Literary Bond would wear them only with evening dress, Connery and Moore occassionally wore them during the day and Brosnan seems to wear them all the time. Fleming's original Moonraker manuscript apparently credits Cartier for Bond's choice of links, though the recent films have gone for Dunhill. The shop isn't critical as there are many around the Bond St area that 007 might frequent - Tiffany are also good. There's no specific design which Bond favours, but as always go for something plain and discreet.

As a side note, there's been a fair amount of speculation on the 'three diamond clips' also mentioned in Moonraker. I can confirm the suspicion that these may have been ladies items purchased for his various girlfriends; he mentions buying one for another girl in the novel of FYEO.

Cigarette case and lighter:

Not items I'm ever likely to own, and, like the watches, probably worthy of a feature article in themselves from someone more knowledgeable on the subject. I'd refer you to Gary Giblin's excellent book James Bond's London. He gives an excellent history of the various Dunhill gunmetal-finish cigarette cases used by the author and his character.

Underwear:

An odd one this; there's a reference in LALD to Bond wearing nylon 'vest and shorts', but as these were supplied by the CIA to lend Bond an air of 'Americanization' I dismissed their use. However, they crop up again in DAF when Bond is packing his case, again with the proviso that they were "appropriate to his cover". As I've no wish to wear nylon pants, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and suggest this was down to a little experimentation on Fleming and Bond's part with the, then new, man-made materials.

Fleming came to his senses by the end of the series and for TMWTGG Bond is described as pulling on a clean pair of (you guessed it...) Sea Island cotton underpants - described later as shorts, so presumably these are the plain Boxers that T&A still sell today. I go for the plain elegance of cream in preference to the stark look of pure white. I swear that Fleming would have had a Bentley made from Sea Island cotton if it were available.

Socks:

Who knows? Again, this is guesswork, but T&A seem as likely as any; while you're paying for your shirts, the rack of socks is very tempting. Go for pure wool or, if you can afford it (at a wallet-melting £70 a pair), cashmere.

Belts:

Just a quick note on this one; for me Brosnan's suits never look right with a belt (usually Dunhill). Apart from the usual tendency in Brosnan's wardrobe for excessive dandyism and glittery buckles, I recently realised why. A tailor told me that you should never order belt loops on a handmade suit as it cheapens the look. After all, why would you need a belt to hold up your trousers if your trousers are made for you? He's right you know; Connery never wore a belt with his suits.

Luggage:

swaine adeny brigg luggageFleming's Bond travelled everywhere with his "battered but once expensive pigskin Revelation suitcase". As a side note, it's interesting that Red Grant carried the same case (translated to the attache case for the film) while disguised as an SIS officer. Was this Q-branch issue? I've never been able to find any information on Revelation, but the basic principle remains; buy a decent leather suitcase, use it and abuse it and it will give off a glorious patina of self-assured sophistication. Swaine Adeney (just off Jermyn St) are credited with the Q-branch FRWLattaché case and they're also my first stop for all types of the finest quality leather luggage. I have one of their leather suit carriers, a Gladstone bag and a regular style soft briefcase like Fleming's. I've had each of them for several years and the more I use them the better looking they get. Like most items on this list, they're hideously expensive - but you can justify the expense in the knowledge that they'll probably last a lifetime. If you're on a budget there are many second-hand dealers in leather luggage.

One thing; I'm recommending these bags primarily for weekend use and short breaks; I wouldn't risk the use one of the larger leather cases to the rigours of modern airline travel. I still trust my holiday belongings to an ugly hard-shell modern variety, but that's an area I'm still looking into.

Coats:

There's a Fleming reference to Bond wearing a dark blue Burberry macintosh in TSWLM and again TMWTGG. The early films frequently show Bond entering the office with a similar coat draped over his arm. Lazenby, Moore, Dalton and Brosnan all wear variations on the classic navy blue or black Crombie - a 3/4 length woolen coat, and in Thunderball Connery opted for a grey version.

Cars:

Ok, not really a wardrobe item but I'm including a brief note here to demonstrate the principle that the philosophy extends into all items of personal possession, and beyond into your attitudes towards other choices you make in life, such as furniture or homes etc.

Fleming put Bond in a Bentley, one of the most prestigious brands available, but Bond's Bentley was always described as battered and careworn, it lived in the street and was de-badged and painted in a rough, not gloss grey. He kept his first Bentley for at least 20 years and his second (third?) was rebuilt from a wreck. Do you get the impression Fleming was trying hard to make a point? Eccentric perhaps, but it makes a statement about his attitudes towards such 'goods of ostentation'. How you translate this attitude into your own choice of transport is up to you - and I think this could be the focus of the next feature article - but apply the same principle to your car as you have to your wardrobe choices: buy the best you can afford and don't be too precious with it.

What now?

Well if you haven't already done it, go and read some of the original novels. Then read the previous three articles in this series, which will give you some background into the choice of tailors in the novels and films and set you on your way to understanding the philosophy behind the branding choices.

Feel free to follow the path set by the original author or take what you need from his philosophy and make your own way. You'll also have to decide which Bond-style to emulate: Fleming was very different to Moore, who was different to Brosnan etc. There are some core values running through all of the interpretations, but each man has put his own stamp on the character.

Remember that you needn't spend a fortune; I recently spent an hour waiting for friends in a USAF 'BX' shop, and killed the time by looking at all the potential Bond-like items of clothing on sale. I found I could buy a whole outfit (suit, shirt, tie, underwear, socks - but with shoes that were poor quality) in 100% natural fibres for under £200. It just shows that you can do the Bond lifestyle on a budget and it can be even cheaper if you use Ebay or the charity shops.

If you've read the entire series you'll be developing your own views on exactly what is right and wrong for the character to wear, carry, drive or light his 60 cigarettes a day with. It has been my intention that you will have formed your own opinions about how the interior of Bond's flat is furnished or exactly what his 'Locomotive' looked like.

Good luck to you all, and here's hoping at least some of you will take this newfound enlightenment into writing a novel, developing a game or making a film featuring the world's least secret agent.

Postscript
There may be items that some of you will want specific views upon. Whether this is in relation to the original text or just my personal opinion, drop me a line via personal message. I'll edit the more relevant items into the main list.

Picture credits
1. Savile Row image courtesy of Gieves and Hawkes
2. Turnbull & Asser shop courtesy of Turnbull & Asser, London
3. Turned back cuff courtesy of Bill Tanner
4. Knitted Tie courtesy of Woods of Shropshire
5. Bristol Loafers courtesy of Chuch's Shoes
6. Chelsea Boot courtesy of Solid Clothing
7. Swaine, Adeney suitcases courtesy of Swaine, Adeney and Brigg, London


Bibliography
Savile Row. An illustrated history: Richard Walker, Rizzoli
The Englishman's Suit: Hardy Amies, Quartet Books
A History of Men's Fashion: Farid Chenoune, Flammarion Press
Ian Fleming (Biography): Andrew Lycett, Phoenix
The Bond Files: Andy lane and Paul Simpson, Virgin
Dressed to Kill. The Suited Hero: (various authors), Flammarion Press
James Bond's London: Gary Giblin, Daleon
James Bond Bedside Companion: Raymond Benson
007; A Report: O.F. Snelling
007 Magazine: JBIFC, (issues too numerous to mention)
Christophorus magazine: issue 273, Roland Mischke
Cuttings from magazines and newspapers: (too numerous to mention)
The James Bond Dossier: Kingsley Amis, Jonathan Cape
The Book of Bond: Bill Tanner/Kingsley Amis, Viking


Apologies to anyone I've forgotten - please let me know.

© 2005 Bill Tanner

First published on ajb007.co.uk


All copyrights for products, logos, images etc are held by their respective owners. Bond Lifestyle is not responsible for these articles, please take any queries up with the author.

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Comments

Re the shoes issue: I don't have any of the Moore films so I can't check this, but I had the impression that Moore wore black zip-up boots in at least some of his 007 scenes. If he did, they were slightly unusual for the time, though I personally liked the look of them. They would fit with Bond's abhorrence of laces anyway.
I have only recently found this website and I am impressed. And kudos to you, Mr. Tanner, for writing such a well researched article. In a recent urge to improve my image, I went through all of my Connery DVDs, paused them, and wrote down everything I could perceive about Bond's clothing. But this article totally eclipses my efforts. I now have a lot to consider after reading your fine article. Thank you.

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