Matt Spaiser, creator of excellent blog The Suits of James Bond analyses the world’s sharpest spy in the film that started it all – Dr. No.
James Bond has most likely influenced people’s suit-wearing habits more than any other fictional character has. Dr. No (1962, directed by Terence Young) established the classic look for the character for the many films that followed. Throughout Dr. No, Sean Connery wears five unique tailored ensembles. Each outfit is simple, classic and worthy of imitation. The idea was to put Bond in suits that were distinctly British, but keep things simple because a secret agent should never stand out. Yet because of this simplicity, the clothes still look fresh today.
Three of the five tailored ensembles in Dr. No are basic lounge suits: one in dark grey, one in light grey, and one in a fine black and white glen check. The latter two suits are fairly lightweight, appropriate for the Jamaican weather. The first, worn on Bond’s arrival in Jamaica from London, is a heavier suit which one would imagine is quite uncomfortable in the tropical heat. Bond also brings along a grey felt trilby (which can appear as green in some prints); perfect for London but much too warm for Jamaica.
Each suit is cut and detailed the same way by tailor Anthony Sinclair of Conduit Street in London (which is at one end of the famous line of bespoke tailors, Savile Row). Sinclair cut a 2-button suit coat with strong padded shoulders, a roped sleevehead, high armholes, a soft and somewhat draped chest and a nipped waist. He also cut a shorter jacket length and lower button stance compared to most English tailors, though this might be in part due to the trends of the 1960s.
All of the suits in Dr. No have jetted pockets without flaps and side vents, details that would change in later movies. The lapels in Dr. No are fairly timeless in width, though in the following movies they narrow and date themselves to the 1960s. Overall, the look of Bond’s suit coat is a rather timeless one.
The same can also be said of the trousers. They all have double forward pleats, the kind that open towards the fly. These are typical of English bespoke suits as opposed to the reverse pleats most men are accustomed to these days, which open towards the pockets. The pleats are not seen when the jacket is buttoned and serve to make the trousers more comfortable and drape better.
These trousers have a long rise and sit at Connery’s waist. Suit trousers that sit at the waist rather than the hips help create a more unified look. The suit jacket should flow into the trousers, and there should never be a gap revealing shirt or necktie between the jacket button and the top of the trousers. His trousers are cut with ease through the hips, but the legs are tapered down to the bottom for a military-like appearance and finished at the hem with turn-ups (cuffs). The turn-ups weigh the trousers down and keep them looking neat. The trousers are designed to be comfortable and allow ease of movement (very important for a man of action such as Bond), yet also be aesthetically pleasing.
Connery never wore a belt with his suits, as that would break the flow from top to bottom. But he did not wear braces (suspenders) either. Instead his trousers featured something known as ‘Daks tops’, invented by Simpsons of Piccadilly.
With Daks tops the waist is adjusted by button-tabs on each side, and these tabs are connected to an elastic band that runs through a tunnel around the back of the waist. With these tabs the waist can fit very precisely, and the elastic allows adjustment throughout the days as the waist expands and contracts. Most button side-adjusters have only two buttons on each side but Connery’s trousers have three. He also used one of the buttons on the left side of the trousers to secure his shoulder holster. Self-adjusting trousers eliminate the need for belts and braces, allowing for both lighter travel and lighter wear.
Apart from the three suits, Bond also wears navy serge blazer, cut the same as the suit coats except it has three open patch pockets. The blazer buttons are silver-toned metal; with two on the front and two on the cuff (the suits have four buttons on the cuffs). With the blazer he wears charcoal grey flannel trousers, identical in style to the suit trousers.
As for the shirts, they are all white or pale blue cotton poplin from Turnbull & Asser and feature the same spread collar that is still on their shirts today. The shirts have a narrow placket down the front and no breast pocket. A unique feature of these are the 2-button turnback cuffs (also known as the cocktail cuff, amongst many other names), a rakish style that somewhat resembles a rounded club collar. It is a style that a lot of shirt makers get wrong, as they cut them with squared edges that not only look clumsy but easily get caught inside the jacket sleeve. A properly designed turnback cuff should flow back elegantly with rounded lines.
The neckties are all dark blue grenadine ties (NOT the same as a knit tie) and also come from Turnbull & Asser. In Dr. No, James Bond ties his neckties with a Windsor knot, something that Ian Fleming’s Bond despised, but thankfully in most of the following films he ties a four-in-hand knot. To finish the ensemble, Bond wears a neatly-folded white linen handkerchief square in every breast pocket.
The last part of this analysis will be devoted to Bond’s first and most famous outfit, the shawl-collar dinner suit (or tuxedo to the Americans). Like any proper single-breasted dinner jacket, this one fastens at the front with only one button. A nice feature are the silk gauntlet cuffs – the turn-back at the end of the cuffs. It is an Edwardian decoration, and perhaps their only purpose is that when they wear out they can be replaced. Otherwise, the cuff fastens normally with four silk-covered buttons. Traditionally a dinner jacket should not have vents at the back, but it is acceptable for a man of action such as James Bond to break some rules. The trousers are cut the same as the rest of his suit trousers but, of course, with a silk stripe down the side of each leg.
Bond wears a diamond-pointed batwing bow tie, and his breast pocket is adorned with a simply folded white linen handkerchief. The shirt is the standard choice in England with black tie – a white cotton poplin with a pleated front, spread collar and double cuffs for cufflinks. The buttons on the front of the shirt are typical mother-of-pearl found on any well-made shirt.
Some may insist on studs for black-tie while others only wear them with white tie, but James Bond does not wear studs very often. He probably just finds them too fussy and likes to dispense with anything unnecessary, which leads to the lack of a waistcoat or cummerbund. Occasionally Bond has worn either but more often than not he goes without a waist covering. On his feet he wears black socks and black patent leather plain-toe oxfords. When Bond is travelling from his club to the office, he wears a black homburg and black chesterfield coat, the most traditional outerwear for black tie.
Bond’s black tie ensemble worn in Quantum of Solace (2008) pays homage to the original but with a few changes; this time he wears a cummerbund and his trousers do not have pleats. Yet, apart from the width of the lapels, every other detail is the same. Both are within the realm of classic style and neither will ever look dated. That timeless look is achieved by keeping things as simple as possible and avoiding trends, a problem that Roger Moore’s Bond encountered during the 1970s. The whole point of Bond’s wardrobe is to be classic and timeless so that when you are watching the movie 48 years later it still looks fresh.
By Matt Spaiser. Learn more about the costumes of 007 at Matt’s blog The Suits of James Bond.
© 2010 – 2013, Christopher Laverty.