Matt Spaiser analyses the suits of George Lazenby’s James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and draws an interesting comparison with Daniel Craig in Skyfall.
James Bond fans know George Lazenby as the man who played Bond in one of the best films of the series, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Before Bond, Lazenby was a car salesman, a mechanic and a model. Except for in a few commercials, he was not an actor. Despite his limited acting experience, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was still an excellent film due to its great story, capable director and talented cast. From his modelling days, Lazenby knew how to wear clothes and director Peter Hunt (with costume designer Marjory Cornelius) brought his own fresh new fashion sense to James Bond. Lazenby’s suits had an increased English flair and were at the height of fashion in 1969.
The 1969 fashion in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service are similar to what has been trendy for the last few years: a close-fitting, shorter jacket with double vents and narrow-leg, flat-front trousers without turn-ups, all with a closer fit. It has often been said that Sean Connery’s suits in the Bond films would fit in well with today’s fashions, but Lazenby’s would fit in even better. The cut of Daniel Craig’s suits in the upcoming Bond film Skyfall is incredibly similar to the suits in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Most would compare them to Connery’s suits first since Craig’s suits have comparably narrow lapels, but the overall look and fit is much closer to Lazenby’s suits. Though unlike Skyfall’s fashions, none of the trendy elements of Lazenby’s suits are taken to the extreme. The trousers have a low rise but it is still higher than today’s standard rise. Lazenby’s jackets don’t have the currently popular narrow lapels, but his lapel width is well balanced and so does not date the jackets. Lazenby’s suits are also more neatly and more elegantly tailored than Craig’s in Skyfall yet still fit very close to the body. The cut is undeniably English (but not exactly Savile Row), with a natural shoulder, clean chest, suppressed waist and a flared skirt.
George Lazenby’s tailor for most of the garments in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was Dimitrio Major of Fulham, a former partner of the famous Douglas Hayward who made Roger Moore’s more conservative suits for the Bond series in the 1980s and Steve McQueen’s fashionable suits for the Thomas Crown Affair just a year earlier than Lazenby’s Bond outing. Major made six suits, a dinner jacket, a semi-formal wedding ensemble, a hacking jacket and a navy blazer for the film.
For Bond’s visits to the office he wears 3-piece suits; his first is a navy worsted herringbone button-three suit. This suit is more traditionally appointed with straight, flapped pockets and double vents. The waistcoat buttons six and the bottom button is left undone. Bond wears a white shirt with a point collar and barrel cuffs, and his tie is a navy blue silk knit. For his second visit to the office he wears a navy flannel chalkstripe suit, cut the same as the earlier suit, except the waistcoat has seven buttons with six to button. With this suit he wears a sky blue shirt and red knitted tie. Both suits are classic city suits that firmly establish Bond’s businessman cover.
Lazenby’s shirts are made by Frank Foster, Roger Moore’s long-time shirtmaker. The shirts have a point collar with a generous amount of tie space, a placket front, a darted back and single-button rounded cuffs. Foster uses darts to shape the back, which is not something English shirtmakers typically do. Foster pays very close attention to the fit of his shirts and fits them closer through the body than most English shirtmakers, who for the most part prefer a fuller cut in their shirts. It’s usually the Italian shirtmakers who fit a shirt so meticulously. The knitted ties that Lazenby wears throughout the film are all either navy or red. Connery had occasionally worn knitted ties, and Ian Fleming’s character always wore black knitted ties, so they are a welcome return.
Outside the office he wears mostly 2-piece suits. These include a button-two cream linen suit with dark contrasting thread and pink shirt, a button-three light blue suit worn with a white shirt, and a button-two black and white with blue overcheck Prince of Wales suit worn with a sky blue shirt. These suits all have hacking pockets, and the Prince of Wales suit has a ticket pocket as well. The pockets on the Prince of Wales suit are rakish and very distinct; the pocket corners are rounded more than most and the pocket is on a steep 28-degree slant from the horizontal. Lazenby wears all of these suits with a navy knitted tie.
The one 3-piece suit Lazenby wears out of the office is his disguise as Sir Hilary Bray. But the suit is actually Bray’s suit and not Bond’s, and it’s the same suit Bray wears to his meeting with Bond. It is a brown tick pattern tweed with a white tick pattern and orange overcheck. It buttons two and has hacking pockets and a single vent. The trousers are different from Lazenby’s other suits, with double forward pleats and turn-ups just like Sean Connery’s suit trousers in his 1960s Bond films. Though the cut is the same, the old-world charm of tweed contrasts with the sleek, worsted city suits and it purposely looks un-Bond-like. Brown isn’t Lazenby’s best colour either. The gingham shirt and crested tie further contribute to the anti-Bond look for the obvious reasons, and the caped ulster overcoat and tweed trilby aren’t anything like Bond had worn before or has worn since.
The disguise also puts Lazenby in his infamous highland dress for Christmas dinner. The outfit came off more of a joke than anything, though Sir Hilary Bray probably would have worn the outfit himself. Bond’s own Scottish ancestry gives him the right to wear it, though it’s highly unlikely we will ever see Bond in a kilt again. Let’s hope not.
The odd jackets in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service are nothing short of classic. Lazenby’s hacking jacket is made in a black and cream houndstooth check with a red overcheck. And it’s the perfect example of a hacking jacket, with its button-three front, slanted pockets and deep single vent. He wears with a beige shirt, beige cravat, beige jodhpurs and brown leather boots, fitting for the occasion but quite a bit out of character. Lazenby’s double-breasted blazer is an interesting piece that plays off both 60’s trends and Bond’s naval heritage. It has six buttons on the front with three to button—as opposed to the usual two—with slanted pockets and double vents. He wears the blazer on two occasions, with a pink shirt and navy knitted tie, and with a sky blue shirt and red knitted tie. In the same naval vein as the blazer, Lazenby also wears a double-breasted navy three-quarter length overcoat, in a style that can best be described as a British Warm without the shoulder straps.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service marks the first time Bond wears a classic dark button-one, peak lapel dinner suit with double vents. Actually it is midnight blue, but not until GoldenEye does Bond wear a dark dinner suit in this style again. Whilst some people insist that a peak lapel dinner suit needs to be worn with a waistcoat (like Pierce Brosnan wears in GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies), Lazenby neither wears a waistcoat nor a cummerbund, continuing a Bond fashion trend that had been established by Sean Connery in Dr. No and has most recently been seen in Casino Royale. Where Lazenby breaks from Connery is the introduction of point collar, ruffled-front dress shirts, a fashionable choice at the time that looks tasteless to many today.
The film famously ends with James Bond’s wedding. His outfit is rooted in the black lounge alternative to morning wear but goes its own way. Instead of a black lounge coat, Lazenby wears a button-two lounge coat in midnight blue with peak lapels and double vents. The waistcoat is light grey. The white shirt has a spread collar and double cuffs, and the tie is light blue satin silk tied in a windsor knot. The trousers are grey, perhaps in a traditional black and white houndstooth check. The other traditional pattern for wedding trousers would be cashmere stripes, but the check is slightly less formal.
Contrary to popular opinion, Bond really isn’t a formal person, especially Fleming’s Bond. Both the literary Bond and Lazenby’s Bond wear casual pieces with their dark city suits, like slip-on shoes, barrel-cuff shirts and knitted ties. It’s somewhat expected when an American dresses like that, but Englishmen typically dress up their suits with lace-up shoes (usually oxfords), double cuff shirts and standard woven ties. So his choice to dress down for his wedding as much as possible whilst still wearing something more than a lounge suit is very much in character for Bond. Yet dressing down or dressing fashionably never has to mean poorly-tailored, and no matter what Lazenby wears everything fits well and gives off the elegant, polished image that Bond is famous for.
By Matt Spaiser. Visit his blog The Suits of James Bond, the finest sartorial reference for 007.
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