James Bond is the perfect role model to base your suit wardrobe on. These seven suits are not just essential suits to have for a Bond-like wardrobe, but they are seven essential suits for any wardrobe.
1. Solid Navy
“The clothes say so much about Bond. He’s got a naval background, so he needs a strong, simple colour like dark blue.” This genius line is what the least fashion-conscious James Bond actor Timothy Dalton said about what James Bond should wear. Though Bond’s preferred suit colour in the films is overwhelmingly grey, the original Bond of Ian Fleming’s books usually wears a lightweight worsted dark blue suit. This worsted navy suit is the single most useful suit a man can have, and the literary James Bond is never poorly dressed in his. If a man has only one suit in his closet, this is the suit it should be. The typical man today only needs a suit for three purposes: job interviews, weddings and funerals. A solid navy worsted suit is completely appropriate for all three.
This suit should ideally be light to medium weight (about 9 to 11 oz) in a twill weave or a plain weave, with the latter being better for warmer climates. The navy must de a dark shade of blue, but it should not be so dark that it is mistaken for black. Midnight blue is too dark for the daytime and may look too serious, but it can ultimately serve the same purpose that a navy suit can. Marine blue is too flashy.
In the films, James Bond rarely wears a simple worsted solid navy suit, but he wears a few that come close. The navy suit that Bond wears to the office in From Russia with Love is a worsted flannel, which is like serge (a hard-finished even twill) but with a bit of a nap. It’s a great choice for cool weather in a heavier weight, and has a bit more durability than the classic woollen flannel. In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Skyfall, Bond wears navy worsted herringbone suits. These can easily take the place of a twill or plain-weave worsted but have the added subtle texture of the herringbone weave. A subtle birdseye weave/pattern like what Pierce Brosnan wears in all of his Bond films could also work for those who want something a bit more interesting, but it’s important that there be little contrast in the pattern so the suit will have the most versatility.
James Bond wears flashier blue suits of mohair and wool blends in darker and lighter blues than navy, but such suits are not as versatile and are best saved only for social occasions.
2. Solid Charcoal
The solid charcoal suit is the second most versatile suit, which is great for business and for funerals. Because it is more neutral than navy, charcoal may be a slightly better choice for funerals and for interviews. But that’s splitting hairs. However, no matter how nice a charcoal the suit is, it has a colder look than navy, which is why the charcoal isn’t as good as navy is for social functions. Some people believe that charcoal should be a man’s first suit rather than navy, but both are reliable choices for a first suit.
A worsted wool suit in a twill or plain weave like mentioned for the first navy suit above is most versatile, with herringbone also a possibilities. It should be light to medium weight (9 to 11 oz) for a year-round use. A purely solid piece-dyed charcoal can look boring, so it should have a slight variation of greys in the weave.
Pierce Brosnan’s worsted charcoal suit in The World Is Not Enough is the perfect charcoal suit, and it’s subtly seasoned with bits of blue and brown to liven and enrich the charcoal. Bond often likes his charcoal suits in woollen flannel rather than a hard-finished worsted to give a warmth to such a cold colour. Woollen flannel is an excellent choice in cooler places like Great Britain, but it is not so versatile in places that have a lot of warm weather if it’s only a second suit.
3. Black-and-White Sharkskin
Also known as pick-and-pick, the black-and-white sharkskin suit is an excellent Bondian suit to have for mild to warm weather. Sharkskin combines two colours in even amounts for a cross-hatched look with a slightly iridescent effect, even if it is made of pure worsted wool. When equal amounts of black and white are combined, the end result is medium grey but with a more exciting look than solid medium grey. The iridescent look of black-and-white sharkskin makes it a suit that doesn’t look quite right in cold winter weather, so it’s best to get it in a light to medium weight (8 to 11 oz). It makes for a great suit to wear to daytime summer weddings or even to offices in more creative fields.
Daniel Craig’s black-and-white sharkskin suit in Skyfall brought back the look to modern fashion, but it was previously known for its popularity in the 1960s. Sean Connery wears a similar suit in Thunderball, likely in a mohair and wool blend. In From Russia with Love, Sean Connery wears a darker grey sharkskin suit made up of two dark shades of grey, which has a more subtle look that may be more office-appropriate than black-and-white and can look appropriate in any season. This darker sharkskin suit is less interesting, but it may be more useful to those who need more suits for work.
4. Navy Stripe
The striped navy suit is the classic business suit. A navy worsted wool with grey pinstripes or rope stripes in a light to medium weight (9 to 11 oz) for year-round wear or a navy flannel wool with grey chalk stripes in a medium to heavy weight (11 to 16 oz) for cool weather are all excellent choices. James Bond usually prefers subtle light grey stripes rather than bright white stripes, which can often look too flashy. Bond also likes blue stripes, which are more fashionable and bolder than grey stripes but not as bright as white stripes. The navy striped suit is perfect in a three-piece, and Bond’s navy striped suits are more often than not three-piece suits.
Daniel Craig’s navy track-stripe suit in Casino Royale is a great example of the modern striped suit, which has a more subtle stripe. Sean Connery’s navy flannel chalk stripe suit in From Russia with Love is by contrast a more old-fashioned looking striped suit, but it has a softer, friendlier look that is a good suit for daytime social occasions.
5. Dark Grey Flannel
The dark grey woollen flannel suit sits in tone between the charcoal suit and the black-and-white sharkskin suit, and it’s the ultimate cool-weather suit. It is perfect as a three-piece suit for additional warmth. Being woollen flannel, it’s a more relaxed suit that is still appropriate for most cool-weather suit-wearing occasions. It’s ideal for a cold office, for a holiday party or for a funeral. A flannel suit should be medium to heavy weight (11 to 16 oz). Lighter weight flannels exist, but they have little body and poor durability.
This is a favourite suit of Sean Connery’s Bond, who wears it as a three-piece suit in Goldfinger and Thunderball. Bond also likes his grey flannel suits in medium grey and charcoal. It is not a useful suit for those who live in warm places, but it’s an indispensable Bond classic for those who can benefit from the warmth it provides.
6. Grey Glen Check
The grey glen check suit is a fun suit to have in your wardrobe, and it is a Bond favourite. There are different types of glen checks, from the larger Glen Urquhart check to the finer plain-weave glen check to the finest glen hopsack check. James Bond has worn all of these types of glen checks. The larger the check and the more contrast there is within the check, the sportier the suit is. Adding an overcheck (like a windowpane) will make such a suit even sportier. Darker, smaller and more subtle glen checks are appropriate for the office as well as for more fun occasions. The glen check suit, especially a suit with a bolder check, is great for garden parties and other low-key daytime events. This suit can be in any weight.
Like the flannel suit, the grey glen check suit is a staple of Sean Connery’s Bond wardrobe. Connery wears five glen check suits in four of his Bond films. These include the famous three-piece suit in Goldfinger, which is a grey and white glen hopsack check. The glen hopsack check or the plain-weave glen check like on Sean Connery’s checked suit in Dr. No breathe better warm weather than the twill weave Glen Urquhart check does.
George Lazenby’s black-and-white glen check suit with a blue overcheck is one of the sportiest glen check suits James Bond has worn, due to the larger scale of the check, the contrast within the check and the added overcheck. Daniel Craig’s charcoal blue glen check suit in Casino Royale is, by contrast, on the other end of the glen check formality, with a dark colour overall and the subtlest check. Daniel Craig’s black and grey glen check suit in Skyfall is a happy medium. The check is large enough to notice, but the subtle and dark colour combination brings it to the dressier side of glen checks, meaning that it can be worn to the office. A blue glen check, like what Daniel Craig wears at the beginning of Spectre, can be an alternative to grey.
7. Midnight blue dinner suit
A dinner suit (tuxedo) is a necessity for the James Bond suit wardrobe, and Bond’s preferred colour for it is midnight blue rather than black. Midnight blue is an extremely dark shade of blue that looks blacker than black under artificial light at night. During the day, midnight blue looks like a dark, rich navy, whereas black will look more green or brown. Midnight blue is not bright marine blue, which people have come to mistake it for due to the oversaturated Skyfall poster. Because midnight blue is more a type of black than a type of blue, it is interchangeable with black when it comes to evening wear. Thus, a midnight blue dinner suit is equally appropriate whenever a black dinner suit is. James Bond has also worn black dinner suits from time to time, so a black dinner suit is not off the table.
The suiting should be either a barrathea worsted wool or a wool and mohair blend in a light to medium weight (9 to 11 oz). A blend with mohair makes the suit shinier and more breathable. It should have either peaked lapels or a shawl collar. Notched lapels are less desirable because they make a dinner suit look closer to an ordinary suit. Since James Bond has not worn a dinner jacket with notched lapels since Licence to Kill in 1989, the style is effectively outdated. The lapels can be faced in either black or midnight blue (to match a midnight blue dinner suit), and in either in satin silk or grosgrain silk. Both the jacket and trousers of a midnight blue dinner suit should be in matching midnight blue.
James Bond has been wearing midnight blue dinner suits since the start of the series in Dr. No and as recently as in Skyfall. Sean Connery’s dinner suit in Thunderball in a shiny wool and mohair blend is especially timeless and elegant. The midnight blue dinner suit subtly sets James Bond apart from most people who wear black dinner suits, but it allows him to fit in with those who dress well.
Depending on your needs, different suits may be better than some of the suits listed above. A marine blue or midnight blue wool/mohair blend suit may be more useful than a navy stripe suit (№ 4) for someone who has little need for suits to wear to the office. A light grey tropical wool suit or a light grey linen suit is more useful than dark grey flannel suit (№ 5) if you live in a warm climate. A grey rope stripe suit may be a better choice than a glen check suit (№ 6) for someone who needs more traditional business suits. For people with a warm complexion, one of the grey suits could be replaced with a brown suit. A sand and blue check suit like what Pierce Brosnan wears in GoldenEye is an especially flattering suit on people with a warm complexion.
Like what James Bond usually wears, these suits are most versatile in single-breasted button two, button two show one (three-roll-two) or button three styles. The suits can also be in button one or double-breasted styles if you are able to wear a more adventurous style, but it’s best to have at least a solid navy or solid charcoal suit in one of the more conservative styles. The exception is the dinner suit, which must only have one button if single-breasted.
For 100% wool suits, Super 110s and Super 120s wool have the perfect balance of durability, resilience, drape and hand, for the ideal performance and value. Wool and mohair or wool and silk blends are great for social suits. Cashmere is best avoided in suits.
This article is meant to be a guide to help one select a versatile and Bond-like suit wardrobe. The guide is meant to be flexible, and two people who follow this guide may not end up with exactly the same suits. The suit wardrobe listed here is not ideal for everyone and merely offers a well-rounded list of suggestions.