How Sean Connery Set the Fashion Template for Future James Bonds

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Dr. No Dinner Suit

More so than the James Bond of Ian Fleming’s pages, Sean Connery’s James Bond set the template for how subsequent screen Bonds would dress. Terence Young, the director of the first James Bond film Dr. No as well as From Russia with Love and Thunderball, made many of the choices that would define the look of the screen Bond. He took Connery to his tailor, Anthony Sinclair, and to his shirtmaker, Turnbull & Asser. He told Connery to sleep in his suits to become comfortable in them. The product of Young’s work was Sean Connery’s James Bond, and the standard was set for how James Bond is to dress.

Many aspects define Connery’s Bond wardrobe, and these have not only influenced how Bonds dressed after him but also by how we typically define an outfit or item of clothing as Bond-like. Specific wardrobe items and the ideas of subdued English style and avoiding trends characterised the way Connery’s Bond dressed, and because he was the first James Bond on the silver screen we see these elements as the defining example of James Bond’s style.

The following are ways that Sean Connery’s Bond established the look of James Bond. This is also basic advice to follow if you are trying to dress like James Bond yourself.

English Tailoring

In Dr. No, from the moment when Bond first appears on screen to when Bond announces that his suits came from Savile Row, the relationship between James Bond and English tailoring is solidified. Though Sean Connery’s tailor Anthony Sinclair was just off Savile Row on Conduit St, his tailoring was done in a purely English Savile Row style. The way his jackets were tailored with a full chest, a gently nipped waist and roped sleeve heads and paired with trim forward-pleat trousers with side-adjusters, the look was undeniably English.

George Lazenby continued to use an English tailor for Bond, Fulham’s Dimi Major. Roger Moore used an English tailor when he took on the role in Live and Let Die, and that tailor was Anthony Sinclair’s neighbour Cyril Castle. Later in his tenure, Moore used Douglas Hayward, who was on the opposite end of Mayfair from Savile Row. Hayward’s style has a more continental influence in its softness, but it still has an English flair.

Though James Bond left English bespoke tailoring after Roger Moore’s tenure, Pierce Brosnan’s distinctly Italian-cut Brioni suits are made of English cloths and have a hint of English style with details like double vents, slanted pockets and ticket pockets. Daniel Craig’s suits from Tom Ford are inspired by English tailoring in their cuts and have English details like side-adjusters on the trousers.

Suits in Limited Colours and a Variety of Materials

Sean Connery’s suits were mostly grey, grey and grey. In Dr. No he wears three suits, and all are different greys. In From Russia with Love he wears seven suits, five of which are different forms of grey. Connery wore all shades of grey, from light to charcoal. Along with the many grey suits was the occasional dark blue suit or dark brown suit. These suit colours have always been the foundation of Bond’s wardrobe and are still the suit colours we most associate with James Bond. This may be one reason why the lighter brown suits that Roger Moore often wore in the role are often criticised, despite them still being a colour fashionable during Connery’s tenure as Bond and very flattering on Moore.

Connery’s Bond wears far more than basic solid worsted wool suits. Textures differentiate the suits that Connery wears as Bond, with shiny lightweight wool and mohair blends, fuzzy woollen flannel and slubby dupioni silk. When he does wear suits of worsted wool in medium to light weights, they are in textural patterns like pick-and-pick, herringbone and various forms of the glen check. All of the Bonds after Connery have followed by wearing the same types of suitings.

Three-Piece Suits at the Office

Starting in Goldfinger, Sean Connery started a trend to wear a waistcoat at the office when meeting with M. Though he wears an odd waistcoat in Goldfinger, in Thunderball the tradition of wearing a three-piece suit—meaning that the jacket, trousers and waistcoat all match—at the office started. George Lazenby wears two different three-piece suits when he visits M’s office, and Roger Moore wears a three-piece suit for the office in four of his films starting with Moonraker. Timothy Dalton continues this with two three-piece suits at the office in The Living Daylights. Brosnan continues this for his first three Bond films, though he only wears a three-piece in GoldenEye for Q’s lab. Daniel Craig brought back the three-piece suit for the office when he visits Q’s lab at the end of Spectre.

Solid Shirts with an Unusual Cuff

Sean Connery mostly wears solid shirts with his suits and sports coats—with Goldfinger being the exception. Connery’s shirts mostly follow English tradition in conservative plain white, light and medium blues and cream. Roger Moore is the only Bond who breaks from this tradition by wearing both conservative and flashy striped formal shirts in his Bond films.

Where Connery’s shirts stray from the ordinary is in the cuff. Again with the exception of Goldfinger, Connery wears shirts with cocktail cuff, a cuff that turns back over itself but fastens with buttons instead of cuff links. Because Connery wears this cuff in five out of his six Bond films, it became a signature style for James Bond. Roger Moore adopted the cocktail cuff as part of his standard look in 1968, five years before he first appeared as James Bond, and he continued to wear it throughout his first two Bond films. He gave it one last chance in Moonraker before it disappeared until Daniel Craig revived it in Spectre.

Roger Moore wears shirts with other unusual cuffs, such as the Lapidus cuff that fastens with a tab extension and large button. Moore also wears rounded cuffs in Octopussy that fasten with an extra-large button.

Solid Ties

All of Sean Connery’s ties as James Bond are solid, and most are dark. Navy blue grenadine silk is his workhorse tie. If the tie isn’t grenadine silk it is usually knitted silk, as Ian Fleming specified for his character to wear. George Lazenby continued by wearing solid knitted ties in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Solid ties appear with regularity throughout Roger Moore’s tenure as Bond, with him wearing at least one in each of his seven Bond films. Timothy Dalton wears a couple in The Living Daylights. Pierce Brosnan wears the solid tie with less frequency, and Daniel Craig did not adopt them until Spectre. But if any one characteristic can be used to describe the ultimate Bond neck tie, it is “solid”.

Folded Pocket Squares

Sean Connery wears a folded white linen handkerchief in his breast pocket throughout his first three Bond films. The folded pocket square, particularly with a straight fold, is a style associated with the 1960s. After Goldfinger, James Bond did not wear a folded white pocket square again until Quantum of Solace, and Daniel Craig’s Bond has been wearing folded cotton pocket squares that match his shirts ever since. With a second Bond now wearing the style that Connery started, it is now a timeless Bond detail.

Traditional Dinner Jackets in Midnight Blue, Black and Ivory

For black tie, Sean Connery mostly follows the traditional customs. He wears midnight blue mohair dinner suits with a shawl collar for the casino, black wool dinner suits with notched lapels for more intimate occasions, and ivory wool dinner jackets with self-faced peaked lapels and mother-of-pearl buttons for warm locations. All of his dinner jackets are single-breasted with one button on the front. He wears soft-fronted shirts with mother-of-pearl buttons, usually with pleats and double cuffs or cocktail cuffs. Except for on one occasion, he wears neither a waistcoat nor a cummerbund. The cummerbund would not become a regular part of James Bond’s wardrobe until Quantum of Solace.

Connery set the stage for how Bond would be expected to wear black tie, and for the most part Bonds after Connery have followed in this mould.

Polo Shirts

For casualwear, Connery likes to wear a polo shirt in short sleeves for warm weather and long-sleeves for cooler weather. The polo made a brief appearance in long-sleeve form on Timothy Dalton in The Living Daylights, but it wasn’t again a regular Bond style until Daniel Craig wore a navy polo from Sunspel in Casino Royale. Craig continued to wear polo shirts from Tom Ford in subsequent Bond films.

Camp Shirts

The camp shirt, a casual button-front shirt with a one-piece collar, straight hem and a breast pocket or two, is another staple of Connery’s Bond wardrobe for warm weather. He wears them throughout Thunderball, and they return in You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever. Some of Roger Moore’s safari shirts may be considered an extension of the camp shirt, but Pierce Brosnan is the only other Bond to wear camp shirts somewhat in the Connery mould when he wears some lightweight shirts in Die Another Day.

Avoiding Trends

Connery’s Bond avoided wearing overly trendy clothes, and people may have a difficult time accepting Bond in trendier styles, especially if those trends are currently out of fashion. People question few of Connery’s wardrobe items today (the terrycloth playsuit in Goldfinger being the major exception) because he rarely went for overly trendy styles, but when George Lazenby or Roger Moore wears something as Bond much different from what Connery wore—such as a ruffled shirt, Highland dress, flared trousers or a safari suit—people are quick to judge it negatively. This is not just because some of these items were very trendy but often because these are not items we associate with Connery’s Bond.

Does Sean Connery’s Bond Define the Ultimate Bond Style?

Just about everything that Sean Connery wore as James Bond is used to represent ultimate Bond style. But he’s not the only Bond to have taken this role. Bond style has changed throughout the years, and what we think of as Bond style depends on the time we live in. During Roger Moore’s tenure as Bond, safari suits were thoroughly Bondian. During Pierce Brosnan’s tenure as Bond, a Brioni suit was the quintessential Bond suit. Currently, Bond style may be defined by any of the memorable sporty looks that Daniel Craig has presented.

What may be best defined as true Bond style is a combination of what the current Bond is wearing and what styles have endured from the time Sean Connery has been James Bond. If a style did not last beyond the tenure of one James Bond actor, it perhaps may not be a true Bond style. The ruffled shirt is more of a Lazenby Bond style than an overall Bond style. The safari suit will always be considered a Roger Moore style rather than a Bond style unless another Bond wears them. Because most of Connery’s Bond clothes have been emulated by the Bonds after him, his role in exemplifying Bond style is set in stone.

28 COMMENTS

  1. Many thanks Matt – very fine work!

    Indeed Connery has set the all-time gold standard for all other Bonds to come. He is, more than 40 years (!) after his debut as JB, with regard to suits still the most timelessly dressed Bond, and, in my book, his clothing style is by far the most inspiring one. What you wrote with regard to “Avoiding trends” is very true – the key principles, as they also were for Cary Grant’s clothing style, are simplicity and soberness. Although Connery has been criticised by many for his style being “unimaginative” or even “boring”, time has proven such assertions as wrong and myopic. All other Bonds’ suits (an exception might be Lazenby) in comparison have aged noticeably whereas Connery’s are still fresh. Although his Bond wardrobe is not without mistakes, those are very limited and forgivable.

    IMO he still is and will remain the best dressed Bond.

    Best,
    Renard

    • I agree with you completely Renard. It was ultimately Connery’s Bond that inspired me in dressing well formally or casually (though to be fair I think George Lazenby and Roger Moore have also inspired me in dressing up as well). I too think that even if Connery’s colour scheme is very limited, it is what makes his style very timeless and not to mention is very flattering to his cool winter complexion (many shades of brown do not always flatter cool complexion unless they are greyed or slightly reddish like Lazenby’s tweed suit or the tweed jacket in the beginning of Diamonds are Forever).

      • I agree with the general tenor of your comments Renard and Ivan, with the notable exception of DAF in which both the plot, such as if is, and the wardrobe are already leaning towards the Moore era. Three aspects inform my view and admiration for Connery’s Bond wardrobe – avoidance of the extremes of the contemporaneous fashions, general coherence with Bond as written by Fleming (playsuit excepted!) and finally let’s not forget, before we completely suspend our disbelief, that for significant chunks of the films he’s supposed to be a secret agent blending in with his surroundings not peacocking around drawing attention to himself in flashy threads !

  2. This very, very interesting, informative piece convinces me that my bond-like wardrobe is now complete, down to the traditional pocket square.
    Grey dominates the string of suits. Perfect…
    Congrats Matt on your great job.

    • Don’t completely rule out other aspects of Bond that have aged well! For instance, Daniel Craig inspired me to get more polo, and non-blue jeans, and chukka boots in my wardrobe. Roger Moore and Daniel Craig also influenced my preference for wider lapels, bigger shirt collars, and thick ties.

      • I agree as far as Craig is concerned: Bond’s casual clothes in QoS and SPECTRE are quite nice. Generally I am not the biggest fan of Temime’s work as Bond costume designer (to say the least), but the casual wear she designed ond chose for Craig is not bad at all. And Louise Frogley did a great job in QoS as well.

  3. Are the only times Connery wore a white shirt with his suits are with the light grey mohair suit in Dr. No and the suits in Goldfinger? I think Connery looks better with a white shirt than an ecru or cream unless he is tanned well.

      • You’re right about that Matt, I just remembered that in Goldfinger the shirts had a subtle faint broken grey pencil stripes on the white shirts. Thanks for the correction Matt.

  4. Would you agree that Craig’s Bond most closely adheres to the Connery Bond style template? It seems as thought they have very deliberately attempted to emulate the Connery’s style more during Craig’s films than any other, albeit with a (regrettably) modern flair.

    • Craig has stuck to many more aspects of the Connery Bond template than other Bonds have, though Lazenby, Dalton in The Living Daylights and Brosnan in The World Is Not Enough also did.

  5. Matt…
    When the movies will be entirely in CGI,with digital actors..Sean Connery will be James Bond.
    And this because Connery IS Bond; the others are only substitutes (some bright substitutes,but not the real McCoy).
    About clothes,the point is that Bond/Connery (Young/Sinclair) wardrobe is almost timeless in his elegant sobriety and refined minimalism.
    You can adapt that style also to another decade without seem out to fashion (as the clothes of “Diamond are forever” prove).

    • Signor Pugliatti, one can only agree that Sir Sean remains the DEFINITIVE Bond but will happily contest the idea that his successors have been mere “replacements” – each of these actors has brought something new to the role (Lazenby heart, Sir Roger charm, Mr Dalton conscience, Mr Brosnan versatility & Mr Craig … well, the incumbent speaks for himself!) and what they have done with the character has been of immeasurable benefit to the Franchise.

      Consider, for instance, ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE with Sean Connery in the role of Bond (at a point where his disinterest in going further with the franchise was increasingly palpable – look at DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER and see what I mean); it is nigh-impossible to imagine it being remembered as amongst the very best in the series, much less a serious candidate for the Very Best Bond with a lead actor increasingly disenchanted with his character.

      Consider also how Commander Bond has been able to move & change with the times through the Good Work of Sir Sean’s successors – could Connery’s 007 have been able to let the Cold War end? Could he have ever treated women as more than amusements or distractions? (a franchise without Dame Judi Dench’s M would have been immeasurably impoverished, to say the least) Could he have regarded persons more Colourful than himself as anything beyond an Ethnic Sidekick?

      Perhaps he could have changed, but would audiences have been able to ACCEPT that change in Connery’s Bond?

      Quite frankly the EON Franchise would have long since been condemned under the Law of Diminishing Returns had they stuck doggedly to Ian Fleming’s James Bond – Fleming’s novels made for Great Entertainment in their day, yet cannot quite be called Timeless Classics – without allowing each of the Cinematic Six to define & redefine the role through their performances. Much the same logic applies to using Sir Sean Connery’s performance in the role if Bond as an accusation against, instead of an inspiration for, his successors.

      Each of the five actors to follow Connery has given James Bond greater depth, greater range and a greater ability to adapt to the many changes in this World and in the cinema-going audiences it produces – they have also brought in their fair share of Box Office (and rather more in some cases), sustained the character as a living and vital presence in the imagination, as well as richly merited their fair share of Fans by giving their All to the Franchise (which in my opinion has produced the occasional Bad Movie, but NEVER recruited a Bad Bond).

      Mr George Lazenby, Sir Roger Moore, Mr Timothy Dalton, Mr Pierce Brosnan, Mr Daniel Craig – each and every one of them deserves far better than to be traduced as mere shadow’s of Sir Sean Connery’s Bond, because while he indisputably made James Bond a cinematic icon, it is the work of his successors that keep 007 a Living Legend.

  6. You don’t mention the navy blazer, although I think it deserves reference as it was introduced by Connery and worn by three of his successors.

    As an aside, what are your thoughts on cashmere for a seasonal blazer?

  7. Also Connery might have worn more timeless apparel, but Sir Roger wore his suits Infinitely Better – that’s not any kind of slur against Sir Sean, it’s just an Objective Fact! (Really, despite some surprisingly-intense competition from Mr Lazenby and the expected challenge from Mr Brosnan, I think we can safely say that Moore remains the suavest Bond on record and the one most comfortable wearing a suit).

  8. Signor, I will very happily agree that Mister Lazenby could and should have gone further with Bond than he did – really, the man who convinced him that Bond was for the breaker’s yard could only have done Poor George a worse turn if he’d shown up at his wedding as the Best Man then proceeded to machine-gun the Wedding Party bride, parents et al! (I’m also rather sorry that series of Karate Movies that Bruce Lee appears to have been brain-storming before his demise never took off – at any rate one would have loved to see the two of them team up for at least ONE movie, to see if such an impossibly Awesome idea as “Bruce Lee and Bond” could have withstood contact with Harsh Reality).

    I will also agree that Simon Templar suited Sir Roger much more perfectly than 007, but must confess that he remains my Favourite Bond anyway (well, joint First Place with Mr Brosnan); he might not be the Very Best Bond* but he’s definitely the most shamelessly Entertaining!

    *I have never been inclined to pick a “Best Bond” (because I love them all, each in their own way), but Sir Sean and Mr Craig are definitely the leading contenders, though Mr Timothy Dalton is a strong challenger and in all truth Mr Brosnan was my first Bond, so it’s incredibly hard for me to argue against him being The Best! (though like Sir Roger his movies tended to be somewhat uneven – GOLDENEYE a Classic, the rest a mix of the Very Strong and the dispensable in varying proportions, though THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH remains a personal favourite).

  9. By the way, I have been remiss – Mr Spaiser, please pardon my taking so long to compliment you on another Very Excellent effort and please allow me to most heartily praise your continuing Excellence in your chosen field!

  10. At this point the thought that “chosen line” might be more appropriate than “field” (since one very seldom finds perfect tailoring going on in the Great Outdoors but one can always find fashion in the latest line!).

  11. Anyway you can do a post on bond when traveling? I ask because my wife wants me to take her to france, and in order to avoid looking like a tourist I want to know what i should and shouldnt wear. I remember you said something about not wearing an ivory dinner jacket during a certain time and not to wear an ivory dinner jacket in london.

    Anymore pieces of information like that?
    What i should avoid?
    Yes I will be leaving all denim at home.

  12. Matt , l got my hands on a new ready to wear Anthony Sinclair Flannel suit recently. It comes with Slide Buckle side adjusters and Brace Buttons .
    It got me thinking. Do you know if any of Connery’s original Sinclair suits had brace buttons in the waist band ?
    One of your previous articles mentioned that in ” You only live twice ” Connery wore braces under his naval blazer .

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