Ian Fleming: The Wardrobe Model For James Bond

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ian-fleming-navy-suit

In his stories, Ian Fleming provided James Bond, as well as other characters, with many of his own personal tastes. Fleming himself shared his character’s preference for a “very dark blue lightweight single-breasted suit”, which is the description of what Bond wears in Thunderball. In Moonraker, Fleming specified serge for Bond’s dark blue suit, and that’s what Fleming preferred in temperate climates. Fleming did not specify any details for Bond’s suit, but most of the basics of the literary James Bond’s wardrobe match what Fleming himself wore. And since the basics match, the best guess as to the finer points of the literary Bond’s wardrobe may come from the finer points of Fleming’s wardrobe.

Ian Fleming is often pictured in a dark blue, button two suit made by his tailor Benson, Perry & Whitley, which was located at 9 Cork Street in Mayfair. The suit is tailored with soft shoulders, slightly roped sleeve heads, a full chest and a gently suppressed waist. The cut is not so different from the Anthony Sinclair suits that Sean Connery wears in his Bond films. The lapels are slightly narrow, following trends from the late 1950s and early 1960s. There are straight, flapped pockets with a ticket pocket on the front and four buttons on the cuffs with shallow gauntlet (turnback) cuffs. I have not seen a photo of Fleming in a suit from the rear, but the jacket likely has a single vent or no vent. Double vents had only just started to become mainstream on single-breasted suit jackets in the 1960s.

Fleming’s suit trousers are tailored in the English fashion with a high rise, double forward pleats and a full cut through the thigh that is tapered to the hem. The bottoms have turn-ups. The cut is similar to what Anthony Sinclair made for Sean Connery but a little fuller. Unlike what Connery wears, Fleming’s trousers are supported by a belt rather than side-adjusters. Braces were popular with Fleming’s generation, though he did not care for them.

Fleming wears a blue end-on-end Sea Island cotton shirt with his blue suits. In Diamonds Are Forever, Fleming specified that Bond wears “dark blue Sea Island cotton shirts with collars attached and short sleeves”, and he previously mentioned a “dark blue Sea Island cotton shirt” in Moonraker. Though Fleming’s blue shirts can hardly be called dark, they have attached, soft spread collars and short sleeves as well as a placket with stitching a quarter-inch from the edge.

IF Ian Fleming dressed more like and wore a black knitted tie
This is the closest we can guess to how the literary James Bond would have dressed. I replaced Ian Fleming’s bow tie with the black knitted silk tie he gave James Bond. Along with Bond’s black hair to match.

Unlike James Bond, Ian Fleming did not wear black silk knitted ties. The closest I’ve seen Fleming photographed wearing is a black fine-weave grenadine tie (finer than Connery’s grenadines). Fleming generally favoured a black batwing bow tie with white dots, which is the major difference between the way that he dressed and the way that James Bond dressed.

Fleming shared Bond’s abhorrence of laces (mentioned in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) and also wears the black moccasin shoes that he specified for Bond in that novel and in Moonraker.

ian-fleming-houndstooth-suit

James Bond’s alternative suit, a “lightweight black and white dog-tooth suit for the country and for golf”, as described in Diamonds Are Forever, also came out of Ian Fleming’s wardrobe (pictured above). Just like Bond’s checked suit, Fleming’s own was likely also “battered” and “yellowing”.

ian-fleming-raincoat

In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Fleming specified that Bond wears a “dark-blue raincoat”. Fleming also mentions a raincoat in The Spy Who Loved Me and a raincoat bought from Burberry’s in The Man with the Golden Gun. Fleming has been photographed wearing a dark raincoat (pictured above), which is likely the basis for the dark blue raincoat that Bond wears in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Fleming’s is a single-breasted balmacaan style with five buttons down the front, raglan sleeves, a Prussian collar, a fly front and slash pockets. It is not likely from Burberry’s as the lining is different from their signature tartan.

ian-fleming-double-breasted-dinner-suit

The first outfit that James Bond is described wearing in Fleming’s novels is his black tie ensemble in Casino Royale, which consists of a “single-breasted dinner-jacket”, a “heavy silk evening shirt” and a “thin, double-ended black satin tie”. Fleming himself preferred a double-breasted, shawl collar dinner jacket, similar to what Bernard Lee wears as M in the film Goldfinger. Fleming’s dinner jacket (pictured above) is in the button one, show two style, with black bakelite buttons and satin silk gauntlet cuffs. Though Fleming’s dinner jacket is different from Bond’s, he wears the same heavy silk evening shirt and double-ended black satin bow tie that Bond wears. Fleming’s bow tie, however, might not be described as “narrow”, at least not compared to the narrow bow ties that Sean Connery wears.

Ian-Fleming-Pinstripe-Suit

Ian Fleming also leant a suit from his own wardrobe to villain Hugo Drax in Moonraker: “a dark blue pinstripe in lightweight flannel, double-breasted with turnback cuffs”. Fleming’s example (pictured above) is tailored with broad, bellied peaked lapels in a low button one, show two “keystone” configuration. Bond’s description of Drax as “in excellent taste” was little more than Fleming paying a compliment to himself.

28 COMMENTS

  1. Bond was Fleming’s dream of himself, they were very similar in many ways, not just there dress sense. They smoked the same type of cigarettes, had the same taste in vodka, cocktails, beer and spirits in general. They were the same height, weight and they were very similar in looks. They treated women they same and carried on similar throwaway affairs with women. Bond was Fleming’s ultimate fantasy but in saying that he didn’t really like Bond as a person, I think he had issues with himself as a person as well.

  2. I’ve always thought that the black and white/grey glen check suits that Connery wore were the film’s version of the literary Bond’s black-and-white houndstooth suit. It’s certainly an easier look to pull off nowadays.

  3. Mr. Spaiser,
    I particularly enjoy when you modify the wardrobes into your own choices. It really does give me more choices in making selections for my wardrobe. Do you think you could do that when it comes to bonds forgettable wardrobe choices? I would love to see your take on what you would put bond in if you were the wardrobe director in many of the films. For example the blue Hawaiian shirt he wears in die another day made him look like a father taking his family for a vacation.

    Kind regards
    saul

    • That’s a good idea, unfortunately even Bond has made some forgettable casual wear choices, very few suit or dinner suit questionable choices. For example, the pastel blue denim leisure suit in LALD, the blue terry toweling bathing suit cover in Goldfinger, the Hawaiian shirt and drawstring linen pants from Casino Royale. They were all forgettable and could have been done much better. When I went to Hawaii I wore short sleeved shirts and earth coloured chinos. I only wore shorts to the beach and of course swimming shorts.

  4. Exellent article, and although I truly dont agree with Ryan Hall that Bond looked anything like Fleming exept for certain dress choices, I still find Fleming to be a marvelously interesting character all on his own.

    Matt, I had an idea the other day when thinking about Bond’s clothes in TSWLM and Moonraker. Although Moore looks impeccable the films through I absolutely love that they used the same garments in several scenes such as the black shirt and trousers, the brown suit and the blazer. It adds such a sence of realism and is something I wish we would have seen more of in other Bond films. I also like to Believe that in-universe Moore’s blazer and dinner suit are the same in both films even though they technically are not. It just adds this sence of character. He loves his hopsack blazer so of course he still wears it two years after TSWLM and the same with the fine dinner suit. So.. I am curious if you’d ever consider doing posts like “this is what Bond packed” for his missions, counting everything from suits, shirts, casual clothes, shoes, pocket squares etc. It could be both fun and interesting, what do you Think? I am particularny interested in how he managed to get all those suits to Istanbul in FRWL..!

    • Fleming as a young man is very similar to Bond as Fleming described him in the novels. Fleming was considered a handsome man in his day. The dark hair is the same, same hair style, same slim build, blue-grey eyes, same height 6 feet and weight 76 kg. Bond of the novels also has a broken nose and a scar down his cheek. Fleming had a broken nose from playing sports when he was younger, the scar i’m sure was added to make him look tougher and more rugged. A remembrance to singer Hoagy Carmichael is mention by Vesper in Casino Royale. He didn’t have someone of Daniel Craig’s looks and colouring in mind when he wrote the books, furthest from. Your thoughts Matt ?

  5. At least the outline of how the character looked. with the colouring, hairstyle etc. Fleming never wanted Bond to be a bodybuilder or a muscle man. He was supposed to be fit and slim, the ideal of what men wanted to look like in the 1950’s and 60’s. I think he would have liked Daniel Craig’s interpretation of the character in Skyfall especially, but he would have though he looked to unrefined and too muscular for his taste. But that is because of the era he was from, I think classic actor Stewart Granger would have looked the most like Fleming’s Bond of the novels in looks and body type, but he was too old by the time they filmed Dr. No. Fleming probably would have liked Roger More’s interpretation in his tougher films like FYEO and the way he played Bond in that film.

    • Ryan Hall, I feel you read a bit too much into my comment about how I don’t think Bond looked anything like Fleming. I obviously don’t consider Daniel Craig to be as close to the literary Bond character as so many seem to think, especially not in looks. Had he been an actor in the 50’s and 60’s he certainly would not have been cast as a leading man, despite his muscles. For me George Lazenby will always be the closest to how I see the literary character, both in looks and in personality. The other actors all have something of Bond, Connery has the meanness and cool, Moore and Brosnan has the charm, Dalton the sincerity and Craig has the sarcastic dry wit. But lazenby, to me, has all of that and when I read the novels I really can’t see the other actors. Bond is quite a romantic and he has a sincerity despite his raw nature and only lazenby gets that part right. In looks he, like Hoagy Carmichael and Stewart Granger, is very handsome but not “perfect”, with his crooked nose and slightly weathered skin. He has a good build and physicality and can certainly fight when needed. But he also has the playful charm of Fleming’s Bond. I wonder what Fleming would have thought of him. Connery is the best cinematic interpretation as the 60’s Bond-films are, forgive the joke, GOLD, but Lazenby is the closest to the litterary character by far, in my opinion.

      As for Daniel Craig, I’m a bit tired of how much emphasis there is on him in every discussion, be it positive or negative. I don’t buy the “reboot” thing and in my opinion no matter how well made and good the Daniel Craig films are (and they ARE, at least three of them) they just are not that good BOND films to me. Anyway, this is obviously way of topic so I apologize for that. Its hard to stop once we get the steam going if its a favorite subject 😛

  6. This is James Bond as described in the Ian Fleming’s books:
    http://s9.postimg.org/7eeyvdxdb/8b065378c1ff.jpg

    This is the actor more close to literaly character available in the early 60s, Jeremy Brett (1933-1995)
    Brett was considered for the role of 007(but i think that at the time the major problem with him was his bisexuality).
    http://s15.postimg.org/4b8sgb52z/Jeremy_Brett_Headshot.jpg

    Another actor very close to Fleming description and available in early 60s was Gerard Harper (1929-) that in 1966 played Adam Adamant a Victorian/Edwardian James Bond that hibernated wakes up in swinging London.
    http://s12.postimg.org/cydoi7hu5/gerard_harper.jpg

    In late 1990s-2000 the actor more close to the original Bond was Jason Isaac (1963-).
    http://s9.postimg.org/can70tmwf/8b065378c1fad1a0929f1cafc3db94de.jpg

    I agree with Hagesen about Lazenby; he was a almost perfect Bond and his stupid decision of leave the role was a real pity.

    • I am not sure about the sketch, but, based on descriptions in the books (slim, dark, straight black hair, blue eyes), Pierce Brosnan is physically the closest of the actors that have played Bond – which doesn’t necessarily mean he is the best.

    • You have a point, Dan, but I also felt Bond of the novel had a certain weathered look that Brosnan lacks. Lazenby, who at the time of filming OHMSS was only 29, looks more mature (in a good way) than Brosnan when he, at 41, filmed Goldeneye. By Tomorrow never dies though he had cut his hair and gained some weight wich improved his look consdiderably but he still had that boyish face. Brosnan is, to me at least, one of those people who just looks better and better with age.

  7. I personally like Pierce Brosnan as Bond, I still though always imagine Connery as Bond when reading the novels. I’m a fan of Craig as an actor but he is more cut from the Steve McQueen cloth. Either way I think Fleming created a brilliant series and character. I don’t know any other series of films or books as long running and successful. In the end it’s only my opinion about Bond looking like Fleming, even though there is a lot of evidence for this.

  8. I absolutely agree, Connery IS Bond.
    I’m convinced that in “Doctor No” ,in 1962, the role of was interpreted by any other actor the series would not be existed (and not even this blog).
    If 007 is the myth that we know if for Sean Connery.

  9. The great generation born before WWII is now largely gone. It’s the end of a whole civilisation, sadly, but its echoes live on.

  10. As previously stated, when craig became bond I began losing my way as to wearing my clothing in the spirit of bond. The literary bond shed a bit of light as to the direction I should be heading in. I understand you have covered bond in the literary sense in accordance with ian fleming, but did you ever think of doing an article on how the other authors who wrote Bond designed his style? I recall in one of the more recent novels bond utilizing canali and driving a jaguar.

  11. Mr Spaiser
    Ive follow your interesting blog, when ever something new comes up.

    I would like to hear your opinion on Bonds “literary” shirts. Ian Fleming describes them as dark blue !
    This colour does not make sense to me, as a typical male shirt for use with a suit in the fifties would be either white or light/medium blue.

    Do you have any comments on this subject? Thanks in advance.

  12. I think that over the years the idea that Fleming modeled Bond’s character after himself has become a bit exaggrated. The fact is Fleming gave Bond the same tastes of his own lifestyle because that way he could describe it in detail in the novels. In reality, Bond’s true character such as his physical courage and tolerance to pain was based on the many spies and commandos he interacted with during his WWII career. As for his looks, though he mentioned Hoagy Carmichael, I believe he only used him as reference for two reasons: one, because he was a well know popular musician/actor so most readers at that time would have be familiar with his looks and two, because Carmichael bore a striking resemblence to his brother Peter Fleming. If you really want to see where Fleming got Bond’s description from, you don’t have to look any further than his brother.

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