How James Bond Matches His Shoes to His Suits

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When choosing which shoes to pair with his suits, James Bond considers both the colour and style of his shoes. While he has a strict system for picking the colour and type of leather for his shoes, he sees fewer rules for the styles of shoes he pairs with his suits.

Colour

James Bond follows the rule that shoes should be the same value (lightness to darkness) as or darker than his suit or trousers (when wearing a jacket). More than being a fashion rule, this is a concept of visual balance. Light shoes with a dark suit are distracting and can cause the outfit to look unbalanced. When shoes are lighter than one’s suit, attention is drawn down to the shoes instead of up to the face. Light shoes also make a dark outfit look top-heavy while dark shoes always ground an outfit, no matter how dark or light the outfit is overall. These principles of shoe colour can work with any type of clothes, from suits to jackets and trousers to casual wear, but no matter the formality shoes should balance the outfit.

Dark trousers are best paired with dark shoes, but light shoes can work if the top half of the outfit is light. A light shirt with a dark suit is not enough to balance light shoes.

Slightly less important than the value is the tone of the shoes. Bond wears shoes in black, burgundy and all forms of brown, but he has a very specific way he pairs these shoes.

Black

Sean Connery wearing black derby shoes with a grey glen check suit in Goldfinger

Despite current fashion trends shunning black shoes, James Bond still follows British customs by wearing black shoes with most of his suits. Black is Bond’s preferred shoe colour for most suit-wearing occasions, and they’re the only colour he wears with his city-style suits. City suits are worsted and flannel wools in grey, blue, black and darker browns. Whether he’s in London, where black shoes are a practically a necessity, or wearing these types of suits abroad, black is the standard colour for Bond’s shoes.

Black is always Bond’s first choice for shoes when wearing neutral and cool-toned suits, meaning greys, blues and his very occasional blacks. While other colour shoes go with greys and blues, black shoes are the only shoes that go with a black suit or black trousers because all other colours clash, and nothing else will match the seriousness of black or balance its power and formality. Bond even wears black shoes with a number of his dark brown suits. Ordinarily black shoes don’t pair so well with brown suits, but black shoes can be an reliable pairing if the suit’s brown is dark, cool and muted.

Bond has on occasion paired black shoes with tan or khaki suits or trousers, though this isn’t the more harmonious pairing. This combination, however, stems from certain navy uniforms that pair a khaki uniform with black shoes.

Pierce Brosnan wears black Church’s Presley model monk shoes with a neutral pick-and-pick suit in The World Is Not Enough

Black is the most formal colour for shoes, and if Bond is wearing a suit for a more formal occasion or wearing one to look like a serious business man, he wouldn’t think of anything other than black calf. But Bond does not limit wearing black shoes to with his suits, as he often wears black shoes with cool-toned casual outfits too.

Bond’s black shoes typically come in the form of calf leather, even for wearing in the evening with his dinner suits. Bond used to prefer black patent leather for black tie, but patent leather has fallen out of favour in the past few decades. Black is the only colour for a shoe to wear for black tie. Bond never wears black suede shoes.

The Brown Family

Pierce Brosnan wearing chestnut brown monk shoes from Chruch’s with a cream linen suit in The World Is Not Enough

The brown shoe, in all forms of brown from dark chocolate to light beige, has replaced the black shoe as the favoured choice in today’s fashions to wear with almost any suit. The trendy dressers today especially enjoy pairing light brown and tan with just about anything. While James Bond follows many current fashions, this is not and has never been one of them.

Brown shoes are less severe than black and thus less formal, with darker browns being more formal than lighter browns. Light brown shoes can make an outfit look less formal, but the colour of the shoe should first be chosen to balance with the rest of the outfit. Bond chooses brown shoes only to wear with less formal suits, sports coats and casualwear when abroad. The less formal suits are usually in earth tones like brown, tan and cream, they also include light grey and blue linen. Earth-toned suits pair most harmoniously with earth-toned shoes in the brown family. Bond generally prefers darker brown shoes, even with light-coloured outfits. He will only wear light brown, tan or cream shoes with an outfit that is very light, considering the principles of balance that are stated above. Bond never wears brown shoes for formal, serious or important occasions, preferring the more traditionally appropriate black for such occasions. Bond does not wear brown shoes with black trousers or a black suit.

Not only does Bond wear brown shoes in calf leather but also in suede and the occasional exotic leather. Suede has a sportier look than calf, and Bond saves it for sportier suits and sports coats.

Burgundy

Roger Moore wears burgundy crocodile shoes with his brown trousers (originally from a brown suit) in Live and Let Die

Though burgundy is not a shoe colour that James Bond commonly wears, it is one of the most versatile colours. Unlike brown and black, burgundy can balance most warm and cool, light and dark outfits because it is a very deep colour. Being a rich colour means that it balances dark outfits better than brown does, but it is still is a poor choice with black trousers. Bond only wears burgundy shoes with warm-toned suits, like tan or brown.

Style

For Bond there are few rules as for the style of shoes he wears with his suits. Below is a list of different shoe styles that James Bond has worn with his suits from approximately most to least formal, separated in tiers of similar formality. The order may be open to interpretation.

Tier 1

  • plain-toe oxfords
  • cap-toe oxfords
  • quarter-brogue oxfords (punched cap-toe)
  • semi-brogue oxfords (a medallion cap-toe with a heel counter, all seams decorated)

Tier 2

  • plain-toe derbys
  • cap-toe derbys
  • plain-toe monk shoes
  • plain elastic-gusseted or hidden-elastic shoes

Tier 3

  • full-brogue oxfords (a medallion wing-tip with a heel counter, all seams decorated)
  • plain elastic-gusseted or hidden-elastic ankle boots
  • monk-strap boots
  • apron-toe loafers
  • horse-bit apron-toe loafers
  • chukka boots

Tier 4

  • horse-bit moccasin-toe loafers
  • moccasin-toe loafers

Even with dressier suits, Bond has worn the least formal of these shoes. Bond has also worn most of the same shoes with sports coats or casual clothes, from Tier 2 down. For casual wear he has also worn other heavier and taller types of boots.

Sean Connery’s ankle boots with hidden elastic in Thunderball

For black tie, the suit shoe hierarchy doesn’t match up. Bond wears both black patent leather shoes and black calf shoes, in many different styles. If the shoes are patent leather, they may be the traditional cap-toe or plain toe oxford, but they may also be a less formal slip-on style with a plain toe or apron toe that is made more formal simply by being in patent leather. If Bond is wearing calf leather, Bond chooses less ornate styles, like wholecuts, cap-toe oxfords or plain-toe derbys.

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14 COMMENTS

  1. Matt,

    I’ve been waiting for a post like this, thank you!

    I note with interest that you distinguish between apron-toe & moccasin-toe loafers. It seems a lot of commentators conflate the two. What is the proper way to distinguish between what constitues an apron-toe or a moccasin-toe?

    I am confused by the location of wholecut oxfords in the “formality hierarchy”. I have seen them listed as even more for formal than plain-toe & cap-toe oxfords (and I am specifically referring to polished calf – not patent leather), whereas others consider them far more casual, even moreso than monk straps. Any insight you could share?

    As always, many thanks!

    -Alistair

    • The moccasin toe is hand-stitched or has the hand-stitched look while the apron toe is not hand-stitched and has a sleeker look. The apron toe is also known as a raised lake. The Norwegian/split toe is a variation on it.

      I would place wholecut oxfords in Tier 1. Their clean design and closed lacing puts them on par with other oxfords other than full brogues, and their clean design makes them more formal than full brogues. They’re more formal if they are plain without a medallion.

    • I would suggest that anything other than plain black socks for Black Tie is taking an unnecessary chance. Some people go for those see through sheer socks but that looks way too close to women’s nylon stockings for my taste. This is not an item to use for demonstrating your personal individuality. Try a coloured pocket square instead.

  2. This is why Bond is a vanguard for fashion. Whenever the fashion trends gets too wild, Bond is a great conservative counterpoint.

  3. When I went to turnbull asser here in los angles many double doubles ago, I asked for black tie hosiery and the salesman handed me a pair of socks that appeared to be nylon but were darker on the toes and in the heel. In hindsight I don’t know if this was appropriate. Any comment? Anyone?

    • Are these all black and thin, but thicker in the toe and heel areas? if so, that sounds right. Being thicker in the toe and heel means that they will hold up for more than a couple wears.

  4. My biggest problem is matching shoes to black tie. I understand and have seen james bond wear patent leather shoes when in black tie. I think this says rental but again it’s just one of my crazy ideas. I used to wear whole cut dress shoes from church when I was in black tie but I read somewhere that the proper shoe to wear is the cap toe Oxford (polished to a high shine of course ). So what is the proper shoe to wear?

    • Some say the proper shoe for black tie is a black patent leather plain-toe oxford and others say it is a black patent leather cap-toe oxford. Either of those are correct. A black patent leather pump is also correct. Patent leather is most traditional. Plain-toe, cap-toe and plain wholecut oxfords and plain-toe 2 or 3-eyelet derbys in black calf with a high polish will do. Plain-toe patent leather slip-ons are less traditional, but they can work too.

  5. Matt, I thought the trousers for the linen suit in the World Is Not Enough had turn-ups? Or is it because it’s a shot of the stuntman do you reckon?

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