The Suits of Ian Fleming’s James Bond Illustrated

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Do you have a hard time picturing what the literary James Bond’s clothes may have looked like? I’ve taken the descriptions of Bond’s clothes and filled in the missing parts with details seen in pictures of Ian Fleming’s own clothes. Below you can see an approximation of how Ian Fleming intended his character to dress.

Ian-Fleming-James-Bond-Suits

43 COMMENTS

  1. Don’t his shirts normally come wo. a breast pocket? None of that is mentioned in the book citations yet the pictures are with a pocket.

    • Ian Fleming passed on his own unstylish quirk for wearing short-sleeve shirts with suits to James Bond, and Fleming’s shirts have breast pockets. Short sleeve shirts are casual and would typically be made with breast pockets.

  2. Great work with the design and extensive research this clearly required!

    I think it’s interesting how the novel Bond was a non-conformist in regards to traditional business wear and preferred more relaxed apparel. With a knit tie and black loafers worn with his suit, I almost dare say that if he was American, Bond would be a buttondown kind of man.

    • Interesting observation, Erik. Not to mention the literary Bond’s regular wearing of short-sleeved shirts, even with suits, as pointed out by Matt above!

  3. Thanks Matt!
    I think it could be interesting as well to have the same for the villains’ / allies’ outfits as described in the novels – at least if there are some detailed descriptions which allow for creating detailed infographics (f.i. Hugo Drax’ outfit).
    What do you think?

  4. A great post Matt. I’ve always been curious and interested in the clothes of the literary Bond so thanks for compiling the entirety here.
    I would suggest that the very utilitarian style of the literary Bond would probably eschew the turn ups that you have on the suit trousers (with the obvious exception of the dinner suits). I sometimes compare literary Bond to my Dad who was approximately the same vintage as Bond and they both had a military history. Given Bond’s very basic rigs which in some ways emulate a civilian version of his old naval uniform (wearing double breasted suit jackets may have been a bit too obvious) I doubt he would have worn turn ups. Of course they went in and out of fashion as they still do, and I don’t recall what Fleming’s personal preference may have been. Even then, he didn’t dress Bond exactly the same as he himself, as he never had Bond wear bow ties outside of evening wear and they were a favourite item of Fleming. There’s a great picture of Fleming (which illustrates the sea-change in how people now dress to travel compared to the sixties) walking across the Tarmac after de-planing wearing a dark suit with spotted bow tie and light raincoat.

    • Fleming’s suit in the photo you mention has turn-ups, which is one of the reasons why I gave them to Bond. And just as you say Bond has a “very utilitarian style”, turn-ups fit that. Bond’s lightweight suits benefit considerably from the extra weight turn-ups provide to keep the trousers hanging straight.

  5. Thanks for the visuals, Matt.

    I’ve always thought it quite ironic that Bond has become such a style icon given that his literary incarnation was far from well-dressed.

    It’s also interesting how different Bonds have sampled from Fleming in terms of fashion choices. Connery’s suits were probably closest in cut given that they were influenced by the 1950s; Lazenby has the knitted ties; Roger wore the slip-ons; and Dalton’s overall approach to dressing was probably most similar. It’s impossible to draw any comparisons between Brosnan’s clothes and those of Fleming’s Bond. It’s also difficult with Craig, although the color palette of some of Craig’s SPECTRE suits seem to be in keeping with the literary Bond’s restrained approach to dressing.

    • It was Terence Young who was almost totally responsible for Bond’s early dress. He was a Cambridge graduate, extremely refined and had spent time in the military. Anthony Sinclair was his personal tailor. At that time, Fleming was also still alive so no doubt gave a nod of approval to Bond’s dress in the early films. Sean Connery had not the slightest idea of what he was wearing.

    • Sometimes quirkily dressed but I’m not sure that you could say that the literary Bond was ‘far from well dressed’. He always seems reasonably well turned out to me – if in a somewhat unfussy and unusual way.

      Apart from maybe the sandals with the suit (even if this would have been rather trendy in the 50s).

  6. Ironically the James Bond of Flemings’s book was not a well dressed British man of 50s.
    Terence Young ( and his tailor Anthony Sinclair) have created Bond as style icon.
    Without Young this forum would never have existed.
    The Original Bond was a bit shabby.

  7. Thanks, Matt, I have been hoping for an article like this for sometime. As the questions in the comments section here show, I think all of us regulars would love an in-depth explanation of why you chose the little details you did like trousers with turn-ups, shirts with pockets, angle/height of the lapel gorge, etc. I know you mention porting over Fleming’s unfashionable quirks because he seemed to do the same in the books, but I would also mention that Fleming seemed to restrain himself from porting over a lot of his other style choices to Bond. For instance, Bond never wears bowties with his suits or double-breasted suits or jackets like Fleming did in life. It would be great if a follow-up article examined whether there is any pattern to the things Fleming ported over to the Bond and what he didn’t. I still thing you should also take a look at Ralph Fiennes’ tailoring in The Constant Gardener. There is something fascinating about a Bond-related actor wearing distinctively English suits, who chooses a to wear a navy suit with a white shirt and black knit tie like the literary Bond, in a movie based on an English spy novel.

  8. Hey Matt, an awesome job! I think everyone really loves these info graphics and all the detail it shows. I’m not sure how much info you can dig up on this, but it would be super fascinating to do an article on Terrence Young since he was very responsible for having Bond be such a fashion icon as people have mentioned above. Its funny how a journeyman director like Young could put so much of his own spin on how Bond should dress, behave, etc. Even people who don’t enjoy clothes or Bond films always look forward to the next Bond due to what he’s wearing!

  9. Ditto on everyone’s comments here about Bond NOT being stylish and well-dressed. I just don’t get the short sleeve shirts. Someone once told me at a very young age if I wanted to look like a Burger King Manager for the rest of my life, then wear short sleeves with ties. It stuck. Never have. Thanks for the great work on this, Matt.

  10. As usual, a great article (thinking of it, that’s how almost all my comments start… a bit repetitive maybe !) Matt. Thank you.
    This article may be more useful than any of the numerous Bond forums alive today !
    Bond’s original wardrobe had a nice, clean and minimalist style judging by the suits and dinner jackets, but poor taste considering the shirts and shoes… nothing perfect after all. It looks like Connery and Lazenby were the closest in style to Fleming’s Bond.

    Matt, I have a few questions :
    -You didn’t mention or describe the trousers. I presume they have double forward pleats, like Fleming’s most certainly had, in a typical English style. But is it mentionned in the novels if Bond’s trousers had a belt or side adjusters ? The side adjusters go well with a clean, pared-down look, but the belt was also more common, more the norm than side adjusters in the mid-50s to early-60s, so I can’t really decide. Any idea ?
    -Which software did you use to make these infographics ?

    Thank you in advance !

    • Fleming doesn’t write much detail about Bond’s trousers. Double forward pleats are more likely (I made them that way in the illustration, but they’re covered by the jacket). The only time a belt is mentioned it is part of Bond’s Japanese disguise in You Only Live Twice. Ian Fleming wore belts with his suits, so it’s likely Bond did as well.

      I make these graphics in Abode Illustrator.

    • Thanks a lot for the detailed answers, Matt.
      I guess we can at least exclude the braces, especially with short-sleeves shirts…

  11. I would think that the literary Bond wore his trousers without a belt or braces. Both of those would run contrary to Bond’s minimalism. I mean if the man thinks Shoe laces are too fussy, I would presume the same about braces or a belt.

  12. I may be completely wrong here but I’m not sure that Fleming’s Bond wore short sleeved shirts when wearing a suit. When he is getting dressed in Moonraker prior to going to Blades it is not obvious to me whether the shirt is long or short sleeved. I would assume it to be long sleeved at such a venue and under a suit and I agree that wearing short sleeved under a suit is indeed grotesque.

    • Fleming’s Bond was not a well-dressed man and had many quirks in his dress. The silk and cotton shirts that Bond packs in Diamonds Are Forever are mentioned as having short sleeves, and the cotton shirt in Dr. No that Bond wears with his suit is “sleeveless”, which probably means short sleeves rather than actually being without sleeves. The consistency in Bond’s wardrobe throughout the stories would likely mean that Bond’s shirts all have short sleeves. Short sleeves aren’t the only problem with Bond’s manner of dress. Knitted ties and moccasin shoes with a suit aren’t great choices either.

  13. Matt, I find it hard to believe that Bond would have worn short sleeve shirts under his suit when going to the office in winter in London. I suppose anything is possible but even today I can’t see anyone doing that.

    • He still wears moccasins, which are equally out of place in winter. Ian Fleming himself wore heavy double-breasted suits with short-sleeve shirts (there are many photos), so it would be something he passed onto Bond. I know many people who dress unconventionally or impractically, so I wouldn’t put it past Bond to do so.

  14. On the subject of Bond’s houndstooth suit, what would you consider a lightweight tweed suited for golf? And would Fleming agree, himself having a penchant for the lightest fabrics.

  15. A brilliant visualisation, Matt. I think it’s fair to say that Fleming thought that cotton was an unhygenic material and seems to have much prefered to have silk next to his skin. There’s a hint of this in what he dressed the literary Bond in. But that being said, the emphasis on simple and austere clothing was very far-sighted in terms of both men’s clothing generally and the eventual filming of the Bond stories. The shirt pockets make sense to me as Bond was a heavy smoker. He told the MI6 medico in Thunderball he smoked 60 a day, and he’d have to stow them somewhere.

  16. Matt, you’ve pictured the suit coats with 2 buttons fastened by one. May it not be the case that he wore a three button coat? That would seem appropriate for the 50s.

  17. Late to the party here. Fabulous site, Matt.

    In one of the biographies (Pearson or Lycett?) it’s mentioned that Fleming wore short sleeve shirts because he hated dirty cuffs with a passion. Easily done when working at a desk all day.

    • Yes, that is true, though it doesn’t make much sense. Without long sleeves on the shirt, the jacket cuffs get dirty and worn. Shirts are more easily and cheaply replaced than jackets!

  18. When bond wears the whiten dinner jacket did he wear the wine red cummerbund as well? If so, does that mean that the bowtie has to be wine red as well ?

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