What Kind of Underwear Would Bond Wear?

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Turnbull-Asser-Sea-Island-Boxer-Shorts
Sea island cotton boxer shorts from Turnbull & Asser, likely what Ian Fleming had in mind for James Bond, and maybe what he wore himself

We see James Bond in swimming trunks, pyjamas and dressing gowns, but we never see James Bond in his underwear in the films. There’s a slight peak of it in Casino Royale, but we can’t tell what kind it is. Bond most likely has varied his underwear styles throughout the decades. Ian Fleming specified “nylon underclothes” in the novel Diamonds Are Forever, which have great drying properties. In The Man with the Golden Gun novel, Fleming wrote about a different, more luxurious type of underwear:

Bond then took off his clothes, put his gun and holster under a pillow, rang for the valet, and had his suit taken away to be pressed. By the time he had taken a hot shower followed by an ice-cold one and pulled on a fresh pair of sea island cotton underpants, the bourbon had arrived.”

The “sea island cotton underpants” are undoubtedly referring to the woven boxer short style, since old-fashioned men in Britain at the time wore little else. The cotton material would be similar or identical to Bond’s sea island cotton shirts that Fleming specified. Some shirtmakers make boxer shorts to match their customers’ shirts. Sean Connery and Roger Moore most likely also wear woven boxer shorts as Bond, considering that was traditionally what men wore in Britain. Roger Moore can be seen in cotton boxer shorts in the 1969 film Crossplot, which took its wardrobe from Moore’s television show The Saint. Connery’s and Moore’s trousers have enough fullness in the thighs to accommodate boxer shorts.

Sean Connery wearing cream boxer shorts and a white vest in Never Say Never Again
Sean Connery wearing cream boxer shorts and a white vest in Never Say Never Again

In the unofficial James Bond film Never Say Never Again, Sean Connery wears cream boxer shorts with a white vest (also known as an A-shirt). Bond had just discarded his dinner suit to escape on a bicycle, so he must have been wearing these clothes under his dinner suit. The British ordinarily aren’t fond of undershirts, and Bond almost never wears them. To blend in as an American in Fleming’s novel Live and Let Die, Bond wears “nylon vests and pants (called T-shirts and shorts)”. However, the “nylon underclothes” that Fleming writes about in Diamonds Are Forever may also include vests.

Sunspel Stretch Trunk
Stretch trunk underwear from Sunspel

Underwear is a very personal garment and there’s no way we can guess the different styles of underwear that Bond has worn throughout the series apart from following what the trends were at any given time. Trends in underwear sometimes followed trends in trousers. Boxer shorts were very popular in the 1980s and 1990s when full-cut trousers were popular. However, in a 1985 episodes of Remington Steele titled “Forged Steele”, Pierce Brosnan wears white knitted cotton briefs.

Remington-Steele-Briefs

The James Bond Dossier announced last month that Sunpel, who made some of Daniel Craig’s polos and t-shirts for Casino Royale, has provided their stretch cotton brief and their stretch cotton low waist trunk (a short boxer brief) for Daniel Craig to wear in Spectre. This underwear is made of a 92% cotton and 8% elastane blend so it has more stretch than a pure cotton knit. Neither the brief nor the trunk has a front opening. Briefs and trunks are necessary for Daniel Craig since loose boxer shorts would bunch up under his tight trouser legs and prevent the trousers from hanging smoothly over the thighs.

What kind of underwear do you think Bond would wear?

Stretch brief underwear from Sunspel
Stretch brief underwear from Sunspel

24 COMMENTS

  1. Well, this is indeed a fascinating and most important topic and of absolute relevance to the wearing of a suit. I have seen photos of Sean Connery during filming of the earlier Bond films wearing classical cotton Y fronts. My personal preference is for the shorter cotton boxer shorts with a short inseam that will still hang down a little bit inside the trouser leg, thereby causing no creases. The cotton briefs are also very comfortable but their lack of an opening makes a visit to the urinal a complicated and somewhat risky affair.

    Last but not least, the boxer underpants will avoid the major dread of all ladies underwear – the VPL (visible panty line) !! This is indeed also relevant for men and equally unattractive.

  2. I think what Bond would wear really depends on the decade the films were made in like you already said. Connery and Lazenby: probably cotton boxer shorts; Moore probably briefs or something similar; Dalton probably boxer shorts again of anykind of fabric; Brosnan maybe trunks in TWINE and DAD and boxer shorts similar to his black swimming shorts in GE and TND; Craig definetly trunks. Just an idea…

  3. I was surprised to see this topic come up, because to me the answer is as obvious as “How wide a tie would Bond wear?” The answer is “What is in style”.

    My first reaction is “Wait – there are people who *don’t* wear trunks?” However, on reflection, I remember a few times seeing people’s underwear at the gym that seemed rather strange. Guys who have thick, flannel plaid boxer shorts sticking out of the top of their sweatpants (how a guy can exercise without everything…secured is beyond me), guys with loose boxer briefs made out of very thick cotton all bunched up in loose folds as they are trying to put their pants on, and the most puzzling, guys with the same type of underwear on under their loose, baggy board shorts at the swimming pool!

    I guess like any other item of clothing there are people who make an effort and people who don’t. Not wearing nice underwear is such a strange idea to me, yet just last week a woman I know was complaining about how several men that she dated wore “bad underwear”, to the point that it was a mood-killer when they were attempting to get amorous. As she said, if that’s how little effort they make now, what would things be like after they’ve settled down after a couple of years (the same thing could be said for staying in shape)?

  4. He would wear “Bonds” brand underwear (Bonds are an Australian brand of underwear)… sorry, couldn’t t resist the pun…

  5. Your post on Roger Moore’s flared trousers could suggest briefs if you look at the shot of the linen trousers from TMWTGG which you chose (“VPL” ?)
    For Lazenby, there is a photograph of him throwing snowballs in briefs and a trilby at Piz Gloria in Charles Helfestein’s book…
    As for what is worn under the kilt, well no one but Ruby can say if “it’s true”. But as the joke goes, “nothing is worn under the kilt, everything is in perfect working order”!
    Best regards,

  6. Re the under-vest or ‘A-shirt’ (never heard that term before): ‘singlet’ is a common name for this garment, or even ‘tank-top’, but I am surprised you would use the poor-taste American slang of ‘wife beater’!

    • We also use wife beater (or just “beater”) in Straya.

      I’ve never heard anyone say tank top down here, apart for women’s singlets worn as casual tops instead of underwear.

    • ‘Wife-beater’ is not at all common in Australia, but is slowly making greater traction in usage among younger generations due to exposure to American TV. My understanding is it is also a fairly recent entry in the US as well, and was popularised as a term for undershirt from usage in the show ‘Cops’; so basically a police term originally related to a common clothing choice of aggressors in domestic violence cases. I still think it’s out of place being used in an article on this fine website.

    • Considering the continual use of the term “whilst” on this website instead of “while” I think that using wife-beater because “it’s a term all Americans know” seems an odd justification.

      • When words have different meanings in different place, I like to give different options. This article uses the term “vest”, and I also said Americans call it a “wife-beater”. I didn’t use the term “wife-beater” except in the context to say that some Americans call it that. Since it has caused some offence, I’ve removed the term from this site. I only added it because most Americans don’t know it as a vest, and I’ve never heard anyone in America call it anything but the pejorative term or an “undershirt”, which is not specific to that style.

    • Yes! You beat me to it. I’ve always found that to be most unflattering, and un-Bond-like, to be wearing tighty whiteys at all is bad enough, but underneath pajama bottoms? For shame, Sean, for shame!

      Some of you people are way too precious. The term ‘wife beater’ may or may not be amusing, but let’s not go looking to be offended where clearly no offence was intended. Like it or not, this is a term which is in common usage.

  7. Hi Matt.I think after reading the blog on underwear and the replies we may be at the end of Bond mined material. I hope not because I have enjoyed every moment except for the wife beater observation. I would have preferred tank top. Thanks for making the adjustment. Good luck in moving forward.

  8. Dear Matt,

    great post as usual. I am particularly interested in the literary Bond’s clothes, and have two questions on items (kind of) related to his underwear – a) his dark blue pyjama suit (from Hong Kong) and b) his swimming trunks; I seem to recall that in one of the books (I believe CR) he wears ‘linen bathing drawers’. Do you have any more info on the pyjama suit and also what the drawers might look like and where one might still get linen swimming trunks these days?

    Any info you can provide would be much appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Michael

  9. Interestingly, Connery is wearing an A-shirt under his blue shirt in FRWL when he is in the train. We see it clearly when he is about to take his jacket on to meet Karim again. In Dr. No I think he is also wearing this kind of undershirt with his evening shirt and dinner jacket. It looks more American than British, I guess (or more European, too). I wonder if this was due to Connery’s personal preference.

  10. It’s a funny question. Isn’t the answer, “whatever is appropriate for the attire, and comfortable for the clime?” I wouldn’t wear boxers with jeans or activewear during the daytime, nor would I wear briefs with a suit in the evening (to avoid the dreaded VPL). If I had to pick one type of shorts to travel with, it’s boxer briefs of a breathable, quick-dry material. They provide support in anything, avoid unsightly lines under lightweight slacks, and won’t be hot or sticky in jeans. After working in hot, humid climes (the Deep South, the Caribbean) I hardly ever wear briefs, due to chaffing and buildup of moisture.

    BTW, in LIVE AND LET DIE (and DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER to an extent) (the books), I think Bond is wearing attire that is suitable for where he is operating. I recall in LALD, Leiter takes him shopping so he’ll fit in. I suspect even the undies had to be procured so that no one would spot this guy as a “limey.” So I’d discount what Fleming describes Bond wearing as being more his choice than what he had to buy in NYC.

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