(00)7 Colours Part 2–How Bond Stylishly Combines Colours

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James Bond has a simple but sophisticated way of dressing with colour. His predominant colour palette is blue and neutrals—black, white, grey, brown and tan, and variations on these colours. Bond wears his colours tastefully, rarely using them to draw attention to himself but instead using them to make himself look his best. His methods of combining colour are not particularly exciting, but they always provide elegant results.

001. Black and White

James Bond’s quintessential look, black tie, is about the contrast and balance of black and white. This high-contrast colour pairing is the epitome of elegance and formality. It doesn’t need to be pure black and white; midnight blue and off white shades can achieve the same dramatic effect. Bond mainly wears black and white in the form of black tie, but he also occasionally wears it for suits in the evening and for funeral attire. Such a high contrast is difficult to wear in casual looks.

002. Monochrome

The monochrome look, where everything is the same colour, is a favourite of Bond’s. For him this look is particularly effective for turning an outfit of casual clothes into a dark tactical look for nighttime, most often with a black shirt, polo or roll neck and black trousers. In For Your Eyes Only Bond wears this look in dark blue and adds a matching bomber jacket for a nighttime mission.

Bond also wears monochrome outfits in lighter colours, like with the light blue polo and trousers in Dr. No, the royal blue camp shirt and matching trousers in Thunderball or the khaki and tan safari suits in Moonraker and Octopussy. Monochrome outfits may be made up of pieces cut from the same cloth, or the pieces may consist of different fabrics in the same colour. This works with casual clothes but not with tailoring, where jackets and trousers of the same colour but different fabrics will look like a clashing mismatched suit.

003. Tonal

A tonal outfit builds upon the monochrome concept and varies the shades while keeping them all within the same hue. This could be an outfit of black, grey and white, brown, tan and cream, or navy and light blue. With non-neutral colours such as blue, there needs to be more contrast in luminance (brightness) and saturation (vividness) for the colours not to clash.

This is one of the most common ways Bond dresses in suits and sports coats, and a good example is in Thunderball when he wears a brown jacket with fawn trousers, a cream shirt and a brown tie. It’s rarely a way he combines colours in his casual outfits. Read more about Bond’s tonal outfits.

004. One Colour with Neutrals

When Bond wears non-neutral colours, he usually only wears one colour and pairs it with neutrals. That colour is most frequently blue, but on rare occasions it’s burgundy, pink or green. The single colour provides a focal point for the outfit and is easy on the eye.

Bond’s examples include the blue suit with a white shirt and black tie in Ian Fleming’s novels, the blue blazer with grey trousers in Dr. No, the burgundy Slazenger jumper with a grey polo and black trousers in Goldfinger, the pink-and-white gingham shirt with pink swim trunks in Thunderball, the green safari shirt with beige trousers in The Man with the Golden Gun, the blue Teba with a white shirt and tan trousers in Licence to Kill and the blue suits with blue ties and white shirts in Spectre. These looks may be one colour with one or more neutral and they may use a tonal palette of the colour.

005. Neutrals with an Accent Colour

When Bond wears one colour, it’s not always the focus of the outfit. Sometimes that one colour is merely an accent to set off a primarily neutral outfit. The red carnation with Bond’s ivory dinner jackets in Goldfinger and Spectre is the sole colour in these outfits. The red carnation with the dinner suit in Diamonds Are Forever picks up on the subtle red accents in the dinner jacket’s facings. The grey flannel three-piece suit and black tie in Thunderball are paired with a blue shirt to highlight the face. The navy tie does the same with the grey glen check suit and white shirt in No Time to Die.

In Tomorrow Never Dies, Bond wears a charcoal grey suit with a light blue shirt and a brown, navy and light blue tie. The grey suit and brown aspect of the tie makes this outfit primarily neutral, while the multiple shades of blue serve as a single-colour accent. In A View to a Kill Bond uses the rare yellow accent in his knitted tie with his warm-neutral jacket, shirt and trousers. The accent colour concept for Bond primarily applies to tailoring.

006. Two Colours

On occasion, Bond dresses with two colours beyond neutrals. When Bond wears two colours, one is a primary colour and the other is a secondary colour. Except in rare sportswear outfits, Bond does not use colour blocking where two strong colours compete with each other. Bond usually uses two colours in a way so that one colour is more prominent than the other colour. Bond pairs his navy blazer, light blue shirt and neutral grey trousers with a red tie in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, where the red tie is an accent next to the considerably large amount of blue. In The World Is Not Enough, Bond wears a navy suit similarly with a red accent tie but breaks it up with a neutral white shirt.

In Octopussy, Bond wears a grey striped suit with a sky blue shirt and a scarlet red tie. Here the red tie is the focus while the blue is more neutral in comparison. The opposite occurs with the pink shirt and navy tie with Bond’s cream suit in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service—the pink shirt is the focal colour while the navy tie neutralises the bright look.

Bond rarely dresses with a tertiary colour, but the tie that Bond wears with his blue blazer in Venice in a rare example that provides the outfit with a secondary colour in three shades of magenta-adjacent colours as well as a tertiary colour in olive green stripes. This combination is unusual for Bond, but it works—in an unfortunate 1970s way—because the colours have a heirarchy. Anything beyond a second colour should have minimal presence in an outfit

Bond brings together many colours successfully in his casual look when driving the Aston Martin DB5 in GoldenEye. This outfit’s main colour is blue: a navy jumper and a French blue checked shirt. Unseen are neutral tan moleskin trousers. The green cravat adds a secondary colour. The cravat also has bits of red and yellow that perform as tertiary colours, and because these colours are so minimal they do not compete with the other two colours and serve more as texture than as colour.

007. Mixing Neutrals

Though Bond usually wears his all-neutral outfits in a tonal combination, Bond occasionally mixes his warm and cool neutrals too. The black polo with fawn trousers in Thunderball and the black short-sleeve shirt with tan trousers Live and Let Die are successful because the trousers are richly toned neutrals. The colour is so rich that they’re almost not neutrals, yet they’re still neutral enough to not make the outfit look bottom-heavy. Bond complements his black cardigans and white shirts in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace with khaki trousers to offset the drama of black and white.

Bond also wears gentler neutral mixes. In Casino Royale he pairs his brown leather jacket with taupe trousers and a grey T-shirt. Bond wears an even lower contrast look in For Your Eyes Only when he pairs a mid-grey suit and mid-grey tie with a cream shirt. While a white shirt may have been a better pairing to make this a tonal outfit—similar to Bond’s grey suit at the start of Skyfall—the warmth of the cream shirt makes this a more flattering and gentler look on Roger Moore’s complexion.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Great analysis. You have codified the different color combinations and why they work. This will be a reference article for me.

    • I agree! Combinations 005-7 in particular did a really good job explaining how Bond’s tailored + casual outfits work so well using those methods. Details, details!

  2. Great article Matt. Your statement about black acting as either the standout garment or the secondary to allow the top half to pop I found particularly interesting.
    I had always wondered what made Sean Connery’s wine v neck jumper look outstanding and it is obvious now that the black trousers play a great part. Black trousers were once eschewed but not any more.
    In the Fire Brigade, we used to wear Navy shirts with black trousers and although a style faux pas, I always thought the shirts looked better than when they moved over to navy for the whole ensemble.
    Top work Matt!

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