(00)7 Rules for Dressing Up Like James Bond

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There are many guidelines to follow when dressing well, but James Bond follows a few specific rules of his own.

Thunderball-Grey-Suit

1. Suits should be shaped and structured

James Bond’s suits vary considerably in their details. Suit jackets may have either two or three buttons down the front or one vent, two vents or no vent in the rear. Suit trousers may have pleats or no pleats, turn-ups or plain hems, belt loops or side adjusters. But something that Bond’s suits always have is shape and structure. Bond does not wear undarted American sack suits. His suits have suppression at the waist and fullness in the chest to give him an elegant yet powerful look. Bond also does not wear soft Neapolitan suits. His suits always have structure with a heavy canvas that maintains the shape of the suit. There’s always something in the shoulder too, whether it’s a very thin layer of wadding or a thick pad. Pierce Brosnan has sloping shoulders, and padding gives him more presence. Padding also smooths out Daniel Craig’s muscular shoulders to give him a more elegant silhouette and help the suit drape better.

Marine Blue Suit

2. Fashionable details are okay in moderation

Bond’s dress is rooted in classic British style but it considers current fashions, thought it does not allow current fashions to define the clothes. In the 1960s, Sean Connery wears narrow lapels and ties, but all other aspects of his tailored ensembles do not date. In Skyfall and Spectre, Daniel Craig wears outfits that would be entirely classic if it weren’t for the “shrunken” fit. However, good fit should not come at the cost of fashion. Every Bond makes some concession to the fashions of their times, but there’s always a strong element of classic style in Bond’s clothes.

Daniel Craig Quantum of Solace

3. Shirts for black tie should have a turndown collar

James Bond is famous for dressing in black tie, and whether his dinner jacket is black, midnight blue or ivory, he always wears a shirt with a turndown collar with his dinner jacket. Bond’s collar is usually in the form of a spread collar. Shortly after it was introduced for black tie by the Prince of Wales in the 1930s, the turndown collar has been standard for black tie in Britain, with the wing collar since seen as old-fashioned and stuffy. And even though Bond likes to dress up, his tastes lean toward more relaxed and simple styles, which the soft turndown collar better suits than the stiff, fussy wing collar does.

Turnbull-Asser-Shirt-Connery

4. Shirts worn with tailored clothes should not have pockets or button-down collars

When James Bond wears a suit or an odd jacket, his shirt never has a pocket or a button-down collar. Button-down collars are too American and too informal to wear with Bond’s structured suits. Pockets are also too informal, as they ruin the clean front of a shirt. They look jarring when the jacket is opened and serve no purpose when Bond wears a three-piece suit. And if the shirt is closely fitted, as in the case of Lazenby’s, Moore’s and Craig’s shirts, a shirt pocket would not have enough slack to be useful. Bond’s jackets have plenty of pockets for him to store whatever he may need. The exception to the pocket rule is in Licence to Kill when Bond wears American-sourced shirts with his suits.

Charcoal-Serge-Suit

5. Shirts should be simple and light in colour, and ties should be simple and darker than the shirt

Bond’s shirts are almost always white, light blue or cream, usually solid with the occasional simple stripe. Lighter shirts are more formal than darker shirts and provide a canvas for the tie. The personality in Bond’s shirts comes from the cuffs, whether the cuffs are distinctive cocktail cuffs, double cuffs with a tasteful pair of cufflinks or an extra-large single-button with an extra-large cuff button. Bond’s ties are darker than his shirts, and Sean Connery established that Bond wears very dark, plain ties. Usually his ties are grenadine silk or, occasionally, knitted silk. Subsequent Bonds started branching off into lighter and brighter ties, but the ties are still often plain, and if not they usually have a tasteful stripe or a small neat pattern. No matter how light Bond’s tie is, it is always darker than his shirt. A light tie and a dark shirt is a jarring combination that makes the tie pop too much. This disrupts the harmony of the entire outfit and distracts from the person wearing the tie.

Goldfinger-Hacking-Jacket

6. Contrast between odd jackets and trousers should be minimal

When Bond wears an odd jacket, he often wears trousers that don’t have a whole lot of contrast with the jacket. Examples of this are Connery’s navy blazer and dark grey trousers in Dr. No, Thunderball and Diamonds Are Forever; his brown tweed hacking jacket with fawn trousers in Goldfinger and Thunderball; Roger Moore’s tan cotton jacket and stone trousers in The Spy Who Loved Me and Craig’s light brown jacket with khaki chinos in Spectre. Except for the example in Spectre, there is enough contrast to be able to tell that the jacket and trousers are not a mismatched suit. Bond’s other examples show the minimum amount of contrast that is necessary. This lower contrast helps Bond to not stand out in a crowd, just as a spy should not.

2-Eyelet-Derby

7. Wear black shoes with all blue and grey suits.

James Bond’s typically conservative British style dictates that he always wears black shoes with his blue and grey suits. Likely stemming from Bond’s military days, his choice of black shoes lends a dressy and serious look to his suits. He can also go anywhere in the world and be confident that his black shoes will provide him with the proper cover as a businessman. There’s nothing wrong with wearing brown or burgundy shoes with blue and grey suits, but it’s not Bond’s style.

Above all of these rules for dressing like Bond is the universal rule that clothes should fit and flatter the person wearing them.

Unlike Bond’s tailored ensembles, he follows few rules for casual clothes. With a handful of exceptions, Bond’s casual clothes are always tasteful, fit well and never draw attention to him.

44 COMMENTS

  1. Another great post Matt. I would only disagree with your statement at the end that Bond, “follows few rules for casual clothes.” I think, “tasteful, fit well and never draw attention to him” are good starting points, but I also believe there is much more to explore (as you often have in your own posts). While his casual style has often been more a victim of timely fashion trends than his suits, there have been elements that have stayed consistent throughout the series. For example, favoring solid colors over patterns, the use of color blocking to create visual interest, and an effective mixing of textures to bring more life to monochromatic outfits. Although Craig’s Bond definitely helped bring 007’s casual style more into the public consciousness, I also think Connery Bond’s black polo/camel chinos from Thunderball wouldn’t look out of place today. All the best!

    • These are all things Bond often does with his casual clothes, but his methods of dressing casually don’t have the same consistency as his methods of dressing up. Sometimes he uses colour blocking, and sometimes he doesn’t. Often he wears solid shirts, but Connery liked checked casual shirts, and Craig likes printed casual shirts. Until Craig, jeans weren’t something Bond wore. That could have been a rule, but Craig broke that rule. Even dressing tastefully isn’t something Bond does consistently, as the printed shirt in Casino Royale proves.

    • That appears to be a fairly unappealing, sweaty backstreet part of Madagascar with an illegal gambling pit. I’m not entirely unsure that isn’t just Bond blending in rather than an example of what he would have worn before he became the man we all know him to be now.
      Who knows? He often surprises us. It’s, of course, down to his clothes being chosen by committee, not him. Just when you think you understand the character’s style…Terrycloth Onesie.

    • Many people in the Madagascar scene are wearing solid shirts, so Bond would fit in perfectly fine in a solid shirt. Even when Fleming specified Bond in disguise, it was often within the limits of Bond’s own tastes.

  2. I think that you should say, “If you want to be British, wear black shoes with almost every suit”. I think that black shoes look great, but they also get boring if you wear them with almost every suit. I think that Bond should wear brown shoes with navy and grey suits if he is not in London. Brown shoes look more stylish and give a good flair of color with navy and grey suits rather than black ones. One of my biggest criticisms with bond style is that he wears black shoes waaaay too much. Do you believe that he could wear brown shoes with business suits if he is not in London? Some examples:
    1. Blue suit(s) in mexico& Oberhauser’s lair(Spectre)
    2.Grey rope stripe(Skyfall)
    3.Dark Brown in Bolivia(Quantum of Solace)
    4.Charcoal blue and navy pinstripe suit(Casino Royale)
    5.Navy Birdseye(Die Another Day)
    6.Grey suits worn in Turkey(The World is not Enough)
    7.Navy suit in Russia(Goldeneye)
    8.Tan Garbadine suit(s)(A View to A kill and The living Daylights)

    There are many more suits in business colors in which he could have worn brown shoes and it would look more stylish.

    • The charcoal and darker navy suits are better with black shoes than brown. The only suit of the above that I’d change the shoes with is the brown suit in Quantum of Solace. That should have been worn with brown shoes. Bond already wears brown shoes with his tan gabardine suits. Brown shoes are not more stylish than black, they’re just different. There’s nothing wrong with black shoes. Often, a “flair of color” at the feet is not a good thing, particularly for someone who isn’t tall. Craig’s medium blue suits in Spectre would look good with brown shoes (better than his navy or grey suits), but the shoes would need to be very dark brown or burgundy so not to draw attention to his feet.

    • I follow the British example and exclusively wear black shoes with my business suits. The only exception is that I have a dark chocolate brown suit that I wear to the office, with which I always pair dark brown shoes.

      As for the perceived lack of flair, I find that given the penchant for brown shoes with every suit in the states, I find that it’s actually more unique to opt for black.

  3. Although it doesn’t pertain to clothing, another constant in the Bond business wardrobe is that he nearly always adorns his wrist with a timepiece. Given the prevalence of smartphones, many men forgo the watch these days. Even worse, many of the men who do still wear watches fail to do so in good taste. Bond, on the other hand, subtly shows his refinement through his choice of watches. That the watches tend to be sporty makes sense given Bond’s active lifestyle.

  4. Matt, does the Summer suits of bond also follow the structure rule? I know that the light Gray in CR does but i think the one in Golden eye was kind of soft. I would really apriciate a post of the Summer suits aspects. Because i live in recife Brazil, and here is very hot

  5. Soft Neapolitan suits fortune and fame is recent.
    Until fifteen years ago almost all Italian suits ,also in summer, were structurate.
    Also in Naples the “soft school” were one of sartorial style of the city (the Attolini’s school).
    Were also the structurate Angelo Blasi’s school.
    In 50s,60s,70s,80s and 90s the big city for suits was Rome,with Caraceni,Brioni,Cifonelli,Ciro Giuliano,and many others,(and from 80s Milan for ready to wear).
    Is not a case if one of tailors of Roger Moore’s was Angelo of Rome (ex Brioni).

  6. Great post as always, you should be commended for you creativity. Would you consider a sole post on Bond and casual wear? It would be a lot hard to do, as you have said Bond has no real rules for casual wear but you could show how each Bond has had a different casual wear style, each unique.

  7. Yes, very interesting post, Matt.

    I would say that, in general, the suits Bond has worn followed the template which you described in the article. The real break with that first occurred with Licence to Kill. This broke just about every rule for 007’s wardrobe both casual and formal.

    In general casual wear has been the test for Bond and, as can be seen by previous comments, it’s a somewhat subjective matter about what is “right” and “wrong”. Connery’s terrycloth post bathing outfit, Moore’s blue leisure suit, virtually all of Dalton’s LTK casual outfits, Brosnan’s floral shirt, Craig’s Madagascar outfit, his jeans and his ensemble on the beach in Skyfall were all “wrong” in my book. Virtually all the other casual wear worn by all the actors were “right”, at least to my eye.

  8. Another rule for dressing like Bond used to be: Don’t wear shoes with laces. It is not a rule one should follow, but in the books and in most films Bond prefers loafers and monks on his feet instead of “proper” shoes.

    I am not totally sure about this, but I think it was Craig who constantly wears laced shoes to his suits.

    Fleming even went so far to put sandals on Bond – together with a suit (if I remember correctly, it was in Dr. No).

    • Connery, Brosnan and Craig have all often wore laced shoes with their suits, though Craig has been most consistent with laces. Lazenby wore low-vamp monk shoes and Moore and Dalton always wore slip-ons. Avoiding laces is only a trait of the literary Bond.

      It’s in Fleming’s Thunderball where Bond wears sandals with his suit.

  9. Rules to live by, I believe. Except maybe the low contrast between odd trousers and jackets. What about Roger Moore’s white trousers with his navy blazer? Or the “California tuxedo”? Perhaps just exceptions to the rule.

  10. I just love the way Connery dresses in Goldfinger. The sport coat at the golf course and the grey suit are classic. I think I like the sport coat the most. Looks great with the brown grenadine tie.

    • I always find it curious that Connery’s Goldfinger wardrobe receives so much adulation. I rank it fourth out of his six films.

      • Goldfinger has memorable pieces, such as the ivory dinner jacket, the hacking jacket and the three-piece glen check suit. It’s also the way Connery is shot and presented in these clothes that makes them memorable. When you have three grey suits in Dr. No and five grey suits in From Russia with Love, and they are all two-piece suits, they aren’t so memorable no matter how well-done the clothes are.

  11. Mr Spaiser,
    what are the basic rules that we should follow when going bespoke? This would be an interesting post….

    Kind regards,
    the wannabe Johnny English

  12. Interesting article. Reminds me the scene in Casino Royal, when Vesper says “By the cut of your suit,
    you went to Oxford or wherever… But you wear it with such disdain……my guess is you didn’t come from money…”
    Any evidence in Bonds wardrobe as you describe it to this statement? No windowpane suits and colored socks??

  13. Mr.Spaiser
    Although I have been trying desperately to convince turnbull and asser to re release some of pierce brosnan neck ties, don’t you think (in the words of roger moore) that some of the neckties are a bit too “frantic.”
    I’m having a hard time choosing neckties that arent too boring or look like they belong in museums (i.e.stefano ricci)

    What are the proper rules in choosing a necktie other than the shade for those of us who do not have ms.lindy hemming at our disposal?

    • They already rereleased their most “frantic” tie, the MI6 tie from The World Is Not Enough. Tie patterns should be simple, repeating patterns and limited to three or four colours.

  14. Matt, speaking of dressing up, any chance of letting us know what your favorite suit and movie for each Bond actors are? Give us all a chance to get to know the writer of this absolutely wonderful blog a little better.

  15. Matt, i see and agree with you about the low contrast between Odd jakets and trousers. But there is also many ocasions where bond makes a high contrast on them. For exemple, navy blazers and White or off White trousers. We can see this several times. There is also the scene in the crocodile farm, where bond have a huge contrast using a very light in color jaket. When he disguised as John smyte, he have also a considerable contrast whith the Gray jacket and charcoal trousers. And more recentely in Golden eye, there is also a great contrast in the navy and tan trousers. I also think that low contrast defines bond more, but do you think that is a especific kind of, place, colors, and situations to use high contrast Odd jakets and trousers in bond style? Thank you for you help!

    • More contrast makes the outfit less formal. If you’re dressing for fun, dress with more contrast. If you’re wearing an odd jacket for business, less contrast is more appropriate.

  16. Mr. Spaiser a gentleman who runs the website called the hanger project listed rules for black tie and apparently they are traditional according to him or at least he implied it. How do you think these rules apply to 007 rules of black tie ?

    https://youtu.be/BoF1RKZeJhk

    I personally do not like some of them ….

    • Officially, some rules have indeed changed for black tie over the past century. I don’t quite trust advice from someone who repeatedly calls a cummerbund a “cumberbun”. He sells some excellent products, but some of his rules are too limited. I agree with most of his advice, but I take issue with the shirts he talks about. And when wearing a wing collar, I actually believe in stricter rules to ensure it is done the same way it was done in the Edwardian era.

  17. Also he talks about not wearing color, but I’m still going to sport the wine red cumberbund as the literary character did in the novels.

    • He is wrong that colour is unacceptable. A coloured cummerbund (such as wine red) is acceptable, but it’s important that the tie is still black and does not match the cummerbund. But if you’re concerned about what Bond would wear, a wine-red cummerbund is not Bond’s style either and not the kind of thing that Bond would ordinarily wear. He’s dressed up as a property-seeking English businessman in that part of the Thunderball novel and not dressed as himself.

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