(00)7 Rules to Wearing a Suit with a James Bond Mentality

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Having one of James Bond’s suits is not enough to wear a suit like James Bond does. The suit itself is only halfway to dressing like James Bond. Wearing a suit like James Bond starts with having the right mentality, and without knowing how Bond wears his suits you might just look like you’re playing dress-up rather than suavely wearing your clothes and owning the look. You don’t need Bond’s wardrobe budget to wear a suit like Bond, and you can even wear a suit from Marks & Spencer or Jos. A. Bank in a Bondian manner. Here are seven rules to follow if you want to wear your suit like Bond.

1. Be comfortable and confident in a suit.

Bond looks great in a suit because he is comfortable and confident in it. If you’re not used to wearing suits, you might not need to go through the extreme of sleeping in a suit like Dr. No‘s director Terence Young recommended Sean Connery do, as legend has it. But if you’re not comfortable in a suit you won’t look good in a suit. Comfort in one’s clothing does not just mean a pyjama-like comfort or tracksuit-like ease. It’s more about looking and acting naturally in a suit and not looking like you’re wearing a costume.

Becoming comfortable in a suit takes time and regular wear, and not even sleeping in your suit can make this happen overnight. The rare person can look comfortable in a suit the first time he puts one on, but most people need experience wearing tailored clothing to look comfortable and confident in it. The James Bond character would have worn tailored clothes in school as a young man, so by the time we see him as an adult the suit is a second skin for him. Sean Connery wasn’t used to wearing suits before he was Bond, but wearing a suit was not foreign to him either and Terence Young trained Connery how to wear one more confidently. Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan are the Bonds who look most comfortable in a suit because by the time they were Bond they had plenty of experience playing roles that involved wearing well-tailored suits.

The rest of the rules help us follow this first rule of being comfortable and confident in a suit.

2. A good fit matters.

A good fit helps us to wear a suit in a Bondian manner for many reasons. A suit should not be a straitjacket. A good fit is a comfortable fit, which helps us to be more comfortable and act more naturally in a suit. A suit that is too small makes us look uncomfortable (even though Daniel Craig is comfortable in his too-tight suits), while a suit that is too big makes it look like the suit is wearing the person swallowed by it. Being slim or in good shape can help a suit look better, but there is no such thing as having the body for a suit. A well-tailored and well-fitted suit can make anyone look better, both by balancing the proportions of the body and by inspiring confidence.

3. Take an interest in your clothes.

If you’re reading this article, you have enough interest to wear your clothes as well as James Bond does. James Bond wears his suits well because he has both good taste and a good sense of personal style. He cares enough about his clothes to put in the effort to look his best, and he wears suits not just because he has to but because he wants to.

4. Handle the suit, don’t fuss with it.

Wearing a suit like Bond involves the right balance of being aware of the suit and forgetting about it. Know how to button it and when to button and unbutton it, but don’t fuss or play with your buttons. Make sure that shirt cuffs don’t get caught inside a jacket sleeve. Lift up your trouser legs when sitting down so they don’t stretch at the knees and so the crease is not pulled out. It’s okay to put your hands in your trouser pockets, but your suit jacket better have double vents or else the jacket will bunch up over your hands. Check yourself out in the mirror when visiting the toilet to make sure everything is in place, but don’t do it when in public.

5. Don’t remove your jacket in public.

James Bond should have left his jacket on.

A suit jacket is not an outercoat and is meant to be worn when in public. Don’t take your jacket off at dinner, at a wedding or at a business meeting. James Bond looked like an amateur suit-wearer when he doffed his dinner jacket at the casino table in Casino Royale. When at work it is apporpriate to remove your jacket in your private office like James Bond does in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, whether or not you are wearing a waistcoat. Though a waistcoat helps the outfit to look more finished, it does not take the place of a jacket. If you remove your jacket in your office, you should put it back on for meetings, even if the meeting is in your own office. Someone who removes his suit jacket looks both uncomfortable in a suit and lacks confidence in a suit. Walking through the desert in your suit, à la Roger Moore in The Spy Who Loved Me, is the rare occasion when it is appropriate to remove your jacket.

6. Dress for the occasion.

Knowing when to wear a suit is key to wearing a suit like Bond does. It is important to not overdress or underdress in a suit. Overdressing in a suit looks like you’re wearing costume. Underdressing in a suit, such as wearing a suit when you could be wearing a dinner jacket instead, is not something Bond would do, but it isn’t always poor form either. When in doubt, slightly overdressing in a suit is what Bond would do.

When the character of James Bond was conceived in print in the 1950s, and when Bond first appeared on film in the 1960s, professional businessmen wore suits and thus Bond always wore a suit. Since then the world has changed and the average man does not wear a suit daily. Just because James Bond wears a suit to the office does not mean that you should as well. Few offices today require suits. If a suit is not required for your job or part of your work culture and you are not the boss or in upper management, a suit is not appropriate. If you can’t wear a suit to work, there are still many occasions to wear a suit.

Anyone can wear a suit to a fancy restaurant, to a life event such as a wedding, to a funeral, to a fancy non-black tie event, to a classical music concert or an opera, or to an interview.

7. Accessorise appropriately.

Part of Bond’s mentality to dressing comes is about not drawing undue attention to his clothes and following the customs of classic English style. With rare exception for less formal summer suits, Bond always wears a formal shirt and tie with his suits. The shirt should always be light in colour: white, light blue or cream, with the rare pink shirt. Ties should not draw attention and should be solid or subtly patterned in muted dark to medium colours. Shoes with blue, grey and dark brown suits should always be black in the Bond tradition. A subtle pocket square is optional. Branching away from these suit accessories would take one away from James Bond style and take more confidence to pull off, though for the less experienced suit wearer, Bond style is the best place to start.

35 COMMENTS

  1. Great article, Mr Spaiser. Really enjoyed that.

    What would your advice be for being comfortable in a suit in very warm weather? Let’s say it’s an interview or a formal meeting where an informal summer suit wouldn’t do. How would one get round that?

  2. I have to respectfully disagree on the point that it’s inappropriate to wear a suit to work if it’s not compulsory. Certainly you might stand out while everyone else is wearing polos and short sleeve button ups, but certainly not in a bad way. The reason I wear a suit is because of something you pointed out in this very blog, in the article about why Bond wears suits: because it reminds me that I’m working and helps me take my job seriously.

    On top of that, I and the other people who wear suits to work, recieve little but compliments. We’ve even inspired others to dress up more too. To say that someone doesn’t have to wear a suit if they don’t want is one thing, but to completely declare it’s inappropriate to do so is to lo much I think.

    • I have to agree. Just don’t take yourself too seriously. If you’re going to be the only one wearing a suit, wear it with an air of indifference and a smirk, as though you’re doing something cheeky.

    • Wear a suit when you want to.

      Do not worry about their perceptions. Chances are their tastes were disagreeable to say the least.

  3. RE: #5

    I have always felt that part of the self-contained arc within CASINO ROYALE was 007’s evolution from (as M put it) blunt instrument into something more refined. Doffing his jacket at the table was just one more misstep in his evolution from thug to James Bond.

      • That is correct. And to the best of my memory that is the only time we actually see James Bond buying clothes or actually be in the presence of a tailor in any of the Bond films.

        What I like about the scene is that we see Bond taking clothes seriously (comment about a tie being too busy) and we get a sense of fun, but also the sense that these tailors actually like waiting on someone who actually knows what he’s talking about, clothes-wise.

        This sets Moore apart from Connery, who while dressed well always gave me a sense of menace or danger. Moore is more light-hearted. I can’t imagine even for a second Connery’s Bond mixing with a tailor. It’s a nice little scene that separates the two Bonds and lets Moore put his own stamp on the part.

      • I imagine Connery Bond dealing with his clothes the way he orders breakfast lol.

        “James Bond here. Just get me four of the same shirts I ordered last time, will you?” *click*

  4. Has any fictional character contributed as much to the survival of the suit as James Bond? I doubt it. Even Casino Royale, the most casual Bond film of the modern era, featured one of the great dinner jackets of the series.

  5. Excellent article Matt! One of the ancillary benefits of dressing like Bond I notice is that women find it very attractive and often say so. This weekend I wore a blue silk knit tie, in Bond fashion, and received female compliments. As ZZ Top reminds us “girls go crazy about a sharp dressed man”, it’s true. The most important rule is definitely rule #1, it all starts there. The second most important rule is to remember rule #1.

  6. One thing I’ve never found appealing is fancy pocket squares. Bond almost never wear any pocket square apart from his white linen ones, yet I see many men’s blogs seem to think them more essential than a tie. I personally avoid all pocket squares except neatly TV folded white linen or cotton ones. Crown folds and neatly puffed pocket squares look tryhard. Just stuffing it in there looks sloppy. The patterned or colourful silk ones don’t have the same nice contrast with the suit that white ones do.

    • The white linen TV fold could never go wrong, but it could be a bit boring at times. Personally, I think it works when the other parts of the outfit are understated enough and when the occasion calls for it. From my experience, the tryhard vibe comes from people who try to be too flashy elsewhere. A sober navy suit, blue shirt, navy grenadine tie from work could be elevated to a cocktail party attire just by replacing the white linen TV fold to a lavender puff, and that would still look effortless.

      • I agree with you, E.O. And once again, I think Bond provides a helpful blueprint. Brosnan’s sick colored pocket squares in Goldeneye do not look try-hard to me. And I think puffed white silk looks a little more elegant with a dinner suit than standard cotton or linen.

  7. “Shoes with blue, grey and dark brown suits should always be black in the Bond tradition. ”

    -Black shoes with blue and grey suits – certainly, although with some suits in brighter shades of blue and grey brown shoes work better. But with dark brown suits? Only if it is a brown which tends strongly to black (the GF “Fort Knox suit”); however in most cases brown shoes are the right (and the only appropriate!) choice. F. i. the black shoes Connery wears with his brown TB suit are a miss.

    • You can’t create your own James Bond style if you’re not James Bond, but I can write something on how to make James Bond style your own. Iconic Alternatives has been writing articles along these lines, but I can provide my own take on it. There are plenty of articles on this site already on the specifics of how to wear clothes that best suit your own face shape or complexion.

  8. I guess what I’m trying to say is
    If I was chosen to wear James bond what would I wear?
    I’m just trying to have the best version of myself and not be an imitator.

    Your choice of wedding attire was superb because it was the bond platform and you chose it to your specifications not to connerys

    • I really liked Matt’s articles that get into the mindset of what people like Hemming or other costume designers were thinking in their approach to dressing a particular Bond (e.g., how certain colors tended to be matched together, frequently used weaves or fabrics, etc). That’s been the most helpful for me in expanding beyond the finite number of outfits and ties shown on screen and moving beyond the collector/cosplay realm.

      • Okay tredstone, if Barbra Broccoli came up to you and wanted you to be Bond, how would you dress for the role?

  9. Gets similar to saul’s question, but I’d like to see a comprehensive article series on how Bond as a character chooses his wardrobe for the occasion. For example, how he chooses his clothes when he goes to meet M, in a casual lounging situation, when he expects action, in the winter mountain…etc. We know from Bond’s line in Dr. No, “Am I properly dressed for the occasion?” that he is conscious about dressing correctly for the event he is headed to, and an article that summarizes how he picks out clothes (from his standpoint and not the costume designer) would be very interesting!

  10. Great article, thank you!

    Do you think it is appropriate to remove a suit jacket when working in the modern open space office if there’s no customer interaction or are open space offices considered more like a public place?

  11. Love your articles as always but I think you took the part where bond took off his jacket in Casino Royale out of context. He just survived assassination and wouldn’t blame him if he was recovering.

  12. I was actually going to copy, and I do mean copy, Lapo Elkanns look everytime he does an interview. His jacket is off and his sleeves are always rolled up.

    I will let that fester for a bit…

  13. One of my biggest complaints about suits today besides they look like they are three sizes too small, is that the pocket square is cut in at angle with half of it hidden behind the lapel. Not like the early Sinclair/Connery suits where its fully visible and straight and a pocket square makes sense. ( one for show, one to blow)

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