When James Bond sneaks about at night, he needs to blend in with his surroundings as to draw as little attention as possible. As Tom Sears of James Bond Radio would say, everyone loves some ‘Sneaky Bond’, and there wouldn’t be any Sneaky Bond if he didn’t dress the part.
Bond’s tactical choices for night have long sleeves for full coverage and are comfortable and flexible so he can do his job without his clothes getting in the way. Usually these outfits are dark to reflect as little light as possible, though he sometimes wears outfits that camouflage with the colour of his surroundings. In reality, black is not the best colour for camouflage unless one’s surroundings are black, and even then it can still make someone stand out. Solid colours are also not idea for camouflage because they outline the body.
However, Bond cannot usually wear tradition military camouflage patterns because he frequently needs clothes that can allow him to blend in socially as well as visually. Camo-chiq isn’t Bond’s style either, and he needs to look stylish in a more sophisticated way. Many of Bond’s sneaky looks are made up of stylish casual staples that anyone can wear.
001. V-Neck Jumper and Polo
Goldfinger features the first Sneaky Bond outfits, and one of them is an unusual combination of a black v-neck jumper over a black short-sleeve polo for when Bond surveils Goldfinger’s factory at night. At a glance it looks like Bond is wearing a long-sleeve polo, but the two pieces come together to do something that neither could do alone. Dark charcoal grey trousers provide a tasteful but very subtle contrast with the black jumper and improve both the outfit’s camouflage abilities and its style factor. Bond’s short black leather ankle boots are more stylish than they are practical.
002. The Long Sleeve Polo
In Thunderball, Bond sneaks around Largo’s Palmyra estate in the Bahamas in a black long-sleeve polo and black trousers, both made of lightweight wool. With only one piece on top, it looks more refined than the Goldfinger outfit and wears cooler for the tropical location. Trim black bespoke trousers and black leather ankle boots complete the elegant look. This outfit sets the gold standard for Sneaky Bond style.
Shiny and reflective pearlescent buttons on the polo’s placket and on the trousers’ DAKS tops side adjusters, unfortunately take away from any tactical benefits that this outfit has. While they make the clothes look more luxurious, luxury isn’t necessarily a benefit when it come to camouflage.
Bond brings back this look in navy in The Living Daylights for his showdown with Brad Whitaker. In navy it is better night camouflage than black, but the outfit lacks the refinement of the Thunderball look.
003. The Grey Mock Neck
Bond does not always wear dark colours for sneaking around. In You Only Live Twice, he chooses a mid-grey outfit for camouflaging inside Blofeld’s volcano lair. He pairs a fitted cotton jersey mock turtleneck with loose grey trousers and black-painted canvas sneakers, for a less stylish but entirely purposeful sneaky outfit. An open-face ninja mask and gloves, also in mid-grey, complete the tactical look. This is one of Bond’s more successful camouflages, but it comes at the cost of looking stylish. Bond does not necessarily need to look stylish in these scenes, but it means that the outfit lacks the charm of most of Connery’s other looks.
004. The Dark Turtlenck
The dark turtleneck was a spywear staple in the 1960s, and today it still has the reputation as the ultimate tactical clothing item. Thanks to the series Archer, it is now known best as the ‘tactleneck’. Paired with a shoulder holster, it was originally made famous by David McCallum as Illya Kuryakin in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in the mid-1960s. It’s a look that Steve McQueen later wore with more notoriety for Bullitt in 1968. In 1973, the dark turtleneck with a shoulder holster became an iconic Bond look when Roger Moore wears a black turtleneck with black trousers to infiltrate Kananga’s voodoo lair in Live and Let Die.
In For Your Eyes Only, Moore is provided with an all-navy outfit to join Columbo’s team for a sneaky nighttime mission. Not only does he wear a navy turtleneck and navy trousers, he adds a navy polyester blouson on top of it. Navy can be a better nighttime camouflage than black.
In Die Another Day, the dark turtleneck returns in charcoal grey, and it’s made of a heavy ribbed cashmere to make it a cold-weather Sneaky Bond outfit. He pairs it with dark-coloured synthetic winter trousers for a dark tactical look. However, since he is sneaking around a brightly lit greenhouse, this gear is not effective camouflage.
Bond brings back the charcoal turtleneck when he sneaks around London in Spectre, though this time it’s a mock neck. He pairs it with black-and-grey-weave trousers and a dark blue goat suede jacket to conceal the shoulder holster. The outfit is similar to his mission look in For Your Eyes Only but in an updated manner for 2015.
005. The Black Half-Zip Shirt
Bond wears another variation on the all-black look in Moonraker with a half-zip shirt in cotton jersey. It’s a shirt made of a comfortable and stretchy knit, but it is constructured like a shirt and not like a polo or a jumper. This kind of shirt wasn’t all that unusual for the 1970s, but it’s nevertheless a stylish alternative to a polo. When paired with black trousers, it makes for one of Bond’s most memorable sneaky outfits for both searching Drax’s library and investigating his laboratory. It’s an equally stylish look for his evening rendezvous with Corrine Dufour and Holly Goodhead.
006. The Safari Suit
To match his tan stone surroundings while sneaking around Kamal Khan’s palace in India in Octopussy, Bond dons a tan safari suit of matching shirt and trousers to blend in. Even though it’s nighttime, matching the light-coloured building in light-coloured clothes is better camouflage than Bond’s usual dark outfits for after-dark excursions. The next morning, the outfit looks right at home in the jungle when Kamal is hunting Bond.
007. Black Tactical Gear
For the training exercise in The Living Daylights, for infiltrating a Soviet chemical weapons facility in GoldenEye and for sneaking onto Carver’s stealth ship in Tomorrow Never Dies, Bond wears all-black outfits of military or military-esque gear for his sneaky missions. As the action in the Bond films became more intense, so did Bond’s action wardrobe. These outfits often include vests, jackets or jumpsuits that prize function over form. None of these are outfits that a civilian could wear, but they work well for some of Bond’s most hardcore operations.