Men often dress in colours for the season, for the time of day, or for their locale based on tradition. We try to put together a coordinated outfit that seems appropriate for what we’re doing. James Bond frequently dresses in colours that a man would traditionally wear in certain locations, like dark grey and blue suits in London, brown suits in the countryside, or light grey suits in the tropics. Other times Bond is dresses in colours to stand out from his surroundings, like in a dark dinner suit in an sandy Egyptian temple or a bright yellow ski suit in The Spy Who Loved Me.
Costume designers consider this too when dressing their characters, but they’re also dressing people with the whole composition of a shot in mind. They frequently contemplate the set or location when dressing their characters to ensure the colour schemes match. There are some special occasions where Bond is dressed to match his surroundings in a uniquely composed way. Here are seven of those occasions.
1. Warm Tones for Fort Knox
The dark brown suit that Bond wears in Goldfinger inside Ken Adam’s Fort Knox set subtly reflects his gold and brown surroundings. The warm tone of the suit as opposed to a grey or blue suit helps Bond to match the tone of his surroundings, but the darkness of the suit allows him to stand out against the gold bullion and steel bars. He can’t wear a gold suit; that would be too flashy for Bond, and that colour is saved for Goldfinger himself.
2. Coordinating With His Car
The blue striped shirt and stone trousers in Thunderball is one of the most popular of Bond’s casual outfits in the film, and it’s partially because of how well it allows Bond to blend in with the tropical location. The light blue in the shirt recalls the sky and ocean, while the trousers recall the sandy beach. More specifically in the scene at Largo’s home, the shirt matches Largo’s pool and the trousers match the stones around the pool.
Bond even matches the Lincoln Continental convertible he arrives in, which is light blue with an off-white top. Bond flips the colours top and bottom so he coordinates with rather than blends in with the car as he exits it.
3. Wearing the Crocodile Farm
Roger Moore may be known as the Bond who wears brown suits, but he wears them to look good amongst the places he visits. In Live and Let Die he wears a tan sports coat with dark brown trousers, which look particularly attractive when Bond is left to be eaten alive on a small island in the middle of a pond of alligators and crocodiles. The tan jacket matches the rocky island while the brown trousers match the murky reptile-filled waters. The jacket connects Bond with the island, emphasising his desperate situation. This had to have been a conscious decision by costume designer Julie Harris.
Moore also made the decision to wear crocodile shoes in this scene, going above and beyond to match his clothes to what surrounds him.
4. A 1970s Colour Scheme
In The Man with the Golden Gun, Bond’s unusual olive suit is given context when he arrives aboard the RMS Queen Elizabeth, sunken in Hong Kong Harbour. Production designer Peter Murton created an unusual tileted set for M’s office to look like it’s inside of the wrecked ship. The lower half of the set is trimmed in olive green wallpaper while the upper half is dressed in light brown.
Bond’s suit and tie match the olive wallpaper, while Lieutenant Hip’s suit and tie matches the brown wallpaper. Despite the craziness of the set, the colours of their clothes help them look like they’re right where they belong: on a British vessel in 1974.
5. Does the Jacket Match the Drapes?
For Bond’s arrival in India in Octopussy, costume designer Emma Porteous dressed Bond in a tan gabardine suit that matches the setting perfectly. As he walks by his hotel’s pool he elegantly matches the tan stone and yellow walls perfectly. When he arrives in his suite, a set in shades of tan and beige designed by the late Peter Lamont, he again looks like he fits in perfectly. Just as in the previous instances, when Bond matches his surroundings, it gives the audience a sense of belonging. Bond looks to be at ease when he doesn’t jar with his surroundings. It gives a sense of comfort and projects confidence onto Bond.
Even though Bond blends in perfectly with the sets on this occasion, he stands out being one of the few people dressed so neutrally with low contrast. On the streets in India, Bond is surrounded by locals dressed in bright red, yellow and green, while his tan suit keeps him grounded. At the hotel poolside, Bond’s colour-neutrality lets the girls stand out.
6. Grey on Grey
A charcoal suit in Tomorrow Never Dies not only helps Bond blend in amongst Hamburg business men, it also assists Bond as he sneaks around Carver’s modern, cool-toned offices. Later it allows Bond to blend in with the black seats in his BMW 750iL, while allowing the light blue shirt to draw attention to his face. The brown tie adds some more contrast, but it helps Bond to blend in with the warm tones in his hotel room. This thoughtful outfit put together by costume designer Lindy Hemming always makes Bond appear in control.
7. Bond Still Blends In
Costume designer Suttirat Anne Larlarb revived the tan suit for No Time to Die—the first time since the Pierce Brosnan films—to help Bond match the stone of Matera and Gravina in Puglia in Italy. The blue shirt matches the sky, but more than anything it helps to draw attention to Bond’s face amongst all the tan. The burgundy tie does the same to contrast the suit and point to the face. These colours all give a warmth to Daniel Craig’s Bond as well, who usually comes across as the coldest portrayal of Bond.
We can’t usually dress for our surroundings in the same way a costume designer can dress a character for a film set or location. A man who does this in real life would be marked as trying too hard. But these outfits teach us that one can never be too aware of their surroundings. A gentleman dresses to look like he belongs wherever he is, and colour is one of the most important tools he can use to achieve this.