Bond Wardrobe Review 1: Dr. No (1962)

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A Successful First Fitting for 007

James Bond: Sean Connery
Director: Terence Young
Costumes: Tessa Welborn
Wardrobe master: John Brady
Wardrobe mistress: Eileen Sullivan
Tailoring: Anthony Sinclair
Shirts: Turnbull & Asser, allegedly Lanvin and Frank Foster too
Ties: Turnbull & Asser

This is the first in a series of reviews of James Bond’s style from each film. Many Bond content creators have evaluated the Bond series film by film over the past few years. The Dressed To Kill podcast with Elma Valerio and Alana Fickes has even assessed the wardrobes of many Bond films, with a take much different from my own. I have reviewed wardrobes for a few Bond films on the From Tailors with Love podcast and on Bond Experience livestreams. But I would like to have my own space for these reviews. In this series you’ll be able to read my—Matt Spaiser’s—opinions and assessments of each film’s wardrobe.

Overview

Dr. No‘s director Terence Young established the on-screen look for James Bond for the film, thus making its wardrobe the most important of the entire film series. It was partially an interpretation of how Ian Fleming dressed Bond in the original novels combined with Young’s own style, but it was much more the latter. Young brought his own tailor, Anthony Sinclair, and his own shirtmaker, Turnbull & Asser, into the fold to dress Sean Connery as Bond. Young also mentioned Lanvin as making shirts for Dr. No, and shirtmaker Frank Foster also said that he made shirts for Dr. No, but Turnbull & Asser are the only ones to have since produced a record of making shirts for the film, and the shirts all resemble theirs. It’s possible that Young brought in John Lobb of St. James’s to makes Sean Connery’s shoes, but it is unclear in which Bond films Connery wears their shoes other than Diamonds Are Forever.

Young succeeded in costuming James Bond as a man with a refined sense of style who dressed in expensive and well-crafted but unassuming clothes. The tailoring is perfect in a timeless English style that isn’t much different from what most Savile Row tailors make today. The cut is a little old-fashioned by today’s standards due to the fuller cut and high-waisted trousers, but the soft shoulders make the cut look natural on Connery. Because nothing is exaggerated about the style of the tailored clothes in Dr. No, they hold up extremely well today.

Formal Wear

The most important look of Dr. No is Bond’s midnight blue shawl-collar dinner suit. It’s possibly the single most important outfit of the entire Bond series, being the one that defined the dinner suit as James Bond’s most iconic outfit. It’s because James Bond was introduced in a dinner suit that he is known for wearing black tie.

Anthony Sinclair made the perfect dinner suit, with an elegant bellied shawl collar and the standout detail of gauntlet cuffs. Though Sinclair’s cut may look slightly outdated today on a suit, its grandeur is less conspicuous on to the dinner suit now than it would be on a business suit. A man could look good in this dinner suit at any time over the last 61 years. In 1962, however, this dinner suit would have stood out less. It would have marked James Bond as a sophisticated man, but only in the eyes of equally sophisticated people. It would not have made him stand out from the crowd in the casino. The balance is perfect for the character.

I based my own dinner suit from the modern incarnation of Anthony Sinclair on this one, only changing the shawl collar for peaked lapels because I think they better suit my face. However, I appreciate the shawl collar on Connery. While there are many dinner suits from the series that I love, I chose this style because I think it represents the quintessential black tie look, and not only in the context of James Bond. But Bond has certainly influenced how I view black tie.

Bond has also influenced how I accept the two non-traditional details of this out: double vents and the lack of a waist-covering. Traditionalists argue that a dinner jacket should not have any vents and that a waistcoat or cummerbund is necessary with a dinner jacket. I think Connery’s example does not suffer in any way for these transgressions, which many stylish contemporaries would not have taken issue with. Despite being a traditionalist myself, I accept these changes to traditional black tie.

The pleated voile dress shirt is the least dated of any item in this look, and it could be paired with any dinner suit since the 1930s without looking out of place. The only thing that dates this whole outfit is the delicate diamond-point bow tie. Narrow bow ties were very much on trend for this era, and a wider, more timeless bow tie could work equally well with this dinner suit.

Lounge Suits and Jackets

Dr. No features three grey suits and one navy blazer, all with two buttons on the jackets and forward-pleat trousers. Bond wears these outfits all in Jamaica, but oddly only two of them are appropriate for Jamaica. He arrives in a dark grey flannel suit and a felt trilby, dressing as he would for London and clearly uncomfortable with the heat. It’s a puzzling choice, but it succeed at showing how Bond would dress every day in London. It can be argued that the flannel suit is appropriate for Bond’s arrival in Jamaica because he had just come from London, and he may have worn it to keep warm on the flight. He puts on a more appropriate suit for Jamaica as soon as he has a chance to.

He changes out of the flannel suit into a lightweight black and white glen check suit, made of either worsted wool or wool and mohair. He later wears a light grey wool and mohair suit. These two look far more appropriate for the climate, and their light colours look beautiful in the sunny locale. I appreciate how they still maintain Bond’s classic British look, but in better cloths for the location.

The navy blazer brings Bond back to the spirit of cold weather, but thankfully Sean Connery wears it almost exclusively on sets in England rather than on location in Jamaica. The blazer is made of heavy wool doeskin, a type of flannel that is plenty insulating. He wears it with the trousers from his dark grey flannel suit, another item inappropriate for Jamaica. The gunmetal buttons, however, are a nice touch to differentiate Bond’s blazer from the standard brass-buttoned blazer.

It would almost seem as if the grey flannel suit and the doeskin blazer were chosen because they were thought of as indispensable items than any English gentleman like Bond would own. Even though they’re versatile in England, they’re designed for that country’s cool weather, not for Jamaica’s heat and humidity. A hopsack blazer and tropical wool trousers would have been a better choice, and a third suit in addition to the two light grey suits was not at all necessary. Bond should have travelled to Jamaica in one of the two lightweight suits instead, and could also have benefited from packing lighter. Even with Dr. No‘s limited wardrobe budget, Bond brings more outfits on his mission than were necessary.

Regardless of how appropriate these outfits are, all of these outfits superbly establish the standard for how Bond should dress. The heavy wool outfits in Jamaica at least serve the purpose of defining the look of the character, even if they are misplaced in this film.

The white and light blue shirts and the solid navy grenadine tie are perhaps even more important than the suits in showing how Bond as a man of fine but restrained tastes. The shirts are made of luxurious Sea Island cotton, which can be noticed from their sheen. The unusual turned-back two-button cocktail cuffs add the only flourish to the wardrobe. Simple black three-eyelet derby shoes show Bond as someone who doesn’t wear anything out of the ordinary on the surface, with the unique aspects coming from high quality and refinement in the finer details.

Something Unusual

Bond wears one more jacket: a brown silk nehru jacket that is ‘suitable’ for dinner, provided to him by Dr No after being captured. It doesn’t do much for Bond, but it serves to establish both the half-Chinese Dr No’s Eastern tastes and a recurring theme for villainous looks in the Bond series. The popularity of the Nehru jacket had not yet taken off in the UK like it would a few years later. Connery looks good in the jacket, even if it isn’t Bond’s or something the character himself would choose. I like it in the context of the film, but otherwise Bond represents the West too much for him to ever choose this look. Bond’s own style had already been so well established in the film that this different kind of look does no harm to the character or his own style.

Connery wears with stone-coloured lightweight cotton trousers, which would be believable as something Bond himself would choose. They look excellent on Bond and would also have been a nice pairing for a navy blazer, albeit one lighter than Bond’s doeskin example.

Casual Attire

Bond only has one casual look in Dr. No, which is a light blue polo paired with light blue cotton trousers. The monochrome look here looks dated and too forced as costume. The stone trousers that Bond wears with the nehru jacket would have paired equally well with the polo and not looked so forced. But the blue-on-blue look makes an impression that can’t be ignored.

The light blue polo itself is Bond’s most ordinary wardrobe item of the film. It’s made of a cotton pique knit with a ribbed collar and ribbed cuffs. While a luxury version of this polo can be found at Sunspel today, Bond’s polo looks like a very typical one. It’s the kind of polo that is more often found with a branded logo on than chest than not.

Other Characters

The standout look of the film doesn’t go to James Bond but instead to Ursula Andress’ Honey Ryder. Her skimpy off-white bikini that was made from a bra was somewhat risque for a 1962 film, but after this film the style went mainstream. 61 years later, Andress’ look has just as much impact as it did when Dr. No was released.

Anthony Dawson’s character Professor Dent interestingly wears a shirt with cocktail cuffs similar to Bond’s, but the cuffs are a different design. Dawson’s shirt is made by Frank Foster, who would later make cocktail cuff shirts for Roger Moore.

Well Done, James

The suits, shirts and ties are fitted and styled to perfection. The colour choices are perfect for both the character and for Sean Connery’s complexion. The introduction of the cocktail cuff shirt is a subtle way to separate Bond’s attire from the average man. The solid navy grenadine tie adds interest and sophistication to what could otherwise be a boring tie. The polo shirt makes Bond look neatly dressed, even when he’s dressing down. The torn white undershirt, on the other hand, is effective at showing Bond’s distressed state when escaping Dr No’s prison.

Any of Bond’s looks from this film can and should be copied by people aiming to dress like James Bond. It is difficult to criticise this film’s wardrobe when it has had a significant impact on my own. Even if all the tailored outfits aren’t worn well in the context of the film, they’re all faultless outfits in and of themselves.

Not Perfected Yet

Perhaps the biggest issue with Bond’s wardrobe in Dr. No is when he fastens the bottom button of his grey flannel suit, disrupting the well-tailored lines of his bespoke suit. It makes Bond look like he doesn’t know how to wear a suit, and this mistake is incongruous with the rest of the character’s portrayal as someone who appreciates the finer things and generally knows how to do everything in life the right way. Though the Bond of Fleming’s novels is supposed to have a quirky sense of style, that wasn’t Terence Young’s intent when creating the look of the filmic Bond.

The heavy flannel suit and doeskin blazer are poorly suited to Jamaica’s weather. Those outfits themselves are without fault, and they are amongst my favourite looks in the entire series, but alas a man cannot be well dressed without considering context. Bond is a well-travelled man and should have known not to wear those items in the Caribbean. Lighter-weight clothes like his two light grey suits could have taken the place of both of the heavy outfits. The light grey mohair suit would have been perfect for Bond’s arrival in Jamaica, while the glen check suit would been appropriate for a slightly more relaxed tailored look for Bond’s date with Miss Taro.

The blue trousers that match the blue polo look too matchy-matchy. A different trouser colour, like stone, would have looked more natural.

Verdict

The film’s wardrobe brilliantly introduces the cinematic Bond’s look as the pinnacle of elegant and refined but understated menswear. It continues to influence James Bond’s style decades later, by directly inspiring the shawl-collar dinner suits, glen check suits, solid navy ties and cocktail cuff shirts in the Daniel Craig era. Dr. No‘s wardrobe isn’t faultless, but it is close to it. It’s difficult to conceive of a better stylistic start to the Bond series. I believe that every Bond wardrobe should be compared to the standards set in Dr. No.

Rating: 9/10

Do you agree or disagree with my assessment? Leave your comments below.

31 COMMENTS

  1. Every journey begins with a single step, and sometimes, the next one fumbles a bit, or one might even fall flat on the face. However, considering everything, I think 9/10 is an appropriate rate.

    Also, my theory as to why there were three shirtmakers. So, Turnbull and Asser, a name that is (cringey as it sounds) quintessentially British, and a setting that can woo and pleased even the most sartorially inexperienced. Then Lanvin, a very European, French name, one that easily conveys couture. But, Connery, given his roots and frankness, probably knowing that Young may have kept something up his sleeves, and asked for someone else who does works just as great, but does not make him feel out of place (mind you, at heart, Connery likes to connect himself to his roots), and hence, Frank Foster. I know that Roger Moore himself doesn’t like fancy places either, so Frank Foster is just proper. I mean, who cares what or who the royalty prefers? The recycled royal rear-wipes that sit in every of those famous stores is about as vile as “spretza turra”, so even I would feel uncomfortable, and my roots aren’t exactly like that of Connery.

    Sorry for the wall of text, Matt.

    • Quite a strange post. Why shoehorn in an irrelevant comment on royalty, especially as you claim not to care about them?

      • Nobody cares about royalty, but everyone is irritated how expensive something is because royalty laid their reusable rear-wipes on them, and it’s especially cringey when someone displays a royalty approval that increase pricing prohibitively. How you see it as shoehorning in is beyond me, given how much people will simp for royalty approval when it’s the tailors, shirtmakers, and cordwainers who don’t have their approvals that did the best work pieces.

      • And Harris, to think you’re not bothered of how expensive these title holders charge people tells me everything I need to know about you. Maybe you held a silver spoon since birth, and maybe it’s okay for you. But it’s not okay for me. I was never born with a silver spoon in my lips, and while I am now someone who holds silver – if not golden – spoon, I don’t think it’s even remotely right to charge people that much for some royalty approval rear-wipes. If there is something altruistic I want to do, then it would be to allow everyone of every corners to dress right, well, and with quality, without bleeding them to death with costs that don’t really reflect efforts.

        This is why – and I have made this declaration before – I will never, ever mingle or do business with any Savile Row establishment or any royal title holders. I think Sir Sean, back in his older days, would approve.

  2. Excellent idea to review James Bond’s style from each film in the series! This first one is very well researched and written and I’m really looking forward to more to come! Perhaps I’m a bit too generous but I would like to give Dr. No 10/10. I rather like the light blue colour scheme of Bond’s casual attire that gives him a more polished and uniform look, suitable for the 60’s. Regarding Bond fastening the bottom button on his grey flannel suit jacket; in more formal situations, from a military tradition, it may have been customary to fasten all buttons of ones clothing. About the question of shoemakers, I understand the bespoke shoes with the concealed compartment in the heel, worn by Bond in Goldfinger, were made by John Lobb (the feature was first developed by Lobb in the 19th Century, for the benefit of Australian gold diggers), as was probably the poison-tipped shoes worn by Lotte Lenya as Rosa Klebb, and Walter Gotell as Morzeny in FRWL. It would be much appreciated if you Matt could bring more clarity in this matter!

  3. Personally I rank Dr. No as the best amongst the Connery era. It definitely deserves extra points for setting the blueprint that everything else followed.

    Will you be reviewing all 25 films in sequential order or jumping around a bit (e.g., different Bond each week)?

  4. Perhaps Bond’s bringing some warm weather clothing to Jamaica could be excused in light of the very little time he had to pack. Recall that he had to leave London “immediately.. well, almost immediately.”

  5. No offense intended, but this concept seems pretty redundant to me considering you already covered every outfit in detail, not mentioning the Ranked wardrobe articles, etc. It’s useful for someone entirely new to the blog I guess.

      • Matt, these articles reviewing each movie’s wardrobe as a whole are a great idea a welcomed read for me and I’m sure many others. I also agree with your review of the Dr No wardrobe, it’s a 9/10 for me too for all of the same reasons. I’ve started to include many of the styling details in my tailored clothing as wearing a suit at all nowadays will probably have one labelled ’old fashioned’ so I figured I may as well go all in and wear what I like. A fuller cut jacket than is currently the standard and double forward pleat trousers are my go to now.

      • I agree, Matt, and think a comprehensive review of each film in turn is very useful. Looking forward to future reviews.

  6. Love the idea to review the outfits, film by film in order! I’d agree this is a 9/10.
    It wasn’t until I found your blog that I realized Bond’s Crab Key casual slacks were not in fact jeans. Maybe it was the print in which I saw the film, but yes, way too match-y for mission.

  7. I really enjoyed this write up! I tend to agree with most of your statements, although I do enjoy the monochrome blue outfit quite a bit. Do you think there is any situation where a top and bottom in matching colors can be worn together? Looking forward to the next one!

    • When Bond matches a shirt with trousers in black or navy it works much better because those colours are much more common. Light blue trousers have never been standard. We need to go out of our way to achieve this look, hence it’s affected.

  8. Love and agree with your musings on the Dr.No style for Bond. I don’t think it’s so much of a big issue concerning the heavier unsuitable for Jamaica suit for his arrival, he looks good in it anyways. Of course, anyone who has experience travelling to Jamaica at any time of the year but especially from a northern winter country knows that as soon as you land and walk down the outside stair ramp the heat will hit you like an open furnace door! Believe me, even in a golf shirt you’ll be drenched before you go thorough passport control! It’s a movie remember! Well done Matt.

    • Exactly my experience when visiting Kingston. Anyway, Bond is constantly on the move and never knows where his missions will take him next. He might be forced to move to another location on short notice so he finds it convenient to bring a suit or blazer for colder weather locations, to be prepared just in case.

  9. The wardrobe in Dr No is definitely stylish. You may say that some items are inappropriate for Jamaica but this is the series finding its feet. However, the grey wool and mohair suit is a good choice and the blue polo really works well in the Caribbean but are stone trousers going to be cooler in warm climates like the Caribbean?

  10. A great analysis of the Bond style and a film-by-film analysis of what he wears is a fantastic idea I shall be following.

    When watching Dr No on the big screen last year I was struck by how stylish and impressive his grey suit was when he goes to meet Quarrel and Leiter for the first time. 1962 and the look is almost timeless. Was there ever such attention to detail spent on a movie character, played by an actor known at that time for his television roles, produced on a tight budget and almost considered a B movie by United Artists? Style is evident in the novels but one of the genius moves from Broccoli and Saltzman (and Young) was to pay close attention to the look of Bond: Would he wear cufflinks, studs or buttons with his shirts? Would he wear a Rolex or another watch? How to tailor a jacket that shows off Connery’s physique yet at the same time would conceal a shoulder holster? What distinguishes the EON style of James Bond film is an immaculate sense of style.

  11. i think Dr No does a really nice job of taking the literary Bond’s wardrobe and adapting it for the screen. it keeps the feel of what Bond wears in the books, but makes it more interesting to look at.

  12. You may love or hate high-waisted trousers, but since they’re by far the fashion-forward choice of stylish younger men in 2024, the last thing you could call them is “old fashioned.”

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