Let’s give a thunderous round of applause for Thunderball‘s costuming.
James Bond: Sean Connery
Director: Terence Young
Wardrobe designer: Anthony Mendleson
Wardrobe master: John Brady
Wardrobe mistress: Eileen Sullivan
Tailoring: Anthony Sinclair
Shirts and ties: Turnbull & Asser
Bond returns to the Caribbean in Thunderball after visiting three years earlier in Dr. No, but this time he comes better prepared for the hot, humid weather and water sports with a new assortment of exciting tropical clothing. Bond frequently changes his outfits and repurposes clothes throughout the film to provide a vast number of inspiring looks. Thunderball shows a continued evolution in James Bond’s tailored style while also breaking new ground with Bond’s beachwear.
The midnight blue shawl-collar dinner suit is made of a vibrant, lightweight mohair that is perfect for a formal night in a hot location. The sheen of the mohair makes it one of Bond’s flashiest dinner suits of the series, but the classic styling keeps it tasteful.
The dress shirt is a wonderfully pared down design. Its fancy white-on-white stripe cotton is the only thing that makes it more formal than an ordinary shirt. The design is as basic as Bond’s other shirts, with the same spread collar, two-button cocktail cuffs and button-front placket. I think Ian Fleming’s Bond, who didn’t like fussiness, would appreciate it.
Lounge Suits and Jackets
Like Dr. No, Thunderball features only three suits, and two of them are in similar cloths. Bond starts with his usual dark grey flannel suit for a funeral, and like in Goldfinger it’s a three-piece suit. It’s an appropriate choice for a somber occasion, but in its fourth incarnation in the series it’s proven to be a versatile garment for cool-weather occasions of varying formality. It’s the signature suit of Connery’s Bond, and it’s welcome again here.
He again wears a brown suit to the office, but this time it’s a sharp dark-brown medium-weight wool and mohair three-piece suit. It’s a flashy and fashion-forward choice for London officewear, but it’s not a country suit. The shine from the mohair makes it looks more appropriate for a fancy night on the town, but it’s a beautiful suit and a modern take on the usually stodgy brown suit.
Bond continues with mohair suiting for his third suit, which he does wear for a night out in the Bahamas. This one is lightweight in a black and white contrast weave, which accentuates the sheen. It’s the perfect choice for the location because it’s a very cool-wearing suit, and Bond looks appropriately stylish when he arrives at the Kiss Kiss Club. The light colour would have looked good in daylight, but the sheen also makes it the perfect nighttime suit.
For Thunderball, Bond dives deeper into 1960s London tailoring fashions than before. The lapels continue to be narrow. The shiny mohair suits were very trendy at the time. The waistcoats have a straight hem at the front, which was also popular in the 1960s. While these aspects keep the suits very much in the 1960s, they still look good today because they don’t sacrifice a good fit. The suits are also a bit more fitted compared to before, which helps them look better to a contemporary eye. The suits are fun and interesting but still tasteful. They include just the right balance of tradition and fashion.
In addition to the suits, the barleycorn tweed hacking jacket and cavalry twill trousers from Goldfinger are back, and they appear to be the same garments that Connery wore in Woman of Straw and Goldfinger. They’re perfect for the English country setting at Shrublands. It’s also a nice touch to see that Bond holds onto clothes, making this one of the most realistic wardrobe choices of the series.
Bond also has a blue doeskin blazer almost the same as the one in Dr. No, but the lapels have a different shape and the buttons are brass instead of gunmetal. I like to think that it’s supposed to be the Dr. No blazer. While it’s a good choice to wear with flannel trousers in the English countryside under a wool herringbone topcoat and a brown felt trilby, Bond once again brings it to the Caribbean where even after dark it’s much too warm.
The Turnbull & Asser cocktail cuff shirts and grenadine ties from Dr. No and From Russia with Love make a welcome return, likely due to director Terence Young’s return. The shirts are in blue and ecru poplin, and the blue shirts are an attractive darker shade compared to the shirts from the first two Bond films. The ties aren’t just navy, and like in Goldfinger Bond’s grenadine selection now includes black and brown. It brings more interest to the wardrobe, unlike the monotony of the navy tie throughout From Russia with Love.
Bond’s formal footwear includes a pair of black slip-on demi boots with elastic on the instep. Like the suits, this boot style was very trendy in the 1960s, but as Fleming’s Bond abhorred laces it’s an excellent choice from that perspective. The style is very streamlined and still looks good, if unusual, today.
Despite its memorable suits, Thunderball‘s casual style is the wardrobe’s main attraction. Most of the casual clothes look refined, showing that Bond puts as much effort into dressing down as he does dressing up.
Spending time at a health spa involves dressing Bond in dressing gowns and towelling. The towel skirt with a pocket is particularly fun and practical, while his more luxurious blue dressing gown looks comfortable and elegant.
- Bond also wears a black fine-gauge wool polo with fawn cavalry twill trousers at Shrublands (the same trousers he pairs with the tweed jacket) and later with black tropical wool trousers in the Bahamas. Both of these outfits are perfect examples of how to dress down elegantly and are amongst my favourites in the series. The long-sleeve polo sweater with wool trousers has inspired me to dress the same way when I want to dress down but look put-together.
Camp shirts in cotton and linen dominate Bond’s clothes in the Bahamas, with five total in blue and pink solid, gingham and butcher stripes. He pairs some of them with skimpy Jantzen swim trunks, while other he pairs with lightweight tailored trousers. The blue striped camp shirt with stone trousers is a standout and is easily the most elegant of the Bahamas casual outfits. Espadrilles and sandals comprise the footwear, and unlike for Fleming’s Bond the sandals thankfully don’t get dressed up with suits.
The solid blue camp shirt with matching trousers is the only questionable look of the bunch, and the shirt’s styling with large buttons would almost make the outfit look pyjama-like if it wasn’t for the tailored fit. Still, it looks good on Connery along with the straw hat.
He wears black Cool-Ray Polaroid N135 sunglasses styled by Cari Michelle with a few of these outfits. The sunglasses are a rectangular Wayfarer style but the sunglasses themselves don’t look all that sophisticated. The construction is cheap and the shape is a bit wide, but they manage to look cool on Connery,.
The polo returns, but this time it’s a mid-blue polo from Fred Perry with the iconic logo on the chest. Like with the Jantzen swimwear it’s interesting to see Bond wearing branded sportswear, and the branding helps make his clothes seem more accessible in a good way.
He also wears a few diving outfits in the film, which don’t particularly interest me. I can’t deny that Connery looks superb in them, and the red one looks fantastic on screen. They’re just the right gear for the film’s underwater sequences.
Emilio Largo is one of the best-dressed Bond villains of all time, particularly in his Casablanca-esque double-breasted ivory dinner jacket. His 8×3 double-breasted blazer looks particularly regal, and he wears it well. By dressing in a way that rivals Bond’s elegance, it paints him as a worthy adversary. The film’s three Bond girls always look striking as well, whether dressed up in their evening gowns or dressed down in their swimwear.
Well Done, James
I appreciate seeing items from previous films return, whether they’re the same like the hacking jacket and cavalry twill trousers or updated versions like the shawl collar dinner suit, the grey flannel suit, the grey mohair suit and the navy blazer. Even though the casual clothes are new styles for Bond, the familiar tailored looks do an excellent job at reinforcing the classic Bondian looks. The casual style throughout the film is always elegantly done and is still memorable today. The long sleeve polo and the blue striped camp shirt are amongst my favourite casual looks of the series. Bond always looks his best throughout the film, and every outfit is exciting.
Not Perfected Yet
Though Bond wears unvented suits in the previous two Bond films, all three of his suits in Thunderball are without vents. I personally don’t care for the style, but this is a matter of personal preference. I think that double vents look better in the action sequences because of how they move with the body. Vents look more dramatic.
There are also some continuity issues, like when cocktail cuffs turn into double cuffs when Bond flies the jet pack, or when demi-boots turn into loafers when Bond is wearing his black and white suit. But every item he wears still looks fantastic.
Thunderball is a film that may be more style over substance, but only the style counts in this review. With so many items in this wardrobe, there is so much more to love. While some of the clothes were considerably of their time, they’re still relevant today. For the last two decades, most of Bond’s clothes have been in fashion again. Even if the clothes fall out of fashion again, they will always been seen as tasteful. Bond looks perfect at all times in this film, and the entire film is glamourous.
Do you agree or disagree with my assessment? Leave your comments below.