A Rather Odd Mixture of Styles, But Bond Refuses to Go Entirely Japanese
James Bond: Sean Connery
Director: Lewis Gilbert
Wardrobe mistress: Eileen Sullivan
Tailoring: Anthony Sinclair
Shirts and ties: Turnbull & Asser
You Only Live Twice breaks away from the past wardrobe successes for less James Bond style and more borrowed clothes and disguises. While there are a few iconic looks that remind us that Sean Connery is still James Bond, many outfits miss the mark. There are not enough moments in the film when Bond looks like Bond. Connery’s You Only Live Twice wardrobe has only three noteworthy outfits, and when they’re on screen they remind us of how Bond dresses at his best.
You Only Live Twice is the first of two Bond films without Bond wearing a dinner jacket, and in this case it demonstrates a lack of glamour in the film’s wardrobe and in the film itself. Bond’s first outfit in the film, his naval dress uniform, almost takes its place in terms of iconography.
The only formalwear in You Only Live Twice is Bond’s formal kimono for the mock wedding scene. It is an appropriate outfit that fits the scene, but Bond hardly looks or acts like himself in it. It’s part of an extensive disguise, so in that sense it is effective. Nevertheless, it is a shame that Bond doesn’t wear his quintessential dinner jacket in the film, but it’s better that it wasn’t forced into the story.
The first of Bond’s three best outfits in the film is his Royal Navy Blue No. 1 dress uniform, taking the place of his usual suit for the M’s office scene. It’s the first time in the films that Commander Bond’s history in the Royal Navy is acknowledged in the films, and his dress uniform tells us a lot about the character that isn’t said in the dialogue. The film’s story is original and is not taken from Fleming’s You Only Live Twice novel, very little of which makes it to the film. However, the naval uniform introduces us to an important aspect of Ian Fleming’s character we haven’t seen before on screen.
In the next scene, Bond wears a herringbone suit in light grey and black. While this suit is a new twist on Bond’s usual grey suit uniform, this one is less striking than all that came before. The ecru shirt looks dull against the suit and isn’t as flattering on Connery as his usual light blue shirts. While cream and ecru shirts look good on him when paired with brown suits and jackets, the combination isn’t right for Connery here. The low contrast in addition to the shirt’s colour being a poor choice bring down the whole outfit.
The suit is very nice in concept, but the herringbone weave isn’t right for Tokyo’s heat and humidity. Herringbone weaves don’t breathe well, and this cloth’s medium weight (by 1960s standards) is too heavy. The fit isn’t flattering either, since it looks like Connnery gained weight in his waist after the fitting. Connery isn’t in the top physical form that he was in previous Bond films, but he hardly looks bad here. However, the suit’s tight fit in the waist is making him look less good than he should.
Because Bond removes his stylish black slip-on shoes before entering Henderson’s home, he finds himself forced to take the unusual black and white shoes from the henchman he kills. He also takes the trench coat, fedora and face mask from the henchman, and all these items together are an effective disguise. While these shoes compromise Bond’s style in a number of scenes, it makes sense in the story. Often in these situations, Bond finds more stylish clothes, like when he steals the perfect dinner suit in Quantum of Solace. It’s shame that couldn’t have been the case here.
The dark blue lightweight suit is the second of Bond’s three noteworthy looks in the film. It’s much more appropriate for Japan’s climate, being a lightweight suit in either wool and mohair or tropical wool. The suit stands out in the series by being the first of only a small handful to have one button on the front, a 1960s trend and a popular bespoke style today.
This is one of the most Fleming-esque outfits of the entire series, and it comes the closest to the uniform Bond is best-known for wearing in the books: a lightweight dark-blue suit, a knitted silk tie (albeit navy here instead of black) and black slip-on shoes. For this reason, the knitted tie makes a welcome return, in its second film after Goldfinger. Bond wears a navy grenadine tie with the herringbone suit, continuing his stylish neckwear from the three Terence Young-directed films.
The shirts in You Only Live Twice are similar to the shirts from most of Connery’s previous films. While the shirt with his uniform is unique with a point collar and double cuffs, the rest of the shirts have a spread collar and two-button cocktail cuffs. The collars in this film look lower with shorter points than in the previous films, and as a result they are not as flattering on Connery’s large build.
Bond wears two classically Bondian casual outfits in You Only Live Twice. The first is a beige camp shirt paired with taupe trousers for the iconic Little Nellie sequence. This outfit is similar to a few of Connery’s looks from Thunderball, but the warm colours don’t flatter Connery’s complexion like the blues and pinks from Thunderball do. This outfit would be better suited to Roger Moore’s complexion.
This scene needed a better shirt for Connery to wear that would help him pop, but also a shirt that would neither clash with Little Nellie’s yellow or blend in with the mountains and sky in the background. Pink might have been a better choice. The fit and style are well done, but the earth-tone colours make this look come across as mediocre, particularly compared to the similar outfits in Thunderball.
The film’s best casual outfit, and the third and final of Bond’s most noteworthy looks in the film, is the pink cocktail cuff shirt with grey tropical wool trousers. The outfit is fairly dressed up; the shirt is the same style as the two he wears with his suits and the trousers are wool and in a formal tailored style. Bond could easily throw on a blazer over this outfit. Only the sandals dress it down, but they’re effetive for the climate. Overall it looks stylish as a casual outfit, albeit one that could easily pass as summer business casual.
Bond’s final look of the film is a grey polo neck with grey trousers. In theory this should be a stylish and effective simple tactical outfit, but the execution lets it down. The fit of the polo neck leaves much to be desired, with its too-tight fit and drop shoulders that cause pulling across the upper chest. The collar isn’t high enough on Connery either. The baggy trousers look even worse. The outfit looks cheap, and it probably was. It doesn’t look like any more attention was put into this outfit than it was for the countless extras wearing the same thing.
Bond’s mission to Japan finds him in many Japanese fashions. From the traditional wedding kimono mentioned above to a few yukata (accessorised with chest hair) for wearing at home to (I believe) a keikogi for training, Bond looks appropriately dressed for his circumstances. Since I do not know enough about Japanese clothing to be able to properly comment on these items Bond wears, I cannot comment on whether or not Bond dresses appropriately in these clothes.
Bond also wears two oversized grandad-collared shirts in blue and ecru, respectively, with neck scarves and a straw hat when disguising himself as a Japanese fisherman. I don’t know if these shirts are a Japanese style, but they have many traits of Western shirts. They are a good disguise, but they are hardly attractive on Bond.
I find these clothes less inspiring because these are not James Bond’s style. As a non-Japanese person in America, it would be inappropriate if I tried to copy these looks. The Japanese clothes are cases of Bond following the appropriate local customs or of Bond in disguise as a Japanese man, and he rarely looks comfortable wearing these clothes. Applying prosthetics to make Bond’s face look Japanese, however, is the only significant objection I have to Bond’s Japanese disguise.
There are two other outfits in You Only Live Twice: a white volcano-lair jumpsuit with hardhat and a white space suit. These both fit into the disguise category and detract from Bond’s stylish image that was carefully curated for the four previous films. Bond finds himself in more ridiculous situations in this film than he does in the previous films, and the costumes reflect that.
The most significant costume of the film does not belong to James Bond. You Only Live Twice introduces Blofeld’s iconic Mao suit, which defines the most villainous outfit of the Bond series. It’s a brilliant costume that combines an iconic power look of the East with double-cuff shirt with cufflinks to symbolise the luxury of the west. The shirt is merely a set of double cuffs inserted into the jacket sleeves, and it was made by frequent James Bond shirtmaker Frank Foster.
Well Done, James
As mentioned before, Bond’s naval uniform, his dark blue suit and his pink shirt are standout looks in the film. They bring us new Bondian fashions and new character-defining moments. The naval uniform beautifully reminds us that Bond is a Commander in the Royal Navy. The lightweight dark blue suit is the closest we’ve seen Bond dress on film to the original literary character. And the pink shirt demonstrates the versatility of the cocktail cuffs, dressing them down after previously only showing it with suits, sports coats and one dinner suit.
Not Perfected Yet
You Only Live Twice‘s wardrobe relies too heavily on clothes that are not James Bond’s style. The disguises aren’t memorable. That may make them better disguises, but they don’t do much for interesting costume design. And without seeing James Bond dressing as James Bond for half the film, it makes Bond feel less like Bond.
The grey tactical outfit works conceptually for Bond but needs a better execution to carry Bond through the climax of the film. Bond doesn’t have the carefully crafted silhouette that he usually has.
Connery’s performance in You Only Live Twice is frequently criticised, but I believe some of our perception of a lesser Connery can be attributed to unflattering and forgettable attire. Even if the clothes are all appropriate in the context of the film, they don’t make Connery look his best. His hairpieces should also take some of the blame, particularly the Japanese disguise hairpiece, which somehow turns into Connery’s natural hair after a swim and then back into the Bond hairpiece after he removes the spacesuit helmet.
While the Japanese clothes, the borrowed outfits and the disguises make sense in context, they don’t make for an inspiring wardrobe. The Japanese clothes may be of more interest to a Japanese person, but they have no significance to me as someone who looks to Bond as an inspiration for how to dress in my own life. But the problems in the film’s wardrobe go beyond disguises. Not even the incredible Little Nellie sequence can make people care about the camp shirt Bond wore when he piloted her. There are three highly inspiring outfits that count significantly towards the score this film receives, but the rest of the looks are forgettable. After the first four Bond films put in incredible effort defining and maintaining Bond’s visual identity, You Only Live Twice is quite a letdown.
Do you agree or disagree with my assessment? Leave your comments below.
I don’t have much knowledge of Japanese clothes like Matt’s knowledge of English clothes, but I guess ordinary Japanese people (including me) don’t think weird Bond’s clothes to disguise.
However, even Bond was wearing right clothes, he doesn’t seem Japanese man for us.
So, why he throw away his “Bondian” sophisticated attires for mission in Japan? In other films, mostly he wears his usual wardrobe in out of England. Futhermore, after WWⅡ, almost of Japanese men don’t stick to wear the traditional Japanese clothes. The screenwriter may not think Bond had no reason to wear unflattering clothes!
Take what I say with a grain of salt, but maybe they dress tend to dress more traditionally in the rural and seaside areas than in the cities. Also the screenwriter was none other than Roald Dahl.
But also as a fan from Japanese, I thank screenwriter and costume designer to choose to take Japanese clothes for the Bond film!
I forgot to mention that.
I do appreciate that Bond absorbs himself into Japanese culture. No other Bond film takes advantage of its location like You Only Live Twice does with Japan.
I know almost nothing of Japanese traditional dress but having studied traditional Japanese karate over twenty years it’s clear Bond doesn’t know how to tie his obi (belt) correctly. This was the first thing I learnt before stepping on the floor of the dojo for the first time. You place one tail end in the small of the back, wrap the belt two-and.-a half times around the waist till the other tail arrives at the front, then slip that tail behind the belt and up and allow the first tail to push down to the front. You’re then left with two tails of equal length which are secured with one simple wrap over. It’s a bit cheeky of Bond to show up as a novice to the ninja school wearing a black belt!
Anyway – the pink shirt outfit is being praised here when I thought it came in for some criticism when featured in the past. Pink and grey go well together with dark complecfed people like Connery, not so for much pale blondies which is why I don’t wear pastel pink. I like the colour combo but the long sleeve shirt with cocktail cuffs and wool trousers seem a bit overly formal, while the sandals seem overly casual in a bit of a mish mash outfit. Maybe a pink polo shirt with grey cotton or linen strides and loafers would have achieved the aim better.
I can agree that many of these outfits could be considered forgettable but I love Japanese culture. This movie demonstrates Bond’s love for Japanese traditions and helps introduce more character development. I would give the dressing a 7/10 but for someone who does not study their culture I could understand the 6. I just don’t prefer the prosthetics!!!
It would require around five ~ eight years of actually living in Japan to completely disabuse you of any fondness for Japanese culture . . . I’m now coming up on fifteen years; that’s one ‘honeymoon’ year and fourteen years of ‘KBO’ing’ . . .
I couldn’t agree more. I love that blue suit, and it’s always special when Bond wears his naval uniforms, but everything else disappears into the background for me. The clothes are like the movie: both hit and miss.
It may provide a really interesting detail to Bond’s story if you looked up what the medal ribbons on his naval uniform represent. They may be bravery, operation, theatre or campaign medals, which would make a really interesting back-story.
Forces.net have looked these up for you:
6/10. I agree that YOLT is both hit and miss, and that is reflected in the wardrobe. There are many interesting points to be made about this film and its contributions to the franchise but for now just one short comment: disguise is established as a common theme and two of the nicest and most “bondian” outfits could actually be interpreted as part of the disguise scheme to give Bond a bit of elbow room: the main purpose of the Royal Navy uniform was to convince the opposition that Commander Bond is dead, hence the obituary in the paper and the funeral at sea in full naval uniform; and the nice dark blue lightweight suit was meant as a disguise when posing as a Western business man, alias Mr. Fisher.
While those two outfits can be interpreted as disguises, they are also Bond dressing as himself. Bond hardly tried to dress any differently than he normally would as Mr Fisher, though the suit’s single button is different for Bond. I wouldn’t chalk that up to a disguise, though.
Yes, that those two outfits are worn as disguises to try to confuse the enemy is obvious. The first one (his naval uniform) on orders from M, and the latter in Bond’s personal choice of style. I personally like the single button style. As you wrote, Matt, it was modern in the 60’s and is now a characteristic of a bespoke suit. Upon revisiting the film, I see that the suit jacket has pocket flaps, one button on each cuff (a late 60’s fashion) and a single vent. Overall, it’s a lovely suit.
While single cuff buttons were indeed trendy in the 1960s, this suit still has Connery’s usual four-button cuffs. It’s overall one of my favourite suits of the series, and it stands out as Connery’s only lightweight blue suit of the series. Bond wore very few lightweight dark blue suits in the series until the Brosnan era, which is surprising since it was the preferred outfit of Fleming’s Bond.
Matt, you’re absolutely right about the nice blue lightweight suit having the usual four-button cuffs! In the office scene [00:36:04] it really looked like a one-button cuff, probably because in the light from the window one button was gleaming, and such a choice would not have been out of place considering it was a popular 60’s style that really would have matched the one-button style of the jacket. But later in the film, in the torturous love scene [00:47:30], it is clearly seen that there are four buttons on the jacket sleeve. I concur that this suit is quite unique and one of the nicest of the series. As a big fan of Fleming’s Bond, this is indeed one of my favorites, too. Tailors like Steven Hitchcock and Terry Haste make bespoke one-button suit jackets and odd jackets. If I were to order one, I would probably consider changing a few details, such as jetted pockets instead of flaps, one button-cuffs, and perhaps ventless, for a trim, minimalistic, more formal look.
When I ordered the Anthony Sinclair version of this suit, I did indeed change the pocket flaps to jetted and also two button cuffs (Mr Mason’s idea) instead of the 4, which looks heaven on a button-one.
The dark blue suit is one of my favourites of the whole series, along with Brosnan’s charcoal suit from the opening of TWINE. If I was ever to get a suit tailored it’d be one of those two.
A also think the more casual pink shirt and tailored trousers is a nice look, and goes well with the sandals for that climate.
Excellent read once again Matt.
Ironically, both of my tropical worst blue suits are configured as button one suits. Navy blue button one suits are underappreciated.
Also, at the timeframe of YOLT, Connery was already very weary and dreaded the fact that people look at him as James Bond, and not Sean Connery, hence the weariness right on his face.
I agree, ‘weary’ is the exact word. Connery’s posture draws attention to the deficiencies of the wardrobe. In every single image above, he seems to be slouching forward to keep his head down–which is my memory of his graceless performance in general, probably the least invested of his career. And why, of all the elements of the source book, they kept the humiliating Japanese disguise aspect, is beyond me. A nadir of the series, from scripting to style.
Fair comments except the last point. I’ve always quite liked YOLT but I’ve just watched TMWTGG and it’s truly dreadful from start to finish.
Back to Connery and YOLT, I recall reading many many years ago a write-up of when this film was being made how Connery was suffering during the production – something akin to Beatlemania. He was mobbed by over-enthusiastic Japanese – press and fans – every moment of his time in Japan and having achieved considerable fame and fortune in his career up to this point, was clearly exhausted with the entire shooting match, hence his retirement in the role soon after. I think we can mostly agree that his jaded demeanour resulting from this exhaustion comes through on film. He looks out of shape, weary and unenthused. A far cry from his energetic and athletic demeanour in Thunderball shot only eighteen months previously.
Fair enough Rod–we all have our own opinions and ‘best’/’worst’. Also, you are spot-on that Connery’s dreadful experience with the role and the attendant mania was draining his enthusiasm, and this is reflected on screen. For me, what ranks ‘YOLT’ lower than ‘MWTGG’ is the context of the surrounding films–‘YOLT’ was a misfire in the Bondmania era, and a massive drop in quality after four superb instalments. ‘Golden Gun’ was a low in a fairly rocky period of the series, as producers and writers scrambled to fit into the 1970s. But I suppose we’ll all get into that in a few weeks’ time …!
First of two Bond movies without a dinner jacket ?
OHMSS did have one, with the infamous ruffled shirt.
But never mind, (“… n’enculons pas des mouches!” as Fleming had Bond quip in Casino Royale) I tend to concur to the general lackluster sartorial atmosphere of YOLT.
And they even managed to squeeze in the -very- un-glamorous sandals probably as a posthumous hommage to Fleming..
I didn’t say the two films without a dinner jacket were consecutive.
Thanks for correcting this potential ambiguity, Matt-San ;)
Coming from you, it would have sounded odd indeed.
Do you happen to know the underlying reason for the absence of this ultimate Bond staple in the said movies ?
In You Only Live Twice there doesn’t seen to be a moment for black tie. I’m surprised they didn’t write one in. In Live and Let Die I think it was on purpose to not give Moore the previous Bond tropes.
YOLT is an odd movie, its really entertaining, but the story just makes no sense.
Roald Dahl is a really interesting guy, he worked with Fleming during the war…
I remember reading an interview – possibly in Raymond Benson’s ‘James Bond Bedside Companion’ – where it stated that Dahl was told how he had to write the script – there had to be two girls but one of them had to die, etc. Also in that book there’s an interesting and amusing side-by-side comparing all the plot similarities between YOLT and TSWLM.
I saw TSWLM first (in the cinema when I was 9!) and saw YOLT years later and came to the same conclusions. Actually, TSWLM is kind of a greatest hits of Bond movies, which was probably EON trying to find their footing after an uneven first half of the 1970s.
Certainly it makes sense. Spectre is being paid for a war between US and Russia. Bill O Reilly says the latest was awful
A friend couldn’t figure out the plot and I wouldn’t even watch
I’d go with 7/10. I love the blue suit, one of my favourites in the whole series too Matt and I really like the grey herringbone suit. It’s a beautiful suit with a subtle pattern, yes it pulls a little due to some weight gain after the fitting but I think it’s relatively minor especially when compared with the fit abominations sported in the last few movies. Timothy Dalton and mainly Daniel Craig have for different reasons ensured these things do not stand out very much in my view. One look at some of those suits and all is forgiven with small fit issues as in YOLT.
As a whole I don’t think the wardrobe or the movie is that bad. But yeah no tuxedo and a lack of variety in the outfits is disappointing. But with that said the clothes themselves especially the two suits (single rear vents notwithstanding) are still of a high quality you don’t see today.
I really like the medium grey herringbone suit and think it would be great in a more moderate climate, but the dark blue suit is also really cool. I also don’t think the ivory shirt with the grey suit is that bad, it still looks really good. The camp shirt definitely needed to be a white blue or cream color as well and I actually like light brown linen trousers.
With that said the Japanese disguises, while they work in the context of the movie’s story of Bond faking his death and going into hiding, has not aged well (like a lot of aspects of the old Bond movies) and just makes him look like Spock.
Matt, good call on the legacy of Blofeld’s Chairman Mao suit. I’ve always been fascinated on the timing of its appearance–as Woody Allen’s Dr. Noah wore it first in ‘Casino Royale’, released in April 1967. What do you think of that coincidence? Were the Eon producers influenced by the spoof? Or was Chairman Mao merely an obvious reference point for villainy in the late 1960s?
The filming of You Only Live Twice and Casino Royale overlapped four months. I would guess that You Only Live Twice did it first and Casino Royale found out about it and copied the look.
Something about that blue mohair one-button affair accessorized with black tie and shoes . . . So simple and subdued and yet so uniquely preeminent and utterly, quintessentially ‘Bond’ . . .