James Bond Teaches Us to Not Forget the Double Vents
Roger Moore as James Bond
Director: Guy Hamilton
Costume designer: Julie Harris
Wardrobe supervisor: Laurel Staffell
Tailoring: Cyril Castle
Shirts: Frank Foster and others
Drinking bourbon instead of a vodka martini and smoking cigars instead of cigarettes famously differentiated Roger Moore’s first appearance as James Bond in Live and Let Die from his that of his two predecessors, but his sartorial style was different from the previous Bonds’ styles as well. Compared with Sean Connery’s wardrobe in Diamonds Are Forever, Moore’s wardrobe handled the 1970s in a much different way. It is prepared to take on the fashions of the decade.
While the first two Bond actors were introduced wearing black tie, Moore’s Bond is instead introduced to audiences in a dressing gown and pyjamas. He dares to not wear black tie at all in Live and Let Die. Even though Bond had previously gone without his dinner jacket in You Only Live Twice, the lack of black tie—Bond’s most famous look—is the most significant way Moore’s Bond dresses differently from his predecessors.
However, there is no need for black tie in this story. It’s not shoehorned into the story like it was multiple times in Diamonds Are Forever, but forcing black tie into a Bond film had become a series trope. Black tie is not entirely missed while watching Live and Let Die, but its absence is still felt. Daniel Craig’s Casino Royale showed us that putting on a dinner jacket is an essential part of becoming James Bond. Roger Moore would have to wait until his next Bond film to have that moment.
There was a black double-breasted dinner suit made for promotional stills, worn with a ruffled-front shirt like George Lazenby wears in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. But this dinner suit does not find its way into the film, and Moore only wears the outfit for the Live and Let Die premiere.
Lounge Suits and Jackets
A new Bond once again means a new tailor. Roger Moore brought in his longtime tailor Cyril Castle, who made his suits for The Saint, The Persuaders! and the films he made between those two series, to make his suits, coats, jackets and trousers for Bond. Castle had a more adventurous style than Bond’s former tailors Anthony Sinclair and Dimi Major, but his style is not without the essential British flair.
Roger Moore’s personal style was developed through the trendy 1960s suits he wore in The Saint and the flamboyant tailoring he wore in The Persuaders!. Some of the styles he wears in those two series carried over to Bond, especially since his tailor remained the same, but his style as Bond had to be toned down to better match the character’s needs. As a result we see a fresh style for Bond, albeit one that is mostly appropriate for the character.
The button-two suits that Connery wore remain the staple of Moore’s tailored look, but Castle introduced the double-breasted suit to Bond as well. The jackets have soft shoulders, subtly roped sleeveheads and full-cut chest. The style has a modern edge but is still mostly traditional. Despite the clothes being tailored in 1972, the lapel width is tastefully balanced. The lapels and pocket flaps are narrower than they were in Diamonds Are Forever, and as a result the jackets look much more timeless. The jackets are all cut with double vents, and most of them have slanted and flapped hip pockets without ticket pockets for a fashionably sleek look.
One of my favourite details on the jackets is the flared link cuffs, where the cuffs are flared out and close in a kissing manner like a shirt cuff with cufflinks. There is one button on either side of the kissing cuff so it looks like a cufflink. The flare of the cuff mirrors the flare on the trousers, but I don’t think the flare on the cuff looks dated like it does on the trousers.
The trousers have the quintessential 1970s flare, and it was a necessity for Bond to adopt this fashion so he wouldn’t look too old-fashioned. While the flare looks dated today, I think it was handled well. The legs have an elegant shape with a subtle bootcut flare, balancing trends and good tailoring.
The first tailored look in Live and Let Die is a navy worsted flannel suit, as seen in the gun barrel sequence. It is the most traditionally Bondian suit in the film. A navy suit is the perfect look to start a new Bond, as it’s the suit Ian Fleming most frequently dressed Bond in. This suit is the most somber and serious suit in the film, and perhaps that is why it’s the only one detailed with straight pockets instead of slanted pockets.
This is also the first suit that Bond wears in the proper film, but it’s mostly hidden under the best tailored piece of the film: a navy double-breasted chesterfield coat. While Connery’s Bond was more frequently pictured holding his coats than wearing them, Moore’s Bond makes a statement in his coat. No coat in the Bond series is more iconic than this one. It has the style and it has the screen time. Being double-breasted makes enough of a statement, but details like the velvet collar and gauntlet cuffs set it above the rest. The wide peaked lapels are more dramatic than they are a dated fashion.
The shirt and tie are brilliant choices as well. A light blue poplin shirt recalls Bond’s typical shirt from before, especially thanks to the return of the cocktail cuff. Frank Foster, who previously made Bond’s shirts for Goldfinger and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, returns to make Roger Moore’s shirts. They had already made Roger Moore’s shirts—with cocktail cuffs, no less—since the late 1960s, so in a way this is Roger Moore’s style continued as much as it is James Bond’s. The higher semi-spread collar looks perfect on Moore as well without looking too much like a 1970s style. The front has a concealed placket, with a single line of stitching down the middle of the placket for an unusual but sophisticated look. The shirt has an excellent close fit, with darts in the back.
For Moore’s first shirt as James Bond, there couldn’t have been a better choice. This is the only blue shirt in the film, but all of the other Frank Foster long-sleeve shirts follow this same style.
The tie is new to Bond but another perfect pick. He’s wearing a Royal Navy regimental striped tie, which recalls Bond’s naval heritage in a more subtle way than his naval uniform in You Only Live Twice does. This is the only time Bond wears this tie, and it’s a shame it hasn’t returned.
Moore’s second suit is another Bondian choice: a light grey tropical wool suit that isn’t all that different from the one that Connery wears in Diamonds Are Forever. The shirt is cream like Connery’s, but a solid red tie changes things up. Lazenby had previously introduced the red tie to Bond, so there’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about this outfit and it eases Moore into the Bond look. The combination looks superb on Moore.
Moore’s safari style is semi-introduced in this film in the form of a black silk four-pocket leisure suit and scarf for nighttime hang gliding. The look is certainly a product of the 1970s, but it’s a stylish look. It’s a new kind of tactical look for Bond, but it’s hardly visible on screen because the scene is so dark. The coolest thing about it is how the trousers break away and the jacket reverses (unrealistically) into another jacket.
The result is a beige tropical wool suit, a new look for Bond. It’s a shade or two darker than the ecru suits from the previous two films, but in beige it looks better suited to Bond’s jungle adventure than the resort look of a cream suit. The jacket and red-brown silk satin get little screen time as he only wears the suit trousers and brown-and-white-striped cotton voile shirt for his adventure the next morning. The clothes are stylish and appropriate for the tropical climate, but perhaps too dressed-up for Bond’s purposes. A more casual look would have been more appropriate for the circumstances but less Bondian. Overall it’s a good outfit, but a cotton or linen suit instead of crisp tropical wool could have transitioned from the dressy evening look to the morning adventure more successfully.
The brown striped shirt that Moore wears with the beige suit is the only one in the film not made by Frank Foster. It has a stylish two-button spread collar and a perfect fit, and even though the shirt is voile the stripes prevent it from being translucent.
Bond finds himself at a suit fitting at his New Orleans. It’s an odd moment for Bond to have outside of London, but it’s nevertheless a fun character moment. He’s fitted for a dark brown suit jacket, but the brown suit trousers are complete and Bond wears them with a tan warm-weather sports coat in what is possibly a blend of silk and linen. He wears it with a beige shirt that has a fine jacquard four-point star pattern and picks up a new brown tie with a funky pattern at the fitting. The outfit is completed with red-brown crocodile slip-ons, Moore’s own clever choice for the scene where Bond jumps over crocodiles.
The earth-toned colour scheme is deeply rooted in 1970s fashions, but Moore’s colours blend in perfectly when he arrives at the crocodile farm. The earth tones also flatter Moore’s complexion. Though the earth tones may be difficult to wear today, it’s difficult to be negative about this outfit because it suits Moore and the setting flawlessly.
The film’s final suit is a dark grey silk dupioni double-breasted suit, which is much more Roger Moore than it is James Bond. Moore started wearing double-breasted suits in the colour episodes of The Saint and they became a signature look for him. Cyril Castle’s double-breasted style is an unusual one, with a narrow wrap (overlap between the two columns of buttons). I like it, but it’s a divisive look.
Double-breasted suits don’t make sense for Bond, a man who always needs to be ready for action, particularly as they make it difficult for him to draw his PPK from his shoulder holster. He wears this suit with a classic cream shirt, but the tie’s bold pattern does not hold up well. The tie is the biggest blunder in Live and Let Die‘s smarter clothes.
The casual attire starts out on a poor note with a powder blue leisure suit made up of matching trucker jacket and flared patch-pocket jeans. The leisure suit, however, is not made of denim but of a lightweight cotton twill. The outfit is made worse with a visible white vest worn underneath.
The workwear look is not appropriate for Bond, especially not Roger Moore’s portrayal of the character. The outfit would have been better in cream, tan or brown instead of light blue, but even in a better colour it would still be a poor choice for Bond.
The black short-sleeve shirt worn with tan flared trousers is a far more stylish and appropriate casual look for Bond. The black belt and Gucci bit loafers are a little flashy for Bond, but they set off the black shirt very well.
The final casual look is one of the most iconic and successful. It’s comprised of a lightweight black roll neck, black trousers, black leather belt and black suede trainers. The large shoulder holster to hold a large revolver is the standout part of this outfit more than any of the clothes. This memorable combination of a roll neck and holster was originally made iconic in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in 1965, first by Robert Vaughn’s character Napoleon Solo and then more famously by David McCallum’s character Illya Kuryakin. Steve McQueen then wore the roll neck and holster in Bullitt in 1968. By the time Bond copied the look in 1973, it surprisingly still looked fresh.
The Bathrobe Bond
Moore wears three different dressing gowns in Live and Let Die, and it would be a signature look for his Bond alongside the ivory dinner jacket, the blue blazer and the safari suit. Moore is introduced as Bond in a yellow floral dressing gown with red piping and a burgundy ‘J.B.’ chest monogram, and he wears it matching pyjama trousers and purple monogrammed Albert slippers.
A yellow dressing gown and pyjamas follows the warm 1970s trends, but it still looks good on Moore. However, it’s an odd choice to be Moore’s first look as James Bond. A blue dressing gown instead of yellow would have been a more Bondian choice and might have better fit this introductory scene, but it may have looked out of place in Bond’s warm-toned 1970s home.
The dark blue dressing gown in the San Monique hotel is a more Bondian choice based on its colour alone. It has embroidered paisley shapes, recalling the peacock trends of the era, but it’s a tasteful dressing gown. However, it’s not quite as special as monogrammed dressing gown and could not have replaced what Bond wears at home.
Moore concludes the film in a third dressing gown, in white-on-red towelling with navy and red windowpanes. It again looks dated to the 1970s due to the large pattern, and despite being from the venerable Sulka it doesn’t look as luxurious as it must feel.
Yaphet Kotto’s Kananga wears double-breasted suits made by Moore’s tailor Cyril Castle, but his are in flashier fabrics and include more nods to the current fashion trends. They’re interesting but with a level of sophistication that makes them perfect for a Bond villain. While the villains’ fashions are all undoubtedly products of the 1970s, they are all costumed in a fun and creative way.
Well Done, James
The tailored clothes are all beautifully crafted. The full-cut chest and suppressed waist on all the jackets create a dramatic but elegant silhouette. The nods to 1970s trends are subtle and never overdone. The suiting choices are all similar to ones that Sean Connery wore previously as Bond.
The shirts are also beautifully done, thanks to a superb fit, the deep cocktail cuffs, well-proportioned collars and a unique fly front.
The black short-sleeve shirt and black roll neck outfits are perfect casual looks for Bond because they work for the character and perfectly befit their respective settings.
Not Perfected Yet
The tailored clothes in the film are almost perfectly fitted, but the collar sits too low and shows too much of the shirt collar, and it tends to ride up. Roger Moore noticed this issue with Castle’s tailoring and it was a factor in his decision to find a new tailor a few years later. The flared trousers also detract from the tailored looks, but it was a necessity for the era, and the flares are done as tastefully as possible.
The double-breasted suit isn’t the right choice for James Bond, even if it is an otherwise beautiful suit. The tie that Bond wears with it is a poorer choice.
The dressing gown selections aren’t quite right for Bond either, and introducing a new Bond in a dressing gown that doesn’t look ideal for the character is a sub-optimal choice.
Live and Let Die has a few iconic Bond looks such as the navy chesterfield coat and the black polo neck, and the grey and beige tropical wool suits, the tan sports coat, the black roll neck and the black short-sleeve shirt are also fantastic choices. On the other hand, the powder blue leisure suit and some of the dressing gowns miss the mark.
The lack of a dinner jacket in Moore’s first Bond film, particularly when Moore wore them so well in his premiere episodes of The Saint and The Persuaders!, removes some of the Bondian feel from both the film and his version of the character. Only in a Bond film can the wardrobe be judged for not including a dinner jacket.
There is more to love and appreciate about this film’s wardrobe than there is to dislike. The items that are done well are amongst the best in the series.
Do you agree or disagree with my assessment? Leave your comments below.