Colours to Avoid When Dressing Like James Bond

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In a 1989 interview with Garth Pearce, Timothy Dalton spoke of the colour that James Bond should wear: ‘The clothes say so much about Bond. He’s got a naval background, so he needs a strong, simple colour like dark blue.’

Timothy Dalton got Bond’s colours right.

Bond wears a lot of blue, and not just dark blue. In addition to blue, he wears shades of grey, shades of brown and tan, and the basic black and white. These are the staple colours of classic menswear. Red for ties, knitwear and other accents come and go throughout the series. Red is a strong colour, and it’s often thought of as a masculine colour, so it’s a natural choice for Bond too.

However, some colours simply aren’t Bond’s style. Bond particularly avoids secondary colours like orange, green and purple as well as yellow and pink. These colours are more difficult to wear well, and caution should be used when wearing them. When Bond does wear these colours, he rarely uses them for contrast. Instead he wears them with similar tones so they don’t draw attention or clash.

Orange

Orange is one of the most difficult colours to wear, in any context. It suits warm complexions much better than cool complexions. It tends to look very harsh against other colours, particularly shades of blue, which is opposite it on the colour wheel. Muted shades of orange that are closer to brown are easier to wear than vivid orange.

James Bond only wears orange prominently on two occasions. The first is the orange polo neck jumper with his golfing suit in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The orange polo neck pairs well with the fawn-coloured suit, which keeps everything in the same colour family so the orange doesn’t look harsh as part of the outfit. However, orange is not a good colour on a man with cool complexion like George Lazenby. He looks his best in blue and red.

Bond’s second outfit that prominently features orange in the clown suit in Octopussy, and there’s plenty of orange beyond the hair. When most men attempt to wear orange, they end up looking just as much like a clown as Roger Moore does at the circus.

Bond usually wears orange in smaller amounts, such as in the windowpane of tweed suit in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the plaid flannel jacket he finds in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the striped tie in Die Another Day and his faded scarf in Die Another Day. His dark blue shirt paired with the tan linen suit in Die Another Day looks like it could have subtle orange stripes. Orange is only part of Bond’s colour palate in these two films.

On other occasions, Bond wears brighter shades of brown and tan that almost cross into orange territory, but they’re still muted and stay comfortably within the brown family. The polo necks in Diamonds Are Forever and For Your Eyes Only are such shades of brown. Browns are much easier to wear than any orange.

Yellow

Like orange, yellow is a difficult colour to wear well. And similar to orange, wearing yellow can make one look like they’re wearing the clown suit from Octopussy. Most of Bond’s yellow clothing is in the Roger Moore era, but with his warm complexion he usually wears it fairly well. Yellow is chosen for how it pops on screen, but because it’s such a bright colour it rarely looks elegant.

Roger Moore’s very first outfit as James Bond is a pale yellow dressing gown. Because it was not a colour that Bond previously wore, it helped Roger Moore to stand out as a new version of James Bond who wouldn’t be confused for his predecessors.

Pale yellow comes up a few more times in the Moore. His cotton jersey short-sleeve shirt in For Your Eyes Only is an elegant use of yellow. The dickey that Bond wears at the start of Octopussy is part of a disguise and is quickly discarded. It pairs nicely with his brown tweed jacket but looks very much of its time. In disguise as James St John Smythe in A View to a Kill, Bond wears a similarly pale yellow tie with his brown tweed jacket, continuing the 1980s trend.

The Spy Who Loved Me Bogner Ski Suit

Yellow jumpsuits are a recurring theme in the Moore films. He pops on screen in his yellow and red ski suit at the start of The Spy Who Loved Me. Then in Moonraker, he is one of many characters dressed in a yellow Moonraker space suit. In For Your Eyes Only he finds himself in a yellow diving suit. In Octopussy, Bond is forced to wear a yellow clown suit.

Some of Pierce Brosnan’s ties in GoldenEye and Die Another Day feature gold accents. In accents, gold is a much easier colour to wear than yellow and orange, which sandwich it on the colour wheel.

Green

Bond wears green and its cousin olive on a number of occasions throughout the series, but the colour is not a staple of Bond’s wardrobe. Bond rarely chooses green when the situation doesn’t require it. Because Bond is a naval man, he likely chooses blue over green, the colour of the army. When Bond wears green and olive, it’s usually either for wearing outdoors amongst the trees or it’s for a military or combat look.

Bond’s green and olive civilian outdoor looks include a safari shirt in The Man with the Golden Gun, a suede blouson in For Your Eyes Only, a Barbour jacket in Skyfall and a long corduroy coat in No Time to Die. His combat looks include an outfit of an army uniform disguise in Octopussy, tactical gear in GoldenEye and combat trousers in Tomorrow Never Dies. A few of the civilian outfits also count as combat looks.

Green comes up as a disguise on a few occasions. After the green army uniform in Octopussy it shows up in the clown suit. It’s also in Bond’s Sir Hilary Bray outfits in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service but in a more subtle way. The tattersall shirt has an olive stripe running through it. Green also appears in his Black Watch tartan kilt.

For his looks that don’t fit the above necessities, green shows up very little in Bond’s wardrobe. His Lock & Co. trilby in Dr. No is a very muted shade of green, so muted that there was a long debate about whether it’s green, brown or grey. He wears an olive double-breasted suit with an olive tie in The Man with the Golden Gun, which was likely only done so that Bond would match the set of the RMS Queen Elizabeth. One of the stripes in his multi-coloured striped tie in Venice in Moonraker is olive. One-eighth of Bond’s gun club check jacket in The Living Daylights is green. And the day cravat tucked into his navy jumper in GoldenEye is green. Much of the time when Bond is wearing green out of pure choice, it’s only a minor colour in the outfit.

Purple

Purple is an easy colour to wear, and it pairs well with grey and blue. Yet, Bond rarely touches it. His boldest use of purple comes in the form of purple velvet monogrammed Prince Albert slippers at home in Live and Let Die, yet these are hardly visible in the film.

Purple is especially effective in ties, and three of Bond’s ties feature purple. The amethyst-coloured grenadine tie that Bond wears with his grey flannel suit in Diamonds Are Forever is like a purple-grey colour. Two different shades of purple featured in the stripes of his multi-coloured striped tie in Venice in Moonraker. There is a hint of purple in the pindot tie that Bond wears with his black suit in London in Quantum of Solace.

There’s also some purple in the lining of the brown suit jacket Bond briefly tries on at his New Orleans hotel in Live and Let Die.

Pink

Bond wears pink prominently a handful of times in the series, but it’s otherwise not a staple colour of his wardrobe. It’s an easy colour to wear, particularly in pale shades, but men often shy away from it because of its feminine associations. In the late 1960s it was a Bondian colour, but Bond has not worn it since the 1970s and its disappearance makes it a rather un-Bondian colour now.

Bond wears pink in warm locales, such as in his camp shirts in Thunderball, his linen shirt in You Only Live Twice, his formal shirt with an ecru suit and navy blazer in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and his pink tie with an ecru suit in Diamonds Are Forever.

Should you avoid these colours?

James Bond has worn every colour, so no colour is off limits, but care should be taken when wearing any of the colours above. Orange and yellow especially take skill and confidence to wear elegantly because they are such strong colours. Green, purple and pink are much easier to wear, but like Bond it is best to use discretion when wearing these colours because they stand out more than more typical colours. Some of the above examples demonstrates how to wear these difficult colours while others are models for how not to dress. Personal taste will determine which are white.

25 COMMENTS

  1. Interesting piece.

    I have no choice but to wear orange at the moment, as it’s my judo belt! We have a limited choice of gi (judo suit) colours – white or blue. I tend to go for blue, on the basis that white isn’t great with my pale complexion, plus, it’s hard to go too far wrong with a blue suit…

    The Lazenby golf suit looks fine, but for me is defo a 60s look. Yellow may (in its paler forms) be more versatile than perhaps you credit it. And whilst I have an olive-green linen suit that I like a lot, if I were going to pick a colour of those you mention to bring (back) to prominence for Bond, it would be pink.

    Pink’s got Bond-heritage. The paler shades are relatively easily worn in a shirt or polo (pink trousers aren’t a great look, as that Q&A with Craig throwing the card about shows) and, perhaps because I’m a cycling fan as well as a Bond fan, it has a certain toughness about it.

  2. The phrase just don’t comes to mind when wearing orange, yellow, and green. As usual, Roger Moore wins the most poorly dressed and goofy looking Bond prize. The pictures of Moore wearing these hideous colors shows the real Bond man what colors not to wear. Thank you for this outstanding article which clearly shows how difficult, if not impossible, it is to wear these colors well.

    • I personally think Roger looks great in the yellow jersey shirt in FYEO and in the yellow tie with the hacking jacket in AVTAK. I also wouldn’t say he won the prize for poorly dressed when he wore some of the best suits in the entire series from 81-85. The 70’s were the 70s and even Sean fell foul of some of the fashions in Diamonds. In real life off screen Roger Moore could have taught all the other Bond actors a thing or two about dressing well. For me Craig wins the prize for most poorly dressed Bond because his clothes don’t fit him in 3 whole movies which is kind of important if attempting to dress well. I guess this is all a matter of opinion though. Another great article Matt.

      • Ed, I quite agree with you that Sir Roger was a very fine dresser off screen and that he just had the misfortune of inheriting the role at the sartorial nadir in modern times. I also think that there was a deliberate attempt in the post-Vietnam era to make Bond less military or establishment and more “hip” and approachable. We can debate the wisdom of that decision, but I do appreciate that they took a page from the style adopted by Ian Fleming himself (safari jackets, untucked short sleeve Panama shirts, and a simple blazer) during Moore’s tenure. It could have been far worse. The less said about the clown disguise, the better. However I do think the comic appeal and corny one-liners were another characteristic attempt to “soften” Bond’s appearance.

      • You’re certainly correct that Craig’s suits were too tight in a number of cases no doubt. Of course this was because of the stupidity of the director and costume designer. However, the color scheme was right with the dark suits, white and blue shirts, simple ties etc. Craig looked fantastic in the sportswear, fit and strong, unlike the unfortunate Roger Moore who looked out of shape and weak. In fact, I was done with Bond basically after Moore’s clown outfit incident, but Craig brought me back. Daniel Craig saved the Bond franchise and reminded men the way to dress simply while conveying confidence and discretion, the Bond way.

      • Scott, I think we can respectfully agree to disagree here. I would however suggest that Daniel Craig’s off screen clothes are often as I’ll fitting if not more so than his Bond wardrobe so I think it’s unfair to blame the director or costume designers for this. If talking about Bond looking strong then I would look to Sean Connery as the gold standard in the 60s movies. Daniel Craig looks like a generic modern action hero to me, which is no doubt popular with many. Some of the casual clothes are nice but still don’t fit particularly well in my opinion.

      • Michael,

        I think you make some great observations about the potential motivations of the producers when Roger Moore took up the role which may well have influenced the clothing although I think this was mostly 70s fashion. I maintain that Sir Roger, for the most part was impeccably dressed as Bond in tailored clothing, certainly in the 80s and in his personal life was one of the best dressed men in general, always dressing to suit his age, build and complexion.

    • “As usual, Roger Moore wins the most poorly dressed and goofy looking Bond prize.”

      For wearing a disguise? That feels a little overly harsh. He was by no means my favourite Bond, but Roger Moore wore a lot of well tailored suits and shirts during his tenure as James Bond.

      • Of course the disguise was a bad look given that it’s still being discussed decades later, but that’s just one reason that Sir Roger wins the goofy looking Bond prize. Consider the yellow ski suit for example or the bell bottom pants or the ridiculous wide lapels on a number of his jackets, awful shirt colors etc. As mentioned earlier, he was also perennially out of shape and, to me, looked mismatched with the gorgeous women in the movies. This was clearly not the case with Connery and Craig, both looked the part. So, for these reasons and more Sir Roger is the clear goofy looking prize winner. Probably the most miscast Bond of all. I will have to give a goofy looking honorable mention to Timothy Dalton and his oversized clothes. How the franchise survived these two is a minor miracle.

    • Scott, I think you’re being a bit too mean spirited here. About Craig’s wardrobe, I believe it has been documented how the issues of tight fit were Craig’s own decision, as shown with his personal clothes having the same too-tight fit and Jany Temime’s other films as costume designer lacking these fit issues. In addition, I don’t think it is fair to refer to “the stupidity of the director and costume designer” as the reason for the tight fit. This implies that the suits were ill fitting because those in charge didn’t have the intelligence or sense to design well-fitting clothes. In reality, the fit is a result of a deliberate choice: following a trend. The same deliberate choice resulted in aspects of Sir Roger’s wardrobe: following trends of the time. I can understand disliking these trends, I dislike some of them myself, but the leap from “I dislike the trends present in his clothes” to “he is miscast, and everyone involved is stupid! How did this franchise survive?” is a bit much. You are certainly entitled to your opinion on the clothes, but some of the things you’ve said about the people who worked on the films are unfair, hyperbolic, and simply rude.

      • Hi Xavier. My comments are indeed my opinion and not hyperbole or unfair and certainly not intended to be rude or mean spirited. Indeed I criticized the tight fit of Mr. Craig’s clothes if you recall from my initial comments. You do have a good point concerning the deliberate choice to follow the trends of the time. Yes, I disliked those trends, they were awful, but believe it was a bad choice to follow them. The bigger issue for me was that Roger Moore was not a worthy successor to Sean Connery. The poor or deliberate choices made concerning his wardrobe just exacerbated his unsuitability for the role in my opinion that I’ve mentioned earlier. You may disagree of course and I certainly respect your right to do so and will respectfully read and consider your perspective should you choose to continue the dialogue. As I mentioned earlier, I was done with Bond after a few of Sir Roger’s movies, but Craig brought me back years later with Casino Royals. Connery and Craig were the best Bonds, but those types are really hard to find obviously.

  3. Thanks Matt for another interesting and well written post. I like shirts that looks almost white but with just a hint of sky blue, pale pink, and cream. The choice of colour is obviously associated with many aspects, including class och profession… In the Persuaders (playing a lord) and privately in the 70’s, Roger wore lilac and purple shirts and neckties, and it looked really good on him.

  4. I think the fawn golfing suit wouldn’t be as bad with a pale blue or even a black roll neck sweater instead of the bright orange. The bright orange doesn’t look good on Lazenby at all. Do you think another colour roll neck would make the whole outfit different Matt?

      • Yes, David cream or a ivory would have been more classic. I think a greyish stone colour for the golf suit would have been better for Lazenby’s complexion, even a grey taupe. I have a few taupe and stone coloured windbreakers that work well with the right colour underneath and I have dark hair and a cool complexion.

  5. What a great article, Matt. Only thing is; must you keep resurrecting that clown disguise because it is a disguise rather than an integral part of Bond’s wardrobe and it only gives the Moore-bashers a chance to rehash the usual cliches! In reality, the majority of Moore’s outfits were some of the best put together (in term’s of colour as well as everything else) in the series and each actor had their faux pas!

    • The whole point here is about colours that don’t always work well. I think the clown disguise is a good examples of how certain colours can easily look clownish if not worn with care.

      • The clown costume irritates me somewhat because it must have taken hours to put it on, considering the make-up and stiff collar, etc., and we’re expected to believe that the disguise was done in a hurry within seconds…

      • Exactly! So many men insist on trying to make awful colors like the ones in your article work when they just don’t. Bond colors are Bond colors for a reason, because they work so well in making men look more attractive and masculine. The late great Cary Grant made the observation that simplicity was the essence of good taste and he was absolutely right. Simplicity is in fact the essence and beauty of the Bond style when properly understood and applied. I consider dressing like Bond and/or Steve McQueen to be sartorial freedom. So gentlemen pay attention to Matt’s excellent article and avoid these fashionista peacock colors and and accept the wisdom of dressing simply in traditional Bond colors in all areas.

  6. I take your point that Bond, as a naval commander, may choose blue over green. I am also a retired naval commander and I certainly wear a lot of blue myself. That said, green (especially dark green) is a very good color to wear for men with brown or darker hair. It also is a nice compliment to those of us with fair complexions. You can usually wear green in place of blue. I’m speaking of accessories at the moment, but a green blazer or smoking jacket (again dark green) can be quite nice too. One indisputable point you made, Matt, in your article is that 007 isn’t seen very often in green. The lighter mint and lime green worn by Sir Roger Moore, I think reflects the style of the 70s rather than anything else. I wear a hunter green grenadine tie with a dark blue suit and I think Bond could carry that off as well. Time will tell. Thanks for this wonderful blog. I’m really enjoying my greater integration into the sartorial Bond community.

  7. Is possible wear all colors; depends by shades.
    For exemple a burned orange knitted tie is very elegant with a tweed jacket.
    A pale yellow linen shirt is very elegant with blue jeans.
    Green shades are fantastics in ties,suits,jackets (maybe not shirts)…i have see a olive solaro suit and was very interesting and elegant.
    Pale pink shirts are a refined choice.
    Purple is wonderful as tie color pattern ( for exemple a tiny purple motif on blue) and if i could have one of the Bond’s tie i would choose the amethyst-coloured grenadine tie.

    • 100% agreed. Burnt orange is a spectacular color for a tie (I have one in shantung, one Macclesfield neat, one in a particularly elegant weave, and several ties with burnt orange accents) or accent on a pocket square. I have one paisley pocket square that has burnt orange as the base color, and it is spectacular. I love wearing the color with my gray suits/jackets in particular.

      Pale yellow pops up in my pocket squares a lot, and a pale yellow shirt can be quite splendid.

      Pale pink has been a favorite shirt color of mine for quite some time, and purple is as common in my tie/square collection as the burnt orange. Green shows up in everything from ties to shirts to sweaters to jackets to… well… everything.

      As long as the colors work with your complexion and they’re well within your comfort zone so you have the confidence to wear them, they can add an elegant touch to an ensemble.

      But, then again, I’m not an international man of mystery with a license to kill, so there’s that…

  8. I am actually colorblind (mainly I find it hard to distinguish shades of purple from blue and shades of green from brown, along with a few shades of other colors) so sometimes I’m not sure if my outfits clash. Is there any advice anyone could give me, such as shades of colors that don’t pair well, or anything else that might help?

  9. I don’t wear yellow and orange, except for tiny details (dots on a tie, etc.). I do wear green, purple and pink. To me, the key is choosing muted tones. I have a beautiful summer cotton/cachemire suit in sage (almost grey), a dark mottled green Loro Piana tweed blazer, some olive and sage knit ties, a sage linen shirt and knit polo: they all work very well because they’re not a full, clashy green. I often wear a dark purple knit tie with a tan or blue/greyish suit, and it looks fantastic. Pink is for me a color for leisure summer attires: linen shirts, camp collar short sleeved shirts, swim shorts. But always in muted, elegant tones, not a candy pink. And never, never pink ties!!…

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