Consumerism: The Property of a Bond Fan

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The Oxford Living Dictionaries defines consumerism, in the form as it relates to James Bond, as, “the preoccupation of society with the acquisition of consumer goods.” The dictionary notes that when used this way it is a derogatory word, though most readers of this blog welcome this aspect of James Bond. Consumerism is a defining aspect of James Bond: the books, the films and the character. It is the way that many people relate to the character, and this blog would not exist if it wasn’t for James Bond’s consumerism. We should be aware of consumerism and take it for what it is, and if you read this blog regularly you most likely accept—or maybe even welcome—its relationship with Bond.

James Bond and consumerism have always been linked, starting with Ian Fleming’s books. Brands were important to Fleming. Though Fleming usually preferred to use basic descriptions when discussing Bond’s clothes, he occasionally mentioned Bond’s clothing brands and stores, such as Saxone golf shoes in Goldfinger and Diamonds Are Forever, a Burberry’s raincoat in The Man with the Golden Gun, and Lillywhites as a store where Bond purchased ski-wear in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Luxury clothes were also important to Bond, as he favoured Sea Island cotton and silk shirts and Sea Island cotton underwear. Fleming also mentioned luxury brands that Bond liked in other areas, such as soaps from Floris, Taittinger Champagne, Rolex watches and Bentley sports cars.

Fleming also used brand names when discussing the villains’ personal effects, such as Cartier cufflinks and a Patek Philippe watch for Hugo Drax in Moonraker. Red Grant in From Russia with Love wore a shirt made of a branded cotton and wool blend known as Viyella. For Count Lippe in Thunderball, Fleming took pleasure in dropping the names Anderson & Sheppard, Charvet, Tripler, Dior, Hardy Amies, Peel, Mark Cross and Wilkinson. Brands were important to Fleming, and he used them to define both clothing and characters.

James Bond’s Rolex watches still make an impact today

The Bond films have always been luxury-brand-oriented, even before the days when product placement could provide a significant portion of a film’s budget. Though Bond driving unique luxury cars such as Aston Martin and Lotus, the films not only defined Bond as a man who appreciates luxury items but also promoted extravagance. Watches have long been another way we Bond has been about consumerism, starting with close-up shots of Bond’s Rolex watches and later product placement from Seiko and Omega. Fine Champagne like Dom Perignon and Bollinger have featured prominently in the Bond films.

The brands of Bond’s suits, shirts and ties could not be easily identified in the early films, but they looked like the best money could buy. That alone was enough to show consumerism in Bond’s clothes. Bond did not appear to be a man who just bought an average suit off the pegs.

Sean Connery wearing a Slazenger-branded jumper in Goldfinger

The most common way that clothing brands promote themselves is through branded clothes, whether it is a logo or an immediately identifiable pattern like Burberry’s Nova Check. Bond has occasionally worn clothes that brand themselves in logos, starting with a Slazenger jumper for golf in Goldfinger, along with his Penfold Heart golf ball and Auric Goldfinger’s Slazenger golf balls. Thunderball features more branded clothes, with a logoed polo shirt from Fred Perry and three pairs of swim shorts with a more subtly placed Jantzen logo. Belts, shoes and luggage from Gucci stand out in The Man with the Golden Gun. Louis Vuitton luggage is hard to miss in A View to a Kill, but it fits with Bond’s cover as a man who just inherited a lot of money.

Roger Moore wearing a Gucci belt with a conspicuous buckle in The Man with the Golden Gun

James Bond has always been used to sell things. In the 1960s Sean Connery’s face was used to sell Jim Beam bourbon, and though he was not in character as Bond the character is referenced in the advertisements. And in the 1960s there were countless James Bond toys and games, but one could even buy James Bond-branded shoes. James Bond-branded clothing has been around almost as long as the films have been. Bollinger has promoted themselves through James Bond since the 1980s.

Bond was used to promote his fine clothes in the Pierce Brosnan era through Brioni suits and shirts and Church’s shoes. Turnbull & Asser and Dunhill were introduced to new audiences though the Brosnan films. Die Another Day was popularly dubbed “Buy Another Day” because of all the blatant product placement throughout the film, such as in a scene that prominently features Brioni-labelled shirts, Bollinger Champagne and a Philishave/Norelco electric shaver. It was as if the film’s story was written to fit around the advertisements rather than the other way around. Merchandise deals at the time of the film’s release helped us to remember the brands that Bond used while also promoting the film. The visibility of Sony products in Casino Royale is also distracting, but at least they did not overshadow the story.

Pierce Brosnan promoting a Brioni shirt and Philishave/Norelco shaver in Die Another Day

Now we have come to accept that Bond and brands go hand in hand. Do we want to wear the brands that James Bond wears because we admire the character and the films, or is it because these brands have convinced us to want them? I would like to think it is the former, since we still want to purchase clothes from brands who do not appreciate their connection with Bond as much as we would like them to. Nevertheless, the Bond character has positioned fans to appreciate luxury goods. Bond lives an aspirational lifestyle, which contrasts with science fiction or fantasy characters that would only inspire cosplay or Halloween costumes. Plenty of men want to be like Han Solo and dress up as him, but most Star Wars fans do not wear trousers with stripes down the sides in their everyday lives. The character does not inspire people to spend money on luxury goods like James Bond does. Still, he inspires people to buy things like toys, games and memorabilia that generally cost less than James Bond’s clothes do.

The recent Orlebar Brown 007 collaboration is an example of the Bond films’ relationship with consumerism, and reactions to the collection prompted me to write this article. Orlebar Brown created a line of clothes inspired by James Bond’s clothing and features subtly placed 007 branding. While these clothes are unique pieces that are very well executed and produced, they are also very expensive. These clothes are more expensive than very similar items in their main line because of the Bond branding. I am very excited to have some of these pieces in my wardrobe, but they were also gifts from Orlebar Brown.

The Orlebar Brown 007 label

The public reception of this line has been split between people who want to pay for what they think is a special wearable collectible and think they are worth the price, and people who see this as mere consumerism and find the clothes unreasonably priced. Because Bond has always been about consumerism, Orlebar Brown’s 007 collection is in the spirit of Bond. The Bond character has always been loyal to brands, and people who are loyal to Orlebar Brown or the 007 brand are amongst those who have purchased pieces from this collection. Orlebar Brown are free to charge what they want to charge for the line, and people are free to make their own decisions as to whether or not these clothes are worth buying. The line has been a tremendous success, and I applaud Orlebar Brown for their work.

People have reacted similarly to Tom Ford and their connection to Bond. They make their clothes to the highest standards possible, though similar bespoke clothes can often be had for the same price or for less. Bespoke is a better value than high-end designer clothes of equal quality because the clothes are made for you and thus will fit better (as long as the tailor is good), but some Bond fans also find value in wearing clothes from the same brands that James Bond wears. These values are in the eye of the beholder.

New York’s old Tom Ford store

Clothes that are solidly constructed, practical and something the average person can afford are the best value. Suits are not necessary for our survival, so it can be argued that they are never a good value. Other than for coats that keeps us the most comfortably warm in the winter it is difficult to say what makes one item of clothing a better value than another. Value in tailored clothes may come from using the most experienced bespoke cutter, or it may come from what will be most cost-effective per wear. The best bespoke suit is a good value because it does something that no other suit can do by being the best-made and best-fitted suit, unless a high-end ready-to-wear suit like a Brioni or Tom Ford fits perfectly and is the style you want. A mid-tier ready-to-wear suit is more cost-effective per wear.

To get the look of most of Bond’s tailored clothes one does not need to go the route of Tom Ford or English bespoke, but an inexpensive suit that is the same colour and same general style of a given Bond suit is not going to look like one of Bond’s suits. To make an accurate replica of a Bond suit, it is necessary to spend a lot of money. The main Bond look is an expensive look. Most tailors not trained by the best in London or Hong Kong will not understand how to replicate the styles of Anthony Sinclair or Tom Ford. And what makes those suits so special is costly to make. Both the effort and the tailor’s experience is worth a lot. I have found lesser tailors to not know how to replicate the gauntlet cuffs on Sean Connery’s dinner jacket in Dr. No or the fly front of Daniel Craig’s dress shirt in Casino Royale. It takes not only a good shirtmaker but also an artist to make a decent cocktail cuff.

This is poorly executed cocktail cuff that does not fold neatly due to a poor design and overly stiff interfacing. It also has a sharp corner at end of the turnback that gets stuck inside jacket sleeves. A better shirtmaker like the ones James Bond uses do a better job but frequently cost more.

Replicating Bond’s casual looks is easier without Bond’s budget. Bond’s casual clothes in the 1960s were not even all that luxurious. His Slazenger jumper in Goldfinger was made of acrylic, not cashmere or wool. Fred Perry is not a luxury brand. Some of the more recent casual clothes have come from everyday brands like Zara and J. Crew. The look of Bond’s cashmere jumpers can be replicated at a much lower cost in merino wool.

Being that The Suits of James Bond is a blog both about clothing and about James Bond, this is a blog that promotes consumerism. I mention tailors, shirtmakers, shoemakers, designers and luxury brands as a way of giving credit to the artists who made James Bond’s clothes and accessories, not always to promote them. Sometimes it is to promote them because they sent me clothes or because I purchased the clothes and want to share my experience. Merely mentioning names is, of course, a way of promoting these clothiers. This article about consumerism is in itself promoting Bond brands by mentioning more brands in this article than I have mentioned in any other article. People always want to know who made these clothes, not only because they want to buy the clothes but because knowing who made the clothes helps us to understand them.

I make an attempt to look at Bond’s clothing from a stylistic and artistic point of view, but this blog focuses on luxury. Almost all of Bond’s clothes are more luxurious than any person should ever need. But if you are reading this you value fine clothing. We all have different priorities for our clothes. For some it is buying exactly what James Bond wore or collecting Bond merchandise. For some it is buying what we think are the best clothes we can possibly wear, which is an attitude we learned from James Bond. For some it is about learning what defines James Bond style and replicating it to the best of our abilities and means. And for others it is only learning more about the James Bond character through his manner of dress.

23 COMMENTS

  1. I wonder if Fleming’s attention to the brands Bond used was also a subtle status marker. Bond is emphatically a middle-class man. He has taste and money, but he’s not an aristocrat. Aristocrats don’t care about brands. Fleming was writing at the time when Britain was shifting from being an aristocratic society to a middle-class one. His use of brand names let his readers know something about Bond.

    Contrast, for example, Richard Hannay, from John Buchan’s books. It would be useless for Buchan to tell us which tailor in Edinburgh made Hannay’s clothes, because nobody who wasn’t a wealthy Scotsman would have heard of that tailor (assuming Buchan referenced a real person, that is). Or perhaps Hannay got his shirts made in Paris and shipped over. The fact that he does so gives one information about his status, but the specific tailor in Paris is irrelevant.

    Fleming had noticed that brands were becoming status markers, and placed Bond into that real world of luxury brands and “consumerism” to show us something about him.

  2. Great article, Matt. Bond has always celebrated luxury goods, and not just those from heritage brands. This began in Casino Royale all the way back in 1953.

    I think it’s interesting that the reaction to the Orlebar Brown line has been so divisive. Yes the cost is high. Yes the buttons should be real MoP / horn. But the clothing is, for the most part, faithfully executed and well-constructed, without being exact replicas. I expected a lukewarm reaction from the crowd who are mainly interested in Bond’s clothing because of Daniel Craig. But I thought more of the people who appreciate classic Bond style would embrace embrace this. I understand the criticisms, but I can’t help but think some are having difficulty seeing the forest through the trees.

    • I’d also like to point out that the cynicism directed by a few commenters towards Matt’s review because he received a few items as a gift is unwarranted. Having read this blog regularly for many years, I have no doubt that Matt has provided his objective opinion of the line.

    • @FS
      “But I thought more of the people who appreciate classic Bond style would embrace embrace this.”

      -Why? With classic Bond style I would associate first and foremost the suits (that’s where this blog got its name from). IMO those leisure clothes are incidental. Interesting, but not that important.

      • I don’t think the casual clothing is “incidental.” At its best, Bond’s casual clothing is an extension of his business attire. For example, nearly all of Connery’s clothing in Thunderball – suits and casual – follows the same method of dressing: It is understated and elegant.

  3. Well written and balanced in perspective. I think too many people write off these things as being unfettered capitalism, when I think it can be fun and useful to know all the brands the details that make them stand out. For instance, by understanding what makes the Quantum of Solace suits look good beyond being a button two, show one (three-roll-two) style and Tom Ford’s unique features that make them not just average designer suits, I was able to get a reasonable replica made to measure at the menswear store I worked in. It’s a suit that has served me well for almost three years now and I enjoy it a lot.

    Can it become unfettered capitalism? Of course. For instance, if you’re wearing something just because James Bond (or Daniel Craig) wore it instead of you actually liking that style, it can lead to disappointment and an investment of hundreds or even thousands down the drain. I know from experience! I wrote a bit about this a while back — the difference between costume and wearable clothing.

    Then again, some people just like collecting everything to do with James Bond whether or not they regularly wear it. David Zaritsky seems to display a lot of clothing on mannequins. That’s fine, as it seems to be something he actually gets enjoyment out of. I guess my point is… don’t buy the Goldfinger onesie unless you really know you’re going to get something out of it! Whether by wearing or keeping as a collector piece.

  4. One of the things that I find so admirable about James Bond is that he never settles for anything that is substandard. He presents himself as a man of high tastes who’ll only accept the very best, whether that’s in cars, guns, watches, clothing, food & drink, women, everything.
    Speaking of clothing and accessories specifically, brands like Omega, Persol, Brioni, Turnbull & Asser, Church’s, Crockett & Jones, Sunspel, Tom Ford (I could go on and on…) stand at the very top of their respective games. Their wares can by most standards be considered “best,” and therefore acceptable to James Bond.

    And I must fully confess, it works for me. If something gets James Bond’s ringing endorsement, I consider it of utmost quality and even if I don’t like a particular item’s style I can appreciate its quality. I’ve purchased many items from the Bond brands I’ve listed above, along with several others, first because Bond uses them but also because of their high quality and value.

  5. A thoughtful article, Matt. For my part, I’ve always treated this site as a fun way to learn about dressing well, and by learning to recognize trendy features vs. more classic design, I feel it enables me to make better choices in buying clothes and getting more use and value from them in the long run. So, a hobby that pays for itself…
    “American Psycho”, the at-the-time controversial novel by Bret Easton Ellis, explored serial murder as the ultimate (if illegal) expression of consumerism, and the titular character went to great lengths to buy expensive and top-quality clothes, furnishings, tools, etc. I wonder if anyone’s written essays comparing Mary Harron’s film of that to any Bond film in terms of ‘characters who buy nice stuff and kill people’?

  6. I suspect brands were a way for Fleming to make Bond’s life feel special to an England still suffering from post war austerity, but they were also a kind of literary shorthand for him to tell us about the character without having to undermine the “Fleming sweep” with too many details. I love the submariner on the ill-fitting nato strap, as it tells the audience that Bond is a man with certain tastes, but that he is also, under all his tailored suits, still a blunt instrument.

    • Indeed. And the Rolex conveys even more than that. Bond wore a Rolex, as Fleming tells us, because it was well-made and reliable; too heavy, but also tough. Bond is a man of action and his life might depend on his watch functioning properly. Rolex wasn’t a status symbol in 1962 the way it is today. Bond wouldn’t have spent 4 years on a waiting list to get his watch.

  7. @Matt Spaiser, is it true that a well made suit can last a lifetime? I’ve heard that handmade, full canvas suits, as long as they’re well taken care of, last almost forever. Is this true? I’ve been looking at Mason & Sons, and they charge a lot for a special order handmade suit, but it seems definitely worth it if they last as long as I’ve heard.

    • They can last a very long time, especially if they are made from a heavy carpet-like wool. Handmade isn’t going to make a difference over a more basic full canvas suit. There’s also a lot of luck in how long a suit will last.

      • I thought the benefit of handmade was irregular stitching that gave it more give and durability. What is the difference, in terms of durability, wear and comfort, between a handmade and a more basic full canvas suit?

      • Handmade is slightly more comfortable because it is able to achieve a better fit, but the longevity is not markedly better than with a machine-made full-canvas suit.

  8. I don’t remember finding the brands distracting in Die Another Day. Certainly, this blog enriches the experience of rewatching the films.

  9. I am fond of Bond style, and I like being inspired by Bond for my outfits, but after that I make my own way, searching for what best fits my figure, my tastes and my… wallet. So therefore, I don’t care much about brands. There are a few brands that are themselves part of Bond style, such as Rolex, Gruen, Aston Martin…The rest is just commerce, to me.
    For instance, the OB collection is fine, but prices are obviously inflated. Especially since items are quite simple casual garments: I prefer to search for similar, satisfactory ones, or have them made on purpose by my shirt maker, and still feel like I am Bond, while saving a lot of money…
    At the moment, I am trying to replicate Thunderball swim shorts after having found suitable inexpensive shorts, belt, and buttons, and with the help of my tailor… The result will be fine, with a total expense of about 50 €.
    Sometimes I go for brands, too: for example, when Mason & sons released the “Goldfinger” tweed hacking jacket, well, I didn’t resist and purchased it. But in that case price was high but right for the value, and it was THAT jacket, not simple to get elsewhere.

  10. Good things will always cost money. I remember when first started reading this blog in 2010. I was still a law student back then and my only suit was a Banana Republic suit which l would wear with both a belt AND clip on braces at the same time. All my shirts were poly cotton and my ties were rayon . I was a mess in terms of taste . Now , almost 10 years later , as a practicing lawyer , l did manage to refine and supliment my wardrobe accordingly. By 2016 , Button on Braces replaced the previous belt-and-clip-on – suspender combo , pure cotton poplin shirts replaced the poly cotton shirts and silk Zegna ties replaced the Chinese rayon stuff. I started investing in pure wool suits . By 2017 all elastic made in China button on braces got replaced by nylon cotton blend Thurston Barathea Braces . The cotton shirts got updated to Sea Island cotton and l learnt how to wear tieless suits confidently. I started adding linen , cotton and silk suits to my wardrobe . Now , l have finally upgraded to Turnbull and Asser silk braces , Silk shirts with detachable collars and cuffs from Harvie and Hudson and suits from Steed Tailors in London ( l am recently falling in love again , with all silk suitings ) .
    And in a Way , James Bond did inspire me to go for the finer things in life. I actually tried caviar and foie gras for the first time in my life by reading Bond.

  11. Matt – HUGE fan on what you are doing, and your dedicated focus to the style of Bond, in particular the classic bond styles. NYC based and always appreciate your references around town.

    My only point of contention to your well grounded article is that I don’t find the OB clothing for Bond particularly well made, for the money. I have seen the pieces, and while the polo sweater seems to be the best produced, the shorts and shirt are relatively low quality for the price point. I expect OB to mark up quite a lot to recover a profit, but I think as Bond truly valued high quality garments, these pieces would fall beneath his standards.

    Take for example the brands that Bond loves, and what they produce. Sunspel produces beautiful summer resort clothing at half the price, with classic styling. Up a notch, Turnbull does resort and holiday shirts that, while a bit more expensive, harken to a day when shirts were made by hand for the wearer. I feel like Bond would be wearing those any day.

    Or take a newer brand, that pulls in a lot of the nostalgia that Bond likes in his brands. I could see Bond wearing an Armoury Holiday shirt, or an Ascot Chang polo, or a Kamakura linen shirt, all much better quality and under or similarly priced (with as you note, real pearl buttons).

    I am glad OB did what they did, I just wish the quality was pushed up a notch for the price. Until then, I’ll be waiting for those Turnbull shirts to go 50% off….

    And waiting for the NYC get together of BondSuits fans!

  12. I wonder if some of the backlash to the OB collection can be distilled to the fact that some Bond fans (who nonetheless have the $$ to spend) just don’t feel OB has the same cachet as brands like a Sunspel or T&A to be charging such high prices. On one hand, this could be a missed opportunity to price the lineup to be able to capture a wider audience of fans. But their line is apparently selling well (with some pieces sold-out), so they are doing something right or at least getting a good portion of their intended target.

    The role of ‘Bond influencers’ is fairly new and something that didn’t really exist a decade ago (at least not formally), and I think has attempted to add some perceived value to OB (as a brand) and also to this specific lineup. Whether you ‘buy into’ this notion is another matter…

  13. The Ford Jaguar Land Rover and Volvo product placement was quite distracting in Casino Royale. There was always a Ford or a Jaaaaaag or a Land Rover a Volvo everywhere James Bond went.

    It got worse in Quantum of Solace where Italian policemen in a Land Rover Defender try to keep up with 007’s Aston DBS and the baddies’ Alfa 159. That was ridiculous. A tall, heavy slow 4X4 trying to keep up with an Aston and two Alfas, because product placement contract dictated so. And don’t get me started on the “humming” sound they used for the Ford Edge used by the villains. Ford never even made a hybrid or electric version of the Edge.

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