Does James St John Smythe Dress Like James Bond?

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Of all the people James Bond pretends to be, he most gets into character as Sir Hilary Bray in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and as James St John Smythe in A View to a Kill. For the former he truly has to transform into someone else, a real person from the College of Arms, and he wears his clothes too as part of the disguise. The latter is a character Bond invented, who is little more than an exaggeration of how fans expect actor Roger Moore to be.

James St John Smythe is an English socialite who inherited stables from his aunt, so he decides to breed horses. He is far more pompous than Bond, but does not dress overly so. His outfits are for the most part quite Bondian, but each include an element or accessory to set it apart from what Bond would normally wear. St John Smythe dresses in mostly classic English tailored styles with an ostentatious touch of nouveau riche.

For most of Bond’s aliases, Bond dresses as himself without giving much thought to dressing as his cover. For this ruse, Bond wears a number of his usual sports coats and his ivory dinner jacket, but with a twist.

Grey Tweed Jacket

The first outfit Bond wears as St John Smythe is a grey tweed sports coat with charcoal trousers and a blue shirt. Bond has never worn another outfit exactly like this, but the colour scheme is classically Bond, as is the traditional English style of these clothes.

The jacket is cut with drape in the chest, giving it a more relaxed look than Moore’s other jackets in the film. This may or may not have been intentional to give St John Smythe the look of certain English nobility who wear drape-cut suits.

The tie is a navy and white plaid with a red overcheck, which is unlike any other tie that Bond has ever worn. This is an obvious way the costumers set St John Smythe apart from Bond, though the navy ground still relates it to classic Bond ties. A tie is an easy (and realistic) way someone can change the perception of themselves. It’s why a power tie can express power, or a black tie can express solemnity.

With this outfit he arrives with a complete set of Louis Vuitton luggage. This luggage identifies him as a showy man who spends his money frivolously and marks him as more of a new-money type, whereas the old-fashioned Englishman would have a set from Swaine Adeney Brigg. However, he carries a stick umbrella with him to maintain the appearance of a traditional Englishman.

Ivory Dinner Jacket

St John Smythe’s ivory dinner jacket and accessories are very Bondian. The pleated voile dress shirt and black bow tie are classic Bond. The dinner jacket stands out from Bond’s other ivory dinner jackets in the series being the only one with notched lapels and horn buttons, but these details are not un-Bondian and are likely nothing special for Bond’s cover.

What is different here are Bond’s large, round tortoiseshell sunglasses. These are far too bold to be anything Bond would normally wear, but they are perfect for St John Smythe.

Fila Tracksuit

The velour Fila tracksuit is the least Bondian outfit that St John Smythe wears, and it is particularly out of character for Moore’s Bond. The black half-zip shirt in Moonraker would have been something more traditionally Bondian for this sneaky scene.

The Fila tracksuit works for St John Smythe, who wears it for its high-fashion status as well as for comfort. This outfit is one that emphasises how old Roger Moore is to be playing James Bond, but it also shows that St John Smythe is a playboy who fancies looking young by showing off his hip fashion sense. Moore’s James Bond is careful not to dress this way in the 1980s, leaving the younger fashions back in the 1970s. But with this cover he can dress differently.

Blue Blazer

Roger Moore wearing a day cravat in A View to a Kill

The brass-buttoned blue blazer with khaki trousers is another classically Bond look, and it’s even more of a classic Roger Moore look that couldn’t be absent from Moore’s final Bond film.

Rather than a tie or an open-neck shirt, Moore wears this blazer with a burgundy day cravat. The day cravat would not become a proper Bond item until GoldenEye, so here it is a character-defining item for James St John Smythe.

The day cravat is commonly used to identify someone as a rich playboy or an old school English gentleman, so in both manners it is the perfect accessory for Bond’s cover. But here he’s more Thurston Howell III than a retired naval commander.

Hacking Jacket

The brown barleycorn tweed jacket from Goldfinger returns in A View to a Kill. It’s not exactly the same, as the barleycorn weave is slightly different, and the pockets are straight rather than hacking pockets, but overall it recalls this classic Bondian item.

Bond uses the jacket for horse-riding—its intended purpose—this time, so he needs the proper gear to accompany it. He wears it with jodhpurs and riding boots, similarly to how he dresses for hacking in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

The yellow tie breaks tradition for Bond. Yellow ties were a 1980s trend, but other than wearing one as St John Smythe, Bond does not wear them.

In the 1983 episode of Remington Steele titled ‘A Good Night’s Steele’, Pierce Brosnan’s Mr Steele reflects poorly on a man who owns a yellow tie, though he gives no reason for why a yellow tie is bad. To him, a man who wears a yellow tie demonstrates poor judgement.

Perhaps he’s wearing a yellow tie to separate St John Smythe from Bond. Or he’s wearing a yellow tie to look more fashionably 1985.

St John Smythe’s yellow tie is a cool light yellow that is especially difficult to wear, and it’s not a particularly flattering shade on Roger Moore, who could more easily wear a warm yellow tie. A more traditionally Bondian brown knit tie would look better with this outfit, but then he might look too much like Bond.

The tie still has one strong connection to classic Bond style, and that’s because it’s a knitted tie. Knit ties are the quintessential Bond tie, starting with Ian Fleming’s books. Every actor who has played Bond on film has worn a knitted tie.

13 COMMENTS

  1. It’s hard to see Smythe’s personality here – gaudy nouveau riche Louis Vuitton bags, accessories, and velvet Fila tracksuits on one side, but otherwise classic and tasteful tailoring. I would picture someone making his servant hold his LV luggage to “be entirely dressed by his tailor” in other words, seem like he had no idea what he was wearing, but look nice just because of the money that went into it – instead, it’s someone enjoying wisely selected classic items and personalizing them with a sensible twist (barleycorn and yellow tie, blazer and day cravat, heavy grey tweed with a sport shirt and sporty tie)
    In my opinion, the disguise is a complete failure, because of the Bondian selections it’s almost as if he’s giving away the fact he’s Bond. I mean he could walk into any bar pretending to be Smythe, but the bartenders will still say “oh Mr. Bond, a martini shaken not stirred?” in any of the tailoring we see him in. Had he been in a crushed velvet smoking jacket instead of the navy blazer and day cravat when the two meet, I think it would’ve been more “in character.”

    • I disagree. I see it more in the vein of how Fleming describes Goldfinger’s golf outfit in Goldfinger. “It was as if Goldfinger had gone to his tailor and said, ‘Dress me for golf — you know, like they wear in Scotland.'”

      If James St. John-Smythe is new money but wants to look like old money, he’ll go to an old-school tailor on Savile Row and tell them he’s going to a horse auction and gala in the south of France and wants to look like he knows what he’s doing. So his tailor makes him a number of slacks and odd jackets, as well as the hacking outfit and sends him on his way.

      Since St. John-Smythe is inexperienced, he still fails to put things together just so, and ends up with the plaid tie with the gray jacket, the two button, notch lapel sport coat passing as a dinner jacket, and the lemon yellow tie with the hacking outfit instead of a more harmonious color.

      • Makes sense. Which explains why the parts where his tailor isn’t involved (i.e. the bags and the tracksuit) aren’t as tasteful compared to his otherwise remarkable wardrobe!
        Interesting how it all comes down to whether you receive the outfit as tasteful or garish for Bond, though. The Burberry tie and the yellow knit tie look ok to me, because I know it’s the same person who’s worn much louder ties as a spy just a few years before this! (Though I believe that dinner jacket was one button)

  2. As ever a great article, and really interesting in the changes in style that Bond employs when undercover.

    In relation to the tie that Bond wears with the grey tweed jacket, I suspect, based on the design to be a classic Burberry Manston tie in Navy with a red overcheck pattern. You are correct in that ties can make a subtle change of ones perception. It is certainly out of character, but in doing so it helps reaffirm the character of St John Smythe.

  3. Clever article and AVTAK must be the only Bond movie where Bond masquerades as an alias not once but twice. With the latter, James Stock, he’s posing as a financier in San Francisco yet Roger is wearing his trademark tan suit rather than a DB chalkstripe which would be more “in character”.

    Back to St John Smythe; until you posted this, Matt, I’d never really considered the outfits as anything other than Moore’s typical sports coats, dinner jacket and blazer. Yet, yes, it’s the little extras which subtly show these as a kind of extension of the Roger/Bond we know. The track suit is yes, probably the least in keeping with “classic” Bond though unlike many others I never found it especially offensive. The classic dark blue colour perhaps subdues it’s other allegedly offensive aspects.

    Remember, Moore’s Bond tweaked the Bond template right from the off. His Bond in LALD wore a wardrobe well removed from Connery; the first ever DB suit, shades of tan and brown and gasp, a brown abstract pattern tie which was as far removed from Connery’s uniform navy grenadine as is possible to imagine!

    The thing is; had Moore’s Bond dressed more in line with his own classic Bond wardrobe while posing as a nouveau riche type playboy horse breeder would someone like Zorin and his associates been any the wiser?

    • He’s posing as a financial writer, not as a financier. It would be expected that a journalist would have a more casual, and likely shabbier, outfit than the people he is interviewing.

    • I, too, had never thought of the clothes Bond wears as St John Smythe as a kind of disguise. The track suit isn’t that awful, really. Why all the hate? And Moore doesn’t look particularly old or out of shape in it, even though the warehouse fight in AVTK might just qualify as the lamest dustup in the entire Bond canon.

      • I don’t recall the exact scene but you’ve got some competition there with Moore, starting back during LALD with the thugs in the alley in New York. He debuts (“day-boos”!!) what would become his trademark ‘overhead grab and two-footed kick’ move to lightly tap one of them on the chest who then graciously folds up into a heap, out cold!

  4. I must have a poor eye for such things as I find Bond’s (or Smythe’s), pale yellow tie rather flattering, but that’s because it’s a nice bright highlight against the darker elements of the ensemble itself – mid-tone jacket and darker trousers – in my opinion. I don’t quite see how it’s unflattering against Moore’s complexion but I’ll take Mr. Spaiser at his word on that.

    • I don’t think it’s UNflattering, just not AS flattering as a warmer tone would be. I too think he pulls it off alright, not sure I could. Yellow is a tricky colour to do right in menswear.

      • I used to detest yellow as a younger man . . . yet as I get older I find I rather like it. It seems to harmonize with the basic menswear colours of navy, brown and particularly grey. I often make a point of buying yellow braces / suspenders when I see ’em in Isetan, if the opportunity to match them with my yellow neckties arises. But I rather fear as much as I like yellow, it doesn’t like me (or rather, my pale pink + blue undertone skin).

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