Felix Leiter’s 1970s Checked Suit in Live and Let Die

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Live and Let Die introduced the third actor to play James Bond, Roger Moore, and the fifth actor to play Felix Leiter, David Hedison. While Roger Moore’s Bond had a new fashion sense compared to previous Bond actors, David Hedison’s Leiter’s wardrobe was more of a natural progression compared to what came before. The outfit he wears in the Louisiana scenes of a grey suit, blue shirt and navy tie was something Cec Linder’s Felix Leiter wore in Goldfinger nine years earlier, but now it has been updated for 1973.

Leiter’s suit is a lightweight worsted in a black and white check with a light blue overcheck. The check is not any ordinary check; the pattern is almost like a windowpane made up of a fine Prince of Wales check. Over that check there is a white plaid as well as a thick light blue windowpane. The pattern is complex, but it’s not that flashy because of how subtle it is. From a distance, the suit reads as a solid. While fancy checks were common on 1970s suits, such checks can still be found today on Italian suits.

The suit follows an ‘Updated American’ cut with updates for the 1970s. The suit has a more relaxed cut compared to Roger Moore’s suits in the film, giving it a more American look. The shoulders are straight and padded with natural sleeve heads. There are two buttons on the front in a medium stance. The cuffs have three buttons, spaced apart. The suit’s buttons are a mottled black and grey horn. The jacket is detailed with straight flap pockets and a single vent.

The jacket’s inflated details are what give it an unquestionably 1970s look. The notched lapels are very wide, possibly 5 inches. The pocket flaps are wide to look in proportion with the lapels. The single vent at the rear is very long and extends to the waist.

The suit’s trousers are not excessive like the jacket’s. They have a relaxed cut with a mid rise, flat front and a medium-width straight leg. The mid rise—instead of a high rise like Roger Moore was wearing—is the most modern part of the trousers. The waistband has belt loops that do not extend below the bottom of the waistband, which suggests this suit may be made by an English tailor. The trousers are worn with a black belt that has an oversized brass buckle.

Leiter’s cornflower blue cotton broadcloth shirt is equally updated for the 1970s. The shirt’s rich blue makes the outfit pop compared to the paler blues that Bond wore with his grey checked suits in previous films. The shirt’s point collar is long with a lot of tie space. Though the collar points are long, against the width of the lapels they look reasonable. Compared with Bond’s semi-spread collar, the narrower collar makes Leiter look more American. The shirt has a front placket, rounded button cuffs and a breast pocket, all details typical of American shirts.

The tie is navy with red polka dots, made in a four-in-hand knot, and it’s the most conservative part of the outfit. Leiter wears black loafers with a seam down the middle of the shoe and a tall heel.

Leiter’s grey suit and blue shirt contrast with Bond’s tan jacket, brown trousers and beige shirt in these scenes. Leiter is dressed in cool-toned, traditional business colours that had previously been Bond’s uniform, while Bond is dressed in more leisurely warm tones that reflect the era. Overall, Leiter’s outfit has some resemblance to outfits that Bond wore in the 1960s, particularly George Lazenby’s checked suit in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service; both outfits have in common a suit in a black-and-white check with a blue overcheck paired with a blue point-collar shirt and a navy tie. Neither these items nor their combination are particularly distinctive. Nevertheless, Felix’s cool colour palette, rather than Moore’s earth tones, is one a viewer would have sooner associated with Bond prior to Live and Let Die. Unlike the mustard yellow shirt that Norman Burton’s Felix Leiter wears in Diamonds Are Forever, Hedison’s cool colours in this outfit prevent him from looking like a total victim of 1970s fashions.

Leiter’s exaggerated 1970s proportions, however, contrast with Bond’s classically restrained proportions. Leiter’s lapels are fashionably about 5 inches wide while Bond’s are around a classic 3 1/2 to 3 3/4 inches. Bond’s shirt collar points are about 3 1/4 to 3 3/8 inches long while Leiter’s are approaching 4 inches. The only area where Bond is more fashion forward are his slightly flared bootcut trousers. Leiter sticks with a more restrained straight leg.

Both men are wearing fashionably wide ties, so ultimately there is no doubt which decade their clothes belong to.

13 COMMENTS

  1. Excellent write-up! Apart from the rather excessively large lapels, pocket flaps and shirt collar which account for the fashions of the 1970s, I think the outfit is a rather classic, elegant and timeless style that also hints on the colour palette of Bond in the 1960s and looks great on Leiter.

    I would also like to note that the contrast of the cool colours of Leiter with the warm tones of Bond in the film is the reverse of what happened in Dr. No wherein Leiter was wearing the more relaxed yet professional warm colours which contrasted with the cooler and more business-like colours of Bond when they first met each other. In Dr. No it seemed like Bond’s grey suit showed that he had a lot of authority, business and control in the mission which contrasts the leisure colour of Leiter’s tan suit since Jamaica was still British territory and thus Leiter is a “foreigner”. In Live and Let Die it is the exact opposite since Bond’s mission is in the United States and thus Leiter has more control and authority in the area as he is part of the CIA represented in his cooler and more business-like colour palette, and Bond’s warmer earth tones would indicate a more leisurely and more relaxed approach to the mission since this time he is the “foreigner.”

    Will you be covering Matt any more of Leiter’s clothing throughout the series, such as Jeffry Wright’s Leiter’s sports shirts and casual style and how they contrast with the casual clothes of Bond?

    • Dear Ivan,
      Excellent analysis. i do not know if the contrast with Dr No was intentional or more related to Moore and Hedison’s complexions. A bit of both?
      What is remarkable in costume design is that from a single frame, we know who is from which side of the Atlantic!
      Best regards,

  2. Thanks for the compliment Eric! You also do make an excellent point about the colour schemes and how they relate to Moore and Hedison’s complexions and that may have been the main objective and the contrast to Dr. No may have been coincidental, yet it somehow still works. It is indeed remarkable that though similar, both men have styles that are oceans apart!

    • I don’t think there was as much intent to flatter their complexions as there was to put them in contrasting colour palettes. When they first interact in Live and Let Die (albeit over the phone), Moore is in blues while Felix is in browns. At the end of the film, Moore is in a grey suit while Felix is in a brown jacket. So I think the contrast between the two characters is more important than the colours themselves.

  3. I’d go so far as to say that since Moore’s Bond was more congenial and humorous – more approachable – overall, than Bonds before him or after, that therefore warmer tones of brown, cream and beige are more suited to his interpretation of Bond, as well as Moore’s own skin tone. Those promos / stills of him next to Hedison with the latter in a cool grey-blue ensemble really highlight this.

  4. First thing I shall say is thank you Matt for making this post. I believe I mentioned this outfit before on your blog and I am very excited to read your analytical skill on this outfit.

    It is truly a shame that Mr. Hedison passed away a few years ago. I believe he was the best version of Felix and I enjoyed his screen time just as much as Moore’s. I believe he brought a great chemistry between Bond and Felix.

    Now moving on towards the outfit. I actually prefer Felix’s ensemble alot. Yes some features maybe dated, but overall the outfit looks great. I have a question regarding the shoes Matt? You mentioned the shoes are loafers but I found a picture from Thunderballs that may differ this inquiry. In this photo, Hedison is wearing the same outfit but the shoes appear to have eyelets like a chukka boot or dress shoe.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=david+hedison+live+and+let+die&tbm=isch&source=hp&ei=vKLOYtKlDuqE0PEP54iEEA&oq=david+heidson+l&gs_lcp=ChJtb2JpbGUtZ3dzLXdpei1pbWcQARgAMgQIABANMgQIABANMggIABAeEAgQDTIFCCEQqwI6BQgAEIAEOggIABCABBCxAzoICAAQsQMQgwE6CwgAEIAEELEDEIMBOggIABAeEA0QBToGCAAQHhANOgYIABAKEBhQnhRYvTNgpUNoAHAAeACAAekHiAHbWpIBCDUtMS4xMi4xmAEAoAEBsAEA&sclient=mobile-gws-wiz-img#imgrc=nknJJcHHXGjLwM&imgdii=wT0OYojm3leY7M

  5. The thing that amazes me more is the fact that the mainstram fashion in 60s and 70s, went for excesses.
    Ultra skinny and minimalist features in 60s.huge and exaggerate features in 70s.
    Never the classic, elegant,proportionate line (if not for some very classic bespoke houses).

    Only around 1969 we can see for a moment some good proportionated classic line….but only a moment later,the delirium.
    From boring,skimpy, monochrome,suits and ties to monstrous and deformed size of lapels and ties and gross patterns.

    • Couldn’t agree more CP. I was a child during the seventies and still bear a revulsion for those fashions. Thankfully the punk catalyst happened in England and quickly and rightfully consigned all those excesses to the dustbin of stylistic history.

      Or so I thought!

      When I look at websites like Styleforum there is an alarming amount of people who fall over themselves to pour compliments on those who post pics wearing jackets with shoulder-skimming lapels. Clearly they weren’t there in the seventies to witness the horror first hand!

  6. Thanks Matt – another great writeup. And I love the picture with Moore and Hedison on the streets of New Orleans. They look two old friends who just arrived in the Quarter for a business conference and are getting in some afternoon drinks.

  7. Great post Matt! As I enjoy reading about James Bond’s outfits in the movies I do also like reading about the other characters as well to compare them to what he was wearing in that scene. I really like some of the great points that some have made on this blog as well. Keep the good work!

  8. Please check out the episode Luella (1964) of the Saint, if you haven’t already seen it. The interplay between Roger Moore and his friend David Hedison is fantastic! In the episode Roger as Simon Templer also poses as James Bond! Nine years later he actually became James Bond and Hedison Felix Leiter.

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