Headgear, Heels, Cummerbunds and Belts: James Bond’s Wearable Gadgets

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When it comes to James Bond’s wearable gadgets, it’s his watches that immediately come to mind. On occasion, Bond wears other items that are more than what meets the eye. He has gadgets hidden in his clothes, or his clothes themselves are gadgets. Starting in Goldfinger, gadgets became an integral part of the Bond series and that included gadgets he could wear.

Goldfinger: Seagull Headgear

James Bond’s first wearable gadget is also his silliest. Bond’s snorkelling gear to infiltrate a Latin American drug laboratory is topped with a seagull to disguise himself. Of all of Bond’s wearable gadgets, this one is the least expected from a Bond film and more expected from a Bond spoof. Nevertheless, it’s a clever piece of equipment.

Goldfinger: Shoe Heel Homing Device

James Bond’s shoes in Goldfinger, whether they’re his elastic-gore ankle boots or his two-eyelet derbies, are equipped with a sliding leather heel that can house a miniature homing device. It’s a clever place to hide this device, as anyone searching Bond is unlikely to find it. It’s a less invasive—but also less reliable—way of tracking Bond than the pill in Thunderball or the injectable chip in Casino Royale and smart blood in Spectre. Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 and Felix Leiter’s car are both able to track this device.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service: Radioactive Lint

Q devises and discusses in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service a gadget made of lint, the fluff shed by clothing, stating it can be used as a weapon and for tracking. Bond does not use this gadget, but it’s a clothing-related one as once it is placed in a pocket is essentially becomes part of the clothes.

Diamonds Are Forever: Cummerbund-Concealed Harness

As Bond scales the outside of the Whyte House in his black dinner suit in Diamonds Are Forever, he attaches one end of the rope he shoots from his piton gun to a hook under his burgundy cummerbund. Whether this cummerbund is a decorative part of his harness or he just wears a cummerbund—an unusual item for Connery’s Bond—to conceal a harness underneath is unknown, but either way it’s a clever way of using clothing combined with gadgets.

Live and Let Die: Brush Transmitter

James Bond calls this a ‘hairbrush’, but others have referred to this gadget as a clothes or lint brush. James Bond would naturally pack a clothes brush for all of his trips, seeing as he frequently gets himself dirty and needs an easy way of making himself presentable.

Live and Let Die: Reversible Suit Jacket and Breakaway Trousers

Bond has a quick costume change aided by a reversible jacket and breakaway trousers. He starts off with a black silk leisure/safari jacket and matching trousers for hang-gliding reconnaissance. After he lands, he breaks away the black trousers to reveal beige trousers, and he removes his jacket and turns it inside-out to reveal a beige suit jacket. Though such a reversal is not realistically possible, the tactical-to-social change looks suave.

Octopussy: Reversible Tweed/Military Jacket

Bond again wears a reversible jacket in Octopussy to transform one disguise into another disguise, making the change of clothes easy with no evidence left behind. This one starts as a classic brown tweed hacking jacket and reverses to a green army jacket. The style of reversal is almost like the opposite of the one in Live and Let Die, taking a jacket with a curved hem and flipping it over into a straight-hemmed jacket. It’s not a realistically possible transformation, and tailor Douglas Hayward had to make separate garments to represent each side, with the original tweed jacket also serving as the fake double-sided garment. Bond also has an easy-to-remove dicky and a flat cap that reverses into a military cap to complete the transformation.

A View to a Kill: Polarising Glasses and Ring Camera

At Max Zorin’s chateau party, Bond has two gadgets to help him with his undercover mission. His round sunglasses have an adjustable polarising filter to help him see through the window of Zorin’s office. His gold ring on his right hand has a hidden camera disguised as an onyx stone so he can take pictures of the people he meets at the party while toasting them.

Licence to Kill: Rope Cummerbund

Bond’s cummerbund in Licence to Kill with his black dinner suit is used to conceal rope for Bond to use to rappel from the roof a building to spy on drug lord Franz Sanchez. This is only the second time in the Bond series that Bond wears a cummerbund, so it’s an accessory that Bond has no need for unless it is good for another purpose like it does here. He wouldn’t wear a cummerbund merely as a fashion accessory until Quantum of Solace.

GoldenEye: Grappling Hook Belt

To escape the Russian archives, Bond removes his black leather belt and shoots a piton with a high-tensile wire from the belt’s buckle. With this gadget, Bond swings across the archives and crashes outside through a window. Q tells Bond that the belt is tested for the weight of one person. Bond had planned on using it to escape with Natalya, but since she is captured he doesn’t have the opportunity to test it for two people.

The World Is Not Enough: Detonator Glasses

Bond wears fashionable Calvin Klein glasses as part of his disguise as a banker, but they also serve to detonate a bomb in his gun to aid in his escape from a Swiss banker’s office.

The World Is Not Enough: Inflatable Parka

If parkas weren’t puffy enough, Q developed a coat that could inflate into a protective bubble. R demonstrates the device on a different coat than what Bond later uses this feature on his ski jacket to protect himself and Elektra King during an avalanche when they are out skiing.

The World Is Not Enough: X-Ray Sunglasses

The X-ray sunglasses draw suspicion indoors at night in the casino, but they help Bond identify who is carrying and who looks good through their dress. Otherwise, Bond should know better than to pair sunglasses with his dinner jacket.

Casino Royale (1967): ‘Protective Clothing’

James Bond-recruit Evelyn Tremble in the 1967 James Bond spoof Casino Royale is presented with a onesie in British Racing Green full of all the gadgets he could possibly need in the field. Q’s assistance Fordyce tells Tremble that it is ‘Sanforized, non-iron, and also available in chocolate, oyster or clerical grey’, as well as ‘hand-reefed and double-charvered’. It contains a switchblade, Geiger counter, intercom and infrared camera. It also has ‘a tape recorder in the shoulder padding, a Beretta in the buttonhole, and a cute little minigun in the gusset.’ What more could someone on his way to becoming Bond want?

Casino Royale (1967): Bowler Hat Gun

Also in this James Bond spoof is a black bowler hat that has a gun embedded in it. An assistant in Q’s lab demonstrates it, and either the force or the sound of the gunshot knocks out the demonstrator.

In addition, the film features CIA agent Ransom wearing a trick carnation that spits cyanide, a variation on the classic squirting flower practical joke. The Joker in Batman also had a poisonous squirting flower.

Villains

The Bond villains have some of the most famous gadgets in their clothes. Rosa Klebb in From Russia with Love has a retractable poison-tipped dagger hidden inside her shoe, which she uses in a battle with James Bond. Morzeny has the same gadget hidden in his boot, which he uses to kill Kronsteen.

Oddjob‘s hat is the most iconic clothing-related gadget of the entire Bond series. What sounds like a silly concept is turned into a frightening one in Goldfinger, when a man can kill with—and by killed by—his own flat-crowned bowler hat made by London’s Lock & Co.

Allies

Bond’s allies also have their wearable gadgets, like General Pushkin’s blood pouch vest in The Living Daylights, Pam Bouvier’s Kevlar jacket in Licence to Kill and the unknown explosive detonator in Sir Robert King’s lapel pin in The World Is Not Enough.

16 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks Matt for another great post!

    Wouldn’t it be interesting to add the weapon hidden under Bond’s cuffs in Moonraker?
    It looks like it is secured by a sort of wristwatch bracelet under the Frank Foster tab cuffs.

  2. For a villain, how about Red Grant’s watch garrote? I realize it’s not only a fairly prosaic gadget, but one that was commonly used, but it’s still an iconic wearable gadget. Or are you reserving space just for watches that do things?

    • Yeah I was thinking that there’s room for a whole different post about watches and the gadgets housed within them.
      On the subject of gadgets, I suppose it started with the brief case in From Russia With Love and hit a zenith with the Aston in Goldfinger. Soon after the spoof films took over and we saw ludicrous gadgets from Derek Flint and Matt Helm right up to Austin Powers and beyond. I liked the anti-gadget stance of the early Craig era – in Skyfall we heard “Were you expecting an exploding pen? We don’t really go in for that any more!” and yet in SPECTRE we had an exploding watch and a gadget packed Aston again. The scenes with Q became a mainstay of the canon but contributed to the silliness in that whatever gadgets he was given always conveniently turned out to be the exact item needed for subsequent adventures and yet were rarely (never?) repeated from film to film.

  3. Hey, Matt. I was watching View To A Kill last night and was reminded of Bond’s adjustable sun glasses. They belong on this list for sure.

  4. It’s interesting that other franchises like Kingsman and Wick have included nearly-magical bulletproof suits for their heroes which allow saturation-level gunfights, but even the most gadgety Bond films never seemed to go that route.

    • Funny, I don’t recall either of those movie series hazing a scene where the characters survive being saturated with bullets. Both Harry Hart and John Wick take a few bullets, which somewhat realistically staggers them (getting hit even in kevlar hurts) and damages their fabric a bit. I think that helps suspension of disbelief. There was a moment from the Kingsman trailer where Eggsy survives dozens of bullets and coolly shakes them off his jacket in slow motion. It was cut from the final film for unknown reasons. I think Bond only uses body armour in the video games!

  5. Great post, Matt. Back when Bond was fun. I believe the Joker in Chris Nolan’s masterpiece (half Bond film, half Michael Mann epic) The Dark Knight also had the shoe dagger.

    Thanks for this one.

  6. Interesting article Matt! It is fun seeing the different ways that clothing has been used throughout the Bond films as a gadget. It is the perfect way to mix spy with gentleman and also be in the scope of this blog. I think in the from Russia with love video game James Bond’s cufflinks are used as a gadget.

  7. Intriguing entry for this week’s topic. I love the gadget/clothes combination. The shoe dagger and the Oddjob’s hat are classic gadgets. A great fashionable gadget that character wears in the series is Jaws’ teeth. Technically, this item is not clothes but his teeth shine louder than any watch. I love Scaramage’s golden gun. This item would be a clothing gadget because the trigger is one of his cufflinks. I am surprised that this classic was not mentioned. These villains come up with some crafty gadgets. Maybe they should have joined Q branch, instead of living the life of crime.

  8. Great post, Matt, thanks.
    Albeit unfortunately only in the books, hence not covered here, were some interesting items. Among them:
    – Bond’s steel reinforced shoes’ front.
    – Scaramanga’s miniature gold pistol, disguised as a tie pin.
    – Throwing blades held in jacket’s sleeves (can’t remember if that was Le Chiffre or Scaramanga, but will check out).
    Surprisingly, cufflinks were not used as gadgets, except on the villains’s side.
    Clothes are such a great source for all things-gadgetry imagination…

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