How Does James Bond Dress After Leaving the Service?

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Bond has left the secret service many times in the series, starting with Bond’s attempt to leave it in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and ranging from Bond’s resignation in Licence to Kill to his recent retirement in No Time to Die.

For No Time to Die, the official synopsis starts with, “Bond has left active service and is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica.” We see a Bond who is retired in the new film. This isn’t the only time Bond has left the service; this also happens prominently in Licence to Kill, Die Another Day, Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall and Spectre. (It’s a pattern for Daniel Craig’s Bond films.) How does Bond dress when he has either quit his job or retired?

This presents a few more questions. Is Bond still the same character whether or not he is in active service as 007? Does Bond dress well only to look presentable for his job, or is he dressing for himself? Does Bond let himself go if he has no particular reason to dress well?

Clothes Make the Man

Clothing has been an defining aspect of James Bond’s character since Ian Fleming’s stories. The literary Bond dressed is his own personal manner, not for work or for society but for himself. He appreciates fine shirts made of Sea Island cotton and silk, which are above the standards required for his job where ordinary cotton poplin would do just fine. He only dressed differently from his own personal taste if he was in disguise.

James Bond is proud to be wearing a Savile Row suit in Dr. No.

The film Bond before Daniel Craig dresses well because he wants to. Bond’s lines like “My tailor, Savile Row” in Dr. No, “Not mad about his tailor, are you?” about Benz’s tailor in From Russia with Love and “Don’t forget the double vents” to his tailor in Live and Let Die show Bond as someone with an interest in dressing well. His showing up to a concert in The Living Daylights wearing black tie to hear Saunders tell him, “This is a mission, not a fancy-dress ball!” again marks Bond as someone who dresses well for himself, not for his job.

Bond’s sense style is fully formed by the end of Casino Royale.

When Daniel Craig starts out as Bond in Casino Royale, he dresses well because he feels that it’s what he is expected to do, but he doesn’t appreciate fine clothes. By the end of Casino Royale, Vesper Lynd has taught Bond to appreciate how he dresses as we see him in a quite unnecessary three-piece suit. He has once again become the Bond who lives to wear suits and fine clothes.

Maintaining A Sense of Style Out of the Job

Along the way, Bond has left the service a number of times. During these leaves from work, sometimes Bond dresses the same as he ordinarily would and sometimes he dresses differently.

Licence to Kill is the first example of Bond out of work, and he’s not in his best state of mind while seeking revenge for his friend Felix Leiter’s injuries. Bond is not dressing like his usual self in fine English-tailored suits, but this has nothing to do with him being out of a job and being angry.

Bond is relaxed and ready to fly to a new mission in Licence to Kill, but he is dressing below his usual standards.

He wears his first suit in the film as he’s about to fly to his next mission in Istanbul after taking a holiday for Leiter’s wedding and nothing has yet gone amiss. Bond wears an oversized Italian fashion suit, not his usual English bespoke suit, and he’s wearing it without a tie. He’s dressed this way to follow fashions, not for any character reasons. While wearing this outfit, his life is turned upside down and decides to set out for revenge.

Bond is tense and ready to get revenge in Licence to Kill, dressed poorly but with little difference to how he dressed earlier in the film before all hell broke loose.

Throughout the rest of the film Bond wears oversized casual clothes that don’t look like anything particularly fancy. He wears a poorly designed dinner suit, and he wears another suit without a tie. All his suits are of the same look as the first suit he wears before all hell breaks loose, so his circumstances are not the reason for his being dressed differently in this film than in the others. He may have needed to purchase a new wardrobe in Isthmus city, but it looks the same as the wardrobe he brought with him to Key West at the start of the film.

A new costume designer, oversized fashions and a production based in North America explain why Bond is dressed differently in Licence to Kill. It was simply a poor time for fashions.

Bond is going rogue in his new suit from his “Hong Kong tailor” in Die Another Day.

Bond goes rogue again in Die Another Day, and the first thing he does is get his Hong Kong tailor to make him new suits. Bond has no need for suits, but as that is what he likes to wear, it is what he gets. He goes to Cuba and wears fine linen shirts and a linen suit. He returns to London wearing an elegant suit and tie. This is all when he’s on his own and not 007, because Bond’s sense of style is independent of any need to dress well for his job.

Daniel Craig’s Bond: The Quitter

In Casino Royale Bond once again quits his job, something Craig’s Bond does in every film. At this time he’s dressed stylishly in quality clothes, though in wearing t-shirts he’s not dressed with the same level of elegance we’ve come to expect from the character. His rugby shirt in some of these scenes is something Bond hadn’t worn before, but it looks elegant. By the end of the film when Bond is wearing a three-piece suit, his sense of style has fully matured, and we don’t expect him to wear t-shirts again.

Bond is dressed in a rugby shirt after a quality t-shirt he left the service in Casino Royale. He’s relaxed but looks stylish.

He’s dressed in a more sophisticated casual manner (and fancy jeans) in Quantum of Solace when he leaves the service the next time, dressed in a polo shirt and Harrington jacket. Neither in Casino Royale nor in Quantum of Solace does Bond appear to have let himself go while out of the service.

Bond may have gone rogue in Quantum of Solace, but he is still dressing stylishly.

After Bond is shot in Skyfall, he retires when presumed dead. He’s depressed—more deeply than Craig’s Bond usually is—in his retirement, as he lacks purpose. Just as any normal person would in depression, Bond lets himself go. He doesn’t care to procure fine clothes and instead wears cheap clothes that the production sourced from Zara and Topman. His leather jacket from Levi’s Vintage Clothing isn’t cheap, but its distressed look is unusual for Bond and gives him a careless look. Yet he’s wearing a collared shirt, not a t-shirt, so he hasn’t fully let himself go.

During his retirement in Skyfall, Bond’s life is at a low. So is his wardrobe.

Though Bond resumes working as 007 in each of those films, at the end of Spectre he again leaves the service. This time he makes a grand exit in full Bondian style driving an Aston Martin DB5 and wearing a three-piece suit. He’s retired and wearing what he likes to wear most.

Bond enters retirement in Spectre wearing what he enjoys wearing: a three-piece suit.

Retirement in No Time to Die

This section will discuss what has been seen of Daniel Craig’s style from trailers in No Time to Die. There will be speculation and what some may consider to be minor spoilers, so do not read on if that is a concern.

The corduroy suit is perfect for a retired James Bond: a man who wants to wear a suit for his own enjoyment.

The film allegedly starts out with Bond in Matera, Italy, and there he is wearing a Massimo Alba corduroy suit. Bond has continued from where he left off at the end of Spectre: driving an Aston Martin DB5 and wearing a suit and tie. He is retired from the service but still dressing with the same overall level of elegance we expect from Bond.

Bond wearing a shirt from Tommy Bahama during his retirement in No Time to Die

But then it would appear he is in full retirement mode in Jamaica, not dressing as we expect the character to dress. Bond may be in a similar circumstance to he was in Skyfall and depressed in his retirement. He doesn’t appear to care so much about his clothes again, wearing a hole-filled grey t-shirt and a black shirt from Tommy Bahama with jeans and Sperry Top-Sider boat shoes. The grey t-shirt resembles one of Bond’s unemployed looks from Casino Royale, and considering this shirt’s poor condition it could possibly be the same shirt from 14 years earlier.

Tommy Bahama and Sperry are brands we expect to see on ordinary retirees, not the kind of brands we expect on Bond. They’re fine brands, and the Tommy Bahama shirt looks particularly good on Daniel Craig, they’re just unusual for Bond. He’s still wearing stylish sunglasses from Vuarnet.

Bond is wearing a torn t-shirt in No Time to Die, and not knowing the context of this t-shirt, it could possibly represent a series low in the lack of care Bond has put into his clothes

We don’t yet know what the circumstances are for Bond wearing these clothes are in No Time to Die, so this is just speculation. It is difficult to say from what we have seen in the trailers if Bond has let himself go. It seems likely that he will even be wearing his classic midnight blue dinner suit before he returns to MI6, so perhaps he hasn’t completely given up. But even in retirement, a man who is interested in dressing well still dresses well. Retirement is not a reason for men who enjoy wearing fine clothes to stop wearing such clothes.

37 COMMENTS

  1. Personally I think that Daniel Craig looks in great shape in this film. Facially he also looks younger than in the previous two films and seems to have lost the smugness. The clothing choices appear to once again fit the situations as they did in CR and QOS (from what we can speculate about these scenes) whereas in the last two films the clothing has just pandered to fashion ie. swaggering around in Tom Ford suits. This film may prove to be Craig’s best – sartorially as well as generally.

  2. “It used to be a convincing act. It’s wearing a little thin now” as someone once said! Frankly, this premise is a boring and hackneyed one by now and he fact that it has been used in no less than each of Craig’s Bond movies makes it farcical and shows that Cubby’s daughter and son-in-law have, in my opinion, lost the plot. There seems to be some idea in the last 15 years that Bond movies need to have some deeper message and fine plot nuances. Some of us would be happy with the tried and trusteed formulaic Bond premise. They need to remember; 007 isn’t art house cinema and it doesn’t need to be!

    • David – so true! At this point it would be refreshing and borderline iconoclastic just to have Bond be given a mission by M, watch him save the world in style, and get the girl at the end of the movie. A bold new concept?

      • I couldn’t agree more. The trailers keep teasing some dark secret involving the main villain, Swann, and Bond… and frankly at this point (and particularly after SPECTRE), I don’t really care anymore. Just give me an interesting story that doesn’t involve 1) “this time – it’s personal!” 2) the bad guys are everywhere, watching you. 3) Bond on the run from MI6.

    • What is wrong with fine plot nuances and art house cinema? Bond’s clothes should be top drawer, but it does not matter if the film is only a mediocre or even bad one?

      • There is nothing wrong with art house but Bond isn’t and it’s frankly laughable to even suggest such a thing. Yet, I feel this is something which they seem to be veering towards now. The classic Bond movies of the 60’s, 70s and 80s conformed to a template like Dan and Tredstone point out above and this worked very well under Cubby’s remit. Each decade and actor had their top drawer, mediocre and poor outings (sartorially as well as story line/concept) but there was no need for this aspirational thing. Know your remit and do it well would be my line but I know, I know, I’m a dinosaur!

        As for Craig’s off duty clothing, I actually don’t find the outfit with the black shirt in this movie that bad at all (the black is a nod to Roger’s from LALD while the camp collar is a Connery thing) but the Skyfall thing is something not fit to wipe the floor with!

      • Laurence, as I told Renard in another thread, the role of Bond requires easy charm more than it requires art-house acting skills. Craig has no charm and even his much-vaunted acting skills seem to consist mostly of acting depressed and angsty. There is nothing fun, attractive or worth emulating about him. And his outfits when he is out of character are slavishly fashionable without being elegant.

      • I can’t agree to what you say, but I took a quick look around since I am new to this party, and for sure I don’t want to get roped into that kind of discussion which quite often has been held here.

      • There’s nothing inherently wrong with a fomulaic plot, as long as the story and characterizations work. Just because the Bond formula tends to result in continual Thunderball remakes doesn’t mean it has to. After all, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and For Your Eyes Only hew pretty close to the standard formula while still providing opportunities for realistic characterizations and actual acting.

  3. I might consider Zara and Topman cheap in terms of quality of materials and construction, and they (and Tommy Bahama) are not in the same price point as Orlebar Brown or N.Peal, like his usual casual wear, but they are not inexpensive.

    I assume you meant cheap as in lower quality, but it’s not entirely clear from what you wrote.

      • Those chinos are twice as much here. They run between $60 (~45 GBP) and $105 (~80 GBP) at Nordstrom. About equivalent to other mid-level streetwear brands and at the same price point as Tommy Bahama.

  4. Matt I was intrigued by your thoughts on the order of the film in terms of the places visited. From the trailers I have assumed that the first sections are in Jamaica – hence the visit from Jeffrey Wright – then London, Norway and Matera last. The scenes in S Italy seem a final act to me – but who knows?

    From what I’ve seen so far I’m not overly taken with Craig’s outfits. The casual clothes look somewhat meh. The Corduroy suit is however different and a great colour. Not mentioned in your article is the blue suit he wears when visiting Blofeld in Belmarsh but he should have rejoined – again – by then!

    • Matera is supposedly where the pre-title sequence takes place, then Jamaica and Cuba. After those locations he ‘s back in London and reinstated, which is why I didn’t write about any of the London suits.

  5. Could the argument be made that the Tommy Bahama shirt is meant to be the same one as in Casino Royale? The Alfani was polyester, but the viewer would see the sheen and the tropical location and think silk. Both shirts are black, long-sleeved, with a single chest pocket and a tailored straight hem. It’s less of a stretch than accepting the two-piece Tom Ford suit at the start of Quantum of Solace as the three-piece Brioni suit from the end of Casino Royale.

  6. I chuckled at the sub-heading ‘Daniel Craig – Quitter’, but perhaps it’s not entirely fair. Did he really quit in QoS or was he suspended / fired by M?
    “There’s a capture or kill order out on you”
    “I wonder who would have done that”

    As for the discussion about plots etc. I read a review by Roger Ebert about some Bond film from the distant past wherein he wrote something like ‘we’re all too familiar with the assembled components of a Bond film like a Greek Drama’. The films, characters, actors and costumes have to move with the times and I welcome that to some degree although inevitably such moving won’t appeal to all tastes. I’ve said in these discussions before that the case could be made that while the Mission Impossible series started emulating Bondian elements (starting with MI2) the case could be made that they have eclipsed the Bonds and have solidified the franchise with fantastic action stunt set pieces, foxy females, horrifically sociopathic crimes and supervillains, adult-themed espionage-related plots. and a bit of humour. The parallels / influences / thieving from the Bond series are countless but it’s a general thematic target that the Bonds could be aiming for. That said, I do believe that the Bond series should be a leader not a follower and whenever he’s been an obvious trend follower – blaxploitation (LALD), Kung Fu (TMWTGG), – Star Wars (Moonraker), Miami Vice (LTK although I like that one myself) the results have been sub-par! I have high hopes of Craig going out in style this time and I’m eager to see which way the series will turn after this.

    • Well said, Rod. I completely agree (though I have a soft spot for Moonraker and L2K). Here’s to hoping No Time To Die goes out with a bang. (I was skeptical but the previews have been quite good).

  7. David, I actually feel your pain. As someone who really likes the first three Craig films and for the most part, Craig in the role (although not my favorite by any means), I still think that post Skyfall, the time was right for a return to a straight, outrageous, escapist adventure (which they haven’t done since TWINE) and with no personal connection (not done since The Living Daylights). But I am not sure the current actor and production team does that sort of thing well – see Die Another Day (which I enjoy but it is the dumbest Bond out there, at least in its second hour). The current assumptions, formed after Bourne, was that a film needs to show the main character’s personal arc and a plot was secondary. I think they did that well for his first three films. I personally think it is time to move past that, but that is going to have to wait until a new actor, production team, and possibly new franchise owners are in place for a 2022 or 2023 release date. And as a postscript, the MI films, especially Rogue Nation and Fallout have totally filled the space quite nicely of the old Roger, Pierce escapist films.

  8. Nice, creative post Matt! And I did laugh at “Daniel Craig’s Bond: The Quitter.” Craig’s Bond’s casual wear has always been, IMO, excellent, and appropriate for the setting (yes, even the Madagascar shirt works for me, given the setting). Craig’s Bond has provided a nice balance and appeal (not to mention more variety compared to his predictable, if beautifully-suited suits of the last two films) for those not always interested in the bespoke suits and perhaps more relevant to some in the audience today.

  9. Matt, I don’t believe you have written about the gun club check jacket in that scene from Spectre pictured. That would definitely be an interesting post given how in that sport jacket and knitted tie is these days.

  10. Matt,

    Great work as always!

    Since we are already in the grey area of fashion:

    Could you write a blog post about undershirts? Does Bond wear them?

  11. I have to say Matt that your topics for articles are always interesting. The way your blend older Bond with the new Bond is always great to read. Who do you think will follow Craig as Bond? Do you have some ideas around this?

    • Thanks, Ryan! My top pick for next Bond is Aidan Turner. I’m certain it will not be any of the big names that many people have been talking about, certainly not those over the age of 45.

    • He’s too old for it now, but ten years ago Idris Elba would have been perfect for the role. He’s the closest thing we have to Sean Connery acting today.

  12. Aidan Turner would be a good choice and the right age to start as James Bond. His part in And Then There Were None was good. I like the fact that he is a interesting actor and has dark hair. He is also the right build for Bond if you go on the books. I think Craig has made his mark and will be remembered in the long term.

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