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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.