How James Bond Dresses for Funerals and Mourning

30

Death is a way of life for James Bond, so it’s no surprise that he finds himself frequently attending funerals. Funerals are unfortunate events for all of us, but it’s important to know how to dress respectfully for one. For Bond, a funeral means wearing a dark suit and tie.

When dressing for a funeral, respect is key. In Western culture, a suit and tie is the primary garment a man wears for showing respect. Other cultures may have different customs for funerals and mourning. A suit and tie is not the only outfit one can wear to show respect at a funeral, but it is usually a reliable choice. We should not be concerned with dressing stylishly for funerals, just respectfully. This doesn’t mean we must avoid dressing stylishly, but should not be the goal.

Black is the colour most associated with funerals, mourning and death. Black is a good choice for funerals because it’s devoid of colour. It looks dull and dead, and it signifies mourning. It makes a serious and sombre statement, and it doesn’t draw attention to oneself. Other dark and dull colours, however, can project a somber and serious look as well. Dark grey makes a similar statement without going to the extreme of black.

Solid black suits are particularly associated with funeral attire, and some men own one only for funerals. For James Bond, the solid black suit is only for mourning. He wears black three-piece suits for mourning disguises in two films. In Diamonds Are Forever, he wears a black worsted flannel suit when visiting a funeral parlour in Las Vegas for his deceased ‘brother’, only for Bond to end up in a coffin himself. Though the heavy three-piece suit isn’t an obvious choice for the desert, it’s a good choice for winter mourning. He wears it with a cream shirt and a black ribbed tie. The cream shirt softens the contrast of the black suit compared to a white shirt, but it reads similarly to a white shirt. The black tie adds to the mourning look.

In Spectre, Bond attends a gangster’s funeral in Rome wearing a black three-piece herringbone suit and a black bridge coat. The suit is a flashy choice for a funeral because the cloth has a sheen and the lapels are peaked, but it works because of the context of being in disguise at a gangster’s funeral. The same goes for the white shirt with a pinned collar. Some may find the collar pin too flashy for funerals, but traditionally it wouldn’t be. A white shirt is a formal choice, making it appropriate for funerals. The solid black tie with a woven check is a similar choice to the Diamonds Are Forever tie. The long black coat is also appropriate for the funeral, as it looks serious and keeps Bond warm.

Bond also wears sunglasses to this funeral, which are a common choice not only for the sun but also to hide one’s teary eyes. Sunglasses should be tasteful and are best in a dark colour. Bond’s sunglasses are dark brown.

A plain dark grey suit is an equally appropriate choice for a funeral. In Thunderball Bond wears a dark grey three-piece flannel suit to a funeral in France. The dark grey flannel suit is a regular business suit for Bond, and it isn’t quite as smart as a worsted suit. However, it’s perfectly suitable for a cold weather funeral, and Bond has a grey herringbone topcoat and dark brown trilby with him in case he gets too cold. The coat is not as formal as Bond’s darker coats, but it looks respectful enough and would keep Bond warm enough if necessary. The hat is also not a particularly formal choice, but if Bond needs to keep his head warm outdoors it is appropriate. Some cultures demand that a hat be removed at a funeral as a sign of respect. Bond wears a solid black tie in silk grenadine, which is both a classic Bond tie as well as a reliable funeral tie. The mid-blue shirt isn’t inappropriate, but a white shirt would have been a better choice.

For Sir Robert King’s funeral in The World Is Not Enough, Bond wears a Cheviot tweed suit in a dark grey windowpane. Bond combines his attire for both the Scottish countryside and a formal funeral in this outfit, but it slightly misses the mark. The colour of the suit is appropriate, but it is otherwise very sporty and a windowpane makes a too much of a statement for a funeral. He looks like he’s dressed for country sports, and a dark grey flannel suit would have been a fitting choice for both the occasion and location. His dark charcoal grey double-breasted overcoat, however, hides most of the suit to give the outfit the more formal look that is necessary for the solemn occasion. The white shirt is the most traditionally appropriate shirt out of all of Bond’s funeral shirts. Like the suit, the black wool knitted tie is sporty country attire but in a funeral-appropriate colour.

Bond might be wearing dark suits throughout Quantum of Solace because he is mourning Vesper Lynd’s death. However, the dark suits in charcoal, midnight blue and brown and the dark coats may have been chosen by costume designer Louise Frogley simply to match the film’s dark tone and its overall colour palette.

The constants for Bond’s mourning attire are a black or dark grey suit in worsted wool or flannel, a black or grey outercoat, a solid black tie and a light-coloured shirt. A funeral suit should be dark and solid or semi-solid. Navy is appropriate, but not as solemn as black or dark grey/charcoal. Stripes can draw too much attention to oneself and checks—apart from subtle tone-on-tone checks—don’t feel solemn enough.

A white shirt is ideal, and a cream shirt is just as good. A blue shirt is acceptable because it won’t draw attention, but white and cream shirts are better choices. Some may find cocktail cuffs or double cuffs too flashy, but provided the rest of the outfit is tasteful the shirt cuff should not be a concern.

Bond always wears black ties to funerals, but since Bond frequently wears them anything else can seem too flashy for him. A black tie is the easiest way to make one’s attire look more somber for a funeral, but it’s not a necessity. Any tie that doesn’t draw attention to itself is appropriate for a funeral.

For Bond’s own funeral in You Only Live Twice, he is dressed in his Royal Navy Commander’s parade uniform when buried at sea. A military uniform may be equally appropriate to wear for attending a funeral, but rules vary as to when one is allowed to wear one’s military dress uniform. If Bond was to wear this uniform for mourning, under certain circumstances he would wear it with a mourning band, which is a piece of black crepe 3¼ inches wide worn on the left sleeve two inches above the elbow.

For Your Eyes Only Charcoal Suit

In For Your Eyes Only, Bond visits his late wife Tracy’s grave in a dark grey flannel three-piece suit similar to the suit for the funeral in Thunderball. Since he’s not in mourning, he’s wearing a grey tie—in silk shantung—rather than a black tie. The navy bengal stripe shirt with a white collar and white cuffs contributes to the outfit’s appropriate formal and serious look, but he is dressed more for business in Central London than for a visit to a cemetery. He must have planned this stop at the cemetery on his way to the office, but he was not prepared for the ’emergency’ that awaits him.

In No Time to Die, Bond visits Vesper Lynd’s grave in a tan corduroy suit, blue button-down shirt and burgundy tie. He’s not dressed for a funeral or for mourning, but he is dressing respectfully to visit Vesper’s grave. His outfit was most likely donned for a romantic, leisurely day in Matera, Italy, but perhaps he dressed bit smarter than he did the prior day for the purpose of visiting Vesper’s grave. When visiting a cemetery, one should always make an effort to look neat, even if not dressed up. This is Bond’s way of looking neat while dressed down.

30 COMMENTS

  1. Great article. I was at a funeral about three weeks ago wearing my three-piece charcoal suit with a white shirt and a white necktie + a navy double-breasted overcoat. Where I come from the closest male relatives should be wearing a white necktie while other men should wear a black necktie.

    Anyway, while it was a beautiful ceremony and most men was wearing a suit and tie I was amazed that some grown men choose not to wear a suit. One decided to show up in an ordinary dark sweater and dark trousers while the worst one, a professional military believe it or not, was wearing brown trousers with a light coloured sweater along with a down vest. I was absolutely sure he was going to wear his military dress uniform, but sadly not.

    Simply horrible that some can’t show respect and follow a dress code for a couple of hours.

    • I direct music at a small rural church, so I’ve attended my share of funerals. You wouldn’t believe some of the outfits I’ve seen. (For my part, I wear a dark charcoal suit, white shirt, and plain black tie 95% of the time, and typically without my usual double cuffs and pocket square.)

    • Whilst generally I agree with dressing respectfully and conservatively, and for me that means suit and tie, there may be extenuating circumstances.

      Some people cannot afford to buy a suit, especially if it will only be worn once or twice a year. Although others may deem their clothing as casual, they have dressed as smartly as they can.

      Some of my brother’s friends came to my mother’s funeral wearing soiled work clothes. They did not have the luxury of taking time off work to attend a funeral of someone who is not a close family member, and they had to nip out and then rush back to work.

      The fact that people made the effort to pay their respects meant more than what they were wearing.

  2. Cubby was a big fan of funerals and coffins (cf. Dr. No, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, Diamonds are Forever, Live and Let Die, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker).

    • Cubby worked as a coffin maker at the start of his working life. Legend has it it is a nod to that period in his life. Even later, there are some references (explosives in coffins mentioned in GoldenEye, coffins during the chase in Haïti in Quantum of Solace, Line-up of Union Jack covered coffins in Skyfall…

  3. Good summary of formal funeral attire. Things are changing.
    At my Dad’s funeral (1982) it was all black and white, long faces, sombre mood.
    At my Mam’s funeral (2003) she had said she didn’t want any long faces. I wore a black suit, white shirt, black tie but changed into a bright red patterned tie and red pocket square for the after party.
    At my sister’s funeral (2020) she conveyed her wishes to her girls who spread the word that black was forbidden and bright colours encouraged. I wore my electric blue sharkskin suit, white shirt, fuchsia tie with.blue dots and fuchsia socks. Someone showed up who mustn’t have got the message wearing black trousers and a shiny black crew neck T shirt.

    I always felt looking back that my Dad who was a bit of a jokester would not have wanted everyone in black but the times hadn’t changed back then. Nowadays I’m hearing more and more often that black is being discouraged at funerals. Despite being a bit of a traditionalist in many aspects of men’s clothing I don’t mind this departure from tradition but the prerogative remains with the deceased and their family’s wishes.

    • As I wrote, the key is to dress with respect. If someone wants bright colours, you’re respecting their wishes. Funeral attire most typically has the purpose to tell others that you’re taking the funeral seriously. If I’m attending a funeral for someone who isn’t an immediate family member, I want to dress in a way to show the immediate family members of the deceased that I’m taking the occasion seriously. Following the deceased’s wishes is the easiest way to do so, but I have never attended a funeral with specific instructions as your family has. I have found that wearing a dark grey suit, white shirt and black tie has almost never steered me wrong. The only time anyone complained was when someone thought my clothes looked too nice for a funeral, which must have been in contrast to other wearing more average-looking suits.

  4. Lovely informative article as always Matt, for my Grannies funeral last week I wore a plain black single breasted suit under a black peaked lapel overcoat similar to what Brosnan wear in TWINE, the only deviancy from normal funeral wear was the Double-O sock exchange socks that I wore as she had gifted me them for Christmas

  5. It’s kind of interesting that in all these examples, Bond isn’t actually in mourning. In Thunderball, he’s making sure the deceased is actually dead; in Diamonds and Spectre, he’s the reason they’re having an funeral to begin with; and in TWINE he’s mostly there because M expects him to be. I sometimeswonder if he attended the funerals of anyone he actually cared about, like Tracy, Della, or Judi Dench’s M, or if that would have been too painful for him.

    • Interesting point. In SPECTRE at the end Moneypenny brings him the China bulldog left by M in her will but there was no mention of the funeral much less whether he was in attendance. You’d think he would have been there either out of respect for his boss, friend and mentor or at the very least on departmental orders.

    • Maybe some of the other Bonds would be fine, but I don’t see Craig being a funeral kind of guy. I doubt he attended any funerals of the people who died in his movies, just had a brief moment to himself like the London rooftop scene in Skyfall. I think that’s why him going to Vesper’s grave in NTTD was such a massive deal to him.

  6. Matt, I’ve been trying to decide what kind of black tie to acquire for funerals. In the article you say that “a solid black tie in silk grenadine…[is] a reliable funeral tie.” I was worried that the exquisite pattern of the grenadine weave was too flashy for funerals. Can you expand on the ideal black silk grenadine tie for funerals? Grossa or Fina? Right or Wrong side?

    • Grenadine ties aren’t overly shiny, which makes them good funeral ties. The kind of grenadine doesn’t matter. Some may say the garza fina is better because it has a more subtle weave, but it ultimately doesn’t make a difference.

    • I agree I don’t think there’s a ‘wrong’ black tie to wear for a funeral and any version of grenadine will be fine. Anyone who gets ‘offended’ thinking that your solid black tie is too flashy really needs to get a hobby. I got mine along with several other colours from Paul Winston, owner of Chipps2 which sells them at very reasonable cost on their website. Paul is a lovely fella who I used to go and visit whenever I was in NYC but I think high rents have forced him out to. Brooklyn now. He loves to chat and will tell you how as a young boy he would accompany his Dad to go and measure up JFK for his suits.
      Over on Styleforum there are quite a few advocates for wearing a black tie with non-funereal outfits. I used to wear a black suit more often in my nightclubbing days but it doesn’t come out very often now. Any time I contemplate wearing a black tie there always seems to be a better alternative (navy blue etc).

  7. It looks like in Britain, black (or very dark blue/grey) suits are only worn with black ties to funerals. That is what I noticed watching the queen’s funeral. In the US, however, even at the most formal funerals, such as the funerals of senators and presidents, one is unlikely to see any man in a black tie. Regular dark business suits and regular ties in restrained colors are usually worn. Almost never black.
    This was different in the 1960’s however. For the funeral of president Kennedy, his widow, Jacqueline Kennedy, was dressed in full mourning attire with the black veil, and JFK’s brothers were in formal daytime suits (cutaway coats) with black vests and black ties.

  8. I was just at a funeral last week in north London. I would say that only about 1/4 of the men were in suits. The majority were in “smart casual” – mainly sweaters with heavy wool trousers as it was freezing. Still a lot of ties peeking up over the collars of their sweaters. Even most of the deceased’s family and older guests were dressed like that. Funerals, like everything else in the UK, have become more casual. But it was all very respectful. And as Matt guesses, I was in my only black suit, which I indeed save for funerals and seldom wear for anything else.

  9. 15 years ago, a dear friend of mine passed away. She loved the 1950s vintage navy flannel suit I owned. So, rather than wear the charcoal suit I also owned, I took out that one. I think it was plenty appropriate given those circumstances. Plus, she always talked about wanting her friends and family to wear brighter colours whenever she passed away. Just a shame it was so early in her life.

    • Truth be told, some families request bright colours to reflect someone’s personality and to show the mourners that you shouldn’t be upset that they died, but glad they lived.

      • I recently lost two friends, a married couple from my old theatre days, one day apart. The wake was this past weekend, and the family asked everyone to wear their favorite colors, blue, green, and red. I’ve been recovering from the flu and was unable to attend, but I’m sure it was festive.

      • Mark, I am so sorry about your loss! My husband had COVID and so I was unable to attend someone’s birthday party recently. Anything you would have worn in particular if you could attend?

  10. I found Bond’s Matera sand-coloured cord suit to be particularly apposite because i), Bond is dressing somewhat informally here as if to spare Vesper from the vagaries of the danger that his ordinary grey / dark suits represent, and ii), to respectfully blend into Matera and Vesper’s resting place itself . . . It’s almost a bittersweet statement to the effect of ‘I’ll be here with you one day’, though perhaps I’m reading too much depth into it.

  11. Good evening Matt,
    Would you have any details on the black ribbed black tie that Bond wore in the funeral parlor scene. Specifically, was it knit or grenadine?, or something else?
    Rich

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.