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.
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.