Throughout most of the 25 James Bond films, Bond demonstrates how to wear a suit in a classic, tasteful and sophisticated manner without being flashy. This article provides advice for anyone looking for the basics of how to wear a suit, but from James Bond’s lens. James Bond provides a good foundation for anyone looking to learn how to wear a suit. A man should master these suit-wearing basics before branching out into other styles. Know the rules before you break them.
Bond does not wear only one kind of suit or wear his suits in only one way, but he always looks to tradition when wearing a suit. There is much variety in his suits and in how he wears them, but he consistently wears suits in a fairly simple way that demonstrates elegance but also shows restraint.
A suiting is a tightly woven cloth that is appropriate for making into a suit. The colour and the type of cloth a suit is made from defines the suit more than any other aspect of it. It determines the formality of the suit and how the suit will be worn more than the cut, the structure, whether it’s single or double breasted, the type of pockets or the buttons do.
James Bond always wears classic suitings that don’t draw much attention, frequently in shades of grey with some textural interest. He’s not usually going for high superfine worsteds and instead prefers more traditional cloths in medium to light weights. A suit made of Super 110s worsted wool is perfect for the modern Bond.
James Bond chooses his suitings depending on the purpose, locale, season and time of day for which he will be wearing each suit. Bond’s most common suit colour is grey, from a deep charcoal to a light dove grey. He also wears a lot of blue suits, with the occasional brown, black, tan and cream suits.
For business, Bond often wears worsted wool suits in cloths such as serge for year-round use, worsted flannel for cooler weather, and plain weave and gabardine for warm weather. Worsted wool is a smooth, combed type of wool, and it’s important to differentiate the different kind of cloths that worsted wool can be made into. In cool weather he also wears woollen flannel suits, which have a lofty feel with a fuzzy nap. Bond’s business suits in London are usually in dark grey, mid grey or dark blue, and sometimes they’re brown. When abroad in warm locations, Bond also wears business suits in light grey and tan. Bond’s business suits may be plain, herringbone, glen check, pinstripe, chalk stripe or birdseye. Less commonly, Bond wears windowpane, nailhead and fine houndstooth check business suits.
Bond wears different suits for social occasions. While there is some overlap with the business suits, especially in the flannel suits and tan suits, Bond wears both more formal suits and more leisurely suits socially, depending on the occasion. For the more formal social occasions he wears mohair suits in shades of grey, blue and brown. For moderately formal occasions he wears silk dupioni suits in shades of grey, blue and brown. If Bond is in a warm location, he’s likely to wear a mohair suit for both business and social occasions. During the daytime, he might wear a tan cotton poplin or needlecord suit or an ecru linen suit.
When Bond wears a suit socially in the cool countryside, it’s a simple tweed in brown or dark grey, sometimes with a windowpane.
Bond only wears black suits for mourning, whether he’s attending a funeral or in a period of mourning. The only exception is when he steals the black suit off Scaramanga’s James Bond mannequin in The Man with the Golden Gun. Even in this case, the black suit represents James Bond’s deadly nature. When Bond wears a black suit he avoids wearing flat, plain worsteds and instead wears them in herringbone-weave worsted wool, in worsted flannel or in mohair to make the usually-boring black suit more interesting.
James Bond’s suit jackets are usually cut with a British silhouette, whether they’re made by a London bespoke tailor or made by Tom Ford. The British silhouette is defined by a full chest, a suppressed waist, straight shoulders on the natural shoulder line and trim sleeves. Sometimes this silhouette includes roped sleeve heads and a flared skirt. The lapels are usually cut with a little belly and a straight gorge—the seam where the lapel meets the collar. Bond has also worn Italian suits, but they usually resemble a structured British silhouette, albeit with less shape in the chest.
Bond’s suit jackets usually have two or three buttons at the front, and occasionally he wears a suit jacket with only one button. In a button-two jacket, Bond only fastens the top button. When he fastens the bottom button, it is a mistake that pulls the jacket out of its natural shape and makes it look sloppy. When the jacket has three buttons, usually they are cut as a full button-three style but sometimes they are cut as a ‘three-roll-two’ where the lapels rolls down to the middle button so the jacket looks like a button-two jacket. In either case, Bond only fastens the middle button of suit jackets with three buttons, never the top or the bottom.
Bond often leaves his suit jacket buttoned when sitting down, which a well-fitted jacket should allow comfortably. Sometimes he unbuttons it to sit down, but either method is acceptable. When wearing a three-piece suit, sometimes Bond buttons the jacket and sometimes he wears it open. Both are valid ways of wearing a three-piece suit.
On rare occasion, Bond wears a double-breasted suit in either the classic 6×2 style or the 4×1 style that has been popular from time to time, particularly in the 1980s. Double-breasted suits, however, are generally not Bond’s style, particularly as the don’t allow easy access to his shoulder-holstered firearm.
The styling details of Bond’s suit jackets vary. The may have double vents, a single vent or no vents at all. Hip pockets are usually set in, usually with flaps but sometimes they’re only double-jetted. The may be straight or slanted, and they occasionally have a ticket pocket. Patch pockets are rare on James Bond’s suits, only appearing on very sporty suits. His cuffs have three or four buttons, except for the occasional five-button Tom Ford signature cuff.
Bond’s suit jacket buttons are either made of polyester, horn, or corozo, matching or closely complementing the colour of the suit.
James Bond’s suit trousers either have a flat front, a darted front, double forward pleats or double reverse pleats. A flat front is the most common style today. The darted front has subtle darts sewn at the front of the trousers to add a little fullness to the hips without using pleats, and British tailors often cut their trousers with a darted front instead of a flat front to give their trousers more shape.
Double forward pleats are a classic British style where there are two pleats on each side that open inwards. Double reverse pleats open outwears and are more associated with Italian tailoring. Forward pleats generally make for a trimmer look than reverse pleats.
Bond’s suit trousers have tapered legs, straight legs or flared legs of varying widths, all depending on fashion trends at the times of the films. The legs are finished either with turn-ups (cuffs) or plain hems, with the choices unrelated to whether or not the trousers have pleats.
The waistband of the suit trousers may have side adjusters or it may have loops for a belt. Bond’s side adjusters were originally the Daks style with buttons that attached to elastic tabs, but more recently he switched to the strap and slide-buckle style. Side adjusters pair better with a slimmer suit than a belt does because there won’t be a belt to leave a bulge under the jacket.
James Bond has also worn belts with many suits, starting with The Man with the Golden Gun in 1974. On rare occasion he wears braces (suspenders) with his suits, but it’s not a typically Bondian style.
Bond’s British suit trousers have different buttons from the jacket, whether it’s flat mother-of-pearl buttons or polyester ‘strap’ buttons originally designed for the interior strap. Bond’s more recent suits match the trouser buttons to the horn or corozo jacket buttons.
When does James Bond wear a three-piece suit? He mainly wears them for business in London, but he also wears them for funerals or for other occasions when he wants to make a good impression.
James Bond’s waistcoats usually have six buttons. On rare occasion they have seven buttons and only on one suit do they have five buttons, the most mainstream waistcoat style. Bond usually buttons all but the bottom button of his waistcoat. Some of Bond’s waistcoats have the bottom button placed on the cutaway portion of the waistcoat so they cannot be buttoned, even by choice. In Thunderball, Bond’s waistcoats have a straight bottom, and he fastens all of them.
A few of Bond’s waistcoats have notched lapels, which do not make the waistcoat any more or less formal. Bond’s waistcoats usually have four welt pockets on the front, but some have two welt pockets and two flap pockets or only two welt pockets in all.
The back of the waistcoat is made of lining so it sits neatly under the jacket. Suit waistcoat buttons always match the jacket’s cuff buttons.
Bond usually wears his waistcoats as part of a three-piece suit, meaning all three pieces match. Only on one occasion does Bond wear an odd waistcoat with his suit, and that is in Goldfinger when he wears a beige doeskin waistcoat with his brown houndstooth flannel suit to M’s office. It’s the first time he wears a waistcoat to the office, setting a precedent for future films, but it’s a sporty country outfit he wears to the office rather than a formal three-piece suit like what Bond would wear to the office on two occasions in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
Bond usually wears his suits with a classic fit, but the fits vary with trends. Sean Connery wore his suits with a full but neat fit. George Lazenby and Roger Moore wore suits that fit closer to the body. Timothy Dalton’s suits were full cut with excessive wide, padded shoulders to reflect late 1980s trends. Pierce Brosnan maintained the full cuts but toned them down for a neater look. Daniel Craig started off with closer fits and by his third Bond film opted for jackets with very tight and short cuts and tight, lower-rise trousers. A well-fitted suit should look balanced with your body in a way that flatters it, regardless of fashion trends.
A properly-fitted jacket should look neat and balanced, and it does not necessarily have to follow the shape of your body. Generally, a jacket’s length should be half the distance from the base of the neck to the floor, but it may be slightly longer if necessary to cover your seat. The front of the jacket should be the same length as or slightly longer than the back. The jacket’s shoulders may be the width of your own, or they may be extended on a man with a large head or on a man with a large waist for purposes of balance. If the shoulders are extended, it is important that the shoulders have enough support so they do not droop.
The chest should lie neatly without any gaping in front, and the waist should be closely fitted without pulling. The jacket’s fastening button—the top of two buttons or the middle of three buttons—should be at the natural waist, which is also the same height as the elbow. The collar should hug the back of the neck, while the back of the jacket should drape cleanly. Small folds behind the sleeve are permissible for ease of movement.
A well-cut suit jacket has high armholes with sleeves that are larger than the armhole and eased into the armhole to best allow the sleeve to move with the person wearing it. When the armhole and sleeve are properly fitted the sleeve will drape cleanly without divots at the shoulder. This should be the case whether the shoulder is narrow or wide. The pitch of the sleeve must follow the arm’s shape. The sleeve should taper to fit close to the arms, and the sleeve should end at the wrist bone to allow 1/4 to 1/2 inch of shirt cuff to show when the arm is relaxed.
Suit trousers should fit neatly and have a clean drape. If the trousers have pleats, the pleats should stay closed when standing. The legs may be tapered or straight. Rise and hem length vary with trends, but harmony with the body is always important. For this reason, the rise should be long enough for the trousers to sit at the natural waist above the hip bone. This allows the trousers to move the best with the body and connects them visually with the suit jacket so there is no triangle of shirt below the jacket’s fastened button.
The hem may have a break or no break, but the trousers should cover the ankles so that no sock shows. Trousers should not bunch on top of the shoe or hit the floor. The length of the trousers will vary depending on how wide the hem is.
Waistcoats should neatly hug the body. The waistcoat should be just long enough to cover the waistband of the trousers. Waistcoats need to be worn with high-rise trousers, otherwise the waistcoat will not be able to fit neatly.
Read more about how a suit should fit.
Bond almost always wears a plain white, cream, light blue or mid blue shirt with his suits. Most of Bond’s shirts are made of cotton poplin, but there are some in cotton voile, royal oxford and cotton twill. Bond’s rare shirts that aren’t plain include Bengal stripes or hairline stripes in blue, brown, red, grey and gold, white-on-white stripes, and the rare fancy stripe. A couple of Bond’s Bengal stripe shirts have a contrasting white collar and cuffs.
The shirts have all sorts of collars, from wide spread collars to semi-spread collars to point collars as well as tab collars and one collar with eyelets for a pin. Only on one occasion does Bond wear a button-down collar with a suit, and that is with his most casual suit of the series: a tan needlecord suit in No Time to Die. It’s otherwise not his style. Bond’s shirt collar usually have large proportions to balance his large frame and to give his face presence.
Bond’s cuffs vary too, starting with his signature cocktail cuffs. It’s a cuff that fastens with two buttons but folds back like a double cuff, and the fold-back portion is rounded and reveals the buttons. When Bond isn’t wearing the cocktail cuff, he’s wearing squared or rounded double (French) cuffs, rounded one-button cuffs, mitred or squared two-button cuffs or the occasional squared three-button cuff.
The shirts Bond wears with his suits rarely have a pocket, which he usually wears only on sports sports.
Ties and Accessories
James Bond’s necktie foundation is built on dark solids and fine patterns in navy, black and grey. Solid silk knitted, grenadine, repp and satin ties frequently reappear throughout the Bond films. When he wears a tie in a brighter colour it’s usually red or a bright shade of blue. Roger Moore’s Bond also wears striped or spotted ties, while Pierce Brosnan’s Bond wears larger geometric patterns.
While Bond’s ties are varied throughout the series, they are usually subtle and muted. They rarely draw attention or have bold patterns, but there are exceptions to this rule.
Bond ordinarily makes his ties with a four-in-hand knot, but in a few films he chooses a Windsor or half-Windsor knot. His tie is always knotted tightly, with the knot sitting high in the shirt collar.
Bond almost always wears a tie with his suits, but when he doesn’t it is usually with a less formal summer suit in warm weather. Such occasions are in Moonraker, GoldenEye, The World Is Not Enough, Die Another Day and Casino Royale, when Bond wears an informal ecru or tan suit without a tie for dressing down in a hot climate.
When Bond wears a more formal suit without a tie, such as in Licence to Kill, he looks as if his tie went missing. When Bond wears a suit without a tie in Quantum of Solace, it’s because he’s discarded his tie and is unable to change into clothes more suitable for his needs.
Bond also frequently accessorises his suits with a pocket square, either in white linen or in a cotton that matches his shirt. These pocket squares are usually presented in a straight presidential fold, but a few times he folds them with a single point. Pierce Brosnan preferred his pocket squares in silk, coordinating with an element of his outfit and puffed in the breast pocket.
James Bond always wears socks with his suits, either matching the colour of the shoes or matching the colour of the suit. Bond is certainly not creative with socks.
James Bond, usually by dressing with a traditional English sense of style, wears black shoes with grey, blue, dark brown and black suits. The only exceptions to this are in Casino Royale when he makes an exception for sporty linen suits. He wears brown suede shoes with a light grey linen suit and snuff suede chukka boots with a dark blue linen suit. Other than these examples Bond always wears black shoes with his suits in the above mentioned colours. They’re always black calf leather except for one pair of monk-strap chukka boots in black suede with a light grey tropical wool suit in Diamonds Are Forever.
With suits in cream, tan, fawn or mid-brown, Bond wears shoes in dark or mid-brown calf or suede. With his ecru suit in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, he matches his suit with cream shoes. His choice for mid-brown shoes with the ecru suit in Diamonds Are Forever is a better choice.
When Bond wears a belt with his suits, he matches the colour of his belt to his shoes. If he’s wearing braces with his suit, he matches the colour of the leather ends to his shoes. He doesn’t necessarily match the materials. A calfskin belt is fine with suede shoes. If he’s wearing monk shoes, he’ll match the metal of the belt buckle to the monk strap buckle.
Bond typically wears traditional English shoes with Goodyear-welt construction, however, he took a break from these shoes in the Roger Moore films and switched to Italian loafers.
Bond wears many different shoe styles with his suits throughout the series, from lace-ups to slip-ons to boots. These include oxfords in stitched cap-toe, quarter-brogue, semi-brouge, and full-brogue styles; derbys in plain-toe, stitched cap-toe and full-brogue styles (usually with two or three eyelets); plain-toe single-monk shoes; apron-toe loafers, sometimes with a tassel, a horsebit or a side bit; moccasin-toe penny loafers, plain-toe slip-ons with elastic on instep; plain-toe demi-boots with elastic side gores or elastic on instep; and plain-toe chukka boots.
All of these types of shoes are perfect for wearing with suits except for moccasin-toe loafers, which are too casual for a suit. The oxford and derby styles are the easiest of all these shoes to wear with a suit
With a suit, Bond usually wears leather-soled shoes, but in more recent films Bond he wears Dainite studded rubber soles and the Crockett & Jones ‘City’ rubber sole.
When the weather gets cold, James Bond reaches for an overcoat or topcoat to wear over his suit. Overcoats are longer and heavier than topcoats, which are shorter than knee-length, so Bond’s choice between the two is mainly dependent on the temperature.
Bond’s overcoats and topcoats are usually made of wool melton, cashmere or a blend of wool and cashmere. Most of Bond’s overcoats are in plain navy, but he also wears them in black-and-white herringbone, plain black, black herringbone, navy herringbone, and fawn.
The navy and black-and-white herringbone coats pair well with almost every suit Bond wears. Bond usually saves his black coats for wearing with black or grey suits, and he mainly wears them for funerals. The singular fawn coat he wears in Tomorrow Never Dies is one of his most stylish, and it pairs well with his blue suit.
Bond wears many overcoat and topcoat styles throughout the series, usually following classic British coat styles. Single-breasted coats typically have three buttons down the front with notched lapels, except for one example with peaked lapels. Often they have a fly front to cover the buttons and keep out the elements. Sometimes they have a velvet or moleskin collar that matches the colour of the coat.
Bond also frequently wears double-breasted coats over his suits, including the classic chesterfield style in a 6×2 fastening with or without a velvet collar. He’s also worn double-breasted overcoats in the bridge coat, greatcoat and guards coat styles. Bond does not wear pea coats over his suits because pea coats are not long enough to properly cover a suit.
For rainy weather he wears a single-breasted raincoat or trench coat in tan or navy cotton.
He often wears black or dark brown leather gloves with his overcoats and topcoats. Usually he matches the gloves to his shoes, but on occasion he wears brown gloves with black shoes. Bond rarely wears a scarf with a suit, but when he does it’s a mid-grey cashmere scarf.
In the 1960s, Bond frequently wears felt trilby hats with his suits. These hats have a tapered crown and a narrow brim that is turned up at the back. Though the hat was originally designed for the races, it became a popular hat to wear for business. In the 1980s these hats returned to the Bond series, but merely so Bond could once again throw them onto the hat tree at the office. The hats are usually in a muted grey-green, dark brown or grey with his grey suits, dark brown with his brown suits and navy or black with his blue suits.
Thank you to William Prector of Ask the Gentleman for inspiring me to write this article.
>> Daniel Craig started off with closer fits and by his third Bond film opted for jackets with very tight and short cuts and tight, lower-rise trousers.
More than the overall tight fit, I just really dislike the low rise trousers in all his films from QOS onwards. Combined with the higher button stance it’s just not a clean or classic look at all.
Great article Matt. You mention that Bond’s herringbone overcoats or topcoats work with most of his suits. Would the exception be a herringbone suit or can these two work together? Say, for example the Thunderball topcoat with the YOLT herringbone suit?
Correct, those two are too similar. However, a navy herringbone coat can work with q grey herringbone suit, like in Spectre.
Excellent as always! What a good reference article. Thank you for this info!
I’ve got a suit with lightly padded shoulders which sit nicely while standing in a neutral position, but they develop slight divots (particularly on my right shoulder) whenever I move my arms or sit down. It’s not a deal breaker but is mildly annoying.
Do you have any idea what might be causing this? It fits perfectly otherwise. The shoulders are quite narrow with high armholes.
It sounds like the upper sleeve may be too narrow, or the armhole isn’t the right shape for you. A wider armhole with more fullness at the sleeve head fixes this problem.
Or perhaps the shoulder gun holster for the Walther PPK is causing the problem? ;-)
Matt, you’ve outdone yourself again! An impressively comprehensive post.
Any thoughts on the RN Commander’s uniforms we occasionally see Bond in?
See here https://www.bondsuits.com/royal-navy-commanders-dress-uniform/
This is one of those articles that I’m genuinely shocked hasn’t already been written, it’s almost too obvious. Well written, as always.
Matt, this was really comprehensive and helpful, thank you!
For someone like me in southern California (so generally warm weather year-round and low humidity), what would be a good starter suit — I’m thinking navy but what fabric?
One quick follow-up: I’d say my complexion and hair color are similar to yours, Matt, so wondering if a grey suit would wash me out? Perhaps better to stick to navy or charcoal?
I recommend a plain-weave worsted in 9-11 oz. With my colouring I can wear any shade of grey and more muted shades of blue. What matters most is the colour of the shirt. Blue shirts help me look best with any suit.
I totally concur with what you said about the colour of the shirt Matt. For example I think Sean Connery always looks killer in the pale blue shirts worn in Dr No and FRWL. I also thought Roger Moore looked fantastic in muted shades of yellow, regardless of the suit or jacket.
“Bond often wears worsted wool suits in cloths such as serge for year-round use, worsted flannel for cooler weather, and plain weave and gabardine for warm weather. Worsted wool is a smooth, combed type of wool, and it’s important to differentiate the different kind of cloths that worsted wool can be made into.”
Are there any resources you recommend to help one better identify different types of clothes, maybe something with sample swatches?
I have a guy, J J Textile Manchester. He does offer swatches for fabrics. He’s a dealer straight from the UK.
Once again, a perfect and thorough analysis, Matt, thanks.
I particularly like the suit fit section, with you very clear and useful comments.
One thing one could also think of is the size and shape of the armhole, that should, in my opinion, be cut as high and narrow as possible, to prevent the whole jacket from bursting open if one lifts an arm. It is particularly well shown in a picture of George Lazenby holding a gun, for instance.
I have used this as an inspiration for my own suits since then.
Another topic which is rarely mentioned is the length of Bond’s socks, which are very often too short.
I am always amazed that hardly any or no costume designer has ever been bothered by that important detail. Socks, with suits mainly, but in nearly every occasion besides sports, should be knee-high, to prevent showing bare if not hairy part of the skin, primarily when sitting and crossing legs.
Italians notoriously frown upon short socks, which they label ‘mezza-calzetta’, which is also a harsh judgement of a person as a whole:
“It refers to a person of very little value and competence in a given field, who, however, presumptuously (and arrogantly) considers himself to be very important and an expert at all”.
I highly recommend http://www.deepl.com for a proper translation into your respective languages.
Lastly, the fabric of Bond’s socks indicates that they are mostly worn in cold weather, but certainly to thick for warm exotic locations. I also disapprove of their ridges, preferring a smooth, uniform, thin texture.
Thank you, Stan, for these important thoughts.
For the armhole, it needs to be high but not necessarily narrow. A narrow armhole is often the cause of shoulder divots.
This is a great article which helps explain the different styles and types of suits in such a relatable way. Everyone has watched Bond movies but I doubt anyone else has considered using the movies as a way to explain the different aspects of suits to people who might not know much about it.