Ian Fleming: Live and Let Die (1954)

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Ian Fleming colours Live and Let Die with James Bond’s clothes better than in any of his other stories, with mentions of both Bond’s own clothes as well as his important disguise.

In Chapter 1 of Live and Let Die, it is established that Bond follows traditional English gentleman protocol and wears a hat. A man named Dexter says to Bond, “‘We’ll go straight in and through the lobby to the elevators. Half-right across the lobby. And would you please keep your hat on, Mr Bond.'”

Later in Chapter 1 is mentioned of Bond and Dexter, “They left their hats and coats on a chair”, though we have no description of Bond’s hat or coat.

In Chapter 3 Bond is forced to Americanize his appearance for undercover work. Even though he has to wear some tasteless American clothing he can still wear the dark blue suits he likes so much.

“The afternoon before he had had to submit to a certain degree of Americanization at the hands of the FBI. A tailor had come and measured him for two single-breasted suits in dark blue light-weight worsted (Bond had firmly refused anything more dashing) and a haberdasher had brought chilly white nylon shirts with long points to the collars. He had had to accept half a dozen unusually patterned foulard ties, dark socks with fancy clocks, two or three ‘display kerchiefs’ for his breast pocket, nylon vests and pants (called T-shirts and shorts), a comfortable light-weight camel-hair overcoat with over-buttressed shoulders, a plain grey snap-brim Fedora with a thin black ribbon and two pairs of hand-stitched and very comfortable black Moccasin ‘casuals’.

“He also acquired a ‘Swank’ tie-clip in the shape of a whip, an alligator-skin billfold from Mark Cross, a plain Zippo lighter, a plastic ‘Travel-Pak’ containing razor, hairbrush and toothbrush, a pair of horn-rimmed glasses with plain lenses, various other oddments and, finally, a light-weight Hartmann ‘Skymate’ suitcase to contain all these things….
“Bond looked grimly at the pile of parcels which contained his new identity, stripped off his pyjamas for the last time (‘We mostly sleep in the raw in America, Mr. Bond’) and gave himself a sizzling cold shower….

“Later, in white shirt and dark blue trousers, he went into the sitting-room, pulled a chair up to the writing-desk near the window and opened The Travellers Tree, by Patrick Leigh Fermor.”

The camel-hair overcoat and grey fedora are mentioned more throughout the book, such as in Chapter 4 when Bond “took his hat and coat and went out on the street” and later of Bond and Dexter when “They were back in Binswanger’s drab office. They picked up their coats and hats.”

Bond’s American clothes as well as his own are mentioned again in more detail:

“He put on a garishly striped tie and allowed a broad wedge of bandana to protrude from his breast pocket. He slipped the chamois leather holster over his shirt so that it hung three inches below his left armpit … He picked up the pair of Moccasin casuals, felt their toes and weighed them in his hand. Then he reached under the bed and pulled out a pair of his own shoes he had carefully kept out of the suitcase full of his belongings the FBI had taken away from him that morning. He put them on and felt better equipped to face the evening. Under the leather, the toe-caps were lined with steel.”

At the end of Chapter 4 the coat is mentioned yet again: “It was raining. Bond turned up the collar of his coat and gazed up the Avenue to his right, towards Central Park”.

In Chapter 9 the clothes are mentioned again:

“He put the glass down and eased himself out of his coat. His left hand was so swollen that he could only just get it through the sleeve. His little finger was still crooked back and the pain was vicious as it scraped against the cloth. The finger was nearly black. He pulled down his tie and undid the top of his shirt.”

Felix Leiter phones Bond and says, “‘Seems The Big Man has complained that some fool Limey went berserk at The Boneyard early this morning, shot three of his men … stole one of his cars and got away, leaving his overcoat and hat in the cloakroom … I’m sending you up another hat and a fawn raincoat.'”

The new raincoat is mentioned at the start of Chapter 10: “Bond, the collar of his new raincoat up round his ears, was missed as he came out of the entrance of the St Regis Drugstore”. At the end of the chapter he removes it: “Bond got out of his coat.”

In Chapter 11, “he took off his coat and tie and lay down on the bottom berth.”

By Chapter 12 he is still wearing his American disguise, as he is spotted as Solitaire’s companion: “‘Wid a man ‘n a blue suit, grey Stetson.'” In this context, a “Stetson” could either mean that Bond’s Ameican hat is from the Stetson brand, or it could have been used as a proprietary eponym for a fedora.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Between the "nylon white shirts" and the "over-buttressed overcoat", it's not exactly a delightful-sounding wardrobe, is it? 🙂

    Yet another enjoyable post on a great blog. Well done, and keep it up.

  2. yes, what was Fleming's fascination with nylon underwear. I recall that he mentions it in another novel as well, sounds really horrible!!!

  3. Fleming also wrote that Bond wore "nylon underclothes" in Diamonds Are Forever. I can't imagine being comfortable in that either.

  4. One thing that I noticed on recently rereading this book, is that it contains the only instance that I recall of Bond wearing any other kind of tie than a black knitted silk one (other than black-tie occasions). While Bond is never described as wearing the Foulard ties mentioned above, he did wear “a garishly striped tie and allowed a broad wedge of handkerchief to protrude from his breast pocket” on his trip to Harlem with Felix Leiter.

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