In his stories, Ian Fleming provided James Bond, as well as other characters, with many of his own personal tastes. Fleming himself shared his character’s preference for a “very dark blue lightweight single-breasted suit”, which is the description of what Bond wears in Thunderball. In Moonraker, Fleming specified serge for Bond’s dark blue suit, and that’s what Fleming preferred in temperate climates. Fleming did not specify any details for Bond’s suit, but most of the basics of the literary James Bond’s wardrobe match what Fleming himself wore. And since the basics match, the best guess as to the finer points of the literary Bond’s wardrobe may come from the finer points of Fleming’s wardrobe.
Ian Fleming is often pictured in a dark blue, button two suit made by his tailor Benson, Perry & Whitley, which was located at 9 Cork Street in Mayfair. The suit is tailored with soft shoulders, slightly roped sleeve heads, a full chest and a gently suppressed waist. The cut is not so different from the Anthony Sinclair suits that Sean Connery wears in his Bond films. The lapels are slightly narrow, following trends from the late 1950s and early 1960s. There are straight, flapped pockets with a ticket pocket on the front and four buttons on the cuffs with shallow gauntlet (turnback) cuffs. I have not seen a photo of Fleming in a suit from the rear, but the jacket likely has a single vent or no vent. Double vents had only just started to become mainstream on single-breasted suit jackets in the 1960s.
Fleming’s suit trousers are tailored in the English fashion with a high rise, double forward pleats and a full cut through the thigh that is tapered to the hem. The bottoms have turn-ups. The cut is similar to what Anthony Sinclair made for Sean Connery but a little fuller. Unlike what Connery wears, Fleming’s trousers are supported by a belt rather than side-adjusters. Braces were popular with Fleming’s generation, though he did not care for them.
Fleming wears a blue end-on-end Sea Island cotton shirt with his blue suits. In Diamonds Are Forever, Fleming specified that Bond wears “dark blue Sea Island cotton shirts with collars attached and short sleeves”, and he previously mentioned a “dark blue Sea Island cotton shirt” in Moonraker. Though Fleming’s blue shirts can hardly be called dark, they have attached, soft spread collars and short sleeves as well as a placket with stitching a quarter-inch from the edge.
Unlike James Bond, Ian Fleming did not wear black silk knitted ties. The closest I’ve seen Fleming photographed wearing is a black fine-weave grenadine tie (finer than Connery’s grenadines). Fleming generally favoured a blue batwing bow tie with white dots, which is the major difference between the way that he dressed and the way that James Bond dressed.
Fleming shared Bond’s abhorrence of laces (mentioned in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) and also wears the black moccasin shoes that he specified for Bond in that novel and in Moonraker.
James Bond’s alternative suit, a “lightweight black and white dog-tooth suit for the country and for golf”, as described in Diamonds Are Forever, also came out of Ian Fleming’s wardrobe (pictured above). Just like Bond’s checked suit, Fleming’s own was likely also “battered” and “yellowing”.
In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Fleming specified that Bond wears a “dark-blue raincoat”. Fleming also mentions a raincoat in The Spy Who Loved Me and a raincoat bought from Burberry’s in The Man with the Golden Gun. Fleming has been photographed wearing a dark raincoat (pictured above), which is likely the basis for the dark blue raincoat that Bond wears in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Fleming’s is a single-breasted balmacaan style with five buttons down the front, raglan sleeves, a Prussian collar, a fly front and slash pockets. It is not likely from Burberry’s as the lining is different from their signature tartan.
The first outfit that James Bond is described wearing in Fleming’s novels is his black tie ensemble in Casino Royale, which consists of a “single-breasted dinner-jacket”, a “heavy silk evening shirt” and a “thin, double-ended black satin tie”. Fleming himself preferred a double-breasted, shawl collar dinner jacket, similar to what Bernard Lee wears as M in the film Goldfinger. Fleming’s dinner jacket (pictured above) is in the button one, show two style, with black bakelite buttons and satin silk gauntlet cuffs. Though Fleming’s dinner jacket is different from Bond’s, he wears the same heavy silk evening shirt and double-ended black satin bow tie that Bond wears. Fleming’s bow tie, however, might not be described as “narrow”, at least not compared to the narrow bow ties that Sean Connery wears.
Ian Fleming also leant a suit from his own wardrobe to villain Hugo Drax in Moonraker: “a dark blue pinstripe in lightweight flannel, double-breasted with turnback cuffs”. Fleming’s example (pictured above) is tailored with broad, bellied peaked lapels in a low button one, show two “keystone” configuration. Bond’s description of Drax as “in excellent taste” was little more than Fleming paying a compliment to himself.
Listen to the first episode of the From Tailors with Love podcast for more on this subject.