The film James Bond typically has more refined and more fashionable tastes than Bond’s creator Ian Fleming gave his character in his original stories. On the other hand, Fleming was often vague in describing his character’s clothes, leaving much to interpretation. On a few occasions, the film Bond’s clothes matched up nicely with the book Bond’s clothes. See how some of these outfits were interpreted in the films, either by design or by coincidence.
“As he tied his thin, double-ended black satin tie, he paused for a moment and examined himself levelly in the mirror … He looked carefully round the room to see if anything had been forgotten and slipped his single-breasted dinner-jacket coat over his heavy silk evening shirt. He felt cool and comfortable. He verified in the mirror that there was absolutely no sign of the flat gun under his left arm, gave a final pull at his narrow tie and walked out of the door and locked it.” (Casino Royale, Chapter 8, 1953)
Like in Fleming’s novel, Daniel Craig’s dinner-jacket-clad Bond examines himself in the mirror in the 2006 Casino Royale film. The film handles this a bit differently than the way the novel does. In the film, Bond needs to be given a proper dinner jacket because his own dinner jacket is not adequate, and when he puts on the proper dinner jacket he’s quite pleased with the way he looks when he sees himself in the mirror. Fleming’s Bond, on the other hand, does not need any coaching on how to wear black tie and is already comfortable in his own clothes. He just needs to be sure his gun is properly concealed.
As for the clothes themselves, the details are a bit different. Craig’s bow tie—in the standard double-ended variety—is grosgrain silk rather than the more standard satin that Fleming specifies, and Craig’s shirt is waffle-weave cotton rather than the more luxurious silk that Fleming’s Bond preferred for evening wear and beyond. The overall look of Fleming’s Bond’s dinner jacket would have been more along the lines of Connery’s in Dr. No, since when the novel was written in 1953, the shawl collar was more popular, and Connery wears the “thin” or “narrow” bow tie that Fleming mentioned.
Dark Blue Suit
“Ten minutes later, in a heavy white silk shirt, dark blue trousers of Navy serge, dark blue socks, and well-polished black moccasin shoes, he was sitting at his desk with a pack of cards in one hand and Scarne’s wonderful guide to cheating open in front of him…He went into his bedroom, filled the wide black case with cigarettes and slipped it into his hip pocket, put on a black knitted silk tie and his coat and verified that his cheque book was in his notecase. He stood for a moment, thinking. Then he selected two white silk handkerchiefs, carefully rumpled them, and put one into each side-pocket of his coat.” (Moonraker, Chapter 3, 1955)
“a companion to the dark blue, tropical worsted suit he was wearing, and some white silk and dark blue Sea Island cotton shirts with collars attached and short sleeves.” (Diamonds Are Forever, Chapter 6, 1956)
Fleming fully established Bond’s uniform of the navy suit in the third novel Moonraker. In the next novel Diamonds Are Forever he first mentioned Bond’s navy tropical worsted suit that would be brought to life in many more stories, though he previous gave Bond an American-made navy lightweight worsted navy suit as part of a disguise in Live and Let Die.
The two closest outfits to the literary Bond’s daily outfit can be seen on Sean Connery in Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice. Goldfinger features Bond in a blue suit with a white shirt—but with a very subtle grey broken stripe—and silk knitted tie, almost just like Fleming specified for Bond. Connery wears a navy tie rather than the book Bond’s black since navy ties harmonise better with a blue suit than a black tie does. Black ties can be more difficult to pair with a blue suit, but it can work so long as there is enough contrast. Connery’s suit in Goldfinger is a heavy flannel, which would have been heavier than the tropical suits that Fleming’s Bond preferred. The serge suit in the Moonraker novel would have been the heaviest of Bond’s blue suits and could possibly have been as heavy as Connery’s flannel suit. Connery’s footwear slips on like Fleming’s Bond’s does, but they are ankle boots instead of moccasins.
Connery’s blue suit in You Only Live Twice would have been closer to the type of suit that Fleming’s Bond liked: lightweight. Connery also wears it with a silk knitted tie, but again it is blue instead of black. The shirt is light blue instead of the white shirt that Fleming’s Bond preferred with his blue suits. Like Fleming’s Bond, Connery wears black slip-on shoes with his blue suit in You Only Live Twice. Connery’s shoes, however are not the well-polished moccasins. They are a more formal style with a plain toe and higher vamp, yet in more rustic pebble-grain leather.
Connery’s blue suit in You Only Live Twice ultimately gets the edge over his blue suit in Goldfinger for being more Fleming-esque because Connery wears no pocket square with it. Fleming specified in a letter to Playboy than Bond does not wear a handkerchief in his breast pocket.
George Lazenby’s navy herringbone suit in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is another close match to what the book Bond wears, in pairing a dark blue suit with a white shirt and a silk knitted tie, but once again the tie is navy instead of black. Lazenby’s suit is a three-piece, but it’s unlikely that Fleming would have had his Bond wear a three-piece suit.
Dalton brought back some aspects of the Fleming Bond look with his dark blue suit in Licence to Kill. Though the cut of the suit is too fashionably Italian for Bond and the shirt looks cheap—far from the Sea Island cotton and silk that Fleming’s Bond appreciated—the idea of the outfit is consistent with Fleming’s Bond’s wardrobe. He wears a white shirt with his blue suit, albeit sans knitted tie, and he wears black moccasins.
The cut of Sean Connery’s suits overall is going to be closest to what Fleming’s Bond wears than what any of the other Bonds wear. The is mostly because the cut of Connery’s suits is current to what was popular at the time of Fleming’s Bond, the mid 1950s to the mid 1960s. The full chest and overall easy fit of Connery’s suit jackets and the double-forward-pleated trousers have the classic English look without the stuffiness of Savile Row that Fleming’s Bond would have worn. The trendy, Italian and often flashy looks worn by many of the later film Bonds would not have been the style of Fleming’s Bond.
“He had shaved, gargled with a sharp mouth-wash, and now, in a battered black and white dogtooth suit, dark blue Sea Island cotton shirt and black silk knitted tie, he was walking softly, but not surreptitiously, along the corridor to the head of the stairs, the, square leather case in his left hand.” (Moonraker, Chapter 13, 1955)
James Bond’s dogtooth—also known as “houndstooth” check—suit in the novels first appears in Moonraker and later appears in others. The dogtooth suit never appears in any Bond films, but the glen check suit, its arguably more sophisticated cousin, appears in many films. The Glen Urquhart check variation—which is woven in an even twill weave like the dogtooth check is—can be broken down into four sections, and one of those sections is a dogtooth check.
The only true black-and-white Glen Urquhart check suit that Bond wears in the series is Sean Connery’s in From Russia with Love. With this suit he wears a blue shirt—albeit a very light blue instead of the “dark blue” that Fleming called for—and a navy grenadine tie instead of the black knitted tie that Fleming’s Bond wears. Grenadine ties and knitted ties have similar textures, but they are ultimately very different ties in terms of formality and elegance.
George Lazenby’s glen check suit in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is another close match to the dogtooth suit in the novels. The suiting itself is woven in a twill weave like a dogtooth check would be, but the black-to-white ratio within the pattern is unbalanced with some extra white, which throws off the dogtooth pattern in the suit a little, and it also has a blue overcheck. Lazenby wears this with a light blue shirt like Connery does, but like the book Bond he wears a silk knitted tie, albeit in navy instead of black.
White Dinner Jacket
“Bond joined Leiter at a corner table. They both wore white dinner jackets with their dress trousers. Bond had pointed up his rich, property-seeking status with a wine-red cummerbund.” (Thunderball, Chapter 14, 1961)
Until recently, the James Bond of the films was not a fan of cummerbunds. However, the first time Bond wears a cummerbund in the films it actually is a wine-red (mixed with black) cummerbund in Diamonds Are Forever, but he wears it with a black dinner suit. Since we cannot see a cummerbund with his white dinner jacket in that film, we need to find another example. The closest example to Fleming’s Bond’s white dinner jacket outfit in the films is the ivory dinner jacket in Spectre since it’s the only time Bond wears a proper cummerbund with a white dinner jacket.
The only problem with this example is the dinner jacket’s flashy, non-traditional details. Bond’s dinner jacket in the Thunderball novel would most likely have followed a more traditional example like Sean Connery’s ivory dinner jacket in Goldfinger, with self lapels instead of silk-faced ones, one mother-of-pearl button instead of two silk-covered buttons and no vent instead of a single vent.
“Then he put on his dark-blue raincoat and went down into the street and along to the Odeons Platz.” (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Chapter 26)
“Wearing his usual rig—dark-blue single-breasted suit, white shirt, thin black knitted silk tie, black casuals— but they all look brand-new. Raincoat bought yesterday from Burberry’s.” (The Man with the Golden Gun, Chapter 1, 1965)
No details are given for the type of raincoat that Bond wears in The Man with the Golden Gun, but since Bond is a slave to habit, it’s very likely it was also dark blue like what he wears earlier in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
The dark blue raincoat does not come to life in the films until Daniel Craig wears an example briefly in Casino Royale. It’s single-breasted rather than a double-breasted raincoat. Since Ian Fleming himself wore a dark single-breasted raincoat, this is likely a close match to what the literary Bond wears.
“Bond changed his socks and put on the battered old pair of nailed Saxones. He took off the coat of his yellowing black and white hound’s tooth suit and pulled on a faded black wind-cheater. Cigarettes? Lighter? He was ready to go [for the game of golf].” (Goldfinger, Chapter 8, 1959)
Sean Connery’s golfing outfit in the Goldfinger film is very different from what Bond wears for golf in the Goldfinger novel. The only thing they have in common is a similar style of shoes. Saxone of Scotland made some of the most quintessential golf shoes, and it’s possible that they also made Connery’s cleate-soled kiltie golf shoes.
The black windcheater doesn’t make its way into the films until Daniel Craig wears it in Haiti in Quantum of Solace. The Adidas Y-3 jacket has updated the classic Fleming look, showing how relevant the way Fleming dressed Bond is still today.
“He dried himself and dressed in a white shirt and dark blue slacks. He hoped that she would be dressed as simply and he was pleased when, without knocking, she appeared in the doorway wearing a blue linen shirt which had faded to the colour of her eyes and a dark red skirt in pleated cotton.” (Casino Royale, Chapter 24, 1953)
Fleming’s Bond would occasionally dress in a white shirt and the dark blue trousers from his suit when dressing down. The closest we see of this in the films in the outfit of a white shirt and blue trousers that Roger Moore wears during the climax of Octopussy. While Fleming’s Bond preferred short-sleeve shirts, Moore wears a long-sleeve shirt. Moore also wears a navy blouson with this outfit, which is reminiscent of the faded black windcheater than Fleming dressed Bond in on a number of occasions.
“Bond fitted himself out with cheap black canvas jeans and a dark blue shirt and rope-soled shoes.” (Dr. No, Chapter 7, 1958)
“He laughed with real pleasure that her fear had been drowned in the basic predicament of clothes and how to behave, and he laughed at the picture they made-she in her rags and he in his dirty blue shirt and black jeans and muddy canvas shoes.” (Dr. No, Chapter 13, 1958)
Sean Connery’s Crab Key outfit in Dr. No has some similarities to what Fleming wrote about Bond’s clothes in the same part of the novel. Connery’s sky blue polo is lighter than the “dark blue shirt” specified in the novel, but it’s still blue. The jeans have gone from black canvas to a light blue lightweight cotton in the film, but they have a jean-like design. The shoes in the film are canvas like in the novel, but the soles have been updated to the more practical rubber.
“Automatically, with his eyes still on the leaping flames, his hands felt in the pockets of the faded khaki bush-shirt, borrowed from the Garrison CO, for his lighter and cigarettes, and he took out a cigarette and lit it and put the things back in his pockets.” (Diamonds Are Forever, Chapter 25, 1956)
Roger Moore may be derided for his choice of safari suits, but there is basis in Fleming for this. The closest example to what Fleming writes in Diamonds Are Forever is in the Octopussy film, when Moore wears a khaki worsted wool safari suit, and he even takes out a lighter—just not for a cigarette.
Swimwear and Lounge Wear
“Bond walked along to his room and sat down on the bed. He felt weak from the passion which had swept through his body. He was torn between the desire to fall back full-length on the bed and his longing to be cooled and revived by the sea. He played with the choice for a moment, then he went over to his suitcase and took out white linen bathing-drawers and a dark blue pyjama-suit. Bond had always disliked pyjamas and had slept naked until in Hong Kong at the end of the war he came across the perfect compromise. This was a pyjama-coat which came almost down to the knees. It had no buttons, but there was a loose belt round the waist. The sleeves were wide and short, ending just above the elbow. The result was cool and comfortable and now when he slipped the coat on over his trunks, all his bruises and scars were hidden except the thin white bracelets on wrists and ankles and the mark of SMERSH on his right hand. He slipped his feet into a pair of dark-blue leather sandals and went downstairs and out of the house and across the terrace to the beach.” (Casino Royale, Chapter 23, 1953)
Though the film Bond’s most preferred colour of swimming trunks is light blue, Sean Connery wears a pair of white trunks from Jantzen in Thunderball. These trunks were updated for the 1960s with a built-in belt and likely a trimmer cut than what Fleming’s Bond of 1953 would have worn. He pairs these trunks with a Fred Perry polo shirt and espadrilles rather than the pyjamas and sandals that Fleming specified. The navy polo, however, could be considered an updated version of the dark blue Sea Island cotton short-sleeve shirts that Fleming’s Bond like to wear.
“In transit it was six o’clock on Thursday evening and Bond was packing his suitcase in his bedroom at the Ritz … two pairs of the long silk pyjama coats he wore in place of two-piece pyjamas.” (Diamonds Are Forever, Chapter 6, 1956)
The book Bond’s preferred style of pyjamas is first mentioned in detail in Casino Royale, but Fleming later specifies them to be silk in Diamonds Are Forever. Sean Connery wears a navy silk dressing gown in Thunderball that Fleming’s Bond would have admired. This belted dark blue silk robe fits all of the criteria the literary Bond has for something to sleep in except for the sleeve length. Though the sleeves are short, they end past the elbow. The sleeve length and overall robe length are a bit short, but likely because the robe is meant for someone shorter than Connery rather than by design.
Superb. I vaguely recall him wearing a blue ‘tropical’ suit in Dr. No but I may be wrong.
Yes, Fleming dressed Bond in dark blue “tropical” or “lightweight” suits in many stories.
An excellent comparison which shows that, in all honesty, film James Bond was overall better dressed than literary James Bond. Ian Fleming himself is also better dressed, though both he and his character need to dispense with wearing short sleeve shirts under a suit!
Lighweight tropical suits ( often with…augh… short shirtleeves) in UK in winter?
Another well-written and interesting post Matt. As an admirer of literary Bond’s style I always enjoy your articles that reference what little we know (and can extrapolate) from the novels.
Most of us agree that Fleming imparted some of his personal style into Bond. I love that picture you used recently of Fleming disembarking from a plane looking eminently relaxed, cool and classy in dark blue (tropical?) suit and raincoat, the main departure from Bond style being his use of a bow tie rather than a four-in-hand.
I would say that the outfit Bond wears for the desert battle finale of Quantum of Solace is a spiritual successor to some of the Fleming-specified combat wear, particularly from the novel Dr. No and the short story For Your Eyes Only.
How come the blue suit in FRWL isn’t mentioned here? I think that one is a good candidate for Fleming’s single breasted suits. Is it because it’s made out of flannel instead of lightweight wool?
It only checks off the “blue suit” box. No white shirt, knitted tie or moccasins. All of the blue suit outfits I chose checked off at least one of the other boxes.
Are there any photographs of Fleming wearing short sleeves under a suit, or wearing sandals with his suits ?
Sadly I spotted these:
As for the sandals monstrosity, he could not possibly refer to those ?
That would be a great faux-pas, no pun intended.
It’s not difficult to find him in short sleeves under a suit, is it!
Those sandals would be the ones, and although I have not seen him wearing them with a suit, I don’t doubt he did that too.
It was easier than I thought. Alas.
What went across his mind elapses me. A private rebel, in some sort. Characters I usually enjoy.
As for the sandals, well….
Here is another sad find:
Shocking, positively shocking (!)
I haven’t seen that one before. It just goes to show how much he dressed Bond like he dressed himself, using only the tie as a means of separating himself from Bond.
Heavy silk shirt?
Has anyone here wore a heavy silk shirt with a suit?
Does that seem right to anyone?
Silk shirts have gone out of favour. Sean Connery wears one in From Russia with Love.
It’s a pity that today one doesn’t see practically no more high-end silk shirts because it is a very nice cloth with an elegant drape (superior to that of cotton). The very best silk shirts have only a subtle sheen (not that gaudy one of those cheap faux silk shirts which were all around in 80s). Silk shirts are not only for Bond – Blofeld is wearing a white silk shirt with his black suit in FRWL (as well as Kronsteen), Draco with his equestrian outfit in OYMSS and Drax in MR. In the more recent movies I did not spot any – except on LeChiffre in CR (the cream shirt he is wearing in the short scene with Alex Dimitrios on his yacht could be silk). Silk shirts can be worn both with formal / lounge suits and more casual outfits and IMO they can always contribute to upgrade a look. It’s only that I am not sure if a “heavy” silk shirt wears comfortably under a suit – if it’s made of thick silk than you may get a little hot under the collar.
I used to own a couple of silk dress shirts; I seem to recall they felt a bit “stifling” – not very breathable. They sure looked like a million bucks, though!
Dan, the stifling effect is probably why they usually do not use silk linings in suits. I have toyed with the idea of acquiring a silk shirt or two but I think it would be uncomfortable after a while.
Having never actually beheld one similar to those specified by Fleming, I’ve always been fascinated by them.
Come to think of it, I still own two of my father’s old silk shirts (he never wore them because the shirtmaker didn’t get the neck size quite right) – the neck fits me perfectly, even though the sleeves are a tad short.
I should add that silk shirts slide VERY smoothly over a suit coat!
Can you give any more information on the “linen bathing-drawers” the literary Bond wore? I’ve been wondering about these for a long time, but it must have been decades since anyone wore swim trunks made of linen, since such an item is almost impossible to find online (at least for me). Was that common in the 50s, and do you have an example you could point me to?
I couldn’t find much about such swimming trunks, but a quick search for what’s available now returned these.
Another great post, Matt. The literary Bond was particularly and occasionally, peculiarly dressed, if not well-dressed.
What seasons and climates does a houndstooth/dog tooth suit and sports/odd jacket work best?
Because I’m thinking if it can be worn well in all seasons or best reserved for the cooler seasons?
The pattern doesn’t matter so much as the weight. If it’s tweed it should be saved for the cooler seasons. In worsted or silk, you can wear it for warm weather.
Hi Matt, a recent reader of your site, on account of my career, requires wearing a suit every day.
I can´t help notice the hate for the short-sleeved shirts on a suit, which I agree with to a degree. However, my family was for many years tailors and my uncles tend to wear short-sleeved shirts with their suits on occasion. It primarily due to the sportiness of it all to my understanding, and Fleming being fond of danger and sporting it honestly doesn’t surprise me.
I can somewhat relate to it, as I still wear my rugby sweaters over my casual or when I’m not wearing my suit jacket with my get up in the evening.