James Bond is a Fan of the Tan Suit

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A View to a Kill Tan Suit
Roger Moore wearing a tan gabardine suit from Doug Hayward in A View to a Kill

The tan suit was a staple of James Bond’s wardrobe in the 1980s. The tan suit itself was popular from the 1950s through the 1980s, but it has not been particularly fashionable again since until recently. Whether or not it is trendy, it remains a stylish choice for moderate to warm weather.

Tan suits are more versatile than they’re given credit for. They are not as easily wearable as grey and blue suits, and they’re a distant fourth place after the brown suit. Tan is a warm-weather suit, but unlike cream and other off-white suits it isn’t strictly a summer or tropical suit. Tan suits can be worn through the warmer half the year in temperate climates and for most of or all of the year in warm locales.

Daniel Craig wearing tan needlecord suit from Massimo Alba in No Time to Die

Tan suits are less formal than grey and blue suits, but they are still a traditional business suit. In big cities and in jobs with more formal dress codes, they might not be appropriate, but in many places they can function just as well for work. They are also appropriate for daytime social occasions during the warmer half of the year. Unlike more formal suits, the tan suit can be easily dressed down without a tie.

While tan itself encompasses a few different shades, from a pale yellow-brown to a deeper golden brown known as ‘British tan’, for all intents and purposes the tan suit family includes similar light, warm-toned colours such as beige, sand, camel, khaki and fawn. Light taupe is more muted than tan but also functions similarly in a suit. Anything lighter than beige is in the off-white family, while fawn is on the border of tan and brown. All suits within the tan family can be worn the same way. Read more about shades of beige.

Pierce Brosnan wearing a tan linen suit in Die Another Day

Tan suits have traditionally been made of a variety of different cloths. While they can be made of any kind of material, they are usually made of sportier or lightweight cloths such as tropical wool, wool gabardine, cotton gabardine, cotton drill, cotton poplin, linen, and blends of linen and wool or linen and cotton. Not all tan suits are equally formal or casual. A wool suit will be dressier than a cotton suit, which is dressier than linen suit. A tan wool suit is the most businesslike of the bunch and will not dress down as easily as cotton or linen.

George Lazenby wearing a cream suit from Dimi Major in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. It’s worn similarly to the tan suit, but it has some significant differences.

Bond sometimes wears tan suits and cream suits interchangeably. Cream, and other similar off-white colours like ivory and ecru, are a similar but different category than the tan suit. Both are light and warm colours, but tan is more versatile, makes less of a statement and is a little easier to wear. Tan is for warm weather, including spring, summer and warm autumn weather, while cream is exclusively for summer or the tropics. Tan is more businesslike while cream is purely for leisure. Tan won’t show stains nearly as easily as cream, so it doesn’t have to be worn as delicately.

Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter wearing a tan linen suit in Quantum of Solace

For Sean Connery’s Bond, the light grey suit in plain-weave worsted wool or a wool-and-mohair cloth was his standard suit for warm weather, but Moore introduced to Bond the option of the tan suit. During Sean Connery’s era, the tan suit was for other characters, like for Jack Lord’s Felix Leiter in Dr. No, who wore his tan suit alongside Connery’s light grey wool-and-mohair suit. The tan suit is again relegated to Felix in Quantum of Solace.

Roger Moore wearing a beige linen and wool suit from Cyril Castle in Live and Let Die

James Bond, played by Roger Moore, first wears a suit as Bond from the tan family—in beige—in Live and Let Die. This suit is likely made of a linen-and-wool blend in a plain weave, and Bond wears it in the Caribbean for dropping in on Solitaire for an evening social call. Though tan suit are more daytime than evening, this suit works effectively for a less formal evening function in warm weather. Bond wears only the trousers for the suit the next day.

Roger Moore wearing a fawn wool gabardine suit from Doug Hayward in For Your Eyes Only

The tan suit returns on Bond next in For Your Eyes Only in a fawn wool gabardine. Bond wears this suit briefly in Corfu during the day for a visit to church, where the colour blends in perfectly with the sunny Mediterranean surroundings. The tan suit family is an appropriate choice for church in spring and summer, particularly for Easter. Bond wears a similar tan wool gabardine suit in A View to a Kill in San Francisco when he’s undercover as journalist James Stock. The suit makes him look professional but not like someone who works a formal office job. Both places where Roger Moore wears his tan wool gabardine suits have moderate weather, for which such a suit is comfortable.

Roger Moore wearing a tan cotton suit from Doug Hayward in Octopussy

In between the two wool gabardine suits, Bond wears a lightweight tan cotton suit in Octopussy that is likely made of poplin. Cotton has a cool hand and cotton poplin is especially cool-wearing without wrinkling like linen does. Bond wears this suit when arriving in India, and he’s wearing the suit as a man travelling on business. However, in this context the tan suit has a colonial look to it, particularly considering England’s history with India.

Roger Moore’s warm complexion meant that he looked great in warm colours like tan as well as cream and brown. While there is a flattering shade of tan for every skin tone, Moore’s complexion meant that any shade of tan looked good on him.

Timothy Dalton wearing a tan wool gabardine suit from Benjamin Simon in The Living Daylights

In The Living Daylights, the tan wool gabardine suit returns in a sandier shade in Tangier on Timothy Dalton’s Bond. As in the previous two examples, Bond is dressing to look professional. Wool gabardine, while usually very lightweight, has a tight weave that makes the suit not particularly comfortable in hot weather.

Pierce Brosnan wearing a tan cotton suit from Brioni in GoldenEye

Pierce Brosnan wears a tan cotton suit as Bond in GoldenEye in Cuba. Bond has little reason to be wearing a suit here, but it looks as good as a suit can look in the hot setting. He again wears a tan suit in Die Another Day in Cuba, for a professional look that gives him the look of someone important who is less likely to be stopped and questioned when sneaking around. This is a casual linen suit that again has the perfect look for the hot setting.

Daniel Craig wearing tan needlecord suit from Massimo Alba in No Time to Die

The tan suit returned in No Time to Die on Daniel Craig’s Bond after a long absence in the series. In lightweight cotton needlecord, this is a much different suit for Bond, but it’s a return to the tan suit for a warm location. Here the suit matches the sandy-coloured stone of his surroundings, helping Bond once again use the color tan to blend in perfectly.

27 COMMENTS

  1. I love wearing tan suits during this time of the year! I wish Craig’s Bond would have worn more Tan suits. This outfit looks well compared to Craig’s complexion!

  2. Nobody did it better than Roger, who excelled at wearing tan and even went so far as to have a beautiful Burma Dinner Jacket in the Persuaders. Tan is also a suitable colour for Felix to wear something lighter. For more clownish side characters such as Sallah in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, tan is a great option for that comic opera buffa effect.

  3. “Bond has little reason to be wearing a suit here,…” This statement demonstrates how Craig’s tenure has over-casualized Bond. He’s wearing the suit because it looks good, is comfortable, and impresses the ladies. I hope our next Bond dresses up more.

    • Jason, they tried to turn Bond into Bourne with Craig’s tenure. They literally try to butcher his image. It’s a culture war. They even try to make people think wrinkled undersized suits are good and normal. They try to normalize wrongfulness. The next Bond might not even be James anymore, for all they want and push versus what we care.

      • I think Craig wanted to look like Steve McQueen. I agree with your Bourne assessment.

  4. A lovely summer versatile shade of suit over the more leisurely and often ‘festive’ white/cream itineration . Lazenby is no doubt smashing in his cream suit but clearly on vacation in a sense whereas all the other ‘Bonds’ are wearing their suits with more serious purpose with the exception of Craig! Imho , Craig is the clear loser with that horrible casual ‘slurpy’ or whatever they call it Massimo Alba abomination coat ! Marcello Mastroianni would never have been caught dead in Italy wearing that garb .

    • Craig is wearing his to pay his respects at a grave, so he’s not wearing it entirely leisurely. Brosnan is wearing his tan suits in the most leisurely way, particularly since he isn’t wearing a tie.

  5. Nice article as always, Matt! I agree, Roger totally owns the tan suits, as well as the safari outfits. And tan does look great on Pierce and Timothy Dalton. Personally, though, the tan cotton Brunello Cucinelli from Spectre and the Massimo Alba tan cord in NTTD were my least favorite suits in the entire series. To me, they look rumpled and ill-fitting. I agree with Jason, and hope the next Bond is more stylish without being too fussy!

  6. Great post Matt! I too am a fan of the tan suit this time off year! I like the way Dalton does myself while looking casul and dressed up.

  7. Ecru, Cream, and Tan should be worn more often. Some of the most understated and underrated color schemes for suiting. Way more appropriate, traditional, but still maintain a decent amount of coolness, than say some silly super light blue or pink suit from the high street fashion clique.

  8. Matt,

    Which of these looks do you think aged the best? Moore looks great, but I do think some of his ensembles look dated. Also, which “shades” of tan do you think look best on a summer complexion?

      • I would guess that the rosier shade of tan is better for a winter complexion as well? Would Moore’s beige suit in LALD, Pierce Brosnan’s tan suits, and both Leiters’ suits be good examples of such?

      • The For Your Eyes Only, A View to a Kill, The Living Daylights and Jacket Lord’s suits are probably some of the best. The Die Another Day suit isn’t bad for a cool complexion, but the navy shirt helps.

  9. It may be my own colouring, but I think the tan suit is more timeless and elegant than a brown suit, which either screams 1970s or a costume party.

    • You’re not alone there. I’m in the same school, pretty much. I can comfortably wear a tan suit in either the city or country. I find a tobacco brown suit rather hard to wear.

    • Brown suits can work in a modern context, but getting the shade right is very important. Daniel Craig’s brown suit in Quantum of Solace looks modern because it’s a very muted shade. Browns can often work better in non-worsted fabrics. The trendy tobacco brown linen suit works better than that colour would in wool. While brown tweeds can look old-fashioned, they look natural in the right setting.

      • I agree with others above I have an aversion to brown. It looks cheap to me. Not saying it is I just associate with cheap. The people I know who wear them aren’t well dressed men. I could see a dark, cool shade of brown being very nice though. Tan would be a nice suit living in Dallas that I would consider getting, just have other needs ahead of it at the moment.

    • I was a kid in the seventies when brown was everywhere and I swore off it for decades but little by little it’s crept into my wardrobe. I’m now the owner of cream / tan suits in cotton and in linen, along with a tobacco brown suit which I had on last week. I live in Florida and travel for work currently to Miami, Orlando, Greenville SC etc so it’s not hard to wear in these contexts. If I was still in northern England where I grew up the moths would get to this suit before me!

  10. If I were to pick a favorite tan suit, it’ll have to be Roger Moore in FYEO. Perfectly worn with a light blue shirt and blue tie, a look I myself try to emulate whenever I get the opportunity to don my own tan suit.

  11. I think that suits in the shades of tan are absolutely necessary to keep a smart and neat look also in summer heat. No other colour works as well: sky blue is too fussy, light grey is sometimes too formal, other colours (green? Red? Purple?…) are not acceptable for a men’s suit. I do wear tan suits very often in summer. For a cool complexion like mine, similar to Connery’s, I prefer cooler and muted shades of tan, less bright and more greyish, containing more red than yellow. Sand, light taupe, tobacco, hazelnut, stone, dove gray, are tones that work well on me. And they also look more elegant today, and less dated back to 70s/80s fashion

  12. Everyone looks good (even Dalton), but the suit worn by Craig doesn’t look good at all in my opinion. Not a fan of the fabric, the overly tight fit, the buttoning of the jacket and the button-down shirt with a tie.

      • With the exception of the colour choice for the scene which I agree with Matt on, this is a dreadful looking outfit in my opinion. Sloppy and like all of his suits since 2012, the fit is still consistent with Craig’s bond looking like an immature model for a high street fashion chain with tight short jackets and tight trousers, ridiculous for a man his age. I agree with many that Roger Moore looks best in the tan suits, FYEO being my personal favourite, I do like most of the examples here.

  13. On the American scene the tan / beige suit seems to be the exclusive province of prominent Democrats. I don’t know why – I find it looks quite refreshing and dapper on anyone (though I guess Trump wouldn’t so easily be able to pull off beige cos his complexion seems best suited to dark blue, though I was surprised how well a tan ensemble suited Biden who paired his most recent outing in beige with a green necktie).

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