James Bond’s Most Timeless Suit Cuts

43

As of late, the notion of ‘timeless style’ is increasingly being questioned. Styles have always changed throughout history, in men’s fashions from decade to decade and in women’s fashions from season to season, so nothing is ever entirely timeless. All fashions come and go, and then they usually return in the future in an evolved form.

The most we can hope for with timeless fashions are ones we can look at decades later and think still look good, even if they do look very much of their time. Fashions ebb and flow between trimmer and fuller cuts and fits, and larger proportions and smaller proportions. Not going too far in one direction or another can prevent clothes from looking bad years later.

Exaggerated details can look very dated very quickly: very wide or very skinny lapels, flared or drainpipe trousers, overly tight or excessively baggy clothes. The extreme fashions can be very unflattering, which draws more attention to the clothes than the person wearing them. Clothes that draw less attention to themselves and more to the person wearing them are going to be more timeless.

The following James Bond films feature some of the most timeless suit cuts and styles. These occur in transitional fashion periods, where one extreme was on the way out and another was on the way in. These suits are all fairly representative of the proportions of the era, though the specific silhouettes of each tailor and maker are more refined than the ordinary ready-to-wear suit of the time. These examples focus only on the suits and jackets themselves, not on the accessories.

Dr. No (1962)

Anthony Sinclair’s tailoring for Sean Connery in Dr. No had at this point been the standard look for London’s West End tailors for about 30 years, with only a little variation. By 1962, the baggy cuts that came into fashion over a decade earlier in response to war rationing had fallen out of favour, but trim cuts had not yet found their way into mainstream fashion.

The lapels are slightly narrow, which was a trend that started in the late 1950s, but into the 1960s they would get much narrower. The cut is well-balanced; the jacket is full by today’s standards but by no means is it baggy. The jacket has a medium button stance. The trousers are pleated and taper to a trim hem, but they aren’t overly narrow. The suit in Dr. No only draws attention from its good cut.

Only in the 1970s, when very wide lapels and flared trousers were in fashion, would the Dr. No cut have looked outdated, at least to those who preferred the contemporary fashions.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

OHMSS Prince Of Wales Suit

In 1969 the narrow proportions of the decade were no longer cutting edge, and the newly fashionable airplane-wing lapels and bell-bottom trousers were for the young counterculture—George Lazenby’s generation—and not yet a part of mainstream fashion. Bond would adopt wide lapels two years later and flared trousers four years later.

In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Dimi Major cut a trimmer suit for George Lazenby, but nothing is excessive. The lapels are a medium width and the trousers no longer have pleats. The trousers have a slightly narrow straight leg to identify them as English trousers of the late 1960s, but they don’t draw attention. The most notable fashionable is detail steeply slanted hacking pockets, which became fashionable in the 1960s but are now considered a timeless English detail.

Bond wears both button-two and button-three suits, styles that shared the shop racks and men’s wardrobes for a century until a few years ago when the button-three style fell out of favour. It’s bound to return.

Octopussy (1983)

Roger Moore wears a serge rope stripe suit in Octopussy

Octopussy takes place during the next fashion transition period, when the 1970s’ wide lapels and flared trousers were completely out of fashion, and the full-cut, linebacker-shouldered, low-gorge (where the collar meets the lapels) power suit with pleated trousers that was on the rise had not fully taken hold. Douglas Hayward’s soft-shouldered suits for Roger Moore are aware of the exaggerated 1970s fashions and intentionally try to avoid the the pitfalls of the previous decade.

The overall style from Hayward’s former partner Dimi Major returned, with medium-width lapels and no trouser pleats, but the trouser legs have a more moderate width. The only clear mark of the 1980s is the low button stance on the jackets, which was fashionable at the time. However, it was also a trademark of Doug Hayward and not necessarily a mark of the times in Hayward’s mind.

1985’s A View to a Kill features the same suit cuts, but at this time the power suit had come into mainstream fashion, and baggy cuts would soon start to take hold.

Die Another Day (2002)

By 2002, the 1990s’ baggy look had waned and balanced proportions were in. The interest in ‘timeless style’ was popular at this time, as tailored fashions recalled the 1930s and 1940s more than they ever had since. The 1930s and 1940s is often held as the gold standard of modern tailored menswear and considered to be the most timeless because of the balanced proportions.

Brioni made Pierce Brosnan’s suits in The World Is Not Enough to classic proportions recalling this past era, and Die Another Day continues with the same overall style. The latter film earns a spot on this list because it features both button-two suits along with Brosnan’s quintessential button-three suits, showing how both styles can fit into a wardrobe like the previous two films on this list do. The film has a fairly unremarkable wardrobe, but that is why it doesn’t look outdated almost two decades later.

Casino Royale continues with a similar aesthetic, but with a higher button stance, higher gorge and wide-legged trousers that will more obviously date it to the era.

Dinner jackets from this era have no vents, also following the convention from the 1930s and 1940s that many people still strictly adhere to. Though Bond had worn non-vented dinner jackets before, in all the other films mentioned on this list his dinner jackets follow the modern English convention for double vents.

Quantum of Solace (2008)

The ’00s was a transitional fashion period for menswear. By 2008, full cuts were out but the skinny cuts that would become mainstream a few years later were practically exclusive to the runway. Daniel Craig’s Tom Ford suits in Quantum of Solace have a trimmer cut, but they’re not too tight. The suit jackets now feature the ‘three-roll-two’ style that is essentially a button-two suit with third top button in the lapel, a style that was popular in mid-20th century America as well as with Neapolitan tailors.

Despite this film being over a decade old now, the fashions hold up exceptionally well.

43 COMMENTS

  1. Roger Moore’s suits that were made by Hayward especially in Octopussy are very classic and it is like you can’t place them to a specific era. I have to say that Brosnan in DAD are much more timeless then his 1990’s suits, but they weren’t over done for the era. George Clooney’s suits as Bruce Wayne in Batman and Robin have huge shoulders and a full cut, makes Brosnan’s look tame. I do like Daniel Craig’s in QOS, easily his best dressed film, I think Connery always looked timeless really in Dr. No, he was also only 32 and in great shape of his Bond years which also helped. A great list Matt.

  2. I agree with every single entry on this list.

    It’s a shame Dalton is the only Bond actor not to make it, but they should have actually tailored him in both movies, especially LTK. The biggest clothing highlight of Dalton was the dinner suit with a Q Branch-approved velcro throat latch!

  3. An interesting observation. One could argue that the cut reflects the ideal physique of the era, rather than how the suit itself would flatter them. In today’s age of sportswear people want to “burst out” of a suit to show off their muscles, while back in the 60-90s I’m assuming people used the suit’s cut to make themselves look larger or stronger without having to live in the gym.
    That said, achieving the Hulk-like physique of Craig is considered masculine and appealing today (which is the only era I know) but I’m assuming people in the 70s-80s weren’t obsessed about washboard stomachs and melon shoulders?

    • Generally no, they weren’t from what I can tell. Bodybuilding and the act of dehydrating for that super-defined, unrealistic-for-pretty-much-everyone, sinewy look prior to competition was more of a niche thing prior to 40 years ago or so, with the exception of things like those Italian-produced Hercules movies.

      The sad thing is that we’ve been trained to think people are “out of shape” just because they aren’t unrealistically shredded or huge, which most people can’t attain even if they exercise an hour a day, six times a week. (You need a very specialized diet, a personal trainer, AND to cut water for a while.)

  4. Thanks Matt – after reading this article and hearing you and Peter at Operation: Phoenix, I realize it was sorely needed. I probably would have swapped FYEO with Octopussy, but they are pretty similar, but with more browns in the earlier film. I never cease to be amazed at how the production of OHMSS seems to have taken place at the in the perfect Goldilocks Zone of men’s tailoring, at least for my tastes.

    BTW I was wondering why you chose Dr. No over Thunderball for classic Connery. Was it because it was the movie that set the precedents?

      • Now that you mention it, I notice that all these suits except for DAD are from transitional periods in men’s tailoring.

      • Die Another Day was also in a transitional period. That whole decade is basically a transitional period in menswear, as menswear was full-fitting but devoid of the excess of the ’90s. At the same time, people thought the shrunken look was ridiculous or too much of a women’s style. I find it especially interesting how differently men and women dressed at the time of Die Another Day. Women wore very tight, often shrunken-looking clothes, while men wore fuller cuts. By 2015 the trends had completely reversed. Now that it’s fashionable for women to wear fuller-fitting clothes, it’s bound to come back to menswear.

  5. Hi Matt

    I have never heard of “Hayward’s former partner Dimi Major”. Can you tell us more?

    Paul.

  6. I think Connery has timeless suits in all his films from Dr No to YOLT. Brosnan in both his last two, TWINE and DAD. The (big) difference is here: Connery’s wardrobe is highly peculiar and recognizable, and gave some legendary pieces of mans’ clothing. Brosnan’s not, he is well dressed, but in an anonymous way. Both classics, but the result is very different. Moore in his 80s movies is the exact opposite of Brosnan: classic cuts, but too flashy his palette, too daring his matchings. They draw too much attention to clothing, and this is a mark of how a really well (or timelessly) dressed man should not be. Connery stands in the middle, with classy and subtle inventions that don’t stand out too much, but express a lot of character

    • I always interpreted that as Connery’s and Brosnan’s Bonds being the ones who took their cover story of being a sucessful account man at Universal Exports most seriously. Both dressed very much as believable executives during their respective decades.

    • Moore in the 1980s wears a very similar colour palate to Brosnan: grey and blue suits in solids and stripes for the city and tan suits for warm weather. Shirts in blue, white and cream, and blue, brown, grey and red ties, though Moore wears solids and stripes while Brosnan wears geometric patterns. Moore’s tailored outfits in the 80s draw very little attention.

      • Precisely. Anyone looking objectively at Hayward’s clothing can see that it’s anything but showy or “flashy”. As a separate aside; what was Brosnan’s aversion to buttoning certain coats, often the DB variety……

      • I always wondered that about Brosnan and the double breasteds too. I suppose in-story the reason is he wants freer access to his gun, but if that’s the case, then just wear a single breasted suit. A double breasted winter coat would give him better access to the interior of his suit while buttoned than a single breasted would as well, so that’s a thin excuse too if the weather is cold enough to require a greatcoat..

    • How is Moore’s clothing too flashy or daring in those movies? I just had a look at all of them here and can’t find what you mean. The costumers, perhaps with Moore’s input, seem to have deliberately toned things down while still choosing appropriate colours for him.

      • Daniele may be referring to things like the contrast collars, although that style is a facsimile of the traditional City of London uniform of a tunic shirt with a starched white collar.

  7. Great blog Matt. Would you consider an article looking at how Bond mixes and matches clothing? In particular DC in his first two films. Staples such as the grey t shirt and navy polo with navy and chinos, jackets and footwear. Not only does this add realism to the films it also shows the versatility of the garments and how wardrobe minimalism can actually prove beneficial.
    Keep up the great work!

  8. I think what is often really meant by “timeless style” is the fundamental aesthetic on which a person wants to establish his or her personal style.
    This, indeed, applies to both, men and women. Ladies in the royal families of Europe follow certain trends, but always in the boundaries of a specific genre that is expected of them by society. The same can be said of men’s suits. Whatever the cut and the details, there are certain stylistic principles that go back a few hundreds years (e.g. white shirts, silk decorative neckwear, certain patterns and color combinations, dark leather shoes, etc). And we see that despite the changes in fashion, James Bond has always been faithful to certain fundamental traditions. We can’t imagine JB wearing a black shirt with a bright red tie, for ex.
    Also, speaking of “fashion”, since the cultural revolution of the 1960’s, many trends coexisted together in society and today it’s more obvious than ever. There is hardly a single dominating trend that can be noticed. Each fashion house creates its own “lifestyle”, its own “look”. Various fashions have become associated with various groups which can be extremely compartmentalized.

  9. Matt,i hate awfully the 70s.
    But i must admit that many of the suits that Roger More dressed in “The man with the golden gun” are rather classic and timeless.
    For exemple the chalk stripe double breasted,the cream dinner jacket,the royal blue mohair two buttons suit, the checked sport jacket.
    Change the tie and you can wear those suits today.

  10. About Moore I mean: boldly striped shirts, high and stiff – and sometimes contrasting – collars, vivid colured or striped Regimental ties, high-contrast odd jackets, shiny brass buttons, patterned jackets, a wider and more varied palette of colours, from white to olive to several shades of brown. And then yes, the safari jackets… But I don’t mean he is not tasteful, he is very accurately dressed. But on the “dandy” side, aimed to show out his sofistication. He does not seem a serous businessman, nor even a spy, because he is too standing out in the crowd, too noticeable

    • Some of those things you mention are not present in his ’80s Bond films, and other things like the vivid-coloured ties, shiny brass buttons and brown suits are also things that Brosnan wore in his Bond films.

    • Most of Moore’s flashier outfits appear in his 70’s movies, and in those movies he is not even pretending to be undercover as a businessman. Hugo Drax even tells him “Your reputation precedes you” or something to that effect!

      • And Roger was actually dressed in a pretty-subdued-for-the-70s fashion. James Bond is not a spy or a business man – he is a superhero, usually acting as a detective, and has been since at least 1964. And Daniel Craig’s Bond is a superhero as well, as his Captain America-like survival from falls of great heights in Quantum and Skyfall demonstrate. According to Fleming himself (who referred to the books a “lark”), the novels were meant as escapism as well – if one wants spy stories or realism, there is always the incomparable Le Carre, and if one wants an “assassin”, yes, Jason Bourne (cinematic version, I can’t speak to the books) sets the standard.

  11. This “timeless” style discussion is an interesting one. I think I am coming around to the view that “timeless” means “neutral”. Webster’s defines “timeless” as “not restricted to a particular time or date.” While the suits of say, Octopussy are some of my favorites of the series, they would not look appropriate for 1977 – they would appear out of the current time of 1977, making Bond also look out of the current time. This could be an intentional use of costume design – in 1971’s Dirty Harry, Clint Eastwood’s wardrobe generally avoids the 1971 look to give Harry Callahan an “old-fashioned values” persona but the effect is to separate Harry from the 1971 climate. I don’t see how one era (say of the mid 1980s) is “timeless” but would date Bond if worn in the mid 1970s, but another era is “fashionable” when the same is true of those 1977 suits if worn in 1983. Fashion had simply changed and moderated away from one extreme on its way to another. So, I think I am one of those “questioning” the concept of “timeless” as referred to in the first paragraph. That said, the suits listed here are all wonderful (and the brilliant OHMSS cut comes the closest to defying being restricted to any particular time or place) but I am old enough to remember how out of touch Sean Connery’s suits from Goldfinger looked to this viewer’s eyes in the early 1980s. But I personally prefer the term “neutral.” And Bond has never whole heartedly embraced the fashions of the time (Skyfall, I would argue, excepted) – again, Roger Moore as Bond was dressed in a relatively subdued manner for the late 1970s, just as even Dalton’s 1989 suits avoided the worst excesses of the period (perhaps to their detriment, given them a cheap, half-finished look) and Connery avoided the MOD look of the mid 1960s. Bond, even Ian Fleming’s Bond, while a man of patriotism (about his only “traditional” value), is also a man of the moment, which is why his appeal has endured for 60 years.

    • Well considered and well said (as always) and yes, I agree that “neutral” is a good definition to encompass this discussion!

    • Christian, interesting points. I mostly agree but would object though that between neutral and bland, the frontier is quite thin. Most people here would agree that Brosnan’s TWINE suits are beautiful and timeless yet I remember others were pointing the fact these suits just looked bland and unremarkable/uninteresting.
      Anyway… they definitely don’t look uninteresting to me !

      • The Brioni suits from TWINE are definitely nice looking, well-made, and timeless. But I don’t consider them quite as interesting as a Tom Ford suit with its barchetta breast pocket, pagoda shoulders, curved onseam trouser pockets, and overall more shapely cut. But I think that’s just a matter of personal preference.

  12. To my taste, Brosnan’s ties are not “flashy”. They have complex and multicolour patterns, but always in muted and very accurately matched tones. They look appropriate for a middle-aged businessman, employee, or even a politician, but nothing particularly exciting, that’s the point. Coming to Moore, even his ’80s movies have some dandy touches: for instance, the silk satin orange tie with the grey pinstripe suit… It tells: look at me, I am daring and sophisticated! To me, that’s not elegance, apart from the fact that it’s not realistic and not faithful to literary Bond. Movie suits that entered the legend, such as Cary Grant’s “North by Northwest” suit, are more subtle, more understated, more appropriate to the character. That’s the case of the famous Golfinger grey Glen check three piece suit, too. At first, a quite normal outfit… But, looking deeper… A legend, a timeless piece. Craig’s ones get close, because they are minimal, a bit vintage in clothes and palettes, but contemporary in cut, and with some peculiar, exquisite detail (cocktail cuffs, tab collars, etc.). The exaggerately skinny fit in Skyfall and Spetre somehow ruin the stuff.

      • In AVTAK, on his grey pinstripe flannel suit, Moore wears a silk tie whose colour is called “scarlet” by Matt in his post dedicated to that attire. Name as you like it, but it is not burgundy nor a “classical” red, it shouts: “Hey, look at me! “. And the shirt is striped in white and pink (!), with contrasting collar… Too far away, too much out of the character, even for the 80s. He is still a British secret agent, not a Wall Street tycoon neither a playboy in Capri!

      • I agree with Jovan.
        Ties in varying shades of red can be described as power ties but they are also a classic staple of a wardrobe. Especially if someone hasn’t a winter complexion, like Moore : I presume the red being a warm color works better with a summer complexion.
        I also think -Matt will probably know better- that Moore’s red ties were always solid, never striped or loudly patterned.
        Besides the tie in AVTAK is some shade of red, it’s definitely not a bright orange. The grey suit isn’t a pinstripe as well, it’s just a simple solid flannel. That being said, I agree with Daniele about striped shirts with contrasting white collars being quite unfitting for Bond’s character, even Moore’s Bond.
        Funnily I think a solid dark orange -satin or not- tie could have worked very well too with the grey 3-piece rope stripe suit Moore wore in Octopussy, which was a beautiful and classic outfit.

      • First you said it was orange, now you’re saying it’s too bright of a red. You are shifting the goalposts in order to suit your narrative. Furthermore, I feel you are conflating classic with your own colour and style sensibilities rather than looking at the overall picture. Many menswear experts would agree they’re still on the classic side of being dandy-ish and, more importantly, work with Moore’s colouration. Pink shirts, and pink striped shirts, worn with red ties are still tasteful. Regardless of our own individual opinions on what a secret agent should or should not wear.

        The suit you’re actually thinking of is in Octopussy, by the way, he wears it with a darker red tie and light blue shirt. Not dandy whatsoever.

        https://www.bondsuits.com/classic-city-suit-the-grey-rope-stripe-in-octopussy/

  13. This discussion is very interesting, and clearly we shifted from “timeless cut” to “timeless attire” topic. The only Bond who dressed in a “timeless” way is Connery, because his style has inspired generations of men and still inspires nowadays. Craig comes second, because his style, too, somehow influenced his generation’s men’s trends. That’s also because their clothing match very well with the movie character and its purposes, never looking out of place. On the contrary, Moore is too dandy (and sometimes can look even ridiculous), Dalton too flat and unrefined, Brosnan too conventional and unimaginative, though very dapper. Lazenby’s outfits are simply gorgeous, but his presence was really too short to set a style statement.

  14. I think it worth considering how different this discussion would be had Roger Moore been cast in 1962. After all, he did not need Terence Young to outfit him and to teach him about suits. Or, if Lewis Gilbert, rather than Young, had directed Dr. No; Gilbert, after all, would direct the (as I remember it) fashionable “Alfie.” And when we speak of Connery’s style, we’re really talking about Terence Young’s. It’s the same bias as assuming that “first” (Connery or perhaps the Bond one is first introduced to) means “best.”

    • Moving away from just the suits, it’s an interesting “what if” should Moore have been cast in 1962. I don’ t remember how likely that would have been – was he considered? I mentioned elsewhere on this forum that here in America a TV channel has been running a few episodes of The Saint each week in a chronological rotation. I have the faintest memory of seeing some of these as a little boy so it’s interesting for a number of reasons to watch them now and wonder how much cross pollination of influences may have occurred between the original Saint novels, Fleming’s writings, and the Bond movie canon and Saint TV show existing at a similar time. There are a LOT of similarities between the earlier Bond films and early Saint shows, and the characters of the respective protagonists. My own view is that the Moore era was a nadir for the Bond films but how much different would his interpretation of the character have been if he’d got the job in the sixties? Almost every Saint episode involves a violent fist fight which is much more realistic and gritty than the embarrassing comedic geriatric martial arts on display in the eighties. Moore is very well turned out in suits, blazers, evening togs and even casual wear which can often be a pitfall for otherwise well-dressed gents. The Saint is played as a roving wealthy international man of mysterious income whose exact occupation (gambler / thief / spy / troubleshooter / Robin Hood / playboy / muscle / private eye / ???) is a bit vague but his reputation often preceded him which is the antithesis of a secret agent but as mentioned above crept into the Bond films as early as DAF- (“You just killed James Bond!”). I also seem to remember one of the early artist’s impressions created from Fleming’s literary descriptions bore a resemblance to Moore.

      • I believe Moore was considered in 1962. It’s an interesting parallel universe thought experiment if he had gotten the part! “Brand Moore” didn’t exist yet, but he certainly wouldn’t need Terrance Young creating a look for Bond By telling him what to wear either. Based on the fact that Moore was already dressing in his own dapper bespoke suits in The Saint, I think it’s a pretty safe bet that he would have worn something similar, if not the exact same outfits, If he were cast as Bond instead.

    • PS it’s also fun to spot actors in The Saint who went on to appear in Bond films. Just last week I saw Jill Masterson and Domino’s brother in the same episode. Sir Freddie was in another episode and I believe Moneypenny shows up at some point. I’m sure there are loads more, I think Matt has mentioned this before.

      • Most of these actors appear in multiple episodes, and there are many more. Shirley Eaton is in the very first episode. Burt Kwouk, George Pastell, Marne Maitland, Julian Glover and so many others from Bond show up in the series as well.

  15. If one want see a “timeless” cut…well, most of Fred Astaire wardrobe in 30s,40s and 50s could be in the closet of a bespoke customer of today.
    I’m astound about the proportions,and the cut of Astaire’s suits.

  16. Great topic. My favourite is the early Bond/Sean Connery era from ‘Dr No’ 1962 to ‘You Only Live Twice’ (in Japan) 1967, as I think the suits then (as covered on the website) were just the right classic style. I find that a good design ‘sells itself’ and is forever ‘a good design’, kind of like Classical Music, even if it’s ‘old’ we recognise and value it. I also liked Sir Roger Moore’s suits as shown on your website from his time doing ‘The Saint’ TV series. Kind regards.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.