James Bond Shows How a Suit Should Fit

34

James Bond has often set a good example for how a suit should fit. I’ve previously written about classic proportions and different parts of the suit, but not about overall fit. There is no one way a suit must fit, but there are general guidelines. Today’s slim-fit suits (like Daniel Craig’s suits in Skyfall) and the late 1980s and 1990s baggy suits (like Timothy Dalton’s suits in Licence to Kill) can follow the trends without being poorly-fitted messes. Whilst suits that bunch up or pull are not by any means well-fitting suits, a full-fitting suit and a close-fitting suit can both be equally well-fitting if they have clean lines and are comfortable to wear. The fit of a suit is primarily judged at a natural standing position, but how it moves with the body is also important since a well-fitted suit should never hinder anything but the most unnatural movements. A well-fitting suit should be comfortable to drive, eat or dance (but not breakdance) in.

For this example I am using Sean Connery’s famous grey glen check suit from Goldfinger made by Anthony Sinclair. It has a very classic fit, neither particularly full nor trim. It has fuller cut than what is fashionable today, but the same fit principles apply still.

James-Bond-Suit-Fit

The Jacket

  1. Collar: The jacket’s collar must hug the neck when standing both in a natural standing pose and though a little movement, and there must not be any creasing in the upper back below the collar. About a 1/2 inch to 1 inch of the shirt’s collar should show above the suit’s collar.
  2. Shoulders: The jacket’s shoulders should be wide enough for the sleeve to hang cleanly, which usually means a jacket’s shoulders are just a bit wider than a man’s natural shoulders. A man’s shoulders are rounded whereas a tailored jacket’s shoulders and sleeves meet at an angle, so it’s hard to compare the two. If your muscles push your sleeve out, the shoulders are too narrow. If the shoulders stick out further than your biceps, the shoulders are too wide. Anywhere in between is an acceptable shoulder width. The width of the shoulders should also be in proportion with the size of your head. Divots at the top of the sleeve do not mean the shoulders are too wide (as often thought) but rather that the chest is too tight across the back or the sleeves are not hung at the correct angle.
  3. Chest: The chest can be full and draped with a clean fold in front of the sleeve or close-cut and clean. The chest needs to be large enough that the arms can move without binding the chest. If the chest is too large there will be undesirable diagonal folds in the back. English tailors often cut their jackets with small folds at the sides the back behind the arms to allow for movement whilst keeping the silhouette very neat.
  4. Waist: The waist should not be so tight as to cause pulling, though a small “X” at the fastened button is acceptable. Sean Connery’s and Pierce Brosnan’s suit jackets did not fit closely around the waist, but they were still shaped at the waist. George Lazenby, Roger Moore and Daniel Craig all wear their suit jackets closer at the waist. As long as the jacket doesn’t pull at the waist (like on Daniel Craig’s suit jackets in Skyfall), the waist can have as much or as little tapering as you like.
  5. Sleeves: The sleeves should be wide enough to hang cleanly but not wide enough to look baggy. A sleeve that is too narrow will feel constricting. In general, the sleeve should follow the shape of the arm as it narrows towards the wrist, but it should be wide enough to comfortably fit a double cuff if you wear them. The angle that the sleeve is hung has a big impact on how cleanly it hangs. The wrong angle can cause wrinkles and discomfort. The angle that the sleeve follows should be how your arms fall at a natural stance. Armholes also play a part, and they should be snug, but not tight, around the armpit. This is known as a “high armhole” because the bottom of the armhole is high into the armpit, and it is one of the few places where snugness considerably increases mobility. A higer armhole allows the sleeve to move more independently of the chest. Read more on jacket sleeves.
  6. Sleeve length: The jacket’s sleeve should extend to the wrist bone. One-quarter to one-half inch of shirt cuff should extend past the jacket’s cuffs. This isn’t just to visually balance the shirt collar sticking out at the back of the neck but also to protect suit jacket cuffs from unnecessary wear. Shirts—or even just shirt cuffs—are much cheaper to replace than a suit that has frayed at the end of sleeves.
  7. Jacket length: The jacket should be around half the length from the base of the neck to the ground, and it must be long enough to cover the buttocks. English jackets tend to be on the longer side whilst Italian jackets tend to be on the shorter side. Fashion dictates that jacket are to be cut shorter now, just as they were cut longer in the 1990s. But within the current fashions, the jacket should still cover the buttocks or else it throws off the proportions of the body and can make the male figure look less masculine. But unlike any of the other fashions that flout proper fit, there is no loss of practicality or loss of clean lines with a jacket that is too long or too short. Visual balance is the only reason.
  8. Vents: If the jacket has a vent or vents, the vent or vents must stay closed. If there are no vents, the jacket should drape cleanly around the seat and not cause the front to pull open. Any man can wear any style of vent as long as the skirt of the jacket is properly fitted. Read more on vents.

The Trousers

  1. Waist: The trousers’ waist should be large enough to sit just at the waist without feeling too tight, and it should not be too lose as too sag. Side adjusters and belts exist only for minute adjustments, not to make the trousers a full size smaller. Trousers worn with braces should be slightly larger so they can hang freely.
  2. Rise: The trouser rise is the difference between the outseam and the inseam. The typical trouser rise has become shorter over the past fifty years, though it should still be long enough so the trousers can sit high enough to prevent the shirt and tie from showing beneath a fastened jacket button. The suit has a cleaner look when there is no break between the jacket and trousers. Daniel Craig’s suits in Skyfall and Spectre have a long enough rise to prevent this, though the trousers tend to sag lower.
  3. Front: Whether the trousers have forward pleats, reverse pleats, darts or a flat front, the front should lay flat without pulling at the crotch or opening the pockets. When there are pleats, the pleats should lay flat and only open when you sit or place your hands in your pockets.
  4. Legs: The legs can be wide or narrow as long as they have a clean drape with an uninterrupted crease. Trousers that cling to the leg are too tight and put unnecessary stress on the trousers. Suit trousers don’t stretch, so being too tight is not only uncomfortable but also impractical. Too-tight trousers also cannot keep a sharp crease and will not have the smart look that suit trousers demand.
  5. Hem: Full break, half break and no break are all valid options. The trousers are too short when sock can be seen when standing and too long when they pool on top of the shoe or reach the floor in the back. Wider legs need to be hemmed longer and narrower legs need to be hemmed shorter to achieve the same kind of break.

The Waistcoat

  1. Chest and waist: The front of the waistcoat must lay close to the chest. The waist should also fit closely, and the adjustable strap at the back should, like trousers adjusters, be used for small adjustments.
  2. Length: The waistcoat’s bottom button should be at the bottom of the trousers’ waistband to prevent the shirt from showing between the waistcoat and the trousers when left open. To keep the body in proportion, the waistcoat should not end far below the natural waist. A waistcoat that is too long makes the torso look heavier and the legs look shorter, which is rarely flattering. The waistcoat that is too long will also be uncomfortable when sitting. Because it ends not far below the waist and the second-to-bottom button is placed at the waist (the bottom button should not be fastened), it does not get in the way of sitting. If there is a gap between the waistcoat and the trousers, it is usually a problem with the trouser rise being too short, not the waistcoat being too short.

Sean Connery’s suit does not always look perfect, but that’s due to the “wear and tear that goes on out there in the field”. Because it’s a lightweight suit, it wrinkles more readily than a heavier suit would.

34 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you very much Matt – an excellent article!

    Indeed the “Goldfinger suit” can be considered as the epitome of a superbly fitting suit by any standard – even after more than 50 years which passed! And it strikingly shows the superiority of true bespoke over fashion fads. That’s the reason why only Connery’s Bond suits (and with some reservations also Lazenby’s) still look fresh today and have withstood the test of time (leaving aside some minor things like lapel width, drape etc.). And the famous “pared-down” look (no flashy accessoires) also contributes to that effect. “The guy in his suit looks splendid but one cannot say exactly why” – this statement is an indicator that a tailor has done a good job and that everything is as it should be (no shortcomings but no exaggerations either). And that’s what Sinclair did for Connery.

    • As far as “early Connery” outfits go, this is one of the least “pared down” – it has a vest with lapels, cufflinks, and a pocket square – and it all works together beautifully! What I have always admired about the Sinclair suits is their softness – they have a silhouette, but they never appear binding or constricting.

  2. Great article !
    About the famous “Goldfinger suit”,i agree with Renard; great silhouette, and “the famous “pared-down” look (no flashy accessoires) also contributes to that effect”.
    I am waiting by 80s that the 60s TRUE silhouette back in fashion.
    Unfortunately in these days we have on the one hand the bad cut and bad fitting skinny suit that is a obscene parody of the TRUE 60s silhouette.
    On other hand the dandified,foppish,ultra patterned “Pitti uomo” type.
    Luckily in my city are still several tailors; so i can keep on to dress “out of fashion”as always.

  3. Another great Article Matt!

    I have been re-watching the old Connery Bond films. The Bespoke suits in the old films definitely have a much better fit all round subtlety than the current Tom Fords.

    The new suits look more like designer suits bought off the rack from a department store. In an idealised sort of way. Fancy cloths, conspicuous working cuffs etc. I guess they are more reflective of the current mass-market’s idea of an ideal suit.

    Vesper said Bond wore his suits with “such disdain”. I guess the flashy Tom Fords with one button undone could be described as disdainful. The Connery Bond suits were not worn with disdain.

  4. Excellent article again! Very refreshing to have al the important fit issues explained together. As others pionted out, Connery’s suit fit very well and its a pity it seems men can’t wear suits properly (at least what I mostly see). I see men who buy very nice suits (read nice suiting) but just don’t pay attention to a proper fit.

  5. Perfect timing for me as well. I’m getting a three piece suit made and through all my searching I simply could not find how long a waistcoat should be, especially since I have a very long torso with a high waist.

    The excess of informative posts these last few months have been great. The ones about shirt collars and cuff styles, how to wear black tie, classic proportions and now this.
    You should consider linking them in the side bar for easy access.

    Almost everything I know about suits I learned through this blog, which has actually been really good. There’s a plethora of information but it’s not all just an angry block of text. With every entry I learn something new, even if it is really small. It’s been very gradual. So thanks, Matt! This is easily my favourite blog.

  6. Thanks, Matt. Very informative, as ever. At the risk of beating a dead horse, I wish to say that the Connery/Moore suits simply blow the Craig suits out of the water. To pick up on an earlier comment, Daniel Craig’s suits look like the kind of things a college student would snap up at the mall — shrunken and silly with affectations, to boot. I came of age in the 80s, so perhaps I’m too forgiving. But the loosey-goosey Timothy Dalton suits don’t offend me nearly so much. Sure, they don’t stand the test of time like the earlier Bond suits do. But neither do they reduce an already-silly character into an androgynous fashion model. If the producers are so keen to chase current trends, why not put tattoos up and down Bond’s neck and extending out of his shirtsleeves, too? That will complete the grotesqueries and pair nicely with the suits.

    • I have expressed my distaste for Craig’s “shrunken suits” more than once on this blog, but “androgynous fashion model” might be a bit harsh. Craig manages to project a brutal yet soulful masculinity in spite of his trendy suits. Connery’s classic, “pared down” suits, on the other hand, enhanced his masculine aura and added a touch of class to his rugged, working class exterior. It’s simply not possible to top the Goldfinger suit as a lounge suit or the Goldfinger hacking jacket as a sport coat.

    • The tattoos may still appear if they cast Tom Hardy as Bond #7. He’s like a child’s sketch pad.
      I hope its Aiden Turner from Poldark with a good haircut and a shave. :)

    • I believe Daniel Craig has a tattoo on one of his upper arm/deltoids which they some how cover up for the topless scenes for the Bond movies. Anybody know of this or am I off here?

  7. You said it all, Matt! End of discussion. That is the oracle for dressing beautifully and correctly. Many thanks.

  8. Brilliant article Matt. This suit has always been a favourite of mine, and typifies the perfect suit as far as I’m concerned.

    So to have a piece that not only describes it’s fit in detail, but also gives me pointers on what I need to look for is extremely useful and enjoyable to read.

  9. Well Matt, I think you have outdone yourself! And very good point about how proper fit should be independent of the fashion-of-the-day.

    I do wonder if the too-short jacket of today, and I agree it is an androgynous look, makes a proper fit impossible.

    Keep up the excellent work.

  10. Great article, love it. I think you mean deltoid on the shoulder fit section though. I’ll be thinking about all of this very soon, one of your best articles.

  11. I echo the sentiments of the others regarding this post. Really well done.

    I would be very interested to see similar dissections featuring the other Bonds.

    • Thank you!

      My points here are relevant to any well-fitting suit, and I actually wrote this article before choosing to picture this suit. I could have used photos of any of Lazenby’s, Moore’s or Brosnan’s suits and written the same thing. I chose to picture this suit because it’s popular, it features a waistcoat to write about and I was able to get the angles and poses I was looking for.

  12. quote: “Waist: The waist should not be so tight as to cause pulling, though a small “X” at the fastened button is acceptable.”

    I usually get a small ”X” (or at least a part of the X) at the fastened button and my suit jackets/sport coats are not to tight so what causes it? Does it mean it’s something wrong with the fit or is there nothing much to do about it? And yes, I’m in good shape…

    Compare these two photos and the fastened button:

    What’s the difference between these two suit jackets? Is the pulling in the second picture acceptable?

    http://www.bondsuits.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Light-Cool-Grey-Suit.jpg

    http://www.bondsuits.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Live-and-Let-Die-Grey-Suit-2.jpg

    • The small X is inevitable on lightweight suits. I said it’s acceptable, so you have nothing to worry about. The pulling in the grey suit from Live and Let Die is because Moore’s arm is raised.

    • Thanks. But is it possible to avoid the “X” entirely? Especially Roger Moore’s suit jackets/sport coats often appear to be perfect in that area.

  13. Hi Matt, speaking of the importance of fit and proportion – I rewatched it recently and it struck me how well cut General Pushkin’s (John Rhys-Davies) suits and sports jackets are compared to the ill-fitting garments that Timothy Dalton wears in TLD. He is a man of some considerable size but dresses immaculately. I did a quick search on the blog but can’t find any mentions of him. Don’t suppose you’d consider featuring him in a post?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4FA8nSRAcQ

  14. This is a very helpful article and couldn’t be demonstrated by a nicer suit. The lighter color really helps to see the details properly in the pictures. It would be nice to also see a photo from behind if you do similar posts in the future.

  15. Matt,

    I have a question about trouser fit. Having just got my first bespoke suit, I do feel its a little tighter than I would normally like, although it isn’t as tight as Daniel Craig’s suits. You don’t see any pulling or wrinkling like on his suits. I’m trying to determine if the legs are too tight. I don’t have any of the issues you describe above in paragraph 12 regarding the legs. The trousers look great when I’m standing up. When I sit down there is some pulling on the knee and it appears the hem sort of catches on the back of my leg, so I have to help the cloth up, by grabbing the back of the trouser at the calf. Is that normal? Or should I be able to sit and stand without doing any of that? If so what is the fix, wider overall leg, or wider hem? They don’t appear to tight when I’m standing up or walking normally, although if I’m walking up and down stairs, or raise my knee at a 90 degree angle from the floor I get that same tightness in the knee. Thanks.

    • It sounds like the whole leg needs to be let out a bit. Bespoke trousers are made with extra cloth in the inseam and outseam of the leg, so they both can be let out the same amount to keep the legs centred.

  16. Is it normal when wearing a jacket with shoulder padding and roped sleeve head to feel as if it will fall off from the shoulder? How should a suit with padding and roped sleeve heads feel when wearing?

    • There’s not one way for these shoulders to fit your own. Shoulder width has varied with fashion trends–right now narrow shoulders are trendy, while in the 1990s and 1950s wide shoulders were trendy. Shoulders can also be made to different widths to balance the size of the head. Men with a large head in proportion to their body are often tailored with extended shoulders. The key to doing any shoulder width well is to ensure the shoulder line is smooth and the sleeves drape cleanly.

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.