Lindy Hemming’s Bond: The Sartorial Traditionalist

24

In the Connery, Lazenby and Moore years, James Bond dressed in a style that came very much out of the 1960s. The prewar standards in menswear had been relaxed, and Bond broke protocols that many well-dressed men today still believe should be followed.

When Pierce Brosnan took on the role of James Bond in 1994, fashions had changed from the previous Bonds. Many of the 1990s men’s fashions recalled men’s fashions from the 1940s, sometimes called the ‘golden age of menswear’, in many ways. For suits, the longer lengths, three-button fronts and lower gorges on the jackets and pleated trousers were standard in both eras. Art deco tie patterns were back. Boys could dress like their fathers, who could dress like their fathers, and none of them would look out of place.

Costume designer Lindy Hemming entered the Bond series for GoldenEye and would go on to dress Pierce Brosnan for all four of his Bond films and Daniel Craig for Casino Royale. Hemming was a traditionalist who showed respect to classic men’s style through her costumes. Though she looked at Connery’s Bond for inspiration, there’s an older inspiration that comes through in her clothes. She wanted Bond’s style to look timelessly elegant in the same way that Cary Grant’s and Gary Cooper’s still do today.

The fashions of the past decade are the opposite of the 1990s fashions in many ways. The fit has gone in the other direction, being very tight instead of very full. While Brosnan’s clothes in the 1990s have a full fit, they never look baggy. They drape elegantly, recalling how the Hollywood stars of the 1940s dressed. Brosnan’s style will stand the test of time, just as style of the 1940s does. Draped clothing may look old-fashioned when other fashions are in vogue, but it will always look elegant.

Hemming brought the classic three-piece suit looks from the 1980s Bond films in the 1990s. Three-piece suits were standard before World War II, and Hemming brought Bond closer to that older standard. Brosnan wore a three-piece suit beautifully, and he would sometimes layer an overcoat on top of his three-piece suit for an especially grand look. The double-breasted fawn-coloured coat in Tomorrow Never Dies has a particularly 1940s look thanks to the double-breasted closure and the colour. Brioni made three three-piece suits for Brosnan to wear in GoldenEye, though he only wore one suit with a waistcoat. Hemming used the three-piece suit to signify that Daniel Craig was a mature James Bond at the end of Casino Royale. She understood its power and used it well.

Following tradition, Brosnan frequently wears oxfords with his suits instead of Lazenby’s, Moore’s and Dalton’s slip-ons or Connery’s boots. Oxfords are the most traditional shoe to wear with a suit, while traditionalists feel that any kind of slip-on is too casual to wear with a suit. Brosnan’s oxfords were usually in the semi-brogue and full-brogue styles, which have an added weight that balances his full-cut trousers. However, some traditionalists feel that full brogues are too sporty for a city suit, though the combination was popular in the 1990s.

Hemming set a new standard for Bond’s shirts to have double cuffs and cufflinks. Before Hemming, Bond saved cufflinks for his dressiest outfits and wore shirts with cocktail cuffs or regular button cuffs with suits. Only in Goldfinger did Bond previous wear double cuffs with his suits. Hemming gave Bond the classic elegance of cufflinks with most of his suits.

Hemming dressed Brosnan and Craig in the most traditional black tie ensembles. For Brosnan’s first two films, she put Brosnan in low-cut evening waistcoats that matched his dinner suits, the only times that Bond wore three-piece dinner suits. The low-cut evening waistcoat, originally from full evening dress (white tie), was common for black tie from its inception in the Victorian era until World War II. Before GoldenEye, Bond never wore one. It was a traditional four-button model with silk satin lapels. Tomorrow Never Dies is the second and last time Bond wore a waistcoat with his dinner suit. This time Hemming looked to rarer vintages style, and she chose a five-button double-breasted model—with the buttons in a V-formation—that’s usually worn with morning dress but cut it lower. Hemming reverted to Bond’s usual method of no evening waist-covering for Brosnan’s last two films and for Casino Royale.

Hemming broke Bondian tradition to follow ‘proper’ black tie tradition in the shirts. British tradition accepted regular buttons down the front of evening shirts by the time Sean Connery started as Bond in 1962, but traditionalists still insist that the shirt fronts have studs, or at the very least, a fly front that covers the the buttons. Exposed buttons were not to be done. So Hemming always had Bond wearing evening shirts with mother-of-pearl studs—in Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough—or a fly front—in GoldenEye, Die Another Day and Casino Royale. Bond’s evening shirts always had buttons until 1989’s Licence to Kill, where Bond first wears studs, for the only time in black onyx.

Tangentially related to the topic of this article, The Bond Experience published a wonderful interview with costume designer Lindy Hemming last month that is a must-see!

24 COMMENTS

  1. A very thorough and well-written Matt!

    As you correctly point out, Pierce Brosnan’s clothes in his films will stand the test of time as it perfectly found a middle ground in marrying traditional style with hints to the fashions of the era without straying strictly in one direction that is either too “old-fashioned” or too “trendy” such as the outfits of Licence to Kill.
    (The World is Not Enough is a perfect example of this wherein all his outfits are classic and well proportioned and is hardly dated to a single era. It’s no surprise that the film is where Brosnan is dressed his best!)

    While I think Hemming’s styling of Brioni and the likes worked very well on Pierce Brosnan, I do have to applaud her for at least trying to dress Craig his best (at least in suiting) as he mostly wears blue coloured shirts and suits that fit his warmer complexion and blue eyes and a light grey linen suit that goes with his low-contrast skin tone. (Though I will concede that the idea of his growth and character arc through his outfits in Casino Royale isn’t particularly realistic or effective as they had in mind. I also think the Brioni styles don’t work as well on Craig compared to the Tom Ford style he wore in Quantum of Solace.)

    • Even in “Dressed to Kill”, which was only published shortly after Goldeneye, Hemming already seemed to have an eye to the future and mentioned that she wasn’t to avoid having the outfits look too fashionable or trendy, and that people watch these movies several decades on. I think she was right on the money. I remember Hemming used to sometimes get some guff for some of the ’90s nods with her choices, but I think with the additional perspective of time and the Craig era, we see just how well executed most of her decisions were, and how she avoided many of the excesses of that time period. The Skyfall suits are already a bit of a punchline and that movie is only 8 years old.

  2. In the interview, Lindy seems to indicate that Craig more or less ran her out of Bond town after CR since they had differing views on tailoring. Such a shame.

    • I concur. Craig may be a ‘star’ and a very good Bond but his (supposed) interference sartorially in what he wanted to wear has deteriorated considerably IMHO. Witness some of his choices in the upcoming NTTD with the Alba combinations and you have to wonder ‘what was he thinking?’ . Only time will tell but his style of clothing(apart from the commando garb) will soon fade away.

  3. Agree with your comments Ivan and Tredstone. She deftly walked the narrow line between making Bond look stylish without being too trendy which would look dated in time.
    Also I wasn’t explicitly aware that Craig had run her out of town but it makes sense. As Craig grew into the role and was allowed to influence things more it’s conceivable that he would insist on his preferred tailor over what the costume designer suggested. Craig worked with Sam Mendes on Road to Perdition in 2002 four years before CR. You have to wonder if Craig had influence over the decision to bring Mendes in as director for Skyfall and Spectre. He’s personally had a hand in the design of the latest Omega watch. Seems like the producers have given him a LOT of sway in the decision making, I think he was even made co-producer or executive producer or something. All of this would be fine if he didn’t have such a liking for sausage skins!

    • I worry when an actor has too much control over a production. A performer who gets too big for their boots has historically never been to the film’s benefit; just look at primadonas like Marlon Brando, especially in his later years.

      Now, I’m not saying Daniel Craig is at this level, but I can’t say I like the fashion choices he’s brought to Bond. Or rather, there are a few that I don’t hate like the sage coat in the upcoming film, but when I look at it I see Daniel Craig, not James Bond. And that’s why I worry when an actor has too much control. Rarely will it result in anything other than the actor’s best interests.

  4. She also seemingly adheres to that old school of thought that men should wear cream or off-white shirts instead of (stark) white — those are saved for formal settings only.

    Very traditional overall, but never too stiff or boring: ivory shirts, double cuffs, puffed pocket squares (the standard for the British upper class), full cut three-piece suits and patterned ties tied in a four-in-hand knot.

    Brosnan, I believe, looks more jovial than the ensemble would suggest, in part because of the Italian style of his Brioni suits. The Savile Row counterpart would look too Tory-esque for an easy going, suave and smooth character like Bond. Sure, Bond enjoys fine tailoring, he is a bon vivant, but also a nonconformist — just like his creator. There’s always a detail in his outfits to prevent him from looking too conservative. Shirts with button cuffs for Lazenby, Moore and Dalton, and Moore’s Seiko watches come to mind. The prevalence of blue shirts across the entire series helps it too. In these movies Bond adopts what you called “British brilliance”, but he almost never looks boring or outdated.

  5. Brosnan was the best dressed Bond of ever.
    You could dress those suits and jackets in every years of every decade from 1930 to today.
    I like the classic timeless style…nothing goes out of fashion that contemporary trends..but the classic sartorial style is timeless.
    For sure Brosnam was more linked with Cary Grant ( the “serious” Grant of “Notorius”) that with Connery.

    • I used to look back on her era as being less classically British and more modern and continental, but now I see it as the most traditionally Bond has ever dressed. I now see it as comparable to the style in a Cary Grant film and something that people will look back on fondly. I still prefer the years of English bespoke suits for Bond, though bringing back Turnbull & Asser was an excellent decision. I don’t agree with all of Hemming’s choices, but I don’t think she made any bad choices and I still admire what she did. I think enough time has passed since she’s worked on Bond that I look at it being “classic Bond” now.

      • I couldn’t agree more ! It recalls classic Hollywood style while remaining understated -no details such as pin collars or striped double breasted suits, which are very stylish but also a little flashy. Glad to see you seem to appreciate Hemming more than a few years ago !

      • I’ve always appreciated her work, and I have been influenced by it for decades. But I think the passage of time has provided me with new perspectives. I started writing this blog post months ago, but it took a lot of thinking to really figure out the best angle for it.

    • I remember the early critiques of Hemming’s approach was that Bond had become “expensively dressed” rather than just “well dressed”… this was mentioned in the “Spy who came out of the closet” series that was among the first articles I ever read on Bond clothing on the web. Around the time we reached the peak of the slim suit trend around Skyfall, I think that just further highlighted the contrast to what was done during the Hemming years, with what was a classic, full cut suit becoming viewed (through the lens of that time) as a baggy, long ’90s 3-button power suit. Similarly, I think around that time was when Moore’s tailoring was the least appreciated and quickly dismissed by many… but lately I think people are coming around on that.

      While Brosnan was ‘expensively dressed’, I think it was tastefully done and as Matt says, kind of reminiscent of a classic Hollywood style.

      • I think that “expensive” look comes from the long cashmere overcoats and the cufflinks. Otherwise, nothing in Brosnan’s wardrobe would be more expensive than what Connery wore. Brioni doesn’t cost more than a bespoke suit. Maybe the excess of cloth in the suits made them look more luxurious than the bespoke suits from earlier decades. If people think the stronger shoulders and shape of the lapels that define the Brioni silhouette makes the suits look more expensive, I think that’s a bit silly.

      • Matt, you mention an excess of cloth. Do you mean in the first two Brosnan’s Bond movies only ? How is that excess of fabric different than a drape cut ?

      • Yes, the excess of cloth from Brosnan’s first two films. A drape cut has the cloth specifically at the sides of the chest. Brosnan’s suits have a full cut overall.

  6. Interesting article Matt! I never knew that a lot of these styles in the 1990s where from the 1940s. I do recall when I read your post about Bond’s tuxedo in tomorrow never dies being inspired from the 1940s so I guess that does make sense. As always very interesting read.

  7. Nice thoughtful review. I enjoy the look of the traditionalist style. Hemming always had a unique taste with neckties.

    My favorite addition that Hemming made was the use of double cuffs. I prefer double cuffs as my go to cuff. I never owned a turnback cuff shirt, and I never really like barrel cuff shirts. I love Bronson different cufflinks he wore through his films. I also love Craig’s coffin cufflinks as well.

    I wish Craig’s Bond would have continued the look of a three piece suit. He does wear two on Spectre, but I wish their would be more. I do like how Craig’s Bond brought back the turnback cuff. I never owned one, but I believe that is my favorite cuff for the character.
    I also recall that Bronson wore monk strap shoes. I do not believe he wore them with any of his business suit, but I could be wrong. Anyways, great article Matt.

    My best,
    Bill

  8. Considering The World is Not Enough is the film wherein Pierce Brosnan prominently wears monk shoes as opposed to the oxford brogues he wears he typically wears in the other films (save the navy suit he wore in the movie), are these along with the loafers he wears with the tan suit in Die Another Day the most “relaxed” shoes (at least compared to the oxford brogues he wore) Brosnan has ever worn or are his monk shoes still on the slightly formal side of the formality spectrum (I heard somewhere that said monk shoes are slightly more formal than loafers)?

    • Monk shoes are considerably more formal than loafers. They’re equal in formality to derby shoes, which means they also vary a lot in formality. Brosnan’s plain-toe single-monk shoes are about equal to the plain-toe 2-eyelet derby shoes from Goldfinger.

  9. Excellent article. I must agree with the pro-Hemming/Brosnan comments above. I have come back around to fully appreciating the Brosnan tailoring (and entire era) as some of the best of the series. Great discussion by all.

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.