My Tailor, Savile Row: Where Was James Bond Measured?

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In Dr. No, Felix Leiter asks James Bond at their first proper meeting in the film series, ‘Where were you measured for this, bud?’ Bond replies, ‘My tailor, Savile Row.’ From this line, we can assume that James Bond frequents a tailor in Savile Row in London’s Mayfair district. Savile Row is a street, not the name of the tailoring shop. There is a brand called The Savile Row Company, but Bond was using the term in the local sense. The real-life tailor who measured Sean Connery for the role of James Bond in Dr. No was Anthony Sinclair, who operated in Conduit Street and not Savile Row. Conduit Street intersects Savile Row at its northern end, and Sinclair was located roughly two blocks from the corner of Savile Row.

The former location of Anthony Sinclair within London’s Mayfair

So Bond’s real-life tailor was not in Savile Row, and none of the tailors who made Bond’s suits for the series were located in Savile Row. Savile Row has long been the world’s most famous street of tailors, which is why it was mentioned in the script. If Bond were to say, ‘My tailor, Conduit Street’, or simply mention London, it would not have had the same ring to it.

Bond may have said ‘Savile Row’ to make his tailor sound more important, knowing full well that his tailor was in a less prestigious street. However, this is unlikely considering that Bond is not ostentatious regarding his fine tastes and would think it vulgar of someone to say such a thing that wasn’t true. Savile Row tailors are understood to be the best of London’s best. Bond appreciates the best in life, so his Anthony Sinclair suits may very well be standing in for Savile Row suits.

Sinclair’s customers nicknamed his suits the ‘Conduit Cut’, after the street where his shop was located. The cut itself was specific to Sinclair and not something associated with Conduit Street, which used to have many tailors like Savile Row still does. Sinclair said in a 1966 interview with GQ, ‘I make clothes in the classic English tradition. I won’t make exaggerated, flamboyant clothes. I make only a Savile Row style.’ Sinclair’s style came out of the same tradition as that of his neighbours in Savile Row, and the suits he made were in every way comparable to those made in Savile Row.

No. 29 Conduit Street, the former location of Anthony Sinclair

Whilst Sinclair’s style does not have the structured look of famous Savile Row tailors like H. Huntsman and Gieves & Hawkes, or the drape cut of the legendary Anderson & Sheppard, Sinclair primarily followed Savile Row customs in making his suits without copying the exaggerated styles of the most famous tailoring houses. Ultimately, Bond is not lying when he says his tailor was in Savile Row but is rather merely stretching the truth so he’d be better understood by someone who isn’t familiar with Mayfair. Sinclair was part of the greater Savile Row community.

Considering the Row’s culture, is it appropriate to say that Bond’s tailor was in Savile Row? Like Connery, Ian Fleming used a tailor outside of Savile Row elsewhere in Mayfair. His tailor was Benson, Perry & Whitley of Cork Street, which runs parallel to Savile Row two blocks away. Fleming may have been against using a Savile Row tailor, either because of their higher prices or because they may have been too snobby. To an outsider, there’s not much difference in using a tailor in Savile Row versus another street in Mayfair, but there’s a certain cachet that comes from a tailor in Savile Row proper.

Bond may appreciate the finest things in life, but he also understands that the finest things don’t have to come from the biggest names. He may prefer the lower prices of a non-Savile Row tailor, while a Bond villain may prefer the prestige that comes from using a proper Savile Row tailor. Gustav Graves would be the classic Savile Row type, even if the characters’ costumes were made elsewhere.

When Felix asks Bond where he was ‘measured for this’, he’s holding Bond’s Walther PP—not a PPK as earlier dialogue suggests. This implies he was asking Bond where he was measured for his gun rather than his suit, as Bond snarkily replies. I asked Ray Kromphold of The Bond Armory what it means to be measured for a gun, and he confirmed, ‘That’s not a thing at all.’

As for the true meaning of their words, Kromphold believes, ‘I took it as Felix referring to the Walther PP, like saying “Who issued you this?” Bond replying “Savile Row” was kind of a coded way of saying he was British Intelligence, same as when Felix replies about his was a guy in Washington.’

Perhaps this was a sign and countersign type of interaction that Bond and Felix would have used to identify each other under any circumstances, and that ‘Savile Row’ was only part of the countersign and never meant to give insight into where Bond’s wardrobe was tailored. Or it could be both literal and part of a sign.

25 COMMENTS

  1. I had always assumed that James Bond got his suits made in Savile Row, even though Sean Connery had them made on Conduit St. Similar to how Vesper pins Bond as an old money kinda guy by the cut of his suit, even though Daniel Craig’s suits in that film were Brioni.

    This is, of course, the least interesting reading of the exchange. I like the coded conversation angle which I never would have thought of myself.

  2. I always interpreted this interaction as code language.

    As an aside, do we have any idea who make Fleming’s shirts?

    • Fleming had been to Turnbull & Asser, but I didn’t know if he had all of his shirts made there. There are a few stories in my book about where Fleming shopped.

  3. Strangely I always heard the line ‘Where were you measured for this, bud?’ as ‘Where were you measured for this butt?’ Assuming that Leiter was referring to the PPK as having a shortened butt for better concealment in a shoulder holster.

    • I listened to this many times trying to figure it out, and I hear ‘bud’. Early in the scene Felix says to Bond, ‘Gently, bud, gently.’ So I take it as a name Felix calls people he doesn’t know.

  4. “… considering that Bond is not ostentatious regarding his fine tastes and would think it vulgar of someone to say such a thing that wasn’t true. “
    The above is true for THIS Bond but but he time we get to DAF the plots have abandoned realism for silliness and Bond has morphed into a show-off and a boor. I particularly dislike the exchange with M concerning the brandy where Bond:
    1. Stretched believability by identifying the vintage of the champagne on which the brandy was based, then
    2. Ostentatiously played the show-off in verbalizing the vintage, while also
    3. Showed up his boss in front of a highly-placed official while on business

    THIS version of Bond is both ostentatious and vulgar. The intent of that dialogue may have been to play it for a laugh but it doesn’t work for me at all.

  5. This interaction briefly reminds me of how in “You Only Live Twice,” Bond lies with no hesitation to Tanaka about M having a “similar arrangement” as he goes on Tanaka’s private train. I just feel it’s something Connery’s Bond does in nature.

    • Ahah indeed, he is full of it in this movie.

      FRWL
      Bond: “Well once when I was with M in Tokyo I had an interesting experience…”

      YOLT
      Henderson: “You’ve never been to Japan before, have you?”
      Bond: “No – never.”

  6. The answer is simple.
    Which tailor in Savile Row in 1962 had a similar cut to Anthony Sinclair?
    Poole? Stovel & Mason? Kilgour French and Stanbury?

    I have many “Man About Town” magazine of 50s and early 60s,and these firms did two buttons suits not much different by Sinclair’s cut.

  7. I like the interpretation of Bond wanting the best quality possible but wanting to save a few pounds. Although he often works among great wealth and needs to fit in when in the company of rich people, he is basically (depending on your interpretation) either a mid-ranking naval officer or a civil servant. Bond is not automatically going to be able to shop at the most exclusive London tailors, unless he is being kitted out by Q branch for the occasion.

    • Bond has plenty of money from his gambling success, so he could afford proper Savile Row tailors. But my theory is that he understands that he can get the best without buying from the biggest-name tailors.

    • That’s a fair comment and perhaps Fleming’s own take on tailors too.
      BTW I never realised that after the whole performance in M’s office about the Walther PPK I always assumed that’s what he took to Jamaica. If it was a different weapon he had then it makes a bit of a mockery of that whole scene eh?
      (I understand that Fleming originally had Bond carry a Beretta as it was popular among agents, being small and concealable. Some weapons expert wrote to him and said the Walther was far superior so Fleming wrote that scene in as a way to effect an upgrade. )

      • I’m not sure what you’re getting at with the PPK. Bond is supposed to be using a PPK through the whole film, matching what the CIA use. There’s no PPK in the film, however, and both Bond and Felix use Walther PPs that stand in for the PPKs. Bond uses a different gun to kill Professor Dent.

      • So what happened? The props department couldn’t get their hands on a couple of PPKs so they just used PPs instead?
        And the producers just hoped that we the audience would never know the difference anyway?
        They clearly never foresaw the power of the internet (decades later!) and the zealousness of Bond geeks!

  8. Where Sinclair was trained when he was young?
    Before before opening its own tailor shop,he was working in Savile Row,and where?

  9. I believe the answer is purely cinematic.

    This is the first Bond film, with a more modest budget than the rest of the series. Young was brought to the project to make sure there would be no mistakes regarding the plausibility of the film universe. He lived this kind of life and came from a similar background (upper middle class among the Jet Set). Young had not only the technical skills to shoot the picture but a similar taste and lifestyle as the character. I believe both Young and the producers decided that name-dropping Saville Row would be a lot easier for audiences around the world to identify the quality of his suit (even in modest countries, where I live, regular people used to have more knowledge about world tailoring in the sixties than today).

    Consider the film universe. My conclusion is still the same. Bond is only stretching the truth, not because he is an arrogant nouveau riche, but to make it easier for Leiter to understand. Maybe Bond even told him later, behind the scenes, after recognizing Leiter as an ally, that his tailor is actually close to Savile Row. “Actually, it’s Conduit St, to be precise”, would be a adequate Connery-Young-Bond line.

    Now, the character in other movies rather than Young’s is a different beast. I never liked Hamilton’s flamboyant and tasteless directing style. I can picture him in pre-production of Goldfinger dissing off Young’s sartorial choices like the cocktail cuffs as a silly affectation (my view is that, with the sobriety of colors in Bond’s “uniform”, the cuffs are a welcome addition of joviality and functionality, as they look like the formal double cuffs but without fussy cufflinks, dangerous shiny objects for a discreet secret agent). This tongue in cheek approach to the character would have no problems in saying “Anthony Sinclair, Conduit Street” (implicit: “I don’t care if you are familiar with the geography of Mayfair, you bourbon-drinking Yankee thug”).

    Also, as other readers pointed, there is a funny side in Connery’s Bond. His pranks on M, like the “Tokyo experience”, knowing there would be other people listening to the tape recording and making him uncomfortable, even if it’s a lie (as we learn in YOLT), are just jokes for the audience. Again, Guy Hamilton’s films make it tasteless and even reactionary, like the Beatles line in GF, or the absurd comments on sherry, humiliating his boss in front of two aristocratic gentlemen by displaying an almost supernatural knowledge.

    Young makes believable movies, with a subtle touch of absurd. This is why I think “my tailor, Savile Row” is an elegant stretch from the truth. It was tailored in the Savile Row tradition, with the same quality, a few blocks away from the actual street, but without the unnecessary information details that seem out of place for the regular movie audience or characters unfamiliar with off Savile Row tailors. Time is precious on screen, and the character is established as an elegant but low key connoisseur of the good things in life, without humiliating anyone or dropping confusing references on the audience: “Ok, he is a middle class naval officer, a secret agent, a bachelor and a gambler, who also enjoys fine tailoring, martinis ordered in a specific way, beautiful women and, above all, is incredibly cool. I get it. I wanna be like him. And women want him. Let’s enjoy the ride”.

  10. I collect old GQ magazines from the 1950s and 1960s, and in the October 1960 issue there is an article on Savile Row tailors written by John Taylor who was the editor of the British trade journal “Tailor & Cutter”. The first couple of paragraphs discuss the definition of a “Savile Row” tailor:

    First of all, what and where is “Savile Row”? And is “Savile Row” the same as Savile Row?

    The quotation marks suggest the answer to the second question. Savile Row is a short street, possibly a quarter mile in length, run-in parallel with and between Regent Street and Bond Street, and joining Vigo Street to New Burlington Street. It is the “reputation” street of British tailoring, but it currently houses only about a dozen tailors. Indeed there are more woolen merchants in the Row than there are tailors.

    “Savile Row”, on the other hand, is a generic term embracing a standard of cut, tailoring and elegance which has come to be regarded as the best in the world. The tailors who supply this cut are, generally speaking, huddled in the narrow jigsaw of streets that crisscross London’s Mayfair. Known as “the Golden Mile” of tailoring, this area embraces Sackville Street, Vigo Street, Old and New Burlington Streets, Cork Street, Maddox Street, Hanover Street, Conduit Street, Dover Street, Albemarle Street, St. George Street and Savile Row itself. There are other tailors on the South side of Piccadilly and in the joining lanes that thread their way between, but these are not regarded as being strictly in the “Savile Row” area, even if they conform to the “Savile Row” standards of excellence.

    By this reckoning both Anthony Sinclair and Cyril Castle would be counted as “Savile Row” tailors – and, in fact, they are both reviewed in the article. So by Taylor’s definition, Bond is correct in his statement.

    Taylor also mentions that that the prices for a three piece suit from these tailors would generally run from 35 to 50 guineas (36.75 to 52.5 Pounds Sterling) in 1960 currency.

  11. I would guess Leiter is referencing the servives? Bond’s reply of “Savile Row” suggesting MI6 and his “Washington” refers to the CIA.

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