When Sean Connery returned to the role of James Bond in Never Say Never Again in 1983, many things were different than they were in the 1960s or when he had last played James Bond in Diamonds Are Forever in 1971. What accounts for some differences is that Never Say Never Again (an adaptation of Ian Fleming’s Thunderball novel) was a rival production to the EON Productions series that made Connery’s earlier Bond films, which released Octopussy the same year.
Despite Connery back as James Bond, Never Say Never Again often does not feel like he’s fully back as Bond, not least because the script isn’t as tight, the music is different, the MI6 crew are different, and the gunbarrel sequence is missing. A rival production to EON Productions couldn’t have included everything that made Connery’s earlier Bond films special either out of copyright or out of crew loyalty. Connery came back to James Bond not only in a different era than when he had last played Bond, but without being part of EON’s Bond series he was truly in a completely different world.
Fashion-wise, trends in the early 1980s had returned to the classic styles of earlier eras, and it was a time when Connery’s 1960s style looked cool again after being the antithesis of cool in the 1970s. The excess and slouchiness that would come to define 1980s menswear had not yet taken a strong hold, and classic styles resembling what Connery wore as Bond in the 1960s were in vogue at the time so not much needed to change.
In many ways, Connery’s style in Never Say Never Again was closely related to his 1960s style. He wore English-tailored bespoke suits, though his former tailor Anthony Sinclair was replaced by the legendary Doug Hayward, who also made Roger Moore’s suits at the time. That was a connection Connery’s style in this film had with the EON Bond series, even if it wasn’t a carryover from Connery’s time as Bond. The shirtmaker for most of Connery’s previous Bond films, Turnbull & Asser, returned for Never Say Never Again.
Many stylistic elements from Connery’s previous Bond films, like the black notched-lapel dinner suit, the grey herringbone suit, the light-grey tropical suit, the ecru suit, the blue blazer, the tweed jacket, the cocktail cuff shirts, the solid black tie, the grenadine tie, white swim trunks and wet suits. Though these staples returned, they are not as memorable this time around. And despite the clothes being exceptionally tailored, they ended up looking rather ordinary. Hayward’s style was neither flashy nor overly stylised, and instead the focus was always meant to be on the person wearing the clothes rather than on the clothes themselves. While flashy cloths could make these suits stand out, the cloths chosen for Connery in this film part do not stand out either with the exception of the ecru suit.
However, the lack of memorable outfits cannot be attributed solely to the clothes. The cinematography lets the clothes down. A lack of memorable, iconic moments compared to films like Goldfinger and Thunderball also makes the clothes less memorable.
The ecru suit is the standout outfit in the film for most people. It’s Connery’s most striking look of the film and outdoes the similar suit in Diamonds Are Forever. The suit fits much better, and the blue shirt and grey tie look better on Connery than the cream shirt and pink tie on the previous occasion. The outfit is lively, but it also helps that the scenes when Connery wears the suit are fun and memorable.
The black dinner suit also stands out because of the memorable video game, tango and bike chase scenes, even though it isn’t a particularly exciting dinner suit.
The return of cocktail cuff shirts from Turnbull & Asser is a welcome one, and this time the cuffs fasten around the wrist with one button but button down like a button-down collar. Frank Foster made such cuffs for Roger Moore in The Saint and The Persuaders, but this is the only time the unusual button-down cuff style features on James Bond. While the three scenes that show off Connery in his cocktail-cuff shirt sleeves make him look like he’s dressed for a business-casual office, they show off the beautiful shirts very nicely as well. The film does not waste Turnbull & Asser’s return.
The grey herringbone tweed jacket is a classic English hacking jacket and particularly well done, yet it doesn’t stand out much in the film because it is underused. It’s also the most unique tailored item to Never Say Never Again because it’s unlike anything he wears in his earlier Bond films, yet a grey herringbone tweed jacket is also one of the most classic sports coats in the English and American tailored traditions.
Overall, Hayward tailored more interesting clothes for Roger Moore’s Bond films than he did for Never Say Never Again. Hayward only made the clothes for Moore’s three 1980s Bond films (For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy and A View to a Kill), but the clothes he made for those film vary more in their styles and in their cloths.
For example, the suit that Roger Moore wears to M’s office in Octopussy is a more interesting suit than the one he made for Connery’s office scene in Never Say Never Again. Both actors wear dark grey suits, but Moore’s suit has a rope stripe while Connery’s has a herringbone weave, which looks a little dull by comparison. Moore’s suit jacket is a traditional button-three while Connery’s is a modern button-two, both of which are good choices.
The most notable difference between the two is that Moore wears a three-piece suit while Connery wears a two-piece suit. The waistcoat gives Moore a more powerful and confident look, which may have been inappropriate for Connery’s Bond getting scolded by M in his scene. Dressing up for a dressing down by his superior simply wouldn’t be the right choice of costume! Moore’s scenes are better shot than Connery’s, while also help Moore’s suit look better.
Many of the clothes make Connery look older. Bond is supposed to be aged in this film but he’s not supposed to have completely lost his edge, though some of the clothes make it look so. A blue suit would have helped Connery instead of all the greys, which particularly age him in this film.
The sweats that Connery wears at Shrublands are particularly unflattering as they downplay his physique and age him considerably. Blue sweats would have been a better choice than the greys and browns, as would have better fits.
The dungarees that Bond borrows from Valerie Leon’s character are akin to some of the disguises that Roger Moore wears in Octopussy. The choice makes sense in the context of the story, but it was done purposefully to put Connery in this outfit. There’s no reason why the scene couldn’t have been written a little differently to give him something better to wear.
Never Say Never Again‘s wardrobe may not approach the caliber Connery’s first four James Bond films, but how does it rate again the wardrobes in You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever? Because it has a decent collection of tailored clothes it is at least on par with You Only Live Twice. You Only Live Twice features two suits, where the blue suit is the clear stand out, as well the iconic naval uniform and an attractive pink linen shirt. Otherwise You Only Live Twice has rather uninspired choices—particularly in the casual and Japanese looks—even compared to Never Say Never Again.
Diamonds Are Forever, which is almost entirely made up of tailored outfits, has a much more interesting selection of suits, but it is let down by excessive 1970s proportions in the jackets’ wide lapels and wide pocket flaps. It also suffers from a few poorly fitted suits, thanks to Connery’s fluctuating weight. Connery looks considerably better in his suits in Never Say Never Again, due to the timeless styling, good fit and Connery’s improved physique. However, Diamonds Are Forever had a better effort in terms of its creative selection and benefits from having only one casual look that mostly looks good today. The casual looks are ultimately where Never Say Never Again‘s style fails.