Never Say Never Again’s Style Versus Connery’s Earlier Bond Style

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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.

27 COMMENTS

  1. I think the other point is that the difference between the outfits in Octopussy (and the other 2 80s Hayward Bonds) and NSNA is the actor – Moore was impeccably dressed, deeply interested in clothes (even if his usual modesty prompted him to downplay it) and had a real personal style that by this time in his career he had down to perfection. He dressed to accentuate his build and complexion. Connery turned up for the fittings and wore what the costume designer gave him – which as you say is all nice, very well tailored stuff… but without any personal investment.

    You can always tell when Moore wasn’t invested in the costumes, which is very rare and usually later in his career – The Enemy, his Alias episode and The Man Who Wouldn’t Die all lack his personal touch.

    I really like the ecru suit and the great sports jacket here but both looks are done much better by the era’s Eon productions (the 2 best sports jackets in the series are in A View To A Kill for my money).

    • Jonathan,

      I couldn’t agree more. Sean Connery looked fantastic in well tailored clothing because of his build and the way he moved/carried himself but Roger Moore’s interest in dressing well in his personal life really shines through in his portrayal of Bond. I agree that by the time of the 3 80’s movies he was in, he had it nailed down. I also like how Roger broke away from the plain grenadine ties and while there were some bolder choices in the 70’s, by the 80’s his choice of ties were both elegant and varied.

  2. The EON films have a special touch of class that NSNA just does not have. However, I find the tailored clothing in the film to be very timeless, flattering to Sean Connery, and very wearable. The blue blazer, tweed jacket, and suits avoid any stylistic excesses and would not look out of place if worn today. Still, the scenes in which they appear are so often uninteresting. For example, the photo you’ve shared of the grey tweed jacket is set against such a bland background. M’s office in the EON films is far more visually arresting than in NSNA, which looks like a boring hotel room. Connery and his tailored clothes look great, the sets and blocking are just so dull.

    • I agree. I think it’s the film overall that lets down the NSNA wardrobe more than anything. The cloths could have a little more interest to them like most of Connery’s suits in the 1960s had, but it’s how they’re set that’s the biggest problem.

      • I agree, the clothes themselves look really good and Connery looks very good in them but they could have been helped by better scenes and shooting. I should have said in my previous comment that it was nice to see some variation in Connery’s ties in NSNA albeit not executed as well as Moore’s choices. As much as I love the plain grenadines and knitted, I do wish Connery’s Bond had at least made use of a few more colours in the original EON movies. I get the point that it is in keeping with the character’s heritage though. Great article as always Matt.

    • I agree with Kyle. The tailored clothing is fine overall and Connery, as usual, looks great in his suits. The two swimming trunks looks good too while the other casual clothes are okay, but nothing special like some of the sets/backgrounds which could have been improved.

  3. Good observations. I agree that the casual looks are where Never Say Never Again‘s style ultimately fails. The best casual moment is perhaps Bond getting away on a bicycle in his boxer shorts and undershirt, as opposed to his black tie and motorbike. The grey clothes matched his grey hair(piece), though I think it was uncalled for to emphasize his senior age too much. He was only 52 at the time of the shooting and in great physical shape, having trained with Stephen Seagal (who actually broke Connery’s wrist). I concur that Never Say Never Again in many aspects lacked the quality of EON Productions, still it’s interesting to reflect on what NSNA brought to the table that EON later picked up, like Bond being presentad as an old dinosaur, and Felix Leiter being played by an African American actor.

    • Goldeneye even borrowed a joke from the Q Branch scene in this movie, where Bond mistakes one of Q’s personal effects for another gadget.

  4. I feel like the slapdash nature of Connery’s tailoring in NSNA, which may have informed the costume design, is due to the chaotic of the film’s production, they ran out of money at one point. There’s definitely a preponderance of grays in how characters are dressed that lends to Matt’s perception of the overwhelming bleh quality of it all.

  5. Connery’s outfits might not be particularly memorable this time around, but that’s probably an advantage when you’re a spy! It’s far more important that the costumes fit the situation and look good on Connery, and they mostly do in this movie.

  6. I could be lynched if i said that i don’t like Doug Hayward’s clothes, not at all ?
    Do not misunderstand me,Hayward was a excellent tailor, but for some reason i never liked not any of his suits and coats for Moore,Connery or every other.
    Well,maybe some suits from “The Italian job” are interesting….but…is strange….i think that technically Hayward was more skillful than Anthony Sinclair or Cyril Castle (but not of Dimi Major), but for some reason i could dress Sinclair or Castle, but not Doug Hayward.
    The thing is that his cut is dull.

  7. The lack of contrast, I think, is key. Of all the images posted in the article Connery looks his best in the dinner suit (of course) and the blue blazer. The contrast gives him a boldness, a sharpness, a bit of life that is missing from the other outfits. It isn’t lost on me either that the blazer shot is also the only one in which the set has high contrast colouring within it, which adds some much needed visual interest to the scene. Every other set is essentially shades of white, beige, and grey. Give Sean a black tie with his grey suit, a navy tie with his exru suit, a white pocket square with his grey hacking jacket, and for goodness sake paint the walls a little darker, and he’d look fantastic!

  8. Could it be that the lack of standout pieces could be what the wardrobe department was going for? Fleming said the name Bond was used because it sounded boring, maybe they were playing it close to the vest in the same fashion and sorry for the pun. Could they be playing down the clothing for that reason, including the cinematography? I’d like to hear thoughts on this….

    • I think they were trying to emulate the EON films more than they were trying to emulate Fleming. Particularly they seemed to be going for the lighthearted feel of the Moore films, which is what audiences expected from a Bond film at the time. The clothes have more similarities to Connery’s past films than they do to what Fleming’s Bond wore. If they were going for Fleming with the clothes, there would have been a navy suit, a black knitted tie, a white shirt or a white dinner jacket in there somewhere. Since this is supposed to be an adaptation of the Thunderball novel rather than a remake of the Thunderball film, it should have taken at least one of Bond’s outfits from the book. Instead they looked to the 1960s films (though not specifically Thunderball). There’s really no excuse for the film looking bland. Fleming’s books aren’t bland.

      • You’re right about the books not being bland for sure. Thunderball is probably the best in my opinion, along with the rest of the Blofeld Trilogy. But there could have been a little extra effort in the wardrobe selections. The navy blazer was a great look but upon reflection I hear what you’re saying about emulating the EON films

    • It may very well be, and I’ve heard people making this argument about all things Bond for a while, but my thought is always… the clothes are what made James Bond James Bond. When people argue that “X is better because it’s more like the books”, for example, my argument is I fell on love with Bond from the movies. A real spy wouldn’t dress up in beautiful suits (especially not now), and he wouldn’t drive novelty gadget laden luxury sports cars, or announce his name to anyone who asks, or defeat super villains with mega-weapons “all in a day’s work!”. So Bond in unremarkable clothing may be realistic, but it’s not “Bond”.

  9. Interesting article, Matt. I like NSNA probably more than most – I think it is a solidly entertaining, mid-range Bond flick, with great performances by Connery and the rest of the cast. But the behind-the-scenses production problems show up throughout the film if one pays attention. It’s hard to believe that Doug Slocombe shot the film. I can only chalk that the flat, high-key lighting scheme to a rushed, underfunded (or misallocated funded) production. The producers acknowledged later they underestimated the challenges of such a big production. And I agree it hurts the clothing as seen on screen. Overall, I like the clothing in concept and the execution seems well-enough.

    • Agree with all of this. IIRC a lot was made at the time of the rivalry between the two productions coming out around the same time. In the end I think it was fairly even in terms of box office (I stand to be corrected here) but I much prefer NSNA – both the story and costuming – to MR and the safari suit!

  10. I actually really like NSNA. It handled the older Bond better than a View to a Kill did. The clothes aren’t memorable, but they fit well on a better looking Connery, who at that time wasn’t in great shape but must have worked out to look good in this film. I will say- the motorcycle chase is one of the best action sequences in the whole series!

  11. Could you, Matt, explain the difference between ecru and cream further. In your two earlier articles about the cream suit in Never say never again it’s described as cream, but now you describe it as an ecru suit.

    • ‘Ecru’ describes the natural colour of linen, which is a pale beige. Cream is yellower than ecru, but the words are frequently used interchangeably. I’m thinking that ‘ecru’ is a more appropriate term for the colour of this suit.

    • I don’t know for sure, but it is possible. My guess is that it’s not Hayward because the shoulders have too much padding, and he usually put buttonhole in both double-breasted lapels.

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