Sprezzatura is an overused and overrated Italian buzzword for men’s style often read on the internet that means “studied carelessness”. The original definition from Baldassare Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier is “a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it”. The aim of sprezzatura when getting dressed is to achieve a nonchalant look by incorporating aspects of intentional carelessness in one’s outfit.
Sprezzatura is something that James Bond occasionally thinks about but never overdoes. Overdoing sprezzatura can look affected, which is the opposite of its purpose to make a man look more natural in how he dresses.
The most genuine way to achieve the look that sprezzatura aims for is to be entirely comfortable in one’s clothes. James Bond almost always appears comfortable, confident and at ease in his clothes without having to purposely add any careless aspects to his outfits, and because of that we don’t think about the effort he put into his outfits. But for many men, especially those who do not dress up frequently, a perfectly presented formal outfit can look awkward. In such cases, subtle sprezzatura can make a more ordinary man look more comfortable in his clothes. At the other extreme, one needs to be comfortable with his clothes to pull off exaggerated displays of sprezzatura.
James Bond is someone who usually looks immaculate with everything perfectly in place, but sometimes he incorporates sprezzatura in his outfits. Bond’s occasionally careless look is more likely studied more by the filmmakers and costumes designers than by the character himself to make the character look at ease in his clothes. Bond isn’t the type of person to fuss over how unfussed his clothes look. However, Bond has ways in which he doesn’t want to look too fastidious with his clothes.
Leaving Something Undone
Leaving a button undone is one of the most popular ways to incorporate sprezzatura into an outfit. Daniel Craig purposely leaves the last button of his jacket cuffs open on his Tom Ford suits in Quantum of Solace, Skyfall and Spectre to not only to display that his jackets have working buttonholes on the cuffs (which is not a signifier of quality) but also to show a little carelessness.
Sean Connery shows sprezzatura when he leaves the second button of his cocktail cuffs open in You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever. Because his cocktail cuffs are cut with an unbroken curve, leaving a button open on these cuffs still looks elegant. Leaving the second button undone also loosens the cuffs so the wrists stay cooler in hot weather. Though Sean Connery does not wear a large watch with his cocktail cuff shirts, unbuttoning the last button of a two-button or three-button cuff can—cocktail cuff or ordinary button cuff—makes more room for a large watch.
In Dr. No, sometimes Bond just fastens the second button on his cocktail cuff, which makes the cuff feel looser on the wrist.
Bond usually wears his suit jackets closed, even with three-piece suits. But sometimes he wears the jackets of his three-piece suits open to both look and feel more at ease. Unlike wearing a two-piece suit open, a three-piece suit still looks fully presentable with the jacket open because the waistcoat is covering the shirt and tie.
Pierce Brosnan shows more sprezzatura with his double-breasted blazer in GoldenEye when he wears it open in Monaco. Convention says that double-breasted jackets must be kept buttoned at all time because their larger front parts look sloppier than those of a single-breasted jacket when worn open, and fussing with the jigger button can be awkward in public. Brosnan’s sloppiness with his blazer in GoldenEye was intentional. The double-breasted blazer’s naval look is fitting on a boat in the port of Monaco, and it makes more of a statement than a single-breasted blazer does. In comparison to the single-breasted blazer, the double-breasted blazer looks stiff when buttoned up. The sprezzatura of wearing it open gives Brosnan a relaxed air and helps him look less like he’s playing dress-up.
Dressing Down An Outfit
A classic method of sprezzatura that James Bond uses is dressing down his outfits with less formal accessories than would be expected or ideal for the situation. This started with Ian Fleming’s Bond as a way to make him appear more careless about dressing up, and hence his Bond always “felt cool and comfortable” in his clothes. Items like moccasins, knitted silk ties and short-sleeve shirts with his city suits are ways that the Bond of the original books used sprezzatura to appear nonchalant in his clothes. His relaxed manner of dress often contrasted with the more fussed look of the villains. Though mixing formalities in this way can look amateur, Fleming’s Bond is entirely aware of the conventions of how to dress but chooses to dress his outfits down.
The film Bond also occasionally dresses his formal city suits down with knitted ties and moccasin shoes, but he does not dress his suits down to the extent of the literary Bond. The film Bond is more famous for dressing down black tie by omitting a waist-covering and shirt studs as well as for wearing a dive watch with suits and black tie. These ways that Bond has broken convention in the past aren’t so notable now, for Bond has helped make them the standard.
Dressing down an outfit with a one or two less formal accessories gives a relaxed look, but too many items that don’t match the formality of the occasion or the main piece of the outfit can look like a poorly coordinated outfit.
One of the most quintessential ways to add sprezzatura to an outfit is to ensure that something is askew or that something that isn’t perfect. For James Bond that is often knotting his ties with an asymmetrical four-in-hand knot. The literary Bond famously “mistrusted anyone who tied his tie with a Windsor knot. It showed too much vanity. It was often the mark of a cad.” An asymmetrical tie knot adds subtly some imperfection to an outfit in a way that doesn’t look sloppy, and it is one of the most quintessential examples of Bondian sprezzatura.
Bond often wears wide spread collars but does not fill them up with a large, wide tie knot, which some people feel is necessary when wearing a wide spread collar. Bond does not think this is necessary and purposely leaves a little awkward space to look nonchalantly dressed.
Though Bond typically likes his pocket squares neatly folded, Pierce Brosnan’s puffed silk pocket squares in GoldenEye show some sprezzatura in comparison. They aren’t the best example of sprezzatura because his pocket squares look perfectly puffed, while someone aiming for true sprezzatura would carefully arrange a pocket square to look like it was haphazardly stuffed inside a breast pocket.
Bond’s Ultimate Act of Sprezzatura
There is a famous story of how Dr. No‘s director Terence Young told Sean Connery to sleep in a suit to help him become more comfortable in a suit. Going through such extremes to look at ease in one’s clothes takes the studied carelessness of sprezzatura to the highest level.
James Bond often dresses with some ideas of sprezzatura, but it does not define how he dresses. He is never dressed in an overly affected way, neither with too much polish nor with too much exaggerated sprezzatura like many of those who visit Pitti Uomo. Mostly, Bond put on what he likes and what comes most naturally to him, and then he forgets all about it.