Suitings for the Setting

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suitings-for-the-setting

There are two ways to choose the colour suits we wear. One way is to wear what best flatters our complexion. The other way is to dress according to our surroundings, which considers the physical location, its climate and the season. This is the most traditional way men pick the colours they wear, particularly their suits. Just as there are four general types of complexions, the same four types each correspond to a location and a season.

Winter and the City

Skyfall-Rope-Stripe-Suit-1

Suits for the city reflect the cold-looking grey stone and metal and the blue asphalt of the city, hence grey and blue are the suit colours worn there. Because it is where business is conducted, the city is a formal place, and blue and grey suits may have become the most formal colours for suits due to their association with the city. And since the city is a formal place, the blues and greys of the city are dark, serious shades like navy and charcoal. City greys can be in lighter shades than city blues since medium grey retains an austere look whilst medium blue looks more festive. Black is traditionally reserved for more formal clothes than lounge suits, and because of this it will not be discussed along with blue and grey suits. City suits are typically in smooth, dressy cloths such as serge, herringbone and plain-weave worsteds as well as in woolen and worsted flannels. For more luxurious city suits, mohair, cashmere and silk may be blended in with the wool. City suitings are, for the most part, the only suitings that appropriate with pinstripes and chalk stripes.

Suit-Colours-City

These dark, cool colours of city suits belong to the winter season, which feels as dark and cold as the stone and metal of the city. The colours of the city fit in well anywhere that is dark and cold. These colours can be worn quite appropriately outside of the city in the winter, and grey tweed is an example of this for winter in the country.

Timothy Dalton wears a navy suit with grey chalk stripes in The Living Daylights
Timothy Dalton wears a navy suit with grey chalk stripes in The Living Daylights

Dark, cool city colours best flatter people with a “winter” complexion, which is a cool complexion with a high contrast between the skin tone and hair. James Bond classically has this sort of complexion, and it is exemplified by Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan. Bond usually wears classic city suits when at the office and around London. Sean Connery’s navy worsted suit in From Russia with Love, George Lazenby’s navy herringbone suit and flannel chalkstripe suit in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Roger Moore’s charcoal rope stripe worsted suit in Octopussy and Daniel Craig’s grey herringbone track stripe worsted, silk and mohair suit in Spectre are all solid examples of suits to wear in the city.

Autumn and the Country

On-Her-Majesty's-Secret-Service-Tic-Pattern-Suit

The colours of country suits are earth tones from nature, and the trees tell us what colours to wear when surrounded by nature. Tree trunks are brown, and brown is at the core of country suits. We generally think of leaves as green, hence another country colour. In autumn, leaves turn red, orange and gold, and these in turn are also country colours. The most traditional country suits are in shades of brown, olive and rust, which reflect the colours of the country but aren’t as bold as the colours of autumnal foliage. Country suits have more texture than city suits to reflect the textures found in nature, and they also need to be in harder wearing cloths to withstand country pursuits such as riding and shooting. Because the British countryside is a cool place, country suits are traditionally heavier suits. Often they are made in hearty tweed, cavalry twill, covert twill and whipcord wools. Cotton corduroy in a great choice for more casual suits in the country.

Suit-Colours-Country

Though autumn is a cool season, autumn and country colours are warm and best flatter people with a warm complexion, particularly one with a high contrast. Auric Goldfinger has the classic complexion that looks best in country colours.

Moonraker Donegal Tweed

George Lazenby’s brown tic-pattern tweed suit in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Roger Moore’s brown donegal tweed suit in Moonraker are classic country suits. Pierce Brosnan exchanges browns for something cooler and wears a charcoal windowpane tweed suit in the Scottish countryside in The World Is Not Enough. Charcoal is more flattering to his cool skin tone than earth tones are, and because it is wintertime, Brosnan’s wintry charcoal is appropriate in a country tweed. James Bond wears very few country suits throughout the series, partly because the classic Bond’s cool complexion doesn’t look good in country colours and partly because heavy country suits tend to look old-fashioned.

Summer and the Tropics and Desert

Thunderball-Grey-Suit

Though the tropics are wet whilst the desert is dry, both are hot places where light-coloured suits are worn so they reflect the heat of the sun rather than absorb it. The suits worn in the tropics and desert are in light, neutral colours such as light grey, tan, beige and cream. Lighter muted blues such as air force blue are also excellent in the tropics, though they may look too colourful in the desert.

Suit-Colours-Tropics-Desert

Suits for the tropics and desert foremost need to breathe. Warm-weather wool should be high-twist in an open plain weave, such as tropical wool or, ideally, fresco. Twills should generally be avoided, though gabardine has the right look in the tropics for those who can bear the heat. Mohair and linen are the fibres that are best-known for their cool-wearing properties. The former is perfect for dressier suits whilst the latter is better for the most informal of suits because it wrinkles the moment it is donned. Cotton poplin is also popular for warm-weather suits, but its only advantage is that it is inexpensive. Though it feels light, it doesn’t breathe as well as open-weave wool, mohair or linen, and at the end of the day it only looks marginally less wrinkled than linen looks. It also wears out more quickly than other warm-weather suitings and isn’t worth being made as a bespoke suit.

Goldeneye-Tan-Suit

The colours of summer suits best flatter someone with a light, low-contrast and muted complexion. Grey is best for people with a cool complexion like Sean Connery, whilst tan, beige and cream are best for people with a warm complexion like Roger Moore. Sean Connery wears a light semi-solid grey mohair suit in the tropical Bahamas in Thunderball, and he wears a light grey tropical wool suit in the Las Vegas desert in Diamonds Are Forever. Also in Diamonds Are Forever, Connery wears a classic summer cream linen suit in Las Vegas. Roger Moore continues with a light grey tropical wool suit in Live and Let Die when visiting the tropical island of San Monique, but he switches to a more flattering (colour-wise) cream polyester suit in Moonraker that looks appropriate in sunny Rio de Janeiro but surely must wear warm. Pierce Brosnan darkens Bond’s tropical suit with tan linen suits in GoldenEye and Die Another Day. Daniel Craig brings back the light grey suit in linen in Casino Royale when arriving in the Bahamas.

Spring and the Mediterranean

A View to a Kill Tan Suit

The Mediterranean is a colourful region with beautiful weather, and the suits to wear in the Mediterranean and regions with a moderate mediterranean climate reflect this. Blue suits in medium shades like marine blue and air force blue recall the sea and the sky. Brown, tan and cream suits recall the sand of the Mediterranean beaches. These warm colours fit the sunny yet moderate weather of the region.

Suit-Colours-Mediterranean

The rich, warm and bright colours of mediterranean suits follow the essence of spring and best flatter people with a low-contrast warm complexion. For those with cooler complexions, medium grey—particularly in checks—fits in with the moderate weather. Mediterranean and spring suits are typically in medium weight worsteds, from lighter serge to gabardine to fresco. Cloths with a sheen, such a mohair and silk, are also excellent for mediterranean areas since they take full advantage of the sunny weather.

Fine Glen Check Suit

Sean Connery wore many medium-grey-toned glen checks throughout his Bond films, including two in the mediterranean Istanbul in From Russia with Love. He also wears a grey pick-and-pick suit in Istanbul in From Russia with Love, which Daniel Craig wears in a lighter tone when Bond returns to Istanbul in Skyfall. Roger Moore wears classic warm-toned mediterranean suits, not only because he spends a lot of time in the Mediterranean in his Bond films but also because these mediterranean colours best flatter his warm complexion. His suits include a marine blue mohair suit in Beirut in The Man with the Golden Gun, a light brown dupioni silk suit in Sardinia in The Spy Who Loved Me, a grey dupioni silk suit in Venice in Moonraker and a light brown gabardine suit in Corfu in For Your Eyes Only. In A View to a Kill, Moore wears a tan gabardine suit in San Francisco, where there is a mediterranean climate. In Spectre, Daniel Craig wears a medium blue Prince of Wales suit in Spectre in Mexico City that reflects the region’s moderate weather.

Spectre-Blue-Prince-of-Wales-Suit

These are all only guidelines as to the best cloths to wear in different locations during the different seasons. All four of the categories presented have some overlap with every other category. The best-dressed man looks both in to himself and out at his surroundings when choosing his clothes. The ideal colours for us to wear need to be a compromise between what flatters our own complexions whilst fitting out with our surroundings. For example, someone with a light complexion should avoid the dark colours that dominate the city suits in favour of medium shades of blue and grey. Someone with a cool complexion should wear greys instead of tans in mediterranean regions and mute the browns of the country with taupe and grey.

Since dark city colours are the most formal, they can be made up in non-city suiting for formal occasions in other types of locations and climates. Daniel Craig’s dark and breathable midnight blue mohair tonic suit in Quantum of Solace is an example of this. Country colours can be made up into more formal city worsteds for suburban business. An example of this is the dark brown mohair suit that Sean Connery wears to the office in London in Thunderball. Because it is brown, this suit should have ideally been worn further from Whitehall. But this particular brown is very dark and mixed with black for a serious look that doesn’t stand out amongst the standard navy and charcoal. This would be a flattering choice in the city for someone with a warm complexion who doesn’t look good in the usual city colours. There are many ways to bend the guidelines presented here, and with a bit of thought one can always be well-dressed to suit both his surroundings and himself.

Quantum-Midnight-Suit

61 COMMENTS

  1. Excellent, informative article! One small caveat: you said Bond doesn’t wear a lot tweed suits because “heavy country suits tend to look old-fashioned.” Come to think of it, though, Bond is an old-fashioned character, both in his values (except for his womanizing), and in his appearance. Most of us have seen the interview in which George Lazenby explains that he quit the role after one movie because Bond was already passe’ in 1969 – “this guy with short hair and a suit in the year of Easy Rider” – I guess the joke ended up being on him! Bond is almost anachronistic in his patriotism and in his stubborn insistence that right is right, wrong is wrong, and evil should be punished. I would love to see the next Bond (who hopefully will be tall, dark, and classically handsome) in some country suits!

  2. Dan

    I think it is fully possible for someone to wear something that may be deemed very old fashioned and, if worn with enough confidence, for it to be considered retro rather than passé. Look at Matt Smith wearing brown tweed with elbow patches and a bow tie as The Doctor in 2010, suddenly bow ties were cool again.

    That’s the vibe I always got from Lazenby’s kilt – part of me is thinking “Why is Sir Hilary Bray wearing a kilt when it’s Bond that’s Scottish?”, “Isn’t this scene set in Switzerland? He must be freezing!” and “That seems a rather frilly and un-masculine outfit for an Alpha Male to be wearing,” but it’s worn with such confidence and the girl’s don’t seem a bit put off by it, that the rest of me is thinking “Wow. Who knew? Kilts are clearly cool.”
    I think Bond could probably wear brown tweed. It’s Daniel Craig. He could get away with it. He’s been wearing suits that are too small for him for years and that doesn’t seem to bother anyone (outside of this forum ), he’s still considered a well dressed man by the media. As I’m sure you are by your students!

    • So, Dan, may I ask the origin of that jacket? Is this off the peg with adjustments or bespoke? What’s the brand? It works well with that shirt, shades of randy ol’ Hilly

    • Dan Gale, believe it or not, I found the brown jacket in my picture on ebay for a pittance and didn’t even need to have it altered! Up close it is a rusty-brown Donegal with some colored flecks. The shirt is a cream viyella with a rusty-red overcheck.
      Cordially,

    • Ha. That’s good news. It’s like it was meant for you. It’s great when that happens, isn’t it? I found a grey prince of Wales checked suit with subtle blue window paning with trousers that fits incredibly well in a charity shop for £15. It was bespoke from a tailor in Hong Kong (their address and the client’s name were sewn in to the label). It’s Super 120 Merino Australian wool and immaculate. It couldn’t have fitted better if I was measured for it myself. I emailed the tailor and they said it would be 2400HK$ new! For a suit made for someone else with their moniker sewn it, ironically, that day, it had my name on it.

      http://s32.postimg.org/4aplpgixx/image.jpg

  3. Although I’m not color-blind, I am color-challenged, so to speak. This is probably obvious to a lot of people, but not to me: what are the differences among these three ways of looking at colors: 1)lightness/darkness, 2)brightness/dullness, and 3)warmth/coolness? Thanks.

    • 1) Lightness is closer to white while darkness is close to black. 2) Brightness/saturation is a more vivid colour while dullness is a more greyed colour (like marine blue compared to air force blue). 3) Warm colours are closer to yellow whilst cool colours closer to blue. In general, browns are warm and blues are cool, but there are warmer and cooler variants of each. Warm brown has strong orange or red tones whilst cool brown is closer to grey (like taupe). Air force blue, which has a cyan tint, is warmer than marine blue, which has an indigo tint. There are, however, different schools of thought on colour warmness/coolness. Green is generally said to be a cool colour, but the greens of country suits tend to be warmer greens closer to olive than to the cooler pine.

  4. Matt, thanks for a great and useful post. I am beginning to think your blog has more smart advices than any other website, blog or even book dedicated to ‘menswear’ ! Keep up the great work.

    Cheers

    PS : I would like to see Dan’s jacket too myself, but I have some issue. Indeed everytime I copy the web address into my browser, I end up starting a Google search with it. A little help please, anyone ?

    • I agree with Le Chiffre, this blog is, despite it’s name, about so much more than the suits of James Bond. It covers, to some extent, everything related to men’s traditional style and clothing and not only does a wonderful job on educating us about materials, colours and matching but also gives a lot of historical backgrounds on the various classic male wardrobe staples. And its all done extremely eloquently and in a visually entertaining way!

  5. Great article. I liked the color swatches.

    Might be worthwhile doing an article or info graphic of color swatches… many people may not know the difference between, say, navy blue and marine blue and Air Force blue. It would make a good color reference resource.

  6. Typically thoughtful and interesting post.

    I agree with Le Chiffre. Close reading of this blog affords a much greater insight into style, proportion and symmetry than a hundred so-called style manuals or a thousand weekend sections. Keep it up, Matt.

    NB Istanbul is not Mediterranean.

  7. Great article, a lot of great information. Dressing for setting and climate is very important. Too often do you see men in winter wearing a light grey suit to work or even wearing a cotton sports coat in winter. Where I come from in Geelong you see people wearing summer casual wear in the middle of winter, people have lost the art of dressing for season, climate and setting in business wear and casual wear.

  8. Number one, this is a great article, and I believe that you are the first person to have written this. However, I can’t help but to notice how different I look when wearing a dark suit vs when I wear a light suit. When I wear most “city” suits like dark navy, dark charcoal(similar to one Bond wore in Quantum of Solace), midnight blue, dark grey, medium gray, and even dark brown and black, I look a lot more commanding, muscular and slimmer. However, when I wear a lot of the light colored suits like beige, cream, ivory, and white, I look and feel bigger and wider in a bad way. In the summer, most of the city suits are so hot that I know I want to wear them, but I can’t because I would produce the amount of sweat equivalent to playing in an NFL game. The lightest suit I would wear is tan, because I like the color the best, and it actually looks pretty good on me? However, I can’t wear a tan suit only for two months in a row! What do you recommend I do? Also, do you think that wearing a different kind of shoe would be o.k with summer suits? I am thinking like the nike or adidas more formal ones. Now I know you have said that Nike sport shoes are inappropriate to wear with suits, but wearing dress shoes in the summer can also not have the best feel as well. What kind of shoes other than dress shoes would you wear with casual, tropical suits? Also, couldn’t Bond wear nike shoes when wearing causual clothes, like nothing close to a suit? I would think that this would be ok, because Bond has done a lot of intense action scenes in casual wear, and the shoes that he does wear are hard to do a lot of intense stunts and moves in.

    Here are the shoes I am thinking about:
    nike:
    http://store.nike.com/us/en_us/product/sb-zoom-stefan-janoski-id/?piid=42065&pbid=418963274#?pbid=418963274

    adidas:
    http://www.adidas.com/us/adiease-premiere-shoes/F37319.html

    • With summer suits you can wear casual shoes like tan loafers. Trainers are only for the most casual wear, like a t-shirt and jeans. These clothes are not particularly stylish and not something Bond would wear. Bond usually wears casual shoes like loafers and chukka boots and not athletic shoes.

  9. I will be traveling to London this summer and plan to take a navy and a dark grey suit and one other. Would a medium/light brown suit not fit the area as you suggested? This is my favorite suit in my collection and was cut perfectly for my build.

  10. Should a suit match the tone of a car as well? Bond usually always drives and Aston Martin with dark interior, so should suits match the overall image that a car gives? For example, if I drive a Mercedes S65 AMG sedan that has a black exterior and a black interior, I feel that I should usually wear dark suits when driving that car because they blend in and work with the tone of the car better. I have never seen Bond drive an Aston Martin in a light-colored suit. In the Ford Mustang in Diamonds are Forever, which was red/orange, he wore a light gray suit, and in the Lotus Espirit in The Spy Who Loved me, he wears the navy blazer on top of the khakis, but the Lotus was white exterior with black interior, so that was a good way of combining casual and formal. In the BMW Z8s in Goldeneye and The World Is Not enough, which were gray in color, he wore tan and light gray, respectively. In the BMW 750i in Tomorrow Never dies, he wears the charcoal flannel suit, which was a bit more formal, but the car was bigger. So my main question is, should the suit you wear kind of match with the overall image of the car you drive?

    • Bond wears a light-coloured suit in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in his Aston Martin. Cars can match the location just as suits do. The same goes for the way a home is decorated. But there’s no need to match your clothes with your car.

  11. Excellently written post, Matt. Thoroughly enjoyed your insights into style based on your surroundings – I completely agree with most things you said, although have to disagree with heavy country suiting looking old-fashioned. On the right person, with the right styling, I think it can look very contemporary.

    Very glad to have stumbled upon your blog – it’s great reading for Bond and menswear fans alike!

  12. Do ‘city’ colours apply to smaller towns as well? I’m hardly a city dweller, but neither am I surrounded by trees, beaches, or Mediterranean waters (sadly) . . .

    • City colours are the most formal colours, and if you’re dressing up for an interview or for a wedding, you can wear these colors any time and anywhere. For small towns overall, a combination of city and country can work very well, whether it’s city colours in country fabrics or vice-versa.

  13. Istanbul is not Mediterranean in climate, vegetation and culture. The city is partially included in the Mediterranean Basin because it also borders the Black Sea (which is always excluded), or altogether excluded from the Mediterranean Basin, because the Sea of Marmara is also sometimes excluded.

    • Istanbul is categorised under the Köppen Climate Classification as either a Mediterranean climate or a transitional climate between Mediterranean and Oceanic. For the purposes of wearing a suit, lumping it in with the Meditarranean is by all means close enough.

      • Actually according to the Köppen climate classification, Istanbul has a borderline humid subtropical climate (Cfa), oceanic climate (Cfb) and Mediterranean climate (Csa), due to its location in a transitional climatic zone. To do justice to London which is much maligned for its weather, Istanbul is wetter and has more days with precipitation than London even in its driest parts. Outside the three summer months, the climate eerily resembles the British Isles most of the time, and suffers a lake-effect snowfall almost every winter. Istanbul gets away with it because it has a real summer. 🙂

  14. Hi Matt.
    Quite a well written site . Congratulations
    Although I have not read much of the contents here .
    Can you please inform of the Shirt Colours used by bond in particular the current bond Daniel Craig .
    Thanks in advance and happy holidays .
    Regards
    Mike

  15. Thanks Matt.
    I think I read somewhere that all Bond actors use 3 colours for shirts White . Blue . Grey
    You think it’s correct ?
    Happy Holidays

    • All Bonds wear white and blue shirts, and most Bonds also wear cream shirts. Grey shirts (along with pink) show up very, very occasionally in the series. A lot of things you will read about James Bond’s clothes are what people think Bond’s clothes are or how they think people should dress, and these people didn’t do any research.

      Happy holidays to you too.

  16. Matt, would a light grey suit also be appropriate and acceptable in spring or autumn (besides summer of course!)

    • A light grey flannel suit can be excellent in cooler months, as are light grey tweed and cashmere jackets. Light grey worsted suits are fine for the warmer days of spring and autumn, but I would avoid such a suit when the weather is cold.

  17. The bond girl in my life wants to have lunch or dinner at the eiffel tower in paris, (providing we can get the reservation). I’m dying to use the AVTAK eiffel dinner scene for the foundation of what to wear. If I score the lunch reservation should I wear an ivory dinner jacket? If it’s after six should I wear a shawl collar or a double breasted? What if it’s still daylight but after six?

    P.s. unfortunately, the dress code has been reduced to smart casual, “But does it look like I give a damn.”

  18. Which season/s would you say the iconic Goldfinger Light grey glen-check suit would fit in. I personally think summer and spring work well, I’d like to know your thoughts about it.

  19. Sorry, Matt, another question! You pick out examples of spring (Moore/Craig), autumn (Goldfinger), and winter (the other Bonds) complexions from the series; can you think of someone who would be a good example of ‘summer’?

  20. What would you recommend for a summer evening affair in the English countryside? The venue’s a barn, so black tie seems a bit out of place, but it’s otherwise essentialy a cocktail evening. Stumped!

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