For 60 years, the image of James Bond is still defined by the first outfit he ever wore in the series. This outfit is his dinner suit, also known as a Tuxedo. Few looks are striking at the black-and-white silhouette created by the dinner jacket, and its simplicity means it has stood the test of time. When Sean Connery is introduced as James Bond in the first Bond film Dr. No, announcing his name, ‘Bond, James Bond’, he is wearing the perfect dinner suit. It had to be perfect to establish Bond as ‘the best’, as Scaramanga and M would later say.
The Dinner Suit
In the post-World War II era that James Bond has always existed, the dinner jacket represents the most elegant of menswear. While it’s a rare garment to find in the average man’s closet today, it was never a garment that the average man owned. Its an outfit that has always set James Bond apart, and for 60 years James Bond has been its very definition.
While Bond has looked out of place in his dinner jackets from time to time, mainly in the 1970s, he has managed to look cool in them in 23 out of the series’ 25 films. (He doesn’t wear them in the other two films.) The dinner jacket is part of Bond’s uniform, and it doesn’t appear to be going away for him any time soon. While Bond is far from being the first spy on screen to wear a dinner jacket, it’s what still sets James Bond apart from other spies.
Black tie affairs have been few and far between for the average man throughout most of the time the James Bond series has existed. The way Bond always finds himself at black tie affairs in recent films is somewhat of a fantasy, but Ian Fleming intended the character to have an aspect that goes just slightly beyond our own world. However, black tie affairs still exist, so Bond is just moving in the right circles—or chasing the right villains—to attend them.
Anthony Sinclair of London’s Conduit Street just off Savile Row tailored a very traditional dinner suit for Connery in midnight blue wool and mohair. Sinclair tailored Sean Connery for all six of his EON Productions Bond films. The button-one dinner jacket has a midnight blue silk satin shawl collar shaped with a little belly. It is tailored in an English manner with soft shoulders, roped sleeve heads, a full chest and a gently suppressed waist. It is detailed with silk satin covered buttons including four buttons on the cuffs, self-faced jetted pockets, double vents, and silk satin gauntlet cuffs.
The gauntlet cuffs are a standout feature that were popular at the time with English tailors. While the first shot of James Bond in Dr. No is from the back, the second shot is a close-up of his hands and his gauntlet cuffs. The film’s director Terence Young was responsible for dressing James Bond in such a sophisticated way, and Young most likely wanted to make sure these silk cuffs had pride of place on screen when introducing James Bond.
The dinner suit’s trousers are tailored in the traditional English style double forward pleats, trim tapered legs, an extended waistband and Daks-tops button-tab side adjusters with three buttons on each side. The trousers have the obligatory satin stripe down each leg’s outseam.
The style of the dinner suit is traditional but also somewhat of its time. It follows exactly what the world’s most elegantly dressed men were wearing in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Shawl collars were fashionable, and this shawl collar is slightly narrower than a medium width to follow the trends of the era. But the outfit looks classic without exaggeration in any area. The suit has balanced proportions, and some Savile Row tailors still style their suits exactly the same today.
James Bond would go on to wear six more shawl collar dinner suits throughout the series, with each one recalling the original. Sean Connery wears two more in From Russia with Love and Thunderball, and those give into 1960s fashions with narrower and straighter shawl collars. The difference is subtle, but compared to Dr. No‘s original dinner jacket the shawl collars are not quite as elegant.
Though Sean Connery wears a velvet dinner jacket with a shawl collar in Diamonds Are Forever, it would be 22 years until Timothy Dalton brought back the shawl-collar dinner suit to Bond in The Living Daylights. This dinner jacket originally was made for his film Brenda Starr, but it was just as perfect for James Bond. Despite the wider shawl collar here, Dalton recalls the look that Sean Connery made so iconic in Dr. No.
It would take another 21 years for the shawl-collar dinner suit to return, when Daniel Craig wears one from Tom Ford in Quantum of Solace. This time, the original Dr. No outfit is the complete inspiration, with a mohair and cashmere dinner jacket that has gauntlet cuffs and double vents, a pleated dress shirt, a folded white pocket square and a diamond-point batwing bow tie. This outfit is the closest of any to Connery’s original outfit, and it was the first time that a Bond look so strongly paid direct homage to Connery’s style.
The Skyfall dinner suit takes Bond back to midnight blue, while the No Time to Die dinner suit again put Bond in a shawl-collar dinner jacket with gauntlet cuffs. The spirit of the Dr. No dinner suit is still with Bond.
The Anthony Sinclair brand operated by Mason & Sons still use the Dr. No dinner suit as the primary inspiration for the dinner suits they make today. It is the backbone of the 60-piece collection they’ve released this year in commemoration of Dr. No‘s 60th anniversary.
It’s not only the dinner suit that has had a strong legacy in the Bond films but also the accessories that Connery wears with it. The voile dress shirt in Dr. No is most likely from Turnbull & Asser. Terence Young said in Hollywood U.K. in 1993 that the shirt was from Lanvin, but a Turnbull & Asser receipt for a voile evening shirt and the similarities that this shirt has with Turnbull & Asser’s signature styling mean that Young most likely was mistaken about this particular shirt.
Dr. No started a longstanding relationship between James Bond and Turnbull & Asser. They would go on to provide Sean Connery’s shirts and ties for four more of his EON Productions Bond films as well as for his return to the role in Never Say Never Again. They also made shirts and ties for Pierce Brosnan’s last three Bond films and a dress shirt and bow tie for Daniel Craig in Casino Royale. They still have an official relationship with the Bond series and are currently producing an official 007 collection.
The Dr. No dress shirt is a fairly standard shirt for Jermyn Street shirtmakers. It’s made of lightweight white cotton voile, which is translucent. A pleated bib front, with seven pleats on each side approximately 1/2-inch wide each, makes the front of the shirt opaque. The shirt’s front placket has ordinary mother of pearl buttons and is stitched 3/8-inch from the edge in the traditional Jermyn Street fashion.
The shirt has a wide spread collar and double cuffs. The cuffs place the holes for the gold cufflinks close to the fold to better show off the cufflinks than holes centred on the cuff do.
Many of James Bond’s dress shirts throughout the series are similar to the Dr. No shirt, but the one that comes closest is the Frank Foster dress shirt that Roger Moore wears at Château de Chantilly in A View to a Kill. The shirts are similar because the style is a classically British one going back to the 1930s, not because Moore’s shirt is copying Dr. No. However, the classic shirt style that Connery wears in Dr. No set James Bond on the right path for all future black tie outfits.
The slim diamond-point black silk batwing bow tie in Dr. No is one of the most unusual parts of this outfit. Slim batwing bow ties were very trendy at this time, but the diamond-point shape makes it stand out from the ordinary straight bow tie. It’s a small touch that demonstrated James Bond’s sophistication in his first appearance.
Daniel Craig resurrected the diamond-point bow tie for James Bond in Quantum of Solace and Spectre. In Quantum of Solace, the Tom Ford bow tie is a similar batwing shape with straight ends, but it has a beefier width to better pair with the wider shawl collar. In Spectre, the pointed bow tie from Drake’s has a contoured butterfly shape.
In a shocking departure from the traditionalism of the rest of this outfit, James Bond does not wear a waistcoat or cummerbund with his dinner suit in Dr. No. The waist-covering for black tie has slowly fallen out of favour in Britain since World War II, and James Bond was established in Dr. No as a modern man who does not wear them.
James Bond has only worn two waistcoats and five cummerbunds with his dinner jackets in the entire series. Pierce Brosnan wears two waistcoats, and three of the cummerbunds are in the recent Daniel Craig era. Most of the time, however, Bond follows the character’s tradition of eschewing the classic waist-covering.
Bond’s black tie outwear shows up infrequently, but he briefly bundles up in an overcoat and hat over his dinner suit in Dr. No. He wears a classic navy melton Chesterfield with a fly front and a navy velvet collar. This is one of the most formal coats a man can wear, making it the perfect overcoat for his dinner suit. N.Peal have just released their own version of this coat as part of their 60th Anniversary collection, but it lacks the formal full length and fly front of Connery’s original. Mason & Sons have also included the coat in their 60-Piece collection.
Bond wears a black Homburg hat to complete his outerwear. The homburg proves to be a little too formal and old-fashioned for Bond, and he never wears one again in the series. It’s the only part of Bond’s first outfit that does not hold up perfectly 60 years on. He only again wears a hat with a dinner jacket in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and that time it’s a black trilby.
People are still interested in James Bond’s clothing because of what the Dr. No dinner suit started in 1962. This dinner suit portrayed James Bond as a model for how men should and could dress at their best, and 60 years later it is still amongst the greatest outfits James Bond has ever worn on screen. Because of this dinner suit, people will always look to James Bond as the ultimate model for black tie.