The 60-Year Legacy of the Dr. No Dinner Suit

22

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.

The midnight blue dinner suit in Thunderball is an evolution of the Dr. No dinner suit.

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.

Timothy Dalton wearing a black shawl-collar dinner suit in The Living Daylights

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.

The black Quantum of Solace dinner suit

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

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 No Time to Die dinner suit still pays homage to Dr. No

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.

The Shirt

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.

Christopher Walken and Roger Moore both wearing cotton voile dress shirts from Frank Foster. Photo sourced from Thunderballs.org

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 Accessories

Dr. No Dinner Suit

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.

Daniel Craig wearing a pointier diamond-point bow tie from Drake’s in Spectre

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.

Outerwear

Dr. No Chesterfield and Homburg
James Bond wearing a navy chesterfield in Dr. No

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.

The Legacy

Dr. No Dinner Suit

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.

22 COMMENTS

  1. Two posts in as many days, aren’t we lucky! Happy 60th to the Bond film franchise, what an incredible, iconic character he is.
    And hear, hear! This suit never excited me once upon a time, but in recent years I see how perfect it really is, and has never been matched again in the franchise. The cut, the fit, the colour, the model wearing it: all perfect!

  2. Happy 60th to the 007 franchise and to that iconic dinner suit that served the best on screen introduction of a character of all time!! Sir Sean Connery wore it so well.

  3. If you are a Bond aficionado of almost any age, you owe it to yourself as gentleman to own one! Regardless of whether you are called upon to wear black tie or not in your life it is inspiring and bestows upon oneself a sartorial summum! Fail not gentlemen!

  4. Is it proper to wear a navy overcoat with a black tuxedo?
    Or is it black overcoat with black tux and Navy overcoat with navy/midnight tux?

    • I don’t think a navy overcoat goes well with a black dinner suit. Connery is wear a navy coat over a midnight blue dinner suit, which works well. A dark grey overcoat would pair well with either a black or midnight blue dinner suit.

  5. Sean Connery is James Bond! The Dr. No tuxedo is simply wonderful and timeless. Mr. Archambault is correct in his recommendation of the importance of owning one. Thank you Matt for another fantastic and useful article.

  6. Interesting review so thanks for that – it “suited” our thoughts on what Bond should wear but how long can Bond last? As us espionage illuminati know too well, Ian Fleming isn’t around to write another “Trout Memo” or choose the next 007! He has not only eulogised and promoted the “espionage industry” but he has also spread so much disinformation about that industry that even MI6 would have been proud of the dissemination of so much fake news. Maybe the Bond legacy is finally coming to an end notwithstanding the recent publication of Anthony Horowitz’s With a Mind to Kill, particularly after Daniel Craig’s au revoir in No Time To Die.

    We think the anti-Bond era is now being firmly established in literature and on the screen. Raw noir anti-Bond espionage masterpieces are on the ascent. Len Deighton’s classic The Ipcress File has been rejuvenated by John Hodge with Joe Cole aspiring to take on Michael Caine and of course there are plenty of Slow Horses ridden by Bad Actors too.

    Then there’s Edward Burlington in The Burlington Files series by Bill Fairclough, a real spy (MI6 codename JJ) who disavowed Ian Fleming for his epic disservice to the espionage fraternity. After all, Fleming single-handedly transformed MI6 into a mythical quasi-religious cult that spawned a knight in shining armour numbered 007 who could regularly save the planet from spinning out of orbit.

    Last but not least, the final nail in wee Jimmy Bond’s coffin has been hammered in by Jackson Lamb. Mick Herron’s anti-Bond sentiments combine lethally with the sardonic humour of the Slough House series to unreservedly mock not just Bond but also British Intelligence which has lived too long off the overly ripe fruits Fleming left to rot! Time for a fresh start based on a real spy so best read Beyond Enkription in The Burlington Files series by ex-spook Bill Fairclough.

    See https://everipedia.org/wiki/lang_en/bill-fairclough + https://theburlingtonfiles.org.

    • Well, that certainly was a rant, and while it’s true, it’s only repeating. A lot of us are aware they’ve already destroyed Bond when they tried to make him a poorly dressed Jason Bourne wannabe. Can Bond last? Depends on how much we desire and whether if we’ll do something about it.

      There’s a reason why, I tend to think, this site exist, Mr. Hart. If more of us learn to appreciate the simple way the old Bond dressed, and how sophisticated, thoughtful, and intelligent he is, we will come to resent and resist the stupidity they’re trying to impart upon Bond, and hence, us.

      It boils down to a simple mentality, thus – the more we know, now what to do.

      • Well said. Remember also that this site is dedicated to a Bond that was well dressed and, in that vein, the solution is quite straight forward, follow the example of well-dressed gents and let the idea of a ‘Bond’ evolve as it will. We will always have a Connery, Moore, Lazenby and Brosnan as great inspirations sartorially.

    • Jack Hart, if I understand your comment correctly, you’re criticizing the Bond films for being inaccurate to actual spy work. This is a perfectly accurate and reasonable opinion; most Bond films are very unrealistic, and more focused on action rather than correctly portraying the job of a spy. Although, I hesitate to agree with the opinion that this inaccuracy will the reason Bond films stop being made. In fact, I would argue that general audiences would prefer an action-oriented spy movie to one which accurately portrays the life of a spy. I personally appreciate both kinds of spy movie, and it’s reasonable to prefer the more realistic of the genre, but I don’t see the more fantastical films going anywhere anytime soon.

  7. That is the question indeed, what to do? If No Time to Die is any indication of the future direction of Bond then, it is time to resist, really refuse, to put up with this nonsense. So, it may be time to move on from Bond and just appreciate and enjoy the original Bond in Sean Connery. All the others, except Daniel Craig, were simply no comparison. So au revoir James Bond and thanks for the memories and the education on proper dress, confidence and other things that can make a man more interesting. We can also learn from Craig’s Bond, primarily from the first three movies before the woke direction began to rear its ugly head.

    • “Evil will triump as good men do nothing” – well ahead of the time it was spoken.

      Well, here is something I’ve always done – dress properly, then forget about it, and be logical, intelligent, and confident.

      Time for all of us to do something.

    • “before the woke direction began to rear its ugly head”

      There was nothing in NTTD that was any more progressive than past Bond movies, particularly those of the Moore and Brosnan eras. But the way you’re using it is not actually what “woke” means in any case. It’s an AAVE term that means “alert to racial prejudice and discrimination”.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woke#:~:text=Woke%20(%2F%CB%88wo%CA%8Ak,American%20Vernacular%20English%20(AAVE).

      • Giselle,

        Understanding where you’re coming from, you may see things in a different view, and that’s actually fine, if not preferable. But to say that they haven’t tried to ruin Bond in a progressive manner is entirely untrue in and of itself. The fact that they made Bond a lot worse of a dresser, a lot less witty, and overall, a lot less intelligent, is a sign they already began what I would call a stupidification process, which is what most of the wokes wanted. Bond of the past were intelligent, witty, well and simple dressed, and was everything that makes a man. The Bond they strived to be as of late, well, is nothing short of what wokes and progressives wanted people to see men as.

        Trust me, I lost over $100,000 in college just to see this in real time.

  8. I understand what a progressive is. I consider myself to be one and I’m 54 and been a Bond nut since I saw TSWLM in the cinema when it was first released. But I don’t know who the “wokes” are that are plotting the ruination of the series. Can we get some kind of consensus definition of this?

    • I’m also curious to know who these “wokes” are and how it was ever quantified what “most of them wanted”.
      For full disclosure I have to admit that IMO the word has evolved so much in a short time it’s become almost meaningless these days.
      Maybe for some people the addition of a Female M, a Black Felix, a Black Moneypenny and. a Female Black 007 was more than they could handle. I wasn’t bothered by any of this except the latter as I felt she added almost nothing to the film or storyline. Those damn wokes eh?

      • I never understood the black female 007 either quite frankly. It added nothing to the plot and smacked of pandering to me. On the other hand, the female M, Black Felix, and Black Moneypenny worked very well. Those actors were fantastic and fit their roles perfectly, particularly M.

      • Scott, it doesn’t make any sense, because there was no sense there at all. It was all to destroy things that people love in an effort to advance certain sociopolitical agenda, disguised as representation and the likes of that nonsense.

    • Agent00Soul, Rod,

      You are who you are. I have less problem with that. But there are mouth breathers out there with huge speakers who want things their way, or else they’ll burn cities down over it (literally). That and, not too long ago, a bunch of whiny, speaker-carrying mouth breathing kids were all over the internet, whining about Bond being “sexist” for what he did. Like heck if they know anything about espionage and intel works, and their stupidity only emboldened the already poorly dressed, stupidified Bond. All of this acceptance of poor dressing, all of this stupidification, all of this efforts to make Bond, who is an intelligence service agent, a poor shoddy Jason Bourne, is all the efforts of catering to those woke nutjobs who, instead of dealing with their inferiority complex by accomplishing something, choose to destroy something else instead to “empower” themselves.

      How do I know the classic Bond is genuine and is part of the effort of exposing all of us to the dirtier world of the intel community? Well, for a starter, my father was a member of the MACV-SOG during that one controversial 1960s war, and the stories he told me, the things he went through, all of it made perfect sense. Yes, I know enough to know what I’m talking about. A lot of this stuffs were perfectly portrayed in most of the earlier Bond movies, and by the time of Brosnan, they waned, but by the time frame of Craig, they disappeared entirely, replaced with something else a lot dumber. The old Bond made all of us think, which, by woke standards, is a sin.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.