Timothy Dalton told Garth Pearce in 1989 of the colour Bond should wear, ‘He’s got a naval background, so he needs a strong, simple colour like dark blue.’
‘Dark blue’, with no further descriptors, is Bond’s suit colour of choice in the Ian Fleming novels. While grey has been James Bond’s default suit colour on screen, blue suits take second place. Most of Bond’s blue suits keep within the navy family, but sometimes Bond breaks away from the standard shades for more adventurous looks. The navy family, from dark navy to light ‘French’ navy are always reliable suit and blazer choices, while other shades have more limited applications.
Specific shades do not appear as accurately on screen as they do in real life. Colours can even look considerably different in reality under different lighting. Colours may appear warmer or cooler, and blues may look darker with warm lighting or warm colour grading on screen. Cool lighting and cool colour grading can make blue look brighter and more vivid than it may look under more ordinary circumstances. The following suits pictured below may not perfectly represent the colours discussed, but they are as close as possible considering the variations in photography.
Midnight blue is the darkest of all blues, often indistinguishable from black. It is a type of black more than it is a type of blue. The colour is traditionally used for eveningwear, such as in black tie and white tie, and under artificial light it purposely looks like a deep black. But under natural light the colour looks like a dark, strong shade of blue. It’s not a colour men traditionally wear for the daytime, but when it is worn for black tie in the summer it would commonly be seen under natural early evening light. Midnight blue can make up well into a fancy suit for the evening.
James Bond mainly wears midnight blue in his dinner suits, but he wears a luxurious midnight blue suit in mohair and cashmere in Quantum of Solace for an evening event.
Compared to midnight blue, dark navy is a little lighter and more muted. It doesn’t have the richness and strength of midnight blue, but there is not a significant difference between the two. It can also be mistaken for black under artificial light. It’s appropriate for suits and blazers and may pass for dinner suits.
Bond’s most notable use of dark navy is in his Royal Navy Blue No. 1 ceremonial uniform, and naturally this dark shade translates to some of his blazers, such as the blazer he wears in The Spy Who Loved Me. The navy herringbone suit at the end of Skyfall is another example of dark navy.
The colour that is most traditionally called ‘navy’ is a very dark blue, but it’s not so dark that it should be mistaken for black unless it’s dimly lit. While the term ‘navy’ may be used for shades that are darker or lighter than this colour, this is the most typical shade for clothes called navy.
Many of James Bond’s navy suits, blazers and coats are in this shade, such as the herringbone suit in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the chalk stripe suit in Diamonds Are Forever, the double-breasted suit in Octopussy, Pierce Brosnan’s birdseye suits and the pinstripe suit at the end of Casino Royale.
Light navy, also called ‘French navy’, is a lighter version of navy that looks more noticeably blue. It’s still dark enough that it falls into the navy family, but it’s light enough to never be mistaken for black. It stands out more than more traditional shades of navy, but it still can be worn conservatively and doesn’t appear too flashy. It’s for those who want a navy suit that looks obviously blue. Under natural light, the blue is bolder than under artificial light.
Sean Connery’s blue suits in From Russia with Love, Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice as well as his blazers in Dr. No, Thunderball and Diamonds Are Forever fall into the light navy category. Roger Moore’s double-breasted in Moonraker‘s sky-diving sequence is also light navy.
When blues become lighter than navy, they either maintain their saturation or they become more muted so they look less ostentatious. The chroma makes a more significant difference at shades lighter than navy. French blue is a vibrant shade of medium-dark blue that is lighter than navy. Sometimes this shade is called ‘dark blue’ or simply ‘blue’ because it implies a shade lighter than the standard navy. French blue suits have been popular for the past decade as suits have become a garment more for fancy occasions and less for conservative offices. The popularity of blue suits that are lighter than navy has nevertheless brought them into office jobs that require suits.
Daniel Craig wears two French blue suits in Spectre: a glen check suit and a sharkskin suit. Neither suit appears French blue on screen, since the yellow colour grading mutes and darkens the blues in the film. Thus, the suits look more navy and more traditionally Bondian rather than the bolder colours that they truly are. The dinner suit on the Skyfall posters was enhanced to look like French blue, sparking a trend for French blue dinner suits, but in reality the dinner suit is almost as dark as a true midnight blue.
Marine blue is similar to French blue but has a slightly greenish hue and is a little less vibrant. Like French blue, marine blue makes for a fairly flashy suit compared to navy.
Roger Moore wears a marine blue silk suit in The Man with the Golden Gun. In silk it adds to the loudness of the suit, but he appropriately wears it to a nightclub rather than for business.
Air Force Blue
Air Force blue is a medium-dark blue that eschews the vibrancy of French blue and marine blue for a more subtle shade of blue-grey. True air force blue is a dark shade of azure (a green-blue), so it looks like a muted and more sophisticated version of marine blue. However, some shades of air force blue are really just blue-grey. It is a classic British suit colour that deserves more attention.
The only time James Bond wears an air force blue suit is in Diamonds Are Forever when he boards his cuise ship near the end of the film.
When a suit is halfway between charcoal and navy, it sometimes gets the name ‘charcoal blue’. It is often found in a semi-solid or a small pattern that combines blue and black or multiple shades of blue to form a muted shade of dark blue. Such suitings are often called ‘navy’ because they contain blue and still read as dark blue.
The fine glen check suit in Montenegro in Casino Royale and the blue Prince of Wales check suit in No Time to Die could be called charcoal blue because of how the colours that make up the patterns come together.
As the blue suit gets lighter than mid blue, it becomes less formal. Light blue shirts are a year-round classic, but light blue suits are generally a summer style made in lightweight wool, silk, cotton or linen. When in pale blue, a light blue that approaches grey, the suit looks more sophisticated than in other light shades like powder blue or sky blue.
Light blue suits aren’t usually James Bond’s style, but he wears them on two occasions. The first is in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service when he dresses for a holiday look in Portugal. The second is a pale blue-grey silk suit in The Man with the Golden Gun in Hong Kong. This suit is so muted that it looks more like silver in the film, but it’s the very meaning of a pale blue suit.
There are infinite variations of the colour blue, but James Bond usually keeps to the more traditional shades of blue for his suits. Other shades of blue that are trendy for suits include petrol blue, royal blue, ink blue, slate blue and powder blue. Bond doesn’t wear suits in these shades and prefers the classic shades of blue, which won’t make Bond stand out in a crowd.