The ways James Bond’s suits fit over the last six decades say more about fashion trends and personal style preferences—of Bond actors, costume designers, tailors and directors—than they say about the character. Fit has historically often changed as fashions update, and James Bond frequently demonstrates the changing times in his fits.
The number one goal of Bond’s fits has always been to look current and fashionable. His fits have routinely tried to convey that Bond is up-to-date and relevant, which means that what constitutes a modern fit is always changing. Sometimes when we look back on a fit that is no longer current, we simply see it as an outdated fit, a poor fit or both.
However, the fit of a suit and the silhouette it creates can also evoke a feeling regardless of fashion trends, which is sometimes what causes fashions to evolve. What a certain fit says beyond being of a certain era is often in the eye of the beholder. Different fits can also convey the same impressions in different ways. Here are a few of Bond’s fits and the impressions they may present.
The Oversized Fit
Timothy Dalton’s suits in Licence to Kill have an oversized fit that is characteristic of the late 1980s and early 1990s. This is a purposefully large fit and not the result of unknowingly purchasing a suit a size too large. There is far more fabric than needed to comfortably cover the body. This fit makers the wearer look relaxed. The excess of cloth promotes the idea of luxury because there was no skimping in this area.
By traditional standards this is a poor fit because the excess cloth looks sloppy. As a result, the wearer may appear to be sloppy and careless. He may look as if he has no idea how a suit should fit and bought a size or two too large. However, getting simple fit points right like the sleeve length and trouser length can mitigate the appearance of sloppiness.
The Full Fit
Timothy Dalton’s suits in The Living Daylights and Pierce Brosnan’s suits in his 1990s James Bond films have a full fit. There is a moderate excess of cloth to give a luxurious impression, but the cloth is neatly tailored without any bunching or sloppiness. Like the oversized suit it gives the impression of being relaxed and comfortable, and it can comes across as confidence. It also has a traditional and conservative appearance.
To the eye of someone accustomed to the tightly fitted suits that James Bond has worn from Skyfall to No Time to Die, a full fit may look too big, and some may say it looks sloppy. So long as the suit is neatly tailored, it shouldn’t appear oversized.
The Dramatic Fit
Sean Connery’s Anthony Sinclair suits from all of his Bond films and Roger Moore’s Cyril Castle suits from his first two Bond films have what I’m calling a dramatic fit. These suits have fullness in certain places but closeness in others. They have a full chest but a nipped waist. The chest may have drape or it may be swelled and clean. A dramatic fit is uncommon, as it is only found in bespoke—primarily English bespoke—or high-end ready-to-wear and made-to-measure like Tom Ford because it takes more expertise and effort to tailor. A dramatic fit is thus more expensive than other fits and looks it.
The dramatic fit presents a strong, regal and sophisticated man. The shape in the suit can make a man appear more athletic because it emphasises the chest. The attention to detail in this fit shows someone who cares about himself and what he does. Because it’s unusual, a man wearing it may come across as having a somewhat mysterious quality.
On the other hand, this dramatic fit can also make a man appear pompous or showy, whether or not others know that the suit is expensive. The fullness, especially if it’s in the form of drape, can make the wearer look more relaxed, but it can also make the wearer look sloppy to those who prefer a close fit all over.
The Close Fit
George Lazenby’s Dimi Major suits in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Daniel Craig’s Tom Ford suits in Quantum of Solace are examples of a close fit. The close fit follows the shape of the body but doesn’t pull or bunch. It has little extra fullness, but it does not feel uncomfortably tight either. A closely fitted suit draws attention to the wearer’s figure as well as to a suit’s non-fit characteristics.
A close fit often conveys a modern look. It projects a strong and confident image with an attention to detail. Though the close fit may seem like the platonic ideal of a fit, there are negatives. Some may find it too sharp and too fastidious, and they might think the person wearing the suit looks too good to be trustworthy. A close fit can look unbalanced and be unflattering to certain body types if there isn’t enough fullness in certain places.
The Undersized Fit
Daniel Craig’s suits in Skyfall and Spectre have an undersized fit that is characteristic of the 2010s. This tight fit is a result of aiming for an extremely close fit, while the undersized aspect is the result of Daniel Craig fluctuating in size when bulking up. This fit can make a muscular wearer look especially tough because it can give the impression that he’s so muscular his suit cannot adequately cover the bulk, and he looks like his growing and flexing muscles are going to tear the suit apart at the seams.
The undersized fit conveys a fearlessness, as in the wearer is both not afraid to show off his body and not afraid that his suit will rip in half with the wrong movement. But likewise it conveys showiness and immodesty. It might portray an overconfidence.
By traditional standards this is a poor fit because the suit does not have clean lines. It neither follow the shape of the body nor does it drape neatly off the body. The bunching and pulling looks sloppy. Like with the oversized suit, an overly tight suit can also make the wearer also appear to be sloppy and careless. It looks like the wearer outgrew his suit and couldn’t be bothered to get a new suit that fits. This fit appears young, especially because it was first adopted by younger and slimmer men. Thus, it can make the wearer look immature, especially if the wear is of a mature age.
A Spectrum of Fits
These different fits all fit on a spectrum, and some of Bond’s suits may be positioned between these categories or have elements of different categories. Daniel Craig’s suits in Casino Royale, for example, have a close fit in the jacket but a full fit in the trousers. Sean Connery’s suits in his first three Bond films are on the fuller side of a dramatic fit. Each tailor and brand have their own cuts and fits, with their own unique variations on how the suits fit.
The only aspect of a good fit that does not change with fashions is the fit of the jacket’s collar on the back of the neck. The collar should neither stand away from the neck not should there be any rolls of fabric in the upper back below the neck. When a jacket’s collar doesn’t fit neatly the suit has a poor fit no matter the fashion. A man wearing a poorly fitted collar will always look sloppy and ill-prepared.
Many aspects of a suit’s silhouette beyond the fit can say subliminal things about the suit and the person wearing it. Along with fit, the shoulder expression is the most significant way a suit can communicate character.
What a suit’s fit and silhouette say is never as significant as the wearer’s own words and actions. The way a person carries themselves and behaves is for more important than how his suit fits.