As 007 celebrates 50 years of cinematic prowess with a new film Skyfall, we want to focus on one of Bond’s most iconic wardrobe elements: the tuxedo. In the first part, I will discuss a few 007 dinner jacket outfits
and in the second part Bond author Mark O’Connell ponders the longevity of 007’s signature look in his essay The Tux of the Matter.
In the cover picture, you can see the very first James Bond in Dr. No (1962). He is wearing a black shawl collar tuxedo with satin silk and a slim pointed batwing bow tie with a pleated shirt front and visible buttons. I would have to take a closer look at the buttons, but to me, they look more like buttons rather than separate studs. Personally, I prefer studs, but alternatively, off-white I ‘d opt for a hidden fly, rather than visible buttons.
Here we see Roger Moore in a tuxedo with a slightly wrinkled silk faced lapel, neat turndown collar, and black batwing bow tie. Just like Connery he also shows white buttons in his tuxedo shirt.
Off White Silk Dinner Jacket in Shantung Silk – Roger Moore
I really loff-white, shantung raw silk dinner jacket, though I find the huge butterfly bow tie over the top. Once again, we can see a tuxedo shirt with wide pleats and visible buttons.
6×2 Dinner Jacket with Mother of Pearl Buttons
That very jacket has actually 6 mother of pearls buttons in the front and he wears it nonchalantly with the bottom button unbuttoned.
Brosnan as 007 in Dinner Jacket with Studs & Butterfly Bow Tie
Pierce Brosnan wore suits by Brioni and his tuxedo shirts always featured studs. To me, the four studs always seem one or two too many because it looks less elegant.
Dalton as 007 with Clip-on Suspenders & No Cummerbund
Timothy Dalton was probably one of the most poorly dressed Bonds, but then again suits of his decade lacked elegance quite often. In this picture, we see Dalton with clip-on suspenders and an exposed waistband. Historically that was unacceptable and even today a tuxedo with an (evening) vest or cummerbund is incomplete.
Sean Connery in Slim Shawl Collar in Thunderball
Here we can see Sean Connery in a dapper black dinner jacket with a slim shawl collar. As such, he wears a likewise slim bow tie. Just compare it to the bow tie Roger Moore wore with his dinner jacket. By the way, this is the cover picture of The Suits of James Bond – a site dedicated to nothing but the wardrobe of 007 and his opponents.
Connery looked dashing his ivory dinner jacket with slim peaked lapels and bow tie. Since he opted for a red carnation buttonhole, he skipped the pocket square which is perfectly alright, and some may even argue the proper way to do it. Personally, I think you can add a handkerchief but only if you use a small flower and a little puff because otherwise it looks overloaded. What is your most favorite and least favorite Bond outfit and why?
The Tux of the Matter
Daniel Craig as 007 in Dark Navy Tuxedo with Gaping Collar & Studs
This Bond fan is not a fan of the tuxedo. When making notes for the designer for the cover of my 007 love letter – Catching Bullets: Memoirs of a Bond Fan – I put Blofeld’s Persian cat amongst the pigeons by requesting “no tuxedos.” It is so often an office party or mid-week opera night afterthought – a dog’s dinner suit of an ensemble that certain men tend to borrow or rent with scant regards for their measurements. Prom nights and Caribbean cruises are awash with baggy legged tuxedos, askew bow ties and sweating men balancing their plates and coleslaw-stained cuffs from the all-you-can-eat buffet. It is hardly fitting for the sartorial ideal that British royalty and Savile Row schmutter peddlers brought into popular circulation over 120 years ago. But then there is this James Bond chap. I may not be a fan of the tuxedo, but I am a keen devotee of James Bond. I may not like them, but I am most spitefully envious of the tuxedos as worn by James Bond over the years. Maybe that is because I am a bespoke Bond fan, a lapelled 007 follower who cannot fault much our man James puts on his back. I am even quietly envious of Timothy Dalton’s 1980’s anoraks and have always thought George Lazenby’s bobble hat in OHMSS to be on the “I want one” side of fetching. Or possibly it is because James Bond’s tuxedos fit him. No sagging prom-night shoulder lines or Bar Mitzvah ruffles here. Even Roger Moore’s flares come Bollinger-smuggling culottes are pretty sweet. Did I say that out loud? As Saint Matthew or some such quotable orator said as the first tuxedo rental possibly dined out at the Last Supper, a suit maketh the man. 007’s tuxedos are vital to his deportment as an upright chap (and horizontal lover) of the British Empire. Film lore cites how the first Bond film director Terence Young took that Edinburgh bodybuilder and Disney c-lister Sean Connery to Conduit Street’s Anthony Sinclair for a fitting prior to the very first Bond movie, Dr. No (1962).
As co-opted by author Ian Fleming and latterly exposed quite brilliantly by the current 007 (Daniel Craig), the onscreen Bond is a very internal character. Terence Young himself was not a million miles from author Ian Fleming’s bespoke chap about town template. He clearly thought the tuxedo could deliver an instant message about that insular spy. And it did. The very first moment, in fact. That debut glimpse of the youthful James poised at the gaming table of a deliberately ageing private members club is a stealthy steal of card-flicking fingers, a lit cigarette, and the bipolar hued tux. The suit may be black and white, but Bond was not as a society debutante seeds that most iconic of introductory primers, “Bond, James Bond” and that line – and 007 himself – is instantly carved on the tree of popular culture.
As The Beatles were about to storm the universe with their velvet suits, and knitted ties and a mod movement was convincing Britain’s street youth to think about how they dressed, an off-the-peg sense of couture was tailoring the backstreets and mopeds of early 1960s Europe. But not the tux. That was still an expensive enigma, a perceived tag of the upper classes and their cigar-smoked private clubs after hours. Step forward Sean Connery.
Like Bond himself, there is a sparse mystery about the tuxedo. The Bond films never show us where it is laundered. We never see Bond head down Savile Row for a fitting. That is the stuff of the Bond film’s publicity machine, not the character himself. “Bond will be wearing a midnight blue such and such dinner suit” – it is part of the necessary branding of Bond. And possibly it is the part of the enigma of 007. We don’t want to see 007 go food shopping (it was genre-shattering enough when Harry Palmer does it in a suit in 1964’s The Ipcress File).
We don’t need to see him checking for sports news over breakfast. As Christopher Nolan’s Bat suit proved, it pops the illusion if we see identical spares of the tux in a wardrobe. Yet the tux is a facet of Bond. When it is injured, covered in blood, torn by a laser beam or the wit of a killer mistress, we know Bond is off track. Tom Ford’s tuxedo for Daniel Craig’s Casino Royale(2006) is almost a supporting character in its own right. The supposedly fledgling Bond not only has to be almost bribed into it by Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), the state of the tux is the state of Bond – from a shower soaked burst of hot water when he is comforting a terrified Vesper to being all that stands in the way of a remote-access defibrillator being attached to Bond’s tight pecs and what is blatantly missing when he stripped naked for some ball-busting torture.
The tuxedo here is about distraction and displays of might at a high-level gaming table. Yet when it is gone and replaced by Daniel Craig’s designer abs, it is not the fact that Bond is naked that makes him vulnerable. He has never been so sorely without the tuxedo.
Dalton in Notched Lapel Tux with Studs
And tuxedos – like James Bonds, title songs and supporting actress’s hemlines – dip and rise with the times. Just as it was almost passé to have any action hero in anything other than a Die Hard gym vest or a Wal-Mart anorak, Bond took these sartorial pretenders to his throne by the scruff of a collared neckline they sorely missed and continued bucking the trend in order to maintain his autonomy on being a knight in sartorial armour. Admittedly Timothy Dalton’s own C&A anorak usage almost skirted round the tux in his debut 007 film – though he made use of one for a brief trip to a provincial Eastern bloc opera house in 1987’s The Living Daylights (see, even Bond succumbs to that mid-week opera night tux cliché).
Though he did create a Mexican wave in the following Licence to Kill (1989), he stuck two fingers up at the costume girl’s duplicate rail of tuxedos to just show one being continually put to the test. And when the films surf a wave of confidence and boundary-pushing – such as 1964’s Goldfinger or 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me – 007 opts for an ivory white tux (could you imagine Christian Bale’s Batman going for a white Bat suit?!). This Bond fan had a much cherished signed Roger Moore photo in his bedroom for years featuring James in another white tux from A View to a Kill(1985). I probably prefer the statement of the white tux to the black (or blue, as in recent Bond outings). A white tux screams James Bond – and 1970s men in safari suits, scene-stealing cravats, and bikini-clad lovelies. Just the era I love to celebrate.
Daniel Craig as 007 in Tuxedo
It was certainly the greatest tux apex as Moore’s Bond was a staunch defender. Though Pierce Brosnan’s reign as tux-bearer was an equally fruitful one with the effects of Die Another Day’s freezing cold ice palace apparently kept at bay if one dons a tuxedo. Maybe he learnt that from George Lazenby (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, 1969) whose rather dandy-ish tux came replete with a frill neck straight out of the box marked Bar Mitzvah boy. Despite just one spin of the Bond tuxedo clothes rail, Lazenby braved quite a few looks, including a tux-kilt hybrid that once again ignored the alpine conditions around it to cut another dapper look just as the world was in flared denim and hemp t-shirts. However, just as that tux-missing torture scene from Casino Royale typifies, perhaps the greatest use of the tux in the Bond films is when it is not used. Donning the tuxedo is like a great many beats of Bond. There is a swagger when Bond emerges for a night’s schmoozing and chest-beating at some villain’s society shindig. It needs not to be seen so that when it does – as in the new Bond movie Skyfall when Bond attends a floating Shanghai casino and makes maximum Bond Arrivingeffect – it makes the same chest and wallet beating impact it did 50 years ago. So here we are – 50 years after a tuxedo sleeve was the first glimpse we saw of Bond.
As well as being an exciting time to be a Bond fan all over again as the world catches 007’s new cinematic bullet, Skyfall’s midnight blue tuxedo is itself designed by a film director (Tom Ford). Just as Anthony Sinclair and his Conduit cuts forged the image of Connery into the zeitgeist and beyond, Tom Ford has now put the tuxedo back on every magazine, bus shelter, billboard, and male wish list. If anyone else does it, they just look like a quasi James Bond.
When James Bond does it, he almost changes this fan’s mind about the benefits of a tuxedo. And now this 007 fan is faced with the reality of attending the world premiere of the new 007 movie. It’s mid-week and may well have a buffet. What to wear….?