Ian Fleming specified in Moonraker that Bond wears “well-polished black moccasin shoes.” Timothy Dalton’s black slip-on shoes in Licence to Kill probably started out well-polished but quickly get dirty. Dalton’s shoes have a casual, handsewn moccasin toe, which makes them not the best choice of slip-ons for a suit, but slip-ons traditionally aren’t worn with suits anyway. By the 1980s, slip-ons were an acceptable choice of shoes with a suit, and Dalton’s slip-ons have the characteristic 1980s low vamp. The low vamp shoe allows the dandy to show off his socks, though Dalton chooses to wear unstylish black with his. Blue socks to match his suit would have been a better choice. Though the shoes look a little dated now, they appropriately fit Dalton’s idea of bringing Bond closer to the literary source. With a higher vamp these shoes would be stylish in any era.
As suggested by The Suits of James Bond reader “Le Chiffre,” I am giving you the opportunity to vote on which of Bond’s attempts to be sartorially fashionable you find to be least successful. Choose the one you think is most inappropriate for Bond, the one you think is most dated, or the one you just don’t like. Here are your three options:
1. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977): A silk suit in a light brown colour commonly associated with the 1970s, with wide lapels, swelled edges and flared trousers. Read more.
2. Licence to Kill (1989): An oversized suit with wide shoulders, low notch lapels, a low button stance and triple-reverse-pleat trousers. Read more.
3. Skyfall (2012): An overly-tight suit that unnecessarily pulls and creases, with narrow lapels, a short jacket length and low-rise skinny trousers. Read more.
Which of Bond's most fashionable suits is the worst?
- The Spy Who Loved Me (37%, 1,067 Votes)
- Licence to Kill (35%, 1,015 Votes)
- Skyfall (28%, 840 Votes)
Total Voters: 2,922
If there’s another Bond film that you think has worse clothing, please feel free to mention it in the comments below.
For the climax of Licence to Kill, Timothy Dalton dresses in a dark blue suit very contemporary to 1989. The jacket has two buttons with a low button stance and low-gorge, notched lapels, with flapped pockets, three-button cuffs and no vent. In the scene before we see Dalton in the full suit, we see him in just the trousers, which have triple reverse pleats and plain hems. The suit has a very full fit with padded, extended shoulders, and though it’s fashionable for the era it still has a poor fit. Though it’s possible to have a well-fitting, full-cut jacket, the sloppy back on Dalton’s suit is unacceptable.
Dalton wears a white shirt with a small point collar, single-button mitre cuffs, a placket and a breast pocket. It’s a ready-to-wear shirt with a typical baggy fit. Again, the shirt is very typical for American and some Italian makers at the time. He wears a black belt and black low-vamp moccasins. The shoes are straight out of the Ian Fleming novels, and the rest of the outfit would be something the literary Bond would wear in concept—along with a black knitted tie—but not in execution.
Not many people wear braces anymore. Sometimes called suspenders in America, braces are the most secure way to hold up one’s trousers. When wearing braces, your trousers stay at the same height all day long. They never sag, which can happen all too often with a belt or side adjusters. With a three-piece suit they also prevent a bit of shirt from showing underneath the waistcoat, like we see with Sean Connery in his fight scenes. If you’re worried about braces showing, nobody will ever know when you’re wearing a three-piece suit. They will also always be hidden when wearing a double-breasted suit. Another great advantage is that trousers can be worn a bit looser than with a belt, which is especially helpful to people who have health problems caused by too tight trousers. Braces require a higher-than-currently-fashionable trouser rise to work properly. Braces allow trousers to hang elegantly from the waist and can be a bit awkward on low-rise trousers.
Barathea braces are great for year-round wear and wool boxcloth braces are great for winter. Striped grosgrain braces can be worn whenever a regimental striped tie is appropriate, and fancy printed silks are great for almost any occasion. Since braces aren’t meant to be seen, you can really wear any braces you want to. You can pick your braces as you pick your lining, to match or to contrast. But the leather ends, like a belt, should match the shoes. That is unless the ends are white goatskin, which goes with everything. Proper braces button on, not clip on, and are preferably not elastic in the front. Braces do, however, always have elastic in the back. If that elastic wears out—and if the braces are properly cared for the elastic will wear out before the front parts do—it can be replaced.
Braces and a belt should never be worn together since they are achieving the same goal, so it’s okay to wear your trousers with empty belt loops if you’re wearing braces. It’s better to not have belt loops if you’re wearing braces, but side adjusters are best if you want the option to not wear the trousers with braces. For trousers only worn with braces they can be cut with a “braces back” that is higher than in the front. For a similar effect, cloth tabs can be sewn into the back so the braces attach higher in the back than in the front, but they can be tucked away for when not wearing braces. Ralph Fiennes wears such a style in Skyfall. Buttons for braces are typically found inside the waistband on trousers with belt loops or side adjusters. On trousers just meant for braces the front buttons are often put on the outside for additional comfort.
James Bond has worn braces with black tie in four films: The Living Daylights, Licence to Kill, Casino Royale and Skyfall. In Daniel Craig’s Bond films he wears white moiré braces with braided ends, traditional for eveningwear. Timothy Dalton wears white braces as well, but in The Living Daylights we clearly see that they clip on. Clip-on braces don’t attach to the trousers in as many places as button-on braces, meaning the trousers won’t drape as well and won’t be as secure. Clip-on braces can also potentially damage the cloth of the trousers. If Dalton were wearing a cummerbund it would hide the unsightly clips from view when the jacket is open. Some people believe there is a rule that a cummerbund and braces should not be worn together, thinking that it’s the same as wearing a belt and braces. But there is no such rule. Whilst a belt holds up one’s trousers, a cummerbund does not. It’s there to cover the waist, just as an evening waistcoat does. Whilst Bond has only worn white braces with black tie, black is equally acceptable.
Do you ever wear braces?
For Felix Leiter’s wedding in Licence to Kill, the wedding party wears morning dress. Presumably Felix rented the morning dress because it follows few conventions of morning dress; something better should be expected of Bond. After all, Bond wore an excellent example of morning dress in A View to a Kill only four years earlier. This morning coat is better cut than the suits in the film and isn’t a relic of the 1980′s. However, there are a few problems with fit: the collar stands away from the neck and the back just looks sloppy overall. It is properly cut with a 1-button front that cuts away to the tails in the back. It includes a waist seam, proper of body coats. Other details include peak lapels, a breast pocket—which not all morning coats have—and 3-button cuffs. The buttons are grey plastic. However, there is one big problem with this morning coat: the colour. A morning coat that is part of a suit can be mid to light grey like Roger Moore’s morning suit is. But when it’s part of the more traditional and more formal morning dress, it should only be black or dark grey. The mid grey of Dalton’s morning coat isn’t formal enough to match the formality of the rest of the outfit. The choice of a mid grey coat may have to do with the hot weather of Key West, but in that case a morning suit would have been a better choice.
The trousers are in the traditional striped pattern in black and grey. The not so traditional part comes in the double reverse-pleat cut. Early morning wear always had flat-front trousers, as that was the style at the time. In the early 20th century when men started wearing pleated trousers, the trousers had forward pleats, and that still remains the standard in English tailoring. Reverse pleats are more relaxed than forward pleats and are not as traditional on morning wear. The dove grey waistcoat has a 5-button front, with all buttons fastened, and the shanked buttons are stainless steel. The waistcoat has two single-jetted pockets.
The shirt and dress cravat are even less traditional. The shirt has an attached wing collar, a fine-pleated bib and double cuffs. More appropriate since the 20th century is a spread or cutaway collar, though a wing collar is still acceptable. The collar should be detachable, especially a wing collar. With a turn-down collar the tie should be a four-in-hand, though the dress cravat is standard with a wing collar. Bond’s dress cravat has grey, black and white stripes. The problem with Bond’s cravat is that it is a clip-on (with a clasp in plain sight in the back) and not self-tied. Bond’s shoes are black cap-toe lace-ups. The outfit is completed with a light grey top hat and white carnation worn in the left lapel buttonhole.
In Licence to Kill, Bond wakes up in Sanchez’s compound wearing black pyjamas. They could be Sanchez’s own pyjamas lent to Bond or just extras he keeps around for guests. They are made from silk or a cotton blend in a black self-stripe. The top has 4 white (probably mother-of-pearl) buttons down the front and a camp collar. There are large pleats behind the shoulders for extra movement and comfort. The top is mid-hip length. Since pyjama style hasn’t changed much over the years, this outfit is one of the least offensive of the film.
Bond is brought to the Earnest Hemingway House in Key West, Florida in Licence to Kill wearing a baggy, casual outfit. The jacket is probably made of some synthetic material and is too large, most notable in the shoulders, which results in the sleeves being too long. The jacket has a 4-button front, has pockets on both sides and is constructed with a yoke in the back of the shoulders like a shirt. Bond wears the jacket open and turns back the top to show the revers.
The white shirt has a plain front and a flapped chest pocket on each side. Also, notice how the shirt puffs out; it gives the impression that Timothy Dalton has a pot belly. Bond wears beige chinos with triple reverse pleats that give the trousers an unnecessary bagginess. A brown leather belt holds up the trousers, and Bond’s shoes are navy canvas slip-ons with a white rubber sole.
Everything Bond wears in Licence to Kill has a loose cut. The dark blue shirt worn here is too big by today’s standards. The shirt has a button-front with two chest pockets. The yoke extends down the front to the pockets, where it acts like a large pocket flap that closes with buttons. Bond keeps a pair of sunglasses in his left breast pocket. Bond’s blue trousers have triple reverse pleats, slanted side pockets and two rear pockets. He wears a black belt and black shoes.