Ralph Fiennes isn’t the first M to wear a double-breasted suit. Fifty years earlier Bernard Lee wore his one and only double-breasted suit as M in Dr. No. Like many of Lee’s suits and Fiennes’ double-breasted suit, this suit is flannel. In particular, this suit is a mid grey woollen flannel, which has the old-fashioned look that’s well-suited for the character. Whilst Fiennes’ suit is traditional and not characteristic of any era, Lee’s suit is very characteristic of suits from the 1950s. Its large, padded shoulders and wide lapels were outdated for 1962, as was the buttoning style. The jacket has four buttons in a keystone arrangement with one to button, which was never a very popular style with English tailors. It wasn’t uncommon in the 1940s and 1950s, but by the 1960s the low-buttoning double-breasted suits were out of fashion. The style returned in the 1980s and has been out of fashion since the mid 1990s. It’s not as classic as the style of Ralph Fiennes’ double-breasted suit, but if it is cut well—which can’t usually be said for the baggy 1980s examples—and fits well it can be a good choice for shorter or heavier men. Lee’s jacket has jetted pockets, 3-button cuffs and no vents. As is traditional on a double-breasted jacket, both peaked lapels have a buttonhole since both sides of the jacket have fastening buttonholes. For From Russia With Love, Bernard Lee wears a more contemporary suit, though it’s still a little more traditional than Sean Connery’s suits.
Though Bernard Lee’s M’s is known for his bow ties, he wears a black four-in-hand tie that has a fancy self pattern in his first appearance in the James Bond series. The tie is a fashionable, narrow width and it’s much narrower than his lapels. Though the narrow tie is a bit incongruous with the wide lapels, it works much better than the opposite would. He uses a tie pin to anchor the tie to his shirt. Lee doesn’t return to wearing four-in-hand ties until the final act of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. His shirt is a fine bengal stripe in light grey and white, which complements his grey hair and grey eyes. The shirt has a spread collar, plain front and double cuffs. He wears a white linen pocket handkerchief that is mostly obscured by his wide lapels.
Gareth Mallory, played by Ralph Fiennes, wears a double-breasted suit after becoming the new M in Skyfall. The double-breasted suit, however, makes him look more like Bill Tanner in For Your Eyes Only than the first two Ms. Today the double-breasted suit is a more traditional look, and that’s likely why costume designer Jany Temime dressed Fiennes in this suit for this scene instead of the more contemporary two- and three-piece suits he wears prior to becoming M. Another thing that makes this suit look more traditional is the soft, heavy navy woollen flannel chalkstripe cloth. Heavier cloths look more old-fashioned than lightweight cloths. Since Bond has just come in from the cold and has hung up his overcoat, M’s choice of a heavy flannel suit is clearly a very practical one.
The suit jacket has the classic arrangement of six buttons with two to button, and Mallory buttons only the top of those two buttons. The jacket also has double vents, four-button cuffs and flapped pockets. This suit has the same straight shoulders with roped sleeveheads that Mallory’s other suits in the film have, but a fuller chest and wider lapels contribute to its more traditional look. It has a classic Savile Row cut: nipped at the waist and flared at the skirt. Whilst the suit is a little old-fashioned, it isn’t outdated and it looks great on Ralph Fiennes. It’s made by Timothy Everest, who typically makes more fashion forward suit.
Not much is seen of the suit trousers, but they are likely the same flat-front, tapered-leg trouser with braces he wears throughout the film. Mallory wears a cornflower blue shirt with a spread collar and double cuffs. His red ribbed silk tie is tied in a four-in-hand knot. James Bond has also worn a similar outfit of a flannel navy chalkstripe suit with a blue shirt and red tie, thought Bond’s suit was a three-piece suit and not double-breasted. He wears this outfit for his meeting with Sir Hilary Bray in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
The one man at the poker table in Casino Royale who is arguably more elegantly dressed than James Bond is Felix Leiter. Jeffrey Wright plays the latest Felix Leiter in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. Like everyone else at the poker table, Leiter is wearing Brioni. His black dinner suit goes a step further than Bond’s in formality and adds a waistcoat, making it more traditionally correct black tie. The dinner jacket is cut with Brioni’s straight shoulders and is a traditional button one with a shawl collar. The shawl collar’s satin silk facings stop a quarter inch from the edge, an old-fashioned detail from tailcoats that at the same time looks very modern. The dinner jacket also has four buttons on the cuffs, jetted pockets and no vent. The buttons are covered.
The waistcoat is made in the same black wool that the rest of the dinner suit is made in. It is low cut with a U-shaped front, which harmonises very well with the jacket’s shawl collar. The waistcoat is barely visible when the jacket is buttoned, which is the way it should be for black tie. The waistcoat does not have lapels. Like Bond, Felix Leiter removes his dinner jacket at the poker table. It’s an ungentlemanly practice, but at least Leiter looks more dressed with his waistcoat.
Leiter wears two dress shirts with his dinner suit during the film. Both dress shirts have a spread collar, double cuffs and onyx studs. The first shirt has a narrow-pleated front that takes three studs—with the first starting a distractingly too high—and the second shirt has a marcella bib that takes two studs. The placket on the pleated shirt is stitched on the edge and then stitched on the other side and extended to form the first pleat. Though the placket is stitched on the edge, the collar has regular 1/4″ stitching. The black satin bow tie matches the dinner suit’s facings. It’s a little undersized, but it suits Leiter very well.
If the dress code for the poker game is specified as black tie, Leiter follows it perfectly and is thus dressed better than Bond is. However, the lack of a waistcoat or cummerbund has now become acceptable in black tie—we can partially thank James Bond for that—and that makes Bond and Leiter equals as the best-dressed in the poker game.
The Foreman of Signals in Dr. No, played by John Hatton, has proven to be a more memorable dresser for other people than he has been for me. After I posted about the new Q’s cardigan, comparisons started to be drawn to this uncredited character who also wears a cardigan and tie. He wears a very basic charcoal cardigan with five buttons and ribbed cuffs, turned back. Under the cardigan he wears a white shirt with brown pencil stripes. The shirt’s wide spread collar provides enough room for the windsor-knotted, solid red-brown tie. He wears charcoal trousers with a light brown belt.
In comparison to the new Q, the Foreman of Signals is dressed much less colourfully. His outfit’s only colour is the dull red-brown tie, whilst Q’s outfit has brown, red and blue. Q’s cardigan follows the current trend for a closer fit, but that also makes him look younger. The Foreman and Q both wear the same half-frame style glasses, though Q’s are black and the Foreman’s are brown.
Skyfall‘s costume designer Jany Temime wanted Q (Ben Whishaw) to look like a young computer nerd, in the style of an “expensive student.” Q dresses in a young, casual and hip fashion, and it reflects the character’s immaturity and cockiness. Nevertheless, he is still fashionable in the “geek chic” style. Whishaw’s most memorable outfit features a light brown wool Dries Van Noten V-neck cardigan. It has the zip front, slash side pockets and ribbed bands across the shoulders and down the upper arm, and down the forearm. The continuous collar and fly has a dark blue and red stripe.
Q’s shirt is white with light grey pencil stripes and has a spread collar and double cuffs. His dark blue knitted tie from Zara is tied in a four-in-hand knot. Q’s trousers are a gingham check with dark blue and maroon, picking up the colours of the cardigan’s color. The dark blue suede chukka boots further reflect the blue found in every piece of this outfit except the shirt. The boots’ tan rubber soles roughly match the cardigan.
For his dinner with Bond in Goldfinger, M wears the least dressy of all dinner jacket styles: the double-breasted, shawl collar dinner jacket. It’s the type of dinner jacket that’s most like a smoking jacket. I can’t tell for certain it’s double-breasted, but from the very wide lapels and the bunching of the breast pocket it looks like he is wearing a double-breasted dinner jacket unbuttoned. M’s black dinner jacket has natural shoulders and roped sleeveheads, and the sleeve cuffs have four buttons and a satin silk turnback that matches the lapels.
M’s dress shirt doesn’t have any fancy details, but it may have been made in silk to set it apart from an everyday shirt. It’s slightly off white, which could be a further indicator that it’s silk and not cotton. It has a spread collar and double cuffs with edge stitching and a plain front with mother-of-pearl buttons. The bow-tie is black satin silk in a thistle shape. He wears a puffed white handkerchief in his breast pocket.
In For Your Eyes Only, M’s chief of staff Bill Tanner, played by James Villiers, dresses in a manner very suitable for a man in a high position. He wears classic double-breasted suits that are cut almost exactly the same as what you’d find from an English tailor today. His suit jackets have six buttons with two to button, and their lower placement is the only thing that separates them from what’s currently fashionable. The jackets have a classic Savile Row silhouette with a clean chest and a straight shoulder on the natural shoulder line. They have flapped pockets and double vents. For this article we’ll just look at the charcoal rope stripe suit.
The shirt Tanner wears with this suit is a fine grey and white stripe. Grey shirts aren’t nearly as popular as blue and white, or even cream, but they’re a classically-stylish option in lighter tints. It has a small spread collar and rounded button cuffs. Tanner adds colour to his outfit with the tie and pocket square. The tie is a regimental stripe in navy and alternating red and maroon. It’s very similar to the well-known Brigade of Guards tie, but the tie only has one shade of red. Can anyone identify this tie? He ties it in a four-in-hand knot, and he matches a navy silk pocket square to the navy in the tie.
Buttoned at the bottom, not the same as in the photo above
There’s a continuity error in the way Tanner buttons his suit jacket. In some shots he buttons the jacket the conventional way, with only the middle row fastened. In other shots he has only the bottom row fastened. Both are legitimate ways to fasten a double-breasted jacket, but the stiffer canvas on this jacket means the lapel doesn’t roll over the middle button so well when only the bottom is fastened. There are also a couple of fit problems with this outfit. The back of the coat doesn’t fit so well over the shoulder blades and the shirt sleeves are too short—but the jacket sleeves look fine. But overall it’s a very tasteful outfit and it commands the authority necessary for his position during M’s leave.
Fashion in the early 1980s rebelled against the excess of the 1970s style, and that excess would take only a few years to return to fashion. In the early 80s we see a number of well-dressed men in the Bond series, and Topol’s Columbo in For Your Eyes Only is one of them. The navy double-breasted blazer is made by tailor Robbie Stanford, who was two doors down from Anthony Sinclair at 27 Conduit St. The blazer has a typical English cut, with straight shoulders and roped sleeveheads. On the front there are four buttons with two to button, the traditional English arrangement minus the top two vestigial buttons. Those buttons are done away with here to make room for a patch breast pocket. The two hip pockets are also open patch pockets. The blazer has swelled edges, slightly narrow peak lapels, double vents and two-button cuffs. The buttons are brass with an anchor motif.
Columbo’s cream shirt is likely made by Frank Foster. It has a spread collar and square-cut, 2-button cuffs, and the buttons are a contrasting smoked mother of pearl. The cream gaberdine trousers have a flat front and frogmouth pockets. He wears the trousers with a white belt. Columbo’s outfit is great for warm weather, especially by the water—or on the water where Columbo wears his.
The blazer was sold at Christie’s in South Kensington on 12 December 2001 for £447.