Rik Van Nutter’s Felix Leiter in Thunderball wears a blue and white striped suit made of a thin, puckered cotton cloth called seersucker. The blue and white seersucker suit is an American warm-weather staple and an fitting suit for a CIA agent in the tropics. The stripes on Leiter’s suit are narrower than usual for seersucker, but they aren’t nearly as narrow as the stripes on the related pincord suit are.
Whilst Cec Linder—Van Nutter’s predecessor as Felix Leiter in Goldfinger—dresses all out in the American Ivy League style in a suit with natural shoulders and an undarted front, Van Nutter wears his American classic in an updated cut. His button three suit jacket has straight shoulders, a draped chest and a darted, suppressed waist. The lapels are a classic width and reach halfway from the collar to the edge of the shoulder. The jacket also has flapped hip pockets, double vents and three buttons on the cuffs. The suit’s buttons are made of mother of pearl. The suit trousers have reverse pleats, tapered legs and plain bottoms. The suit is more of a 1950s style than a 1960s style, but Leiter still looks cool and confident in it.
Under the suit Leiter wears a white shirt with a spread collar—another break from the traditional American style—and button cuffs. His black silk knitted tie is tied in a four-in-hand knot. He wears black shoes and a narrow black belt. The black accessories may be unimaginative, but they provide a needed gravitas to his otherwise casual outfit. Leiter carries with him a fedora-style straw Panama hat that has a tall C-crown and a black ribbon. Leiter’s black sunglasses look like they’re by Ray-Ban, but if anyone knows better than I do feel free to comment below.
When you drive, do you wear your suit jacket or hang it up? James Bond always chooses to drive in his suit jacket because he’s usually in a hurry to get in or out of his car. Besides that, it just wouldn’t look elegant for him to remove his jacket to simply get in the car. There’s no need for Bond to remove his jacket in the car because the magic of filmmaking means that Bond’s suit won’t be wrinkled when exits his car. And since his suit only has to last for a small part of a single film he doesn’t need to worry about seatbelt abrasion. The problems of wrinkling and abrasion have become more noticeable to the average suit wearer with the rise in popularity of lighter cloth weights and higher super numbers, which both make the wool less wrinkle resistant and more prone to shining with abrasion.
But what about the physical act of driving in a suit? A well-fitting suit shouldn’t constrict movement. The key to being able to move the arms is high armholes. That means the armhole is smaller and hugs the armpit. Feeling the bottom of the armhole in your armpit may give the impression of being constricting, but it is actually quite the opposite. A higher armhole means that less of the suit jacket moves when the arm is raised, and it helps the arm to move more independently of the rest of the jacket. A little ease over the shoulder blades also gives the arms more range of movement. Nevertheless, it helps to unbutton the jacket when driving.
The higher armhole is demonstrated whenever Bond is driving. The jacket sleeve rides up to reveal most of the shirt cuff, which shouldn’t ride up as much as the jacket sleeve does. If the armhole is too low or the suit is too tight, the jacket sleeve will ride up more.
The same goes for riding a motorcycle as it does for driving a car, though James Bond is probably the only person who rides a motorcycle in a suit. In Skyfall, Daniel Craig wears a suit specifically made with longer sleeves for riding a motorcycle (below) so that the amount of shirt cuff that shows when he is riding is consistent with the amount that shows when he is standing with his arms at his side. It’s nonsensical to expect the same amount of shirt cuff to show no matter the arms positions, and I find it absurd that Skyfall’s costume designer Jany Temime felt that a special suit needed to be fitted for riding a motorcycle. Since the sleeves are expected to rise up when the arms are bent, it looks like the sleeves are too long. Plus, it’s a missed opportunity to show off Bond’s cufflinks!
Jeffrey Wright’s Felix Leiter may have proven to be the only one other than Jack Lord’s who can rival Bond’s style and cool demeanour. In Quantum of Solace he wears a tan linen suit that’s just as nice as any of Bond’s tropical suits. The suit jacket is probably a button two and has natural shoulders and a clean fit. The jacket also has open patch hip pockets, a welt breast pocket and a four buttons on the cuffs. The jacket’s buttons are a summery white mother of pearl. The suit trousers have a flat front and a plain hem.
Leiter’s white shirt has a button-down collar, front placket and rounded single-button cuffs. The button-down collar looks great open since the buttons keep the collar standing up, even with the first button of the shirt open. The button-down collar also identifies Leiter as an American, even though Cec Linder was the only Leiter to previously wear a button-down collar. The only part of this outfit that isn’t done so well are the shoes. They’re brown slip-ons with a rather bulbous toe and thick black rubber soles. But since they’re only seen in publicity stills and not in the film they’re not worth complaining about too much.
Leiter’s tan suit and white shirt outfit has similarities to the original Felix Leiter’s beige suit in Dr. No and, especially, James Bond’s tan linen suit in GoldenEye. The balanced proportions and classic fit of this suit make it one of the most timeless suits worn by any character in the Bond films.
Kronsteen, on the right
Though Kronsteen, played by Vladek Sheybal in From Russia with Love, is one of the less memorable Bond villains, he is one of the more interestingly dressed. In his final scene he wears a stylish alternative to the navy blazer: a slubby navy silk jacket. The jacket is has a draped chest with gentle waist suppression and extended—but natural—shoulders with roped sleeveheads, all of which suggest an English tailor made this jacket. Though it may have a tradtional cut, it also has fashionable 1960′s elements. The jacket appears to be a button one at the front with three buttons on the cuffs, and the buttons are covered in the jacketing silk. The narrow lapels have a generous roll to expose less of the shirt, and they also have swelled edges. The jacket has an open patch breast pocket and open patch hip pockets.
Kronsteen wears light grey worsted wool trousers to contrast the jacket. The trousers are cut with forward pleats, which balance well with the drape style of the jacket. His cream shirt is possibly silk and has a plain front without a placket. The shirt’s short point collar and double cuffs are stitched on the edge. Though black bow ties should best be kept with black tie, Kronsteen wears one as his signature look. It’s a narrow batwing shape, possibly in a barathea weave. It’s difficult to see Kronsteen’s shoes, but they are likely the same black lace-ups that he wears with his charcoal blue suit at the beginning of the film.
Kronsteen carries a pork pie Panama hat that goes well with the summery look of his silk jacket. Like a traditional Panama hat, it’s woven of cream-coloured straw and has a black ribbon. Though the bow tie and panama hat look rather costume-like together, with the right attitude some men could pull off this look today. And if the whole look is too much, a slubby navy silk jacket with patch pockets is a versatile warm-weather jacket that looks great dressed up or down, daytime or nighttime.
Emilio Largo, dare I say the best-dressed villain in the Bond series, looks just as smart in casual attire as he does in tailored clothing. Largo’s white camp shirt in Thunderball is likely a linen and cotton blend. It has a camp collar and long sleeves with rounded single-button cuffs. The body has a straight cut with a straight hem and side vents. There are six buttons down the front, including the collar, and the last two buttons are increasingly spaced farther apart going down than front. The collar, cuffs and front edge are stitched 1/4 inch from the edge. There is a crease down the middle of each side of the shirt, which means that Largo stores his shirts folded. Clearly his valet did not iron the shirt before he wore it. Some people like creases in their shirts, but they properly should be ironed out.
Compared to Connery’s camp shirts, Largo’s camp shirt is much longer, more like the length of a dress shirt to be tucked. Perhaps he had it made that way so it could transition from a casual daytime shirt to a dressier evening shirt that he can wear tucked under a blazer. Frank Foster makes his formal shirt hems exactly the same as this shirt’s hem, so there is no reason why this shirt couldn’t be worn both tucked and untucked. And seeing that Frank Foster constructs his shirt hems and vents exactly like this shirt’s hem and vent, this could possibly be one of his shirts.
Pierce Brosnan wears a very similar shirt almost 40 years later in Die Another Day, except his shirt has a pocket and he wears the sleeves rolled up. The lack of a pocket on Largo’s shirt—as well as wearing his sleeves down with the cuffs fastened—makes his look a bit dressier.
Largo’s trousers are charcoal blue linen and are ironed with a sharp crease down the leg. The have a plain hem and most likely a flat front. Though Largo is amongst the more tastefully-dressed Bond villains, his choice of shoes is rather flashy. They’re blue suede derbies with a tassels on the laces and crepe soles. I’m not saying that the shoes aren’t tasteful—they’re actually quite stylish—but they’re unlikely to be an item Bond would wear. Largo’s choice of black socks, on the other hand, is rather unstylish unless he was matching his socks to his eyepatch. Blue-grey socks to match the trousers, though difficult to find, would be the natural colour of socks to wear. Blue or grey socks of any shade would look better than black.
The exact cloth of Sean Connery’s blue suit in Goldfinger and Woman of Straw is a difficult one to make out. It’s a heavy cloth and has a mottled appearance, so it’s certainly a woollen. But is it tweed or flannel? It has a subtle stripe effect that suggests the cloth is woven in a herringbone weave, so I thought it could be a herringbone tweed. But in herringbone tweeds the weave is well-defined and easy to see. In a woollen flannel, however, the nap mostly obscures the weave, which is the case with Connery’s blue suit. So, could it be herringbone flannel?
I never saw or even heard of herringbone flannel until a reader of The Suits of James Bond who is a fan of the Connery Bond suits found a Fox Brothers herringbone flannel cloth in his search for a cloth to replicate the blue suit. Fox Brothers is one of England’s most well-known manufacturers of flannel, and their Char Blue Herringbone Jacketing flannel is a close match to what Connery’s blue suit in Goldfinger is made of. The cloth is a 500/530 gram or 18 oz weight and is featured under Fox’s jacketing range. It is based on a cloth from the 1930s, when practically all suits were made from heavier cloths than what most suits are made from today. Though it’s labelled a jacketing, it makes a good suiting for cold weather. It would have been a more typical weight for a winter suit in the 1960s when Connery wore his suit. Connery’s blue suit indeed looks to be quite heavy, especially compared to his usual lightweight worsteds. However, I’d guess that Connery’s suit is made from a cloth slightly lighter than this one. The herringbone pattern on Connery’s suit looks larger than this cloth’s pattern, and his suit is a richer blue than Fox’s char blue. Whilst it may not be a perfect match, it is the closest I’ve seen to Connery’s suit and gives insight to what Connery’s suit is likely made of.
The Fox Brothers cloth is code FS405 B2237/84 and can be purchased online at The Merchant Fox.
Even though I’ve now written about all of James Bond’s tailored clothing, there are plenty more things to cover. There is still a wealth of Bond’s non-tailored clothing that I will continue to write about. Though I have plans to write about other tailored characters going forward, I would love to hear your suggestions on what you’d like to see on this blog. I’d still like to keep this blog about Bond-related clothing. There are a number of categories beyond simply documenting James Bond’s suits that fit into the scope of this blog:
Suggest anything you’d like to see that fits into these categories in the comment area below. I’m willing to stretch a little beyond these categories, but it still needs to relate to Bond. I will consider all suggestions but I can’t promise that your suggestions will be featured here.
Like all of Timothy Dalton’s clothes in Licence to Kill, his royal blue t-shirt is a size too large. Or if judged by current fashions, Dalton’s shirt is two sizes too large. Even though baggy clothes were fashionable in 1989 when Licence to Kill was made, nobody else is wearing such large shirts. This is mostly likely a shirt that Bond found rather than bought, unless the store where Bond shopped was sold out of his size. The shirt looks even worse when it’s wet, and the large size makes it even more cumbersome for swimming in than a t-shirt ordinarily would be. The shirt has a large crew neck, an open patch breast pocket and sleeves down to his elbows. Dalton wears full-cut dark blue jeans, which one of the rare occasions Bond wears jeans. He doesn’t wear shoes or a belt.
In this scene Bond is likely attempting to dress like what the henchmen aboard the Wavekrest wear without having their actual clothes to wear. Bond’s shirt is a little darker and it doesn’t have the Wavekrest emblem on the left side of the chest that the henchmen’s shirts have. Bond’s jeans are a little darker than the security guard’s jeans and have a fuller cut compared to the henchmen’s bell-bottom trousers.
Milton Krest’s henchmen