What Kind of Underwear Would Bond Wear?

Turnbull-Asser-Sea-Island-Boxer-Shorts

Sea island cotton boxer shorts from Turnbull & Asser, likely what Ian Fleming had in mind for James Bond, and maybe what he wore himself

We see James Bond in swimming trunks, pyjamas and dressing gowns, but we never see James Bond in his underwear in the films. There’s a slight peak of it in Casino Royale, but we can’t tell what kind it is. Bond most likely has varied his underwear styles throughout the decades. Ian Fleming specified “nylon underclothes” in the novel Diamonds Are Forever, which have great drying properties. In The Man with the Golden Gun novel, Fleming wrote about a different, more luxurious type of underwear:

Bond then took off his clothes, put his gun and holster under a pillow, rang for the valet, and had his suit taken away to be pressed. By the time he had taken a hot shower followed by an ice-cold one and pulled on a fresh pair of sea island cotton underpants, the bourbon had arrived.”

The “sea island cotton underpants” are undoubtedly referring to the woven boxer short style, since old-fashioned men in Britain at the time wore little else. The cotton material would be similar or identical to Bond’s sea island cotton shirts that Fleming specified. Some shirtmakers make boxer shorts to match their customers’ shirts. Sean Connery and Roger Moore most likely also wear woven boxer shorts as Bond, considering that was traditionally what men wore in Britain. Roger Moore can be seen in cotton boxer shorts in the 1969 film Crossplot, which took its wardrobe from Moore’s television show The Saint. Connery’s and Moore’s trousers have enough fullness in the thighs to accommodate boxer shorts.

Sean Connery wearing cream boxer shorts and a white vest in Never Say Never Again

Sean Connery wearing cream boxer shorts and a white vest in Never Say Never Again

In the unofficial James Bond film Never Say Never Again, Sean Connery wears cream boxer shorts with a white vest (also known as an A-shirt or wife beater). Bond had just discarded his dinner suit to escape on a bicycle, so he must have been wearing these clothes under his dinner suit. The British ordinarily aren’t fond of undershirts, and Bond almost never wears them. To blend in as an American in Fleming’s novel Live and Let Die, Bond wears “nylon vests and pants (called T-shirts and shorts)”. However, the “nylon underclothes” that Fleming writes about in Diamonds Are Forever may also include vests.

Sunspel Stretch Trunk

Stretch trunk underwear from Sunspel

Underwear is a very personal garment and there’s no way we can guess the different styles of underwear that Bond has worn throughout the series apart from following what the trends were at any given time. Trends in underwear sometimes followed trends in trousers. Boxer shorts were very popular in the 1980s and 1990s when full-cut trousers were popular. However, in a 1985 episodes of Remington Steele titled “Forged Steele”, Pierce Brosnan wears white knitted cotton briefs.

Remington-Steele-Briefs

The James Bond Dossier announced last month that Sunpel, who made some of Daniel Craig’s polos and t-shirts for Casino Royale, has provided their stretch cotton brief and their stretch cotton low waist trunk (a short boxer brief) for Daniel Craig to wear in Spectre. This underwear is made of a 92% cotton and 8% elastane blend so it has more stretch than a pure cotton knit. Neither the brief nor the trunk has a front opening. Briefs and trunks are necessary for Daniel Craig since loose boxer shorts would bunch up under his tight trouser legs and prevent the trousers from hanging smoothly over the thighs.

What kind of underwear do you think Bond would wear?

Stretch brief underwear from Sunspel

Stretch brief underwear from Sunspel

Count Lippe’s Casual Brown Tweed Suit

Count-Lippe-Tweed-Suit

Count Lippe (Guy Doleman) is a SPECTRE agent Bond encounters at the Shrublands health farm in the English countryside in Thunderball. The basis for Lippe’s clothes in the film was taken from Ian Fleming’s description of Lippe in the Thunderball novel:

He was an athletic-looking six foot, dressed in the sort of casually well-cut beige herring-bone tweed that suggests Anderson and Sheppard. He wore a white silk shirt and a dark red polka-dot tie, and the soft dark brown V-necked sweater looked like vicuna. Bond summed him up as a good-looking bastard who got all the women he wanted and probably lived on them—and lived well.

Like in the novel, Count Lippe’s suit in the film is tweed, though it is not herringbone. The mottled appearance makes it very difficult to tell what pattern the cloth is, though if I had to guess I think I see a fine check. It is not beige, however, but a darker taupe-brown overall that looks great in England’s countryside. The tweed is made up of brown yarns likely mixed with cream and green, and possibly other colours too.

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Though the suit in the film is casual in style, the button two jacket with slightly narrow lapels does not have the uniquely relaxed Anderson and Sheppard drape cut that the literary Bond identified Lippe’s suit by. The chest does not have much drape, and the shoulders have too much padding. Anderson & Sheppard’s cut, by contrast, is known for its soft look in both the shoulders and the chest, and sometimes foregoes the front darts on the jacket. Lippe’s suit jacket has the casual details of two open patch pockets at the hips and a matching breast pocket. The cuffs have three buttons, placed very close to the end of the cuff. Based on the way the jacket pull at the skirt, it likely does not have any vents, though the rear is not seen. The jacket’s buttons are light and dark brown horn, and the buttonholes are a bold medium brown that stands out. Judging by the suit jacket’s oversized shoulders and buttons being vey close to the ends of the sleeves, this suit was likely made for another actor for another production and altered to fit Doleman for Thunderball. The suit trousers have gently tapered legs. Though the top of the trousers is not seen, they likely have double forward pleats.

Count-Lippe-Tweed-Suit-Shoes

Notice Lippe’s elegant chestnut brown shoes

Under the suit jacket Lippe wears a light brown doeskin wool waistcoat, which has a felt-like appearance. Its inclusion was likely inspired by the “soft dark brown V-necked sweater” that Fleming writes about, but the waistcoat is not quite a casual as a sweater. Lippe’s tattersall shirt has a cream ground with a large check in a number of colours, which are difficult to decipher. It may include navy, green, purple, red and orange. Country tattersall shirts are typically woven in a twill weave to have a softer and more casual look than crisp poplin. Lippe’s shirt has a spread collar and button cuffs. His tie is medium brown wool and tied in a half-windsor knot. Just peaking out of Lippe’s breast pocket is a puffed green silk pocket handkerchief with purple dots, which would suggest that those two colours are very likely in the tattersall shirt. Silk handkerchiefs go well with wool ties because of the contrasting textures. Lippe’s shoes are elegant chestnut brown plain-toe slip-ons. Though they are beautiful shoes, such a heavy suit would look better with sturdier brogues.

Count-Lippe-Car-Coat

Over his suit, Lippe wears a car coat that is designed to resemble a shearling coat, particularly with its lambswool-faced shawl collar. Whilst the body of a shearling coat is sheepskin suede, this coat is brown wool melton. The heavy, firm, dull, felted melton has a fine nap that can look almost like suede, especially in the drab brown colour, but it is a traditional cloth for overcoats as well as blankets. The double-breasted coat has four brown leather buttons on the front with two to button. The hem and sleeves are finished with four bands of stitching, like one would find on a covert coat. There are slanted pockets on the front with flaps, and the flaps also have the same four rows of stitching to match the hem and sleeves. The sleeves have buttoned straps, and the back has short double vents.

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Not Mad About Benz’s tailor

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“Not mad about his tailor, are you?” says Bond to Kerim Bey about Benz’s suit. Benz is a Russian security agent played by English actor Peter Bayliss in From Russia with Love. Why doesn’t Bond like Benz’s suit? The first thing that stands out about this suit is not due to the tailor’s work but is the suit’s garish cloth. The suit is light grey with large horizontal ribs and black chalk stripes, which are muted by the grey base. Dark stripes can sometimes work on a suit, but not against the contrast of a light grey ground. The black chalk stripes immediately mark Benz as an enemy.

Benz-Stripe-Suit

It’s no surprise that Bond does not favour Benz’s tailor’s work. The button one suit jacket has a very full drape cut, which had become very unfashionable in the 1960s. It looks like it was made in the 1940s. The chest is full with a lot of drape and the waist is gently suppressed. The shoulders are wide, but they are well done with natural-looking padding and cleanly-draped, full sleeves. The cut of the jacket is meant to make Benz look like a much stronger man than he is, but that deception is apparent when Bond turns his suit jacket into a straight jacket and exposes Benz’s shoulders.

The suit jacket is detailed with jetted pockets, no vent and four-button cuffs. The lapels have a steep gorge, which both makes the lapels seem wider than they are and makes the medium gorge height seem lower than it is. The lapels have a very wide notch. The suit’s buttons are black plastic to match the black stripes and sewn with grey thread to match the suit. The suit’s trousers are full-cut with pleats and have wide legs with turn-ups.

Benz-Stripe-Suit-3

Benz wears a rather cheap-looking cream shirt with his suit. It has a short, moderate spread collar and square single-button cuffs. The collar and cuffs are stitched 1/8″ from the edge, which is mostly what lends a cheap look to the shirt. Most top-quality makers have 1/4″ stitching on the collar and cuffs, and whilst there are some high-end makers that stitch the collar and cuffs 1/8″ or closer to the edge, it’s mostly done on poor-quality shirts.

Whilst Benz’s black satin silk tie complements the suit’s black stripes, the navy satin silk pocket square—folded in a winged puff—clashes with the tie. However, the navy pocket square matches Benz’s navy socks, which is quite creative. Benz’s shoes are black.

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Benz briefly is seen with a black felt hat, but the type of hat is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Instead of the crown tapering upward, the crown bells out like on a top hat. The crown is much shorter than a top hat’s crown, and the top is domed. The brim is turned down all the way around. The hat has a black grosgrain ribbon with a large bow. Is anyone familiar with the style of Benz’s hat, seen on top of his briefcase below?

Benz-Hat

Ian Fleming did not write about Benz’s suit in the From Russia with Love novel, but he wrote about Benz’s dressing gown:

Reluctantly, his heavy face pale with anger, the M.G.B. man who called himself Benz stepped out into the corridor in a brilliant blue silk dressing-gown. The hard brown eyes looked straight into Bond’s, ignoring him … Bond noticed the bulge under the left arm of the dressing-gown, and the ridge of a belt round the waist. He wondered if he should tip off the plain-clothes man. He decided it would be better to keep quiet. He might be hauled in as a witness.

At least Fleming’s Benz had fine taste in loungewear, though all he wears in the film is his one striped suit.

Drax: The Three-Piece Double-Breasted Suit

Drax-Three-Piece-Double-Breasted-Suit

Though the most memorable pieces of Hugo Drax’s wardrobe in Moonraker are his Mao jackets, his double-breasted, three-piece black flannel chalk stripe suit is perhaps the nicest suit that anyone wears in Moonraker. It is Drax’s only outfit that is reminiscent of what the character wears in the 1955 Moonraker novel by Ian Fleming. Drax is actually one of the few villains in the novels that dresses in good taste, and elements of literary Drax’s clothes are taken from Fleming’s own wardrobe:

Bond concluded his inspection with Drax’s clothes which were expensive and in excellent taste—a dark blue pinstripe in lightweight flannel, double-breasted with turnback cuffs, a heavy white silk shirt with a stiff collar, an unobtrusive tie with a small grey and white check, modest cuff-links, which looked like Cartier, and a plain gold Patek Philippe watch with a black leather strap. (Moonraker, Chapter 3)

The film Drax, played by Michael Lonsdale, also wears a double-breasted flannel suit, though it’s not exactly the same as what the literary Drax wears. The suit is not so lightweight and is black instead of dark blue. Though well-dressed men avoid solid black suits for all occasions other than funerals, the striped black suit isn’t treated the same way as its solid cousin. The soft, light grey chalk stripes break up the large sea of black so the suit doesn’t look too dreary. Chalkstripes on black flannel are also better than pinstripes and rope stripes on worsteds because they aren’t as bold. Strong white rope stripes on black give the suit a gangster-esque look, but Drax’s soft, grey chalk stripes make his black suit an elegant one. A black chalkstripe suit can still be difficult for most people to pull off, but Drax has a cool, high-contrast winter complexion, so the black does not overpower him.

Drax-Three-Piece-Double-Breasted-Suit-3

The literary Drax’s suit is assumed to be a two-piece suit, but in the film the suit is a three-piece. The three-piece double-breasted suit went out of fashion around the time of World War II. Few men today could actually benefit from the intense warmth of a flannel, double-breasted, three-piece suit.

Though the double-breasted three-piece suit recalls the 1930s, Drax’s suit jacket is timeless and has medium-width lapels and—unlike 1930s double-breasted suit which were made without vents—double vents. The jacket is in the classic double-breasted style of six buttons with two to button. It is cut with straight shoulders on the natural shoulder line and gently roped sleeveheads. The chest is clean but full, and the waist is slightly shaped. There is only one lapel buttonhole in the peaked lapels, in the left lapel. The jacket also has jetted pockets, double vents and four buttons on the cuffs.

Not much of Drax’s waistcoat is seen since so little of it sticks out above the suit jacket, but enough of it is seen to tell that it is single-breasted and has no lapels. Both single-breasted and double-breasted waistcoats, with or without lapels, are appropriate with a double-breasted suit, and Drax wears the leanest option since his flannel double-breasted suit jacket already has so much bulk. Drax’s suit trousers have wide, straight legs.

Drax’s white shirt is has a sheen, so it’s probably silk like the literary Drax’s shirt is. It has a point collar with a generous amount of tie space and square double cuffs with the link holes off-centre towards the fold. The cuffs are attached to the sleeve with pleats. Drax’s square cuff links are black with a gold frame, and they could possibly be from Cartier like in the Moonraker novel. Drax wears a black knitted silk tie, tied in a symmetrical half windsor knot. It’s the same tie that the literary James Bond wears but tied in a knot he would not approve of. A knitted tie may seem too informal for a double-breasted, three-piece suit, but the knitted silk texture is a good complement to flannel no matter the fastening style or the presence of a waistcoat. Pinned to his breast pocket he wears a brass Drax industries badge, which takes the place of a pocket square. Drax’s shoes are black.

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Sea Island Cotton

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Sean Connery wears a pale blue Turnbull & Asser shirt in From Russia with Love that is probably made of Sea Island cotton.

James Bond has a long history of wearing Sea Island cotton. Ian Fleming wrote in his novels that Bond wears a “dark blue Sea Island cotton shirt” in Moonraker, “dark blue Sea Island cotton shirts with collars attached and short sleeves” in Diamonds Are Forever, a “white sea-island cotton shirt” in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and “sea island cotton underpants” in The Man with the Golden Gun. Sean Connery’s Turnbull & Asser shirts were likely made of Sea Island cotton poplin, and some of Pierce Brosnan’s Turnbull & Asser shirts auctioned with his suits at Bonhams were made of “Sea Island Cotton Quality” royal oxford.

Sea Island cotton is an extra-long staple cotton, and due to the fibre’s fine diameter and long length it has a silky look and feel. Sea Island cotton is also a very strong fibre, which is what allows it to be made into finer shirtings. It is typically spun in a 140 yarn count. Originally it was grown on the Sea Islands of South Carolina and Georgia in the United States, but now it is grown in the British West Indies. Turnbull & Asser has not sold genuine Sea Island cotton shirts for some time and now sells “Sea Island Quality”, which is extra-long staple cotton grown in Egypt. Turnbull & Asser’s”Sea Island Quality” shirts are at the top of their ready-to-wear range.

Though Sea Island cotton is both durable and has the silkiest feel of all cottons, there are downsides. It doesn’t have much body, and in a poplin weave it can be somewhat translucent in white. Because Sea Island cotton is so fine, it is very difficult to iron and wrinkles easily. Underpants, like what Bond wears in The Man with the Golden Gun novel, may be the best usage for Sea Island cotton since they touch one of the most sensitive parts of the body, and it doesn’t matter if they wrinkle.

Ian Fleming’s Pea Coat

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Though Ian Fleming never included the pea coat as part of James Bond’s wardrobe in his novels, Fleming himself wore a pea coat as a Royal Navy officer during the Second World War. This pea coat was sold at Bonham’s on New Bond Street in London on 22 November 2011 for £13,750. The dark navy double-breasted coat has eight buttons with four to button. It has single-button cuffs, and the shawl collar and vertical outside front pocket welts are trimmed in a ribbed knit stretch fabric. The buttons are made of black horn, and the lining is scarlet.

According to the auction listing, Commander Fleming wore this pea coat during the Dieppe Raid of 1942 whilst he was serving in the Naval Intelligence Division. The coat was later given to Ivar Bryce, a friend of Fleming’s since his school days at Eton. Bryce’s middle name was Felix, and Fleming gave his name to Bond’s ally and best friend CIA agent Felix Leiter. The pea coat was shown at For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming and James Bond Exhibition, which celebrated the centenary of Ian Fleming’s birth, at Imperial War Museum London from April 2008 to March 2009. You can see more about the pea coat at the auction listing on Bonham’s website.

It wasn’t until the film Casino Royale that the film Bond wears a pea coat. Later, the film Bond wears another pea coat in Skyfall. Though the pea coat doesn’t have any earlier history with Bond in the films or the books, it’s quite an appropriate casual coat for a former naval officer, and Fleming himself wore one.

Ian Fleming’s Golfing Jacket

Fleming-Golfing-Jacket

A tweed golfing jacket that belong to Ian Fleming was auctioned at Bonhams on New Bond Street on 23 November 2010 and sold for £1,080. This jacket was made by Fleming’s tailor Benson, Perry & Whitley in 1963, only a year before Fleming died. This jacket is most reminiscent of the literary James Bond’s “battered black and white dogtooth suit” that Fleming first mentions in Moonraker, and he subsequently mentions it as the suit that Bond wears for golf in Diamonds Are Forever. This jacket is in a shepherd’s check that is more than twice the size of a houndstooth check. It could have been part of a suit like Bond’s dogtooth suit, but the large scale probably means that this was made only as an odd jacket. Also like Bond’s dogtooth suit, this jacket is a “yellowing” black and white. However, this jacket also has a teal overcheck.

The style of the jacket is the closest to what we can guess Bond’s suit jackets were like. It is a button two with narrow lapels and flapped pockets. Though we can see the cut from the pictures of it laying flat, it is probably cut like Fleming’s other jackets with natural shoulders and a little drape. To match the sporty tweed look, the buttons are black leather. Like on some of the film Bond’s dinner jackets, this jacket has turnback “gauntlet” cuffs as well, with two buttons. Gauntlet cuffs have little bearing on formality, so they are just as appropriate on a sports coat or an overcoat as they are on a dinner jacket. They are, however, too fussy for tailcoats.

View the auction listing

Jeffrey Deaver: Carte Blanche

Jeffrey Deaver took on the task of writing the last James Bond continuation novel, released in 2011. Deaver specifies an updated wardrobe for Bond, with a little more detail than Fleming wrote:

“By seven fifteen he was dressed: a navy-blue Canali suit, a white sea island shirt and a burgundy Grenadine tie, the latter items from Turnbull & Asser. He donned black shoes, slip-ons; he never wore laces, except for combat footwear or when tradecraft required him to send silent messages to a fellow agent via prearranged looping.” (Chapter 6)

Deaver takes inspiration from both Fleming’s Bond and Connery’s Bond in dressing the character. The navy suit, sea island shirt and slip-on shoes are straight from Fleming, whilst the grenadine—though in a different colour—is a more refined choice taken from Connery’s Bond. Though the film Bond’s long relationship with Turnbull & Asser has also made it into the novel, Deaver made his own choice for the brand of Bond’s suit: Canali. Canali’s suits are well-made and have some Italian flare, but they are still fairly conservative suits. Though their suits no longer have the traditional Italian details of jetted pockets and a ventless skirt, they still have some of the strongest shoulders of any suits today.