The suits of James Bond have transformed cinema's most famous spy into a sartorial icon. Gemma Champ assesses his timeless allure
How James Bond's suits made 007 a style icon
Fifty years since Sean Connery first lit up a cigarette and the screen as James Bond in Dr No, that midnight blue mohair shawl-collared evening suit is available once more at Anthony Sinclair, the bespoke tailor in London's Mayfair that made all of Connery's suits between 1962 and 1967.
Anthony Sinclair was revived in 2012 after six dormant years by the tailor David Mason and the late Sinclair's cutter Richard Paine, to whom he passed on the business (he retired in 1982 and died in 1996). And Bond's cut, after being recreated for an anniversary exhibition in London, has become the brand's calling card.
Affectionately nicknamed the "Conduit Cut" by Sinclair's customers, it could be a template for the perfect Savile Row suit, with its natural shoulders, slender cut, slim trousers and nipped-in waist, and always in subtle, lightweight fabrics such as the Prince of Wales check used for Bond's beautiful three-piece suit in Goldfinger.
"Anthony Sinclair made suits for a lot of Guards officers, one of the officers was Terence Young, an Irish Guards officer," says Mason. "When he left the army he became a film director, and one of the films he directed was Dr No in 1962. So he was set with the task of knocking Sean Connery into shape. He was a bit of a rough diamond. Young needed to polish the edges, and he took him to Anthony Sinclair."
The result - that impeccably tailored spy - set the pace for every Bond since, from the witty Roger Moore to the moody Timothy Dalton, the tongue-in-cheek Pierce Brosnan and the franchise's latest incumbent, the brutal but sharply dressed Daniel Craig. Bond is as lost without a good tuxedo as he is without his gadgets and guns. In fact, it's testament to the iconic nature of that wonderful tailoring - whether it's Anthony Sinclair or Tom Ford, as Craig's Skyfall outfits are - that those few moments of sartorial disaster that did occur are now barely remembered. Did you, after all, clock the pale blue terry towelling playsuit worn by the pool as Connery wandered a Miami Beach hotel in Goldfinger? Or Roger Moore's synthetic leisure suits in the likes of Live And Let Die?
Yet Matt Spaiser, whose website thesuitsofjamesbond.com has become the go-to destination for those seeking more information on the Bond costumes, believes even Moore's safari suits deserve a reappraisal, given the context of their era.
"I love Roger Moore's safari suits," he says. "He wore them quite appropriately in hot climates - south-east Asia and Egypt - and in the jungle in South America and India. They didn't take the place of regular suits for him. Safari suits may have been fashionable at the time, but they have a history that goes back decades before the 1970s. I think they are quite appropriate for a British military man."
That's certainly kind of him, but for most people the suit remains the touchstone for Bond, a timeless shape that the vagaries of fashion can only mildly affect, and Spaiser notes that Connery's Sinclair suits and Pierce Brosnan's - designed by the Italian firm Brioni - were the most timeless of all. Indeed, his choices for those suits most touched by fashion are somewhat surprising.
"The most fashionable suits of the series are in Licence to Kill and Skyfall," he says. "They are at the extremes because of the way they fit. Timothy Dalton's suits in Licence to Kill were oversized (as was the trend) and Daniel Craig's suits in Skyfall are the opposite. Though we look at Moore's late 1970s suits and think the wide lapels and trouser flares seem really dated, they were quite tame for the time. And the suits always fit well. Daniel Craig's suits in Skyfall, however, are much tighter and shorter than what the majority of men are wearing today. In 10 or 20 years they may look just as silly as Roger Moore's flared trousers do now. On the other hand, Daniel Craig's suits in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace will date very well."
Indeed, the tightness of Craig's trousers in Skyfall has already created a stir, and David Mason says that many of his customers are asking for a tighter Conduit suit, albeit retaining the subtlety of the original.
"We get customers who want replicas - they want exactly what Bond wore. And then of course we get people who want a modern interpretation, with similar lines and characteristics on the shoulderline and sleeve, but cut closer to the body. They don't want pleats in the trousers - they want much slimmer lines - so that's what we do, but maintaining the character of the garments, and using the same kind of fabrics: there's no windowpane checks or gaudy colours or bright lining. It's simple, pared down, timeless, classic, but refined. It's all about getting that elegant shape."
An elegant suit requires elegant accessories, of course, and the crisp Turnbull & Asser double-cuffed shirts, knitted silk or grenadine ties and a distinct lack of cummerbund on the tux are all crucial pieces. On tight trousers, boots look best so that the socks don't show on the shorter cut, and a classic watch, such as Connery's Breitling Top Time or Rolex Submariner, is essential (preferably with extra complications such as an inbuilt garrote or a Geiger counter).
So what is the Platonic ideal of a Bond suit? Spaiser puts it down to Englishness: "The classic Bond suit looks like a well-tailored English suit. Even Pierce Brosnan's Brioni suits were made with an English flair. The Tom Ford suits in Quantum of Solace were modelled after Savile Row suits. Blues and greys, solid or subtly patterned, give the Bond look. The shirt should be white, light blue or cream, and the tie should be simple and darker than the shirt."
For Mason, the English part comes naturally, and while lapel widths might change (ranging from a mere 7cm in Goldfinger to as much as 9.5cm in Diamonds Are Forever) there are more practical considerations. Fabrics were lightweight, for example, because Bond "could be deployed to an exotic location at a moment's notice", and the cut around the chest has a certain amount of drape: "Remember, he has to conceal a weapon." Most importantly, Sean Connery's peerless physique has to be shown to best advantage.
"It's the natural shoulder, padded - not like the Neapolitan suit that doesn't have anything in it all, but it's not the heavy, square, English military shoulder. The roped sleeveheads provide a sort of lift at the top of the sleeve. And then you've got that suppression on the waist, for an hourglass shape, and those slim trousers. It's effortless on him," says Spaiser.
And that's where bespoke comes in. Bond famously had his suits made in Savile Row where a great tailor can adapt the cut to your shape. "If you get someone who really doesn't have any definition on their waist, you give them a little room around the chest then suppress the waist and spring it out a little over the hips, and you create the look and illusion of the bodyshape," says Mason.
Bespoke suits from Anthony Sinclair cost from £2,950 (Dh17,300). Visit www.anthonysinclair.com
Get the look: Bond's style essentials
THE SHIRT Piqué Bib-Front Cotton Tuxedo Shirt, Dh1,361, Turnbull & Asser
THE BOOTS Beijing Leather Chelsea Boots, Dh1,566, Church's
THE TIE Woven silk tie, Dh667, Burberry
THE POCKET HANDKERCHIEF Set-of-Six Hand-Rolled Cotton Handkerchiefs Dh308, Brooks Brothers
THE WATCH The Rolex Submariner, from Dh21,000