Suits me, says Bond
Through the last halfcentury and 23 official James Bond films, Ian Fleming’s super-spy has been played by seven actors with 17 costume designers responsible for the look of agent 007 and the stylish garb he wears.
Across the span of those five decades, even the traditionally glacial pace of menswear trends looks like a fast-forward fashion of shifts in shape and fit when the costumes are studied.
Lapels widen and contract, blazer buttons multiply, silhouettes balloon and shrink.
High-end suits have been a sartorial throughout, however, from the moment in 1962 when Sean Connery appeared on screen in Dr No in a suit cut by Mayfair tailor Anthony Sinclair, to the Bond suits from fashion designer Tom Ford in 2008’s Quantum of Solace.
The way the tailored suits have been used has also changed. At first a reflection of Bond’s character, his suit has been a disguise in some films, a dapper suit of armour in others.
In the just-released Skyfall, directed by Sam Mendes, the suit functions much as a superhero’s body-hugging uniform, clothes whose primary function is to showcase the lean, mean killing machine within.
The provenance of the latest suits has not changed – they are still the high-end, hand-tailored work of Tom Ford.
What’s different this time is the costume designer, Jany Temime, whose credits include the Harry Potter films. Temime considered dressing Bond to be the kind of challenge that would face a fashion designer brought in to update a longlived luxury fashion brand.
‘‘Everybody knows Bond, which gives him this almost transcendental reach,’’ she says.
‘‘That is what makes him such an incredible character to design for. I didn’t want to do a parody of Bond. I wanted it to be classy and modern.’’
Temime considers the suits sacrosanct.
‘‘Bond always wears a suit, he always wears a tie. He’s a dangerous gentleman – but he is a gentleman. He works for the MI6, and MI6 works for Her Majesty. He dresses the way an English gentleman should. That’s very important.’’
So no matter if Bond is dangling from an elevator, riding a motorcycle up a staircase or fist-fighting atop a moving train, he is dressed to the nines.
Temime tweaked the fit of Bond’s signature suits to accentuate the body beneath.
‘‘I wanted Bond [and the actor] to be able to move in the suits,’’ she says.
‘‘In Skyfall, he runs, he fights and you can see his muscles moving under the trousers and the shirts.
‘‘I also wanted to dress Bond in a way that you might almost forget he’s wearing a suit.
‘‘I think that’s the modern approach to a suit. It doesn’t look dressed up. It just looks easygoing and right because it fits absolutely perfectly.’’
Anyone watching the besuited Daniel Craig run, jump, whirl and kick the living daylights out of evil-doers will agree that Temime has succeeded.
The various Tom Ford suits, grounded in a grey or blue palette, seem to move and stretch on our hero as if infused with Spandex, although, and this is noteworthy, the suits are made from 100 per cent super-fine wool.
There is the sharp crease of a pocket handkerchief at the left breast and a perfectly knotted necktie that barely budges throughout the movie, thanks to a button tab behind the knot that also keeps the collar points unflappable.
When Bond breaks into a run, his suit jacket or overcoat flaps in the wind and billows behind him ever so slightly, making it almost impossible not to make the connection between coat and superhero cape.
The perception of Bond as superhero is integral to 007’s enduring popularity, says Rob Weiner, a humanities and fine arts librarian at Texas Tech University and co-editor of the book James Bond in Popular and World Culture: The Films Are Not Enough.
‘‘Bond is like the noncostume equivalent of Batman in a lot of ways,’’ Weiner says, explaining the character’s longlived appeal.
‘‘He gets to sleep with beautiful women. He goes to beautiful localities, drinks as much as he wants and never has to pay any consequences. He can get out of any situation more or less intact, and he lives a life of adventure and intrigue. How is that not cool?
‘‘Of course,’’ Weiner says, ‘‘it helps that there’s a certain poise, suaveness and panache that connects every Bond from Connery to Craig.
Los Angeles Times
Connery Bond: Old-fashioned tie knot won’t movea centimetre, even if jet propelled. Craig Bond: Anew and natty waisted, fitted TomFord suit.