While writing recently about the James Bond design exhibit and the unorthodox notched lapels featured in Goldfinger I started wondering about Bond tuxedos as a whole. Curious to see how they evolved over time I rented the entire series on DVD and have produced a timeline that highlights key developments. For those who are interested in the complete details of the individual outfits, I have linked each summary to corresponding posts from the blog The Suits of James Bond. The site is extremely thorough and also a pleasure to read.
The most significant insight I gained is that Bond tuxedos are not necessarily the black-tie benchmarks I had thought them to be. In particular I was surprised at the scarcity of waist coverings and braces and the prevalence of notched lapels. I also noticed that ordinary shirt buttons are preferred over studs (although this may be a Britishism) and that Bond’s dinner jackets typically have side vents (which may be a practical choice that allows him to spring into action at any moment, as the Suits blog suggests).
The 1960s Sean Connery Films
It is telling that the first appearance of James Bond is a closeup of his tuxedoed arms dealing cards at a casino (see it on YouTube). This is followed by a wider shot of his formally clad back then finally his face is revealed as he utters his trademark introduction: “Bond. James Bond.”
By the time Dr. No was released in 1962 the tuxedo had become widely accessible to mainstream America but audiences would have been well aware that the onscreen dinner suit was a far cry from the rental getups typically associated with weddings and proms. Its bespoke perfection and its utilization at opulent casinos, Old World opera houses and upscale restaurants clearly signaled a masculine superiority and worldly sophistication that belies 007’s youthful appearance.
So much has been written on the original Bond look that there’s not much I can add. Basically, the slim Continental styling of Sean Connery’s suits – dinner or otherwise – embodied the modern aesthetic of the Jet Age. He was at once hip and refined, putting him on par with real-life iconic playboy Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack pals. It became the benchmark by which all subsequent Bonds would be judged.
Dr. No (1962)
Bond’s premiere dinner jacket is a midnight-blue single-breasted shawl collar trimmed with satin cuffs and accessorized with a TV fold pocket square. It is worn while playing a game of baccarat at a private casino.
Some sources suggest that the Nehru jacket lent to Bond by Dr. No for dinner later in the film is also a sort of tuxedo. It is not. Although this style of jacket did become adapted to formal wear beginning in the late 1960s, the brown version sported by Bond along with tan slacks and blue canvas shoes hardly constitutes formal evening wear.
From Russia with Love (1963)
Technically, James Bond does not wear a tuxedo in the series’ second installment. Instead, a decoy wearing a Bond mask sports a tuxedo while being hunted at a SPECTRE training ground. The faux Bond’s dinner suit is much the same as the one seen on the real 007 in Dr. No: a midnight-blue shawl collar with satin cuffs although the collar is narrower in a reflection of contemporary Jet Age styling.
Not since Casablanca has there been such a famous white dinner jacket. After emerging from the ocean somewhere in South America, Bond strips off his wet suit to reveal an impeccable tropical evening kit consisting of a single-breasted ivory jacket and a tone-on-tone striped dinner shirt. A red carnation is one of only two formal boutonnieres to be worn by Bond in the series. Notably, although shawl collars are the norm for white dinner jackets, Bond’s versions have always featured peaked or notched lapels.
Later in the film James is briefed in a private dining room wearing a notched-lapel dinner jacket. As in the previous films he accessorizes it with a pocket square, a flourish that will not appear again until the Brosnan films.
The Thunderball dinner jacket is yet another a midnight-blue shawl-collar model that James wears to a high-stakes game of baccarat, this time at a Nassau casino. It will be the last shawl collar seen until Timothy Dalton’s 007 debut.
You Only Live Twice (1967)
This is the first of only two Bond films not to feature tuxedos. The closest James comes to formal wear is the kimono he dons as a faux Japanese groom.
The George Lazenby and 1971 Connery Films
George Lazenby’s 1969 sole appearance and Sean Connery’s 1971 return engagement coincided with the lowest point in formalwear history. The counterculture revolution was in full swing and manufacturers were desperately trying to reinvent the tuxedo to make it appeal to a generation for whom “formal” was a four-letter word. The resulting attire was abominable both off screen and on.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
Despite the full-on sixties wardrobe featured in this film, Lazenby’s dinner suit is remarkably conservative. In fact, it is the first dark tuxedo to feature peaked lapels. The gaudiness cherished by the period’s Peacock Revolution is instead limited to Bond’s horrific ruffled shirt. This outfit is worn while gambling at a casino in Portugal.
Later in the same film Bond goes undercover as an English aristocrat and wears Highland Dress - a Scottish variant on black tie – to dinner at the villain’s mansion in the Swiss Alps.
Rounding out the formalwear smorgasbord of O.H.M.S.S. is the first appearance of Bond morning dress, worn by James at his ill-fated wedding.
Diamonds are Forever (1971)
In Sean Connery’s return appearance his first black-tie outfit is a tasteful peaked-lapel white dinner jacket worn to a Las Vegas casino.
His subsequent evening outfit is far less refined thanks to jacquard-faced notch lapels and matching pocket flaps. Conversely this is the first time we ever see Bond in a waist covering, specifically a darkly coloured patterned cummerbund. The ensemble also marks the second (and final) appearance of a Bond boutonniere.
(Note: The Suits of James Bond has not yet reviewed this film’s tuxedos.)
The Roger Moore Films
The Roger Moore tuxedos of the 1970s and early ’80s are notable primarily for the abundance of notched-lapel and double-breasted jackets. Also, there was not a shawl collar or waist covering in site. The disco-era oversized lapels, chest-warming bow ties and flared trousers may have prevented these dinner suits from being the best of the series but their remaining details were conservative enough to avoid being the worst.
Live and Let Die (1973)
This is the second of the two Bond films that do not to feature 007 in a tuxedo.
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
This is the first double-breasted white dinner jacket to appear in the franchise. It is made of stubby dupioni silk in a nod to the corresponding scene’s Hong Kong setting.
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Moore’s third Bond film debuts the double-breasted dark dinner jacket (midnight blue in this case). It is worn to dinner in an upscale Egyptian club and into the following day as James pursues Jaws into the dessert.
Moore’s second double-breasted peaked lapel dark tuxedo is sported during Carnival evening festivities in Rio di Janeiro and into the following morning. (Not yet reviewed in The Suits of James Bond.)
For Your Eyes Only (1981)
In For Your Eyes Only, Bond takes a break from the double-breasteds and opts for a black notched-lapel single-breasted jacket that he wears to a casino in Corfu.
Moore’s single-breasted peaked-lapel white dinner jacket harkens back to the one worn by Connery in Goldfinger. Bond sports it while matching wits with the film’s villain in a game of backgammon at a posh Delhi casino.
When Bond later attends dinner at the villain’s mansion he dons a notched-lapel dinner suit almost identical to the one worn in the previous film.
A View to a Kill (1985)
The first of two dinner jackets in A View to a Kill is Moore’s third double-breasted peaked lapel although this one is midnight blue instead of black. It is worn to a restaurant in the Eiffel Tower in what appears to be broad daylight. The Suits of James Bond suggests this may be because the scene takes place at the height of summer when the sun doesn’t set until very late in the evening.
The second dinner jacket is a white notched-lapel, the only one to be seen in the series. It is also the last white DJ of any kind to be worn by Bond. James sports it at a reception on the grounds of a French country estate.
Formal day wear also makes an appearance during a visit to Ascot. It is one of three times that morning dress is seen in the series and the only occasion when it’s not associated with a wedding.
The Timothy Dalton Films
Whether it’s the fault of the actor or his costumer, Dalton never seems at home in a tuxedo. The end result is not so much a world-class playboy at the top of his game but a reluctant groom forced to parade about in rented clothing.
The Living Daylights (1987)
The first tuxedo worn by Dalton in the film is the only shawl collar to be seen on Bond between between the Connery and Craig eras. It is also the first piece of special-purpose formal wear to appear in the series. In this case the collar closes with a Velcro strap allowing the black jacket to cover the white shirt while Bond carries out his mission under cover of darkness. The dinner suit is worn to a black-tie classical concert in communist Czechoslovakia.
Dalton’s next evening kit in The Living Daylights is a distinct step down on the sartorial ladder. The black notched lapel jacket is pedestrian enough as it is but the addition of clip-on suspenders is positively proletarian. Not exactly up to snuff for attending the opera in Vienna.
Rounding out the DJ lapel trinity, Dalton returns to the Czechoslovakian concert hall in a peaked model. The scene is too brief and the shots too closely framed to discern any other details but Suits of James Bond author Matthew Spaiser informs me that the tuxedo was later auctioned and the listing described it as a 6-button double-breasted.
Licence to Kill (1989)
The last notched lapel dinner jacket to be featured in the series (to date) is by far the worst. In typical 1980s fashion the suit too large overall and the jacket’s shoulders are excessively padded. Furthermore, the exaggeratedly low gorge and wide, shiny lapels epitomize the way that the notch design suggests sloping shoulders and gives the jacket a droopy, flaccid look. Rounding out the rented prom outfit is a 2-button cut and, interestingly, dark studs – two features seen only in this film. The setting for this sartorial travesty is an Isthmus casino owned by the film’s villain (an oddly common scenario in Bond movies).
At least this time Dalton is wearing proper button-on suspenders and a cummerbund. The reason for the cummerbund appears to be as practical as it is stylistic considering that it conceals rope used by Bond to rappel the casino’s exterior.
Licence to Kill also features the last appearance of Bond morning dress but it, just like the evening wear in the film, looks to be of the mass-produced rental variety. In this case there is an excuse though because Bond is as a member of an identically dressed wedding party. (Notably, the wedding is an American one. The use of morning dress rather than the more common – and incorrect – tuxedo at a daytime wedding reflects the 1980s yuppie fascination with all things formal during.)
The Pierce Brosnan Films
After Timothy Dalton’s departure no Bond film would feature multiple formal outfits again, a reflection of an increasingly casual world. Fortunately the reduction of quantity was counterbalanced by a substantial increase in quality. With the excesses of the 1980s a thing of the past, the Bond franchise turned to luxury menswear designers Brioni for 007′s impeccably tailored attire and cast an actor who knew exactly how to wear it.
The GoldenEye dinner jacket was a peaked-lapel single-breasted model, the same style that Brosnan would wear in all of his Bond appearances. This one was paired with a matching black waistcoat, the first formal vest ever seen on 007. As if that weren’t dashing enough, the suit was finished off with a pocket square, the first one sported by Bond since Goldfinger (albeit of puffed silk instead of folded linen). Also making its Bond debut was the fly-front formal shirt. The setting for this elegant ensemble was a Monte Carlo casino.
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
The stakes were raised for the second Brosnan tuxedo with upgrades to midnight blue suit material, grosgrain trim and a double-breasted waistcoat. The setting was a lavish corporate gala hosted by the movie’s billionaire villain.
The World is Not Enough (1999)
In Brosnan’s third outing Bond once again wore a midnight-blue dinner suit, this time with a marcella shirt. Sadly, the waist covering was gone. Bond wore this particular kit to an Old World casino somewhere in eastern Europe.
Die Another Day (2002)
Brosnan’s final Bond tuxedo was much the same as his previous one except that the shirt once again featured a hidden placket. This cool outfit was Bond’s choice for evening cocktails at a swank ice hotel in Iceland.
The Daniel Craig Films
Although Craig’s Bond is the most rough-hewed interpretation of the character in the series, designer Tom Ford keeps him on the right path after dark. The look continues to respect the fundamental principles of traditional black tie but also injects a modern minimalism in the form of hidden-placket shirts and an uncovered waist.
Casino Royale (2006)
Craig’s first tuxedo is very much like Brosnan’s last: black, peak-lapelled and single-breasted. It appears in two scenes set at the film’s eponymous Montenegro casino.
Quantum of Solace (2008)
Craig’s Quantum dinner suit is a reverential homage to the one featured in the very first Bond film: a midnight-blue shawl-collar jacket (the first shawl since The Living Daylights) with gauntlet cuffs and a folded linen pocket square. In fact Craig’s outfit is a step up from Connery’s as it includes a cummerbund. The setting for this Dr. No tribute is a stunning open-air opera in Bregenz, Austria.
Craig’s latest outfit features his second shawl-collar jacket. This time around, though, the suit is dark navy and accessorized with a cummerbund. And for some inexplicable reason Tom Ford decided it should have a single vent – the only one to appear on a Bond dinner jacket. Just as with the first Bond tuxedo fifty years prior, this one is worn to an upscale casino, this time in Macau.
This list only includes the 23 official James Bond films produced by Eon Productions. For a review of Sean Connery’s dinner suit in Never Say Never Again (1983) see The Suits of James Bond.
Also, for an interesting essay on the role of the tuxedo in the Bond zeitgeist check out this Gentleman’s Gazette post.