The name’s Bond…
There’s no doubt that 007 has been a style icon through the ages. So what is it about him that makes him so desirable?
Words Aninda Sardar
Although, and you may find this ironic, Ian Fleming did not create a 007 that could ever hope at a decent shot at style, let alone fashion, there is no doubt that James Bond is a style icon. And he owes his status as a style icon to the movies he has starred in, starting with Dr. No in 1962 right through to No Time to Die, whose trailer has just been released worldwide. Over the course of the past nearly four decades (38 years to be precise), Bond has gone through different epochs of fashion and style, transitioning between Sean Connery’s clean cut Bond to Roger Moore’s flamboyant bell bottomed suits to Pierce Brosnan’s sophisticated suits to Daniel Craig’s more utilitarian attire and of course suits.
No matter which version of Bond you might be staring at – Connery, Moore, Brosnan, Craig or George Lazenby on Her Majesty’s Secret Service or Timothy Dalton of The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill, 007 always looks like he was born in a suit. He wears his suit like we wear our pyjamas. As at ease in the Casino Royale as when grappling with Jaws on board the Moonraker or when driving the wheels off his Aston Martin DB5 in Goldfinger.
Of course, my personal favourite in this department will always be Pierce Brosnan. Now that man can carry a suit like he was born to do nothing else. Paired with that sophisticated swagger that he introduced to 007’s charmed life, Brosnan’s James was nigh irresistible. It didn’t matter if he was wearing the customary dark navy suit that Ian’s original always wore or an impeccably tailored Brioni tux (in fact Brosnan’s 007 always dons a Brioni suit), you simply couldn’t pick a fault with James in a suit through Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough and Die Another Day.
Sir Moore’s Bond on the other hand was as fashionable as Bond could possibly get. More than a maverick, the James who lives from 1973 through to 1983 is conscious of the fashion trends of the time and is more than willing to be a part of prevailing trends. So you see him in pop colours when he dons Bogwarner sportswear in For Your Eyes Only or a pastel safari suit in Octopussy. You even see James disguise himself once as a knife thrower and a clown in this era in Octopussy. You also see Sir Moore experiment with digital Seiko watches, a marked departure from Bond’s signature wrist jewel – the Omega Seamaster.
Connery brings out a more schoolboy-ish charm to the gun toting spy’s character. His suits are conservative and his looks are always clean. Even in his last movie as 007 in the 1983 production titled Never Say Never Again, you see Connery’s James in conservative clothing. The one time that he bravely dons a denim dungaree sans shirt, it seems unnatural and somewhat awkward. No, the Scottish actor’s Bond is much better off in the decade of the 1960s where this boyish charm is at home as is his sense of dressing.
Timothy Dalton’s portrayal of 007 is again a sign of the times. Poised at the crux of the ‘80s and ‘90s – The Living Daylights is a 1987 production while Licence to Kill is a 1989 film, Bond’s style at this point is also in transition mode. You see him in the well tailored suit that was the norm through the 1980s and you also see him in the baggy trousers and casual jackets that would go on to become the style statement of the early 1990s. It is only Lazenby’s Bond that seems to fail to make an impression. Perhaps it was the style of the Mods that he adopted in the 1969 flick On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which seems mildly ridiculous at times. Especially that frilly dress shirt or his funny cravats.
Then, there is Craig’s Bond. Far rougher around the edges than all previous Bonds. He is probably the only time you see James sporting a stubble (other than the bearded 007 you see at the very beginning of Die Another Day when 007 is a prisoner under duress in a North Korean prison). He’s also far rawer than all other iterations of 007 through the decades. Perhaps it’s a reflection of the times but this James is as at ease in a heritage Levi’s leather jacket and jeans as he is in his dinner jacket. What we do see with Craig’s Bond however is a subtle hark back to the original Bond template of the early 1960s. As a result we almost never see anything other than the subtlest of colours on Craig’s 007. Almost his entire wardrobe is filled with midnight blues, greys and blacks. What is also remarkable about this iteration of our favourite spy is that in each of the films his suits are made of a different type of fabric, whereas most of the other Bonds have stuck to the same kind of fabric.
Finally, when you are done with all the Bonds in all the films you realise you have left the one James Bond that is at the heart of all this. Ian Fleming’s original 007 who never really leaves the pages of the books that are far less read compared to how many watch the films. Fleming’s Bond is significantly different from his on-screen iterations. For starters, he is less flamboyant in his attire and certainly has less swagger. He is almost never seen in anything other than a suit and unlike his reel life avatar, Bond’s suits are well worn and he has just the one overcoat – a Burberry Macintosh. He has zero time for accessories and the only ones that are always with him are his watch, his gun metal finish cigarette case (Fleming’s Bond is a smoker) and his black oxidised lighter. Another unique feature about Fleming’s Bond is that he does not wear an Omega on the wrist but a Rolex Oyster Perpetual and whenever he travels he packs his stuff in his battered pigskin suitcase that might have been expensive at some point. A far cry from the high flier of the silver screen. But as stylish as ever with his polished moccasins.
Different though they all are, there are a few things that remain at the core of 007’s way of dressing and then carrying himself through life. Chief among them, his attitude. At times cavalier, at times pensive – though that’s mostly in the case of Craig’s versions of 007, at times suave, at times brutish but at no time apologetic. He is what he is and is unashamedly so. And that, in my opinion, makes him sexier than anyone else around him. That is the key to his style. Wear that, and you could well earn your licence to kill with your style.