“Bond. James Bond.” With those 3 words Sean Connery changed the face of pop culture forever. Even 50 years later it's not hard to see why. With a cigarette dangling from his lips, sitting at a baccarat table, Connery helped to define masculinity for the next 50 years. And to some that’s everything that is good about being a man; intrigue, fast cars, faster women, and looking damn good in a suit. To others Bond’s a dinosaur from another time. The last gasp of a dying view of manhood and empire as it slides into irrelevancy.
James Bond is a litmus that shows us where we are in the broader cultural sense. The original Ian Fleming Bond books are some of the most tightly paced thrillers I’ve ever read. You just have to make it past the blatant racism and misogyny. It’s a tough hurdle to make and I don’t blame anyone that has a hard time with it. These days Bond deals with tough women that have no problem putting him in his place. Eva Green's portrayal of Vesper Lynd was every bit his equal (if not his better.) Even the latest Bond book, Trigger Mortis, deals with the 60s Bond's problematic relationships with women through a 21st century lens.
Goldeneye is a great example of a Bond film that is a reaction to its time and place. Bond in the movies never squared off against the Soviets as he did in the novels.
Yet the shadow of the Cold War hangs heavy over the first 30 years of Bond movies. Goldeneye successfully hit on a theme that still resonates today. What role do spies serve in a world without the Soviet Union? In a world where they are possibly irrelevant? Unfortunately, every Brosnan Bond film after Goldeneye floundered trying to find its footing. Daniel Craig’s Bond found it by taking on threats that present more of a personal crisis for him. There is less of an emphasis on saving western civilization with Craig’s Bond.
Aesthetically the Bond movies are almost a time capsule. Ken Adam’s villanious lairs from the Connery films still look as fresh and exciting as they did 50 years ago. I would, without hesitation, live on Dr. No’s island as imagined by Ken Adam. Other visual elements have not aged quite as well. Sean Connery’s baby blue terrycloth “playsuit” or George Lazenby’s ruffled shirt and kilt from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service spring to mind.
The Craig Bond films have done a fine job presenting James Bond as a stylish man of his era without venturing too far into the ruffled tuxedo territory. That's not to say there aren't things that scream 2000s menswear. Just look at Bond’s massive Omega watch, rectangular sunglasses and linen shirt with epaulettes in Casino Royale. Those are the telltale looks of 2006. Particularly the epaulettes. Why did we ever think those were a good idea?
That said let's take a look at some of the defining looks from Craig's Bond era as well as the classic James Bond watch.
“You’re a kite dancing in a hurricane” – Spectre
I’ve tried to remain completely unspoiled when it comes to Spectre. I’ve seen the trailers but that’s about it. I’ll be able to get a better grasp of the outfits and how they tie into the plots and environments after I’ve seen the film. In the meantime I wanted to see if I had anything in my closet that gets close to what I’ve seen in the trailers.
My favorite outfit is Bond’s cableknit turtleneck from his meeting with Mr. White in the first trailer. Between this and Gap’s ad with Michael K. Williams last year I think turtlenecks are going to hit the mainstream in a big way. I’ve never really found them to be a good look for me but shawl necks can make a nice substitute.
Sweater – Weatherproof, $50
Jacket – H&M Cropped Pea Coat, $75 Similar – Old Navy, $75
Jeans – J.Crew Driggs – $40 Similar – Buffalo, $50
Boots – ASOS Engineer Boots $125 Similar – River Island, $116
Watch – Tiger Concepts 16800 on NATO Strap, $150
Scotland in Skyfall
Bond wasn’t always Scottish. Ian Fleming originally imagined the character as having much the same background as himself. That is to say so English as to be a stereotype. Connery's casting did not sit right with Fleming. Fleming felt Connery was too brutish to be a good Bond. After the success of Dr. No, and I imagine when the royalty checks started rolling in, Fleming changed his tune. From thereafter Bond was of Scottish descent. In Skyfall there is a deliberate attempt made to visually return Bond to his roots. So much so that the groundskeeper of the Skyfall estate, Kincade, was originally written for Sean Connery. While that's almost a bit too on the nose, the inclusion of Scotland, and the Aston Martin DB-5 returned Bond to his roots on many levels.
Probably the most striking item from the Skyfall look is Bond’s Barbour jacket. Barbour has been making waxed cotton jackets for generations of dwellers of the English countryside and they usually wind up being passed down with the land. These things are built to last. For a costume designer it is the perfect jacket to play into the mood of a gloomy Scottish day. They show that Bond belongs in his surroundings. Skyfall and Scotland are not his home anymore but he can still use it to his advantage. They are still a place of power for him. Compare that to Javier Bardem's look as Silva. With his black turtleneck and leather jacket he looks like the perfect Bond villian. But he looks out of place in Scotland compared to Kincade and Bond. Silva's look is far too urban. If you had Bond, Kincade, and Silva in a lineup he would be easy to pick out as the interloper.
Another nice nod to Bond’s roots is Bond’s full brogue wingtip boots. They are never really highlighted on screen but they are a subtle touch. While widely considered to be dress shoes today, brogues were originally outdoor country shoes. The perforations were to allow water drain from them. Like with dive watches they became a part of acceptable business and even formal wear as time went on.
While it may not look like much, a screen accurate Skyfall outfit will run you around $8000. That’s a bit too rich for my blood. But there are other more affordable options out there for a Bond in the great Scottish outdoors look.
Jacket – Barbour Burgat – $150 on closeout. Similar – English Laundry, $80
This Barbour model is discontinued but just about any waxed cotton jacket will do.
Sweater – Old Navy, $32.50
OCDB – Old Navy, $20
Scarf – Vintage ($10) Similar – Lord and Taylor, $34
Jeans – J Crew Urban Slim, $125
Boots – DSW House Brand $80 – any dark wingtip boot will do – Stafford, $65
Watch – Tiger Concepts 16800 on a Timex Weekender strap – $150
Bond in Port Au Prince – Quantum of Solace
As we pointed out before, as Bond is sent around the world his outfit is usually tailored to match his destination. His outfit in Quantum of Solace I think serves a different purpose. In this case it is meant to invoke Daniel Craig’s resemblance to Steve McQueen. McQueen, as you probably know, is an icon of men’s style and Daniel Craig over the last 10 years has taken on a similar role.
So Bond in Port Au Prince is going for that Steve McQueen look. That means means a harrington motorcycle jacket, white trousers, and a pair of dark brown chukkas. This is an outfit just as at home in 2015 as it was in 2008 as it was in 1965 before that. Just a solid look that indicates a sense of adventure without looking like a costume.
Get the look
Jacket – Barbour Burgat $150 on closeout. Harrington Jacket – Topman, $95
This is actually a bit closer to what Bond wore in QoS than in Skyfall. Any cloth Cafe Racer or Harrington style jacket will work here.
Chinos – Gap Lived In, $40
I don't wear white pants myself so I go with khaki. Besides it’s after Labor Day an all that.
Boots – Clarks Desert Mali, $150
The Desert Mali’s are the taller version of their ever-popular Desert Boots. It features the same crepe sole and beeswax leather option. I’ve replaced the laces on mine with uncured rawhide. In my experience the laces on Clark’s usually die after about 6 months of daily wear. Rawhide ages well and the lighter color gives a nice contrast with the beeswax.
Belt – Vintage. Similar – DSTLD, $45
Watch – Orient Blue Ray, $150
The Orient Ray and Mako are watches are some of the best affordable watches out there. Their thinner profile and stylish faces mean that they can be dressed up, down and every which way in between.
James Bond's Watch
James Bond is responsible for the iconic status of the Rolex Submariner. Well, he is not entirely responsible but he played a big role. Before the Connery movies the Submariner was a tool watch used by scuba divers. They were very well regarded but weren't something that was lusted after by the general public. Only after the Bond movies did it start to make it's move upmarket. Before Bond, a “gentleman” would never have thought to worn a Submariner with a suit. It was a sports watch. But by 1968 the Submariner was intrinsically tied to James Bond. For instance, the first thing George Lazenby did when trying to land the role was buy a Submariner. And the average guy started to think “if it's good enough for Bond to wear with a suit it's good enough for me.”
Connery wore his Submariner on a too small green, red, and black single piece nylon strap. The story behind this strap is nebulous and the truth lost to time. But the story that makes the most sense to me is the budget for Dr. No did not include Bond's Rolex watch. So producer Cubby Broccoli took the Submariner off of his wrist for Connery to wear. Connery's wrist, being larger than Broccoli's would not work with the bracelet. A replacement had to quickly be found and so the Submariner on the nylon strap came to be. It was the result of not enough time and a tight budget.
With the resurgance of the NATO strap as a fashion accessory the Bond NATO came along with it. Yet, Bond never wore the black and grey “Bond NATO strap.” Connery's Rolex was on a single piece nylon strap. A NATO strap is two pieces of nylon. Lazenby, Moore, and Dalton wore a variety of Rolex and Seiko watches but never on a NATO strap. When the production made the switch to Omega watches with Goldeneye every Bond film since has seen it on a bracelet or rubber strap. That's changed with Spectre. According to the producers Spectre is a continued attempt to connect Bond to his roots. Having Craig wear a Bond NATO is a nice little nod to the nerds who have been nitpicking about this for years. He now actually wears a Bond NATO strap.
If you're like me I imagine that a vintage Rolex Submariner is a bit out of your price range. That said there are a few affordable options that will help you get that vintage Bond look for less than $200.
A Tiger Concepts JB5508 ($129) paired with a James Bond Original NATO from Cheapest Nato Straps ($7) will get you that in look. The nice thing about this model is that it won't be confused for a modern Rolex by the average person. The Original NATO from Cheapest Nato Straps is a one piece strap much like the one Connery wore.
For the Spectre look the Casio MDV-106 on a James Bond NATO strap will do the trick. At $46, the MDV-16 is Casio's affordable dive watch and is a fantastic bang for your buck. With 200m of water resistance and quartz movement it's hard to go wrong with the MDV-106 for anything outdoor related.
If you're looking for a more traditional Rolex look the Invicta 8926OB ($84) is an homage to the more modern Submariner 16800. If you like the gold and black combo of Bond's Omega in the Spectre film check out the Seiko SNZH57 ($150). It captures that retro feel with gold accents without being a direct homage.
Any time you are pulling looks from a movie it's always best to keep what the costume designer intended in mind. These are great places to start but we are not looking to do cosplay here. Add your own own spin and find out what works best for your own individual look. I'm not built like Daniel Craig so not everything he wears works on me. The most important thing is that you wear it with confidence but not like you are wearing a costume.