It’s the first time I officially write about Bond on the blog, and it’s a film where he doesn’t wear a tuxedo at all!
And no, Kingsman doesn’t count.
This is a short preview of the full bonus episode, which is available exclusively for our Patrons.
A lot of people consider Bond to be a style icon- I think I’m in the minority when I say that he wasn’t that big of a deal to me. Granted, I didn’t watch all of the films until I was high school age, but even then, I already had developed a bit of the taste you see today (even if the execution wasn’t up to par). My preference for spearpoint collars, striped shirts, patterned ties, and checked jackets is one that is definitely not the Bond Style, as Ian Fleming’s hero spy seems to prefer a minimalist approach to tailoring. But I still enjoy enjoy watching the films all the same. Not every movie has to dress like me!
With that said, I still think Bond is a stylish guy in his own right, even if he didn’t affect my own style journey as much. He definitely provides an exercise in a sharp-yet-understated approach to clothing, one that a majority of guys can get into. I also enjoy looking at the style in Bond’s clothing as a reflection of period tailoring, where a few small details like clover lapels and a high rise trouser may go unnoticed to some. The clothing of the villains or even passerbys are also a fun thing to pay attention to.
Overall, I really enjoy Bond films because they’re a genre you never really get to see. The misogyny and racism aside, I do like big films with extravagant locations, campy villains, and a orchestral score (with a period sound). It’s that through-line that leads me to watch films like Fantastic Beasts and Back to the Future.
I just find it interesting that I’ve never talked about a Bond film, let alone the style of James Bond himself. Perhaps this is long overdue, even if the podcast episode is exclusively for our Patrons.
You Only Live Twice
Sean Connery’s fifth outing as Bond (he would have two more, though one is non-canon) is my favorite Bond Film. It may not be his best dressed film, but it is one I come back to most often. Like I said above, I love big movies and this flick, with the ultimate reveal of Blofeld and the volcano base, is plenty big for that. Plus the score is really top tier (the Capsule in Space cue is definitely the direct inspiration for Kronos Unveiled)! This is why I chose it for the subject of this month’s bonus episode.
In this film, Bond must do his best to stop WWIII from occurring, as the US and Russia believe that the other is abducting their rockets and astronauts and are extremely close to retaliating. In reality, it’s all Spectre, the shadowy terrorist organization bent on world domination, that’s been pulling the strings; this group has been behind all of Bond’s previous movies, save for Goldfinger. The abductor spacecraft was noted to be launched out of a secret location in Japan, which means that Bond must work with his MI6 counterparts in the area in order to find the base and what Spectre is ultimately planning.
Sounds like a lot of fun, right?
The film is really lovely and a great action romp, despite the fact that Bond doesn’t get much chance to show off his cool clothing -he’s too busy blending in with Japanese locals (horribly and almost racistly). I don’t think he wears a tuxedo once in this film! Despite all of that, there are a quite a few nuggets worth discussing! And yes, I’m quite aware that BondSuits has done deep dives into this film (and every other one), so bare with me.- I’m a bit new to writing about Bond.
Though do check out Bond Suits, because the stuff is really quite good!
We’re first introduced to Bond in a post-coital afterglow. He’s in Hong Kong, presumably with one of his station colleagues, when he’s suddenly “killed” by a hit squad. A proper burial follows, with the British Navy dumping his body overboard. In true Bond fashion, James emerges from the casket, fully adorned in full military dress! It’s quite different than him removing a diving suit to reveal a proper tuxedo, but it’s a nice subversion.
The Naval dress uniform is quite sharp, being an eight buttoned navy jacketwith brass buttons, which really point to how the contemporary blazer evolved from military clothing. After he receives a debrief on Spectre’s doings with the space abductions, Bond jets off to Japan.
Bond’s attire in Japan is rather standard fair; as I stated before, he was never an extravagant dresser. He wears a mid grey herringbone suit with a spread collar shirt, and what seems to be a grenadine tie. Again, it’s not too interesting, but it brings to mind the simple look of North by Northwest, which was famous for it’s grey suit. It’s a rather conservative (or even British) pairing.
Let’s explore the cut of the jacket. Bond was never in the ivy-trad sack cut, because he was British (doy!) and as a result his suits always had a stronger, masculine appearance than the other styles (mainly American) that we like from this time. With it’s broad structured shoulder and a low buttoning point (though it does have the Button-Pocket Harmony), it’s largely reminiscent of the Bold Look of the mid to late 1950s, just done with a slimmer lapel. We don’t see the trouser details, but it seems he’s embraced flat fronts this time around.
The suit overall is very Saville Row of the early 60s, though the time period is pretty close to the mod era of later years. The film came out in 1967 (and filmed in 1966) so Bond’s suit is definitely “older” compared to what the mainstream world was wearing. This makes Bond have a “classic man” apperance, though the broad shoulders and low buttoning point make it a bit dated for a contemporary look. Personally, a slightly wider lapel and higher buttoning point would make this more palatable to me. His suit in Dr. No has a similar cut, but with a higher buttoning, which makes it better to me. YMMV.
For shoes, he wears black slip-ons, though he trades them for a very vibrant spectator variation when he needs to disguise himself.
When visiting Osato’s headquarters, officially this time, he wears a navy suit in the exact same cut. I can’t exactly tell if his shirt is pale blue or white, but it’s a nice look, especially with yet another navy grenadine tie.
It took me a while to notice, but I finally realized that Bond doesn’t wear a pocket square in this film! A pocket square isn’t always necessary, but its a nice touch to wear with tailoring, especially if you do the TV-fold since it adds to that 1960s look. I’m not sure why Bond goes without it in YOLT, though as tailoring moved into the 70s-80s, a pocket square just wasn’t en vogue.
I don’t think that Bond’s costumers were trying consciously to make Bond look more casual, but it does make his YOLT attire different than the other films, especially since he only wears a suit twice in the film. I’m not a huge fan of minimalistic looks, but even I have to admit that the navy suit with black knit sans pocket square is a good look. It’s something common today (as most young guys just wear plain suits with plain shirts and ties), but on Bond, it has an interesting attitude.
When Bond gets to Tanaka’s island base, he trades his suits for rather nice vacation wear. Unlike previous entries filled with short shorts, terry cloth shirts, and rompers, Bond wears something a bit more classic (and perhaps more wearable for today). He wears a nice tan linen camp collar sportshirt with brown slacks and sandals. Its an easy look that I’d be interested in seeing done today, though most guys would probably wear this with sockless loafers.
After Bond goes toe-to-toe with Spectre helicopters in Little Nellie, he again goes for a casual vacation look. Instead of a short sleeve sportshirt, he dons a wight pink business shirt. To mimic a sportshirt (like many guys in the late 60s-70s), he presses the shirt collar down. It ultimately doesn’t work, as cuban collar sportshirts lack a collar band, whereas regular shirts have one; this detail prevents a business shirt collar from laying completely flat.
We also finally get a full look at his trouser details. As I suspected earlier, the pants are flat fronted and probably feature some type of side adjuster; whether they are tabs or daks-style (elastic), I do not know. I think it’s cool that Bond’s got frog-mouth pockets! It’s a angular style similar to what you find on jeans and as a result, has a cool, western vibe to them. These pockets started to gain prominence in the late 60s and were found in casual and formal clothing alike until the end of the 70s.
Tiger Tanaka is the head of Japanese Secret Service and acts a bit like Bond’s Felix Leiter in this film. He’s a bit serious and as much of a sharp dresser as Bond. I’d even argue that his attire is much more interesting.
Like Bond, Tanaka only wears two suits in the film. When we first see him, he’s just brought 007 to his secret headquarters, which features some great mid century architecture and design. Tanaka has a mid grey suit in a seemingly 3-roll-2 closure that definitely has some shoulder padding. It’s cool for me to see Japanese style that isn’t ivy (with all its soft shouldered goodness), since I probably over hype their fascination with American style. Maybe the gangs of sack jacks and OCBDs are just off screen.
A plain shirt is still the name of the game in these films, but Tanaka actually stands out with his striped tie and use of a pocket square! You’ll also note that he wears a tie clip, done lower on the body (as is practical), which makes him look closer to the stereotypical mid century style we think of.
Tiger Tanaka wears a grey summer suit (cut in the same bold shouldered way) when the setting shifts to his island ninja base. When compared to Bond’s sportshirts and tie-less looks, its clear that Tanaka is in charge. The tie he wears features an abstract design, which to me, points to a very late 50’s aesthetic; it’s even a bit tonal considering the light grey suit and white shirt. Again, this has a very 1960s does late 1950s vibe, making the film a bit period to the rising prominence of the mod scene.
Ernst Stavro Blofeld
I can’t write about YOLT without discussing it’s epic villain, Ernst Stavro Blofield. This is the first time we fully see him, as in Thunderball we only see him from the head down during his staff meeting. This film put him in a khaki Mao suit, alluding to his implied hiring by the Chinese, with brown slip on boots. The suit brings to mind Communist vibes in general (Stalin also wore similar clothes) which makes sense considering the time period, though Blofield is simply fueled by monetary gain in this endeavor; he doesn’t have the megalomania of Elliot Carver or Hugo Drax of later outings.
From a fashion standpoint, it’s actually quite nice. I’ve written about “casual suits” before and this one certainly counts. To me, it even just looks like a chore suit with the top button fastened up, just cut from a worsted wool for a more formal look. I think that fine twills tend to look very late 60s to me, especially as this eventually gave way to the safari suit in the 1970s, so I think doing this look with workwear fabrics or even linen would be a great way to make it more contemporary.
Overall, the psuedo-military, minimalist, furturistic vibe has come to define a good Bond villain aesthetic- Hugo Drax wears a khaki jacket and Elliot Carver features an all black Mao ensemble. I just wish Dr. Evil didn’t ruin it (though the current Blofielddoesn’t look too bad either).
Like all the other movies I’ve covered, it’s clear that the stars aren’t the only ones who are well dressed. When it comes to older movies, searching for great outfits in the background or for bit characters is actually quite fun!
What I do like about this essay is that while I was compiling screengrabs to reference, I actually came across Thunderballs, the James Bond photo archive. The site features an extensive library of behind the scenes photos, which not only are great to see the full outfits of the cast, but to also for a general overall vibe. I’ve already written about why I love film photography, and these BTS/promotional pictures just do it for me.
I’ve included some below, because director Lewis Gilbert, Cubby Broccoli, and the other film makers look so damn good.
Well there you have it, my favorite clothes from You Only Live Twice (1967). It’s an odd piece to cover, especially when other entries in the series feature much more tailoring. However, I consider this my favorite Bond film, especially due to the great Barry score during the space sequences and the climactic battle. I find myself watching this one most often, though all of the Connery one’s are my favorite out of canon; it also helps that the early-to-mid 60s aesthetic in design and clothing is my favorite.
Even if 007 doesn’t wear a tuxedo in this film, there’s still some great menswear gems here. Bond still looks good in his fairly standard, broad shouldered suits and grenadine ties, all done without a pocket square! Tanaka and Osato win it for me, simply by use of interesting ties (at least comparatively) and a tie clip, an accessory that I love seeing in mid-century films. I also can’t forget the iconic khaki Mao suit worn by Blofield; talk about casual “suits”, am I right?
I hope you guys liked reading along and listening to the bonus episode of Style & Direction. If you want to listen to the full episode, then consider contributing to our Patreon! We even hosted a live watch of the film on the exclusive Discord server.
The next bonus episode may be on a movie with bad style. Maybe the Untouchables…Leave a comment on what you’d have me watch and write about next!
Always a pleasure,
I love these deep dives. There’s bucket-loads of inspiration here. Can we expect a post of your takes on some Bond style?
I’m slowly gathering some Bond-inspired pieces of my own. It’s great fun and I wish I’d started decades ago. I just ordered some Goldfinger-style cavalry twill trousers last weekend, I’ve got the Drake’s boots from No Time to Die, and the Alexander Olch tie from the same movie. Next up is a Roger Moore striped shirt with two collar buttons.