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Sunday, 14 October 2012

The iconic menswear of James Bond.

In the run-up to Skyfall I've had a few requests for Bond-related costume posts. Well, I'm afraid that's probably not going to happen, except maybe for Skyfall itself. The reason for this is I try to write about things that are slightly off the beaten track, costume-wise. There are some TV shows and movies that already get a lot of mainstream coverage for their costumes, either because they're showy and beautiful like Downton Abbey or Titanic, or because style and product placement are an acknowledged feature of the story. The James Bond franchise definitely falls into that second category, with Bond's suits being some of the most iconic movie costumes of the past 50 years. Just try counting how many lazy dudes you see at Halloween parties this year, wearing a tux and claiming to be 007.
The character of James Bond is all about style: signature cocktails, well-tailored suits, and vehicles and weaponry whose serial numbers are lovingly recited in every single movie. There are entire books dedicated to Bond's costumes, to his accessories, his gadgets, and the love-interests who are purposefully written as being less memorable than his trusty Walther PPK. There have been whole museum exhibitions catering to fans of Bond props and costumes. Basically, as a casual watcher rather than a hardcore 007 nerd, I have little to offer. It'd be the blogging equivalent of an English undergrad thesis on Pride & Prejudice. HOWEVER! I am able to offer you a plethora of links to other, far more well-informed people!

First of all, there's Clothes On Film's guest blog on the topic of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, which provides a kind of prologue to Daniel Craig's suits in Skyfall. Also on Clothes On Film is a similarly suit-nerdy post on Dr No, and if you want more in this vein then I suggest checking out the author's home blog, The Suits Of James Bond. If you want to look like Bond yourself then there's always Affordable Bond, or the clothing section of the exhaustive Bond Lifestyle site.
If you're more into Daniel Craig specifically, I liked this short video from behind the scenes on Skyfall. Then you can segue neatly into Designing Bond's Look with costume designer Lindy Hemming, an interesting glance at how Bond's style has developed over the years (including the awesome first shot of Sean Connery's turnback cuffs in Dr No). The thing I enjoyed most about this video is the way it accidentally highlights how godawful Pierce Brosnan looks to a modern eye. Not physically, of course, but the fact that his power-tie/business suit look now makes him look like a corporate douchebag of the first degree. I suspect that in 15 years he'll look fine again, thanks to the Law Of Vintage. 1995 is too close to the present day for Brosnan to seem retro and cool like the vintage styles of the earlier Bonds, so instead he just seems dated and embarrassing.
I love the slavish attention people pay to Bond's suits, although I do wish other modern-era movies got a fraction of the costume-based attention Bond receives. It's mostly down to the fact that audiences don't really think of Bond's suits as costumes; they're more like an extension of the whole 007 fashion/booze/status-symbol industrial complex. The Bond franchise is one of the few instances where a film's content actually invites product-placement, because the whole point of Bond is that he's super cool all the time, and that means he has to have all the best accessories. Bond's image is so important that the actors tend to become Bond in the public eye -- something that I've definitely noticed with Daniel Craig. Craig's Bond is the biggest bruiser since Connery, and looks like the kind of guy who would headbutt you during a barfight. Like Lindy Hemming says in the clip I linked above, his suits are very "mean", very tightly fitted -- even though he's the most muscular Bond so far. Daniel Craig clearly loves this look himself because it's what he wears to most red-carpet appearances, which is slightly unfortunate because his own suits are (inevitably) not quite as well-tailored as what he gets to wear as Bond.
The result is that in real life, Daniel Craig often ends up looking like the proverbial condom full of walnuts, tailored to within an inch of his life but missing the mark he previously set whilst in-character. I realise that this is a nitpic because Daniel Craig usually looks great and has excellent dress-sense when compared to most male A-listers, but seriously, Dan, if you're reading this: stop trying to strangle yourself with your own clothes. Your suits don't have to be that tight. The main problem seems to be that he knows what look he's going for (ie, the look he has when he's playing Bond, basically) but in real life there are more things to consider than the suit being tailored close to the body. The key thing that differentiates Bond's suits from a normal outfit of the same style is that they're action costumes and therefore have been designed with movement in mind, meaning that they're a lot more relaxed and flexible than a typical suit. Daniel Craig on the red carpet usually looks like he could barely manage to crouch down or move his arms in a full circle, never mind leap out of a helicopter and wrestle some supervillain down a lift-shaft.

8 comments:

  1. I'm sure his dick would like to lodge a formal complaint because even I'm wincing, and I have a vagina.

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  2. OK so the question left open here is: How on earth do we make suits that DO allow us to jump out of helicopters and wrestle supervillains to the ground? Which bits do we have to change, and are there any disadvantages?

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  3. Not sure if you were being intentionally funny or not, but I was rolling at some of the comments in this post! ;-)

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  4. I recall reading a comment from Craig recently that he feels playing Bond is basically a 24-hour job, and he can't ever be seen in public wearing jeans and a T-shirt (or similar) as it would ruin the image. Not sure if that's due to pressure from the studio or just his own attitude, but he clearly tries his best to live by it.

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  5. i'd hope that i was being intentionally funny?? i suppose that it depends what you're laughing at. ;)

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  6. well, i'm no professional tailor. but evidently there's a difference, otherwise everyone would look good all the time.

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  7. I really like this blog about Best menswear tailoring.

    http://www.thedarzigroup.com/

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  8. i prefer Daniel Craig suits than other Bond actors, in his three spy movies he had worn all suit/tuxedo formally yet stylishly. Tom Ford doing a great job for updating 007 with the aspect of time, its a hard thing to do so!

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