Among the pulsing crowds of a Día de los Muertos celebration with all the giant skeletons, rhythmic drumming, and vibrant costumes, the camera focuses in on one man. He is dressed extravagantly in a long, black overcoat and a top hat. Painted over the dapper attire are skeleton bones, nicely accentuating his ass as he turns and walks through the throngs of people.
His face is disguised in a form-fitting skeleton mask, but even in this sexy disguise, we know who this man is: Bond, James Bond.
This first ensemble in Spectre proves that the high bar 007 sets for fashion is met—perhaps, even exceeded—in the latest James Bond edition.
“When we started Spectre I was a little bit afraid because I thought that I had done such a good job on Skyfall, and I thought well how can I do better, you know?” Jany Temime, the movie’s costume designer, laughs during an interview with The Daily Beast. “I actually think we did not do it better. We did it differently, more glamorously, more extraordinary.”
Case in point: the crisp, perfectly tailored dark blue suit that Daniel Craig wears as Bond in the first scene, coupled with his sleek Día de los Muertos disguise.
“I wanted to give Bond a costume which was very much his personality, but it’s also very enigmatic, so you oculd not understand who it was,” Temime says. “What’s extraordinary is that even when he was in full disguise and walking in the street, we knew it was Daniel Craig because his walking is inimitable.”
Temime describes working with Craig as a collaboration. Craig “loves fashion [and] knows a lot about it,” just like Bond, himself, she says. “He knows the character that he has to play better than anybody else. He has opinions about what he’s wearing. He knows what suits him and what doesn’t suit him.”
For a costume at the end of the movie, for instance, Temime and Craig both agreed that Bond’s shirt should have a rolled neck. Temime wanted it to be light blue as an homage to a Sean Connery look from the earliest Bond films, but Craig had a different vision. He wanted the sartorial aesthetic of the third act to be “all dark.” Temime put the dark version on him and, sure enough, she agreed that Craig was right.
But, there was a third person involved in all decisions.
“In the dressing room, we have a picture of Sean Connery looking at us. We were fitting in front of a mirror and looking at Sean and thinking, ‘You would like that don’t you?’” Temime says. “You have to respect what’s before, and, at the same time, you have to bring something new.”
From the beginning of the James Bond film series with 1962’s Dr. No, turning Ian Fleming’s 007 into the screen version of the perfectly tailored man-who-saves-the-world wasn’t an easy feat. Fleming reportedly wasn’t thrilled with the choice of Connery. He thought the former bodybuilding Scot was too muscular, too hard, too unrefined.
“I think [Connery] had only worn suits when he was a nightclub doorman back in Edinburgh,” David Mason, the current creative director at Anthony Sinclair, the classic British suitmaker, tells The Daily Beast. “And the people who would go to the club that he was employed by for security would always say that he could never wait to unfasten his bow-tie as soon as he got on the door.”
Terence Young, the director of Dr. No, was “given the job of knocking Connery into shape,” recalls Mason. So he did what he had to do—he sent him to his tailor, Sinclair, who had his own method for adding a dose of sophistication to Connery’s style.
“Sinclair could tell he [Connery] wasn’t really happy in bespoke finery, so he encouraged him to wear them as often as he could before the filming started, if possible, around the clock. He was encouraged to even sleep in them,” says Mason. “So, when filming began, it was like a second skin to him, and, of course, he looked very, very comfortable.”
Connery pulled off the suit and the role so well, that he went on to star in five more Bond movies and Fleming ended up writing a Scottish backstory into James Bond’s history.
Connery’s early style set the stage for the Bonds to come. The ever-present suit may change slightly according to the fashion of the times, but it is consistently impeccably cut and tailored. Even Connery’s special touch to the Bond wardrobe—that immaculate pocket square—appears in nearly every suit Craig’s Bond wears in Spectre.
However, the Bond style occasionally changes to reflect the personality of each actor playing him.
When Roger Moore assumed the mantel of Bond in Live and Let Die in 1973, Bond became a little bit more interested in the fashion of the day.
“If you think about Roger Moore, what do you really think? It was those bell-bottom trousers,” Bronwyn Cosgrave, a fashion historian and co-curator of the Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style exhibition, which just began its second three-year tour, tells The Daily Beast. “That coincides with the humor, which Roger Moore really imbues in the character. It is very unique to him. No one really could carry off that humor.”
According to Mason, who is Moore’s current tailor (although Cyril Castle and Douglas Hayward were his tailors for the Bond movies), Moore truly embodies the irreverence and humor of Bond. He remembers once being at an event with Moore at the U.K.’s Pinewood Studios when someone asked the actor if he had kept any mementos from his time as Bond.
“Roger thought about it for a couple of seconds and said, ‘Yeah, I think I still have a pair of Jane Seymour’s knickers,’” Mason says, laughing. “And he probably has, too. He’s a funny man. He was not acting [in the Bond movies]; he was just being Roger Moore.”
What has become one of the most memorable style moments in the Bond cannon is a reflection not only of shifts in male fashion, but changing conceptions of masculine sexuality. When Craig emerged from the water in La Perla powder blue and navy—and very tight—trunks in 2006’s Casino Royale, jaws across the globe hit the floor.
The incredibly sexy ensemble appeared to be a twist on the famous Ursula Andress white bikini in Dr. No, though Craig has said it was actually completely unplanned.
“It was actually by accident,” Craig told The Telegraph in 2008. “Because the idea was, I was supposed to swim in and sort of float off, but I swim in and stand up. And it was just one of those things.”
Regardless, when Bond appeared as the sex object strutting onto the beach, it spoke to a sea change in depictions of heterosexual male sexuality. Bond was embracing his spornosexuality—the term coined by writer Mark Simpson to describe the heterosexual male aesthetic of glorifying the athletic body and showing it off for all to savor.
But Bond’s ensemble has changed for reasons other than to satisfy audience’s sexual appetites. As the movies advanced and the stunts grew more and more elaborate, Bond’s costume designers had to make the tough decision to start using larger fashion companies rather than boutique tailors from London’s Savile Row.
“Savile Row really wouldn’t cut it for Bond. He was much more cosmopolitan, traveling all over the world,” Cosgrave tells The Daily Beast. “[Hemming] went with Brioni, which is a tailor that presidents, princes, statesmen really rely on.”
However, the shift in tailors was even more necessary because of the changing scale of action movies. In the early Bond days, Connery would sometimes wear a Sinclair-designed suit in more than one film. But given the scope of the stunts—not to mention increased budgets—today’s Bond is a little too rough on his garments to get by with just one suit per scene.
Take the opening sequence of Spectre. Tom Ford, who constructed Bond’s clothes for the latest edition, made 60 (SIXTY!) copies of the same suit.
“We have to have [the suit] new, damaged, damaged and burned, damaged, burned, and broken,” Temime says. “So, that’s four different phases [and for] every phase, we need to have Daniel Craig and his stunt double. And for every different stunt you have a different stunt man performing the stunt.”
Mason calls the current costuming of James Bond “big business,” which he says is a challenge for bespoke tailors who have difficulty making large quantities—not to mention identical copies—of 007’s suits by hand.
Yet, despite changes in Bond’s wardrobe, one of of the most intriguing things about 007 is his influence on men’s fashion is just as strong as ever.
Mason calls Bond’s sartorial impact “enormous.” When asked how many of his customers reference Bond in their requests, he answers “just about all of them.”
According to Mason, many of these customers are teens whose parents may not have even been born when the first Bond movie premiered. “We get so many generations. We get 17-year-old boys whose fathers bring them to get their first suits for their eighteenth birthday, and we get 70-year-olds who went to the theater to see the first movie 50 years ago,” Mason says.
Bond’s wide-ranging sartorial appeal is even more remarkable, considering his aesthetic is based in a formal sense of fashion—which seems so rare in our activewear-obsessed world.
But if any man could make seemingly staid formal suits sexy, it’s Bond. Or, at least, that’s what the masterminds behind Bond’s style hope.
When asked what her favorite look in Spectre is, Temime is quick to answer.
“When he came in with that white tuxedo, I had a little chill because he was looking so beautiful. And I thought, ‘Yes! I want, again, men to wear white tuxedos,’” Temime says.
“I hope that it’s going to be very, very fashionable, and that lots of men will wear it, because it’s great. It’s very sexy.”
Given Bond’s history as a fashion influencer, she may just get her wish.