skI hope you all had a very pleasant Kentucky Derby weekend this past Saturday. Just in time for the 00-7th of May (corny, I know), here is…
Sean Connery as James Bond, British government agent and legendary super spy
Fort Knox, KY, Summer 1964
Release Date: September 18, 1964
Director: Guy Hamilton
Tailor: Anthony Sinclair
Wardrobe Supervisor: Elsa Fennell
One of my favorite suits of all time is the iconic three-piece worn by Sean Connery as Bond during the Fort Knox sequence in Goldfinger and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this.
Prior to this, Bond had always looked sharp and well-dressed in his suits and dinner jackets. However, Goldfinger set the gold (ha, ha) standard for Bond as a style ICON.
Interestingly, the entire time Bond is wearing his most iconic suit, he is actually Goldfinger’s prisoner. He is taken captive and, nicely enough, given his own clothes to change into. Bond chooses his finest suit, this three-piece glen plaid tropical weave, perhaps to put Goldfinger off guard? Or maybe he just really is that refined? Either way, it beats the orange jumpsuit.
Like all of Connery’s suits, credit must be given to his usual Bond tailor Anthony Sinclair, who had created Connery’s iconic look – the “Conduit Cut” – with the input of Dr. No director Terence Young. Two years later, the blue-collar Scotsman who was sleeping in his suits to get the feel for them was gone, replaced by an elegant bon vivant who would fight with one arm and use the other to balance a martini and a gorgeous woman.
What’d He Wear?
A misconception about the suit – one made by Catch Me If You Can – is that the material is a solid light gray. In fact, it is a glen plaid design in a gray and white 2×2 hopsack (or “basket” weave). The material is a tropical weight.
The suit, tailored specifically for Connery by Anthony Sinclair, fits perfectly throughout. Despite some era-specific details, such as trouser pleats, a ticket pocket on the jacket, and waistcoat lapels, it is a timeless look and Bond was very lucky that Goldfinger was gracious enough to let his captive change clothing.
Now, let’s get to the suit itself.
The jacket is single-breasted with a 2-button front and 4-button cuffs. The narrow notch lapels and slightly draped chest evoke the streamlined modern look of the 1960s that is enjoying a particularly welcome resurgence fifty years later with the popularity of Mad Men.
He occasionally wears the jacket buttoned, which some people do not recommend with three-piece suits. Here, it looks fine and elegant with the slim lines of the suit.
There are four external pockets: a breast pocket, complete with neatly-folded white linen handkerchief, two straight flapped hip pockets, and a ticket pocket on the right side. The shoulders are slightly padded with roped sleeveheads. The jacket breaks in the rear with two double vents. The dark gray lining matches the back of the waistcoat so, what the hell, let’s talk about that next.
The waistcoat, or “vest” to us Americans (I will use the terms interchangeably to be both continental and confusing), has a cutaway bottom rather than the straight bottom seen on Connery’s three-piece suits in Thunderball. It closes down the front with six buttons, although the bottom button is on the cutaway and thus would look very silly and bunched up when fastened. Naturally then, Connery only wears five buttons closed.
Interestingly, the vest has slim notch lapels, a look that not every man can pull off. There are four welted pockets: two on top, two on the bottom. As I mentioned earlier, the back is lined in dark gray silk with a strap across the back to adjust the fit of the waistcoat.
Now, let’s discuss Sean Connery’s pants. 10 points to anyone who can use that sentence in casual conversation today.
The trousers are double forward-pleated, like all of his pants tend to be in these early Bonds. Also, they have the same Daks-style side adjusters, rather than belt loops or suspenders. However, the plain-hemmed bottoms differentiate these pants from those worn in the earlier films and also add to the “streamlined” 1960s look as cuffed bottoms are more dated.
There are open side pockets, which Sean sticks his hands in a lot, as well as jetted rear pockets with buttons to fasten.
The shirt is white with a spread collar and a front placket. Connery’s familiar turnback cuffs have been ditched for this look; instead he wears double or French cuffs with rounded corners, adorned with plain gold rounded square cuff links.
Connery’s necktie is a slim knitted silk necktie with a square bottom in navy blue. It is tied in a very small and tight four-in-hand knot, though not as small as the knot in the finale of From Russia With Love.
Bond’s particularly useful shoes are a pair of black leather 2-eyelet derbies with a recess in the heel for his handy-dandy tracking device. A pair of dark charcoal ribbed socks reach his mid-shin, easing the transition from shoe to pant leg.
No offense to the Bluegrass State or Colonel Sanders, but I think we can say that this is the most stylish any man has looked in Kentucky since antebellum.
Go Big or Go Home
There is a reason that these scenes elevated Bond to iconic status. Despite being a prisoner, practically condemned to death, Bond is as calm and unfettered as ever, alternating between Martinis and Mint Juleps as he prefers to live “the easy way” while in captivity. He disproves the old sayings about man’s inability to multitask while exercising both his libido and his judo skills at the same time.
What to Imbibe
I think it’s fair to say that Bond’s time with Goldfinger wasn’t all bad. He got free room and board on a horse ranch, he got to have a literal roll-in-the-hay with Cathy Gale and her 37Cs, and he got his choice of drink. Given that he can be a stickler to regional taste, Bond naturally chooses a Mint Julep.
The Mint Julep is one of the oldest known mixed drinks in existence and is most likely the oldest American cocktail. First mentioned in 1803 as “a dram of spirituous liquor that has mint steeped in it, taken by Virginians of a morning,” (thanks, Wikipedia) we instantly now that our American forefathers were even greater badasses than we believed if they started every morning with a goddamn Mint Julep.
155 years later, the Mint Julep became the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. Now, more than 120,000 juleps are sold over a two-day period at each race.
Unfortunately – given how delicious it is – you can’t really go and whip up a Mint Julep if you want one right away. True, you could toss some bourbon and syrup in a glass and stir it up with ice and mints, but that’s not the true julep experience.
How do you make one? Each bartender has their own special variations, but the gist of it is to get your hands on some mint, sugar, and Bourbon whiskey. The Kentucky Derby stipulates Early Times, but I tend to use Maker’s Mark. If it’s a special occasion, a good small batch like Booker’s or Basil Hayden’s really hits the spot.
Step 1. Gently muddle the mint sprigs and the sugar in a mixing glass, adding a small amount of Bourbon. Let this stand for awhile to allow the muddled mint leaves to release their flavor. For some, this could take a few minutes. For others, like my uncle, this can take up to 24 hours.
Step 2. Once you have your muddled minty masterpiece, strain your creation into a silver julep cup, rotating it to coat the sides and really nail that flavor. Shit, that sounds like something Guy Fieri would say.
Step 3. Fill the julep cup with ice. Crushed or shaved is best.
Step 4. Add the rest of that Bourbon. Don’t be stingy here.
Step 5. Garnish with a “lightly slapped” small mint sprig. I’ll be honest and say I don’t really know what “lightly slapped” means, but Wikipedia said it and I don’t want some smart aleck coming at me saying, “How could you leave out that the mint has to be lightly slapped?”
Bond gets a little snobby by requesting, “Sour mash, not too sweet,” since pretty much all Bourbons or Tennessee whiskeys are produced using the sour mash process.
How to Get the Look
If you want this suit to look right, just get one custom tailored. Chances are you’re not gonna find this on the rack. If you do, call me. We can duel for it.
- Gray & white Glen plaid tropical weave “Conduit cut” tailored three-piece suit, consisting of:
- Single-breasted 2-button suit coat with narrow notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, flapped ticket pocket, slightly padded shoulders, 4-button cuffs, double rear vents, and dark gray lining
- Single-breasted 6-button vest with notch lapels, notched bottom, welted upper and lower pockets, dark gray rear lining, and adjustable backstrap
- Double forward-pleated trousers with 3-button tab “Daks-top” side adjusters, straight on-seam side pockets, button-through jetted back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- White poplin dress shirt with spread collar, front placket, and rounded double/French cuffs
- Navy blue slim knitted silk necktie with square bottom
- Gold rounded square cuff links
- Black leather 2-eyelet derby shoes/bluchers
- Dark charcoal ribbed socks
- White linen folded pocket square
“Oh, wait, don’t tell me… he uses a Walther PPK. Duh.”
NOPE, you’re wrong.
While Bond does carry his PPK for the opening sequence in Goldfinger, that is the last time we see him with it until Thunderball. Strangely, Bond packs a Walther P38 when he heads off to the continent in pursuit of his gold-obsessed prey. He has one during the gunfight with Goldfinger’s random Chinamen outside the factory, proving that it was indeed the gun that he chose to take with him.
While in Kentucky, Bond finds himself guarded by another Chinese henchman outside his cell. After outsmarting the henchman with taunts and acrobatics, Bond takes the guy’s P38 and makes his escape. Well, he walks about ten yards away and stops. But we can call it an escape for Bond’s sake.
So what is the Walther P38? Kinda looks like a Luger, you say? While you may or may not have said that, the Walther P38 was developed in – you guessed it – 1938. It was a German military design, intended to replace the Luger as a service pistol, although the Luger wasn’t really dropped from service until after World War II and by that time there were two Germanies and so Lugers and P38s weren’t the first things on everyone’s mind.
The P38 is a sturdy, reliable semi-automatic pistol. It has a double-action trigger system with a short recoil action, much like the modern Beretta service pistols used by the U.S. military. The magazines carry 8 rounds of 9×19 mm Parabellum ammunition, the same that had been developed for the Luger thirty years earlier and still remains in service with many world militaries and police agencies. Other than its difficult-to-conceal size, just under 2 pounds with a barrel just under 5 inches, it would have been a very practical choice for Bond to carry on an everyday basis, but it makes sense for him to carry when he goes to Switzerland, preparing for assault.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Buy the movie.
Bond has one of the coolest responses that anyone ever could have when being held at gunpoint on an airplane.
Now, Pussy, you know a lot more about planes than guns. That’s a Smith and Wesson .45, and if you fire at me at this close range, the bullet will pass through me and the fuselage like a blowtorch through butter. The cabin will depressurize, and we’ll both be sucked into outer space together. If that’s how you want to enter the United States, you’re welcome. As for me, I prefer the easy way.
Appropriately, this was one of the first suits that Matt Spaiser covered on his great The Suits of James Bond blog.
Also, the following photo and its accompanying subtitle just make it a little too priceless to have not included here.