Bond Style – Black Tie in Thunderball

This weekend, James Bond himself – Sean Connery – turns 83. Celebrate in style with black tie and either a vodka martini or, to honor his heritage, a tumbler of single malt Scotch.

Sean Connery as James Bond in Thunderball.

Sean Connery as James Bond in Thunderball.

Vitals

Sean Connery as James Bond, British government agent and legendary super spy

Nassau, September 1965

Film: Thunderball
Release Date: December 29, 1965
Director: Terence Young
Tailor: Anthony Sinclair

Background

For the first time in three years, James Bond spends the majority of the film in beach attire, from swimming trunks to casual shirts and linen slacks. Reasonably so, too, as the warm climate of the Bahamas doesn’t really demand a three-piece flannel suit and tie.

However, we are still given a glimpse of the Bond we all know and love when he rolls into the Nassau casino suited up in a snazzy midnight blue tuxedo. The filmmakers interestingly placed Bond a dark dinner suit and his evil nemesis, Largo, in white. Perhaps rather than the traditional white hat good vs. black hat bad, they were trying to convey a bad ass black vs. traditional white?

What’d He Wear?

For his night out in the Nassau casino, Bond wears a midnight blue mohair-wool blend tuxedo that, thanks to the mohair, shines under the casino lights. The color was confirmed by Matt Spaiser on his excellent blog The Suits of James Bond and

The dinner jacket was made by M. Berman, a costumer with a lengthy Hollywood resume that also created the Beatles’ original blue Sgt. Pepper suits. The jacket has a strong look that hangs well on Connery’s athletic frame and looks very slick without being too trendy. All trimmings, including the slim shawl lapels and the buttons, are covered in black satin silk.

007T-Tux-Med3

Bond’s dinner jacket buttons in the front with a single covered button. The trim, fitted look is enhanced by a ventless rear and single darts down each side of the front. The jacket also has jetted hip pockets, as it should, and a welted breast pocket that Bond keeps empty. There are four buttons on each cuff, all covered in the same black satin silk.

Largo's white jacket makes him look extra villainous, paired with his eye patch and the fat that every other man in the casino is wearing a black dinner jacket.

Largo’s white jacket makes him look extra villainous, paired with his eye patch and the fact that every other man in the casino is wearing a black dinner jacket.

The Thunderball dinner jacket was auctioned at Bonhams on March 6, 2007, selling for £33,600 ($52,723 in real money). According to the Bonhams site, the item is:

A dinner jacket, of black wool, with satin effect collar, cuffs and button, lined with burgandy [sic] satin lining, labelled inside “M Berman Ltd, 18 Irving St, Leicester Sq, WC2” inscribed “Sean Connery” Sold for £33,600 (US$ 52,723) inc. premium.

They call it black, but as Jovan Gauthier helped me realize, auction houses are notoriously wrong and the jacket is actually midnight blue. Thanks to Jovan and Matt for confirming the dinner jacket’s color for me. Jovan’s blog, Nouveau Vintage, is a very good blog about classic style.

Images of the jacket from the Bonhams site. Note the post-Bond gauntlet cuffs.

Images of the jacket from the Bonhams site. Note the post-Bond gauntlet cuffs.

The site also notes that the jacket was altered for use in later productions. The most notable alteration I could see was the addition of black silk gauntlet cuffs, as seen on Connery’s tux in Dr. No. This is an interesting post-Bond alteration, as it proves that by the time of Thunderball, the Bond costumers were well aware of the character’s cultural status and sought to modernize him rather than re-use the Edwardian-evoking gauntlet cuffs on his dinner jacket.

After all that discussion of the jacket, I’m afraid I don’t have much to say about the trousers. They’re midnight blue formal trousers with a satin stripe down each leg. They appear to have plain-hemmed bottoms, but beyond that I can only guess. Connery wears his jacket closed the whole time, but I think we can safely assume that they have double forward pleats and “Daks top” side-adjusters like the rest of his trousers.

The obligatory non-speaking woman in a Bond film who just can't help herself.

Connery and the obligatory non-speaking woman in a Bond film who just can’t help herself.

Bond’s dinner shirt with this suit is a white dress shirt with a very thin white tonal stripe. Like his other shirts, this has a narrow spread collar and 2-button turnback cuffs, an interesting choice for a formal shirt when cuff links are usually worn. The shirt fastens down a front placket with mother-of-pearl buttons.

Bond wears a slim black satin silk bow tie in the popular “batwing” style of the mid-60s.

Bond can look awfully cheeky sometimes.

Bond can look awfully cheeky sometimes.

Again, we are given rare – if any – glimpses of Bond’s feet here, so I can only speculate about his shoes. It would be badass, but very uncouth, if he had a pair of red Converses on. Unfortunately for my imagination, he likely wore a pair of black leather dress shoes and black dress socks.

Not well seen in the film, but evident from production photos, Bond did not wear his Rolex for the casino sequence.

In the book, Bond and Felix both choose to wear white dinner jackets with their dress trousers to the casino, although Bond pairs his with a wine red cummerbund to fit his cover.

And in the film, Felix wore sunglasses at night with black tie because this makes no fucking sense at all.

And in the film, Felix wore sunglasses at night with black tie because this makes no fucking sense at all.

Go Big or Go Home

This Thunderball sequence ranks up as one of the all-time great James Bond casino scenes. He waltzes in, embarrasses his enemy, dances away with his girl, and enjoys champagne and caviar. Naturally, Sean Connery makes it look easier than it is, with his half-smile charm, but if you have a good handle on chemin de fer, you can try it yourself. If you don’t have a good handle on playing chemin de fer, I tried to give a nice overview in the first Dr. No blog post. Go read it then take on a cycloptic megalomanic in the Bahamas.

...then take on four beautiful women of varying nationalities and hair colors.

…then take on four beautiful women of varying nationalities and hair colors.

Bond’s behavior here doesn’t differ much from the book, where he and Domino head to a table where Bond orders a shit load of Beluga caviar with pink champagne. Pink champagne may have more of a feminine connotation now, but if you’ve got an expense account like Bond’s where you can actually afford to split a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Rose with a woman you just met, go right ahead and flaunt it. Of course, he orders Dom Perignon in the film, and there’s nothing wrong with that either.

How to Get the Look

Bond wears a very simple but slick black tie outfit for his night in the casino.

  • Midnight blue mohair-wool single-breasted 1-button dinner jacket with slim shawl lapels in black satin silk, welted breast pocket, jetted hip pockets, 4-button cuffs, and ventless rear
  • Midnight blue formal double forward pleated trousers with side adjusters and plain-hemmed bottoms
  • White-on-white striped dress shirt with a narrow spread collar, 2-button turnback cuffs, and mother-of-pearl buttons down a front placket
  • Black satin silk slim “batwing” bow tie
  • Black leather balmorals
  • Black dress socks

Do Yourself A Favor And…

Buy the movie.

The Quote

It’s your spectre against mine.

10 comments

    • luckystrike721

      Jovan,
      Thanks very much! That article is very illuminating; unfortunately, my youth and financial status have precluded me from getting the hands-on black tie primer that very man should have. I’ll also make sure to not be too trusting of the word of auction house descriptions from now on!

      While we’re on the subject of tuxedo colors, what do you think of the dinner suit worn by Bond in Skyfall? Is the blue too obvious or is it a sharp choice?

      Like

      • Matt Spaiser

        If I may answer, I think the blue in Skyfall is fine. It’s just a little lighter than midnight blue, like this suit is, but in the evening it looks great. For some reason the colour was really enhanced on the posters and looked like marine blue, but that clearly wasn’t the case for what you see in the film. It really looked great in the film, and in the dark scenes it looked black. It looked navy in the daylight scenes, but since a dinner jacket shouldn’t be worn during the daytime it doesn’t count.

        Like

        • luckystrike721

          Matt, I’m right with you. The dinner suit was beautiful in the evening scenes, and I appreciated seeing it re-purposed for the daytime scenes. One thing I’ve been wondering about – Bond seems to be perfectly prepared for the bright sun the next day with his Tom Ford sunglasses. Other than a chance to promote the TF brand and have Bond looking cool during his shooting contest, this doesn’t make too much sense. Did he have them on him the whole time at the casino while jumping in and out of the pit?

          Like

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