From Russia With Love – Bond’s Istanbul Suits, Pt. 1: Dupioni Silk
Happy 007th of October. If any of you plan on being 007 for Halloween, start scanning the blog and getting ideas for your tailor! (Or get lucky at the local Goodwill…)
Sean Connery as James Bond, British government agent and legendary super spy
Istanbul, Turkey, Spring 1963
Film: From Russia With Love
Release Date: October 10, 1963
Director: Terence Young
Costume Designer: Jocelyn Rickards
Tailor: Anthony Sinclair
Shortly after he began his term in the Oval Office, JFK named Ian Fleming’s spy novel From Russia, With Love among his ten favorite books of all time. Looking for their follow up to the incredibly successful Dr. No, Bond producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman saw this opportunity and quickly green-lit From Russia With Love (no comma this time) as the next on-screen adaptation of Bond’s adventures and what might have been a successful, if relatively forgotten, spy film of the early 1960s turned into one of the most long-running franchises of all time.
Many die-hard fans, including Sean Connery himself, consider From Russia With Love to be the best of the series. At this time, it was still a grounded espionage thriller with just enough fantastic elements to captivate all audiences. While some argue that the pacing hasn’t aged well, most serious fans know that it is all the better for not relying on the gimmicks of the series’ “middle era” where Bond relies on his Chekovian gadgets rather than this wits to get out of a situation. I personally place From Russia With Love among my top three favorite Bond films, and I consider it the best of the early era, partially due to its nearly perfect adaptation of the book that Kennedy had lauded.
Connery, too, was coming into his own as a more serious actor rather than the brutish Scot who had been reluctantly cast as the hero in Dr. No. With the help of director Terence Young, legendary English tailor Anthony Sinclair developed the “Conduit Cut” for Connery’s suits, emphasizing and adding luxury to his muscular frame. Connery shows off the suits in grand style in From Russia With Love, wearing no less than eight Sinclair-designed suits of varying fabrics, colors, and styles.
What’d He Wear?
Bond shows up in Turkey with his new attaché case and a large blue suitcase that evidently holds four fantastic suits and a series of identical shirts and ties. All five of the lightweight suits that Bond wears in Istanbul appear to be very similar at first glance, all in assorted shades of gray:
- A charcoal gray dupioni silk suit, discussed here
- A black & white Glen Uruqhart check twill weave suit, worn after Kerim’s office is bombed
- A charcoal flannel suit, worn at the gypsy camp
- A different black & white Glen Plaid check suit, worn while reconning with Tania, and
- A dark gray semi-solid suit, worn for the climatic sequence on the Orient Express
I’ll be covering all of those suits eventually, so don’t be all “Hey, didn’t you already do that one?” when you see another grayish suit, pale blue suit, and knit navy tie from From Russia With Love.
When he steps off of the plane in Istanbul, Bond is wearing a charcoal gray dupioni silk suit, an excellent choice for Bond’s day of traveling. Dupioni silk is lightweight, making it an ideal fabric for the warm Turkish climate. Furthermore, dupioni silk is more resistant to wrinkles, keeping it clean-looking and crisp on Bond after hopping on and off of tightly-packed airplanes from London to Istanbul.
So what makes dupioni silk different from just silk? For a practical example, let’s look at movie gangsters… for a more self-serving example on my part, let’s look at movie gangsters on this blog! Ray Liotta wears a gray silk suit during his introduction as adult Henry Hill in Goodfellas. In the opening scenes of The Godfather, Part II, Michael Corleone chooses a lighter gray dupioni silk suit for his son’s Communion. Look at the differences. Henry’s silk suit is fine and smooth, while Michael’s dupioni silk has irregularities, almost resembling the pilling on old sweaters. In this case, we see the prestige of dupioni silk. The fabric is so fine that the irregularities are celebrated. Much like surgeon’s cuffs, which are often worn with a button or two unfastened to show that the suit is not off-the-rack, dupioni silk is worn is someone who takes his clothing seriously (and who can afford to do so!)
Bond’s dupioni silk suit jacket is single-breasted with a low 2-button stance, like the rest of the Sinclair suits in the film. Other than the dupioni silk, this suit is differentiated by a single rear vent, as opposed to the double vents on most of the other suits. Additional details include 4-button cuffs, jetted hip pockets, and a welted breast pocket, in which Connery naturally displays a folded white linen pocket square.
Unlike modern travelers, who step off of planes looking like zombies who raided the clearance section at T.J. Maxx, Bond meets Kerim’s contact (and one of his many sons!) looking cool and comfortable in the jacket, which flatters his muscular physique with natural shoulders, a fully cut chest with a small amount of drape, and a nipped waist. Unfortunately, Connery’s real life knack for sartorial unfamiliarity shows when he wears both suit buttons fastened in a few scenes.
The trousers are standard for early Connery, with double forward pleats, three-button “Daks top” side adjusters, and cuffed bottoms with a short “quarter” break.
The trousers break over a pair of black leather derby shoes with three lace eyelets at the top of a cutaway V-shaped front, worn by Connery throughout the film. Connery wore these shoes often in his early Bond films before easing in a pair of black leather ankle boots with short elastic side gussets in Goldfinger and Thunderball. The derbies are more appropriate for a suit, but the ankle boots make more sense for a secret agent who constantly finds himself in foot chases or combat situations.
Bond’s socks are barely glimpsed, but are definitely dark and are most likely a pair of charcoal gray dress socks. Since Connery typically wears socks that correctly continue the legline into the shoes, we can assume that he is sporting those here.
Bond only wears only standard shirt and tie combination while in Istanbul, never switching it up until he reaches Venice for the finale. (Spoiler alert!) In his magic suitcase, Bond packs a seemingly endless collection of pale blue poplin Turnbull & Asser long-sleeve dress shirts. These unique shirts button down a front placket with a spread collar at the top. The most distinctive part of the shirts is the 2-button turnback cuff, or “cocktail cuff”. This type of cuff – in layman’s terms, a French cuff with buttons rather than links – has become so associated with Bond that it can also be referred to as a “James Bond cuff”. They were a staple of Bond’s attire from Dr. No until The Man with the Golden Gun. After that, Bond fell victim to safari jackets and zip-front polyester shirts and the cocktail cuff hasn’t returned since.
Bond wears one necktie in From Russia With Love (excepting the black bow tie worn by “imposter” Bond in the pre-credits sequence). The tie is straight out of Ian Fleming, albeit in navy blue instead of black. The navy blue grenadine tie, worn in a tight four-in-hand knot, looks great against the lighter blue shirt and pops among the varying gray tones of Bond’s suits. I had previously misidentified the tie as a “grenadine knit”. This is wrong, as Matt Spaiser was kind enough to correct me, as grenadine ties are woven rather than knit. Matt wrote two great posts (here and here) that explore the grenadine silk ties worn by Bond. He discovers that Bond’s grenadine ties were specifically “garza grossa”, a complex type of leno weave.
Accessories are skimpy here, as Bond seems to have abandoned his usual Rolex watch and arrives in Istanbul watch-less. This is likely an oversight on the filmmakers’ part, as he wears it in later scenes (ex: gypsy camp, Russian embassy) when it matters. It is an interesting omission, however, as the gods of product placement today would strike down Daniel Craig for even considering not wearing his trusty Omega in a film.
Instead, we see Bond carrying his outerwear. Due to the warm weather, he has wisely forgone wearing his overcoat, instead carrying it over his arm. We only see fleeting glimpses of it over his arm and thrown on the bed, but he also carries it later when infiltrating the Russian embassy. It is a single-breasted topcoat that appears solid gray but is actually a black and white herringbone. It has peak lapels, a breast pocket, flapped hip pockets, and black buttons. Bond is sadly forced to abandon it while making his escape from Istanbul.
His hat, also carried now but featured more prominently later, is the dark olive brown felt short-brimmed trilby with a dark brown narrow grosgrain band.
Since this was 1963, Bond probably had his Walther PPK holstered in his chamois leather shoulder holster while on board. Since this is now 2013… that’s not such a great idea.
Go Big or Go Home
Bond flies in style. No hoodies, cargo shorts, and sweatpants for him; Bond knows that as soon as he touches down in Istanbul, he’ll be making a first impression on both friends and enemies. But what does he do until he gets there?
According to the book, Bond flies on BEA Flight 130 to Rome, Athens, and Istanbul, taking off from London Airport at 10:30 a.m…
In ten minutes they had reached 20,000 feet and were heading south along the wide air-channel that takes the Mediterranean traffic from England. The scream of the jets died to a low, drowy whistle. Bond unfastened his seat belt and lit a cigarette. He reached for the slim, expensive-looking attaché case on the floor beside him and took out The Mask of Dimitrios by Eric Ambler and put the case, which was very heavy in spite of its size, on the seat beside him. He thought how surprised the ticket clerk at Lndon Airport would have been if she had weighted the case instead of letting it go unchecked as an “overnight bag”.
Nowadays, no airport would consider letting a passenger on a plane with even a replica of the items in Bond’s attaché case. However, if you must check a bag, make sure you have the essentials in your carry on bag: a change of shirt, a tie, underwear, basic toiletries, and a book. In Bond’s case, he chooses The Mask of Dimitrios. I cannot personally attest to the book’s quality, as I’ve never read it, but I can validate Eric Ambler’s quality as an author. Ambler wrote the screenplay for the 1958 film A Night to Remember, considered by me and many others to be the definitive celluloid retelling of the Titanic disaster.
They had only a ninety-minute flight to Istanbul, across the dark Aegean and the Sea of Marmara. An excellent dinner, with two dry Martinis and a half-bottle of Calvet claret put Bond’s reservations about flying on Friday the thirteenth, and his worries about his assignment, out of his mind and substituted a mood of pleased anticipation.
Unfortunately, getting a meal other than a miniscule bag of peanuts is nearly unheard of these days. If a meal is offered, it was usually boxed up about six years ago with enough preservatives to last well into the nuclear holocaust that will eventually end us all. Martinis and a fine claret are also an indication of the golden age of flying. Perhaps it’s just my inexperience, but I’ve never been on a plane that offers vermouth or any wine other than a small bottle of a Woodbridge Cabernet Sauvignon. If you don’t feel like sneaking some vermouth on in a pre-approved 3 oz. bottle, you can see if the plane offers another Bond flying staple: brandy and ginger ale.
Once you’ve landed, you’re probably aching to get to your hotel. However, you may be in Bond’s position of having to deal with business first. Ideally, your business contact will send a chauffeur in an antique Rolls-Royce to escort you to his office, where you will be offered a Diplomate cigarette, which Bond describes as “the most wonderful cigarette he had ever tasted – the mildest and sweetest of Turkish tobacco in a slim long oval tube with an elegant gold crescent.”
How to Get the Look
Going on a trip? Think twice before you layer on a hoodie; guys in hoodies aren’t typically escorted around exotic European cities by chauffered Rolls-Royces. And if they are, they’re probably disreputable.
- Charcoal gray dupioni silk tailored suit, consisting of:
- Single-breasted jacket with a low 2-button stance, narrow notch lapels, welted breast pocket, jetted hip pockets, 4-button cuffs and a single rear vent
- Double reverse pleated trousers with side adjusters and cuffed bottoms
- Pale blue poplin long-sleeve Turnbull & Asser dress shirt with spread collar, front placket, and 2-button turnback/”cocktail” cuffs
- Navy blue grenadine woven silk necktie, worn with a four-in-hand knot
- Black leather 3-eyelet plain-toe derby shoes
- Charcoal gray dress socks
- Black & white herringbone single-breasted topcoat with narrow peak lapels, breast pocket, and flapped hip pockets
- Olive brown felt Lock & Co. Hatters short-brimmed trilby with a narrow dark brown grosgrain band
- White linen folded pocket square
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
There’s nothing more embarrassing than the wrong chauffeur picking you up at the airport. (Other than literally thousands of more embarrassing situations.) To avoid this, work out a secret code with whoever is supposed to pick you up. It may not make sense in this era of non-smoking airports, but that just makes it more fun!
Bond: Pardon me, do you have a match?
Chauffeur: I use a lighter.
Bond: Better still.
Chauffeur: Until they go wrong.
Matt Spaiser wrote about this suit, particularly the jacket, in one of his early posts on his wonderful blog, The Suits of James Bond. It’s worth a read!
Another great write-up. Now I want shirts with cocktail cuffs! Speaking of Eric Ambler, I picked up a copy of “Journey Into Fear” last week and, on a watch forum I hang out on, I mentioned that it’s absolute sacrilege that much (if not most) of Ambler’s works are currently out of print. “The Mask of Dimitrios” features a description of heroin addiction that reads like it was written yesterday, such is the modern feel of Ambler’s writing. The book was written in 1939. Ambler has long been highly regarded as a father of espionage thrillers. No wonder Fleming had Bond read them.
I see you’ve called the tie a “grenadine knit.” It’s just a grenadine. Grenadine ties are woven, not knit, and have nothing in common with the knit ties that Fleming wrote about in his novels. They look a little similar at first glance, but when you have them in your hand you can really see they are nothing alike. Here are two posts I’ve done on the grenadine tie:
Thanks for the feedback. As you can tell, I’m a big fan of your blog – and your expertise – and will make sure to get it straight from here on. Also, congratulations on your recent third anniversary of the blog!