The Literary James Bond

Sean Connery as James Bond in Goldfinger (1964), wearing the closest cinematic approximation of the suit imagined by Ian Fleming for his character. Inset is a drawing created by Fleming and commissioned for the Daily Express comic strip.

Sean Connery as James Bond in Goldfinger (1964), wearing the closest cinematic approximation of the suit imagined by Ian Fleming for his character. Inset is a drawing created by Fleming and commissioned for the Daily Express comic strip.

Vitals

James Bond, British government agent

1950s-1960s

Background

106 years ago, on May 28, 1908, Ian Lancaster Fleming was born in Mayfair to an eventual member of parliament and his wife. Throughout his life, Fleming would be a journalist, a Naval Intelligence officer, and – the role in which he is most remembered – the author who introduced the world to James Bond.

After World War II, Fleming was demobilized from his position at British Naval Intelligence and began working as a newspaper manager, a job allowing him three months vacation. Fleming, whose ambition had long been to write a spy novel, used those winter months to retreat to Jamaica.

Uneasy about his upcoming wedding to Ann Charteris, who divorced the second Viscount Rothermere after her long-time affair with Fleming was uncovered, Fleming began writing the novel which would become Casino Royale.

The novel’s hero, the dryly-named James Bond, was a thinly veiled version of the man Fleming wanted himself to be – and soon became recognized as the man every man wanted to be. Bond was originally supposed to be, in Fleming’s words, “an extremely dull, uninteresting man to whom things happened.” Thus, Fleming chose the most boring name that he could find – James Bond, the American ornithologist who wrote the Birds of the West Indies field guide.

However, this idea for a Hitchcock-style hero was soon discarded in favor of the world-trotting, womanizing super spy who spend his time eating fine French dinners and drinking champagne and cocktails when not masterfully quelling whatever dastardly plans the novel’s villain has in store.

While Bond was not a real person (despite what John Pearson’s authorized biography may insist), Ian Fleming gives much credit to the tales of Russian-born spy and saboteur Sidney Reilly for Bond’s adventures. While Reilly was known to embellish both his stories and his importance, his legend had a clear effect on the genesis of James Bond. Reilly’s inflated tales were the basis for the excellent miniseries Reilly: Ace of Spies, starring Sam Neill as the titular hero and featured frequently on this blog.

Commander James Bond, CMG, RNVR emerged from Fleming’s typewriter as the quintessential Cold War hero spy. He was sophisticated, courageous, and as British as it gets. Before Terence Young crafted Sean Connery in his own image, Fleming’s Bond was more of a callback to earlier British literary icons like Sherlock Holmes and Sir Denys Nayland Smith. Of course, Commander Bond also shared a similar history with Commander Fleming.

Even Life Magazine's 1966 spread recognized James Bond as a romanticized version of Fleming himself.

Even LIFE Magazine‘s 1966 spread recognized James Bond as a romanticized version of Fleming himself.

Bond was likely born sometime between 1918 and 1921, son of the Scottish-born Andrew Bond and his wife, the Swiss-born Monique Delacroix. Bond’s Scottish heritage was added by Fleming in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service as a tribute to Sean Connery’s own Scottish heritage. When Bond was 11, his parents died in a climbing accident, and he was left with an elderly aunt who sent him to Eton College. Bond was expelled from the school after a year after a scandal with a dormitory maid, a clear indication of the cocksman he would grow into. He next was sent to the more conservative Fettes school, where he was an expert fighter before traveling abroad in his late teen years after purchasing his Bentley 4½ Litre touring car. Around this time, he learned mountain sports under the tutelage of his Swiss mentor, Hannes Oberhauser, whose death would be a critical point in the short story “Octopussy”.

Following his world travels, Bond joined the British Secret Service in 1938, just prior to the outbreak of World War II when he was accorded the rank of Lieutenant in the Special Branch of the British Royal Navy Reserve. M, the Secret Service chief, explained this naval appointment was “to serve with the confidential nature of his duties” and conceal his clandestine espionage activities. During the war, Bond performed his first assassination in New York City, sniping a Japanese cypher clerk with a .30-30 Remington rifle from nearly a quarter of a mile away. After his next kill, murdering a Norwegian double agent in Stockholm, he was selected for the prestigious 00 Section and given the code number of 007.

Hoagy Carmichael, whose appearance formed the basis for Bond's physical characteristics.

Hoagy Carmichael, whose appearance formed the basis for Bond’s physical characteristics.

By the start of Casino Royale in June 1951, James Bond is a senior 00 agent in the small section. His cover position is as a civil servant for the Ministry of Defense, but this doesn’t quite explain his impressive annual salary of £1,500. Throughout Fleming’s adventures, he stands six feet tall, weighing 168 pounds. He parts his black hair on the left, unable to maintain a thick comma that falls over his eyebrow. He has blue-gray eyes, and a vertical scar across his right cheek. After the events of Casino Royale, he has a permanent scar on his right wrist, inflicted by a Russian SMERSH assassin to mark him as a spy. The assassin’s mark was removed, but a scar from the operation remained. Appearance-wise, Fleming often likens Bond to American songwriter Hoagy Carmichael.

Bond sees himself as a simple, almost peasant-like, servant to the Crown, having been awarded the Companion of St. Michael and St. George (CMG) in 1954 after stopping Hugo Drax from wiping out the nation in Moonraker. Ten years later, in The Man with the Golden Gun, this humility prevents him from accepting the title of Knight Commander (KCMG), and he never becomes the “Sir James Bond” that the 1967 spoof film assumes.

More emotional and cynical than in the films, Bond’s true friends are limited, with only fellow agents like Felix Leiter or Bill Tanner matching his Scottish houskeeper, May, for his affection. He is a womanizer, but more of a tragic Jimmy McNulty than a celebratory Hank Moody, in terms of modern TV analogies. Three of the women he is sleeping with at the start of Moonraker are married, and he evidently sabotages his relationship with Tiffany Case after the events of Diamonds are Forever in lieu of inevitably doomed short-term relationships that make no demands of him. When he finally does find true love, with Countess Teresa “Tracy” di Vicenzo in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, her life is tragically cut short as a direct result of Bond’s profession.

It’s no coincidence that my favorite three novels – and the ones often considered to be the best – are the ones with the most faithful film adaptations: Casino RoyaleFrom Russia With Love, and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

(Just a head’s up – this is probably my longest post yet, so if you were planning on reading Moby DickUlysses, or War and Peace anytime soon, you should probably get one of those books out of the way first. They say the devil is in the details, and Ian Fleming was one hell of a detail-oriented writer.)

What’d He Wear?

Ian Fleming in a dark suit and knitted necktie, a rare sight given his preference for bow ties later in life.

Ian Fleming in a dark suit and knitted necktie, a rare sight given his preference for bow ties later in life.

Ian Fleming was a very detail-oriented author, leaving no doubt on his pages regarding what James Bond was drinking, eating, shooting, or – most of all – wearing. The most commonly described outfit included a dark blue tropical worsted suit, white shirt, black knit tie, and black casual shoes. Typically, black ties are accepted with blue suits when the blue is light enough that it easily contrasts with the black. However, the suit is described in Thunderball as “very dark blue”.

While some clothing purists debate the appropriateness of matching a black tie with a dark blue suit, it needs to be considered that the literary Bond was both an individualist and a minimalist; he would have discovered a look that he liked early on and stuck with it no matter what, much like Fleming himself.

According to The James Bond Dossier, an excellent online resource for all things related to 007 novels, Ian Fleming himself provided details on Bond’s clothing not found in the books themselves:

…he favours dark blue suits, described variously as tropical or light weight worsted, silk or Sea Island cotton shirts with a black knitted silk tie, and black casual shoes or moccasins are mentioned by Fleming on a number of occasions too because, he tells us, 007 dislikes tying shoe laces.

In the previously mentioned letter to Playboy, Fleming expands on this slightly, stipulating a two-button single-breasted dark blue tropical worsted suit with no handkerchief in the breast pocket; a black leather belt; a white sleeveless Sea Island cotton shirt; black, square toed casual shoes; a thin black knitted silk tie with no pin; dark blue socks; and a Rolex Oyster Perpetual. His shirts are sometimes white silk (or cream in Thunderball), otherwise dark blue (and later white) Sea Island cotton shirts. Fleming rarely mentions Bond’s shirts being sleeveless, which is what Fleming personally favoured, although it does appear a few times and is reiterated in the Playboy letter.

Bond’s Suits

A swatch of dark blue tropical worsted fabric, as Bond preferred for his suits.

A swatch of dark blue tropical worsted fabric, as Bond preferred for his suits.

The first description of James Bond’s daily blue suit is found in Moonraker, set in May 1953. After wearing the trousers and shirt casually around the house while reading, Bond finishes dressing and accompanies M to Blades for a night of dinner, drinking, and gambling. His suit is described as being dark blue Navy serge (yes Navy serge, not navy blue), consisting of a jacket and trousers. Based on the context and what we know about Fleming, it can be assumed that all of Bond’s suits are two-piece as waistcoats are never mentioned or described. The jacket has hip pockets, and the trousers also have accessible side pockets. This suit is described as serge, while most subsequent descriptions are described as lightweight tropical worsted material. Serge is a woven twill while worsted serge is used for making suits as well as overcoats and military uniforms.

Bond pairs the suit with a heavy white silk shirt, black knitted silk tie, “well-polished” black moccasins, dark blue socks, and a wristwatch.

In the next Bond adventure, Diamonds are Forever, Bond treks from London to the United States in August 1954. He is described throughout as wearing a dark blue tropical worsted single-breasted suit, a long-sleeved shirt, his wristwatch, and – naturally – a chamois leather shoulder holster under his left arm. While it isn’t specifically mentioned, we should assume that a gentleman like Bond would be wearing a necktie also. This offers the first and one of the few descriptions of Bond’s sleeves. Also, Fleming later stated that Bond never kept a display handkerchief in the outer breast pocket, so his placement of a handkerchief in his breast pocket must refer to a pocket inside the jacket. Again, the book makes mention of both right and left side pockets on the trousers.

Although he’s not wearing them at the time, Bond’s typical traveling inventory is mentioned when packing for the States in Chapter 6 of Diamonds are Forever:

Evening clothes; his lightweight black and white dog-tooth suit for the country and for golf; Saxone golf shoes; a companion to the dark blue, tropical worsted suit he was wearing, and some white silk and dark blue Sea Island cotton shirts with collars attached and short sleeves. Socks and ties, some nylon underclothes, and two pairs of the long silk pajama coats he wore in place of two-piece pajamas.

A black silk knitted tie from Charvet with a white dress shirt, similar to Bond's preferred combination.

A black silk knitted tie from Charvet, the French shop that became the first shirt shop in the world, with a white dress shirt, similar to Bond’s preferred combination. (Although Bond would have likely opted for a Turnbull & Asser shirt.)

Many of the more casual items will be discussed further as this post continues.

Nothing new in From Russia With Love, just a coat with hip pockets, trousers with pockets, his tie, and the standard chamois leather shoulder holster, which is making its last appearance before Bond is re-armed in Dr. No.

In Dr. No, set in March 1956, Bond travels to  Jamaica in a dark blue tropical worsted suit, black knitted tie, and Sea Island cotton undershirts, plus the usual accoutrement of holster and luminous dial wristwatch. It is in Dr. No where Fleming first makes his controversial (amongst 007 diehards) mention of Bond wearing a white cotton “sleeveless” shirt. In this context, “sleeveless” means short-sleeved, although the matching of a sleeveless suit with a tie is still considered to be a faux pas by many who don’t work as fast food chain managers or sexless accountants. Since Bond tends to leave his jacket on to conceal his holster, it is a wise alternative for him to stay cool in the tropical Jamaican climate.

Goldfinger, set just over a year later across the United States, finds Bond again wearing a dark blue tropical worsted suit with a long-sleeve shirt, heavy casual shoes with a knife concealed in each heel, his watch, and a belt for his trousers. The belt marks a major difference between the suits of the novels and the suits of the films, where Connery – and now Daniel Craig, too – opt for side adjustors instead. The belt is also mentioned in the short story “Risico”, where Bond finds himself running from criminals in Venice while wearing his suit, shirt, tie, holster, and watch.

In Thunderball, Bond is again sent to the tropics but no indication is given as to whether or not his shirt has long or short sleeves. On top of it, he wears a “very dark blue” lightweight single-breasted suit, cream silk shirt, and black knitted silk tie. Instead of the questionable choice of short sleeves, Bond makes the clear faux pas of wearing black saddle-stitched sandals and no socks with his full business suit. While some men are able to pull off sandals with a very casual suit (i.e. linen), this almost never looks good. Bond is still able to nail Domino in the book, but I’m sure someone like Elaine Benes would have made Bond wear proper footwear before deciding if he is spongeworthy.

Bond preferred pair of black leather hand-stitched moccasins. This is Coogan's Finchley model, available for only £36 from Coogan London's online store.

Bond preferred pair of black leather hand-stitched moccasins. This is Coogan’s Finchley model, available for only £36 from Coogan London’s online store.

The next few short stories, “Octopussy” and “The Living Daylights”, offer little new input about Bond’s suits. He wears a dark blue tropical suit in Jamaica in July during “Octopussy”, and he pairs his coat and tie with a black velvet cowl over his head while taking out a West Berlin sniper in “The Living Daylights”. The next description we get of Bond’s suit comes from Vivienne Michel’s narration in The Spy Who Loved Me, set in upstate New York just after the events of “The Living Daylights” in the fall of 1960. Bond arrives at Vivienne’s door wearing a dark blue lightweight alpaca single-breasted suit. Alpaca fiber had never been described in Bond’s suits before, so this is either a newly-seen suit or a mistake on Vivienne’s part. Again, he wears a soft white silk shirt, a belt, and a thin black knitted tie with no tie pin.

A modern navy blue Burberry trench coat, likely the very item Bond would wear if Fleming was writing about him today. Note that the model is wearing a very Bondian white shirt and black tie.

A modern navy blue Burberry trench coat, likely the very item Bond would wear if Fleming was writing about him today. Note that the model is wearing a very Bondian white shirt and black tie.

Vivienne doesn’t comment on Bond’s shoes, but we are given the first description of his outerwear: a dark blue belted raincoat and soft black hat. Naturally, he is also wearing his wristwatch.

We next hear from Bond about a year later, back in Royale-les-Eaux for the start of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, where Bond is wearing his typical dark blue suit, a soft leather holster inside his trouser beltline, socks, and shoes – again with knives concealed in each heal. Three months later, we find Bond in London during a rainy Christmas season, wearing his dark blue suit and a dark blue raincoat.

Finally, our last description of Bond’s suit – offered in The Man with the Golden Gun – is one of the most detailed. After being brainwashed by the Russians, Bond is sent back to London in November 1963, wearing newly-purchased versions his usual clothing so that his superiors don’t suspect any foul play. He wears a dark blue single-breasted suit; the coat and trousers are again described with right and left side pockets. He wears his typical white shirt, black knitted silk tie, black casual shoes, and a watch with a luminous dial. For one of the few times in the whole Bond canon, we are given the brand for an item of his clothing when Fleming describes his “raincoat bought yesterday from Burberry’s”.

Burberry currently offers several men’s trench coats, all for relatively high prices. The most Bond-like currently offered is a mid-length cotton gabardine single-breasted trench coat with a belt from their “London” collection. Bond would opt for the navy blue raincoat, but it is also offered in jet black and khaki. The coat, item #37899571, has set-in sleeves, epaulettes, gun flap, throat latch, rain shield, and a distinctive check undercollar. It can be yours for only $1,695… assuming you have Bond’s bottomless MI6 expense account.

Other than the Burberry mention, the only speculation on Bond’s clothing brands can come from Fleming’s own preferences. Both the Bonhams jacket mentioned below and author John Pearson indicate that Fleming bought jackets and suits from Benson, Perry, and Whitley on Cork Street in London. Fleming also preferred Turnbull & Asser shirts, which were used for Sean Connery in the earliest Bond films. Bond himself would just tell you to find what you can and make it look good on you.

Bond’s Country Suit

A black and white houndstooth suit offered by Adaptor Clothing of the UK, very similar to something Bond would have worn.

A black and white houndstooth suit offered by Adaptor Clothing of the UK, very similar to something Bond would have worn.

Unlike the jet-setting fashion icon of the films, the James Bond of the books survives on two suits – his dark blue suit described above and an aging casual suit worn in the country. We get a few different fleeting descriptions of the suit in the stories, specifically in MoonrakerGoldfinger, and “For Your Eyes Only”.

In Moonraker, Bond dresses for a casual day in Dover in a “battered” black and white dogtooth suit, a dark blue Sea Island cotton shirt, black silk knitted tie, shoes, blue underpants, and his chamois leather shoulder holster with no hat. While the more frequently used term is “houndstooth” instead of “dogstooth”, it is the same type of pattern.

“For Your Eyes Only” finds Bond in Canada tracking down a Cuban assassin. He again sports the black and white houndstooth suit, now described as “old”, and pairs it with his usual white shirt and thin black tie. The suit’s trousers, described as “yellowing” by the time of the events of Goldfinger in late spring of 1957, are worn with golfing attire when Bond faces off against Goldfinger himself. The novel’s description lends the additional fact that the trousers have pockets.

The suit, which yellows as it grows “old” and “battered”, indicates that Bond indeed probably has a modest wardrobe despite his immodest standard of living. The houndstooth suit is likely one he discovered early in his life, and he will wear it until the threads are peeling off of him. In November 2010, a very similar jacket owned by Ian Fleming himself was auctioned by Bonhams for £1,080. The jacket is also featured in a post on The Suits of James Bond.

Ian Fleming's personal golf jacket, auctioned by Bonhams in November 2010 and considered to be an inspiration for Bond's own country suit.

Ian Fleming’s personal golf jacket from Benson, Perry, and Whitley. It was auctioned by Bonhams in 2010 and is considered to be an inspiration for Bond’s own country suit.

Bonhams described the lot as:

Ian Fleming’s golfing jacket, tailored in tweed with a loud black, white and turquoise check, and bearing the label of Benson, Perry & Whitley Ltd, inscribed “574, 18/10/63, Ian Fleming Esq.”, in fine condition, 1963

Further investigation of the jacket shows that it is single-breasted with notch lapels, 2-button front, a welted breast pocket, and flapped hip pockets. There are 2-button cuffs that match the black buttons on the front, and the cuffs additionally have short gauntlets that were occasionally found on some dinner jackets in the films (Dr. No, From Russia with Love, and The Man with the Golden Gun). The darts on the front are noticeable, specifically on a horizontal axis with the top button, as they cause deformations in the check. Also worth noticing is the additional turquoise check, which is not described on Bond’s “yellowing” suit. Matt Spaiser’s The Suits of James Bond also has a nice analysis of the jacket.

To get your own James Bond country suit, Adaptor Clothing offers a very classic-looking suit with plenty of ’60s flair. It is different than the Fleming jacket as this suit actually is black and white houndstooth and has a 3-button front. It strikes me as something that Bond would indeed wear in the country, so if you have £184.99 to spend, it may be worth picking up for your next holiday jaunt.

Bond’s Formalwear

Mike Grell's illustration of James Bond in formal attire from his 1988 strip, Permission to Die. Grell clearly used Fleming's narrative as a basis for Bond's likeness.

Mike Grell’s illustration of James Bond in formal attire from his 1988 strip, Permission to Die. Grell clearly used Fleming’s narrative as a basis for Bond’s appearance.

Finally, we get to the part of Bond everyone thinks they know… the tux. Fleming’s Bond actually doesn’t find himself in dinner attire nearly as much as the film character, although the first clothing description in the first book, Casino Royale, is a very Bondian black tie introduction:

As he tied his thin, double-ended black satin tie, he paused for a moment and examined himself levelly in the mirror… He looked carefully round the room to see if anything had been forgotten and slipped his single-breasted dinner-jacket coat over his heavy silk evening shirt. He felt cool and comfortable. He verified in the mirror that there was absolutely no sign of the flat gun under his left arm, gave a final pull at his narrow tie and walked out of the door and locked it.

It sounds good, but it tells us very little, not even including the color of the dinner jacket. While we can assume that his single-breasted dinner jacket is either midnight blue or black, Casino Royale is set in a French resort town during the summer where a white or cream dinner jacket wouldn’t be out of place. Hell, even Barry Nelson wore a light-colored (probably tan) dinner jacket when playing Bond in the 1954 Climax! version of Casino Royale.

Thunderball is a little more helpful, describing Bond in a white dinner jacket, dress trousers, and a wine red cummerbund. The context of the cummerbund implies that Bond is dressing louder than usual, but a white dinner jacket would be more than appropriate for summer in the Bahamas.

Barry Nelson sports a light-colored dinner jacket as the American gambler "Jimmy" Bond in a 1954 live TV adaptation of Casino Royale.

Barry Nelson sports a light-colored dinner jacket as the American gambler “Jimmy” Bond in a 1954 live TV adaptation of Casino Royale.

For more information (and photos, including the one above) about “Card Sense Jimmy” Bond’s dinner jacket in the 1954 Casino Royale adaptation, check out Matt’s post at The Suits of James Bond.

Bond’s Casualwear

The literary James Bond was a very simple dresser, and his casual attire was usually just one or two garments away from being a suit. In Royale-les-Eaux – both in Casino Royale and in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – he wears a white Sea Island cotton shirt, his dark blue tropical worsted trousers, black casual slip-on shoes, and dark blue socks. Most of the details come from the latter book, but it can be assumed that the elements were similar in the first. Bond wears the same thing in his London apartment while reading before dinner with M in Moonraker, although his shirt was heavy silk rather than Sea Island cotton.

While relaxing at home in From Russia With Love, Bond takes it a step further into relaxation, wearing a dark blue Sea Island cotton shirt, his navy blue tropical worsted trousers, and black leather sandals with no socks. While the sandals and trousers may clash, one must remember that a) Bond is at home, and b) at least it’s not with a full suit this time.

For the warmer weather of the tropics, Bond wisely foregoes a suit when in recreational mode, often opting for sandals with either his shorts or slacks. In Thunderball and The Man with the Golden Gun, he wears a dark blue Sea Island cotton shirt with his trousers, watch, and undershorts. Live and Let Die and Dr. No both feature Bond in Jamaica wearing just shorts and sandals, although he likely keeps a shirt on hand to cover up as mentioned in “The Hildebrand Rarity”.

Sean Connery sports a Flemingesque blue casual shirt while in the Bahamas for Thunderball.

Sean Connery sports a Flemingesque blue casual shirt while in the Bahamas for Thunderball.

When he explores Crab Key in Dr. No, Bond wears a dark blue cotton shirt, black canvas jeans with hip pockets, rope-soled shoes, and a wristwatch with a luminous dial. He carries his sidearm in a holster inside his trouser waistband.

“Bond doesn’t wear jeans!” you say, obviously not reading what I just wrote above about him wearing jeans. “Sure he does, and not just once, but twice!” I reply, overly excited.

In “For Your Eyes Only”, Bond dresses for his sniping mission in the Canadian woods in a khaki shirt, dark brown jeans, soft ripple rubber climbing boots with springy cushioned soles, and his watch. Khaki appears to be Bond’s tactical mission shirt of choice, having previously worn a “faded” khaki bush shirt with pockets during his South African assault at the end of Diamonds are Forever.

At the end of the day, when Bond is going to bed, he typically wears a single garment: a dark blue silk pajama coat with a loose belt around his waist in lieu of buttons. It is mentioned specifically in both From Russia With Love and Casino Royale, when he wears it over his swimming trunks:

Bond had always disliked pyjamas and had slept naked until in Hong Kong at the end of the war he came across the perfect compromise. This was a pyjama-coat which came almost down to the knees. It had no buttons, but there was a loose belt round the waist. The sleeves were wide and short, ending just above the elbow. The result was cool and comfortable…

When disguised as a Japanese miner in You Only Live Twice, Bond maintains the habit but switches up the garment, now wearing a dark brown yukata kimono and underpants. In the next and final book, The Man with the Golden Gun, he sleeps in his Jamaican hotel room wearing only a pair of Sea Island cotton underwear.

Bond’s Sportwear

James Bond was also quite a sportsman, engaging in golfing, skiing, and swimming over the course of the novels.

A 1950s-era ad for Saxone nailed golf shoes, likely the very pair preferred by James Bond for his outing with Goldfinger.

A 1950s-era ad for Saxone nailed golf shoes, likely the very pair preferred by James Bond for his outing with Goldfinger.

Goldfinger includes a scene that incorporates Ian Fleming’s favorite habit of golf. For his game in Ramsgate against Auric Goldfinger, Bond wears the trousers of his “yellowing” black and white houndstooth suit and replaces the coat with a “faded” black windcheater. He wears “old” and “battered” nailed Saxones and golf socks, and he is ready to play. Although the Bonhams auction description for his houndstooth jacket says that Fleming played golf in the suitcoat, Fleming wisely omits the coat for Bond and gives him a more athletically-viable windbreaker. (For a description of Bond’s golf attire in the 1964 film, check out my post from August 2013.)

In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Bond spends Christmas skiing down the Alps, somewhat against his will. His “aged” black golf windcheater from Goldfinger returns for this adventure, worn over a white Sea Island cotton collared shirt, long-sleeve sweater, and “old fashioned” smooth cloth ski trousers with a pocket. He protects his face and neck with a dark red silk bandana handkerchief, and he wears ski goggles and large leather gauntlet ski gloves with a cord worn through the sleeves of his sweater. Naturally, he wears a pair of ski boots, fastened into place with ankle straps. He keeps warm with the long but ugly woolen underwear he donned for his disguise as Sir Hilary Bray. The final accessory is his Rolex Oyster Perpetual wristwatch on an expanding metal bracelet.

Bond does plenty of swimming in the novels, but the only description granted to his swimming trunks is in Casino Royale when they are described as white linen bathing shorts, which Bond wears with his dark blue pajama coat and dark blue leather sandals when heading down to the beach.

In Live and Let Die, Bond not only swims but deep sea dives off of Morgan’s Harbor. He wears his swimming trunks and shoulder holster (!) under a thin black leather frogman’s suit with zipped side pockets. Additional diving accessories include a skull-tight helmet with a Perspex window, long black webbed flippers, a leaded belt, and his Rolex wristwatch in its first literary mention.

Bond’s Watch

Speaking of the watch… while the Rolex Submariner was cemented early in the film series as Bond’s watch of choice, this was not Ian Fleming’s original timepiece for his literary hero. Although most references to the watch are vague, saying only that it is a wristwatch with a luminous dial, Live and Let Die establishes that it is, indeed, a Rolex that he wears while diving in Jamaica. Just prior to writing the novel, Fleming had trekked up Mt. Everest with Sherpa Tenzing and Edmund Hillary. Fleming took notice of Sherpa’s watch, a Rolex Explorer, and likely used this as the basis for Bond’s watch.

Ten years later, in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Fleming offers slightly more detail about the watch, explaining that it is a Rolex Oyster Perpetual on an expanding bracelet, used impressively as a knuckleduster when he needs to kick some ass.

Dell Deaton, the world’s top expert on James Bond watches, has assessed that the watch is indeed a Rolex Explorer 1016.

Dell Deaton's Rolex Explorer 1016 wristwatch with a metal bracelet, produced in 1960 IV and the likely watch that James Bond wore in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

Dell Deaton’s Rolex Explorer 1016 wristwatch with a metal bracelet, produced in 1960 IV and the likely watch that James Bond wore in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Interestingly enough, the film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service features Bond wearing a non-Submariner Rolex, rare for the first few films, and perhaps a tribute to the Oyster Perpetual mentioned in the book.

Bond’s Mission Disguises

On some missions, Bond was forced to abandon his typical habits of dress. The first of these occasions in the books is upon Bond’s arrival in New York City at the beginning of Live and Let Die, set in January 1952. Bond reluctantly allows the FBI tailors to outfit him in a standard American suit. Plot-wise, this seems unnecessary and just seems like a way for Ian Fleming to express his criticism of American fashions:

Esquire's depiction of the typical American male of the 1950s.

Esquire’s depiction of the typical American male of the 1950s.

The afternoon before, he had had to submit to a certain degree of Americanization at the hands of the FBI. A tailor had come and measured him for two single-breasted suits in dark blue light-weight worsted (Bond had firmly refused anything more dashing) and a haberdasher had brought chilly white nylon shirts with long points to the collars. He had had to accept half a dozen unusually patterned foulard ties, dark socks with fancy clocks, two or three ‘display kerchiefs’ for his breast pocket, nylon vests and pants (called T-shirts and shorts), a comfortable light-weight camel-hair overcoat with over-buttressed shoulders, a plain grey snap-brim fedora with a thin black ribbon and two pairs of hand-stitched and very comfortable black moccasin “casuals”. He also acquired a “Swank” tie-clip in the shape of a whip, an alligator-skin billfold from Mark Cross, a plain Zippo lighter, a plastic “Travel-Pak” containing razor, hairbrush, and toothbrush, a pair of horn-rimmed glasses with plain lenses, various other oddments and, finally, a light-weight Hartmann ‘Skymate’ suitcase to contain all these things…

The fedora in this scene is later revealed to be a Stetson. One of the “unusually patterned” tie is also later described as “garishly striped”. The film Live and Let Die also features a scene of Roger Moore’s Bond in his hotel room with his tailor, but Bond is in total control of the scene, ordering the suit exactly as he wants it and rejecting a tie for being “a bit frantic”.

(As a side note, I inherited several vintage Swank tie clips from my grandfather, and I can say that they are all very classy, unstated, and not shaped like whips.)

Bond once again is forced to undergo to the hellish experience of dressing differently when he disguises himself as Sir Hilary Bray in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. For this mission, Fleming offers much less in the way of description, but the inclusion of the jacket’s gauntlet cuffs, double rear vents, and 4-button front – all referenced with derision – implies that Bond’s usual suits have neither of these scenes. As Bray, Bond also doffs a bowler hat, a gold watch on a chain, and uncomfortably long and heavy wool underpants and sleeveless undershirt:

And I’ve got two new suits with cuffs and double vents at the back and four buttons down the front. Also a gold watch and chain with the Bray seal. Quite the little baronet

Finally, in You Only Live Twice, Bond takes on his most racist and un-Bondlike disguise ever when he is bathed in walnut stain and his eyebrows are shaved to give him the appearance of a Japanese miner. Bond, now known as “Taro Todoroki”, outfits himself in cheap off-the-rack clothing and carries a Japan Air Lines bag for his toiletries:

He was dressed, like so many of the other travelers, in a white cotton shirt buttoned at the wrists and a cheap, knitted silk, black tie exactly centered with a rolled gold pin. His ready-made black trousers, held up by a cheap black plastic belt, were rather loose in the fork, because Japanese behinds are inclined to hang low, but the black plastic sandals and dark blue nylon socks were exactly the right size. A much-used overnight bag of Japan Air Lines was slung over his shoulder, and this contained a change of shirt, singlet, pants and socks, Shinsei cigarettes, and some cheap Japanese toilet articles. In his pockets were a comb, a cheap, used wallet containing some five thousand yen in small denomination notes, and a stout pocket knife which, by Japanese law, had a blade not more than two inches long.

Bond’s Blue Suit in Goldfinger

The closest cinematic version of the literary James Bond’s typical suit can be found in Goldfinger when Bond (Sean Connery) goes to visit Q for his Aston Martin. Interestingly, the scene was one of the first major deviations from the books into the gadget-driven foray and yet it is the only time Bond wears a similar suit – aesthetically, at least – as his literary counterpart.

The suit is heavy dark blue herringbone. The jacket is single-breasted with slim notch lapels that roll to the 2-button front. Like the buttons on the front, the 4 buttons on the cuffs are covered in the same dark blue cloth as the rest of the suit. It has natural shoulders and double rear vents.

Connery is fascinated by the GPS tracker that Q gives him.

Connery is fascinated by the GPS tracker that Q gives him.

The jacket also has jetted hip pockets and a welted breast pocket, where Bond wears a folded white linen pocket square.

Bond’s suit trousers rise to Connery’s natural waist with double forward pleats, 3-button “Daks top” side adjusters, and plain-hemmed bottoms. The books never offer much about Bond’s trousers other than the fact that they have pockets, so Connery’s slanted side pockets would be accurate.

"Pay attention, 007."

“Pay attention, 007.”

In Goldfinger, Connery’s Bond started wearing more white shirts than the typical pale blue of the earlier films in the series. Fleming’s literary Bond showed a preference for white dress shirts also, so the white dress shirt seen here, with its spread collar and placket front, is a likely approximation of the literary shirt.

Connery’s tie in Goldfinger is a very dark navy knit tie, fastened in a tight four-in-hand. While Fleming’s books often called for a black tie with the blue suit, a darker shade of a blue tie follows sartorial convention more correctly. Connery’s tie is especially narrow at around 2½” wide.

Bond settles in for a long afternoon of not listening to anything Q says.

Bond settles in for a long afternoon of not listening to anything Q says.

This shirt also has double/French cuffs, fastened by flat silver cuff links in the same rounded square shape as seen elsewhere in the film. Fleming never made mention of Bond’s cuffs, especially since he often suited his literary character in short-sleeve dress shirts. It can be assumed that, as the literary Bond was less of an ostentatious dresser, he would have had double/French cuffs or buttoned cuffs as opposed to the rarer turnback or “cocktail” cuffs popularized by the films.

And they said only Roger Moore mastered eyebrow-acting...

And they said only Roger Moore mastered eyebrow-acting…

The shoes worn with the Goldfinger suit are the black leather slip-on ankle boots (or “Chelsea boots”) with elastic side gussets. These type of shoes started showing up more in Goldfinger for Bond’s action-oriented scenes. The literary Bond wore moccasins, a far cry from Chelsea boots, although both are technically examples of casual slip-on footwear.

Bond struts into Q's lab.

Bond struts into Q’s lab.

Although there are many differences in terms of exact details, the overall appearance of Bond’s dark blue suit in Goldfinger is as close as the series gets to replicating the navy tropical worsted suit, white shirt, and black tie described by Fleming. Matt Spaiser wrote a great analysis of this suit on his blog, The Suits of James Bond as well as its appearance in a different film that year, Woman of Straw.

A Bond-style Blue Suit on Mad Men

On the third episode of Mad Men‘s sixth season, “The Collaborators”, SCDP receives a potential client in the form of Tim Jablonski (played by Kip Pardue). Tim, or “Timmy”, is an eager young American businessman working for Heinz Ketchup. He has a brief discussion with Don Draper in his office before fellow Heinz exec Raymond Geiger takes over the meeting.

Timmy takes a Bond-like swig of whiskey, neat, during a business meeting.

Timmy takes a Bond-like swig of whiskey, neat, during a business meeting.

Timmy’s brief appearance is notable because he wears something similar to the literary Bond suit. The suit is a dark but vibrant blue wool, very eye-catching but much more subdued than the ultra-blue suits worn by the obnoxiously ambitious Pete Campbell early in the series. Tim’s suit jacket is single-breasted with slim notch lapels and a 2-button front. Both the front buttons and the three buttons on each cuff are dark blue horn. The jacket has straight hip pockets with slim flaps and no breast pocket.

If you've ever written any crossover fanfic with James Bond and the SCDP crew, this is probably what it would look like.

If you’ve ever written any crossover fanfic with James Bond and the SCDP crew, this is probably what it would look like.

Tim’s suit trousers are flat front with a lower rise than Connery’s, with plain-hemmed bottoms and belt loops for his plain black leather belt. The belt latches in the front through a silver squared clasp. Although never explicitly mentioned in the books, several mentions of a belt imply that the literary James Bond indeed wore a belt with at least one of his suits.

Underneath, Tim wears a very simplistic white shirt with spread collars, a plain placket-less front, and button cuffs. His tie is solid black, implying that he either doesn’t care about the blue vs. black convention or recently read some of Fleming’s Bond books. Also, Tim’s blue is lighter than the standard navy, and the contrast would make allowances for a black tie.

Tim sits back while taking a meeting in Don Draper's office.

Tim sits back while taking a meeting in Don Draper’s office.

Tim’s accessories are very simple. He wears black leather shoes and a stainless watch with a metal bracelet. It’s not a Rolex, like Bond’s, but it evokes the same image. On his left ring finger, he wears a plain silver wedding band. We’re never given a description of Bond’s wedding band – if he wore one – during his brief union with Tracy, but most of Bond’s accessories are various shades of silver.

“The Collaborators” is set in late January 1968, long after Ian Fleming’s death and the publication of his final, posthumous Bond novel (The Man with the Golden Gun), but Bond fever was still well alive in the United States. Mad Men also has nodded to the popularity of the Bond series several times, from a “Moneypenny” joke in the second season through Don jokingly likening himself to Bond and the use of “You Only Live Twice” in the final scenes of the fifth season finale.

Go Big or Go Home

Fleming’s Bond is a complex and loyal agent of the British Crown whose demeanor ranges between cynical and laconic and whose taste can best be described as simple elegance. He enjoys the finer things in life, but only if he feels he has earned them.

His morning routine consists of 20 slow press-ups, “enough straight-leg lifts to make his stomach muscles scream”, 20 toe-touches, and a series of arm and chest exercises combined with deep breathing. He enjoys sports, especially golf, and spends much of his leisure time gambling or enjoying mild affairs with married women. One of his private passions is driving his Bentley with the skill of a professional racer.

Bond spends about eight hours in the office, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., with a typical workday lunch in the officers’ canteen either alone or with Chief of Staff Bill Tanner, one of his few actual friends. He is officially employed by MI6, the British Secret Service, but he often supplants his annual £1,500 income with gambling wins.

Bond lives in a small flat in a converted Regency house off of King’s Road in Chelsea, an affluent area in west London. His home is his domain, and it is very masculine, free of any feminine touch that would make him uncomfortable. The flat likely has two bedrooms, including Bond’s room with his white and gold Cole wallpaper, red curtains, a direct phone line to MI6, and dark blue counterpane on the bed, and a bedroom for May, his elderly Scottish houskeeper. The flat has a kitchen where either May or Bond prepare his breakfast of scrambled eggs and a book-lined sitting room with an Empire desk in front of the bay window.

He treats himself with small bits of luxury when he can, including a yearly holiday to Royale-les-Eaux, the fictional seaside resort in the north of France invented by Ian Fleming for Casino Royale.

Smoking

The James Bond of Fleming’s books is a much more habitual cigarette smoker than the film series, where we only see Sean Connery or Tim Dalton take the occasional puff. Moore and Brosnan smoked cigars, and – so far – Daniel Craig’s athletically-oriented Bond has avoided tobacco in any form, with Craig himself even giving up a lifelong smoking habit to stay in shape for the role.

Fleming outfitted Bond with a wide, flat gunmetal cigarette case, typically kept in a hip pocket, with fifty cigarettes of a custom Balkan-Turkish tobacco blend. The cigarettes were made for him by Morlands of Grosvenor Street in London, and they are casually referred to as “Morland Specials”. Each cigarette has three gold bands near the tip, signifying Bond’s RNVR rank of Commander. He carries a black oxidized Ronson lighter that takes some abuse – increasingly described by Fleming as “battered” – but consistently works to support Bond’s sixty-a-day habit.

Bond's specially-ordered Morland cigarettes with the three gold bands to signify his rank.

Bond’s specially-ordered Morland cigarettes with the three gold bands to signify his rank.

The Morland Specials are noted to have a much higher nicotine content than other brands. Bond is aware of the danger of cigarettes, cutting down to only (!) ten per day when training to face Mr. Big in Live and Let Die, which is also his health-induced rate after spending times at Shrublands in Thunderball. He also smokes Duke of Durham King Size filtered cigarettes while on his Thunderball health kick. Although he smokes a variety of brands throughout the series, he is still recognized by his Morland Specials in the final novel, The Man with the Golden Gun.

Chesterfield King Size and Diplomates, Bond's two favorite cigarette brands other than Morland Specials.

Chesterfield King Size and Diplomates, Bond’s two favorite cigarette brands other than Morland Specials.

His Morland Specials are established as his brand of choice in Casino Royale, the first novel, but we learn much about Bond’s smoking habits and preferences as the series goes on. He hates Virginia tobacco, and he is typically able to avoid it when switching his brand either for health or regional reasons. When “Americanizing” in Live and Let Die, he trades in his usual cigarettes and lighter for a pack of Chesterfield King Size cigarettes and a Zippo lighter, a brand he revisits when again in the United States during GoldfingerThunderball, and the obviously-titled “007 in New York”. He briefly switches to Diplomates in From Russia With Love, recommended by Kerim Bey and declared by Bond to be “the most wonderful cigarette he had ever tasted”, but the story also finds him bumming a Player’s Navy Cut from “Red” Grant. He also shows a fondness for Shinsei cigarettes during his time in Japan in You Only Live Twice, preferring to light up with matches rather than his loyal lighter and describing the smoke as “good and sharp on the palate and lungs”, comparable to a slowly-burning firework.

For Jamaican missions in Dr. No and The Man with the Golden Gun, Bond smokes Royal Blend cigarettes. Bond smokes a Laurens Jaune on a mission in Paris during “From a View to a Kill”, but information about this brand is hard to come by other than within Bond analysis writing, so it may be an unintentional bastardization of the Parisienne Jaunes brand.

A Senior Service cigarette ad from 1955, showing the obvious military (specifically naval) association with the brand.

A Senior Service cigarette ad from 1955, showing the obvious military (specifically naval) association with the brand.

Always desperate for a smoke, Bond is shown indiscriminately borrowing cigarettes in Goldfinger, bumming a Parliament from Junius Du Pont and a Senior Service from Colonel Smithers. Bond shows a certain loyalty to the latter brand, carrying a pack of Senior Service cigarettes when he encounters Vivienne Michel and her two tormentors in The Spy Who Loved Me. Senior Service is evidently a very military-favored brand, chosen not only by Smithers and Bond but also by Major Townsend in The Man with the Golden Gun.

Hardly any of these brands are practical to find these days, especially in the United States, although Chesterfields were at one point one of the most popular brands in the country.

Cars

The films established Aston Martin as the car most associated with James Bond, but fans of the novels know that Fleming’s Bond was firmly loyal to his Bentley.

According to Casino Royale and Live and Let Die, Bond purchased his first Bentley when it was relatively new in 1933. Given that Bond was born sometime in the years immediately following World War I, he must have been in his early teens when he picked up the car, but that’s neither here nor there. Since the 4½ Litre model cited as Bond’s was only produced from 1927 to 1931, the 1930 date given in Moonraker must be the correct one.

Thus, Bond’s first car – and the most iconic due to its role in Casino Royale – was a battleship gray 1930 Bentley 4½ Litre convertible coupe with an Amherst Villiers supercharger. Of the 720 4½ Litre models produced by Bentley during the era, 55 of them – produced only from 1929 on – were given a supercharged engine and were known as a “Blower Bentley”. Bond’s was one of these Blower models, with Bond reporting that the supercharger could push the top speed up to 120 mph. In fact, this performance was underrated as a 4½ Litre Bentley reached a top speed of 138 mph at Brooklands in 1932. Perhaps twenty years took its toll on Bond’s car.

A dark green Bentley Blower, similar to the battleship gray version driven by Bond in the first three novels.

A dark green Bentley Blower, similar to the battleship gray version driven by Bond in the first three novels.

Bond’s Bentley Blower had a 4398 cc (not exactly 4½ liter) four-cylinder engine that could produce up to 175 horsepower at 3500 RPM, compared to only 110 horsepower in the standard model. Bond shows extreme skill in handling the car’s 4-speed manual transmission, negotiating the heavy 3807 lb. car up and down various hills of England and France. Due to its Amherst Villiers supercharger, the Blower model was more than 200 lbs. heavier than the standard model.

Bond’s Bentley was also outfitted with twin Marchal fog headlights, Michelin racing tires, a self-starter, and 2″ exhaust. The Bentley served Bond well throughout the first three books of the series, but the second major crash it sustained in Moonraker was enough to total it. At the end of the novel, set in late May 1953, Bond was presented with a new Bentley.

This new Bentley, which Bond drives at the end of Moonraker and is mentioned in From Russia With Love, is a 1952 Bentley Mark VI convertible with an “open touring body”, naturally also in Bond’s trademark battleship gray with dark blue leather upholstery and twin exhaust. Very little mention is made of this Bentley, which also had a 4½ liter engine (although this one measured 4.6 L rather than the earlier 4.4 L). The Mark VI was Bentley’s first post-war luxury car and was built will all-steel coachwork, lending it the description of a “standard steel sports saloon”. Earlier Mark VI models were also produced with 4.3 L engines, but these had a single exhaust and Fleming clearly refers to the dual exhaust on Bond’s Mark VI, indicating a 4.6 L engine.

By the events of Thunderball in the summer of 1959, Bond is once again driving a Bentley, although this is a refurbished Bentley R-Type Continental Mark II. The R-type chassis was only produced between 1952 and 1955, so the description of Bond’s “old” Bentley likely refers to one of the earliest in the R-type run. Bond’s Bentley was a 2-seat convertible, rebuilt by Milliners from the original “sports saloon”, in battleship gray with black morocco leather upholstery. The 9:5 compression engine was upgraded from the standard Mark II 4.6 L straight-six cylinder to a Mark IV 4.9 L engine. It was offered with manual and automatic transmissions, but Bond clearly drives the 4-speed manual. The car has a 13:40 back axle ratio, triple wind horns, 2″ twin exhaust, and an Arnett supercharger activated by a red switch and a magnetic clutch. The Arnett supercharger would have inevitably pushed Bond’s Bentley higher than the standard engine’s 130 horsepower and faster than the 101.7 mph top speed. Bond drove this Bentley throughout the rest of the books, last mentioned in You Only Live Twice.

A 1954 Bentley R-Type with convertible coachwork by Park Ward, as seen in the 1962 film The Fast Lady.

A 1954 Bentley R-Type with convertible coachwork by Park Ward, as seen in the 1962 film The Fast Lady.

We finally see Bond driving an Aston Martin in Goldfinger, set in the spring of 1957, when Bond is issued a 1957 Aston Martin DB Mark III (referred to as a “DBIII” by Fleming) to pursue Auric Goldfinger. Bond’s Mark III has a few modifications, although none are nearly as remarkable as the ejector seat-laden DB5 in the Goldfinger film. The DB Mark III of the book is battleship gray with Marchal fog lights and the 2.9 L Lagonda straight-six engine. Of the 551 DB Mark IIIs produced between 1957 and 1959, Bond likely drives one of the 462 2+2 hatchback coupes.

Bond would have cruised through the countryside in a gray Aston Martin DB Mark III like this.

Bond would have cruised through the countryside in a gray Aston Martin DB Mark III like this.

In one of the few actual representations of a novel-mentioned car appearing on screen, Bond borrows a black Sunbeam Alpine Talbot roadster from Commander Strangways while exploring Jamaica in both Live and Let Die and Dr. No. A blue Sunbeam Alpine appeared in the same context in the film Dr. No.

Bond also rents a number of cars during his travels:

  • a “little” Austin A30 in Jamaica (Dr. No)
  • a dark gray Ford Thunderbird 2-seat convertible with a cream top in upstate New York (The Spy Who Loved Me)
  • a Hillman Minx, again in Jamaica (Dr. No)
  • a Land Rover with Dunlopillo cushions in the Bahamas (Thunderball)
  • a Plymouth saloon in Canada (“For Your Eyes Only”)
  • a Simca Aronde in Royale-les-Eaux (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service)

Gambling

The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning. Then the soul erosion produced by high gambling – a compost of greed and fear and nervous tension – becomes unbearable and the senses awake and revolt from it.

Casino Royale begins with iconic 007 imagery – Bond, in black tie, expertly playing cards in a French casino late at night. The filmmakers of the series recognized the importance of this moment, borrowing it when introducing Sean Connery as 007 in the first film of the series, Dr. No.

Who's gonna forget this moment?

Bond masters the baccarat table in Dr. No.

For obvious reasons, Casino Royale focuses most intensely on Bond’s card-playing prowess, but he also uses skills learned in Scarne on Cards to defeat notorious cheater Hugo Drax in Moonraker.

Bond is a serial gambler without being degenerate. He is considered to be the best player in MI6 based on two months before the war in Monte Carlo, spent exposing a ring of Romanian card cheaters. He plays baccarat to topple Le Chiffre in Casino Royale, and his bridge skills expose Drax at Blades in Moonraker. Bond even has a progression system for roulette, outlined in Casino Royale and analyzed online at The James Bond Dossier. While in Las Vegas in Diamonds are Forever, he tries his hand at blackjack.

Music

In The Man with the Golden Gun, James Bond hears a band playing his favorite song, “After You’ve Gone”, at a Jamaican whorehouse. “After You’ve Gone” is a classic jazz standard from the Tin Pan Alley era, written by Turner Layton with lyrics by Henry Creamer. The first recording was released by Marion Harris on July 22, 1918, and has been covered by a multitude of artists since then. Below is the 1929 version by Louis Armstrong, one of my favorite versions of the song.

The song was a major hit with most major artists of the 1920s and 1930s, including Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Paul Whiteman, Benny Goodman, Sophie Tucker, and Django Reinhardt. Its popularity continued into the swing era with Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, and Dinah Washington all contributing their unique versions to the song’s legacy. Most recently, it has been covered for soundtracks of films like The Newton Boys and The Aviator with contemporary artists Kris McKay and Loudon Wainwright III, respectively, singing with 1920s-style arrangements.

George Feyer - Ecos de Paris

Another song prominently featured in the Bond novels is “La Vie En Rose”, the beautiful French song made famous by Edith Piaf and, later, by Louis Armstrong (making his version of “After You’ve Gone” all the more appropriate.) Unfortunately, poor Bond’s memories of the song are distorted due to associating it with the tragically treacherous Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale; when he first visits Tiffany Case in Diamonds are Forever and hears George Feyer performing the song on piano, he has to skip it.

For Feyer’s magnificent Ecos de Paris album that Tiffany most likely was listening to, it can be purchased on Amazon in either CD or MP3 form.

On a happier note (pun), Bond shows a special appreciation for hearing a live Italian band play “O Sole Mio” in the short story “Risico”.

Books

Despite being a man of action, Bond often likes to take the chance to sit back and read. Bond reads both for enjoyment and to enhance his knowledge of a particular subject area before a mission.

Bond’s pleasure reading titles include:

  • Eric Ambler – The Mask of Dimitrios (Bond reads this 1939 thriller throughout the events of From Russia With Love)
  • Allen Dulles – The Craft of Intelligence
    (Bond reads this 1963 nonfiction book while in Jamaica in The Man with the Golden Gun)
  • Patrick Leigh Fermor – The Traveller’s Tree (Bond reads this adventurer’s guide to the Caribbean in Live and Let Die)
  • John F. Kennedy – Profiles in Courage
    (Bond reads this 1955 nonfiction book while in Jamaica in The Man with the Golden Gun)
  • Georg Reimann – Verderbt, Verdammt, Veraten (Bond reads this admittedly sleazy 1955 German “dime novel” thriller while in Germany in “The Living Daylights”)
  • Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe series (Bond admits enjoying this detective novel series in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service)

Bond’s mission-specific reading includes:

Of course, someone as dryly sarcastic as Bond would likely also own the book written by his namesake, A Field Guide to the Birds of the West Indies.

Food and Meals

Like his creator, James Bond is a very spirited eater. He has very specific tastes, showing clear preferences for meals like scrambled eggs and bacon, broiled lobsters with butter, steak in Bearnaise sauce, or Beluga caviar. While abroad, he often allows himself to enjoy whatever regional specialties are offered to him.

(If you’d like a list or breakdown of all James Bond meals, contact me. I had initially planned to include it in this post, but I think we can all agree that this post does not need to be any longer than it already is!)

Breakfast
Scrambled eggs, prepared with herbs, and served with bacon.

Scrambled eggs, prepared with herbs, and served with bacon.

Breakfast for James Bond almost always consists of eggs, bacon, and toast. Bond prefers his eggs scrambled, eaten with bacon and buttered toast. He opts for the traditional breakfast beverages of orange juice and coffee. In fact, Bond never begins his morning meal without a strong cup (or two) of black coffee, although he often spikes it with whiskey. At home in London, he drinks De Bry coffee, but he occasionally switches his coffee habits when he goes abroad. He discovers Blue Mountain coffee through his friend Strangways in Jamaica and, in America, Bond jumps on the espresso fad, often ordering a double cafe espresso with his breakfasts.

When in a hurry, even a bon vivant like Bond forgoes his favorite meal. In Live and Let Die, he only has time to grab a few rolls and coffee from his Florida boarding house before going off to save his new mistress, Solitaire.

The definitive James Bond breakfast? Three scrambled eggs, four rashers of bacon, and hot buttered toast, accompanied by two cups of black coffee and a half pint of orange juice.

Naturally, Bond has his own preferred recipe for scrambled eggs, as he instructs the staff at the Edwardian Room in New York City:

Scrambled Eggs James Bond

For four individualists:

12 fresh eggs
Salt and pepper
5-6 oz. of fresh butter
Chives or fines herbes

Break the eggs into a bowl. Beat thoroughly with a fork and season well with salt and pepper. In a small copper (or heavy bottomed saucepan) melt 4 oz. of the butter. When melted, pour in the eggs and cook over a very low heat, whisking continuously with a small egg whisk.

While the eggs are slightly more moist than you would wish for eating, remove the pan from heat, add the rest of the butter and continue whisking for half a minute, adding at the same time finely chopped chives or fines herbes. Serve on hot buttered toast in individual copper dishes (for appearance only) with pink champagne (Taittinger) and low music.

Lunch
Smoked salmon and champagne, a favorite lunch of James Bond.

Smoked salmon and champagne, a favorite lunch of James Bond.

Lunch for James Bond is a much less ceremonial affair than breakfast or dinner, but he still makes sure to satisfy his appetite. He fits lunch into his busy work schedule in Moonraker, stopping at the officers’ canteen for grilled sole, a large mixed salad with mustard dressing, Brie cheese, and toast, drinking a half carafe of white Bordeaux wine and black coffee. If you think you’re living the James Bond lifestyle while wolfing down a Big Mac on your work break, you’re far from the mark.

Bond’s lunches can range from the simple (chicken salad in “The Hildebrand Rarity”) to the complex (soft shell crabs with tartar sauce, flat beef medium rare charcoal-grilled hamburgers, French fries, broccoli, mixed salad with thousand island dressing, and ice cream topped off with melted butterscotch, all accompanied by Liebraumilch white wine in Live and Let Die).

Seafood is a prominent theme of James Bond’s lunches, with smoked salmon showing up for several of Bond’s lunches in New York City. Other seafood items that find their way onto Bond’s lunch menus are crabs, shrimp, native snapper, grilled sole, and oyster stew, often accompanied by tartar sauce. Of course, simple sandwiches or even hamburgers are also part of the mix, accompanied by salads or pâté de foie gras. Bond’s lunch picnics tend to consist of a regional combination of sausage and wine, as seen in Goldfinger (6″ Lyon sausage with bread, butter, and a half liter of Mâcon red wine) and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Strasbourg garlic sausage and Riquewihr white wine).

Dinner
Steak with Bearnaise sauce and asparagus. The polenta fries are a nice touch, but unfortunately not used in any Bond novels.

Steak with Bearnaise sauce and asparagus. The polenta fries are a nice touch, but unfortunately not used in any Bond novels.

Dinner is a big deal for James Bond. Whether dining by himself, a date, or a friend, Bond uses the third meal of the day as a chance to exercise his appetite.

Most of Bond’s dinners are meat-centric, with steak or lamb cutlets in Béarnaise sauce, a smooth and creamy French sauce of clarified butter emulsified in egg yolks and white wine vinegar, flavored with shallot, chervil, peppercorn, and tarragon. To truly round out a Bond-style steak dinner, order champagne to drink, asparagus on the side, and an appetizer of caviar with hot toast, finely chopped onion, grated egg yolk. Naturally, Bond orders black coffee at the end of his meal. For a less formal meal, or when dining on his own, Bond orders a rare steak, accompanied by French fries and washed down by a regionally-friendly whiskey cocktail – Irish Coffee in Ireland, a pint of bourbon in the South, and the famous bourbon and branch water in Saratoga Springs.

Seafood is also very popular with Bond’s dinners. His favorite seafood dish is, by far, broiled lobster with melted butter, which he eats in Casino Royale, Diamonds are Forever, Dr. No, You Only Live Twice, and The Man with the Golden Gun. He typically orders the lobster with a side of steak (naturally) or pâté de foie gras. Clams are also popular, with Bond ordering fresh stone crabs at a beach side restaurant in Goldfinger and twelve Cherrystone clams with steak at The Opal Room in Vegas (Diamonds are Forever). Champagne is naturally also Bond’s preferred seafood dinner pairing, but he also enjoys his trademark dry vodka martini with both clams and broiled lobster dinners.

Tagliatelli Verdi, Bond's favorite pasta dish.

Tagliatelli Verdi, Bond’s favorite pasta dish.

Bond mentions pasta as an Achilles’ heel, craving Spaghetti Bolognese and Chianti during his stay at Shrublands health clinic in Thunderball and finally indulging in it for dinner at Lucien’s in Sussex. However, Bond’s favorite Italian dish is Tagliatelli Verdi in genoese sauce, accompanied with a red Chianti Broglio to drink. He enjoys Tagiatelli Verdi while passing through Italy on the Orient Express (From Russia With Love) and when meeting an accomplice at the Colomba d’Oro restaurant in Rome (“Risico”).

In addition to his Italian travels, Bond is always certain to incorporate local cuisine into his dinner. While dining in Turkey in From Russia With Love, Bond enjoys Doner Kebab. When disguised as a Japanese miner in You Only Live Twice, he eats a beef sukiyaki stew made by Kissy Suzuki. Although he isn’t a fan of English cooking, he agrees that it is best in May, so he enjoys a Fried Sole and Welsh rarebit for dinner at The Granville restaurant in Moonraker.

However, when dining on his own at a French restaurant, Bond tends to order egg-centric dishes. At Voisin’s in New York City (Diamonds are Forever), he enjoys “Oeufs Benedict” and strawberries, washing it all down with two vodka martinis. A few years later, while passing through Orleans, France, Bond eats a more expansive dinner of Oeufs cocotte a la crème, a large sole meunière, and Camembert cheese, accompanying the dinner with Rose d’Anjou wine and enjoying both Hennessy 3-Star brandy and coffee as post-prandial beverages.

Late Night Meals

Eggs are also the staple of Bond’s late night menu. In Casino Royale, Bond treats Vesper to an after-hours meal of scrambled eggs and bacon, topped off with Veuve Clicquot champagne, in the Hotel Splendide’s Roi Galant nightclub. Next, in Live and Let Die, Bond and Solitaire go to an all-night diner in Jacksonville, Florida for scrambled eggs, paired with the more traditional accompaniment of orange juice and coffee. In “Risico”, Bond enjoys fried eggs and bacon, washed down with rum laced with coffee while on Colombo’s boat, the Colombina.

For late nights alone in his hotel room, Bond interestingly gets a craving for Eggs Benedict and whiskey. He orders this both in You Only Live Twice at the Miyako Hotel in Japan and in The Man with the Golden Gun while staying at The Thunderbird Hotel in Jamaica. In Japan, he washes the meal down with Jack Daniel’s; in Jamaica, he enjoys the now discontinued Walker’s De Luxe Bourbon, drank on the rocks.

What to Imbibe

Bond booze infographicIn November 2013, Graham Johnson, Indra Neil Guha, and Patrick Davies submitted the results of their cleverly-titled study, “Were James Bond’s drinks shaken because of alcohol induced tremor?” The study, which absolutely sounds like something I would want to do – and sort of have been doing – compiles information from all of Fleming’s original source material (sans The Spy Who Loved Me based on the novel’s differing point of view) and analyzes it, concluding that:

Bond consumed an average of 92 units a week, yet he is still described as being the “best shot in the Secret Service.” People who drink at this level are severely functionally inhibited and unless this refers to shots of various spirits, this assertion is likely to be pure fantasy. The security of the British Isles depends on our Secret Service agents performing at their highest ability; quantifying the alcohol intake of their “top” spy might be an indicator of the consumption of other agents and should prompt further enquiry and support.

The study’s results included a humorous and accurate infographic seen here.

Despite the films popularizing Bond’s preference for the “shaken, not stirred” vodka martini, the literary Bond showed a solid preference for straight whiskey. While he absolutely drank martinis, made with either gin or vodka, he also imbibed in a variety of classic cocktails including – but not limited to – Old Fashioneds, Vodka Tonics, Gin & Tonics, and Negronis. The first drink Bond consumes in the first novel, Casino Royale, was an Americano.

In addition to his preferred spirit, whiskey, Bond shows no aversion to drinking any booze straight. He also has very specific opinions regarding his love of champagne, and – unlike what some “Bond purists” believe – he drinks plenty of beer, especially when in Germany or the U.S.

For a terrific analysis of all of Bond’s drinking habits and preferences, check out The Complete Guide to the Drinks of James Bond, written by David Leigh from The James Bond Dossier. Leigh’s book is available at Amazon, both in paperback or Kindle format.

Bond’s Booze Breakdown

A 1961 ad for Miller High Life, Bond's favorite beer.

A 1961 ad for Miller High Life, Bond’s favorite beer.

All of the beers that Bond drinks in the novels are still widely available today. His preferred brew is probably Miller High Life, which he drinks during visits to America in both Diamonds are Forever and “007 in New York”, using it to wash down his lunch. For a sophisticated bon vivant like Bond, it makes sense that his favorite beer would be marketed as “The Champagne of Beers”. During a lunch in Diamonds are Forever, Bond orders a pint of Black Velvet. Although it is also a Canadian whisky, in this context a “Black Velvet” is a mixed drink of stout beer and champagne. He also enjoys Löwenbräu draft beer in Goldfinger and “The Living Daylights”, drinking it with schnapps in the latter story. This particular combination is referred to as a Molle mit korn. Finally, in The Man with the Golden Gun, Bond appropriately drinks bottles of Red Stripe while in Jamaica.

The definitive Bond beer: Miller High Life.

Bond is less brand-specific with his champagne, unlike the clear preference for Bollinger and Dom Pérignon in the films. He does drink those particular champagnes, enjoying Bollinger in Diamonds are Forever and a 1946 Dom mixed with benzedrine powder while gambling in Moonraker. The only champagne he repeats across the books is Taittinger Blanc de Blanc, choosing the 1943 vintage in Casino Royale and later drinking a glass or two in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. He also drinks Krug (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), Pommery 1950 (Goldfinger), and Veuve Clicquot (Casino Royale). He orders pink champagne twice, preferring Veuve Clicquot Rosé in Diamonds are Forever and Thunderball, also proving that rosé champagne isn’t just for women.

A 1959 bottle of Taittinger.

A 1959 bottle of Taittinger.

The definitive Bond champagne: Taittinger.

Although champagne is Bond’s choice for his meals, he often orders a glass of brandy or cognac as a post-prandial. He orders Hennessy Three Star in Goldfinger and a glass of 10-year-old Calvados in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. While dining with M at Blades, he is given a glass of the club’s Rothschild brandy.

The definitive Bond cognac: Hennessy.

In terms of other liquors, Bond typically only drinks straight whiskey. He does, however, drink a double Steinhäger gin during his German adventures in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service despite his prefernce for Gordon’s in cocktails like a Martini or a Negroni. While with M at Blades in Moonraker, he shows off his trick of “cleaning up” vodka by using a dash of black pepper in a chilled shot of pre-war Wolfschmidt to remove the toxins. In both Goldfinger and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Bond pays tribute to his German surroundings with a glass of Enzian schnapps, neat.

A 1960 ad for Old Granddad bourbon whiskey.

A 1960 ad for Old Granddad bourbon whiskey.

Bond’s favorite liquor is clearly whiskey. He drinks Scotch – usually Haig & Haig Dimple Pinch – in Live and Let Die, Moonraker, and “The Living Daylights”, but not with nearly the same frequency as he enjoys American whiskey. He keeps a pint of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey in his hotel room in You Only Live Twice, and he drinks it with water and ice in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but Bond’s all-time favorite American whiskey is Bourbon. Old Granddad is the most commonly available today of Bond’s choices, which he drinks both neat and on the rocks in Live and Let Die and Diamonds are Forever. He also is shown drinking I.W. Harper in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Walker’s de Luxe Bourbon in The Man with the Golden Gun, both times on the rocks.

The definitive Bond whiskey: Old Granddad (Bourbon).

When it comes to wine, Bond usually decides what to drink based on where he is and what he is eating. In Istanbul during From Russia With Love, he enjoys a Kavaklidere burgundy from the Balkans. With Italian dinner, such as his favorite tagliatelli verdi, he opts for a red Chianti. Mouton Rothschild claret makes an appearance twice in the series, with the 1947 vintage accompanying Bond’s dinner in Goldfinger and the 1953 vintage showing up in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. White wine, excluding champagne, is far less commonly drank in the Bond canon, with a Liebfraumilch (Bukowski’s favorite) accompanying Bond’s lunch in Live and Let Die and Auric Goldfinger serving Piesporter Goldtröpfchen 1953 moselle with his dinner in Goldfinger.

Three bottles of Mouton Rothschild claret dating back to 1945.

Three bottles of Mouton Rothschild claret dating back to 1945.

The definitive Bond wine: Mouton Rothschild (red claret), preferably aged ten years.

Cocktails and mixed drinks are a major part of Bond’s lifestyle, accompanying any meal (including breakfast) and giving him an opportunity to show off some casual snobbery as he indicates Russian vs. Polish vodka or notes what particular ratio should be used when mixing his Martini. As one would expect, the Bond books are chock-full of Martinis, made with either gin or vodka and even – in one case – both!

The Vesper Martini, seen only in Casino Royale, is the most iconic Bond cocktail, memorably ordered by Bond in Chapter 7:

“A dry martini,” [Bond] said. “One. In a deep champagne goblet.”

“Oui, monsieur.”

“Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice cold, then add a thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?”

“Certainly, monsieur.” The barman seemed pleased with the idea.”Gosh, that’s certainly a drink,” said Leiter.

Bond laughed. “When I’m… er… concentrating,” he explained, “I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad. This drink’s my own invention. I’m going to patent it when I can think of a good name.”

Unfortunately for Bond, the name he chooses is Vesper. After Vesper’s betrayal, he is unable to enjoy anything associated with her, and this delicious concoction never again appears in the series.

The Vodka Martini is most common in the books. Although Bond never specifies what particular vodka or vermouth he prefers, he mentions a 6-to-1 ratio of vodka to vermouth (“medium dry”, as he says), and he almost always specifies a lemon peel as the garnish. Bond drinks vodka martinis in Live and Let Die, Moonraker, Diamonds are Forever, From Russia With Love (a double!), Dr. No, Golfinger, and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (on the rocks).

Typically, especially during the Martini’s heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, simply ordering a “Martini” was synonymous with the more traditional gin-made Martini. Bond, often accompanied by his pal Felix Leiter, drinks gin Martinis in Live and Let Die (Dry with House of Lords gin, Martini & Rossi vermouth, and a lemon peel), Moonraker (Dry), Diamonds are Forever (both Medium Dry and Very Dry, with Cresta Blanca vermouth and a lemon peel, From Russia With Love (Dry), Thunderball (Dry with an olive and double Dry on the rocks), and “007 in New York” (with Beefeater gin and a lemon twist).

In warm climates, Bond often opts for the Martini’s simpler cousin, the Vodka Tonic, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, often adding a lemon peel and a dash of Angostura bitters. He chooses its older counterpart, the Gin & Tonic, in Dr. No and Goldfinger, using a double shot of gin and a slice of lime.

Keeping with his staunch Britishism, Bond doesn’t limit his gin intake to the more traditional cocktails. In The Man with the Golden Gun, he drinks a Pink Gin, which had been the longtime official drink of the British Royal Navy. Bond’s particular Pink Gin would have been one part Beefeater and a dash of Angostura bitters to give the drink a pinkish hue. In Italy, Bond drinks the Negroni, a popular Italian cocktail consisting of gin (Gordon’s, in this case), Campari, and vermouth. The Negroni combines two of Bond’s favorite cocktails – the Martini (gin and vermouth) and the Americano (Campari and vermouth).

In addition to being the first cocktail appearing in the novels, the Americano is also one of the most frequently consumed, with Bond enjoying one in Casino Royale and From Russia With Love in addition to the short stories “From a View to a Kill” and “Risico”. Bond himself doesn’t give the drink much credit, saying in “From a View to a Kill” that “in cafés you have to drink the least offensive of the musical comedy drinks that go with them,” and stipulating the use of expensive Perrier soda as the cheapest way to improve a poor drink.

A Vodka Martini, the definitive James Bond cocktail in both the books and the films.

A Vodka Martini, the definitive James Bond cocktail in both the books and the films.

In keeping with his favorite liquor, Bond often enjoys whiskey-based cocktails. He drinks the old standby highball, Whiskey & Soda, in Live and Let Die (with Haig & Haig Scotch), Moonraker (with Black & White Scotch) Dr. No (with Canadian Club and with bourbon), Goldfinger (also with bourbon) “Risico”, “Quantum of Solace”, Thunderball, and a double in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. He switches out the soda with water in Diamonds are Forever and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and he repeatedly extols the virtues of bourbon and branch water in Diamonds are Forever.

Coffee also is an effective mixer for Bond, cutting his bourbon while on a country stakeout in “For Your Eyes Only”, perking him up with brandy in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service or rum in “Risico”, and giving him a boozy start to the day with Scotch in “The Living Daylights”. Bond also enjoys the regional delight of Irish Coffee while eating a quick steak dinner during a stopover at Shannon Airport in Diamonds are Forever, where the drink had been invented only a few years earlier.

Speaking of air travel, Bond drinks a double brandy and ginger ale for his flight in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, later drinking the same highball in You Only Live Twice. He also mixes brandy and soda in Moonraker.

A few miscellaneous drinks only make single appearances in the series. Bond mixes Raki, a regional liqueur, with water in Istanbul during From Russia With Love. In Diamonds are Forever, Bond and Tiffany Case each drink Stingers appropriately made with white creme de menthe.

The definitive Bond cocktail: Vodka Martini, served up with a lemon peel.

How to Get the Look

Although there were some variations, the standard James Bond day-to-day business suit is pretty easy to nail down, especially if you save up your money for the Rolex and a Burberry coat.

  • Dark blue lightweight tropical worsted suit, consisting of:
    • Single-breasted jacket with notch lapels, 2-button front, welted breast pocket, flapped straight hip pockets, single rear vent, and cuff buttons
    • Trousers with belt loops and side pockets
  • White silk long-sleeve dress shirt
  • Black knitted silk thin necktie
  • Black leather belt
  • Black leather casual moccasins
  • Dark blue socks
  • Dark blue belted Burberry raincoat
  • Chamois leather RHD shoulder holster under left arm for a .25-caliber Beretta pistol
  • Rolex Oyster Perpetual wristwatch on an expanding metal bracelet with a luminous dial
  • White Sea Island cotton undershorts

The Guns

More than 20 films have made the Walther PPK synonymous with James Bond, but readers of the books know that he started out with a much different sidearm.

From Casino Royale until its unglamorous recall in Dr. No, the Beretta 418 was the first gun to loyally occupy Bond’s shoulder holster. Typically described as a “slim… flat .25 Beretta automatic with a [taped] skeleton grip,” Bond’s Beretta 418 was customized with a sawn foresight and a stripped down “skeleton grip” with tape around it. It carried eight rounds of the surprisingly anemic .25 ACP ammunition in the magazine and had a safety catch. Bond occasionally fitted the weapon with a suppressor (often given the fictional designation of a “silencer”), which led to his near-death in From Russia With Love when the suppressor snagged on his clothing during a draw. The Beretta accompanied Bond on all of his adventures until Dr. No, carried in a chamois leather shoulder holster about three inches under his left arm.

An unaltered Beretta 418. Bond carried a model with the grip panels removed ("skeleton grips") and a sawn foresight.

An unaltered Beretta 418. Bond carried a model with the grip panels removed (“skeleton grips”) and a sawn foresight.

The Beretta 418 is never mentioned specifically by name, but all of the descriptions point to a variant of the Model 1919, which was introduced shortly after World War I. Ian Fleming had carried a .25-caliber pistol, likely also a Beretta, while serving in Naval Intelligence, so he naturally figured this pistol would be appropriate for Bond. However, the .25 round does not pack much of a punch. Since Bond is a romanticized version of Fleming and would engage in far more action than the author had, Bond would need a more powerful round to really have an efficient killing machine. Enter Geoffrey Boothroyd.

Your gun got stuck, if I recall. This Beretta of yours with the silencer. Something wrong there, 007. Can’t afford that sort of mistake if you’re to carry a 00 number. Would you prefer to drop it and go back to normal duties?

Only the threat of losing his 00 status would force Bond to give up his loyal Beretta, which he tells M he carried for fifteen years. This would date Bond’s first use of the Beretta to around 1941, three years after he entered the Secret Service. This chronology, paired with the knowledge that Bond’s Beretta had a safety catch, negates the hypothesis by some that Bond carried a Beretta 950 Jetfire which, though it had an 8-round magazine of .25 ACP ammunition, wasn’t produced until 1952 and had no safety catch.

Chapter 2 of Dr. No is titled “Choice of Weapons”, and the re-arming of Bond begins with M’s quote above. After receiving a letter from arms enthusiast Geoffrey Boothroyd decrying the Beretta .25 as a “lady’s gun”, Fleming decided it was time to upgrade Bond’s choice of weapons and honored Boothroyd’s suggestion by naming MI6’s armorer after him.

M sat back. “You may not know it, 007, but Major Boothroyd’s the greatest small-arms expert in the world. He wouldn’t be here if he wasn’t. We’ll hear what he has to say…

“Morning, Armourer. Now I want to ask you some questions.” M’s voice was casual. “First of all, what do you think of the Beretta, the .25?”

“Ladies’ gun, sir.”

M raised ironic eyebrows at Bond. Bond smiled thinly.

“No stopping power, sir. But it’s easy to operate. A bit fancy looking too, if you know what I mean, sir. Appeals to the ladies.”

“How would it be with a silencer?”

“Still less stopping power, sir. And I don’t like silencers. They’re heavy and get stuck in your clothing when you’re in a hurry. I wouldn’t recommend anyone to try a combination like that, sir. Not if they were emaning business.”

M said pleasantly to Bond, “Any comment, 007?”

Bond shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t agree. I’ve used the .25 Beretta for fifteen years. Never had a stoppage and I haven’t missed with it yet. Not a bad record for a gun. It just happens that I’m used to it and I can point it straight. I’ve used bigger guns when I’ve had to – the .45 Colt with the long barrel, for instance. But for close-up work and concealment I like the Beretta.” Bond paused. He felt he should give way somewhere. “I’d agree about the silencer, sir. They’re a nuisance. But sometimes you have to use them.”

After the novel’s Major Boothroyd looks over Bond to study his build, he asks Bond to hand over his Beretta and the chamois leather shoulder holster, confirming to M: “I think we can do better than this, sir.”

Thus, Bond is outfitted with his now-iconic Walther PPK as his standard sidearm through the end of the series, chambered in 7.65 mm – best known as .32 ACP. Bond’s model, confirmed in The Man with the Golden Gun as having been manufactured in Berlin in 1945, has a safety catch and a magazine with an extended spur to fit Bond’s large hands.

Bond's Walther PPK, like the one pictured, was a .32 (7.65 mm) model. The magazines had an extended spur to accommodate his large hands.

Bond’s Walther PPK, like the one pictured, was a .32 (7.65 mm) model. The magazines had an extended spur to accommodate his large hands.

Fleming gives Boothroyd a few more moments of expert monologue before officially assigning the pistol to Bond:

Major Boothroyd put on the expert’s voice. “As a matter of fact, sir,” he said modestly, “I’ve just been testing most of the small automatics. Five thousand rounds each at twenty-five yards. Of all of them, I’d choose the Walther PPK 7.65 mm. It only came fourth after the Japanese M-14, the Russian Tokarev, and the Sauer M-38. But I like its light trigger pull and the extension spur of the magazine gives a grip that should suit 007. It’s a real stopping gun. Of course it’s about a .32 calibre as compared with the Beretta’s .25, but I wouldn’t recommend anything lighter. And you can get ammunition for the Walther anywhere in the world. That gives it an edge on the Japanese and the Russian guns.”

Bond is forced to admit that “it’s a good gun” but worries that it is bulkier than the Beretta and asks for Boothroyd’s recommended carry method. In an instance of Fleming mixing up some of the advice he was given, Maj. Boothroyd adises that Bond carries it in a stiff saddle leather Berns Martin triple-draw holster, worn inside the left side of the trouser waistband. “Three-fifths of a second to hit a man at twenty feet,” Boothroyd suggests to Bond. The Berns Martin was designed for revolvers and was likely the original Boothroyd’s suggestion to Fleming to use with his suggested handgun, a Smith & Wesson Centennial Airweight revolver. However, Fleming wanted to give his hero a semi-automatic pistol, so he assigned 007 the Walther PPK with the Berns Martin holster, not recognizing that the holster wouldn’t be the best fit for it.

Despite the inaccuracy of the holster and the still relatively low stopping power of the .32 round, Bond successfully carries his reliable Walther PPK for the rest of his Fleming-scripted adventures.

As mentioned earlier, the real Boothroyd suggested a Smith & Wesson Centennial Airweight revolver for Bond’s carry piece before Fleming vetoed it in favor of the semi-automatic PPK. In terms of stopping power, the .38 Special round used in the Smith & Wesson would have been far superior to both the .25 and the .32, making up for the low capacity of five rounds in the cylinder.

Boothroyd describes the revolver to Bond: “Smith & Wesson Centennial Airweight. Revolver. .38 calibre. Hammerless… Overall length of six and a half inches and it only weighs thirteen ounces. To keep the weight down, the cylinder only holds five cartridges. But by the time they’re gone, somebody’s been killed.”

A Smith & Wesson Model 42, a modern version of the Centennial Airweight that Bond was issued in Dr. No.

A Smith & Wesson Model 42, a modern version of the Centennial Airweight that Bond was issued in Dr. No.

The Centennial Airweight, which was one of Smith & Wesson’s many “hammerless” revolvers, were a favorite concealed carry piece by both bodyguards and policemen due to the hammerless design that would keep the weapon from snagging on clothing during a draw. Since this was the major impediment of the Beretta at the climax of From Russia With Love, the Centennial Airweight makes much more sense as a replacement than the Walther PPK with its exposed hammer.

In 1957, Smith & Wesson began numbering its models and the Centennial Airweight – which was introduced five years earlier – was rebranded as the Model 42. Since Dr. No took place in March 1956, this would have only predated the numbering system by about a year. With its aluminum alloy frame, the Centennial Airweight was lighter than the Centennial (Model 40). Both the Model 40 and the Model 42 have since been discontinued, with the Model 42 ending production in 1974.

Bond clearly had plenty of experience with a .38 by the time he was officially issued his backup Centennial Airweight, having tested on the MI6 shooting range with a .38-caliber Colt Detective Special in Moonraker.

Bond used the Centennial Airweight as a backup revolver in Dr. No only, losing it on Crab Key while pursuing the titular villain. He uses a few other backup weapons throughout the rest of the series, with the most consistent being a “long-barreled Colt Army Special .45”, kept in his Bentley’s concealed dashboard holster or under the seat of his Aston Martin. Unfortunately for Bond “detectives”, there was no such model as the .45-caliber Colt Army Special. There was a Colt Army Special revolver, but it was never chambered in .38-caliber. Some have speculated that this could refer to the Colt New Service revolver, which was chambered in both .45 Long Colt and .45 ACP, but the mention of an external safety mechanism in “From a View to a Kill” means it can’t be a revolver.

Thus, Bond’s “Colt .45” is likely a standard Colt M1911A1 semi-automatic pistol as developed for and carried by the U.S. military. In addition to “From a View to a Kill”, Bond uses his Colt .45 in Casino Royale, Moonraker, and Goldfinger.

Another weapon only briefly mentioned is a “.38 Colt Police Positive with the sawn barrel”, which he keeps under his pillow in his French hotel room in Casino Royale. The weapon is undoubtedly a Colt Police Positive, chambered either in .38 S&W (Colt New Police) or .38 Special. The revolver doesn’t show up until ten years later when Vivienne Michel describes it incorrectly as a “Smith & Wesson Police Positive” in The Spy Who Loved Me. This is not supposed to be another Centennial Airweight as a clear reference is made to the “heavy… short… stumpy” revolver’s hammer. While the Colt vs. Smith & Wesson inaccuracy can be excused as coming from a narrator with minimal firearms knowledge, it was likely just another misstep on the part of an aging Ian Fleming.

Although he had no specifically issued rifle, Bond had several mission-specific rifles that he used for particular assignments. In “For Your Eyes Only”, Bond is given a “new Savage 99F” rifle from Colonel Johns. The rifle has a “Weatherby 6 x 62 ‘scope” and is a “five-shot repeater with 20 rounds of high-velocity .250-3.000. Lightest big game lever action on the market. Only six and a half pounds… single pull and it’s a hair trigger.”

Two years later, when in West Berlin for the events of “The Living Daylights”, Bond uses a “.308 calibre International Experimental Target rifle built by Winchester” with a “Sniperscope” and a curved trigger when overseeing the defection of a KGB spy.

In 2008, Bradley Steele wrote an excellent analysis and breakdown of all of the guns mentioned by Ian Fleming in the Bond series, giving special attention to his issued sidearms. The article can be found here. The article is especially helpful with its depictions of exactly what Bond’s pistols would have looked like, right down to the skeleton grips and sawn foresight on the Beretta and the long barrel of the Colt .45.

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Read the books. They don’t necessarily need to be read in order, but you should start at the beginning with Casino Royale, considered to be one of the best of the series. If overly detailed action stories laced with casual sexism aren’t your thing but you still want the essence of Ian Fleming’s James Bond, check out Casino Royale, From Russia With Love, and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which I consider the top three entries of the series.

And if you want to see the suit above in action, pick up Goldfinger (although I’m sure you already own it!)

The Quote

Luck in all its moods had to be loved and not feared Bond saw luck as a woman, to be softly wooed or brutally ravaged, never pandered to or pursued. But he was honest enough to admit that he had never yet been made to suffer by cards or by women. One day, and he accepted the fact he would be brought to his knees by love or by luck.

Casino Royale

Footnotes

In addition to Fleming himself, many writers have analyzed the literary Bond character in various books and websites. One of the greatest online resources for all things James Bond is The James Bond Dossier, a magnificently thorough study of 007’s literary persona. Ian Fleming’s Agent 007 is also a great site with information from the original novels.

John Pearson’s 1973 book James Bond: The Authorized Biography of 007 cleverly uses the concept of Bond being a real person whose stories were used by Ian Fleming as the basis for his novels and stories. Although there are a few inconsistencies with the books, it is an interesting experiment in narrative, with Pearson determining which of the stories were based in truth and which were purely fictional (such as Moonraker).

After Fleming’s death, plenty of authors have continued the Bond character in novels with mixed success, beginning with Kingsley Amis’s Colonel Sun in 1968. Whether you like the novels or not, The Teeritz Agenda has brilliant snippets of very Flemingesque passages as well as expert commentary about classic gadgets like wristwatches and typewriters, all written by an astute BAMF Style commenter who is quite a BAMF in his own right.

16 comments

  1. teeritz (@teeritz)

    My God! That’s ‘Literary Bond 101’ right there. If anybody ever asks me “what are the James Bond books like?”, I’m gonna give them a link to this post. I’ve already created three or four Bond-nerds in my time, so the chances are good that there’ll be more of them.
    Very detailed breakdown of a complex character that’s not often seen in the films. And I’d forgotten that Bond had dabbled with Senior Service cigarettes. Makes perfect sense. They were a very strong smoke. And, since you could never get Morlands Specials, I had to make do with Marlboro Lights back when they still made them with the three gold bands around the filter. I’ve often been amazed that Fleming lived to the age of 56, given his tobacco consumption.
    Regarding the Rolex, this was the topic of much heated discussion on watch forums about six or seven years ago. I agree with Dell that it was the Explorer. He has, in fact, seen and handled Fleming’s own Rolex Explorer which was shown to him by Fleming’s heirs. But man, it would have saved us all some angst if Fleming had mentioned that it was an Explorer, since it’s plainly printed on the dial.
    Phenomenal write-up, LS! And shucks, Mister, thanks for the mention! I’ll be linking to this post later this week when I do my weekly wristwatch post.

    Like

  2. Hal

    Whilst Mike Grell’s illustration of Bond in evening wear might have been based on the physical description of Bond himself, I can’t imagine Fleming’s Bond would ever have worn a dress shirt with the ruffled shirt front. They first appeared at the very end of the 1950s in the US and its hard to imagine the otherwise minimalist dresser taking to their over the top flamboyance. Certainly the silk dress shirts mentioned wouldn’t have been like this.

    As for the wine coloured cummerbund that Bond wears with his warm weather white dinner jacket, this might sound flashy but, according to The Black Tie Guide was, apparently, regarded as entirely acceptable for warm weather evening clothes.

    As a further note, Bond’s Americanization in Live and Let Die seems odder now than it would have done in the early ’50s. These days suits cut in England look reasonably similar to those made in the US but at that time you could tell where someones clothes were bought by their cut, I think. Britain was dominated by the Saville Row style cuts which varied between a certain amount of drape and a more military cut but all had a noticeable waist. The US tended to wear much baggier sack suits, which lacked any waist suppression at the front giving a very different look. Bond doesn’t want to stand out too obviously as a Limey just arrived in the US.

    Like

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  5. Sir Edward Percival Fox-Ingleby, Bt

    Reblogged this on Autobiography of a Cad and commented:
    Fantastic post by man BAMF…Actually one of the best rundowns on Bond out there. I’m a fan of the literary Bond and really don’t care for the movie version. But I can stomach the Sean Connery Bond. Very good stuff.

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