Sean Connery as James Bond, sophisticated British government agent
Kingston, Jamaica, Spring 1962
Film: Dr. No
Release Date: October 5, 1962
Director: Terence Young
Wardrobe Master: John Brady
Tailor: Anthony Sinclair
Welcome back to Car Week, BAMF Style’s semi-annual celebration that combines both sartorial and automotive elegance. And what’s more elegant than a sharply-suited James Bond getting behind the wheel of an American classic – the 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air?
As I mentioned in a Car Week post last year, the Sunbeam Alpine is the first car Bond uses during a chase in the films, but the ’57 Bel Air he commandeers from “Mr. Jones” is technically the first that we see him driving. Dr. No sets the standard Bond formula early of Bond showing up in a tuxedo, getting called to M’s office, and being sent away on a mission. We then get the obligatory airport scene of Bond, having flown Pan Am like any good ’60s movie character, walking through the terminal and instantly being aware of those watching him. When the mysterious “Mr. Jones” arrives and offers to drive him in the Bel Air, Bond slyly checks to make sure no car was sent for him before willingly getting in the car with the nervous potential assassin. Of course, if Mr. Jones hadn’t been driving such an impressive car, Bond may have just called him out right there at the airport and been on his way… even 007 can’t turn down a ride in a 1957 Bel Air.
What’d He Wear?
As Matt Spaiser mentions in a comprehensive post on The Suits of James Bond, the dark gray flannel suit that Connery wears at the airport is one of the three business suits that Anthony Sinclair tailored specially for Sean Connery to wear in Dr. No. The other two suits, a Glen check and a light gray silk, are more appropriate for the warm weather of Jamaica, and his dark gray flannel would have been more comfortable for the cooler London spring than the hot air of Kingston. However, Bond seems to have an established uniform for air travel – a dark gray suit, light blue suit, and blue woven tie – as we see in both Dr. No and From Russia with Love.
Bond’s single-breasted suit jacket has reasonably wide notch lapels – with a buttonhole in the left lapel – before the ’60s took a turn towards ultra slim for its lapels, collars, and ties. The Conduit cut flatters Connery’s strong, broad-chested physique with natural shoulders, roped sleeveheads, and a full chest that is cut nicely close to the body without even approaching Skyfall levels of tightness. His jacket also has double vents and 4-button cuffs.
The suit coat also has a two-button front, with the top button closing at the slightly nipped waist that further accentuates Connery’s frame, although Connery often shows his unseasoned sartorial expertise by fastening both buttons… a no-no that he still wouldn’t have corrected by the time of Diamonds are Forever nine years later.
Connery also plays with the straight hip pockets on his jacket, sometimes tucking in the flaps and sometimes leaving them out. The businesslike image of the suit is completed with a white linen handkerchief, neatly folded into the jacket’s welted breast pocket.
I believe that Connery also wears these same double forward-pleated suit trousers later when he visits Professor Dent and Miss Taro in his navy blue blazer (the Sunbeam Alpine chase scene). They have a high rise with Sinclair’s “Daks top” side-tab waist adjusters consisting of three mother-of-pearl gray buttons on each side; Bond uses one of the buttons on the left side of the trousers to fasten his shoulder holster into place. If they are the same trousers, they also have slanted side pockets and a single rear pocket on the right – jetted with a single button to close. The trouser legs taper to the high break cuffed bottoms.
While “the man in the gray flannel suit” carries a connotation of the boring, conformist businessman, Bond keeps his look fresh with a blue Turnbull & Asser shirt and tie that would become standard for 007’s suits in the early ’60s. His sky blue cotton poplin shirt has a front placket and distinctive two-button turnback – or “cocktail” – cuffs, making their first appearance in the series here.
Bond’s navy grenadine tie is the widest one we see in the decade, measuring three inches across. He ties it with a Windsor knot, a knot eschewed by Fleming’s Bond but appropriate in this case to cover the wide spread of the shirt’s cutaway collar. We won’t see another Windsor knot on Connery until Diamonds are Forever.
Bond wears a pair of black calf leather plain-toe derby shoes with dark blue silk dress socks. Technically, the socks should be dark gray or even black, but at least they’re not pink like the stupid tie he would later wear in Diamonds are Forever. You all know how I feel about that tie, right?
This sequence marks one of the few times we see Bond actually wearing his hat rather than just tossing it onto Miss Moneypenny’s rack – er, stand. Lock & Co. Hatters created the olive brown felt trilby worn in Dr. No, and they still offer it in their St. James’s Street store in London (according to James Bond Lifestyle). The hat, which can also look green or gray depending on the video quality, has a short and stiff snap-front brim and a pinched crown. A slim grosgrain ribbon around the crown matches the brown of the hat.
This sequence also marks the first appearance of another Bond icon – his Rolex Submariner. In this case, Connery is wearing his stainless Submariner 6538 on a black leather strap.
Although it goes mostly unseen here, Bond is likely wearing the same light brown chamois leather shoulder holster for his Walther PP that he wore in the prior and following scenes. It was a custom-made holster for the production, designed to fit both his original Beretta M1934 and the Walther PP he is given to replace it.
How to Get the Look
007’s early travel attire follows a standard pattern – sharp dark gray suit, light blue suit, dark blue woven tie, and a trilby. It’s about time all gentlemen step up and bring the class back to air travel with dignified suits and ties rather than old sweatpants and hoodies.
- Dark gray flannel “Conduit cut” suit, tailored by Anthony Sinclair, consisting of:
- Single-breasted suit coat with notch lapels, 2-button front, welted breast pocket, flapped hip pockets, double rear vents, and 4-button cuffs
- Double forward-pleated trousers with slanted side pockets, jetted right rear button-through pocket, 3-button tab “Daks top” side adjusters, and turn-ups/cuffs
- Sky blue poplin long-sleeve Turnbull & Asser dress shirt with spread collar, front placket, and 2-button turnback/“cocktail” cuffs
- Navy blue grenadine woven silk Turnbull & Asser necktie, worn in a Windsor knot
- Black calf leather 3-eyelet plain-toe derby shoes
- Dark blue thin silk dress socks
- Olive brown felt Lock & Co. Hatters short-brimmed trilby with a narrow dark brown grosgrain band
- Rolex Submariner 6538 stainless wristwatch with black dial/bezel on black leather strap
- Light brown chamois leather RHD shoulder holster with blue strap, fitted for compact semi-automatic pistol
Bond completes his debonair yet businesslike image with a neatly folded white linen pocket square in the breast pocket of his suit coat.
Mr. Jones may be a shitty assassin with bad timing, but he certainly has good taste in cars. It’s reasonable to see why 007 was tempted to join him in the car, a classic black 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air two-door convertible. The “’57 Chevy” is now regarded as an American icon from the American Graffiti era when drivers took pride in their cars and every auto that rolled out of Detroit was designed for both performance and presentation.
The Bel Air name was first used by Chevrolet to differentiate it from its Styleline and Fleetline range models from 1950-1952. The Bel Air designation became its own distinct body style for the 1953 model year, indicating a premium trim level. In September 1956, Chevy rolled out its 1957 lineup of the base 150 model, the mid-range 210, and the upscale Bel Air, which would become a symbol of “the Fabulous Fifties”.
Ever since Chevy had rolled out its “second generation” Bel Air in 1955, GM knew the car would have appeal. It was marketed as the “Hot One” with its innovative and powerful V8 engine options and Italian-styled grille. Chrome shined from the fenders, side trim, and wheel covers with “Bel Air” scripted prominently in gold. Each year, Chevy upped its V8 game until it developed the “Super Turbo Fire” V8 option in 1957. The “Super Turbo Fire” matched 283 horsepower to its 283 cubic inch size due to its continuous mechanical fuel injection system rather than the carburetors of the lower-performing models.
The Bel Air driven by Mr. Jones, and subsequently Bond, is model #2434 with body/style #1067D, indicating one of the 47,562 Bel Air two-door convertibles produced in 1957. The factory price was $2,611, $100 more than the standard six-cylinder convertible. It appears to use a standard “three on a tree” Synchro-Mesh manual transmission rather than the optional 2-speed Turboglide or continuously variable 3-speed Powerglide automatic options.
Body Style: 2-door convertible
Layout: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive (RWD)
Engine: 283 cubic inch (4.6 L) “Super Turbo Fire” V8 with closed loop mechanical fuel injection
Power: 283 hp (211 kW; 287 PS) @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 290 lb·ft (393 N·m) @ 4400 rpm
Transmission: 3-speed Synchro-Mesh manual with optional overdrive
Wheelbase: 115 inches (2921 mm)
Length: 195.6 inches (4968 mm)
Width: 73.9 inches (1877 mm)
Height: 59.6 inches (1514 mm)
The Bel Air used in the flick has fleet registration plates #7715, and – interestingly – the instrument panel shown in close-ups is of a 1957 Ford Fairlane, possibly because it offered a more readable visual than that of the Bel Air.
When Bond pulls the Bel Air in front of Government House with Mr. Jones dead in the back, it offers Connery one of his best of the early “deadly one-liners”:
Sergeant, make sure he doesn’t get away.
The sergeant in question barely acknowledges this until he realizes just what makes the situation so ridiculous. By then, we’ve cut to the inside of Government House.
It’s well-known by now that the gun carried by James Bond in Dr. No isn’t actually a “Walther PPK” in 7.65 mm as he is technically issued by M, but he actually carries the slightly larger and longer Walther PP, chambered in .380 ACP (9×17 mm Browning Short).
The most likely explanation is that the .380 PP was all the production could get their hands on. For all they knew, Dr. No would be a bomb and there wouldn’t have even been a sequel… let alone a 50+ year franchise that is one of the most successful, enduring, and popular cultural icons to this day. Rather than bust their nuts to get the correct .32 PPK, they settled on the available .380 PP and figured it was close enough that no one would notice. After all, nitpicky screenshotters (like me!) weren’t around in 1962. Plus, they came pretty damn close and deserve some credit for that.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
Both hands on the wheel, Mr. Jones, I’m a very nervous passenger!