Sean Connery as James Bond, sophisticated British MI6 agent
Miyazaki, Japan, Summer 1966
Film: You Only Live Twice
Release Date: June 13, 1967
Director: Lewis Gilbert
Wardrobe Master: Eileen Sullivan
For the 00-7th of July, I’m revisiting one of my least favorite films in the James Bond franchise: You Only Live Twice. This movie polarizes Bond fans; some enjoy it for the spectacular action and adventure elements and Donald Pleasance’s iconic turn as Blofeld while others feel as bored as Sean Connery himself by the formulaic and over-the-top plot.
Even YOLT fans can’t deny that this marked the first major departure from Ian Fleming’s original plots, keeping the Japan setting and several characters intact while replacing Bond’s fatalistic revenge-driven quest with a conventional action piece. You Only Live Twice evidently provided much of the fodder for spy parodies, most notably the Austin Powers franchise, which featured another scarred, Mao-suited villain in his volcano lair full of identically-dressed henchmen and poor marksmen.
Story was also tossed out in favor of gadgets and spectacle, best exemplified by Little Nellie, the heavily armed WA-116 autogyro delivered to him by Q. Little Nellie has the dubious distinction of managing to be both the most and least cool gadget in the Bond franchise. The original design, invented by RAF Wing Commander Ken Wallis (who flew Little Nellie in the movie), would be a practical and useful item for a spy, allowing him to fly a compact craft for visual recon. Unfortunately:
a) It was yellow. Not exactly the pigment of stealth.
2) Connery still had to wear a helmet. If he fell out of that thing, I don’t think a cheap white helmet is gonna be the life or death factor. It’s not like little kids would stop wearing helmets on their personal helicopters if they saw James Bond wasn’t wearing his.
c) The yellow thing again. Seriously, they couldn’t make it black? Or gunmetal gray?
Wallis initially flew John Stears’ mocked-up Little Nellie model around Miyazaki on location in Japan, but the explosions required for the helicopter battle would defy Japanese law. Production was moved to the similar-looking Torremolinos in Spain.
After production wrapped and a cynical, Bond-weary Connery was pushed through the press junket, he casually strolled into an interview – without his toupee – wearing a casual T-shirt with baggy trousers and sandals. The interviewer was shocked and asked: “Is this how James Bond dresses?” Connery responded:
I’m not James Bond. I’m Sean Connery… a man who likes to dress comfortably.
What’d He Wear?
More power to you, Sir Sean, but let’s see how James Bond does dress comfortably. Matt Spaiser featured a fine breakdown of this casual brown linen summer attire on his blog, The Suits of James Bond. Bond sports two different casual outfits while training in Japan, but this – consisting primarily of simple summer-friendly earth tones – is the superior of the two.
From head to toe, this would have been a Fleming-approved outfit. Fleming often called for Bond to wear “sleeveless” (aka short-sleeve) shirts and open-toed sandals in warm weather, and the color scheme is similar to the khaki shirt and dark brown jeans that Fleming outfits 007 in during a mission in Canada in “For Your Eyes Only”. Since this is Japan in July and not Canada in October, linen is the primary fabric for Bond’s clothing.
Bond wears a light tan linen sport shirt that is designed for casual comfort in the sun with its full cut and straight, untucked hem. The short sleeves are cuffed above the elbow, and the five white buttons fasten down a plain front; Connery only wears the lower three buttons done. The shirt has a square patch pocket on the left breast and short vents along the hem – one on the right and one on the left.
Bond’s brown linen flat front trousers also have a comfortably full cut, as few sartorial traditions are more refreshing on a warm day than feeling a breeze blowing through a pair of full-fitting linen slacks. Based on the frogmouth front pockets and plain-hemmed bottoms, they’re likely styled the same as his later gray trousers with side-tab “Daks top” waist adjusters and no rear pockets.
When standing near Q and the other MI6 cronies all outfitted in bush khaki, Bond subconsciously looks like part of their team in his arguably cooler – both figuratively cooler and literally cooler – variation of the earth tones.
His feet definitely stay cooler in a pair of light brown leather sandals with open toes. The sandals have one sabot strap near the front, another strap over the arch, and a heel strap to keep his foot snugly in place. The lack of an intertoe thong means he could wear the sandals with socks if he wanted to… but he thankfully chooses not to do so.
Bond’s sandals appear to have solid, non-adjustable straps but most commonly made sandals these days have a buckle on each strap to allow a snugger fit. The closest examples I’ve been able to find online are the Pikolinos Phuket and the unisex Birkenstock Milano, both available from Zappos. I’m not crazy about open-toed sandals myself (there was an incident with a toenail in 2004…), but their cooling benefits can’t be denied.
This is one of the simpler outfits in the Bond franchise. Comfortable, minimal, and no frills – not even a watch. Later, Bond again sports linen for his training with Tanaka, but his choice of a dressier pink linen shirt with long “cocktail cuff” sleeves tucked into gray wool trousers – still wearing the same brown sandals, mind you – is too much of an awkward mishmash to exude the same elegantly casual charm of this outfit.
What to Imbibe
Tiger Tanaka happens across Bond and Aki as they’re working their way through a bottle of Suntory Old Whisky, the legendary Japanese whisky that many filmgoers remember from Bill Murray’s advertisements in Lost in Translation.
Japan was a late-comer to the whiskey game, and it’s no surprise that the nation began distilling in 1870 just after the start of the Meiji period that marked a rapid cultural and economic renaissance in Japanese history. Suntory’s story began nearly three decades later when Torii Shinjiro opened a store in Osaka to sell imported wines. Shinjiro was constantly innovating; the store became the Kotobukiya company in 1921, and Shinjiro built the country’s first malt whisky distillery – Yamazaki Distillery – two years later.
Shinjiro even introduced the first nude advertising poster in Japan when he rolled out a poster in 1922 featuring model Matsushima Emiko wearing only a meek smile as she holds a glass of Akadama port wine.
Yamazaki produced the first single malt whisky made in Japan, Whisky Shirofuda (Suntory White Label), and it went on the market in 1929.
More information about Suntory’s history in the James Bond series can be found at James Bond Lifestyle.
How to Get the Look
007 wins again with another summer ensemble that will keep you cooler – again, both literally and figuratively – than those other rubes in their t-shirts and shorts.
- Tan linen short-sleeve sport shirt with camp collar, plain front, breast pocket, and straight hem with side vents
- Brown linen flat front trousers with button-tab “Daks top” side waist adjusters, frogmouth front pockets, no rear pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Light brown leather sandals with gabot strap, instep strap, and heel strap
Iconic Alternatives has a great rundown of affordable options to channel elements of this, such as his revere-collared sport shirts, and many other 007 outfits.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie. It may not be my favorite Bond, but it’s still classic Bond.
Little Nelly got a hot reception. Four big shots made improper advances toward her, but she defended her honor with great success.