From Russia With Love – Bond’s Gingham Shirt and Swim Trunks
Sean Connery as James Bond, British suave government agent and lothario
Berkshire, England, Spring 1963
Film: From Russia With Love
Release Date: October 10, 1963
Director: Terence Young
Costume Designer: Jocelyn Rickards
Tailor: Anthony Sinclair
I’m spending this week with family for a beach vacation, so I wanted to take a look at what James Bond would wear for his own seaside holiday outing.
The first appearance of 007—the real 007—in From Russia With Love finds Bond “reviewing an old case” in Berkshire in the form of Sylvia Trench, a casual fling that he first encountered while gambling at Le Cercle in Dr. No.
Punting man: It’s great sport, this punting!
Bond: (making out with Sylvia) I couldn’t agree with him more.
Sylvia: I may even give up golf for it.
Duty calls—or, more specifically, Miss Moneypenny calls—and Bond and Sylvia are forced to end their date with an implied quickie in the back seat of his Bentley. Unfortunately, this marked the last appearance of Eunice Gayson as Sylvia Trench, who was intended to be part of a running joke in the series that would find Bond constantly halting their dates in service of his government.
What’d He Wear?
Though he’s never seen actually swimming in this scene, Bond dresses for his date with a pair of pale blue polyester swimming trunks with a very short inseam and a thin white stripe down each side. The waistband is fully elastic with no visible buttons, snaps, or drawstring. The bottoms of the shorts are straight-hemmed with no vents.
Just below the waistband on the right side, Bond’s shorts have a small coin pocket with a pointed flap that closes with a silver-toned metal button. The shorts have no other visible pockets.
For a similar and somewhat simpler look, Parke & Ronen currently offers the 5″ Bright Lido Solid Stretch Tailored Swim Trunk for $145 in a bolder light blue color, which the company calls “porcelain”, than the pale blue worn by Connery. These trunks have a pointed coin pocket on the right like Connery’s and a double silver-toned metal button closure rather than the elasticized waistband of the From Russia With Love shorts.
“Give me my shirt, will you?” Bond requests Sylvia after receiving his call from the office. Evidently, Bond is the type who can’t take himself seriously when he’s topless. She hands him a cornflower blue and white gingham check long-sleeve shirt, a nice casual choice for his picnic day as it’s meant to be worn untucked and only a weirdo would tuck a shirt into his swimming trunks. Gingham is also an appropriate choice for the context given its roots in British country clothing; 007 is wise to save his bright pink and blue pastels for the tropical beach in Thunderball.
Bond’s shirt has a camp collar and long sleeves that he wears rolled partially up his forearms. Like many men’s casual shirts meant to be worn untucked, the bottom hem is straight and there are are two large square patch pockets on the hips. The most distinctive aspect of the shirt are the five large round silver-toned metal buttons down the plain front.
The shirt has a noticeably large fit on Connery. According to the DVD audio commentary from director Terence Young, it was Young’s own shirt that he provided to Connery after disapproving of the original shirt chosen for the production.
UNTUCKit currently features a modern update of this shirt, the “Colonnaro”, in blue and gray gingham cotton poplin with a point collar and regular plastic buttons.
Although blue canvas espadrilles are shown to be Bond’s aquatic shoe of choice in Goldfinger and Thunderball, he is barefoot here as he’s using his toes to chill their bottle of Taittinger champagne in the water.
Bond wears his stainless steel Rolex Submariner 6538 with black bezel and dial. It is fastened around his left wrist with a dark brown leather strap. This watch would best be seen later in From Russia With Love when Bond is timing his escape from the Russian consulate in Istanbul with Tatiana and the Lektor device.
Bond gets a call from the office and reaches for one of his early gadgets, a pager that he keeps in his jacket. This jacket is likely part of the Anthony Sinclair-tailored dark navy blue worsted suit that he wears to the office in the subsequent scene. The trousers appear to also be slung over the seat in Bond’s Bentley.
Go Big or Go Home
So what exactly is punting?
American troglodyte that I am, I was unfamiliar with the term when I first saw From Russia with Love as my only association with punting relates to Reggie Roby’s gridiron talents. I wasn’t sure if I misheard the fellow in the background call “bunting” a great sport, as I know a bunt has something to do with fishing or sailing. Eventually, Wikipedia enlightened me to the definition of a punt: “a flat-bottomed boat with a square-cut bow developed on the River Thames.” Having never been on or near the River Thames myself, I felt somewhat vindicated by what I felt was a relatively esoteric reference for an American teenager.
I thus took it upon myself to learn a little more about punting, which finds a punter standing in this flat-bottomed wooden boat and propelling it by pushing a long pole against the river bed. It seems easy enough, and an anonymous gentleman in From Russia with Love is eager to acknowledge that “it’s a great sport!”, but Jerome K. Jerome explains in his 1889 novel Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) that “punting is not as easy as it looks. As in rowing, you soon learn how to get along and handle the craft, but it takes long practice before you can do this with dignity and without getting the water all up your sleeve.”
Bond and Sylvia seem to forego the actual punting (or sleeves in which they may get water) to explore other leisure activities by the riverside.
Safe to say that it’s been a pretty good day for these two. Moneypenny makes it clear in her call to Bond that most of the morning has passed, and the empty shaker by the punt implies that Bond and Sylvia have been enjoying a batch of martinis while waiting for the bottle of Taittinger champagne—suspended in the water by a string tied around Bond’s toe—to chill. Interestingly, Taittinger is also the wine that Red Grant later foregoes while joining Bond and Tatiana for a fish dinner on the Orient Express… tipping off Bond that something is a little wrong with his new companion.
After the success of Dr. No, director Terence Young seems to have felt empowered to further incorporate these more snobbish elements of the literary James Bond as developed by Ian Fleming. Talking about this film in particular, editor-turned-director Peter Hunt explains that “it’s full of Fleming’s snobbery… the right way to live and the right way to behave and the right clothes to wear and the right food to eat and the right wines to drink, and all of that class which, honestly, was delightful to have after a number of years of war and rationing.”
This scene is often remembered by automotive enthusiasts and fans of the original novels as it is the lone appearance of Bond’s 1930s Bentley convertible. Though not the same gunmetal 1930 Bentley 4½ Litre “Blower Bentley” that Ian Fleming had so carefully and almost religiously described in his books, it’s refreshing to see the filmmakers paying homage. The car in this scene is a green 1935 Bentley 3½ Litre Drophead Coupé with a body designed by British luxury coachbuilder Park Ward. The car notably has a car phone, an impressive innovation for the early ’60s. Die-cast models of the car, misidentified as the 4½ Litre, have been marketed to Bond fans.
How to Get the Look
Bond sticks to blue and white—with metal buttons—for his riverside date, evoking his bucolic English setting with gingham.
- Cornflower blue and white gingham check long-sleeve casual shirt with camp collar, plain front with large round metal buttons, and patch hip pockets
- Pale blue polyester short-inseam swimming trunks with white side stripes, elastic waistband, and button-down flapped right-side coin pocket
- Rolex Submariner 6538 in stainless steel case with black bezel, black dial, and dark brown leather strap
Tips for finding elements of James Bond’s wardrobe, such as his short light blue swimming trunks, can be found at the well-researched Iconic Alternatives.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
I’ll be there in an hour… make that an hour and a half.
In my opinion, Sean Connery’s best work as Bond. Will you start on Spectre soon?
Certainly – thanks for your interest, Gian!
I commend you on your Jerome K. Jerome reference.
Bond has a Bentley and The Avengers’ John Steed has a Bentley… the old Bentleys must have been pretty good cars.
In the banned audio-commentary for From Russia With Love, Terence Young switched shirts with Sean as he didn’t like the original shirt.
Thanks, Andrew! I would love to have seen what that original shirt was…