Sean Connery as James Bond, sophisticated British MI6 agent
Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan, Summer 1966
Film: You Only Live Twice
Release Date: June 13, 1967
Director: Lewis Gilbert
Wardrobe Master: Eileen Sullivan
Yesterday was the 86th birthday of the original cinematic James Bond, Sean Connery, so BAMF Style is celebrating with a Casual Friday examination of one of Sir Sean’s final outings as agent 007.
Dr. No and From Russia With Love had been nearly page-to-screen adaptations of the source material. The Bond formula was perfected for Goldfinger and Thunderball, incorporating dazzling cinematic elements and moments reasonably into the intact plot of the novel. You Only Live Twice marked the first major deviation from the source, keeping the general story while removing the more human elements of Ian Fleming’s plot and replacing them with gadgets and spectacle.
The novel finds Bond distraught after the death of his wife Tracy eight months earlier following the events of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Given one last chance by M, Bond immerses himself in Japanese culture for his near-suicidal task of taking down Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the megalomaniac SPECTRE leader who engineered his wife’s demise.
James Bond: What’s the plan for me?
Tiger Tanaka: First, you become a Japanese. Second, you train hard and quickly to become a ninja, like us. And third, to give you extra special cover, you take a wife.
The film follows this general path of Bond disguising himself as a Japanese man, but it is treated as much more of a straightforward mission instead of a jaded widower’s final chance at redemption. Rather than a spectacular volcano lair battle filled with identically-dressed henchman and the villain’s last-minute escape, the novel offered a subdued denouement as Bond battled his foe in the Garden of Death, Blofeld’s ancient castle of assisted suicides. Bond eventually kills Blofeld, but the process leaves him an amnesiac, living the simple life of a Japanese fisherman with his now-pregnant wife, Kissy Suzuki, who works to preserve his amnesia and their new life until he begins finding clues about his old life.
The novel’s title, You Only Live Twice, refers to Bond’s process of rebirth, while the film treats it more as a basis for the throwaway pre-credits sequence of Bond being “assassinated” in Hong Kong.
What’d He Wear?
In my last post about James Bond in You Only Live Twice, I mention that his other casual outfit—comprised of differing shades of brown linen—is my preference of the two. Although I still stand by that statement, this outfit is also noteworthy.
Bond wears a pink linen long-sleeve shirt that is styled exactly like the poplin dress shirts Sean Connery had been wearing since the start of the series. It has a spread collar, front placket, and two-button turnback (or “cocktail”) cuffs. Since this is more of a dress shirt than the camp-collared sport shirts that Connery wore in this and other films, he wears it tucked into his trousers. Matt Spaiser asserts that the shirt was made by Turnbull & Asser in his excellent analysis of the outfit on The Suits of James Bond.
While a pink linen shirt is a conceptually strong choice for warm-weather casual wear, a short-sleeved sport shirt like the light brown seen earlier, or even the gingham or mottled pink linen shirts that he wore on the beach in Thunderball would have been a wiser route for a warm Japanese summer day.
Taking weather into consideration, the gray wool trousers are also too dark and heavy. Likely tailored by Anthony Sinclair, these darted-front trousers have the same “Daks top” three-button adjuster tabs on each side of the waistband in lieu of belt loops. A squared tab extends over the front of the waistband, fastening through a hook-and-eye closure on the right side of the fly. The only pockets are the frogmouth pockets on the front with no pockets in the back. The bottoms are cuffed with turn-ups.
Bond wears the same light brown leather sandals that he wore with the earlier brown linen casual outfit. They have a sabot strop with small gold buckle near the front, another strap over the arch, and a heel strap to keep his foot snugly in place. With its tucked-in long-sleeve dress shirt and dark wool trousers, this outfit is likely too formal for open-toed sandals, but Ian Fleming—the man who wrote Bond wearing sandals with full suits—would have likely approved.
Different shoes would have made the outfit simply out-of-place, but the sandals are too much at odds with the more formal shirt and trousers. If Bond had no choice but to wear sandals with this outfit, a better option might have been these closed-toe Paul Smith sandals, possibly even worn with a pair of cashmere socks as suggested as a hot fashion trend for summer.
Soon after Osato identifies Bond by the Walther PPK he has holstered under his suit jacket, 007 ditches his iconic sidearm and joins Tiger Tanaka’s Japanese intelligence community to learn the martial arts employed by ninja commandos.
James Bond: Do you have any commandos here?
Tiger Tanaka: I have much, much better. Ninjas. Top-secret, Bond-san. This is my ninja training school.
The commandos are masters of all forms of combat, but their firearm of choice is the family of rocket-firing Gyrojet small arms designed and manufactured in the early 1960s by MBAssociates (MBA), headed by Robert Mainhardt and Art Biehl.
As LittleGun.info stated on its page: “The Gyrojet pistol is one of the strangest and most unique firearms ever manufactured.” Ammunition for Gyrojet weapons consisted solely of small self-contained and self-propelled “Microjet” rockets ranging from calibers of 6mm to 20mm, rather than standard inert bullets.
Mainhardt and Biehl envisioned an entire family of weapons being developed to use Biehl’s armor-piercing rocket rounds, so named for their method of gyroscopically stabilizing its projectiles. Only the pistol and carbine actually came to fruition, although 13mm models of both were featured in You Only Live Twice.
The rocket propels itself to its full velocity in the barrel, firing at low energy that means very little recoil for the shooter, before the rocket slows down over the course of its trajectory. Initially, this velocity was painfully low but increased over time to around 1,250 feet per second. Although the zinc alloy frame meant a lighter weight than traditional weapons at the time, poor range and dismal accuracy kept the weapon from being considered as a serious contender. Gyrojets tested extremely poorly by the U.S. Army due to being “inaccurate, cumbersome, slow loading, and unreliable” (according to Wikipedia), and the technology was abandoned by all but private consumers by the end of the decade.
Interestingly, the first recorded screen appearance of the MBA Gyrojet was the previous year in Murderers’ Row, a 007-influenced spy comedy starring Dean Martin as the suave American spy Matt Helm. Karl Malden’s character Julian Wall is seen with a short-barreled MBA Gyrojet fitted with a spear taken from an underwater version of the pistol. For more appearances of the Gyrojet on screen, check out the IMFDb page.
How to Get the Look
Sean Connery always looks cool and masculine, which may trick a potential wearer into thinking that this outfit can be easy to pull off. Although all of the elements are certainly straight from the 007 catalog, the awkward result reinforces the importance of context when dressing casually.
- Pink linen Turnbull & Asser long-sleeve shirt with spread collar, front placket, and 2-button turnback/cocktail cuffs
- Gray wool darted-front tailored trousers with “Daks top” 3-button tab waist adjusters, frogmouth front pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- Light brown leather sandals with gabot buckle-strap, instep strap, and heel strap
Iconic Alternatives has a great rundown of affordable options to channel his pink shirt and gray trousers as well as many other 007 outfits.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.