Why James Bond?

On the 00-7th of November with six months until the release of No Time to Die, I’m briefly diverting from my usual content and hope that you’ll forgive a brief, somewhat personal essay reflecting on the relevance of James Bond’s style

Roger Moore and Britt Ekland in his second film as James Bond, The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

Roger Moore and Britt Ekland in his second film as James Bond, The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

The first James Bond movie I had ever seen was The Man with the Golden Gun. I was at my friend Nate’s tenth birthday party, a month shy of turning 10 myself, and the entire group of about a half-dozen adolescents were transfixed for two hours by the increasingly grainy VHS from Blockbuster that took us to an escapist world of wit, style, thrills, and Britt Ekland in a bikini. I had certainly been familiar with Bond before that, as the agent had been part of pop culture for nearly four decades before I first saw Roger Moore’s sophomore adventure in late June of 1999.

The next three years, my budding interest in menswear would continue to develop I was exposed to Edith Head’s Depression-influenced designs in The Sting (1973), the lavish resort-wear in the John Braborne/Richard B. Goodwin-produced adaptations of Agatha Christie’s mystery novels, the roaring twenties brought to life by Theoni V. Aldredge and Ralph Lauren in The Great Gatsby (1974), and the mobbed-up fashions of Goodfellas (1990) and Casino (1995), but I like to think that Bond started it all.

My first exposure to Bond on the big screen came on New Year’s Day 2003, when family tradition dictated that my mother and sister see the latest rom-com as my dad took me to whatever major action movie was playing. In this case, it was Pierce Brosnan’s swan song as 007, Die Another Day. While not the greatest of the Bond franchise, the impact of a stylish, well-tailored suit made an impact on me with moments like a freshly shaven Brosnan striding through a Hong Kong hotel lobby in a dark navy Brioni suit, clean white shirt, and red power tie, a marked contrast from the scraggly bearded man in his wet pajamas who had walked in a few days prior.

Pierce Brosnan wears Brioni in Die Another Day (2002), his final film as James Bond and the first 007 flick I'd seen in theaters.

Pierce Brosnan wears Brioni in Die Another Day (2002), his final film as James Bond and the first 007 flick I’d seen in theaters.

Daniel Craig's attitude and style in his first 007 movie, Casino Royale (2006), provided my first "aspirational" James Bond experience.

Daniel Craig’s attitude and style in his first 007 movie, Casino Royale (2006), provided my first “aspirational” James Bond experience.

Nearly four years later, I was tuning out the annoying static of critics and “fans” complaining about a blond James Bond (remember that?!) and was looking forward to seeing Casino Royale with my friends after Thanksgiving in 2006… and it was Casino Royale that changed everything. I may have been an impressionable teen who fell for the franchise’s uncanny ability to tap into each era’s respective zeitgeist, but Casino Royale made me truly aspire to be Bond for the first time since I had watched the series.

Like Daniel Craig’s Bond was rebooting the character (balancing an infusion of Bourne-inspired fast action and practicality, post-9/11 cynicism, and classic Bond elements), I too was starting fresh with the franchise.

My friend Ian, a fellow Bond fan who had more childhood-instilled knowledge about the movies than I did, agreed to be my guide to discovering classic 007 and we headed to Iggle Video… where all of Connery’s canon was already rented aside from a scratchy VHS of Diamonds are Forever. Ian suggested picking up a Roger Moore alternative, but I had already seen two of Sir Roger’s installments, and I needed to experience the original Bond—the rugged Scot who had inspired so many misquotes and poor “shaken, not schtirred” impersonations—so I settled in for two campy but classic hours of a toupéed Connery trading bon mots with Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd while Jill St. John’s Tiffany Case seemed to lose a few too many brain cells as her once-savvy but still seductive smuggler flew from Amsterdam to Las Vegas.

For those of you keeping track at home, four of the first five James Bond films that I saw were Diamonds are ForeverThe Man with the Golden GunMoonraker, and Die Another Day… and yet I kept watching the series, proving that even a less-than-average Bond movie can be more entertaining than whatever Rotten Tomatoes or your hipster friend is telling you to watch!

As the post-Casino Royale Bond fever dissipated in the waning weeks of 2006, I was finally able to truly start at the beginning. The iconic moments that have made the series such an essential part of pop culture—the original “Bond, James Bond” introduction in Dr. No, Auric Goldfinger explaining “no, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die,” Roger Moore’s Lotus diving underwater in The Spy Who Loved Me—began to fall into place and I found myself wanting to be part of the action, spending evenings dressed to the nines awaiting danger at a foreign casino with a martini at my elbow, a Walther PPK under my arm, and a gorgeous femme fatale on my arm.

"Bond, James Bond." Sean Connery made his iconic introduction as James Bond in Dr. No (1962).

“Bond, James Bond.” Sean Connery made his iconic introduction as James Bond in Dr. No (1962).
(Source: Thunderballs.org)

Favorites emerged with From Russia with Love and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the faithful adaptations of Fleming’s novels that—like Casino Royalehad balanced a comparatively grounded espionage story with the fantastic elements that make James Bond so unique. Faithful BAMF Style readers have no doubt encountered mention of my high school hobby of making amateur movies with friends, and an adaptation of From Russia with Love appeared next on our docket. As I researched for the “role”, I found myself paying greater attention to the clothes, salvaging one of my dad’s gray herringbone suits from the ’80s and pairing it with a pale blue cotton shirt that reminded me more of Connery’s—despite the lack of cocktail cuffs—and a darker tie that no doubt came from the racks Kaufmann’s or Macy’s rather than from among the bespoke offerings of Turnbull & Asser.

The "adaptation" of From Russia with Love that my friends made in high school took cues from the original movie as well as some inspiration from Dr. No and Connery's other Bond movies.

The “adaptation” of From Russia with Love that my friends made in high school took cues from the original movie as well as some inspiration from Dr. No and Connery’s other Bond movies.

By the time Quantum of Solace had been released in the fall of 2008, I was in my sophomore year of college and a full-fledged Bondie, having seen each of the first 21 movies at least three times with scattered viewings of the 1954 Casino Royale TV special, the putrid 1967 Casino Royale comedy, and the unofficial Never Say Never Again. While it would take a strong argument to place Quantum of Solace in the same league as Casino Royale, the filmmakers had stayed relatively consistent with Daniel Craig’s casual style, introducing a wave of dark blouson jackets and shawl-collar cardigans as well as a return of the khaki and cream jean-like trousers that we had first seen in Casino Royale. Sure, the suits and the opulence were still there, but here was an aspirational figure who still dressed accessibly (as my friends at Iconic Alternatives and My Budget Bond can attest!)

The number of navy blue polos in my wardrobe tripled. Sneakers collected dust as I sought out desert and chukka boots to wear with my casual attire. I paid more attention to my watches and parted ways with the digital Timex Ironmans (Ironmen?) that had dressed my wrist since I was ten. The pooka shell necklace, worn to fit into my high school job at Hollister? Gone. So too were the ripped jeans and logo-emblazoned polos with random words claiming association with an “Athletic Dept.”

James Bond helped me evolve my adolescent style into that of an adult, and at just the time I needed it. Winters in bright puffer coats and summers in flip flops were upgraded to pea coats and espadrilles, respectively… and I was starting to notice that Bond was far from the only best-dressed man in movies or TV.

Around the same time, I had been growing a collection of JPGs on my computer—mostly screenshots from DVDs with the occasional production image—of outfits that I liked from movies. Little did I know, but this was the fledgling fashion bud that would blossom into BAMF Style. The clothing recorded in these images ranged from the impractical (Robert Redford’s pink linen three-piece suit in The Great Gatsby) to the super-practical (Daniel Craig’s dark polos and cream jeans in his first two Bond movies.) As I worked on transitioning my almost-exclusively American Eagle and Hollister wardrobe of plaid cargo shorts and “Zuckerberg specials” (hoodies and T-shirts), I was intrigued by the timeless attire that many movie heroes were wearing on screen without looking too affected.

Throughout the process, I learned that it doesn’t take a Bond-sized budget to dress well, it just takes attention to detail and perhaps a cinematic nudge to get one paying attention.

Daniel Craig runs through Venice Casino Royale (left) and the author sporting a 007-inspired outfit for a considerably less stressful outing to The Frick Pittsburgh's Car and Carriage Museum in September 2018 (right). My ensemble consisted of a blue pique Club Room long-sleeved polo, heathered gray Express short-sleeve T-shirt, dark blue Dockers chinos, and black Nike Air sneakers.

Daniel Craig runs through Venice in Casino Royale (left) and the author sporting a 007-inspired outfit for a considerably less stressful visit to The Frick Pittsburgh’s Car and Carriage Museum in September 2018 (right).
My ensemble consisted of a blue pique Club Room long-sleeved polo, heathered gray Express short-sleeve T-shirt, dark blue Dockers chinos, and black Nike Air sneakers.

Photo folders became PowerPoints and Excel spreadsheets, which ultimately found their current incarnation as BAMF Style, launched in September 2012. I’m grateful for all of my readers, commenters, and the engaged community, particularly as I had originally envisioned this as a low-key site for me to organize and comment on the most influential or interesting outfits to me at the moment, beginning with Cary Grant’s North by Northwest suit, Steve McQueen’s iconic Bullitt look, and Robert Redford’s fascinating layers in Three Days of the Condor, before I branched out into the world of James Bond.

There are many other experts who have a far more definitive word on Bond: James Bond Lifestyle was one of the first sites I found online dedicated to these special elements of the series; regarding 007’s actual clothes and tailoring, no one is more authoritative than Matt Spaiser at The Suits of James Bond; finding affordable alternatives to bring these clothes into your closet is a particular talent of my friend John at Iconic Alternatives; and David Zaritsky has mastered living The Bond Experience with his site of the same name.

Another Daniel Craig-inspired look in practice, this time embracing the layered pea coat, sweater, and tie from Skyfall.

Another Daniel Craig-inspired look in practice, this time embracing the layered pea coat, sweater, and tie from Skyfall.

Many more are out there, but I’m grateful to the fellow 007 fans who have welcomed me into such a particular community and have made me feel far from alone in my passion for the stylish fashions of the James Bond franchise. It’s an exciting time to be a Bond sartorial enthusiast as some of the brands who have dressed Daniel Craig’s Bond, specifically Orlebar Brown and N.Peal, are wisely tapping into the growing enthusiasm for classic Bond style by collaborating with the franchise and supplementing the wares they’ve provided for Craig with throwback tributes inspired by the clothing worn by Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, and Timothy Dalton in their 007 films.

Now, more than two decades after the first time I saw a Bond movie, I’ve found how incorporating little bits of Bond or Bond-inspired lifestyle can enhance one’s life, whether it’s embracing the NATO watch strap (without going diving in a $10k Omega), being selective about food and drink (without getting punched by bartenders for ordering a martini “shaken, not stirred”), or just paying a little more attention to what you’re wearing and how you’re presenting yourself.

As we look ahead to the release of No Time to Die in April 2020, I bid farewell to Daniel Craig, whose tenure as James Bond—in years, the longest to date—inspired me to become a full-fledged 007 fan and, in tandem, inspired a passion for menswear and style that led to the development of a blog that has brought me seven years (and counting) of happiness.

Thank you for indulging my personal reflections on why Bond style means so much to me… back to regular content tomorrow!

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6 comments

  1. Brian Wilson

    This was great. I have the same history with Bond. My mother is a devoted Connery enthusiast and still thinks he’s the best of the bunch, though I lean toward Craig now. The character has definitely influenced how I dress over the years!

    Like

  2. Neville

    As you have been inspired, so have you inspired me. My first Bond Film was Dr No, which my dad took me to see when I was way too young, but I still have a vague memory of seeing it with him.

    Like

  3. VR

    Nice to read your reflections and to see your photos.
    The clothes are indeed stylish without being “affected” – very smart indeed.
    I’m a Connery fan, and also appreciated Lazenby in the role.

    Like

  4. Gary Wells

    This was a fine read. Personal stories are good to share as most of us can relate in one way or another. It can be hard in this day and age to dress proper; between being a working stiff and often having nowhere to go and sticking out like a sore thumb wearing a tie to the grocery store, it can be challenging but we must make an attempt!

    Like

  5. John

    Excellent article! Thanks for sharing your experiences and I’m so happy I’ve been a small part of your explorations of the world of Bond! Believe me, your content has been invaluable in my own research. Keep up the amazing work and I’m looking forward to our next collaboration!

    Like

  6. Brandon L.

    Excellent post! I can definitely relate, as watching Daniel Craig in Casino Royale caused the 18-year-old me to suddenly take an interest in clothing, and how to dress to look as suave as 007. CR also taught me that you don’t need to necessarily wear a suit and tie to look good, it could be something as simple as a well-fitting navy polo shirt. Overall, an incredible film that taught me a lot, and also ignited one of my biggest passions in life. The only downside is that I now spend a lot more money on clothes, lol!

    Like

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