Bond Style: Charcoal Suit for Air Travel in Goldfinger
Sean Connery as James Bond, British government agent
en route Washington, D.C., Fall 1964
Release Date: September 18, 1964
Director: Guy Hamilton
Tailor: Anthony Sinclair
Wardrobe Supervisor: Elsa Fennell
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Following up on Saturday’s post about Frank Sinatra’s jet-setting style in the early ’60s, let’s see how a contemporary style icon dressed for a private flight of his own. As it’s the first 00-7th of the month in 2020, it seems only appropriate to check in with the first James Bond—Sean Connery! (Barry Nelson notwithstanding.)
After saving the world—or at least the United States’ gold repository—yet again, 007 is invited to meet the President for lunch at the White House. The stylish secret agent seems to be getting used to the private flight until he turns and sees archcriminal Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe), clad in the uniform of a U.S. Army Colonel and pointing his gold-plated Colt revolver directly at Bond. Despite Goldfinger’s furious threat that “you have interfered with my plans for the last time, Mr. Bond!”, 007 remains cheekily poised as usual, quipping:
Congratulations on your promotion, Goldfinger. Are you having lunch at the White House too?
The subsequent fisticuffs lead to Goldfinger finally “playing his golden harp”, though even the storied aviation skills of Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) aren’t enough to save the Douglas C-47 Skytrain chartered for Bond’s executive summit, and Bond and Galore are forced to bail out… leaving LBJ hanging as they enjoy one more outdoorsy romp under cover of a parachute.
What’d He Wear?
Context clues suggest that the action in Goldfinger is set during the fall, making James Bond’s charcoal flannel three-piece suit as he heads to the capital a seasonally appropriate choice. You can read an excellent analysis of this Anthony Sinclair-tailored suit at The Suits of James Bond.
Bond’s single-breasted suit jacket is cut and detailed like typical business suit of the era, with moderately narrow notch lapels that roll to the two-button front, a welted breast pocket where 007 folds a white linen pocket square, and straight hip pockets sans flaps. The back is ventless, and there are four buttons at the end of each sleeve.
Interestingly, Connery would sport another dark gray flannel three-piece suit at the outset of his following 007 adventure, Thunderball, though that suit is somewhat lighter in both color and weight and the waistcoat is cut straight across the bottom rather than the more traditional notched bottom of the Goldfinger suit’s waistcoat. The six-button waistcoat (or vest, as we Americans have colloquialized) has four welt pockets.
While some of the details of Bond’s jackets and waistcoats vary across his suits in Goldfinger, the trousers remain generally styled the same, all with double forward pleats, side pockets and button-through back pockets, plain-hemmed bottoms, and the signature button-tab “DAKS top” side adjusters that were originally developed by Alexander Simpson in the early 1930s. Originally developed to address the needs of golfers, the self-supporting trousers became in demand from everything from sports to formal wear as Simpson expanded to open the iconic Simpsons of Piccadilly store two years later. (You can read more about the DAKS “trouser revolution” at the company’s official site.)
The depressurization of the plane sends 007 scrambling into uncomfortable positions that showcase the suit’s bold blue-and-white candy stripe lining that resembles the lining of his iconic glen plaid suit worn earlier in the film.
Frank Foster made Sean Connery’s shirts in Goldfinger, which diverted from the character’s established style of light blue Sea Island cotton shirts with two-button “cocktail cuffs” as made by Turnbull & Asser. Instead, Foster’s shirts for Bond in Goldfinger were shades of white and off-white, detailed with a tonal stripe that was oft so subtle that it was hardly discernible in any but the highest quality prints of the movie.
This particular shirt has a spread collar, front placket, and double (French) cuffs fastened with the same flat gold cuff links with rounded edges that Connery wore throughout Goldfinger. However, the left cuff link seems to have been misplaced in some shots, thankfully reappearing to give Bond greater dexterity and less “flapping” sleeves during his tussle with Goldfinger.
Goldfinger not only departed from the shirts established as Bond’s favorites in the last two movies but also his grenadine ties, reverting exclusively to knitted ties as Ian Fleming had stipulated for the character. With his lounge suits and sport jackets, Bond wears olive brown, navy, medium brown, and navy (again) ties before tying on this black knitted silk tie for the Fort Knox climax and this aerial denouement.
Bond doesn’t need to pass through a TSA checkpoint, but—if he did—his side-gusset loafers would be an admirable choice to keep him moving efficiently through the security line. Beginning with Goldfinger, these black calf slip-on shoes were a favorite of Sean Connery’s 007, reflecting the tradition of the literary Bond’s eschewance of shoelaces while also keeping up with the trends as mods were opting for Chelsea boots or their shorter cousin, the side-gusset loafer. He wears them with black socks, an unexciting but reasonable choice.
Though Goldfinger prominently featured Bond’s iconic “Big Crown” Rolex Submariner 6538 on a striped nylon RAF strap, dressier occasions like this often called for a more subtle timepiece like the gold dress watch that Dell Deaton identified as a Gruen Precision 510 on James Bond Watches Blog.
The Gruen goes all but unseen in the finished movie (though still visible in a few production photos of Connery rolling on the ground with Blackman), and the far more interesting and visible watch in this sequence is the Rolex GMT Master that Pussy wears in mid-flight.
Rolex had developed the GMT Master a decade earlier in collaboration with Pan Am, who issued them to flight crews. Given that the watch was designed with pilots and navigators in mind, it’s particularly apropos that an aviator like Pussy Galore would be rocking one, a stainless model with a black bezel and the blue-and-red “Pepsi” bezel.
It’s, uh, very dangerous to fire guns in planes. I even had to tell Pussy about that.
A decade before we meet Francisco Scaramanga, the titular “man with the golden gun”, the gilt-obsessed villain Auric Goldfinger drew his own gold-plated piece on James Bond, though not a custom-built pistol in a proprietary caliber but rather a standard Colt Official Police revolver with a 5″ barrel, all plated in yellow gold and rigged with ivory grips.
I’m sure it goes without saying that a gold revolver was never an authorized sidearm of the U.S. Army, so Goldfinger’s weapon of choice would have nullified any remaining effectiveness of his service uniform disguise (though some parkerized Colt Official Police revolvers were indeed issued to American military intelligence overseas during World War II.)
Colt introduced the six-shot Official Police in 1927 alongside the snub-nosed Detective Special as the latest in law enforcement armament, quickly rising to become one of the best-selling police firearms of all time with more than 400,000 manufactured by the time production ceased in 1969. Given its intended target market, the Official Police was typically chambered in .38 Special and was available in barrel lengths of four, five, and six inches. The Official Police was almost always finished in a highly polished royal blue with a significant number nickel-plated, though gold-plated examples as fielded by Goldfinger would be extremely rare…if indeed they were made at all. One of the closest I’ve seen was a blued Official Police with ivory grips and a gold inlay, trigger, and hammer… auctioned for nearly $52,000 in 2009.
A MythBusters episode explored Bond’s theory of explosive decompression—seemingly validated by Goldfinger’s demise—that even a tiny hole in a plane’s fuselage would suck out the occupants. Jamie and Adam seemingly debunked the theory that a bullet hole would be enough to not only eject full-sized humans but down an entire plane, though the tragic events of Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 in April 2018 would confirm that there is still considerable danger to passengers when a plane’s interior is exposed to the outside air mid-flight.
What to Imbibe
Felix Leiter: I told the stewardess liquor for three.
James Bond: Who are the other two?
Felix Leiter: Oh, there are no other two!
Bond’s flight is barely out of the air before his fight with Goldfinger brings it back down to the ground, but—should he have made it to the White House—he would have no doubt been invited to join Lyndon Baines Johnson for some of the then-President’s preferred tipple, Cutty Sark Scotch whisky, as reported by Mark Will-Weber in Mint Juleps with Teddy Roosevelt: The Complete History of Presidential Drinking.
LBJ would famously scourge his Secret Service detail by forcing them to refill his glass while he sped around his Texas ranch in his customized Lincoln Continental… coincidentally, the same model car that Felix Leiter and his CIA crony drove to escort Bond to the airfield. As Will-Weber writes:
LBJ would cut off the agents by stopping his Lincoln, putting his arm out the window, and rattling the diminishing ice cubes in his plastic foam cup. An agent would then scurry up from the trail car, trot back to the car, make the president another scotch, soda, and ice, then hasten it back to the thirsty commander in chief.
“Their job was to open and close gates and keep the drinks refilled,” Russ Whitlock, superintendent of the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park recalled. “They had to learn to get the combination right.” The drives were hardly the last of the President’s drinking, as Brian Abrams describes in Party Like a President: True Tales of Inebriation, Lechery, and Mischief from the Oval Office: “LBJ would be back at the ranch house in time for the 6 o’clock news and accompanied by his amour, scotch and soda in a Styrofoam cup.”
One wonders if Bond was a bit relieved to have potentially missed a drunken trek in the President’s Lincoln. LBJ’s jaunts had already been well-publicized thanks to an April 1964 Time article entitled “The Presidency: Mr. President, You’re Fun!” based on a remark from reporter Marinna Means after Lyndon grabbed her Pearl beer after finishing his own.
Bond may be reckless, but even Daniel Craig’s brash younger interpretation wouldn’t be drinking Texan beer while behind the wheel. Appropriate Bond-esque choices for an in-flight libation would be a vodka martini, as he orders during his earlier trip on Goldfinger’s private plane, or a double brandy and ginger ale as the literary 007 orders pre-flight from the London Airport VIP lounge in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
How to Get the Look
James Bond’s charcoal flannel three-piece suit, white double-cuff shirt, and black knit tie at the end of Goldfinger is a sober but still interesting choice for traveling to an important meeting. The details—particularly the comfortable layers, lack of a belt, and slip-on shoes—make the outfit a particularly smart approach for modern business travel… and assuring popularity among fellow passengers in the security line.
- Charcoal woolen flannel “Conduit cut” tailored three-piece suit:
- Single-breasted 2-button suit jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight jetted hip pockets, 4-button cuffs, and ventless back
- Single-breasted 6-button waistcoat with notched bottom, four welted pockets, and adjustable back strap
- Double forward-pleated trousers with “DAKS top” 3-button side adjuster tabs, straight/on-seam side pockets, button-through back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- White tonal-striped dress shirt with spread collar, front placket, and double/French cuffs
- Gold rounded-edge square cuff links
- Black slim knitted silk necktie with square bottom
- Black calf leather side-gusset loafers
- Black socks
- Gruen Precision 510 gold dress watch on black leather strap
- White linen folded pocket square
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
Oh, no, you don’t… this is no time to be rescued.