Bond’s Nehru Jacket in Dr. No
Sean Connery as James Bond, sophisticated and resourceful British government agent
Crab Key, Jamaica, Spring 1962
Film: Dr. No
Release Date: October 5, 1962
Director: Terence Young
Wardrobe Master: John Brady
Tailor: Anthony Sinclair
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the cinematic James Bond, as screen-going audiences who may have missed the 1954 Climax! episode starring Barry Nelson as the American agent “Jimmy” Bond were properly introduced in 1962 to the debonair yet dangerous 007 embodied by Sean Connery.
It was sixty years ago today—March 30, 1962—when principal photography was completed on Dr. No, whose modest million-dollar budget belied its significance as of the first installment of what would become one of the longest-running franchises in movie history.
While a few ingredients were yet to be finessed, it was Dr. No that established many of the hallmarks of the series, from Monty Norman’s iconic theme song as arranged by John Barry to our hero’s “shaken, not stirred” vodka martinis and his signature introduction:
Bond. James Bond.
As a relatively faithful adaptation of Ian Fleming’s novel of the same name, Dr. No also featured what would become such a trademark of the series that its lampooning by Austin Powers ensured that it could never be again taken seriously to see our villain capture the hero and dress him in era-specific finery to wine him, dine him, and treat him to a long exposition explaining his plan for world domination before subjecting him to a relatively escapable death that the villain just assumes will happen without witnessing it firsthand… naturally allowing for Mr. Bond—and his lady du jour—to escape together and celebrate saving the world with some cathartic coitus.
In this inaugural outing, it was Bond and the lovely Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress), whom he’d encountered by accident while on the Jamaican island of Crab Key, investigating criminal activity posited to be the work of the mysterious Doctor Julius No (Joseph Wiseman), a former tong now employed by SPECTRE, or “Special Executive for Counter Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, Extortion… the four great cornerstones of power headed by the greatest brains in the world,” as Dr. No himself describes it.
The bikini-clad Honey’s arrival alerts Dr. No’s guards, who chase the couple and gun down Bond’s CIA ally, Quarrel (John Kitzmiller), before capturing Bond and Honey. While treated to the bad doctor’s pre-execution hospitality, Bond does an amused double-take when he spies Francisco de Goya’s painting of the Duke of Wellington, which had been famously stolen from London’s National Gallery six months before production began on Dr. No. This idea from screenwriter Johanna Harwood suggests that the depth of SPECTRE’s criminal activity extends beyond disrupting rocket launches to robbing museums. (Coincidentally, March 30 is also Goya’s birthday!)
Dr. No even tests Bond’s incorruptibility by pitching him on the idea of joining SPECTRE, but the bitter agent only expresses a sarcastic interest in the Revenge Department… particularly getting revenge on the man responsible for Quarrel’s death. Sensing that 007 is as untouchable as Connery’s performance a quarter-century later would suggest, Dr. No condemns Bond while dismissing him as “just a stupid policeman… whose luck has run out.”
What’d He Wear?
Chapter 14 of Ian Fleming’s novel Doctor No details Bond’s anxious marveling at his captivity on Crab Key, where he dresses for dinner in “another of the idiotic kimonos, a plain black one” from the wardrobe provided in his room. He continues wearing the silk kimono through dinner with Honey and the doctor—at one point using the wide sash to conceal his tucking a steak knife against the belted waist. When he’s shown to his cell and the entry point to Doctor No’s sadistic obstacle course, he finds his black canvas jeans and dark-blue cotton shirt have been laundered and neatly folded on the chair for him to put back on.
007 has no such luck in the cinematic version, his powder-blue polo and matching trousers likely destroyed due to their potential radiation exposure, leaving he and Honey to await their fate in a pair of sky-blue terry cloth bathrobes.
Upon learning that they’ll be joining Doctor No for dinner, Bond and Honey pull from their provided closets to match their Chinese-born host in an Asian-inspired wardrobe. For Mr. Bond, this means a Nehru jacket made of slubby raw silk in a cool shade of dark brown that reflects a purplish cast under the artificial lighting on Crab Key. (You can read more about this outfit at Bond Suits.)
The Nehru jacket emerged in the 1940s, named for the then-new Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who ironically preferred to wear more traditional vestments like the longer Ackhan and Sherwani. Dr. No just predated the Nehru jacket’s popularity among fashions of the swinging ’60s, as later embodied by performers like The Beatles and Sammy Davis, Jr.
The shapely, waist-length Nehru jacket evolved from the regal Jodhpuri suit, retaining the signature standing mandarin collar, the element that had inspired its original name band gale Ica coat (“closed neck coat”).
Unlike Dr. No’s own fly-front jacket, Bond’s “borrowed” Nehru jacket has five dark brown horn sew-through buttons up the front from the full-skirted waist to the neck, where an additional hidden latch appears to close the keep the Mandarin collar neatly closed. The jacket is tailored to echo Bond’s Western suits, with soft, wide shoulders, though it lacks vents, hip pockets, and cuff buttons.
As with most of his other suits in Dr. No, Bond neatly folds a white linen pocket square into the Nehru jacket’s welted breast pocket.
The Nehru jacket buttons completely over the chest, negating the need for a fancier shirt than the plain white cotton crew-neck T-shirt that Bond wears under it. If Bond felt like he needed to dress to honor his host, he may have selected a dressier white shirt with a banded collar that would have stood flat under the jacket’s mandarin collar.
Bond’s beige cotton trousers are styled similarly to a pair of the powder-blue trousers that he had worn for his arrival on Crab Key, tailored to fit with button-tab side adjusters in lieu of a belt. (Like Vesper Lynd decades later, did Doctor No size Bond up the moment his fire-breathing dragon first laid eyes on him?) These flat-front trousers have slightly slanted side pockets, jetted back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms.
Bond keeps these light and neutral base layers on under the white vinyl two-piece radiation suit he briefly wears to disguise himself among Doctor No’s henchmen before his obvious sabotage of the launch disruption reveals his identity, after which he gradually strips out of the top and bottom halves of the suit and makes his escape again just wearing his distressed T-shirt and trousers.
Bond slips into a pair of espadrilles for his dinner with Doctor No, appropriately wearing these summery resort shoes sans socks. Defined by their rope soles, espadrilles likely date back to 14th century Catalonia, the Mediterranean region between Spain and France, where shoes were soled with tough esparto grass. Over the course of the following centuries, jute from southeast Asia emerged as the prevailing sole fiber for the light-wearing shoes now known as espadrilles. In their simplest form, espadrilles have plain uppers like the dark navy canvas over the tops of Bond’s espadrilles.
As I espoused in an article I wrote for Primer, I recommend these light-wearing summer shoes for every gent, and quality pairs can be found for every budget from retailers like ASOS, Drake’s, Soludos, and Toms.
Doctor No kindly lets Bond keep his Rolex Submariner, which might seem foolish for a Bond villain but MI6 has yet to outfit our hero’s watches with rotating buzzsaws, wrist-darts, explosive technology, or any of his other wrist-worn gadgets that would threaten to doom the Crab Key operation. Instead, the Submariner is merely an attractive timekeeper that set an early standard for 007’s preference for stylish timepieces.
Rolex introduced the Submariner series of dive watches in 1953, with the ref. 6538 seen in Dr. No manufactured between 1958 and 1961 and characterized by its oversized “big crown” and its lack of crown guards. Worn on a black leather strap, Bond’s Submariner has a 38mm stainless case, round black dial, and black rotating bezel.
What to Imbibe
Fifty years before the Heineken poured ’round the world appeared in Skyfall, the cinematic James Bond wasn’t yet being depicted as a beer drinker, though there’s some photographic evidence that his portrayer may have enjoyed plenty of the local brew.
An enduring image from the production of Dr. No depicts Sean Connery in respite on a deck chair, joined by a quintet of spent bottles of Red Stripe, his torn T-shirt from this sequence adding appropriate context. The photo always struck me as a too-good-to-be-true moment, and it’s more likely that Connery playfully arranged himself for the shot.
Red Stripe appears in the novel Dr. No when Bond joins his CIA colleague Quarrel for “broiled lobster followed by a rare steak with native vegetables” at Pus-feller’s bar, though it’s Quarrel who drinks the beer while 007 orders a gin and tonic with lime. Quarrel also drinks Red Stripe on screen, and the beer’s prominent branding also appears on the crates that Bond throws him into during their initial misunderstanding in Pus-feller’s storage room. (The literary Bond would finally get to enjoy Red Stripe in the fifth and sixth chapters of The Man with the Golden Gun while seeking out Francisco Scaramanga at a bordello on the southern coast of Jamaica.)
Instantly recognizable for its eponymous swath of scarlet against a white label, Red Stripe was first brewed in 1928 at the Kingston, Jamaica brewery operated by British businessmen Thomas Geddes and Eugene Desnoes. Its famous “stubby” bottle would be introduced in 1965, three years after they were enjoyed both during the production of Dr. No and to celebrate Jamaica’s independence from the UK.
First exported to the United States in 1985, Red Stripe was slow to find its footing but—within 20 years—its export volume would eventually exceed domestic consumption. The most popular Red Stripe is the flagship 4.7% ABV pale lager, though the brewery also offers a light beer and has rotated through several flavored variations as well.
Dr. No wasted no time in establishing Bond’s signature on-screen drink, when the doctor himself offers one to 007:
Dr. No: Dry martini, lemon peel. Shaken, not stirred.
Dr. No: Of course.
In the novel, Bond had to order for himself, supplementing Honey’s Coca-Cola by ordering himself “a medium vodka dry martini — with a slice of lemon peel. Shaken and not stirred, please. I would prefer Russian or Polish vodka.” While it’s true that Bond may have been shaken up by his situation, his cadence is confusing as you’d expect the proper order to be “a medium dry vodka martini,” echoing the hotel waiter’s declaration when the cinematic Bond is served his very first vodka martini earlier in Dr. No.
In my more than a decade of being both a legal drinker and Bond fan, I’ll admit to having always been a little perplexed by the concept of a “medium dry” martini: was this just a Fleming-ism to make Bond sound extra particular? Did it refer to the drink’s size, a mid-century barman’s nomenclature for grande? Or did it refer to the amount of dryness?
Having finally resolved to explore the issue for this post, I discovered a combination of the former latter to be the likeliest intention of Bond’s order. My well-loved copy of the Mr. Boston Official Bartender’s Guide informs that a “Martini (Medium)” is prepared like a traditional two-to-one dry martini, but albeit with the vermouth split into half measures of dry and sweet vermouth like a “Perfect Manhattan”, rather than the strictly dry vermouth used in nearly every mainstream martini recipe. Of course, this was only somewhat clarifying as Mr. Boston didn’t include a recipe for the “medium dry” specified by Fleming, so my search continued until I found a Bond-driven article from Business Jet Traveler which suggested that “medium-dry” indicates just a dash of vermouth, somewhere between the one or two drops of vermouth in a “dry” martini and the dearth of vermouth in an “extra dry” martini.
No wonder the cinematic Doctor No just foregoes the whole medium issue and serves his guest a classic dry martini.
During their dinner, Bond gets yet another chance to show off his high-proof preferences when the agent is quickly subdued when he attempts to weaponize the champagne being served with their meal.
Dr. No: That’s a Dom Pérignon ’55. It would be a pity to break it.
Bond: I prefer the ’53 myself…
Named for a French Benedictine monk instrumental to pioneering the Champagne process, Dom Pérignon remains one of the best-regarded sparkling wines in the world. The brand maintains its reputation as an exclusively vintage champagne, not produced in “weak” years for its blend of Pinot noir and Chardonnay grapes. The first vintage was 1921, and 1953 and 1955 were indeed among two of its four vintages during the ’50s. You can read an expert analysis of the differences between the ’53 and ’55 vintages at The Things I Enjoy.
How to Get the Look
Rather than the “quasi-futuristic” clothes that would be lampooned a generation later by Austin Powers, Doctor No dresses his distinguished guest to mirror his own Eastern fashion sense with a Nehru jacket, cotton trousers, and espadrilles that Sean Connery’s James Bond wears with as much ease as the Savile Row-tailored suits from his own closet. Nehru jackets aren’t for everyone—or every situation—but Dr. No illustrates how they can be a fine alternative when dressing for dinner, drinks, and the post-prandial obstacle course.
- Dark brown slubbed raw silk 5-button Nehru jacket with mandarin collar, welted breast pocket, plain cuffs, and ventless back
- White cotton crew-neck short-sleeve T-shirt
- Beige cotton flat front trousers with button-tab side adjusters, slanted side pockets, jetted back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Dark navy canvas-upper espadrilles with jute rope soles
- Rolex Submariner 6538 stainless dive watch with round black dial, black rotating bezel, and black leather strap
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
World domination… the same old dream. Our asylums are full of people who think they’re Naploeon. Or God.
Sean Connery is about the only person I can think of who can make that outfit look so cool.
First ever cinematic Bond villain hailed from…Canada.
I have a variation on this. Navy-colored Nehru in linin with a chocolate lining, with light chocolate trousers. Brown dress loafers. It works if you wear it right, and I have a white standing collar shirt for under it to make it very dressed, but you can wear a tee under it.