Timothy Dalton as James Bond, rogue British government agent
From Key West, Florida to Bimini, Bahamas, Summer 1989
Film: Licence to Kill
Release Date: July 14, 1989
Director: John Glen
Costume Designer: Jodie Lynn Tillen
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Timothy Dalton’s second James Bond movie, Licence to Kill, was released today in 1989, exactly a week before I was born. Dalton was still comfortably settling into the role, establishing a more serious characterization that echoed Ian Fleming’s literary creation more than Roger Moore’s witty romantic, but a series of legal disputes and cultural shifts resulted in Licence to Kill unexpectedly becoming Dalton’s swan song as 007.
Less than six months after Licence to Kill, the Berlin Wall fell, with the Cold War that provided the backdrop of Bond’s espionage adventures all but over within two years after.
As exemplified by the blaxploitation-inspired Live and Let Die and the sci-fi Moonraker, Bond films had long been influenced by contemporary entertainment trends. With détente signaling the coming end of the Cold War, the EON team retooled a few unused plot points and characters from Fleming’s novel Live and Let Die into an amalgamation of the dark drug-themed stories in productions like Scarface and Miami Vice. Moore himself said that “for me, it became far too dark in style and content,” and audiences generally agreed, as Licence to Kill remains the least financially successful Bond movie in the U.S., faltering among a summer of major franchise blockbuster releases including Batman, Ghostbusters II, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Lethal Weapon 2.
Licence to Kill didn’t only borrow the drug themes and setting from Miami Vice, but also signed on the series costume designer, Jodie Lynn Tillen. Tillen made a valiant effort to keep Bond’s wardrobe contemporary, but her achievement was a pyrrhic victory as the late ’80s was a particularly baggy era for men’s clothing… though it could have been worse, as Dalton apparently resisted Tillen’s desire to outfit 007 in pastels to mimic her success with detectives Crockett and Tubbs.
That said, I do want to share my appreciation for the fact that—perhaps more than any other movie in the series—Bond realistically reuses much of his clothing, as so many of us do on vacation! While I recognize the need to assure audiences that 007 is always the best-dressed man in the room, it always struck me as ridiculous to picture Sean Connery’s Bond planning his packing list in From Russia With Love: “Okay, let’s see… five gray-toned suits, let’s make sure of those are glen plaid, and… one tie, that ought to do it!”
Enter Timothy Dalton’s Bond, whom the actor had intended to reflect Fleming’s literary character as a serious civil servant who balances a practical-minded budget with his own refined tastes. Particularly once Bond bids “a farewell to arms” to MI6, he’s relatively on his own and without the secret service available to bankroll his suits (or the excess fabric required to make them so fashionably baggy), resulting in his realistically cycling, rewearing, and mixing-and-matching his casual pieces as he begins his solo mission of revenge against ruthless drug kingpin Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi).
Bond’s rage toward Sanchez originated after the kingpin took revenge on Bond’s pal, CIA agent Felix Leiter (David Hedison), by murdering Felix’s newlywed wife Della (Priscilla Barnes) and maiming Felix himself by feeding his leg to a shark. Originally titled Licence Revoked before market testing made it clear that many Americans were unaware of what “revoked” meant, Licence to Kill effectively introduced the now-tired “Bond goes rogue” trope as 007 refuses MI6’s orders that reassign him to a new mission in Turkey, pairing up with Leiter’s one-time informant, a lovely CIA pilot named Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell), as they take on Sanchez’s vicious drug empire.
What’d He Wear?
Costume designer Jodie Tillen, who came fresh from the TV series Miami Vice, suggested a few ideas, much to the chagrin of the new 007. “She wanted to put me in pastels,” said Dalton in an interview with Garth Pearce. “Can you imagine? I thought, ‘No we can’t have that.’ The clothes say so much about Bond. He’s got a naval background, so he needs a strong, simple color like dark blue.”
— Roger Moore, Bond on Bond
One of the staples of Bond’s Licence to Kill wardrobe is an unstructured navy-blue lightweight twill jacket that Matt Spaiser described for Bond Suits as “a Teba-style shirt-jacket,” referring to the soft Spanish shooting jackets originally tailored in the mid-20th century by María Sorreluz Múgica for Carlos Alfonso de Mitjans, 21st Count of Teba.
As illustrated by Bond’s dark blue garment, Teba jackets are characterized by shirt-like shoulder yokes and sleeves, non-notched lapels, and four-button fronts with the top button positioned farther apart from the others, closer to the neckl should a Teba wearer choose to button his jacket to the neck, the effect would resemble a cross between a low-slung Nehru jacket and the collarless Cardin jackets favored by the Beatles during their early years, though the most typical wear to wear a Teba jacket follows Bond’s example with the collar folded down like a traditional jacket lapel.
Bond’s ventless Teba jacket has four patch pockets on the front, with the two chest pockets closed through a single dark blue button that matches those on the front as well as the single-button barrel cuffs.
The concept driving Bond’s clothing makes sense, but it unfortunately falls victim to the excessively baggy fits that were characteristic of the late ’80s. The Teba jacket is no exception, nor are the shirts and trousers that he wears with it.
Bond introduces the Teba jacket while he and his gregarious ally Sharkey (Frank McRae) are investigating the Wavekrest Marine Research headquarters on Key West after hours. In the Bond tradition dating back to Sean Connery’s all-black Goldfinger knitwear and trousers, Bond wears all dark clothing including what appears to be a black long-sleeved button-up shirt with two chest pockets. His triple reverse-pleated trousers are navy blue, providing a uniform-like effect with the navy Teba jacket that coordinates with Dalton’s desire to reflect Commander Bond’s naval background, if a bit too matchy to be stylish outside this tactical scenario.
The trousers are held up with a black leather belt that closes through a gilt-toned single-prong buckle, and they’re styled with side pockets, button-through back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms. He wears black leather moc-toe penny loafers with a low vamp, the same style—and possibly same shoes—that he would also later wear with his suits upon arrival in Isthmus City. The low vamp shows plenty of the black socks that he wears with them.
The next day, Bond dresses to fit in among the Key West tourists and fishermen, sporting a lighter shirt and trousers under the Teba jacket that still serves to conceal his shoulder-holstered Walther PPK.
Bond’s roomy white linen shirt buttons up the plain (French) front, and Dalton continues his cool-wearing practice of keeping the top two buttons undone. The long-sleeved shirt also has a point collar and a large patch pocket on each side of the chest, each covered with a non-buttoning flap.
Bond tucks the shirt into beige cotton reverse-pleated trousers, which have an extended front waist tab, side pockets, button-through back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms. He holds them up with a mid-brown leather belt that closes through a curved brass-finished single-prong buckle.
Bond’s slip-on shoes have dark gray canvas uppers echoing the classic espadrille style, though the outsoles are white rubber than the classic jute rope. A dark gray rubber stripe along the top of the outsole borders the upper with a branded heel “bumper” that may help more knowledgable footwear experts identify the actual maker. He wears thin beige socks that continue the leg line from his trousers.
Following the misadventure at the Hemingway House, Bond continues wearing the same shirt but changes back into his dark blue pleated trousers when sneaking into Felix’s home office in search of a lead. He slips the hidden disc from the late Della’s portrait, learning about Felix’s planned upcoming meeting with Pam Bouvier in the Bahamas.
The following evening, Bond dresses in all blue as he arrives by boat to the seaside Barrelhead Bar in Bimini. This outfit also received a detailed analysis at Bond Suits, where Matt mentions that the triple blue tones would address Dalton’s hope for Commander Bond to sport maritime tones, though “someone with a naval background would likely prefer trimmer-fitting clothes and not full fits of late 1980s fashion.”
Under the Teba jacket, Bond wears a French blue shirt with a washed cotton finish, styled with a soft and narrow spread collar, two button-through patch pockets on the chest, and seven buttons up a placket that’s folded along the shirt’s inside, reinforced with a blue-stitched column for a more symmetrical presentation.
Bond wears the same navy pleated trousers and black moc-toe penny loafers as he had worn when investigating the WaveKrest warehouse and Felix’s home office.
After Dalton wore a blackened TAG Heuer in The Living Daylights, Bond returned to the Rolex Submariner dive watch—albeit for the last time—in Licence to Kill. Bond’s final Rolex appears to be a ref. 16610 Submariner, an update of the earlier ref. 1680 Submariner that introduced a date window. The stainless steel Submariner has the standard black-finished rotating bezel and a glossier black dial than its predecessors, with the same luminous hour markers and a white date window at the 3:00 position. He wears it strapped to his left wrist on a steel three-piece “Oyster”-style link bracelet with deployable clasp.
Bond carries his PPK in a black leather shoulder holster, consisting of a wide black leather patch that extends around his back, tapering down to a strap on the left side that connects to the holster itself, where the PPK is suspended with the barrel facing upward like Frank Bullitt‘s “quickdraw” holster borrowed from real-life Inspector Dave Toschi. A wide black leather retaining snap covers the PPK’s barrel and trigger guard like a wallet, held in place with a single snap in the upper corner. A narrower strap down the right side of his torso anchors the harness to his belt.
Advanced by the pros populating the AJB007 forums, internet consensus seems to have determined that Bond wears a Galco Falcon shoulder holster, copied from the style originally crafted by Ken Null for K.L. Null Holsters Ltd. Though no longer made by Galco—perhaps for legal reasons—Null continues to market this holster system as the Model SMZ, explaining that it was “designed initially for the CIA and other covert government agencies,” which lends some legitimacy to Bond wearing the rig.
M: Effective immediately. Your license to kill is revoked, and I require you to hand over your weapon… now. I need hardly remind you that you’re still bound by the Official Secrets Act.
Bond: (apropos the Hemingway House setting) I guess it’s a… farewell to arms.
Drawing his Walther PPK from his holster, Bond swiftly disables the two officers escorting M (Robert Brown) and leaps a rail to avoid the rifle fire of an MI6 sniper as he escapes through the brush. One of the agents recover his own revolver and aims to shoot, but M restrains him: “No… too many people!”
Dalton joins George Lazenby as the only James Bond actors to date whose primary on-screen sidearm had been the iconic PPK, the compact semi-automatic pistol introduced by German firearms manufacturer Walther in 1931 as a more compact alternative to the PP pistol, intended for the Kriminalamt police agency… hence PPK: Polizeipistole Kriminal. The PPK received early infamy as a sidearm carried by the Nazis, even used by Adolf Hitler to commit suicide in 1945, but it gained a new life and reputation when Ian Fleming selected it to replace James Bond’s .25-caliber Beretta on the advice of firearms expert Geoffrey Boothroyd.
The Walther PPK has been traditionally chambered in .32 ACP and .380 ACP, with some variants in .22 LR and even .25 ACP, though it was the .32-caliber variant that Fleming stipulated for Bond when he wrote of the “7.65 millimeter, with a delivery like a brick through a plate-glass window.” While that may exaggerate the stopping power of the .32 ACP cartridge—also marketed as 7.65×17mm SR Browning—it would have made an effective mid-century carry piece for a “licensed troubleshooter” like Bond.
Bond’s Walther PPK for Licence to Kill was sourced from Stembridge Gun Rentals, with its shallow lanyard ring and downscaled rear sight among the features that identify the PPK as a Waffenamt variant produced by Nazi Germany during World War II, with more detail available at IMFDB. The screen-used PPK (serial #348075K) was auctioned in August 2004 for $6,900 and, while the barrel was internally adapted to fire blanks, the pistol can still be re-adapted for live fire. You can read more about the Licence to Kill PPK at Original Prop Blog and Your Props.
Bond wisely brings his Walther PPK to meet Pam Bouvier at the Barrelhead Bar, hoping to impress her by showing off his shoulder holster when she asks: “you carrying?” Unfortunately for 007, his armament is literally tsk-tsked as Pam slyly reveals her own armament: a sawed-off Mossberg 500 Cruiser pump-action shotgun. (Okay, but try getting up to go to the bathroom, Pam!)
O.F. Mossberg & Sons introduced their M500 shotgun in 1961, originally intended for hunters before its reliable yet affordable package caught the attention of law enforcement and military. Sixty years after its introduction, Mossberg surpassed its Remington and Winchester competition as the M500 stands as the most-produced shotgun of all time with more than 11 million sold.
The Cruiser variant was built with a factory pistol grip and, depending on the magazine tube capacity, either an 18.5″ or 20″ barrel length. Pam Bouvier’s 12-gauge Mossberg 500 Cruiser appears to be configured with the more compact 18.5″ barrel and a heat shield, as well as the now-standard anodized alloy receiver.
What to Imbibe
After enjoying some champagne at Felix and Della’s wedding, Bond doesn’t have anything to drink until he meets Pam Bouvier at the Barrelhead Bar in Bimini. For those who want to incorporate James Bond into your style without copying his looks, one of my favorite offerings from SIS Training Gear is the Barrelhead Bar & Grill T-shirt included among the “Spy Collection”, designed by Marty from thunderballs.org. (Use discount code “BAMF” at checkout to receive 10% off your order!)
“Bud with a lime,” Pam orders, and Bond reminds us that this ain’t your usual 007 adventure as he concurs, “yeah, same.” The flirty waitress (Edna Bolkan) responds “sure thing, hon,” which—combined with her black hot pants—elicits an eye-roll from Pam… though we can only imagine how far back her eyes would have rolled if Bond had stuck to his usual “vodka martini, shaken not stirred” in a place like the rough-and-tumble Barrelhead.
Despite what the uproar around Heineken’s placement in Skyfall may have suggested, James Bond is no stranger to beer, with Ian Fleming including multiple mentions of Löwenbräu, Miller High Life, and Red Stripe among Bond’s literary adventures, typically favoring beers domestic to whatever country he’s in at the time. It took a little more time to serve Bond a beer on screen, for which Licence to Kill broke the mold when he joined Pam for a Budweiser.
Today, the concept of serving limes with a beer is more associated with Mexican beers like Corona, rather than the St. Louis-brewed “King of Beers” (not to mention Bud Light Lime, of course.) I’ve read several theories for how limes originated as a favorite accompaniment of beers, including the potential for keeping out bugs, removing rust marks from caps, and acting as an anti-bacterial agent in the same manner that made them famous for supposedly warding off scurvy.
How to Get the Look
Timothy Dalton’s clothing in Licence to Kill fell victim to the baggy standards of late ’80s menswear, though the looser fits may have been a cool-wearing asset as his 007 cycled his shirts and trousers under a comfortable navy twill Teba jacket that concealed his signature Walther PPK while the rogue agent sought revenge in the tropical West Indies heat.
For a Licence to Kill-style capsule wardrobe to pack for your warm vacation this summer, start with these unchanging staples:
- Navy twill unstructured Teba jacket with non-notched collar, four-button front, button-through patch-style chest pockets, patch-style hip pockets, single-button barrel cuffs, and ventless back
- Rolex Submariner Date ref. 16610 stainless steel dive watch with black-finished rotating bezel, glossy black round dial with 3:00 date window, and steel “Oyster”-style three-piece link bracelet
- White linen long-sleeved shirt with narrow point collar, plain front, and two flapped patch-style chest pockets
- French blue long-sleeved shirt with spread collar, stitched quasi-placket, and two button-through chest pockets
- Black long-sleeved shirt with point collar, plain front, and two patch-style chest pockets
- Beige cotton double reverse-pleated trousers with belt loops, side pockets, button-through back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Navy triple reverse-pleated trousers with belt loops, side pockets, back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Brown leather belt with curved brass single-prong buckle
- Black leather belt with gilt-finished single-prong buckle
- Dark gray canvas slip-on shoes with white rubber outsoles
- Black leather moc-toe penny loafers
- Beige cotton lisle socks
- Black cotton lisle socks
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
Why don’t you wait until you’re asked?