How to Dress Like James Bond

With the success of Daniel Craig’s Bond films, it could be argued that 007’s casual style has become even more influential than his tailored suits on the way men dress today. With this series of articles, we’ll explore how to dress like James Bond when we’re not wearing a suit and tie and we’re limited by a more, let’s say, “realistic” budget.

Daniel Craig James Bond Quantum of Solace cardigan
We should all be able to ride in boats and drink wine in style, dammit!

Personally, I find myself more inspired by Craig’s Bond’s casual clothing. For the most part, I like they way they look, I like the way they fit, and I like the fact they’re practical but still stylish. But I don’t feel a particularly pressing need to dress exactly like him (even if I could afford to). Basically, I’m just an average guy that wants to look and feel my best and uses “the Bond look” as a launching point in the development of my own day-to-day personal style. For those reasons, I focus more on the guidelines for dressing like Bond. This has helped me find articles of clothing that, while not appearing in a Bond film, still fit with the overall aesthetic with which I’m comfortable.

With that out of the way, let’s look at the guidelines I believe can help us all achieve the look we want. There are four main ones: fit, colors, fabrics, and details.

 

Fit

While some would argue that the Tom Ford suits used by Craig’s Bond are not the best fit, when it comes to his casual clothes the cut is almost always spot on. The reason is simple: he uses pieces that work with his body type and keeps the lines clean, with the fabric skimming his frame without clinging or looking skintight.

Obviously, not all of us have Craig’s body type. Which means we need to avoid the temptation to wear the exact same cut that Bond uses, and instead focus on what works with our own bodies to get the right look. Take jeans as an example: Craig’s Bond tends to favor a straight or slightly tapered fit. But he also has a pretty solid pair of pegs on him so he fills out the pant legs.

 

how to dress like James Bond how clothes should fit
The pants on the left definitely need some work. The 7 For All Mankinds on the right are more what we’re talking about.

If you have slimmer legs, that same straight cut would probably look too baggy on your frame. So you’d be better off looking for a slimmer style of jeans. It may not be “screen accurate”. But you will get the silhouette you want.

 

Other Thoughts on Fit

Of course there are exceptions to the “keep it fitted not tight” guideline. For example, it would be hard to describe the Tom Ford Polo from SPECTRE as anything other than “body hugging”. Some of you may have the build to pull this off. But comfort and confidence are equally important components of getting the “right” fit.  Simply put, if you don’t feel comfortable wearing it, you won’t have the confidence that is 99% of Bond’s appeal. Better to walk away and find a style that flatters your frame more.

James Bond Casino Royale La Perlas
For example, I didn’t even THINK about adding the La Perlas to my closet …

A final note on fit: beware of vanity sizing (here’s a good article on the psychology behind that trend). It’s no secret that the population of the U.S. is trending “larger”. As a result, many manufacturers have adjusted their sizing to accommodate and save people’s feelings. For example, over the last 15 years, I’ve seen myself go from a large to a medium and now sometimes even a small in the clothing from one popular brand. Long story short: if you want a more tailored look, seriously consider sizing down in your clothes. Especially when buying from a bigger U.S. based brand.

 

Color

Blue, grey, black, brown and beige. Various tones of those five colors make up about 90% of Bond’s clothing. So how are we supposed to work with such a limited (yeah, I’ll say it: boring) color palette on a day to day basis? It’s all in how he combines them.

With a few exceptions, Bond has a tendency to stick with lighter colored pants. The beige Tom Baker linen pants from Casino Royale and the off-white and light khaki Levi’s STA-PREST 306s from Quantum of Solace. Or the lighter grey ACNE Wall Street Shark trousers and Zara chinos from Skyfall.  Also, the taupe Brunello Cucinelli trousers in SPECTRE. And most recently the light grey Tom Ford jeans in Bond 25. He most often pairs these lighter pants with a darker colored top: the black Alfani shirt, the Adidas Y-3 jacket, the black Tom Ford cardigan, the black v-neck sweater, the dark navy Tom Ford polo. And the black Tommy Bahama silk shirt.

how to dress like James Bond colors
Examples of Bond’s classic combination of a dark colored top with lighter colored trousers.
Color Blocking

This simple color blocking allows for a high contrast between basic colors that keeps things visually interesting. Additionally, staying with variations of the neutral beige tone on the bottom gives us some room to experiment with a wider variety of blue, grey and brown tones on the top. Just think about the differences in blue tones between the navy Sunspel polo, deep royal blue of the Tom Ford johnny collar polo and the sky blue of the Orlebar Brown linen shirt, for example.

James Bond shirts

Craig’s Bond also isn’t afraid to add some contrasting color when it’s needed. Three examples that spring to mind are the teal and lapis blue N.Peal  sweaters he wears under the Barbour X To Ki To in Skyfall and the Tom Ford quilted front sweater in SPECTRE, and the rust brown Tom Ford tie he wears with the Brunello Cucinelli blazer. They’re not overly bright. But those spots of unexpected color add some life to what are otherwise pretty monochromatic outfits. So using higher contrast colors in moderation (one piece per outfit) can help generate some impact.

how to dress like James Bond using colors

 

Color Blocking and Height

A quick note on color blocking for those of us under 6 feet: combining a darker color on top with a lighter color on the bottom can actual make us look shorter than we are. It makes our bodies look like they’re “chopped” into pieces and emphasizes shorter legs or a shorter torso. Especially if you wear your dark shirt untucked, your pants with too much break, and/or darker colored footwear.

So if you want to appear taller out here in the real world, take your cues from the SPECTRE London finale outfit or the Quantum of Solace Harrington jacket outfit. Both are darker and more monochromatic, and therefore better bets than the Casino Royale Sunspel polo outfit for giving the illusion of more height.

how to dress like James Bond using colors
Wearing a top and bottoms that are closer in color help elongate the body and help make you look taller.

If you want something lighter, the Matchless jacket with the Orlebar Brown Linen Shirt, Brunello Cucinelli taupe trousers and J.Crew Kentons is also a good example. As is Connery’s look at Palmyra in Thunderball. Or you could, you know, just wear whatever the hell you want with confidence.

 

Fabric

To keep it simple, I’ll look at fabrics from the perspective of fiber content, pattern and texture.

Fiber Content: This one is easy. If the fabric isn’t cotton, wool, cashmere, silk or leather it probably won’t make it into Bond’s wardrobe. Stick with natural fibers and fabrics whenever possible (or practical).

Patterns: While Bond’s suiting may exhibit some more intricate patterns, his casual clothing tends to be solid colors. Even when a pattern is used (like the Zara Enjoying Death shirt or the Neil Barrett SPECTRE trousers), it is very subtle and can almost pass as a solid color from a distance. So stay with solids and if you do chose a pattern keep it small and tonal.

Connery’s Thunderball camp shirts might be considered an exception. But, when you think about it, he also keeps the stripe and gingham patterns small scale and relatively subdued. Bond’s “aloha” shirts in Die Another Day and Casino Royale are the exceptions that prove the rule.

Sean Connery Thunderball camp shirts

 

Texture, Weave and Weight: I don’t see this discussed much. But combining different fabric textures, weaves and weights is probably the most effective way to make a wardrobe with a limited color palette more visually interesting. I think the best example of the impact of combining different fabrics is the Skyfall Scotland outfit. Here we get the waxed cotton twill of the Barbour jacket with the softer knit of the scarf and N.Peal sweater with the corded fabric of the All Saint’s jeans and the pebbled leather of the Crockett and Jones’ Islay boots. Working in these multiple textures, weaves and weights elevates a basically monochromatic, earth toned outfit to a new level of style.

James Bond Skyfall Barbour

 

How to Combine Fabrics

There are plenty of other examples of how these three characteristics of fabric are used to create more visual interest. The distressed leather of the Levi’s Menlo jacket against the broken-in cotton of the Zara shirt. The shinier sharkskin weave of the Acne Wall Street Shark trousers contrasting with the heavier wool of the Billy Reid peacoat. Or the rib knit of the Tom Ford cardigan with the refined, fine weave of the white dress shirt. And the subtle cable knit of the N.Peal Mr. White turtleneck sweater against the felted cashmere of the Dior Homme jacket.

how to dress like James Bond pants and jackets

So don’t just think about color. Also consider how the textures, weaves and weights of your clothes’ fabrics feel and look when worn together. Start by trying to combine fabrics on the top and bottom of similar weights but with distinctive textures or weaves, and then mix in a lighter weight fabric.

The Y-3 jacket outfit from Quantum of Solace and the John Varvatos suede racer jacket outfit from SPECTRE work because the weights and textures of the jacket materials (cotton/polyester twill; suede) are balanced and complimented by the weights and textures of the pant fabrics (denim; wool), allowing the lighter weight fabrics of the shirts (mesh cotton; cashmere) to really stand out.

how to dress like James Bond pants and jackets

 

The Little Details

Another important way to make a more muted color palette more visually interesting is focusing on the small details of the individual pieces that make them stand out. In a world full of navy blue polo shirts, the self fabric collars and pockets of Bond’s shirt sets it apart. The same with the double placket of the Venice long sleeve polo shirt in Casino Royale. We also see this in the belts Bond uses. The crosshatching in the saffiano leather of the Prada belt from Quantum of Solace or the thicker plaiting and rectangular silver buckle of the Brunello Cucinelli belt in SPECTRE.

James Bond style belts

Bond is a details man. And the attention he pays to the “little things” helps distinguish his wardrobe “basics” from what the masses wear. His Harrington jacket lacks the ribbed knitted cuffs and hem that 99% of the “barracuda” jackets on the market have. He wears a dress shirt with French cuffs with his Tom Ford shawl collar cardigan. His Orlebar Brown swim shorts have side tabs instead of an elasticized waist. His casual suede boots have the shape of dress chukka instead of desert boot.

James Bond style suede boots
Clark’s Desert Boots and Church’s Ryder III. What 90% of the population wears vs. what Bond wears.

Basically, these “little things” matter if you want to adopt Bond’s style. Even if the majority of people won’t consciously notice them.

 

In Conclusion …
  • Find clothes that fit YOU, not Bond. Look for garments that follow the lines of your body, giving you a trimmer and more elongated silhouette. And think about sizing down for a more tailored look. Remember, if you’re comfortable, you’ll feel more confident.
  • Work with a more muted or neutral color palette. But don’t be afraid to mix in brighter or higher contrast colors from time to time to create an impact.
  • Focus on combining different fabric textures, weaves and weights to create visual interest.
  • Pay attention to the little details that elevate your wardrobe and show that you care about what you’re wearing.

Next we’ll explore the basic pieces of an affordable starter Bond wardrobe and I’ll share some of the resources I use for general advice and finding the right pieces at the right price. You can find our next post on 007 style shirts and sweaters here.

 

The Affordable James Bond Wardrobe Series:

 

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3 thoughts on “How to Dress Like James Bond

  • February 28, 2017 at 12:56 am
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    James Bond is nothing less than a style icon for almost all kind of men, we’ve grown up seeing the superspy killing the bad guys with the Walther PPK and his fans through his sleek style. Being a huge fan of James Bond, I do not only love Daniel Craig’s portrayal as MI6 agent, but also remarkable fashion style and clothes. He deserve another Bond flick and finish his extremely successful Bond tenure with the mega hit, even better than Skyfall. I do believe that after trying Brioni in Casino Royale and Tom Ford in Quantum of Solace, Skyfall,.and Spectre its a perfect time that 007 producers should look ahead for someone else for dressing Bond as we are just bored of looking ridiculously fit suits, as Skyfall and followed in Spectre too! Other than that Bond style is always iconic and timeless

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  • February 16, 2016 at 5:10 am
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    Absolutely spot-on article imho! As I rarely wear a suit (I only have one), it’s Bond’s casual wardrobe, and particularly Craig’s era, that’s caught my attention and the way it harks back to the Connery era. I’ve no problem with those who want the actual SA (and sometimes ludicrously expensive) pieces , but as you say, it’s more about the overall look and feel for me. There are loads of frugal/alternative options and a trip to the tailors can give us those little tweaks sometimes. This site is a great reference point and has given me pointers to various options. Keep up the great work!!

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  • February 15, 2016 at 3:50 pm
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    Outstanding article…. Your site has come into being one of my daily go to online visits… Although it has also been the source of me hemorrhaging any extra funds I had at times ! Great resource for the budget minded.. Your article gives the site yet more reason to visit.. Keep it up

    Reply

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