Starfleet Fashions: Semper Exploro!

Today, we are going where no fashion blog has gone before: directly into nerdiness.  We’ve talked about future fashion in science fiction once before, but that was a look at overall fashion senses in different visions of the future.  This time, we want to take a look at one fashion future in particular, and the timing of this blog should give you a hint…

Scary leather is apparently IN for the summer of 2259.

Scary leather is apparently IN for the summer of 2259.

Yep, “Star Trek” fashion.  But not just any “Star Trek” fashion…  The Original Series was packed full of insane visions of future fashions for civilians, especially some amazingly crazy, but often incredibly sexy, women’s clothes.  But we’re interested in SUITS, something you don’t see much of in “Star Trek.”  And after the Original Series, fashion takes a decided backseat.  But one thing that always showed up, and changed a ridiculous amount of times, were the venerable Starfleet uniforms.

"Semper exploro" should maybe be "semper mutans vestem" in this case...

“Semper exploro” should maybe be “semper mutans vestem” in this case…

The Federation Starfleet goes through more changes of clothes than Carrie Bradshaw does in “Sex and the City.”  We could go on forever about all the variations in uniforms, but let’s take a look at the main highlights across the nearly 50-year franchise…

2135 – Late 2100s

Jumpsuits, jumpsuits, jumpsuits.  And zippers galore.  When “Star Trek: Enterprise” (2001-2005) came on the air in 2001 as a prequel, the producers wanted a “Right Stuff” feel for the early pre-Federation Starfleet, so to NASA fatigues they went.  There were some clever uses of Windsor-knot ties in the Admiral uniforms, and these have the distinction of being the only “Star Trek” uniforms with pockets, absurdly enough!

Duty uniform, Command Division

Duty uniform, Command Division

Flag Officer uniform

Flag Officer uniform

Dress uniform

Dress uniform

Early 2200s – 2240s

We love these.  They were deliberately designed for the prologue of the film “Star Trek” (2009) as an homage to the space uniforms of ’50s and early ’60s sci-fi, like “Forbidden Planet.”  The belt is a great touch.  But you’d better be in shape to wear one of these, judging by how form-fitting they are!

Duty uniform, Command Division

Duty uniform, Command Division

2240s – 2265

Oh, dear…  Bland colors, really obtuse zippers on the side of the neck, and very cheap-looking fabrics.  These early uniforms, made for the two “Star Trek” pilots in 1964 and 1965, were the bad side of that retro sci-fi look we liked.

Duty uniforms, Command Divison

Duty uniforms, Command Division

2265-2270

Now we’re talking…  Velour?  Check.  Bright, primary colors?  Check?  Bell-bottom pants?  check.  Insanely short skirts on the female uniform?  Check, and kind of ridiculous, but what the heck.  These are the classics, the uniforms from the Original Series (1966-1969) and the Animated Series (1972-1973).  Do they look a little like pajamas?  Sure.  But they’re functional, simple, get across rank, Division and assignment in an incredibly elegant, simple fashion (gold for Command, blue for Sciences, red for Operations, with a modified version of the U.S. Naval rank stripes on the sleeves, and different emblem shapes for assignments).  And how can you not love the high, black leather boots?

Male duty uniforms, all divisions, and CO's "wraparound" uniform

Male duty uniforms, all divisions, and CO’s “wraparound” uniform

Male and female duty uniforms, all divisions

Male and female duty uniforms, all divisions

2270-2278

Oh, no…  The dreaded “penguin grays.”  Sometime in the 1970s, everyone somehow forgot how colorful the Original Series was, and came up with these abominations for “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” (1979).  Bland, drab pastel colors, and that bizarre belt buckle (supposedly a “life support monitor,” for some reason)…  And SPANDEX EVERYWHERE.  Stephen Collins, who played Captain Willard Decker in the film, once said of these things that…  Well…  Let’s just say that sitting was a painful proposition for the male actors.  We like the Admiral uniform, though, and they get points for sheer variety of uniform types.

Duty uniforms

Duty uniforms

Flag officer uniform

Flag officer uniform

2278-2350

Our favorite of the bunch, these maroon, Teutonic beauties were made for “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” (1982), in order to grab a hold of the color of the Original Series, as well as bring a certain “Horatio Hornblower” naval flair to the franchise.  These were easily the most well thought-out uniforms, with a detailed series of rank insignia, service pins, a huge array of Division colors (seen in the collar and insignia straps), special away team jackets, and separate designs for enlisted crew, medical staff, engineering staff, and more.  This was the first time in the franchise that Starfleet actually felt like a real, breathing military organization.  So popular were these, they were used again in “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” (1984), “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” (1986), “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier” (1989), “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” (1991), and the prologue of “Star Trek: Generations” (1994).  They also showed up in flashbacks throughout the series set in the late 24th century, featuring an alteration of the undershirt from a turtleneck to a crewneck somewhere around 2325.  Heck, they’re so good, even in the fictional “Star Trek” universe, they were in service for an insane 72 years!

Duty uniforms and Flag Officer uniform (foreground), multiple divisions

Duty uniforms and Flag Officer uniform (foreground, note the gold striping), multiple divisions

Duty officer uniform, open, Sciences Divison

Duty officer uniform, open, Sciences Division

Duty officer uniform, crewneck variation, Engineering Division

Duty officer uniform, crewneck variation, Engineering Division

Enlisted crew uniforms, Trainee and Security Divisons

Enlisted crew uniforms, Trainee and Security Divisions

2350-2365

You’d think they would have learned their lesson from the 1979 model…  Made for “Star Trek: the Next Generation” (1987-1994), they went back to the spandex, complete with an ugly zipper line in the front.  We like hiding the Starfleet emblem in the color pattern of the uniform, and the return to a three-color division system.  But otherwise, ugh.  And according to Patrick Stewart, they were murder on backs since they compressed everyone into them!  Don’t even get us started on the cheerleader-like “skant” uniform…

Duty uniforms, Operations Division

Duty uniforms, Operations Division

"Skant" variant uniforms, all divisions

“Skant” variant uniforms, all divisions

2365-2373

An improvement, to be sure!  This was an effort to take the earlier TNG uniforms, and make them look like actual uniforms, as well as make them a lot more comfortable to wear for the actors.  The male uniforms switched to wool, and the zipper was moved to the back.  No longer form-fitting, and with a rank collar, these were much more dignified.  The “casual” jumpsuit variant, on the other hand, introduced for “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” (1993-1999), and also used in “Star Trek: Voyager” (1995-2001), is dull, dull, dull.  These things had stirrups slung under the boots to keep them taut, leading “Voyager” actor Robert Beltran to remark, “they just make you sag…”  Not a good idea.

Duty uniforms, all divisions

Duty uniforms, all divisions

Flag Officer uniform, Command Division

Flag Officer uniform, Command Division

Jumpsuit variation, all divisions

Jumpsuit variation, all divisions

2373-2390s

Still jumpsuit-like, but far more staid and uniform-like.  We approve.  The grey shoulders look good, as does the ribbed fabric.  Created for “Star Trek: First Contact” (1996), and also used in “Star Trek: Insurrection” (1998), “Star Trek: Nemesis” (2002), and the later seasons of DS9, there’s not much to say on this one, except that we love the Admiral uniform’s Federation Seal belt buckle.

Duty officer uniforms, all divisions

Duty officer uniforms, all divisions

Flag Officer uniform, Command Division

Flag Officer uniform, Command Division

Dress uniform, Sciences Division

Dress uniform, Sciences Division

Alternate 2250s and 2260s

Made for the new “Star Trek” (2009) movie and “Star Trek Into Darkness” (2013), these are straight-up an updated version of the classic Original Series uniforms for the “Alternate Reality” the new movies take place in.  The fabrics look very high-quality and comfortable, and the inclusion of the Starfleet emblem in the fabric is a very nice touch.  Wonderfully retro and futuristic at the same time.  And the dress uniforms are great, straight out of a 23rd century West Point!

Male duty uniform, Sciences Division

Male duty uniform, Sciences Division

Female duty uniform, Operations Division

Female duty uniform, Operations Division

Flight jumpers

Flight jumpers

Dress uniforms

Dress uniforms

There’s more than these, of course, from the infamous evil “Mirror Universe” uniforms (bared midriffs galore), to uniforms from alternate realities and possible futures, but we’ve gone on long enough!  We hope you’ve enjoyed this look at the fantastical, because next time we’re coming back to Earth.  See you then!

Bond, James Bond, Part 4: Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig (1995-Present)

It’s time to wrap up our four-part Bond retrospective in honor of the 50th anniversary of the James Bond films with a look at the two most recent actors to take on the role: Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig.

After the disappointing performance of “License to Kill,” the Bond franchise went into a bit of a hibernation period. There were briefly plans to do a third film with Timothy Dalton, tentatively called “The Property of a Lady.” However, serious legal issues going all the way back to 1961 and the rights to “Thunderball” finally came to a head, effectively killing the project. By the time the ball started rolling again, Dalton was no longer interested in the role. Pierce Brosnan, who had come within an inch of being Bond in 1987, was called up once again, and eagerly jumped at the chance in 1994, and began to film the first of his outings, 1995’s “GoldenEye,” named for Ian Fleming’s old Jamaican home.

Not pictured: giant doomsday laser cannon to hold the United Nations hostage.

Not pictured: giant doomsday laser cannon to hold the United Nations hostage.

By this point, the Bond series had fallen into a sort of dated, formulaic pattern, punctuated by strangely campy moments that seemed both out of touch with modern audiences’ tastes, as well as Fleming’s original stories.

You think?

You think?

Also, in the interim, the Cold War had ended, ending the main dynamic the Bond films had centered on: the espionage-heavy era of an undeclared war fought in secret over decades.  Suddenly, the world was a lot more peaceful, as well as a lot more complicated.  And so it was decided that for this new Bond film, all of the old mistakes and stagnation would be jettisoned, including the wardrobe, starting completely from scratch.  Enter Lindy Hemming.

Hemming, at that point best known for her work on “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” was a huge fan of Bond in her own right, having actually written her college thesis on Bond’s film wardrobe!  The film’s producers wanted her for the job of Costume Designer almost immediately, and decided early on that unlike in earlier films, which featured a cornucopia of people making decisions on Bond’s clothing, only Hemming would be making decisions, making Bond’s entire wardrobe the product of one person’s taste.

That hair really is impressive...

That hair really is impressive…

The increased production quality for the series created a new hurdle.  In earlier films, there was frequently only one copy of each suit for the film.  Now, up to FIFTY suits would be necessary for the action scenes, for the sake of continuity.  There was absolutely no way any of the small firms on Saville Row would be able to keep up.  So Hemming turned to Italian firm Brioni, who had offered to give 50 suits to the production for free.  The quality is certainly different.  Brioni’s suits are tailor-made, but they are not bespoke.  The day of the bespoke Bond was officially over, thanks to the needs of the modern action film.  But c’est la vie, Bond must go on!

Now that that's taken care of, where's did I park my invisible spy car?

Now that that’s taken care of, where’s did I park my invisible spy car?

For all four Brosnan Bond films, Hemming settled on a system for dressing Brosnan, based around carefully planned and coordinated outfits.  She is fond of unusual color combinations, like blue and brown with charcoal accents.  She also is fond of three-piece suits, and of using the classic Brioni straight shoulder to good effect.

Charcoal-Windowpane-4Charcoal-Windowpane-3Blue-Brown_Navy-Birdseye-SuitsIn 1997’s “Tomorrow Never Dies,” (originally titled “Tomorrow Never Lies,” which makes far more sense, but that’s another blog…) Hemming kept the same style, but added in an unusual 1930s touch to Bond’s dinner suit from early in the Hamburg portion of the film.  Five buttons in a V-formation on the vest, strong shoulders and wide lapels are unusual indeed for a 1997 dinner suit.

TNDDInnerSuit

Also in the film, a very interestingly atypical bronze tie/blue suit combo, with an overcoat matching the tie rather than the suit!

TNDOvercoat2

Continuing into 1999’s “The World is Not Enough,” Brosnan’s look remained fairly consistent, which the major exception being one of the black-on-black suits Brosnan wears in his outings, a Cheviot tweed suit in charcoal, appropriate considering the character had just attended a funeral…

CheviotTweed…And a herringbone linen suit worn near the end of the film in Istanbul, which is absolutely bonkers for the dark tone of the scenes it appears in.  A three-button fronted, four-button cuffed, with tan chorizo buttons, the suit otherwise has the typical Brioni lines.

TWINE Linen 1Finally for Brosnan, in 2002’s “Die Another Day,” his wardrobe stays the course, including the same one-button midnight blue peak lapel jacket that both the Brosnan and Craig Bonds pretty much always wear to formal engagements.

Die-Another-Day-Dinner-SuitWell…  There was one out-of-nowhere outfit in “Die Another Day”…

BlueFloral…But the less said about that, the better.

At this point, Brosnan retired from the series under slightly mysterious and acrimonious circumstances.  Once again, life in the meantime had a way of influencing the direction the films would go next.  The Jason Bourne series had effectively one-upped the bloated Bond franchise, showing a much more gritty and realistic look at espionage.  And 2005’s “Batman Begins” showed that taking even the most iconic of characters deadly seriously could work wonders.  The Bond producers chose Daniel Craig for the role of James Bond, deciding a very different-looking (blond!) actor was necessary for what would essentially be a reboot of the series.

Behind the camera, however, the cast of characters remained mostly the same, including Lindy Hemming.  But while she may have carried her basic sensibility with her, both Craig’s look and the gritty and deadly-realistic portrayal of the character he brought to the role invariably took Bond in a more rumpled, informal direction.

CRBlackShirt2

How YOU doin’?

However, 2006’s “Casino Royale” and 2008’s “Quantum of Solace” did provide plenty of opportunities for Bond to look his best in-between all the dressed-down action.  Case in point, this great worsted wool suit in a subtle plaid of charcoal grey and navy blue.

CharBlue SuitOr the now-iconic perfectly tailored dinner suit from “Casino Royale’s” poker scenes.
CR Dinner Jacket 2

Or, for that matter, an amazingly perfect, but updated, copy of Sean Connery’s dinner suit from “Dr. No.”

QoSDinnerSuit

And this slick charcoal suit from “Quantum of Solace.”

QOSCharcoal

The Hollywood Writers’ Strike of 2008 threw a lot of the industry out of whack, and it took a few years for the Bond film series to get back on track, just in time for the 50th anniversary of “Dr. No” (and this blog!), with 2012’s “Skyfall.”

With “Skyfall,” a new costume designer was on board, Jany Temime, and Craig had gotten, somehow, even craggier and more gritty-looking in the meantime!  Temime decided to go with Tom Ford on suits, and to bring back the more basic color scheme of the earlier Bond films, likely as part of the “everything old is new again” direction of the film in general.  This includes this number, a glen plaid in mid grey and black.

Skyfall-Glen-Urquhart-Suit She also added a true British icon to the film’s climax, the waxed cotton Barbour jacket…

Barbour

And, of course, the dinner suit for the film, a dark navy Tom Ford O’Connor outfit, very tightly fitted and a tad too short, deliberately, apparently, Temime said she was going for an “iconic for 2012” look.

Skyfall-Dinner-Suit

In short, the lines and lapels of the suits in the film were very ’60s, but the cuts and the fits were very modern.

And with that, we’ve caught up to the present.  What does the future hold for everyone’s favorite bespoke superspy?  Well, another film, for starters, already in pre-production, supposedly with Craig still on board.  But whoever is holding the “shaken, not stirred” martinis, there are two things we can always count on: he will be dressed in gorgeous, tailored suits, and he will save the world in them.

With an equally bespoke Lord Voldemort always at his side.

With an equally bespoke Lord Voldemort always at his side.

Bond, James Bond, Part 3: Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton (1973-1989)

It’s been several weeks, but it’s time to come back to James Bond style!

hqdefault

Sigh… Are we SURE the world didn’t end last month?

When we last left off, Sean Connery had just come back to the world of James Bond for one more go with the poorly-received “Diamonds are Forever.”  He had absolutely no intention of ever coming back to the role, at least at that point, and the producers took him at his word.  Lazenby was back in Australia modelling, and the series desperately needed a shot of newness to get it back on track after such a disappointing entry.  They went with someone who had come very close to getting the role back in 1962, Roger Moore.

Moore was, unlike Connery and Lazenby, already an established actor in his own right before coming to the Bond franchise.  What’s more, he had a pre-existing history as a jet-setting fictional spy, in th guise of Simon Templar of “The Saint,” a long-running BBC series based on a novel series of the same name.  In essence, he was bringing an entire espionage-appropriate wardrobe with him to the role!

capture552

With optional halo accessory.

Moore was cut from a cloth more similar to Lazenby rather than Connery.  Simply put, Moore was pretty.  He didn’t have the rough-hewn edges that Connery had, or even the boyish ruggedness that Lazenby possessed.  Instead, Moore was prim, proper, and elegant.  The Conduit Cut that had worked so well for a decade simply didn’t suit him.  Instead, Moore went with his existing tailors at Cyril Castle in Mayfair.  They had made the suits he had worn to great effect throughout his work on “The Saint,” and made similar suits for Moore’s first Bond outing, “Live and Let Die,” albeit with some slightly more 1970s lines and colors.

070102-moore-cyrilcastleIn a nod to his predecessors, Moore kept the distinctive turnback cuff shirts that Connery and Lazenby had worn, at least at first.  Unfortunately, those only survived through Moore’s first two films, 1973’s “Live and Let Die,” and 1974’s “The Man with the Golden Gun.”  In addition, there was a much more relaxed sense to Moore’s Bond, with more sports jackets and slacks than suits.

This is a great look still, even with the '70s lapels...

This is a great look still, even with the ’70s lapels…

...The '70s plaid, not so much.

…The ’70s plaid, not so much.

The first two Moore outings were unabashedly ’70s: minimalistic, car-focused and roughly filmed.  Bond had come a long way away from the glamor of the ’60s films.  They both performed poorly at the box office, and an extended absence was initiated, while the series returned to form.  In 1977, Moore starred in “The Spy Who Loved Me,” a gargantuan, world-spanning production that also featured a much more formal set of clothes for Bond.  The full trappings of the late ’70s showed up here…

A midnight blue double-breasted dinner jacket with big, wide lapels...

A midnight blue double-breasted dinner jacket with big, wide lapels…

A tan cotton sports jacket with a canvassed front, complete with shoulder epaulette straps, taking us right into jungle adventurer territory...

A tan cotton sports jacket with a canvassed front, complete with shoulder epaulette straps, taking us right into jungle adventurer territory…

“The Spy Who Loved Me” remains the most popular of Moore’s Bond films, and 1979’s “Moonraker,” the highest grossing of his films, which had the same styles, along with some terrifying space-themed clothing…

Big lapels, flared bottoms, big big big '70s...

Big lapels, flared bottoms, big big big ’70s…

...And Bond by way of Ronald McDonald?

…And Bond by way of Ronald McDonald?

…So the styles that showed up here stayed associated with Moore’s Bond well after the fact.  But here is where there was a serious change.  Moore had, shall we say, some tax issues back in the United Kingdom, starting in 1978.  He moved the the South of France in the interim, and could no longer make regular visits to Mayfair.

The timing of the forced change in style was fortuitous, as after the over-the-top entries of the ’70s, the series was about to take a sharp turn back into seriousness with 1981’s “For Your Eyes Only.”  Moore sought out a tailor who was willing to come to his home in France: Douglas Hayward.  Hayward already had a reputation as a tailor to the stars, as evidenced by his beautiful suits for Michael Caine, Laurence Olivier and Peter Sellers.  His more subtle, subdued approach engineered a look for Bond that was so timeless, it lasted all the way into the ’90s, and doesn’t look particularly dated even today.

Typical of the style, with soft, natural shoulders and roped sleeveheads.  The lapels are back to normal now...

Typical of the style, with soft, natural shoulders and roped sleeveheads. The lapels are back to normal now…

A notched-lapel dinner suit that still looks good today...

A notched-lapel dinner suit that still looks good today…

This continued through Moore’s last two films, 1983’s “Octopussy” and 1985’s “A View to a Kill.”

Pinstripes show up a lot during this period, as well.

Pinstripes show up a lot during this period, as well.

After “A View to a Kill,” Moore was simply too old to keep doing the films, so the search for a new Bond was on.  This switch in actors was easily the most tumultuous of the entire series, and ended with Pierce Brosnan, then of “Remington Steele,” getting the role…  He was forced to turn it down, much to his horror, because of his commitment to “Remington Steele” (the same reason we have Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones instead of Tom Selleck, due to “Magnum, P.I.”).  The producers were left scrambling, and settled on sort of dark horse choice in the form of Timothy Dalton, who had been approached back in 1969 for the role, but felt himself too young at the time.  Dalton was a big fan of the Fleming novels, and wanted to take the character back to brutal basics.  His two installments, 1987’s “The Living Daylights,” and 1989’s controversially violent “License to Kill,” remain some of the darkest, grimmest entries in the series.  His wardrobe took a similar tack.

Hayward left the series with Moore, with whom he remained close friends until his death in 2008.  Exactly who made the suits for the Dalton films is a bit of a melange, and was the result of the work of several different tailors.  In the first half of “The Living Daylights,” Dalton dons several different Benjamin Simon suits.

This simple number is arguably the most perfectly fitting suit in the entire SERIES...

This simple number is arguably the most perfectly fitting suit in the entire SERIES…

A beige gaberdine suit from the film's Tunisia sequences....

A beige gaberdine suit from the film’s Tunisia sequences….

A classic three-piece pinstriped suit for Bond's time at MI6 in the film.

A classic three-piece pinstriped suit for Bond’s time at MI6 in the film.

After around five of these, things go downhill from a sartorial perspective, and don’t come back up until 1995!  Bond goes downright casual from here on, a reflection of the film’s chaotic, gritty tone, but also, apparently, Dalton’s discomfort with formal wear.  It works in “The Living Daylights.”  Terrifyingly, Dalton had to reign in the producers on “License to Kill.”  The film centers on drug trafficking in Florida, the Caribbean and Central America.  “Miami Vice” was popular at the time.  You can probably guess where we’re going with this…

Ahh!  Kill it!  Kill it with fire!

Ahh! Kill it! Kill it with fire!

Of Jodie Tillen, costume designer on “License to Kill,” Dalton had words…

“She wanted to put me in pastels.  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.” – Timothy Dalton, 1989

While that disaster was averted, the film’s plot, featuring a renegade Bond out for revenge in the tropics, kept Dalton out of suits for nearly the entire film, excepting the horrendous “best man” suit he dons in the pre-title sequence (probably deliberately hideous), and a very, very average tux he wears to a casino midway through the film.  It looks like a rental, which, again, makes sense in the context of the story (Bond has no resources, and is operating on his own and without a plan), but it’s still quite unfortunate to not get to see the finery we associate with the character in one of his films.

Oh, James, what have they done to you?

Oh, James, what have they done to you?

Like we said, this sad state of affairs would not be corrected until 1995.  Why so long?  Well, that’s a story for next time, when we go into our fourth and final entry into our exploration of Bond’s wardrobe.  Until next time!

Bond, James Bond, Part 2: Sean Connery and George Lazenby (1962-1971)

It’s time to return to the world of spies and vodka martinis, “shaken, not stirred.”  And just in time, too, because today marks the North American release of the 23rd official James Bond film, “Skyfall.”  We’ll be first in line to see it!

But before we head on an adventure with Daniel Craig’s Bond, it’s time to take a trip to the past, to where we left off in the James Bond fashion chronology, all the way back to 1962. The process of bringing James Bond to the screen from the page was not an easy one, to say the least.  We won’t go into the details here, it would take far too long.  But the lasing legacy of the long process was the choice of Sean Connery as James Bond.
As we told you last time, Bond in the novels was a sort of portmanteau of Ian Fleming himself crossed with his former buddies in British Intelligence circles.  When Fleming imagined Bond, he basically imagined a more dapper version of himself.

“Goldfinger,” starring your Fifth Grade math teacher!

The film’s producers at first didn’t stray too far from the idea, wanting Cary Grant for the role.  Grant, though, refused to sign a multi-picture deal, and the producers were banking on a franchise.  They went through British actor Richard Johnson, Patrick McGoohan and David Niven, never able to reach consensus.  They even ran a contest to choose bond, eventually settling on a 28-year-old model named Peter Anthony, who was nowhere near prepared for the role.  Legend has it they even considered future Bond Roger Moore, though he denies it.

Finally, a scruffy, 30-year-old Scotsman in unpressed clothes came in to try out for the part, and absolutely oozed a macho, devil-may-care attitude.  He didn’t look like the novel’s description, but he felt like the character, through-and-through.  The producers knew on the spot that Sean Connery was their man.

How could they not?

There was, however, a problem.  He had zero fashion sense, and was as sophisticated and cultured as a dump truck.  Director Terence Young, himself a suave and debonair playboy of the highest order, took Connery under his wing, introducing him to the high life and high fashion of London.  He took him to his own personal tailor, Anthony Sinclair, at 43 Conduit Street.  The paired-down look of the suits Connery ended up wearing throughout his time as Bond became known as the “Conduit cut”: lightweight 100% wool in navy blue and shades of grey with a subtle check, “waisted” in a slimline, single-breasted, two-button format.  The idea was for Bond to look well-dressed, but not stand out in a crowd, sound advice for a spy.

Connery had never worn a suit for any length of time before, and was apparently insanely uncomfortable in one.  So Young had Connery wear the suits CONSTANTLY, all day, every day, during pre-production, until they felt like a second skin to him.

It seems to have worked…

For all intents and purposes, Young turned Connery into a more gruff (and Scottish) version of himself, rather than of Fleming.  This act has influenced the way Bond has been portrayed ever since, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, dark with a dash of humor, as opposed to the more brutal, cold-hearted version of the character from the books (although that’s come back a bit…more on that later).  Bond became a fashion icon in his own right, now that his internal monologue was missing.  Instead of commenting on what other people were wearing, he dressed to the nines himself, but then, so did his adversaries and allies.

In the first of Connery’s Bond films, 1962’s “Dr. No,” Bond informs CIA agent Felix Leiter that his suits were tailored in Savile Row, even though they were not, a slight nod to the books and to Fleming.  The fashion in the first two films, “Dr. No” and 1963’s “From Russia With Love,” retains the basic look that Young gave Connery, all designed by Sinclair, and all accompanied by shirts from Turnbull & Asser.

The suits are remarkably simple, and, in fact, Bond never even dons a belt, so as to keep the sleek lines of the suits uninterrupted.  The pants all sit at the waits, not the hip, another way to keep the lines more unified.  Bond wears, almost exclusively, dark blue grenadine ties for the entire films.  He frequently wears a white linen pocket square, neatly folded into the front of his jackets.  And, hilariously, despite Bond’s hatred of Windsor knots, he wears them in “Dr. No,” before properly shifting to four-in-hand knots from “From Russia With Love” on.

Interestingly, the suits in the first two films are more timeless than suits in the films that followed.  They could all be easily worn today.  The next three films, 1964’s “Goldfinger,” 1965’s “Thunderball” and 1967’s “You Only Live Twice,” all featured far narrower lapels, muted browns, and old-fashioned three-piece cuts, all very, very ’60s, though we do mean that in a good way.

Rumor has it that some American tailors were used in “Goldfinger,” which makes sense, since more fashionable (for the time) details like pageboy waistcoats suddenly show up.  The number of materials and colors also expands dramatically.  But the basic cut remains the same, until the next film in the series, 1969’s “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”

OHMSS brought in not just new fashion, but a new Bond, in the form of Australian model George Lazenby, after Sean Connery declined to return for a sixth, extra contractual film.  Peter Hunt, director of OHMSS, was a fashion-conscious gentleman in his own right, and was given broad leeway in the way this new Bond would be presented, using his own favorite tailor, Dimi Major of Fulham, London W1.  Possibly because of Lazenby’s more “pretty” look, and experience as a model, as well as acknowledgement of the more brazen and colorful styles that had come to dominate fashion in the seven years since “Dr. No,” Bond was given a much larger and more colorful wardrobe.  A modified version of the “Conduit cut” from prior films was still used in the London scenes, but unlike before, Bond wore more than that sleek, simple cut when out of the glare of MI6, even wearing an astonishing cream-colored suit at one point.  Did we mention the ruffles?

But come 1971, Connery came back for one more Bond, “Diamonds Are Forever.”  The film is a bit of a wacky outlier for the Bond series, and even though Connery brought the more muted styles and colors of his films back with him (likely along with tailor Anthony Sinclair), some of the OHMSS style remained, likely a result of the American side of the production not collaborating with the English side completely.  Connery even wears a cream-colored suit himself, at one point.  And even the muted, London suits are slightly changed, with the wider lapels of the ’70s making their appearance felt.

This brings us to the end of Connery’s tenure, until his brief return with the unofficial “Never Say Never Again” in 1983.  Roger Moore and excesses of the ’70s are next, and we’ll pick up there in Part 3.  Until next time…

Ahhhh!

Bond, James Bond, Part 1: The Ian Fleming Novels (1953-1962)

Today, October 5th, 2012, is the 50th anniversary of everybody’s favorite superspy action movies: the James Bond series!  On October 5th, 1962, “Dr. No” premiered in the United Kingdom, and introduced the world to the words “Bond, James Bond.”  Along the way, the films also introduced the world to the finer things in life, from exotic locales and fine dining, to the best drinks money could buy and absurdly elaborate underground volcano lairs.

Why are they using the caldera as a skylight? Espionage, that’s why.

But, from our point of view, most importantly, they introduced the world to the idea of men dressing to the nines while still being tough.  Before Bond, really, suits and tuxes were primarily something you wore to a formal event or to work.  Bond wears tailor-made suits while dangling from helicopters by his feet with a nuclear bomb in one hand and a gorgeous Russian spy in the other.

Or while holding on to a breathless blonde in one hand and a Walther PPK in the other while balancing precariously on top of one of the Golden Gate Bridge’s suspension wires, whatever.

So, what better reason to spend the next few months celebrating all things Bond fashion?  And we’re going to start right at the beginning…

Before Bond, action heroes were cowboys or soldiers or spacemen.  The bad guys were usually the ones dressed well, no doubt thanks to their ill-gotten gains!  Only private detectives were shown wearing suits while doing good, but they were usually of the rumpled, dirty, cheap knock-off variety.  Humphrey Bogart looked amazing in them, but hardly anyone else did.  Then along came Bond and his impeccable fashion sense, which, believe us, was no accident, it was because it was what his creator would have worn.

Bond was the invention of former British intelligence officer, commando, journalist, and all-around badass, Ian Fleming.  Fleming had spent World War II coming up with intelligence operations with names like “Operation Ruthless,” “Operation Mincemeat” and “Operation Golden Eye,” then put together a crack commando unit called “30AU,” and another crack commando unit called, we swear, “T-Force.”

In the midst of all of this, he was heavily involved with something called the “Special Operations Executive,” essentially the precursor to every single acronym-based-name-bearing espionage organization from every genre film, TV show, book or video game you’ve ever seen.  They were based on Baker Street in London, down the street from where Sherlock Holmes was supposed to have lived, and completely revolutionized intelligence and espionage.  Did we mention that one of their operatives was one Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee?

Yes, THAT Christopher Lee.

That’s right, the creator of James Bond spent most of World War II coming up with incredibly colorful ways to kill and generally mess up Nazis alongside freaking Saruman himself in Sherlock Holmes’ old stomping grounds.  Suffice to say, this had a profound impact on him.

After the war, he began to write Casino Royale, the first Bond novel, and nearly all of the initial Bond characters, including M, Q, Miss Moneypenny and Vesper Lynd, were all based on people whom Fleming had worked with in the SOE.  Bond himself, on the other hand, was an amalgamation of several different spies from the SOE, along with Fleming himself…

We never would have guessed.

Fleming had very, very refined taste in clothes, having grown up in Mayfair, one of the most moneyed neighborhoods in London, as the son of a British MP and a wealthy socialite.  Legend has it he could identify a tailor from the cut of a man’s suit!  These tastes, along with his, ah, extremely intense interest in women, food, liquor and cigarettes, got transferred to the James Bond character, a fact which worked as a fabulous antidote to the Post-War austerity Britain found itself in.  Fleming himself heavily favored lightweight suits, an anomaly in his time, and tended to skew towards blues and greys with pinstripes in all manner of arrangements, both single and double breasted as well as both two and three-piece.  Bond himself is described in this manner throughout the books, but, interestingly, no labels are mentioned.

“The girl looked him up and down.  He had dark, rather cruel good looks and very clear, blue-grey eyes.  He was wearing a very dark-blue lightweight single-breasted suit over a cream silk shirt and a black knitted silk tie.  Despite the heat, he looked cool and clean.  ‘And who might you be?’ she asked sharply.
‘My name’s Bond, James Bond …'” –Thunderball

Savile Row fashion is heavily implied (though Fleming himself didn’t care for it), but never named.  What is named is what everyone else is wearing.  In fact, as anyone who has read the books can tell you, Bond CAN’T STOP talking about people’s clothes.

“It was tied with a Windsor knot.  Bond mistrusted anyone who tied his tie with a Windsor knot.  It showed too much vanity.  It was often the mark of a cad.”From Russia With Love

He actually sizes up some of his archenemies in this manner.  For instance, he immediately notices, in Moonraker, that villain Hugo Drax’s cufflinks are Cartier.

But Bond’s own clothing in the books remains a mystery (although it has been suggested that Bond’s suits were from Anderson & Sheppard of Sevile Row, though that makes little sense).  But then, so was Bond himself.  The Bond of the novels is dark, and downright humorless.  His high-minded fashion sense is more an engine of his distaste for other people wearing something wrong rather than pride in himself for wearing something right, likely an idiosyncrasy belonging to Fleming.

The novels began to be published in 1953 with Casino Royale, and by the time “Dr. No” came into theaters in 1962, 9 years, 10 books and an episode of the CBS anthology series “Climax!” that adapted Casino Royale had elapsed.

With Barry Nelson as American agent “Jimmy Bond.” Oh, how we wish we were kidding.

After all of that, one would think that Bond’s fashion sense would have been locked in.  …Not exactly.  Elements, like the lightweight suits, were, but the overall style, as we said, had not been heavily touched on.  That iconic look that everyone thinks of came from Terence Young, who directed “Dr. No,” and dressed the rather rough and tumble unknown Scotsman Sean Connery in what he thought Fleming’s style should be, by way of his own style.

“What ish thish shtuff you’re putting me in, man?”

But that’s a story for next time.  We’ll continue with the next installment, focusing on the all-important Sean Connery years of Bond-dom, after a brief detour…

MIB

“From now on, you’ll dress only in attire specially sanctioned by MIB Special Services.  You’ll conform to the identity we give you, eat where we tell you, live where we tell you. You will have no identifying marks of any kind. You will not stand out in any way. Your entire image is carefully crafted to leave no lasting memory whatsoever with anyone you encounter. You’re a rumor, recognizable only as deja vu and dismissed just as quickly. You don’t exist; you were never even born. Anonymity is your name. Silence your native tongue. You are no longer part of ‘the system’. We’re above the system. Over it. Beyond it. We’re ‘them’. We’re ‘they’. We are the Men in Black.”

And, occasionally, the Men in… What the heck is J wearing here, anyway?

Fitted, sleek, under the opulence of black. So elegant and mysterious…did we say très chic? Well, très chic. We don’t quite understand, how were these suits supposed to fall under “unmemorable”?

Even the near-geriatric Agent D looks badass in one!

You can get the Men in Black look in real life, sans all the troubles, like getting your identity taken away or having to fight giant, gooey alien bugs… How are you supposed to pay for all the dry cleaning it would take to get the slime off of those suits, huh?

Zed must have one heck of a cleaning bill…

Make the look work even at the office by making sure the fit is superb, like *custom*, you know? From jacket to pants, perfectly tailor. Your shoes (Brushed Black Calfskin Richelieu Fratelli Rosetti in soft black, says us) are polished right before you wear them, not even yesterday’s polish will work. There’s nothing worst than an impeccable suit with dirty shoes, plus, you are not fighting like in the movie, therefore they must be clean! And last but not least, a crisp white shirt. Snow white, to be precise, it has such an amazing contrast on that jet black suit. That’s how you make it memorable!

Or, you could do what Agent J here does, and just go bonkers with the look (while staying inside MIB regulations, of course)!

Bonus points for great black sunglasses.

Like these Prada Rectangular Wrap Sunglasses, a snazzy alternative to the MIB-standard Ray Ban 2030 Predator.

Ladies out there, you can go for the look, too! Just like the men, fit is crucial; actually, beyond crucial.

Especially when you need to make everyone pay attention. Alien-monitoring secret agents won’t get any respect in baggy suits!

Remember, ladies, If you finally decide to give that cardigan and unflattering skirt a one way trip to another galaxy, go for Agent L’s look, and make sure your suit fits like a glove, literally!

Oh, Linda Fiorentino. You made the ’90s better.

And with all the hype of getting the MIB look, we are sure no one, absolutely no one, wants to see aliens strolling down the street…  Unless they are all dolled up in Victoria’s Secret lingerie a là Serleena. We are sure we will all agree in making that exception.

Just mind the tentacles.

We can also make an exception if they’re as adorable as Frank the Pug…

Yes, even dogs (alien dogs?) can be fashionable.

Go ahead, have fun and catch on to the trend. We hope the new MIB film makes it spread all over the city like a disease, just like it did in the summer of ’97. We won’t mind looking at clones of exquisitely fitted Men In Black suits!

He DOES make that look good.