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Skyfall and the James Bond Sartorial Tradition

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The latest offering in the James Bond oeuvre, Skyfall, does a few things right but when it comes to 007 and his sartorial style, it makes a mockery of the Ian Fleming-created icon played by Sir Sean Connery.

Bond purists have already had to deal with an English Secret Service agent as played by Pierce Brosnan (who should have brought his suits from Remington Steele) converting to Brioni, a high-style Italian house for his suitings. A venerable house, but with its padded shoulders, high arm-holes and narrow fit, a far too flashy look for Bond. What do you expect from a Bond who drives a BMW rather than an Aston Martin?

Fleming gives us a window into Bond's style in his early books.

Bond wears only white shirts, a solid blue or charcoal grey suit and a black knit tie. This is precisely what Sean Connery wore in Goldfinger when... eh... dressed to kill.

The problem in Skyfall in a nutshell? Daniel Craig's slim-cut suits are too tight, too narrow shouldered and too small. At 5-foot-10, they make him look smaller.

The suits for Daniel Craig in Skyfall were designed by costume designer Jany Temime and made by someone who surely knows better, Tom Ford. They look more like the work of Thomas Browne (known for his short, tight and close fitting suits for younger men) for in Skyfall all of Bonds suits, his evening clothes and his topcoat are too small and too tight. 007 shouldn't be wearing suits better suited to Pee Wee Herman or Curly Howard of the Three Stooges.

Even worse Mr. Craig suits are too short, a style called a "bum-freezer" during World War II when their were fabric shortages. Agent 007 shouldn't leave his ass uncovered. A shorter jacket makes a short man look shorter. Craig is a mere 5-foot-10. Villain Javier Bardem is 6 foot. No wonder Craig looks small in their fight scenes.

I have no real quarrel with the superb fabrics and somber palette of colors chosen by Ms. Temime and Mr. Ford. The tab-collar is, of course, a reach as Bond wore a medium white spread collar but at least it's a 60's look.

Incredibly Ms. Temime cops to making the clothes too small believing Mr. Craig is like Batman in a spandex bodysuit, made to show every sinew of his muscle. On Bond's too-tight suit: "I don't have any problem with Bond running or driving a motorcycle in a suit, because a suit is a second skin in that case," said Temime. Craig is not a large man and despite his great physique the suits make him look diminutive on film. The Jany/Ford suits minimize the star of the movie. They make him smaller than life.

"To me, it was very important to show that body, and have that second-skin effect. Yes, you see the leg muscle, and I wanted that." Ms. Temime told The New York Times. This woman should be costuming the next Batman movie. Her slim-cut suits actually shrink Bond. A suit, unlike sports or casual clothing is not supposed to fit like a second suit. A Beau Brummel said "a gentlemen's clothes should never be too new or too tight."

In fact emphasizing the athleticism of the wearer is the whole point of the school of fine English tailoring as favored by 007 in the Fleming books and Connery movies. The English school's military roots accentuate easy movement, a full chest, natural shoulder and nipped waist while giving a secret agent the ease of motion to duke it out with a villain or grab for the gun. At the same time the English silhouette emphasizes a powerful upper body and the subtle V-shaped back.

In all cases Craig's slim-cut suits are restricting. Craig's suits are so tight the pull everywhere and it's most unflattering. A suit should have clean lines, and Mr. Craig's suits don't. The suits violate all principles of good tailoring.

How should Bond's suits look?

Says The Suits of James Bond website:

"The final scene of Goldfinger features Sean Connery in his second three-piece suit of the series, a charcoal grey woolen flannel.....

The suit is the usual Anthony Sinclair suit, a button two with natural shoulders and a full chest. The jacket is detailed with four buttons on the cuffs, jetted pockets and no vent. The buttons are made of dark grey horn.

The waistcoat has 6 buttons with 5 to button. The trousers are cut with double forward pleats and have button side adjusters and plain hems. Connery wears a white shirt with a spread collar and double cuffs with rounded corners, and he wears a black knitted silk tie. His shoes are black. "

Bond would sometimes wear a waistcoat (what Americans call a vest) as in this shark-skin three piece ensemble.

The slim-cut suits chose by Ms. Temine are decidedly in fashion for younger men but not for Mr. Craig who despite his chiseled physique is getting long in the tooth to play the middle-aged agent on her Majesty's Secret Service.

Ms. Temime defends the choice of the slim-cut suit because the cut is currently fashionable thus confusing fashion and style. "And that's why everybody fancies those suits. They're hot." she told the Times. Fashion is fleeting, Ms. Temime. James Bond's style endures.