Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Interview: Matt Spaiser of "The Suits of James Bond"


The Suits of James Bond is a blog website that has catalogued almost every bit of clothing the eponymous secret agent has worn on film. Appropriately, the first post three years ago was about the first garment we see Sean Connery in -- the shawl collar dinner suit from Dr No. Besides the various outfits worn by actors portraying the character, Spaiser has gone into some nice detail about the makers of his clothing, from Turnbull & Asser to Frank Foster, Anthony Sinclair to Tom Ford. Occasionally, he also covers clothing worn by the villains of the series and by Bond actors in other movies and television.

Spaiser (right) pictured with David Mason, the current head of Anthony Sinclair -- Bond's first tailor.

Matt's blog is one that I've enjoyed since its inception. Before that, he had meticulously noted down the movies' clothing in his spare time, sometimes correcting others on details when the subject of James Bond and his clothes came up on clothing forums. He was a great resource for a casual fan like myself who watches the movies, admittedly, for the clothes half the time.
I had always looked towards the James Bond films for style inspiration when I was young and came to prefer solid ties like Sean Connery wore. I'm not a flashy dresser. For my high school prom I used James Bond as my inspiration for my dinner suit. When I went to college I really wanted to start dressing better, so I went through every Bond film and catalogued every outfit with the knowledge I had. Then I realised I needed to know more about clothing so I read books, like Alan Flusser's excellent book Dressing the Man, and I joined online communities about classic style. I read technical documents about tailoring and started looking at my clothes under a microscope to learn more about the fabrics they are made from. With that knowledge I looked at all the clothes in the Bond series again, updating my catalogue of Bond outfits. Then I noticed so many incorrect things in what I read about Bond clothing on the internet. People were saying Sean Connery wore flat front suit trousers and the famous light grey three-piece suit in Goldfinger is sharkskin. That bothered me. I knew from my observations that Sean Connery always wore forward-pleated suit trousers throughout the 60s, and the light grey three-piece suit in Goldfinger is a fine Glen Urquhart check. Like me, I know many people are interested in Bond style and I wanted to make sure they truly know what Bond style is, so I started my blog.
I would be remiss to not admit the influence this fictional spy has had on me. Though the early movies are occasionally cringe-worthy in their sexism, they are probably the ones I look to the most for style inspiration.

He elaborated on his preferred actors for the style and personality.
I must admit, my favourite Bond is Roger Moore. I really just enjoy watching him, and I think he has a great sense of style despite the fact that nobody should ever wear lapels and trousers as wide as he did in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. His Cyril Castle suits in Live and Let Die are not only well-tailored but also very creative. Even though Moore is my favourite dresser, Sean Connery is the best Bond for both the clothes and characterisation. The character is more believable and the clothing is more appropriate. The suits are timeless. They're simple yet not boring, and that's what I find so inspiring about them.
My favourite for clothes would have to be Sean Connery, though I'm actually quite partial to Daniel Craig as the best Bond portrayal wise. I'm sure a lot of people will disagree with me on that, naturally, but I felt they did more to give him personality than any of the other movies. Through Matt's website, however, I've actually come to appreciate Roger Moore's clothing more than I used to. I initially dismissed it as being too dated, but if you actually look at most of the suits and shirts, they are rather beautifully tailored even for the '70s. The colours were also carefully chosen, as they go rather well with Moore's summery complexion and hair.

Of course, every fan of any fandom has their bugbears.
My least favourite Bond for his clothes is Timothy Dalton. The suits in The Living Daylights just don't fit well, though in concept I think they are alright. The clothes in Licence to Kill have no merit, regardless if they fit the story or not. They fit terribly and they are awfully dated. My least favourite Bond for the characterisation is Pierce Brosnan. There hardly seemed to be any human element under all the action, but I blame that more on the scripts than on Brosnan. But he had some great moments.
Personally, I'd pick Timothy Dalton for both categories. I found both his portrayal and the clothes dreadfully dull; the clothing often dates even worse in many ways than Moore's. It generally felt as if he was doing the movies with a gun pointed to his head and he even admitted to not liking tailored clothing very much in a few interviews. This is a shame since Dalton usually adds something charismatic or another to his roles, such as villainous grocery store owner Skinner in Hot Fuzz.

Matt discussed his ideas on what might happen in the next installment of the series.
I have no idea what the sartorial future of James Bond movies holds. I don't think Daniel Craig will be wearing shrunken suits again after Skyfall—I hope not—but apart from the poor fit of the suits and the tab collars on the shirts in Skyfall, everything else seems to be going in a good direction. The colour scheme was reminiscent of what Sean Connery wore, and the ties were beautiful. I hope they stay with Tom Ford, but it would be better if they again used a suit in the classic style Tom Ford is known for.
That change would certainly be for the best, I think. I liked the fabrics and colours of the clothes in Skyfall, but found the fit too snug in the extreme and the styles ill-suited for someone so defined by his patriotism in this movie. I certainly hope they bring back two button double vented suits and spread collars in the next movie.

He also gave his opinion on the increasingly casual wardrobe of the films.
Casino Royale had quite a wealth of casual clothing, and some of it didn't seem appropriate for Bond. Bond should wear tailored clothing when appropriate, but it's necessary for him to dress casually some of the time. Quantum of Solace had some great casual clothing with the polo and then the cardigan. Bond doesn't wear as much tailored clothing as he did in the 1960s because both the times and the character have changed. If Bond was once again a spy and not so much of an action hero, he could wear more suits like in From Russia With Love.
A good point. I did think it was nice how he wore a lightweight suit in the beginning of Skyfall even though they could just as easily have him in jeans and a t-shirt given the setting.

However, he did note that in spite of this trend, the incumbent 007 has had a positive effect.
Daniel Craig has really inspired many young people to dress better. When he started he was the first James Bond under 40 years old since George Lazenby in 1969, so I think younger people can more easily relate to his manner of dress than they could with Pierce Brosnan. He's also more relatable as a character, since he doesn't play the superhuman that Pierce Brosnan did. His more basic black tie outfit in Casino Royale is easy for people to related to. The shirt doesn't have pleats and the shoes aren't patent leather. And by not wearing a cummerbund or waistcoat, it told people it's okay to skip the traditional waist-covering. It's not the first time Bond went without a waist-covering, but it's the first time people really noticed. Even though Craig wore a cummerbund in he subsequent films, people remember the black tie outfit in Casino Royale because of how prominently it featured. And I think he has something to do with the popularity of cardigans.
I certainly remember the response on Style Forum to the movie and how some had started going on that forum because of it, wanting to know more about his wardrobe. Judging by how popular The Black Tie Guide is and especially the blog entries on James Bond, this certainly holds true.

So, how have the various Bonds had an effect on his personal dress?
I have always admired the simplicity of Connery's Bond clothes. Like I said earlier, I'm not a flashy dresser. I wear many of the things that Connery did, like shirts with cocktail cuffs, grenadine and silk knit ties, and trousers with forward pleats and waist adjusters. Because of Connery I have a plaid suit and a flannel suit. But I'm also inspired by some of the things that Roger Moore wore as Bond, like the link-button cuffs. I've had some of my suits altered to have cuffs like that. And I've gone to Roger Moore's old shirtmaker, Frank Foster, who also made shirts for Sean Connery and George Lazenby. Even Daniel Craig in Casino Royale inspired me to get a pea coat and white moirĂ© dress braces. James Bond has helped me to develop my own style. I don't just copy him. I think it's very important not to copy exactly the way someone else dresses—black tie excluded—but to learn from the way others dress and absorb it into your own sense of style. That's what I hope I'm able to help people with through my blog.
An outlook I very much agree on.

Thanks again to Matt for his time in answering questions for me.

3 comments:

  1. Great interview, thank you.
    It's hard to find anything I don't agree with, except perhaps for our likes and dislikes about 007 actors !

    That said, I am totally with you about Craig being the Bond actor that has been given the more personnality and humanity onscreen.

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  2. Thanks for the support, Le Chiffre, and glad to see you over here. :)

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  3. You are very welcome, Jovan !
    It's a nice blog you have. Unfortunately one can't read and comment on every interesting blog about menswear, it would take a whole day !
    That said, I am not even on forums such as AAAC or Styleforum and still find it difficult to keep the rythm !
    So keep up your work :)

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