With the opening of a new James Bond movie and the 50th anniversary of the Bond movie series, attention has swung, once again, to the Bond wardrobe and found it expensive but unsatisfying, rather like most Bond films since Timothy Dalton’s debut (there, I said it). Right-thinking men’s style bloggers like my liege Will have formed a consensus: Daniel Craig, an excellent actor who brings both darkness and physicality to the role in a way no other actor playing Bond has, is badly served in ill-fitting tight suits that mock the idea of a tailored fit. From the depths of my caffeine-saturated two-ply Todd & Duncan cashmere-padded cell I advance this alternative for men seeking a stylish Bond to emulate: Sean Connery in Diamonds Are Forever.
Why Diamonds Are Forever? Because the earlier Connery Bond films didn’t feature a man, they featured a demigod, glowing with charisma, beauty and suavity against a backdrop of violent postcards, that no real person can hope to emulate. His appearance in Goldfinger, stepping out of a drysuit in resplendent Anthony Sinclair dinner jacket, defined the Bond character the same way Goldfinger defined the Bond film, setting a standard no one else could compare to, let alone match. None of us could carry off his swagger in that earlier film’s three-piece suits, to say nothing of the toweling onesie or dark straw trilby that only he could inhabit without ridicule. Instead, by the time Connery returned to the Bond franchise for 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever (reportedly for a million dollars in diamonds, which he then donated to charity), he was no longer that demigod, but a middle-aged fellow with a sanctimonious smirk who looked like my Dad. Essentially, Connery was not playing Bond, but parodying himself playing James Bond, which is how most of us would come off trying to approximate the earlier Bond looks.
Much has been made of the legendary “Conduit Cut” style of suits made by Savile Row tailor Anthony Sinclair for Connery in the earlier Bond films: trim with discreetly shaped waist and ever-so-slightly slim lapels and pocket flaps, but those details cannot turn mortal man into James Bond. Like much else in Diamonds Are Forever, Sinclair’s suits for Connery had to accommodate changing times: proportions were more generous, patterns a bit louder, much like the men’s style cusp on which we find ourselves today. More to the point, Diamonds Are Forever was the Bond film which fully acknowledged the ridiculous contrast between elegance, and everything else we want Bond to represent, and today’s world: Bond struggles through a garishly tacky Las Vegas full of touts, slot machines and Rocky Horror’s No-Neck, Charles Gray, as Ernst Stavro Blofeld in drag, assisted by twangy sausage king Jimmy Dean playing (thinly disguised) Howard Hughes at his most creepy… and Felix Leiter played as a balding nebbish in a short-sleeved dress-shirt. The ludicrousness of this encounter – and of many others throughout the film makes this a more realistic film for those wishing to take style cues from Sean Connery. For even if he is reduced to being a mere mortal, he demonstrates that mere mortals can carry off a pink tie, and should do so, even in cultural wastelands or in doing battle against those who would wipe all that is good – and worth wearing – from the face of the Earth.
Diamonds Are Forever was also remarkable as the first Bond film where Connery quite clearly couldn’t give a shit. It’s a testament to his magnetism and charm that it’s still great fun to watch. From this film on, he would go on largely to play this caricature of himself – swaggering and purring for the rest of his career. With some exceptions for the lengths he went to try to shake the taint of Bond typecasting: who can forget Connery parading around in Zardoz in red diaper, ponytail, revolver and fuck-me boots (when he wasn’t hiding in a wedding dress and veil)? From this, too, we can take a lesson: don’t care too much. Don’t sweat the details of whether Thom Browne nailed that Goldfinger copy suit in Catch Me if You Can, whether you can get Turnbull & Asser to sell you a finicky Bond-cuff shirt like Connery had in the early films, whether Brioni (who dressed Pierce Brosnan as Bond and Craig in his first Bond film) or Tom Ford better represents the James Bond esthetic. (Answer: neither. But then again, as Kingsley Amis speculated in 1967, nor had Bond’s suits ever “seen Savile Row.”) The only way you can aspire to dress like Connery’s Bond in today’s world is to wear it, own it and don’t overthink it. Alas, that “it” may always defy definition, but it’s closer to the grasp in Diamonds than in any other of Connery’s Bond films.
Other reasons to watch: well, it’s a Bond film. In addition to the usual Bond attractions, it features Bruce (father of Crispin) Glover, as half of a bizarre pair of assassins and lovers with jazzman Putter Smith, demonstrating that creepiness can be genetic. Also much in evidence is Jill St. John and her enormous creamy heaving IQ, which reputedly once caused Truman Capote to make a bitchy comment about intelligence being inversely proportional to acting ability. (One can wonder what Capote’s appearance in Murder By Death signifies, then.) And, of course, Lana Wood as the unfortunately named Plenty O’Toole. If her big sister Natalie was, as the joke goes, the only Wood that couldn’t float, Lana was the Wood that couldn’t act. Thanks, I’ll be here all week.