The Emperor Has No Clothes! Bond Out Of Style - by Brandon

Playing a game of casino blackjack in a tuxedo, preferring Dom Perignon '53 to '55, being able to identify Beluga caviar from north of the Caspian by taste... it is clear that when thinking of James Bond one of the first aspects that comes to mind is Bond's incomparable style. It is also this same quality that sets him apart from every other contemporary action hero.  Ever since John McClane's "yippee-ki-yay" triumph over Hans Gruber, his exquisitely refined opponent in Die Hard, Hollywood has generally preferred its male action heroes to be stylistically neutral tough guys. Bond, however, makes it a special point to let his style define him. And because of this Bond is both rightfully celebrated and scrutinized.

The proper place to begin any discussion of Bond style must be with Ian Fleming's books. It is here where James Bond picked up many of the staples of his character including a general fussiness over how his food and drinks were prepared.  Although Fleming allowed Bond to appreciate the finer things in life, he basically established the character as a man who was concerned more with functionality over branding. For example, 007 uses a Rolex in the novels not because it has name recognition but instead because of its big phosphorus numerals and expanding metal bracelet. The same is true for the Walther PPK which he was forced to begin using for having better handling than the Beretta in Doctor No. In the novels Fleming kept Bond's choices largely practical.

As Bond moved to the big screen we saw 007's PPK, Rolex watch, and Aston Martin all retained. But Terence Young, the director of the first three movies, added significantly to Bond's modern style in look and feel. Young himself was tall, well-dressed, and exquisitely mannered which arguably gave him the same panache of Fleming's spy. He used this experience first to transform a then rough and unsophisticated Sean Connery into a plausible 007 by taking him to his personal tailor. There he purchased Connery an entirely new wardrobe including shirts, shoes, suits, and an elegant tuxedo. Once Connery actually looked the part of a passable James Bond, Young then infused other elements of his personal style into the character down to and including Bond's preference for specific vintages of Dom Perignon champagne.  Being that they were actually his own cultured selections Young's choices proved believable and consequently also resonated well with audiences.

However, as the popularity of the Bond movies turned them into a profitable marketing channel, EON foolishly decided to sell out 007's style to any interested commercial partner.  Omega eventually replaced Rolex, Ford, Audi, and BMW replaced Aston Martin, Bollinger replaced Dom Perignon, and now Sony apparently makes everything from Bond's cell phone to toilet seat. Product placement is these days so clumsily implemented in the Bond movies that it is evident everything 007 has, wants, and prefers is paid for well in advance.  As a result Bond's choices (and style) have become a laughable joke. With some 20 product tie-ins Die Another Day was jokingly referred to as "Buy Another Day". The unabashed product placement in 2006's Casino Royale was so in-your-face that viewers posted many complaints against Sony in their reviews online. The obvious question such commercial tie-ins raise is that if style is such a central element in 007's character, how can Bond ever again be credible?

For the benefit of Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson, I will suggest three solid style rules to guide Bond going forward (don't worry, guys, I have no delusions that Babs or Michael will ever accept any feedback that is not in line with their own flawed preconceptions):

* Rule 1 - If personal taste is the only criteria, then stick with the established precedent. The perfect 007 example is champagne. Vintage champagne in particular is produced as a cuvee which is a designer mix of several wines to achieve a consistent note from year to year.  If the character likes a brand and it is still made today, it only makes sense to o stick with it.

* Rule 2 - If the item is durable over several decades and the basic function remains the same, then stick with the established precedent. The perfect 007 example is a wristwatch. It does same thing today as it did in the 1950's.  With telling time being the basic function of a watch there is absolutely no plausible reason for Bond to switch his watch, ever.

* Rule 3 - If the item is consumable and changes significantly with current styles, then keep it current. The perfect 007 example here are cars.  Cars must always be current.  No one really expects Aston Martin DB V's to be on the road today.  As such, putting one in Casino Royale turned out to look both lame and forced. An example of doing it right was the selection of the Lotus Turbo Esprit in The Spy Who Loved Me.  It was both a current model and exactly what Bond would have used (with aquatic modifications, of course).

Now for the fun part. =In the absence of any more real James Bond movies being produced for the foreseeable future, I've found it enjoyable to put together my own vision of what Bond's style in 2008 should look like.

* Gun - Walther PPK (see Rule 2): The Polizeipistole Kriminalmodell (Police Pistol Detective Model) was first introduced in 1931 and is still prized in 2008 for being reliable and concealable. The mere fact that this weapon is still in production today is a testament to its modern design. A perfect example of tradition linked to modernity.

* Watch - Rolex Submariner (see Rule 2): The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner was first introduced in 1954 and just like the PPK is still being produced today to the same demanding performance criteria.  I prefer the original Submariner version without date function because it retains the classic Rolex watch design without the bubble window on the crystal.  Omega will always be a Rolex wanna-be and you will find that it never gets any notice or respect in real life. For fun just say "Rolex" in front of the mirror and hear it roll confidently and luxuriously from your mouth. Now watch yourself say "Oh-mee-gah" like Craig in Casino Royale and then immediately slap yourself straight for sounding so affected and effeminate. As a man which one would you rather wear?
* Champagne - Dom Perignon (see Rule 1):  A classic champagne first produced in 1921 that was named after the Benedictine monk who invented the méthode champenoise.  Still a classic today, it is arguably even better now than it was in the 1950's due to production improvements across the entire wine industry in the last fifty years. Bollinger tastes fine but it is purely a product placement and not Bond's favorite.

* Car - Lamborghini Gallardo (see Rule 3):  In some ways a distant relative of the Lotus Turbo Esprit but with today's better lines and even more power. Aston Martin, despite forcing its way into the most recent Bond movies through its Ford connections, still looks too staid to compete with the dominant alpha look of the Lamborghini.  Director Christopher Nolan appreciates Lamborghini's look as well and appointed Bruce Wayne with a Murciélago in both of the latest Batman movies. For James Bond I would choose the Gallardo which has a lower center of gravity and more aggressive street profile.


Ok, gents, I'm finished. What I hope what my article has done is simply this... show that Bond tradition is very important to 007's style for some reasons and utterly unimportant for others. I suspect that we may all have different opinions on watches and cars, but I hope we can all agree that James Bond has sadly not been any indicator of good taste or style for some time. Cheers.
- Brandon



c 2008 Alternative 007