Ian Fleming was an average looking man with an ordinary physique. What he lacked physically he made up for with exceptional intelligence, wit, taste and talent for storytelling. From a privileged upbringing, he became a British naval intelligence officer (though not with assignments as intense as a 00 agent’s) and then a journalist. When he created the character of James Bond for his first novel (Casino Royale, 1953), Fleming essentially created an idealized version of himself: the man every women wanted to be with and every man wanted to be.
International filmgoing audiences first met Bond in Dr. No in 1962, gambling at Le Circle at Les Ambassadeurs impeccably dressed in a bespoke midnight navy dinner jacket with a shawl collar and turn-back cuffs in black barathea. It was the definitive introductory moment where a gorgeous Sean Connery first uttered what would become the character’s signature statement: “Bond. James Bond.”
Since then, audiences worldwide have been enthralled with this idea of an unusually attractive man whose job is to travel throughout the globe to solve problems, fight bad guys and save the day, occasionally finding time for a vodka martini and a beautiful woman in a stunning hotel suite. He does it all for King and country with the quintessence of refined masculine elegance in exquisite custom suits and beautiful luxury watches along with the best tech and cars that Q Branch can dream up. What boy upon first exposure to Bond wouldn’t want to be this guy?
Like many Generation-Xers, my first Bond movie experience was during the Roger Moore era. I think it was The Spy Who Loved Me in 1977. I loved it, but I wasn’t as obsessed as I would become when we got a Betamax and my dad rented Thunderball. “Holy shit,” I thought to my ten year old self. I finally understood what everyone was talking about when they said the Sean Connery movies were better. Once dad sensed my budding obsession, he eventually bought Beta copies of Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever. (Being a red-blooded American male who was in his 20s and early 30s during the 1960s, dad loved watching them, too.)
From a quiet Cleveland suburb, I got a technicolor glimpse at an intriguing, exotic and stylish universe. The clothes, the sets, the furniture, the locations, the design… I took it all in and was very interested. In fact, it might have been the Bond series that first ignited my interest in tailored clothing.
One of the things that has always appealed to me about the Bond image is that it is one of razor-sharp efficiency. It’s getting the job done and, of course, looking good doing it. It’s about attention to detail and the importance of aesthetics without distracting or drawing unwanted attention. It’s about a quiet, stealthy elegance. Impeccable but never fussy.
I would never want to be Bond literally. I can’t imagine any man sustaining the lifestyle portrayed in the films on any real level. You couldn’t have any real friends or relationships. You could never get too close to anyone. You would have to be a soldier, essentially. (I’m not one who follows orders as dictated.) You’d never get to take a nap. You could never have a dog. Life would be quite cold and constantly burdened with the grim possibility of being killed at any time. The stress and loneliness alone would cause me to skip the shaker and drink vodka straight from the bottle. Then there’s that low life-expectancy thing.
But there are parts of the Bond mystique that I’ve always appreciated. He is a loner, as am I, though not on his rigorously anti-social level. His work style validates my own preference for working alone as opposed to being immersed in a group. We both take great pride in our work and in doing it our way, thriving on efficiency with a distaste for time wasted. And while Bond and I prefer to work alone, we both answer to higher authorities. He answers to M, and I answer to my client. And while I’ll never have 007’s bedroom scorecard, I will confess to a few really fun shags in some swank hotel rooms. (I’ll never tell.)
Then there are, of course, the sartorial trimmings built into the Bond allure. I imagine many men look at the package wistfully and think “Wouldn’t it be fabulous?” or “I wish I could…” I made a decision years ago and said Fuck it… “It will be fabulous” and “I will.” Bond would never go to a business meeting, to a nice dinner or to an evening at the theater or the opera in anything other than a well-tailored suit and tie, and neither would I. Though I don’t have Bond’s budget for Tom Ford, Omega and Crockett & Jones, I make it happen in my own way. Sure, I probably look like an oddball in a culture where others are in a sweater and jeans, but it makes me feel good. It’s how I want to be. And I’ve never had a knack for offering the expected or fitting into a prescribed mold anyway.
I don’t buy the whole Bond kit, though. One can get influences, absorb them and then use them to develop one’s own personal sense and discernment. I never liked Connery’s pleated trousers in the earlier films, for example. More recently, I couldn’t get into Craig’s tab shirt collars in Skyfall or double-breasted choices in Spectre. Perhaps I’d think differently of these outfits if I ever watched them again now. One of my friends did recently tell me about sites like piratebay where you can apparently download films. Perhaps I’ll see if I can re-watch some of the James Bond films on there, maybe I’ll like the outfits now I’m older.
Bond films are a fantasy. The escape into a world of international intrigue for two hours is wildly enjoyable, which is the point of the films. I’m well aware that I’m not an assassin, I’m not in danger and I’m not saving lives (that I’m aware of). I also understand that in order to look like Daniel Craig in a suit, it helps to look like Daniel Craig out of a suit, which I most certainly don’t. But the design of the character and his world provide a fabulous template for a man interested in living well and presenting oneself with a certain sophistication.
James Bond is hardly my only source of inspiration. There have been several influences and inspirations that have informed how I like to live and present. Too many to mention. But Bond is a big one and a real one, even though he isn’t real. But Ian Fleming was real, and so were founding producers Harry Saltzman, Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and now Cubby’s daughter Barbara and the directors, designers, actors and other creatives who have all contributed to this icon. The Bond aesthetic is one that inspires me to raise the bar and pursue a higher standard in my own life and with my little blog here. Maybe people appreciate it or maybe they laugh at it. I don’t really care, because at the end of the day… I do it for me. It’s fun, it feels good and it gives me great pleasure.
So if something inspires you and gives you that “makes me wanna/wish I could” kind of feeling, go with it. Find the parts that inspire you, understand that it’s possible and then make it your own.