We’ve all heard the phrase “Dress like the person you want to be,” or some variation of that maxim. When it comes to sophistication, preparation, and dedication, there is no better man to emulate than 007.
Ian Fleming’s perennial persona, James Bond, is the quintessential man. He is the modern “Knight in Shining Armor,” with the armor being optioned for a Tom Ford Suit and a magical sword from Merlin swapped for an exploding pen from Q. Mark Twain hit the nail on the head when he quipped the clothes do make the man.
Research from Northwestern University reveals the clothes really do make the man. Students who wore lab coats performed better on cognitive tests than those not dressed up. They coined the term, “enclothed cognition” to encapsulate the impact clothes have on the way you think and feel.
If you want to perform better, upgrade your wardrobe. Or, as the adage suggests, “Dress the part.” Actors have known this for a long time, be it Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan, or Daniel Craig. Lawrence Olivier joked that he didn’t know how to play a part until he put on a prosthetic. Extra appendages aside, method actors such as Dustin Hoffman have used rocks in shoes to alter their walk while more grounded actors simply adjust their gate or change their clothes.
In the same study from Northwestern, they discovered that many clothes carry symbolic meaning, such as the impact a robe has on a judge or a power suit for a CEO. But it’s not just about the jacket. Any actor will tell you the fit and the confidence go hand in hand with the look. If an actor doesn’t feel confident in the suit they wear, the symbolic meaning will carry a negative weight. This could explain the feeling many people have of being a phony when they’re wearing clothes they do not feel encapsulate them as a person. Therefore, it’s not just about the clothes; it’s about the confidence to wear them.
Breaking Down James Bond’s Style
Part of Bond’s charm has always been his style. Fleming infused his infatuation with fine cuisine and cocktails into the character just as the original director Terence Young took the young Sean Connery under his wing to create a character that was as much Young as it was Bond. The key to Bond’s brilliance is he never forces it. He doesn’t wear a tuxedo to a pool party or an Aloha shirt for dinner. He dresses for the occasion.
Second, Bond wears the clothes, not the other way around. Most men struggle with suits because they buy them off the rack, and they look like they’re wearing their father’s coat. Some brands fit better than others, but if you’re going to drop a dime on a wardrobe, make sure it fits. This doesn’t just go for suits. The days of muscle tees clinging to your underwhelming biceps are over, just like the days of polo shirts being the answer for every occasion.
Lastly, what Bond wears is not essential. While marketers may lust for what kind of watch Bond wears and whether or not the jacket is Barbour or not, the character does not. There’s never a moment when Bond worries about a stain or a scuff. Imagine 007 pursuing the latest one-armed man down an alley when, suddenly, he steps in a puddle and exclaims, “Oh, damnit, these Armani pants are ruined!” He’s Bond, not Niles Crane.
The beauty of Bond is not just in suits. He dresses for the environment. In Goldfinger, it’s a romper (now that takes confidence). In Dr. No, it’s perfect summer attire. In Casino Royale, it’s a perfect tuxedo for a high stakes poker game. In Octopussy, it’s a literal clown suit (okay, not the best example).
We all love to feel prepared. It is what the French call savoir-faire, or knowing what to do in any situation. What makes Bond “Bond” is he understands how to navigate any obstacle thrown at him. In Casino Royale, he’s chosen for the assignment because he is the best card player in MI6, but when he is deceived, he rolls with the punches and finds a way back in the game. In the film, this is perfectly personified when Bond’s classic Vesper Martini is poisoned, and after making his way to his car and being saved by Vesper herself, he returns to the table with the line, “That last hand, nearly killed me.”
This attitude can be seen in the way 007 carries himself, and above all, how he dresses. He is prepared for every situation. And while we may not be galavanting in the Alps or dodging sharks in the Bahamas, we do have our everyday challenges we would like to triumph over.
What we want is taste. Taste is talent. The better we understand what works, the better off we are. If you’re reading this, we can assume you already know not to mix a black belt with a blue suit or multiple patterns. No matter how hard G.Q. and the fashion world tries to convince the world that hideous things are vogue, classics are timeless. So while Bond’s romper may go out of style and the “Gripioperla” may come and go, the goal is always to transcend the moment.
Above all else, what we can say about Bond is that his style is timeless. Remember Affliction? Ed Hardy? How about the sweatband that goes with that look? While Bond has had some clunkers in his time as a superspy, when he is himself, his wardrobe is timeless. The black tux, a dinner jacket, aloha shirts, etc., Bond’s outfits fall into the category of timeless.
How to Dress Like James Bond
Every entrepreneur should think about this when building a wardrobe. Pick items that will look as good tomorrow as they do today. Fads come and go, but there are a few essential items that can stand the test of time. Like Bond himself, an entrepreneur’s wardrobe should be classic. Here are a few final tips to remember when climbing into your Aston Martin:
1) Dress for the Occasion
Understand the moment. Clothes sell confidence. Men who dress better typically earn 5% more than their slovenly counterparts. Yet, no one likes a showoff when the Christmas party called for casual, and you show up ready for the Opera. We wouldn’t wear a suit to a pool party in Key West any more than we’d wear a Cowboys jersey to Lincoln Financial Field. Likewise, sometimes it’s best to be a “Grey Man” and not noticed at all. Nothing screams “Rob me” quite like a Rolex at a dive bar. There are hoards of books out there from Dressing the Man to Esquire’s Handbook on Style that cover everything you ever need to know about when and what to wear to every occasion.
2) Always Dress (Slightly) Better than Necessary
We live in a culture of comfort. Gone are the days of traveling in luxury and in are yoga pants (even for men) and flip flops on the plane. Merely giving a damn is often more than enough to impress people. It’s not a high bar to set. Therefore, in every situation, always go one step further than required. This doesn’t mean showing up in the latest Armani menswear for a pool party; it means taking the time to treat the event with respect. Plus, it adds a level of intrigue to everything. While we may not be enticing a femme fatale to divulge her secrets at the end of the night (or we may), everything is improved by dressing the part. If it’s okay for cosplayers to wear armor to Comic-Con and football fans to sport their latest quarterback jersey, it’s okay to sport a coat, a tie, or anything you damn well please when the night calls for it.
3) Look Good, Feel Good, Play Good
My wide receiver coach used to scream this at us on the football field. While the players loved this because it meant they got to wear a few extra sweatbands and unnecessary Under Armor in Southeast Georgia, the fact of the matter was that, like superheroes, we played better if we looked the part. There’s a science to back this up, too. Look like an athlete, play like an athlete. Plus, your pit stained College sweatshirt just doesn’t cut it a decade out of the dorms.
4) Dress Well, Even When No One Is Looking
Character is who you are when no one else is watching. While we may not need to be a pajama-suit-wearing Barney Stinson, we should strive to be both comfortable and stylish even when binging the latest Bond marathon at home. Besides, if a suit signals our brain it’s time to conquer, and our Batman-inspired workout gear symbolizes our goals to become the pinnacle of human achievement, then comfy, cool P.J.’s signal the brain it’s time to chill the f— out.
Bonus: Don’t Forget the Gym
While a fine fitting tux may get the idol of your eye into your bed, don’t let them down when the shirt comes off. Not everyone has access to the trainers, the diet, or the “supplements” to create a Daniel Craig-like physique. But all clothes hang better on a healthy body. Find what works for you, and in true Bond fashion, focus on what is functional.
What are your thoughts on James Bond’s style? Let us know down in the comments.
This article originally published on GREY Journal.