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Words by Mr Andrew Lycett

He would be more than 100 years old today, but Mr Ian Fleming's discreet, upper-class style continues to permeate and largely define the cult of James Bond.

In many ways that goes without saying: Mr Fleming created the phenomenon when he sat down in Goldeneye, his house in Jamaica, and penned the first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, in 1952. (The book was published the following year.) However nobody denies that 007 was given an incredible boost when he was taken up by Messrs Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, who produced Dr. No, the first Bond movie, 50 years ago in 1962. Would we still be celebrating the exploits of a British secret agent in quite the same way if these two producers had not taken him in hand, and, with the help of Sir Sean Connery, Sir Roger Moore et al, launched one of the most successful cinema franchises of all time?

And yet, however much the films have departed in name and content from Mr Fleming's fictional output, they have always been in thrall to the man who came up with the original idea. For 007 was essentially and enduringly Mr Fleming's fantasy, the man he would have liked to have been had he not spent much of WWII sitting at a desk in the Admiralty, as personal assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence.

Mr Fleming behind his desk in his study, 1958

In this role Mr Fleming imbued Bond with many of his own characteristics, from an outsize libido to a taste for handmade Morland & Co cigarettes.

It was a style which he had honed over the years. Mr Fleming was born into a privileged family (his grandfather had set up the hugely successful Robert Fleming bank). Educated at Eton and Sandhurst, and then in Austria and Switzerland, he coasted through his twenties, working for Reuters and then in the city. His love of Europe lasted throughout his lifetime and contributed to Bond's cosmopolitanism.

In the mid-1930s Mr Fleming established himself in a bachelor flat on Ebury Street in Victoria, where he set up Le Cercle gastronomique et des jeux de hasard, a group of friends with a love of gambling and high living. His weekends often involved popping across the Channel to Deauville for a hedonistic mixture of casinos, golf and women.

For a rich kid, this quasi-Bullingdon lifestyle was all fairly predictable. It was not until Mr Fleming was parachuted into his job at Naval Intelligence at the start of the war that he came into his own. It may have been something to do with wearing a uniform. Suddenly he was liaising with secret service chiefs on both sides of the Atlantic, travelling regularly to British code-breaking headquarters, Bletchley Park, and occasionally running his own operations, such as Goldeneye in Gibraltar, an Allied effort to monitor Spain after the Spanish Civil War.

Mr Fleming imbued Bond with many of his own characteristics, from an outsize libido to a taste for handmade Morland & Co cigarettes

At the same time he was hiring, meeting and debriefing a range of agents who worked for Naval Intelligence and the other secret services. From a composite of men such as Commander Wilfred "Biffy" Dunderdale, Lieutenant Commander Patrick Dalzel-Job and of course himself, he concocted James Bond. Commander Dunderdale was the prewar MI6 chief in Paris and Lieutenant Commander Dalzel-Job a multi-talent who was drafted into 30 AU Commando, a special forces unit devised by Mr Fleming to accompany Allied troops invading Europe and bring home crucial intelligence.

Over these years Mr Fleming's own style had evolved. In London he wore blue two-piece suits, a cotton shirt and, always, a bow tie. For relaxation he favoured lightweight suits, perhaps in hound's-tooth check. His distinctive golfing garb was epitomised by the jacket auctioned at Bonhams in 2010 and described as "tailored in tweed with a loud black, white and turquoise check, and bearing the label of Benson, Perry & Whitley Ltd". When dressing down, or in his beloved Jamaica, he donned short-sleeved Sea Island cotton shirts, shorts and even sandals.

Although he liked good things, he was not flashy or indeed profligate. Thus he opted for tailor Benson, Perry & Whitley on London's Cork Street, around the corner from, but not actually on, Savile Row. His suits cost 58 guineas in the early 1950s (about £1,330 today) and came with distinctive features such as turn-back cuffs. Within a half-mile radius he could have his hair cut at GF Trumper and make his purchases of hats from Lock & Co, wine from Berry Brothers & Rudd, and handmade cigarettes from Morlands on Grosvenor Street.

The sartorial effect was understated and somewhat traditional, as was his approach to décor. The bedroom at his matrimonial home in Victoria Square was hung with green striped Regency wallpaper and festooned with various knick-knacks such as a small bust of Admiral Nelson. When it came to architecture, he abhorred the brutal modernism of Mr Ernö Goldfinger, whose name he appropriated for one of his villains.

Yet he had a fondness for the novelty and energy of the US, which resulted in his buying several American cars, including a couple of Ford Thunderbirds and a Studebaker Avanti.

These diverse stylistic influences were reflected in James Bond - in his own words, an "anonymous, blunt instrument wielded by a government department", who came with a wardrobe to match, a lightweight international version of Mr Fleming's. None of Bond's tailors are ever mentioned in the books, though the films are different. Mr Fleming's literary villains get the best clothes, such as Count Lippe in Thunderball in his "casually well-cut beige herring-bone tweed that suggests Anderson and Sheppard" and his "shirts from Charvet, ties from Tripler, Dior, and Hardy Amies, shoes from Peel, and raw-silk pajamas from Hong Kong." (Peel is probably literal. Mr Fleming was doubtless referring to British shoemaker Peal & Co., which is now part of Brooks Brothers.)

Other brand names litter the 007 canon - from Tiptree "Little Scarlet" strawberry jam to Taittinger Blanc de Blancs - all reflecting Mr Fleming's own taste and all demonstrating his eagerness to convey a sense of the emerging consumer culture of the 1950s. Bond himself remains essentially low key, his main concession to ostentation being his cars - not American, like his author's, but quintessentially British, with his Bentley Continental and his occasional use of an Aston Martin from the secret service car pool.

Truly, when it comes to Bond style, nobody did it better than Mr Fleming.

Mr Lycett is the author of Ian Fleming, the definitive biography of the author, and was a consultant for the Barbican's exhibition Designing 007 - Fifty Years of Bond Style, which runs from 6 July to 5 September. To read our interview with curator Ms Lindy Hemming click here.

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