The Tribute

Style Secrets Of The Bond Villains

If the battle for global domination were scored on bloggable style, the bad guys might win

  • Mr Adolfo Celi (Largo) and divers in Thunderball, 1965 Alamy

Commander James Bond’s wardrobe, as originally written by Mr Ian Fleming, is not the sort of kit that would get him snapped by street-style photographers today. A single-breasted, dark-blue suit and a black-and-white dogtooth model appear to be his defaults. In contrast, the villains (and their henchmen) seem to have a more cutting-edge approach to style. 007’s whole Jermyn Street/ Savile Row mash-up feels so fusty when compared with Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s ability to use a white Persian cat as the perfect accessory. Or the sartorial audacity of Le Chiffre turning up in Casino Royale wearing black tie with a black formal shirt (yup, he’s the bad guy). So as Spectre arrives at the multiplex, let us take a moment to praise infamous men whose looks give us all a little bit of licence to kill.

SAY “YES” TO DR. NO’S MANDARIN-COLLARED JACKET

  • Mr Joseph Wiseman (Dr. No) in Dr. No, 1962 Popperphoto/ Getty Images

When the Canadian actor Mr Joseph Wiseman appeared as Dr. No in a mandarin-collared jacket and black gloves, the year was 1962. This was six years before The Beatles would visit India to learn transcendental meditation from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and help spark a global fad for the tunic-style jacket that came to be known as the “Nehru” (after India’s first prime minister, Mr Jawaharlal Nehru). Clearly, Dr. No was on this trend early. Dismiss him as a provincial at your peril, for while known primarily for his time plotting the destruction of the US space programme from Crab Cay, he is what fashion writers might call a “global nomad”. Born in China, educated in the States and no stranger to the Soviets, his use of neoprene in daywear presages some of today’s designers’ penchants for using the material in both sneakers and apparel.

YOU CAN ALWAYS KILL IN A WHITE OXFORD

  • Mr Robert Shaw (Red) and Sir Sean Connery (Bond) in From Russia With Love, 1963 Mondadori Portfolio/ The Kobal Collection

After dispatching Dr. No, Bond finds himself as the target of SPECTRE and its client, the USSR. Even though the film that chronicles this cheery scenario is titled From Russia With Love, Donald “Red” Grant (played by Mr Robert Shaw) is not so much a hugger, as a sociopath and an assassin who follows Bond on to the Orient Express with a plan to pass himself off as a fellow Brit. This travelling incognito may explain why he’s turned out in a trimly tailored tweed suit, monochromatic tie and crisp white Oxford cloth-shirt that would not be out of place in Mr Thom Browne’s atelier. Although, as far as we know, the designer has never accessorised a white Oxford shirt and tweed suit with a watch that conceals a garrotte cable.

HAVE A SIGNATURE COLOUR

  • Mr Gert Frobe (Goldfinger) and Sir Sean Connery (Bond) in Goldfinger, 1964 Collection Christophel/ Photoshot

While Mr Fleming was somewhat dismissive of Goldfinger as a parvenu when it comes to his style – “it was as if Goldfinger had gone to his tailor and said, ‘Dress me for golf – you know, like they wear in Scotland’” – his cinematic incarnation does not come off that badly. His tweed golfing ensemble with the golden-hued cardigan and the yellow tattersall vest that he wears at his Kentucky horse farm brighten up otherwise autumnal looks. The bit of wardrobe that we feel is genuinely ahead of its time is the golden swimsuit and terry-cloth-lined cover-up (known as a “cabana set”). He wears this for a poolside game of cards in Miami – we are hoping to see a return of this look soon.

THE SECRET TO FORMAL WEAR IS CONFIDENCE

  • Mr Adolfo Celi (Largo) and Ms Claudine Auguer (Domino) in Thunderball, 1965 Mondadori Portfolio

Unlike his decidedly un-fun boss, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, there’s more than a touch of the playboy to Emilio Largo, aka SPECTRE #2. Played by Italian actor Mr Adolfo Celi, Largo never seems to break a sweat, even though he is hiding two nuclear bombs aboard his yacht, the Disco Volante, and running around the Bahamas in clothes that would cause lesser men to schvitz. One can only imagine the pressure at SPECTRE, an organisation in which a redundancy notice can be delivered at the lethal tip of a poisoned shoe. Yet in Thunderball, he gives a masterclass in how to wear a double-breasted, white dinner jacket even during a daytime briefing with his team of frogmen. (We do not recommend accessorising with a spear gun.)

TAILORING AND GOTH GO BEAUTIFULLY TOGETHER

  • Mr Geoffrey Holder (Baron Samedi) in Live And Let Die, 1973 Alamy

Mr Big may be the main baddie in Live And Let Die, but it is Baron Samedi, a voodoo priest played by Mr Geoffrey Holder, who wins the style stakes in Sir Roger Moore’s debut. Long before Mr Riccardo Tisci put skeleton make-up on models at his AW15 menswear show, Baron Samedi demonstrated the power of combining a frock coat, fright make-up and a top hat in an evening ensemble that puts him in the top bracket of henchman alongside Oddjob and Jaws. His diurnal looks are equally fierce. In one scene, he wears a torn poncho in military green with a tartan inlay, a top hat and lots of beads. It is not hard to see why Solitaire, the tarot card reader played by Ms Jane Seymour, is powerless in his grip.

WHY NOT A SAFARI SHIRT?

  • Mr Christopher Lee (Scaramanga) in The Man With A Golden Gun, 1974 Alamy

Much has been made of the resurgence of the safari jacket, but Francisco Scaramanga does the jacket one better by chasing Bond around his private island in a powder-blue safari shirt. Perhaps it was the Members Only jacket that scared us off epaulettes during the 1990s, but now that we have seen the error of our ways, we can only admire the Saint Laurent-esque kit that The Man With The Golden Gun sports. We have often wondered whether the shirts are comfortable for the world’s most lethal assassin, as they appear to be the sort of blend that might irritate a villain with a supernumerary nipple.

EVEN IF YOU WORK IN TECH, YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE SUPER-CASUAL

  • Mr Christopher Walken (Zorin) in A View To A Kill, 1985 Allstar/ United Artists

The European Union could learn a lot from Max Zorin (Mr Christopher Walken). He does not mess around with legal remedies and anti-trust suits to curb the rise of California-based tech companies. Instead he does what one expects from a Bond villain: he plans to trigger the San Andreas Fault at high tide and flood Silicon Valley into oblivion. More importantly, he does not go in for that jeans and hoodie thing. While we love the lightly tinted, Aviator-style glasses he wears in A View To A Kill (1985), it is his tailoring that we most enjoy – a frock coat and and lavender tie for Ascot and, most curiously, a four-button black suit. While we are conversant in one-, two- and three-button suit jackets, this extra button leaves us wondering what exactly were in those special injections Zorin was given as a boy growing up in East Germany.

WHEN HE SHOWS UP IN TOM FORD, THEN YOU NEED PRADA

  • Mr Javier Bardem (Silva) in Skyfall, 2012 Landmark Media

As in all the best Bond films, there should not just be a battle of wits and fisticuffs between the villain and the hero, but also a Paris Is Burning-worthy pose off. In Skyfall, Mr Javier Bardem brings it by infusing his character, Silva, with some homoerotic fuego, even getting a bit hands-y with a handcuffed Mr Daniel Craig. Since Mr Bardem’s character is a rogue MI6 operative turned cyber-terrorist working out of a private island off the coast of Macau, he still wants to impress the head boy at Her Majesty’s Secret Service, so how best to hold one’s own against a man who is kitted out in Tom Ford? For costume designer Ms Jany Temime, the answer is simple. “I was addicted to the Prada shirt, because it had just the right level of lightness and expensiveness,” she told GQ in 2012. “I’m not going to call it ‘bad taste’ – the graphic of that shirt is beautiful – but it’s not Bond; a gentleman wouldn’t wear that.” She then quickly added, “Silva is slightly nouveau riche, and I wanted to show that he did his best to impress Bond.”