Killer threads: suiting Mr Connery

IF you were being bold, you might argue that the 5 October 1962 – 50 years ago today – was the most important date in the history of Hollywood’s love affair with men’s style. It was the day Dr No opened in cinemas, giving the first glimpse of 007 as he sat at the baccarat table. Sean Connery is revealed, swathed in an immaculate midnight-blue, shawl collared dinner jacket, cigarette dangling nonchalantly from his lips, as he utters the immortal answer to an enquiry as to his identity: “Bond…” – oh, you know the rest.

That dinner suit set the tone for Bond’s 50 year embodiment of the best elements of English style – effortlessness, urbanity, unimpeachable masculinity paired with calm elegance. Later this month – as you may have heard – Daniel Craig will be carrying it off once again in the latest film, Skyfall.

Whereas Craig’s threads are designed by the American fashion supremo Tom Ford, Connery’s suits were of a less glitzy provenance. The tailor Anthony Sinclair was a Mayfair stalwart (on Conduit Street rather than Savile Row) with a clientele based around a core of former or current British Army officers, one of whom was Dr No director, Terence Young.

“Back then it was a world of discretion where gentlemen would most often be introduced to a tailor by an existing customer,” says David Mason, current custodian of the Sinclair business, who has recently revived it as a home of bespoke tailoring after years when it had faded from the limelight. “It was only natural that Young should introduce Connery to his own tailor to help craft the character into his own vision of 007.”

Sinclair would go on to make all of Connery’s suits for the Bond films, applying the “Conduit Cut” – his signature free-moving, hourglass style – to the world’s premiere secret agent. “It was a style distinctly at odds with the boxy, double-breasted suits popular at the time,” says Mason. “The coat was cut for ease of movement, with styling cues taken from the hacking jacket – it suited the athletic physiques of military men.”

And of Connery, of course, whose most celebrated suited moment, other than the Dr No tuxedo, must be the Prince of Wales check number he sports in Goldfinger (1964). I’d argue that this miraculously debonair three-piece, offset to perfection against a white shirt and knitted black tie, is a contender for the title of cinema’s greatest suit. It is pure sartorial class, in some ways rather un-Bond – the light plaid, the expressive cut, and particularly the waistcoat, make it stand out (and earns Bond a rather, er, dubious roll in the hay with Pussy Galore). “The vest has a slim lapel, adding a note of elegance and touch of class,” says Mason. “It is cut short and the trousers are high on the waist which lengthen’s Connery’s legs. The jacket lapels were cut slightly narrower than on the suits of the earlier films and this appears to broaden his shoulders a little more, and the suppressed waist further enhances his physique.

Mason recently took the opportunity to recreate this suit, and the Dr No tuxedo, for the Barbican’s “Designing 007” exhibition, working with Sinclair’s former apprentice, Richard Paine, who has come out of retirement to oversee the bespoke side of the business. As Mason points out: “It was arguably the most famous set of conventional clothes ever worn by a man on screen.”

Tom Ford may be master of many things, but for that kind of plaudit he’ll always be one step behind Mr Sinclair of Conduit Street.

And rightly so.