Before we get into the style of James Bond and the man who set the tone, let’s clear the air over who was the first James Bond. We all know Sean Connery launched a legend when he played Ian Fleming’s 007 in the 1962 film Dr. No. However, in 1954 Barry Nelson played the role of the super-spy in the CBS TV special Casino Royale. In 1956, Bob Holness gave voice to Bond in a radio adaptation of Moonraker. And lastly, stuntman Bob Simmons pre-dates Connery by a few minutes as he is the one who you see in the gun barrel intro that is now the trademark opening of any James Bond film.
With that settled, we can now focus on Connery, the Scot who made Bond a household name and a symbol of killer style. Interestingly, producers weren’t easily sold on Connery as Bond. His large frame, Scottish accent and, at the time, anonymity, had executives worried that he wouldn’t be convincing as MI6’s James Bond. But once Connery suited up in a tux, had his martini shaken, not stirred, and palmed the Walther PPK that would become Bond’s signature weapon of choice for his license to kill, the part was his.
What really caught the eyes of directors and a soon-to-be legion of fans was the way Connery moved. Though tall and strapping, he displayed what some called the moves of a jungle cat. Cautious and confident, stealthy and smooth, Connery prowled through Bond movies the way a panther stalks his prey and instantly gave Bond an edge other spies lacked. Even when decked out in tailored suits with the requisite pocket square, Connery could still display an animal-like quality that seduced many a Bond girl and intimidated his never-ending list of villains.
Connery would own the role and appear in From Russia With Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967) and reprising the role in 1983’s Never Say Never Again. Being the first to truly embrace the character, Connery set the standard by which all other Bond’s would be measured.
Driving an Aston Martin, courting danger in bespoke three-piece suits and displaying an eager elegance in exotic locales, Connery made Bond an action hero with fashion sense. Today we accept the casual look of a Jason Bourne or Ethan Hunt, but for Bond, not looking the part was not an option.
In his role as Bond, Connery featured choice clothing items including Turnbull & Asser cocktail cuff shirts, Anthony Sinclair dark navy grenadine ties, Sinclair’s soft cut suits that allowed Connery to make his muscular body look more elegant and Curry & Paxton sunglasses. All Bond agents were also issued a Swaine Adeney Brigg Bond attache case, a black leather beauty with distinctive skiver lining. And when Connery needed grooming, one could see him with a finely finished wooden shaving bowl and the Gillette Slim Handle Adjustable 1-9 razor.
In time, Roger Moore and Daniel Craig would carry the torch for Bond, but it was Connery who lit the flame. The only regret is that Connery didn’t appear in 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me since the theme song says it all about Connery’s Bond, “Nobody Does It Better”.