The Making of James Bond: How Anthony Sinclair Suits Helped Turn Sean Connery's Defining Character into a Style Icon

Anthony Sinclair James Bond

Photos Credit: Rex Features / Anthony Sinclair

It’s no secret that James Bond is one of the best dressed characters in the history of filmmaking. His style is one the most iconic in Hollywood, and arguably no one can pull off a suit quite like he can. Originally designed by Anthony Sinclair—a Savile Row forerunner in the ‘60s—Sean Connery’s first Bond suit not only helped to establish the character as dapper gentleman spy, but turned him into a style icon that men would emulate for decades to come.

In 2012, on the eve of Bond’s 50-year anniversary and roughly 30 years after Sinclair retired, the brand was revived, and the Conduit Cut, Connery’s original suit, was re-mastered for the 21st century. But this year, for the first time ever, the Conduit Cut will be available through e-commerce, meaning you can style yourself after everyone’s favorite British spy.

To find out more about the relationship between James Bond and Anthony Sinclair we spoke to the brand’s creative director David Mason about what the fashion scene was like before the arrival of 007, the evolution of the Conduit Cut and how a scruffy, young Scottish actor was transformed into one of the most well-dressed and recognizable men of the decade.

Anthony Sinclair James Bond
Photo Credit: Anthony Sinclair

JustLuxe: Tell us about your background in fashion and how you came to be creative director of Anthony Sinclair?

David Mason: In 2002, I was working in Savile Row alongside a bespoke tailor called Richard Paine. I recognized that he was a highly skilled cutter, but knew nothing of his career history. As a boy, Richard had served as apprentice to Anthony Sinclair, and continued to work with him until illness forced Anthony into early retirement in 1986. He handed down his shears and the shop keys to Richard, who continued to trade as Anthony Sinclair for several years, before changing the company name to Richard Paine.

When I eventually discovered the connection between Richard and James Bond’s original tailoring firm Anthony Sinclair, we began to discuss the idea of bringing the Sinclair name back to life. I was convinced that with our combined creative and technical skills, Richard and I could make a success of the business. Together, in January 2012, we re-launched Anthony Sinclair—just in time for the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Bond film franchise.

JL: Let’s talk about the brand’s involvement with 007. How do you think that Anthony Sinclair helped to shape the character of James Bond?

DM: Whilst many of Bond’s styling cues had been delivered through the habits and personal taste of author Ian Fleming, it took the work of Dr. No director, Terence Young, to mold an unknown Scottish actor into shape for the screen role of 007. Young was a sophisticated man about town and well known on the Mayfair scene at the time. He took Sean Connery under his wing, teaching him how to walk and how to talk, how to eat and what to drink. The cherry on the icing was a trip to Young’s personal tailor, Anthony Sinclair, who dressed Connery in the classic, understated style that had become known as the Conduit Cut. Connery was unaccustomed to wearing bespoke finery, and so Sinclair instructed him to wear the suits around the clock—even sleeping in them—so that he was completely at ease in the clothes when filming began.

Anthony Sinclair James Bond
Photo Credit: Anthony Sinclair

JL: Can you tell us about Sinclair’s personal one-on-one work with Connery?

DM: Sean Connery would have been considered quite a challenge for most tailors. He had developed a muscular physique during his early career in the Royal Navy, and went on to compete as an amateur bodybuilder—finishing third place in the Mr. Universe competition of 1953. Not only did Sinclair’s tailoring need to accommodate Connery’s 46-inch chest, the suits also needed to conceal Bond’s Walther PPK handgun and shoulder-holster. Sinclair wasn’t daunted by the challenge—he used to make clothes for a well-known English magician, Channing Pollock, who needed tailcoats that could hide six good-sized doves!

Connery was clearly impressed by Sinclair’s tailoring skills—he had over 100 suits made by him for his personal and professional wardrobes—saying that, “Sinclair knows how to cut clothes; he’s one of the best.”

JL: After James Bond how did the Conduit Cut help to influence men’s fashion of the ‘60s and possibly the direction of Savile Row designers?

DM: I think it was a matter of style over fashion. The Conduit Cut suits, together with the Aston, the Rolex, the gadgets and the Bond Girls, became part of a successful formula that created a global icon, during what was a Golden Age of popular culture in Britain. It was a period of social change: fast cars, international travel and Savile Row suits had, until that time, been the preserve of the upper classes. James Bond not only provided a glimpse into this glamorous, rarefied world, he created awareness, desire and aspiration from ordinary people for the finer things in life, and Connery was living proof that a rough diamond could be polished to perfection.

Anthony Sinclair James Bond
Photo Credit: Rex Features / Anthony Sinclair

JL: Were other brands dominating the market before the release of Bond’s Conduit suit? How did Anthony Sinclair fall into the Savile Row framework before dressing Sean Connery?

DM: In Post War Britain, tailoring had been dominated by a boxy, shapeless style known as the “demob suit”—referring to the two- or three-piece suits provided to millions of servicemen following their “demobilization” from the armed forces. In exchange for their service uniforms, men were provided with a set of civilian clothing, which, in addition to the suit, included a hat, two shirts, a tie, a pair of shoes and a raincoat. One of the principal suppliers was the men’s outfitting chain, Burton's—founded by Montague Burton—leading to speculation that the phrase "the full Monty" originated in reference to the complete set of demob clothes.

In stark contrast, Sinclair had the distinction of making handmade day clothes worn by gentlemen officers of the British Army when they were not in uniform, amongst whom was Irish Guards officer and former tank commander, Terence Young. These dashing young men admired the soft, comfortable, shapely style that Sinclair created from the principles he defined as "drape and shape." His customers lovingly referred to it as the Conduit Cut, named after the location of his London premises on Conduit Street in the fashionable district of Mayfair.

Anthony Sinclair James Bond
Photo Credit: Dominic James / Anthony Sinclair

JL: In 2012 Conner’s Conduit Cut suit was recreated for the 50th anniversary of the first Bond film—how did you manage to recreate the suit?

DM: To help celebrate the Golden Anniversary of the Bond films in 2012, the Barbican in London hosted an exhibition entitled, Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style. However, most of the clothes made for the first actor, Sean Connery, had long disappeared, and so EON, the film’s producers, approached me to request faithful reproductions of some of the pieces originally made by Anthony Sinclair.

Unfortunately, over forty years have elapsed since the original paper pattern was last used, and given that the business had changed location four times during that period, along with several years of dormancy, it was understandable, but regrettable that all records of Connery’s work, including his pattern, had been lost. Some kind of reference material from the time was desperately needed in order to create a true representation of the famous suits.

In January 2012, we received a call from British television producers Channel 4 who were piloting a new series that involved guests bringing interesting collectibles onto the show to be valued and then auctioned. A gentleman had brought an old suit along, and the producers needed to estimate its value. The label inside the in-breast pocket of the jacket showed that the garment was one of five repeat orders that had been made by Anthony Sinclair in 1966 for none other than Sean Connery Esq.

The person who was planning to take part in the show had found the suit in the back of his mother’s wardrobe. His father had worked at Pinewood Studios in the 1960s and happened to be a similar size to Connery. He’d been involved in the production of You Only Live Twice and was in need of a new suit, so when filming was complete he managed to persuade the wardrobe department to sell him one of the multiple number of identical grey herringbone suits that had been prepared for 007 (the budget for this film, the fifth in the series, had grown and the practice of making several copies of each costume had begun—in the event that one or more could possibly be destroyed by special effects or action scenes).

Anthony Sinclair James Bond
Photo Credit: Dominic James / Anthony Sinclair

DM (cont'd): Bond artifacts do appear at auction from time to time, but items of Sean Connery’s wardrobe from his tenure as 007 are extremely rare—and expensive. The costume was limited in the early films, and Connery was fond of Sinclair’s tailoring, reportedly keeping hold of many of the suits for his personal use. When EON Productions contacted the company in late 2011 to request reworks of the original suits, it was hoped that the grey herringbone number would still be available, or that perhaps the owner would be kind enough to loan the piece in order to allow measurements to be taken from it. Unfortunately, the company was too late to act and the suit had been sold.

Fearing that the precious item may now be many thousands of miles away it was a great relief to discover that it had been bought by a young man who worked in the City of London, in fact his office is located minutes away from the Barbican—the venue for the upcoming exhibition.

The necessary introductions were made and the new owner kindly offered to loan his prized possession to the company. It would now be possible to take direct measurements from the original outfit and reverse-engineer a pattern that could be used as the basis for the re-creations—which are still on show as the Designing 007 exhibition continues its world tour.

Anthony Sinclair James Bond
Photo Credit: Dominic James / Anthony Sinclair

JL: Since the Conduit Cut is the mainstay of the label do you feel that you need to continuously come up with new designs and cuts as the trends change, or is it easier to stick to an iconic look?

DM: Sinclair was not one to succumb to the vagaries of fashion, preferring to turn out a “well-dressed man” in timeless, elegant style, rather than someone who stood out in the crowd. Having said that, the styling details of his tailoring did move subtly with the times, as is evident in the lapel width and pocket-flap depth variations in the Sinclair suits worn by Connery during his tenure as Bond (from Dr No in 1962 through Diamonds Are Forever in 1971). Over this time, the suits came to be cut closer to the body.

Whilst the size, scale and shape of our suits and our customers continue to evolve, there are a number of hallmarks that have remained constant to this day: the soft, natural shoulder and roped sleeve head, a degree of chest drape, a suppressed waist and slight flare over the seat are details that define the hourglass look and retain the iconic status of the Conduit Cut.

JL: You’re offering the Conduit Cut suit in ready-to-wear online for the first time—why did you decide to make that jump?

DM: When nurturing a heritage brand, it is important, in my opinion, to stay as true as possible to the founder’s vision, beliefs and philosophy. In 1965, following the phenomenal success of the third Bond movie Goldfinger, Anthony Sinclair’s name had become well known, and there was pent demand for his style that couldn’t be satisfied from his Conduit Street workroom, in terms of either price or distribution. Sinclair decided to collaborate with, of all people, Montague Burton, and signed a deal to sell a co-branded range of ready-to-wear suits through the nationwide chain of Burton stores.

Therefore, this is not the first time that Sinclair’s name has been associated with a ready-to-wear product that can reach a broader audience. However, on this occasion, e-commerce has offered direct access to customers across the world, negating the need for collaboration with any other company, meaning that the label carries only one name—Anthony Sinclair.

Marissa Stempien

Marissa Stempien is a freelance writer and editor with a focus on travel, fashion, lifestyle, and culture. Her work has been featured in a number of print and online publications including ABC News, Popsugar, Huffington Post, JustLuxe, Luxury Living and CityGirlGoneMom. Marissa is an avid traveler and is always looking to visit somewhere new or unexplored. Her unique lifestyle has given way to her...(Read More)

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