We’ll hazard a guess that in any British man’s list of top style icons, 007 will feature near the top. Make that any man’s list – American, Italian, French – as James Bond is one of our most successful British exports, thanks to one of the longest-running movie franchises in history.
The super-spy, created by novelist Ian Fleming, is a stickler for style in the books and on screen, particularly about what he eats, drinks and wears. Over the years, this has been reflected in his film wardrobe, which has mirrored the times: Sean Connery’s tailored suits and ties are pure 1960s, while Roger Moore’s safari jackets and flares signify the look of the 1970s.
Casino Royale of 2006 is arguably the first real Bond film of the 21st century, as it introduced Daniel Craig as the latest incarnation of 007. The costume designer, Academy Award-winner Lindy Hemming, was charged with essentially rebooting the hero for a new generation. She decided she would make him look more casual, more of a global citizen, more contemporary. For this, she turned to Sunspel: “There have been so many different characters in film and theatre that I have dressed in Sunspel vests, T-shirts and underwear because they are classic, timeless and beautifully made,” she explains.
“This time, dressing Daniel Craig as the new James Bond, I thought that it would be a perfect collaboration of quality and Britishness to ask Sunspel to create all his T-shirts, polo shirts and underwear, which they duly did, excellently,” she adds. “He looks very sexy and happy in their clothing.” Craig also wears Sunspel shirts in 2008’s Quantum of Solace, the follow-up to Casino Royale.
But rather than simply dress 007 in Sunspel out of the box, Hemming went one stage further. There was one style in particular that she wanted to specifically tailor to Craig, to showcase his physique: the Riviera polo shirt. This garment in fact, predates Dr No, the first Bond film (1962), and originates in the 1950s as a result of another Englishman’s experience of the jet-set lifestyle. Peter Hill was the grandson of Sunspel’s founder and was in the habit of holidaying on the French Riviera. He liked the idea of wearing polo shirts in the warm weather; the style as we still know it today had debuted at the US Open of 1929, designed by tennis star René Lacoste.
However, Hill found the traditional cotton piqué style too hot and uncomfortable. So, using technology local to Sunspel’s factory in Long Eaton – lace-making machines in Nottingham, the lace-making centre of England – he developed a lightweight mesh that was cool and pleasant to wear. Quality 75 (Q75) as it is known to this day at Sunspel is breathable, comfortable and holds its shape. Hill employed it in a new design for the company: the Riviera polo shirt.
This style was known to wardrobe designer Lindy Hemming. But it had remained essentially unchanged for 50 years and for Casino Royale she had the idea to update it based on Daniel Craig’s silhouette. Hemming shortened the arms a little and adjusted the chest, slimming the cut to make the shirt fit in a more tailored way. The result was sharp and clean (the single pocket and collar were fashioned in the Q75 material too), making the Riviera polo shirt extremely versatile – less a piece of sportswear and more a wardrobe basic that can do service in both a weekend and a professional context.
Sunspel was so pleased with the new James Bond version of its old classic that it decided to adopt it. Today, the Sunspel Riviera polo shirt, which comes in a variety of colours, has a slim and flattering fit, care of Lindy Hemming and Daniel Craig. Arguably it’s the easiest way to look like 007 without having to wear a tuxedo.