Welcome back, Mr. Bond.
We've missed watching you vanquish villains and perform improbable stunts, and we've longed to see you in your bespoke suits and Brioni tuxedos again.
With Daniel Craig stepping into secret-agent shoes for Casino Royale, a grittier 007 has emerged, but both onscreen and off, Bond style is influencing fashion.
At recent premieres and red-carpet events, Craig showed up in three-piece suits that accentuate his muscular physique. Even for interviews, he wears tailored clothing rather than jeans.
Real-world guys are snapping up velvet jackets to be worn casually or dressed up for a night on the town. Suits with a lower two-button stance, French cuff shirts, contrast-collar shirts and even three-piece suits, like the one Craig wore to the recent MTV European Music Awards, are among the current sartorial standouts.
"Whenever there's a new James Bond, whether it was Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton or Pierce Brosnan, the movie reflects the mood of the times," said Tyler Thoreson, executive editor of men.style.com, the online site for GQ and Details magazines. "It's telling that the current Bond is going back to Savile Row tailoring and classic looks. The Bond from the late 1980s looked less traditional. What's current now is to embrace tradition, but with a twist."
Items like cuff links and bow ties aren't meant to look dandified or foppish, but well-chosen and unaffected. "The thing that's appealing about Bond is that he's a man's man," Thoreson said. "You think about how Sean Connery as James Bond would've worn a pocket square. It's subtle; he doesn't look like he's trying too hard."
A decade ago, men loved the idea of being free of workplace dress codes, and gladly mothballed their suits to wear chinos and shirts, Thoreson said.
Suits are back, he said, because men realize they've missed out on opportunities to express their personal style. It's not their dad or uncle's look, either.
"Guys in their 20s and 30s aren't dressing like they're going to a funeral or a wedding, but using classic elements in new ways," the editor said. "The moment we're in is that it's far more aesthetically pleasing and stylish to wear suits. Men have a renewed appreciation for the finer things and elegance.
"The biggest trend is the mash-up between high and low fashion," he added. Wearing a suit without a tie, or putting a blazer or suit coat over jeans is a way to add polish. And younger guys are wearing ties, with or without a jacket, Thoreson said.
"What's happening is that the young market is gravitating to suits for social occasions and the boomer consumer is dressing up to be more managerial in appearance," said Marshal Cohen, chief analyst for NPD Group, which tracks consumer behavior. "It's what I call dress to impress versus dress for success."
After a period of increases in suit sales, the growth now is in suit separates, which are up 6.5 percent over last year, and sport coats, up 0.9 percent, Cohen says of the US$4.8 billion men's tailored clothing market in the US. "Men bought their suits last year, and now the sport jacket has become the next wave of product they're buying, along with a dress shirt and tie. It updates what they had from last year."
Menswear retailers say customers are focused on building a wardrobe of high-quality clothing and luxury items.
"I find today that young men who can afford it really know they have to make an impression if they want to be successful," said Craig Andrisen, general merchandise manager at Andrisen Morton, a specialty retailer with stores for men and women. "They want a beautiful shirt and suit. You can dress a suit 15 different ways today."
Men want to make their own statement and not look like every other guy in a gray flannel suit, he said. "There's no question that luxury items have been a trend, a way to present yourself so you don't see it all over town."
Only a few men can afford the US$5,000 price tag on a Brioni tuxedo like the one Bond wears in the movie, but menswear stores are full of velvet blazers in a range of prices for holiday wear.
"Traditional sport coats are not selling, but velvet jackets are," said Terry Oakes, owner of Bolderdash in Denver. "I think it's an easy way to be more dressed up. It takes a pair of jeans that would be sloppy on their own about three steps up. And with dressier pants it can go to a cocktail party or club."
The suit craze has trickled down from menswear specialty stores to the mass market, with Banana Republic, J. Crew and H&M selling tailored separates. GQ recently had a spread on the best suits for under US$500, including styles by Express and Target, as well as Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger.
"The fact you can get them at Target at all," Thoreson said, "is great evidence of the trend."
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