Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Influence of James Bond on the Fashion of the Cinematic Evil Genius

When Ian Fleming, formerly of British Naval Intelligence and a dropout of Sandhurst, wrote the James Bond novels, he thought he was making a living as a writer. He had no idea that his work was, eventually, to define the style and appearance of the world criminal and evil genius in the cinema of the West.

Although it is not clear exactly why it is that the idiosyncratic but elegant mad geniuses of the Bond movies prefer the Eastern style of men's suits, prefer it they do. From Dr. No to Elliot Carver to Ernst Stavro Blofeld, they all prefer their jackets to have a Nehru collar and their suits to be the one preferred by Mao Zedong, Chairman of the Communist Party of China.

But which one is it? The Mao suit or the Nehru jacket? And what are the implications of this choice? Lets examine the evidence and define our terms.

A truly elegant and imposing evil genius

A brief search on the Internet, that bold new paradigm, reveals an essay on this very topic by Sonya Glyn Nicholson entitled “The Mao Suit and the Nehru Jacket” which you can read here on the website.

Why it should be that the fashion website “Parisian Gentleman” is located in the United Kingdom is a mystery but it probably is a result of Globalization which combines the strength and elegance of the British tailoring industry with the importance of Paris as a capital of culture and style.

What Ms. Nicholson explains is that the defining characteristic of the Nehru jacket, so named because Jawaharal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India after its independence from England, famously used to wear this style of jacket when being photographed with other world leaders, is its Mandarin Collar. It is this collar, up to two inches high of unfolded material, combined with the lack of lapels, that makes the Nehru jacket distinctive. The jacket is also generally tailored to fit the form of the wearer. It is a jacket very suited to wear at an elegant dinner party.

Missiles are only the first step to show our power

Prime Minister Nehru and his Western sycophants

Ms. Nicholson goes on to explain that the Mao suit, so named for its use by the great revolutionary leader of the People's Republic of China, Mao Zedong, is a complete suit, not merely a jacket. It has a boxy cut, four pockets with a practical button, no lapels, and most of all

The strongest characteristic of the Mao is the short and rigid fold-over collar, with rounded points extended no further than the base of the band.

I hope three examples will suffice. In the first, Dr. No explains to his dinner guest, James Bond, his plans for world domination. In the second Elliot Carver, as played by Jonathan Pryce announces his new global satellite network in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997). In our third example, none other than Ernst Stavro Blofeld introduces himself to James Bond in You Only Live Twice (1967).

Dr. No at Dinner

Elliot Carver Announcing Satellite Network

Ernst Stavro Blofeld of SPECTRE Introduces Himself

But the most interesting question still remains. Yes, I think we have shown the obvious, never doubted fact that men's fashion has been affected by the design choices of the 007 films.  But what does it all mean? We still want to know why they feel compelled to wear this style of suits. What is going on in their master criminal minds?

I have the following theories. The first is that it is nothing more than these outsider geniuses, forced by society to prove their genius, have spent significant time in the mysterious and exotic East where this style of fashion is anything but exotic. Thus, they merely see themselves as well-dressed and they are, and would be quite conventional in Mumbai or Beijing.  The second theory is that this fashion style is a choice designed to appeal to the fears of the Westerner to the dangers and mystery of the East. In a sense it is a form of backhanded stereotyping, but not negative stereotyping. The East is dangerous and thus somewhat appealing and these geniuses of crime are therefore styled to evoke that Eastern feeling.

Even comic evil geniuses have affected this style



Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) on IMDB

Thunderball (1965) on IMDB

Dr. No (1962) on IMDB

Jawaharlal Nehru

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