13 things James Bond taught me about style – and how you can be stylish without spending a dime

styleIt really is a stretch to call James Bond a secret agent. I mean he’s almost always dressed to the nines, drives exotic cars, and when he walks into any bar in the world the barman will ask “Shaken, not stirred?”

So, a secret agent he is not. If he is, he’s not too adept at maintaining cover.  I guess one of my favorite Bond scenes is the pre-credit sequence of Goldfinger.  Bond scubas ashore with a duck on his head for camouflage.  After dropping the tanks, he scales a wall, drops onto a guard on the inside, then makes his way inside a gigantic fuel tank where he finds a luxuriously appointed apartment which happens to also store barrels of something we assume is flammable.

We assume so because he squeezes out explosive and sets a fuse. Exiting the tank, reclimbing the wall, he drops to the outside where he sheds his diving suit revealing a white dinner jacket, dress trousers, and patent leather shoes. From out of nowhere he conjures up a red carnation with which he adorns his left lapel. I ask you, is this style or is this style?

We don’t have so much anymore in general life. Very, very few restaurants have a dress code beyond no shoes, no shirt, no service. People show up right out in public wearing the most hideous clothing. – shorts too small, t-shirts that should have made their way to the rag bag long ago. As a society we look, and act, unstylish.

But Bond has style. When I was in the corporate world, I travelled through Hong Kong on many occasions. There I found an Indian tailor named Danny who made my suits and dress shirts. There is nothing like a hand-made, hand-fitted suit. Put it on and you just feel like a winner.

But to be stylish it is not enough to have the clothing and accessories. One must wear them. We even show up in church flaunting our lack of formality. I’m all for feeling comfortable, but even then we can have style.

Ok, you wonder, what is style? I don’t mean a particular style of clothing like Victorian, or colonial, or 50’s style. Few of us have the budget that Bond does and fewer still actually frequent places where tuxedos and evening wear is even appropriate. But we don’t have to be dowdy. We can be stylish whatever the occasion and wherever the venue.

Bond is a stylish person and not just because he wears an Omega watch. Style has a much to do with little things as it does designer wear.

So, I’ve put together this list which I gleaned from Bond’s stylish appearance AND manner. I add “manner” because real style has as much to do with who you are and how you comport yourself as it does with what you wear.

  1. Wear only clothing that flatters you. Here’s a hint. Get rid of tank tops and muscle shirts unless you really, really, really look good in them. You might want to look young and vivacious, you probably look past-your-prime and foolish. Try on everything in your closet and critically look at yourself in each item. If you don’t feel right in it or if it looks stupid, dump it. Clothes do make the man.
  2. Wear clothing that is appropriate for your age and body type. Yes, I know you still have everything you did when you were twenty but it is all two or three inches lower these days. What used to ripple now mostly wobbles so cover it up.
  3. Wear only combinations that match. Brown socks and sandals just don’t do it. Neither does plaid shorts, striped shirts, or a white belt. If you need help, for the sake of those of us who have to look at you, get help. Some men are naturally color coordinated, most aren’t.
  4. Wear clothing that is a little bit better, a bit more formal than the norm. Shorts are ok in season, but get shorts that flatter, that are in style. There is an old guy around here who wears shorts he bought in the 80’s. They’re too short and waaaay too tight. And if you go to a ball game you don’t have to look like a slob. I had a boss for a very short time, a rather chubby (not cherubic, chubby) girl in her twenties who bought her clothes when she was ten and thinks they still fit. Oy, she looked bad!
  5. Wear clothing that is clean and pressed. Ok, if you’re working on the car or in the yard, you can skip this, but whether  you’re going out or staying in, show some respect for the people in the street and your wife in the house. Stylish people just don’t look sloppy, unkempt, or grungy. Ever.
  6. Take a bath or shower. Clean up, smell good, scrape the whiskers off your face, and bruch your teeth even if you only have one or two. Stylish men have respect for themselves and for their wife and family. If you would clean up to go to dinner with your co-workers or boss, clean-up to sit down for breakfast with your sweety.
  7. Find a great barber and visit them every 4 weeks. Not even an Armani shirt can compensate for a shaggy haircut.
  8. Remember the Odd Couple? Oscar, the slob, hung his clothes on the floor. No need to become obsessive, but to develop and maintain style, pay attention to the way your things are stored. We don’t iron so much anymore with today’s fabrics, but carefully stored clothing will look more, well, stylish right out of the drawer or off the hanger.
  9. Treat women with admiration but not lechery, courtesy without contempt, and with appreciation without insincerity. Open the door, stand when they enter, stand when they leave, help them sit at the table. When dining out, you speak with the host or hostess to arrange for a table, ask if the arrangements are agreeable, discuss what she would like to eat and drink, then order for her. Walk alongside her not in front. If your companion is a wife or sweetheart, put your hand in the small of her back as you walk or hold her hand. Stylish men act like men who want to be with their woman. After all, women are marvelous, magnificent, incredible creatures are we’re damn lucky to be in their company.
  10. Learn, and use, good table manners. The art of gracious dining is as much at place in McDonalds as it is at the Ritz-Carlton.
  11. Banish the F-word from your vocabulary. Stylish men never, I mean never, resort to such a vulgar expression.
  12. Pay attention when others are speaking. Most of us like to talk about ourselves. Listen to guests while they talk about themselves. This is really true about your wife or date.
  13. Be confident. Women hate whining (I do to)! Speak with authority but not belligerence. Decisiveness, certainty, power are the marks of a stylish person because they know who they are and can be so without apology or defense.

Bond is a well-assembled, well-considered, well-appointed guy. Make no mistake, if I could afford it I would drive an Aston-Martin and wear an Omega watch. But I can’t so I don’t so I drive a Mercury and wear a $20 watch.

Style demands expenditure. But it is a mistake to think that style depends on dollars spent when it really depends on attention paid to yourself, your clothing, your demeanor, your habits, your attitude, and to the people you are with. Pay attention to others, have respect for them and yourself and man oh man, you’ve got style.

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