A look at aspects of the James Bond lifestyle from the books and films.
Think of James Bond and a host of things may come to mind. It could be exotic locations, luxury hotels and perfect martinis. Or maybe fast sports cars, casinos, glamorous women and finally dispatching the villain.
James Bond clearly lives an exciting life. And at the end of the day what’s not to like about the James Bond lifestyle?
Okay, so he needs to take on the bad guys. But he also gets to experience the joy of visiting places few others can – and staying in some of the best hotels. He often drives an Aston Martin. He dresses with quiet good taste. And knows how to order the perfect martini or pick a vintage Champagne from the wine list.
It’s clear that James Bond is comfortable in any situation he finds himself. He always seems to know just how to act, what to do.
But you can gain some of Bond’s effortless confidence by mimicking him. Enjoy the anticipation before participating in any Bond related activity. And feel pure excitement when the time comes – whether a purchase, a trip or some other experience.
A short history of the James Bond Lifestyle
When I was around 10 years old I had a school friend who was as big a Bond fan as me. One day he took his dad’s paperback copy of The Book of Bond: or Every Man His Own 007 to school.
Written by Kingsley Amis under the pseudonym Bill Tanner, the book is the first example of what is now known as the “James Bond Lifestyle”. In its pages Amis explores in a light hearted way how anyone can live like James Bond.
During the first break of the day we pored over that book together. And although I would have loved to get my hands on a copy, my local bookshop didn’t have it. It never appeared among the second hand books for sale in my hometown’s weekly market either.
Only years later did I procure hardback copies, including the highly sought after British edition with reversible dust jacket.
But Since then we’ve had Paul Kyriazi’s How to Live the James Bond Lifestyle, originally an audio seminar and later a book. It was first launched in 1999 and has since been updated several times; there’s my own site, The James Bond Dossier, which launched in 2002 and was originally inspired by The Book of Bond; Remmert van Braam’s comprehensive website which launched in 2005; books on aspects of his lifestyle such as my own The Complete Guide to the Drinks of James Bond and Edward Biddulph’s Double-O Dining: A James Bond Cookbook; and social media accounts far too numerous to mention devoted to various aspects of the James Bond lifestyle.
So here we’re going to start exploring various aspects of James Bond’s lifestyle. And there are links to articles exploring many aspects in more detail.
Ian Fleming tells us that James Bond lives in a “small but comfortable flat off the Kings Road” in Chelsea.
We don’t really learn much about it. It’s in a square with plane trees on the ground floor of a converted Regency house; it has a “book lined sitting room” with a bay window; his books include golf and cheating at cards, novels by Eric Ambler and Raymond Chandler, a Nero Wolff novel and Profiles in Courage by JF Kennedy.
The bedroom is described as smallish and is decorated with white and gold wallpaper from Cole & Son and has deep red curtains; the bathroom in equipped with a shower, which was uncommon in those days; and his Scottish housekeeper, May, takes care of his meals and looks after the house. Apart from May he lives alone, apart from a period of time when Tiffany Case moved in with him.
In From Russia With Love Bond does some bodyweight exercises immediately after getting up. Afterwards he showers with the water very hot and then turned down cold for five minutes. Hot and cold showers are a regular occurrence in Bond’s life.
He then breakfasts on a single egg from a French Maran’s hen boiled for 3 minutes 20 seconds with coffee from De Bry brewed in a Chemex and and two slices of whole-wheat toast. The toast is served with Jersey butter and the choice of Tiptree Little Scarlet strawberry jam, Cooper’s Vintage Oxford marmalade and Norwegian heather honey from Fortnum and Mason. His silver coffee pot is Queen Anne and the crockery by Minton is dark blue, white and gold.
Bond favours shampoo from Pinaud Elixer, and combs his hair so that a comma of hair constantly falls over his right eye. Oh, and he likes to sleep in a dark blue silk pyjama coat rather than pyjamas.
In the films we glimpse Bond’s home on very few occasions and have no real sense of his daily life. In Dr No he gets home in the early hours after his mission briefing from M to find Sylvia Trench has beaten him to it. His flat, decorated with deep green walls and fairly classic furniture; in Live And Let Die Bond’s flat is equipped with a modern, gadget-filled kitchen; there is the ancestral home in Skyfall, although there is no hint of anything similar in the books; by the time of SPECTRE he has just moved into a first floor flat in Notting Hill; and No Time to Die finds him living in tropical house on the seafront in Jamaica. Perhaps because of all the behind the scenes photography rather than actual screen time we get more of an idea of Bond’s home life in retirement than when working as a double-O.
When it comes to clothes, literary Bond likes to keep it simple. His daily uniform is a lightweight navy suit which he often wears with a white short-sleeved sea island cotton shirt. His tie is invariably black knitted silk and his shoes are black moccasins – he hates laces. For eveningwear Bond wears a black dinner jacket with a heavy silk shirt and thin black satin bow tie.
At weekends Bond’s big passion is golf. He wears a battered black and white dogtooth check suit and a black windcheater when playing. When visiting the tropics he wears either his standard lightweight suit with black sandals, or a white or dark blue Sea Island cotton shirt and dark blue trousers or sometimes shorts.
In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service 007 is sent to Switzerland. He hasn’t skied for many years and buys ski trousers from Lillywhites, which he pairs with his black windcheater.
A couple of times Bond is dressed by his local allies. The FBI provides him with lightweight single-breasted worsted suits, white nylon shirts, foulard ties and dark patterned socks in Live and Let Die and given a military haircut. Tiger Tanaka improbably arranges for him to be disguised as a Japanese miner. He is supplied with a white cotton shirt, black knitted silk tie, black trousers held up with a plastic belt and dark blue nylon socks with black plastic sandals and carries a Japan Air Lines bag which uses to carry toiletries.
That simplicity is a far cry from the films. Each film sees a whole new wardrobe of clothes and, since Daniel Craig took over the role, the opportunity for clothing brands to capitalise on 007’s continued popularity. As well as items seen on screen there are now ranges of clothing inspired by screen worn clothing.
Food & drink
James Bond’s signature drink of course is the vodka martini, shaken not stirred. While it is certainly true that Bond drinks vodka martinis in the books, he also drinks a variety of different spirits. The films cemented both the vodka martini and shaken no stirred.
But while the books are full of mouth watering descriptions of Bond’s meals, we rarely see Bond eat in the films. He is particularly fond of scrambled eggs, to the extent that Fleming included a recipe for “Scrambled Eggs James Bond” in the short story 007 in New York.
Bond praises British cooking but seems most at home when dining in France. But wherever he goes he eats local dishes and drinks whatever local booze he is introduced to. But whether he is ordering a sandwich or haute cuisine he usually knows exactly how he wants it served.
The casino seems to be Bond’s natural habitat. Indeed, in the first book he is tasked with bankrupting a Soviet agent at the baccarat tables of Royale-les-Eaux. He visits casinos several other times in the books in France, Las Vegas and the Bahamas. As well as baccarat Bond plays roulette and blackjack, while the film version of Casino Royale saw the game switched to No Limit Texas Hold’em poker.
In the film series James Bond introduces himself to Sylvia Trench – and the audience – at the baccarat table in Le Cercle. Although filmed on a set it was based on the real life casino at Les Ambassadors club in Mayfair. Over the course of the following decades Bond has visited numerous casinos, including the one in Monte Carlo.
Bond is well known as a womaniser, with sexual conquests in most of the books. In The James Bond Dossier Kingsley Amis analysed Bond’s preferred type. Bond goes for women with blonde hair ahead of black or dark brown, blues eyes, a good physique, little makeup and a tan. They tend to dress plainly but expensively and are often foreign.
In Moonraker Fleming tells us that Bond spends his evenings making love “with rather cold passion” to one of three married women. In that respect Bond was probably similar to his creator.
The cinematic Bond Girls are quite similar to the books but while Fleming always wrote them as capable women, the film series hasn’t always been so kind to the female characters. But with multiple sexual partners in each film the series was slightly ahead of the swinging 60s zeitgeist.
Bond’s accessories are few but high quality. Fleming describes his watch as a Rolex Oyster Perpetual but that describes a line of watches rather than an individual model. Fleming himself bought a Rolex Explorer 1016 in the early 1960s, a decade after he gave Bond his Rolex. Bond’s other usual accessories are a cigarette case in which he carries 50 hand rolled cigarettes made for him by Morland and a battered Ronson lighter. Sean Connery used a cigarette case and lighter purchased from Dunhill.
In the films Bond’s early timepiece was the Rolex Submariner. Despite sometimes wearing different models – and other watch brands completely – all the actors until Timothy Dalton sported a Rolex Sub on their wrist at some point. Particularly notable here is Roger Moore’s tenure as 007 when he wore digital watches by Pulsar and Seiko, as well as dual display and divers watches from the latter.
Pierce Brosnan’s tenure as James Bond was an updating of the character to ensure he could endure in the post-Cold War era. With Omega as a partner Brosnan’s Bond sported one of their Seamaster watches. The brand has been associated with the series ever since, with multiple models appearing in some of the films. Omega has also produced a number of special edition 007 watches.
Despite Bond driving an Aston Martin just once in 14 books, that is the brand most associated with 007 thanks to the tricked out DB5 in Goldfinger. Bond’s personal car in the books was always a Bentley, first a 4½ litre “blower” and, after it was wrecked, a Continental with customised coachwork and various modifications. His Aston Martin Mark III was a Secret Service pool car issued to him to aid his cover as a successful businessman.
Bond also drives hire cars or simply borrows cars when he needs to, including a Sunbeam Alpine, Ford Thunderbird and a Land Rover. And while he dismisses American cars he is impressed with Felix Leiter’s Studillac – a Studebaker fitted with a Cadillac engine.
While the Roger Moore era saw 007 driving Lotus Esprits, every other actor playing Bond has driven an Aston Martin. Even Pierce Brosnan, who was often landed with a BMW – better suited to an area sales manager than our secret agent – managed to drive the DB5 and a Vanquish. Maybe that one is better forgotten.
Recently the DB5 has appeared with increasing frequency in the films. After Goldfinger it returned at the beginning of Thunderball. But then it didn’t appear again until Goldeneye. But then it pops up in Tomorrow Never Dies and every Daniel Craig film except Quantum of Solace, including a major action sequence in No Time to Die.
The gun most associated with 007 is the Walther PPK, although he has used other weapons. He started with a .25 Beretta in the books, before being forced to switch to the PPK. But he also uses revolvers, rifles and whatever else he may find in the field. In the films he has sometimes carried a Walther P99. Other weapons include the P5, SIG-Sauer P226 and Browning Hi-Power.
The books sometimes find Bond keeping his eye in with his gun at the Secret Service basement gun range. Prior to travelling to West Berlin in The Living Daylights Bond goes to Bisley range to practice with a sniper rifle. The only time we have seen Bond practice shooting in the films is in Skyfall.
Ian Fleming wrote the James Bond books when most people were unable to travel to the extent we do today. Europe was a possibility for Fleming and his peers but mass tourism only really started in the 1950s and most people in Britain simply didn’t travel overseas.
It is clear that readers were enjoying visiting places with 007 that they could only dream of. James Bond was sent to France, the United States and Jamaica in just the first two books. Little wonder that some readers were unimpressed that Bond only got as far as Dover in Moonraker, published in 1955.
Through James Bond they could tick off France, USA, Jamaica, Turkey, Switzerland, Italy, Bahamas, Seychelles, Japan and Germany from their mental bucket list.
Exotic locations have been equally as important to the film series. But there was little hopping about in the books. Once Bond has arrived you get a real sense of being there.
Only occasionally did literary Bond visit more than one country while on a mission. While the films did start like that, more and more locations started to appear as the series went on. That has resulted in less a sense of being somewhere else and more a sense of constant movement.
As a secret agent Bond is often required to use his physical strength to get out of danger. He has to remain fit.
But other than his short home routine upon getting up in the morning there seems to be little evidence that Bond works out very often. He knows some judo moves and can use knives. We also know that he learnt to ski when younger and enjoys snorkelling and scuba diving.
In the books Live and Let Die and Dr No Bond knows he is not at full fitness. Quarrel helps get him back in shape by cutting down on booze and tobacco, swimming every day and massage.
The films are similar. In fact, other than some pull-ups in Skyfall you’ll find even less evidence of any exercise than in the books although it is well known that Daniel Craig ensured he had time in the gym. He wanted to ensure he looked like he could do what was required of Bond and try and minimise the chance of being injured while filming.
If you have any questions then get in touch – I’ll do my best to answer.
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