When you think of costume design throughout the James Bond series, it’s likely that you’ll think of the agent’s style. From Sean Connery sporting his own tailor’s handiwork, to the Italian made-to-measure Brioni suits on Daniel Craig, James Bond is certainly one of the best-dressed characters on the big screen.
But, have you ever considered that a well-dressed hero would be lost without a well-dressed enemy? Some of the villains throughout the film compete well with James Bond’s fashion. Is this just for show, or does a Bond villain’s choice of attire reflect something more about the movie? Let’s take a look at the top ten Bond villains according to Screen Rant and dip into their wardrobes to find out…
10. Dr Kananga — Live and Let Die
It’s all about Dr Kananga and his suits as we turn our focus to Live and Let Die. The drug lord continues the Bond villain trend of being just as well-dressed as Bond, but with a few key notes that are just enough for the viewer to feel uneasy.
It’s fair to say that Kananga is rather similar to Zorin. But how? Zorin purposely keeps a subtly-sharp dress sense. He reserves his crazier attire choices when under the guise of “Mr Big”. Mr Big, a front for Dr Kananga, spends the movie serving the purpose of distracting Bond from Dr Kananga, despite being Dr Kananga himself. From his bright red jacket choices to his later red-shirt and white-jacket combo, everything about Mr Big is a bright, loud distraction.
9. Franz Sanchez — Licence To Kill
Would it be wrong to say that the villain in Licence to Kill was better dressed than James Bond himself? Possible not! With Dalton’s Bond sporting some looser-fitting styles, Franz Sanchez also opts for the more casual tone, but with a decidedly more fitted air about him.
Franz Sanchez is the master of changing his looks. Ranging from a blue suit jacket and men’s dress shirt combo, to a tan jacket and blue shirt choice. Interestingly, navy suits and grey suits are noted by some to be a good choice to send out a message of loyalty and dependability, highlighting Sanchez’s own value in those traits (and his paranoia of disloyalty in his men).
When it comes to accessorising though, Sanchez wouldn’t win any awards! Unless you include the rather large iguana on his shoulder in some scenes…
8. Alec Trevelyan — GoldenEye
When it comes to a villain being the darker depiction of Bond, it has to be handed to Trevelyan. It can be seen as a sort of answer to the ‘what if’ wondering of the potential for Bond to go rogue.
How does he achieve this dark look? Ultimately, it’s down to Trevelyan having a similar fashion sense as bond, with a penchant for black suits and combat fatigues. He’s meant to match Bond in every way, both in intellect and in skill, having been trained the same way as Bond. Unlike other villains, this one’s obviously armed, and he knows all the tricks Bond knows.
What he wears is dark from head to toe — his jacket, his gloves, his boots, even his fitted men’s shirts only vary between black and grey. Bond usually has something to contrast within his clothes (usually his choice of white shirt). His mournful colour scheme could very well be a hint towards one of the former Double-Oh agent’s goals; to avenge the death of his parents.
7. Dr Julius No — Dr. No
Thought of by many as the original Bond enemy, Dr No has a plain but effective ‘evil doctor’ look. The unembellished, cream-coloured Nehru suit offers little other distraction, giving the doctor a sharp, efficient look befitting the villain. The Nehru jacket was notably once worn by those who had a high social stature, which is perhaps a sad reflection on Dr No’s own backstory as being an ‘unwanted child’. He has built himself into his own semblance of high status, despite his own perceived rejections.
We do receive some mixed messages from his choice of neutral clothing. He’s the villain of course, but he’s wearing a colour linked to calmness and relaxation. Or, more interestingly, perhaps it echoes the idea of being in an ivory tower; that is, that Dr No’s choice of garments shows how he feels he was rejected by the world.
How could we discuss his style without mentioning his metal hands? With that death-grip of his, maybe buttons were out of the question when getting dressed on a morning…
6. Max Zorin — A View to A Kill
When you think of a villain with bleached hair, you might think of Christopher Walken’s rendition of Max Zorin springs to mind. Still, the look proved to be simultaneously slick and strange, and a stark contrast to Bond’s then-darker locks.
His costumes certainly aren’t as crazy as him though! Although he sports a black double-breasted dinner suit in direct contrast to Bond’s white single-breasted dinner suit in a rather obvious show of opposites, Zorin’s general style is quite subdued and, dare we say it, normal.
Perhaps this should have rang alarm bells for us. It almost seems like the man is trying just a little too hard to look unsuspicious. You could, perhaps, draw the same feeling from Zorin’s accessories during the Royal Ascot scene, where the villain has a white carnation tucked in his suit lapel. White carnations are said to represent faithfulness and innocence, which certainly cannot be attributed to a man like Zorin, who is barely loyal to his own men!
5. Le Chiffre — Casino Royale
Le Chiffre’s love for money is clearly represented in what he wears. There’s certainly more to his look than meets the eye, especially when it comes to what it’s made from. According to costume designer Linda Hemming, Le Chiffre’s choice of outfit is all about showing off without being noticed. He’s a man who wants to succeed without being seen, who wants his genius applauded, but not too loudly. These two desires would usually be at odds, but they make for a sleek suit of all black to hide away, but lavish velvet to show his wealth.
4. Francisco Scaramanga — The Man With The Golden Gun
It’d be impossible to own a golden gun and not look expertly stylish.
It’s a weird fact that Francisco Scaramanga is weirdly fond of Bond. These things reflect in his clothes. His outfits seem determined to state ‘anything you can do, I can do better’, from his shiny choice of firearm to his slick white suit. Interestingly, Scaramanga meets his demise in China, where white can be seen as the colour of death and funerals; coincidence, or foreshadowing?
3. Raoul Silva — Skyfall
A memorable look for Silva is his printed shirt and cream jacket combo. Coupled with the bleached blond hair harkening back to previous Bond villain Zorin, you’d be forgiven for calling this a fashion disaster at first glance.
What does this reveal about Silva? Something along the lines of: I am the villain. I’m not quite stable on any level. I thought this shirt was a great choice this morning.
This villain is another great example of a character that’s the opposite to Bond. Yes, he’s wearing a suit as Bond does, but it’s not by any means well put-together in a traditional sense. The colours contrast Bond’s usual go-to darker shades, the addition of prints is very anti-Bond, and it almost seems like Silva is mocking Bond on every level. That’s certainly the message the rogue former agent is going for, as his entire scene wearing this suit is played out as a mockery of Bond. At this stage in the film, Silva does not think Bond is his equal in any way, and he’s letting him know it. Not only does Silva feel confident that he has outsmarted Bond, he thinks he was a better agent, a smarter man, and a better shot.
When we watch the fight scene between the two men, we see Silva switch to darker shades and combat gear more akin to Bond’s own look, as he finally starts to admit Bond’s given him a run for his money and forced him to step out from behind his henchmen and get his hands dirty.
2. Auric Goldfinger — Goldfinger
Are you a fan of gold? If you are, then Goldfinger is probably your favourite villain. Dressed in silk suits or woollen golfing attire, you can be sure there’s going to be a shade of gold or close-enough-to-gold brown somewhere on this villain’s garment choices.
Is there a hidden meaning behind the colour? Color Meanings reveals that that wearing too much gold can give off a sense of ‘being miserly, unkind, lacking generosity and kindness or being over-ambitious’. Check, check, and check.
It’s possible that there is no further message to read from the love of gold. The man’s called Goldfinger. He killed a woman by dipping her in gold. Sometimes, a man wears gold because a man likes gold.
1. Ernst Stavro Blofeld — From Russia With Love, You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Diamonds Are Forever, For Your Eyes Only, Never Say Never Again and Spectre
Ernst Stavro Blofeld is the villain that just can’t get enough. He doesn’t prescribe to the usual ‘your suit, but better’ look many Bond villains go for. No, Blofeld is a villain who is quite happy to be utterly different from 007, from manner to fashion.
This villain’s most iconic look is the Mao suit in a boring shade, echoing the rather listless shaded Nehru jacket worn by Dr. No before him. In fact, Blofeld’s most recent incarnation, portrayed by Christoph Waltz, would go on to sport a Nehru jacket of his own. Apparently, the new Blofeld’s simple outfit was to ensure all the spotlight for his menace were firmly on his mind, not his physical look. Here is a villain who isn’t going to beat Bond with guns or fists, so he doesn’t need to frighten or intimidate with his look. He isn’t required to engage Bond in a battle-of-the-suits, and more importantly, he doesn’t care to.
There’s more to the message of the suit as well. There’s been many commentaries on the Bond villain’s choice of clothing, with many people quick to point out the link between Mao suits and Communism. BondSuits.com keenly points out, however, that Blofeld wears a decidedly western white cuff shirt under his Mao jacket, showing his ties to the East aren’t wholly strong.