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Style / March 2018

Celluloid Style: Goldfinger

Featuring some of the greatest suits ever to appear on screen, could Goldfinger be the most stylish of the James Bond franchises?

Sean Connery leans against an Aston Martin DB5 while filming Goldfinger.

Aside from the regrettable terrycloth onesie that Sean Connery sports poolside at one point, Goldfinger is arguably the best-dressed of all the Bond films. Not only does it provide ample emulation-worthy inspiration insofar as men’s style goes — it also dishes up several cautionary examples of ‘what not to wear’.

That powder-blue towelling playsuit is 007’s sole sartorial misstep in the film. The story’s villain, meanwhile, repeatedly serves as an example of finance and refinement failing to coincide. Auric Goldfinger was named after and, in many ways, his personality is based upon the architect Erno Goldfinger, whose brutalist public housing towerblock projects across London Ian Fleming despised. Taking his revenge for these perceived crimes against civic aesthetics, Fleming painted his fictional Goldfinger as a brusque Marxist (like the real-life figure), who despite his vast wealth, is entirely lacking in taste.

When Bond takes on Goldfinger in a game of golf, he pours scorn on his adversary’s ‘matchy-matchy’ garb. “Many unlikely people play golf,” Bond muses in the book, “and people often wear bizarre clothes to the game. Other golfers don’t think them odd, for there are no rules of appearance or dress at golf. That is one of its minor pleasures. But Goldfinger had made an attempt to look smart at golf, and that is the only way of dressing that is incongruous on a links.”

Essentially, Bond disses Goldfinger for being too carefully put together, without a trace of sprezzatura. “Everything matched in a blaze of rust-coloured tweed from the buttoned ‘golfer’s cap’ centred on the huge red hair, to the brilliantly polished, almost orange shoes. The plus-four suit was too well cut and the plus-fours themselves had been pressed down the sides. The stockings were of a matching heather mixture and had green garter tabs,” Bond sneers. “It was as if Goldfinger had gone to his tailor and said, ‘Dress me for golf – you know, like they wear in Scotland.’ Social errors made no impression on Bond … he rarely noticed them. With Goldfinger it was different. Everything about the man had grated on Bond’s teeth from the first moment he had seen him. The assertive blatancy of his clothes was just part of the malevolent animal magnetism that had affected Bond from the beginning.”

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Christian Barker

Christian Barker is The Rake's Asia editor-at-large, a frequent contributor to this site, and an enthusiastic consumer of fine whiskies, sashimi and classic disco music - ideally in unison.