We see him frantically riding motorcycles across rooftops in Turkey, getting in harpoon gun fights in the Great Barrier Reef, and crashing operas in Austria. But no matter what situation he is in, we see him deal with it in a way that influences generations upon generations of sartorialists. From Sean Connery’s Savile Row getups to Daniel Craig’s midnight blue tuxedo, James Bond has graced the screen in only the finest accouterments, and, in doing so, has earn the informal right be called the most influential fictitious man in menswear. But that is only the tip of the iceberg. Askmen.com recently named him the Most Influential Man of 2012. And by golly does he deserve that title. His movies continue to enthrall millions, with the latest addition, Skyfall, living up to its hype and breaking records at the box office. Rotten Tomatoes, notorious for its brutality in rating films, shows a 92% approval rating of the film, while IMDb gives it an eight out of ten, describing it as a “soaring success.” But his influence extends far past the silver screen.
Every Halloween, we know of a man who dressed up as the slick spy. If you ask any woman if they would like a James Bond in their life, their answer is an unhesitating yes. We see little kids running through hallways in school, their hands folded into a gun, stopping every now and then with their back to the wall, peeking cautiously around the corner, eyes creased with emulatory concentration. The cars he drives become instant classics, his witty quips punch-lines for thousands, and his wardrobe choices the inspiration for millions more. James Bond is everywhere in our lives. He has become more than just an ephemeral movie character. He is an international icon, a style sensation, and a classic role model.
But all of this begs the questions: why do we respect this man so much that we flock to the cinema to see him? Why do we choose to dress and act as him? Why has his name become colloquially synonymous with style and sophistication?
It’s all about relatability, about the history of Bond, about his grim past and his exciting present, about his elegant struggle against crime and violence, about his grim determination to make a difference. Lindy Hemming, the Bond films’ costume designer, attributes this audience fascination to the “dynamic caused by the costume.” Bond is an orphan, born of nothing, yet he has become so much, a self-made man. His tuxedos and tailored-suits belie his working-class origins, his nice cars his childhood struggles. It is this rise from nothing, the sense that Bond could have been, and still can be, any one of us. We are Bond’s familial strain of society, and while we champion him on, we never lose the notion that one day perhaps we too can be just like him. And we show our respect, our flattery, in the only way we know how, through imitation. And as we carry him with us as we go through our lives, we allow him to live forevermore.