Saturday, 29 November 2014

James Bond - the menswear model

We tend to associate the marketing of James Bond-branded lifestyle accessories with 'Bondmania', a period roughly spanning 1964 and 1967 when Goldfinger, Thunderball and You Only Live Twice attracted huge audiences and Bond-related goods were all the rage. Consumers had the choice of a range of 007-branded products, including 007 shoes by Norvic, 007 toiletries by Colgate, and children's lunch boxes depicting Bond's Aston Martin DB5.

While this period saw the peak of the Bond-product industry, it did not represent the start of it. Even before the release of the first Bond film, Dr No (1962), manufacturers recognised the value of James Bond as a brand and marketing tool. In 1961, a series of advertisements published in the Daily Express and the Daily Mirror displayed a range of Courtelle menswear – modelled by James Bond, or at least an artist's depiction of him. That James Bond had sufficient cultural weight before EON's film series commenced to sell goods was down to the increasing success of Ian Fleming's novels, aided by spin-offs, such as the Daily Express comic strip.

In the first, 'Diplomatic Passport 0094567–Bond J.', published in March 1961, Bond wears a rugged 'Snowden' sweater by Courtelle inside his city apartment. The second, 'Inform All Agents–Bond Must Die', was published in April 1961. Within the setting of a train compartment, Bond wears trousers in Courtelle's Abrelle fabric. 'James Bond–Special Agent' was the third advert and printed in May 1961. Bond wears a Courtelle shirt as he fires his gun at a villain obscured behind a tree.

In the fourth, 'Death in the Caribbean', published in September 1961, Bond sports Courtelle slacks as escapes from a machete-wielding heavy. The fifth advert was published in October 1961, this time in the Daily Mirror. 'M is Worried–Send for Bond' sees Bond hanging by his fingertips to a cliff face as he attempts to rescue a woman, his Courtelle cotton shirt no doubt helping his reach. The final advert, printed in the Daily Express in November 1961, was 'Lady With A Luger', and depicted Bond facing the wrong end of a gun held by a femme fatale. Bond may have been grateful he was wearing Courtelle's slacks.

The advertisements are interesting, because they took elements from the novels, but also introduced scenarios not described by Fleming. They provide an example of how the image was perceived in a cultural environment uninfluenced by the film series, and show that character was becoming a significant brand before Bondmania.

I discuss these adverts in detail in 'Modelling Bond: the cultural perception of James Bond on the eve of the Eon production films', an essay published in James Bond and Popular Culture, a book edited by Michele Brittany of essays that examine the Bond phenomenon and the impact of Bond on popular culture. The book is available to buy now, and can be ordered from the publisher, McFarland, as well as other retailers.

The Courtelle brand is owned by Rowlinson Knitwear Ltd. I am grateful to the company for allowing me to reproduce advertisement text and images in my essay.

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