Felix Leiter’s 1970s Checked Suit in Live and Let Die

Live and Let Die introduced the third actor to play James Bond, Roger Moore, and the fifth actor to play Felix Leiter, David Hedison. While Roger Moore’s Bond had a new fashion sense compared to previous Bond actors, David Hedison’s Leiter’s wardrobe was more of a natural progression compared to what came before. The outfit he wears in the Louisiana scenes of a grey suit, blue shirt and navy tie was something Cec Linder’s Felix Leiter wore in Goldfinger nine years earlier, but now it has been updated for 1973.

Leiter’s suit is a lightweight worsted in a black and white check with a light blue overcheck. The check is not any ordinary check; the pattern is almost like a windowpane made up of a fine Prince of Wales check. Over that check there is a white plaid as well as a thick light blue windowpane. The pattern is complex, but it’s not that flashy because of how subtle it is. From a distance, the suit reads as a solid. While fancy checks were common on 1970s suits, such checks can still be found today on Italian suits.

The suit follows an ‘Updated American’ cut with updates for the 1970s. The suit has a more relaxed cut compared to Roger Moore’s suits in the film, giving it a more American look. The shoulders are straight and padded with natural sleeve heads. There are two buttons on the front in a medium stance. The cuffs have three buttons, spaced apart. The suit’s buttons are a mottled black and grey horn. The jacket is detailed with straight flap pockets and a single vent.

The jacket’s inflated details are what give it an unquestionably 1970s look. The notched lapels are very wide, possibly 5 inches. The pocket flaps are wide to look in proportion with the lapels. The single vent at the rear is very long and extends to the waist.

The suit’s trousers are not excessive like the jacket’s. They have a relaxed cut with a mid rise, flat front and a medium-width straight leg. The mid rise—instead of a high rise like Roger Moore was wearing—is the most modern part of the trousers. They are worn with a black belt that has an oversized brass buckle.

Leiter’s cornflower blue cotton broadcloth shirt is equally updated for the 1970s. The shirt’s rich blue makes the outfit pop compared to the paler blues that Bond wore with his grey checked suits in previous films. The shirt’s point collar is long with a lot of tie space. Though the collar points are long, against the width of the lapels they look reasonable. Compared with Bond’s semi-spread collar, the narrower collar makes Leiter look more American. The shirt has a front placket, rounded button cuffs and a breast pocket, all details typical of American shirts.

The tie is navy with red polka dots, made in a four-in-hand knot, and it’s the most conservative part of the outfit. Leiter wears black loafers with a seam down the middle of the shoe and a tall heel.

Leiter’s grey suit and blue shirt contrast with Bond’s tan jacket, brown trousers and beige shirt in these scenes. Leiter is dressed in cool-toned, traditional business colours that had previously been Bond’s uniform, while Bond is dressed in more leisurely warm tones that reflect the era. Overall, Leiter’s outfit has some resemblance to outfits that Bond wore in the 1960s, particularly George Lazenby’s checked suit in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service; both outfits have in common a suit in a black-and-white check with a blue overcheck paired with a blue point-collar shirt and a navy tie. Neither these items nor their combination are particularly distinctive. Nevertheless, Felix’s cool colour palette, rather than Moore’s earth tones, is one a viewer would have sooner associated with Bond prior to Live and Let Die. Unlike the mustard yellow shirt that Norman Burton’s Felix Leiter wears in Diamonds Are Forever, Hedison’s cool colours in this outfit prevent him from looking like a total victim of 1970s fashions.

Leiter’s exaggerated 1970s proportions, however, contrast with Bond’s classically restrained proportions. Leiter’s lapels are fashionably about 5 inches wide while Bond’s are around a classic 3 1/2 to 3 3/4 inches. Bond’s shirt collar points are about 3 1/4 to 3 3/8 inches long while Leiter’s are approaching 4 inches. The only area where Bond is more fashion forward are his slightly flared bootcut trousers. Leiter sticks with a more restrained straight leg.

Both men are wearing fashionably wide ties, so ultimately there is no doubt which decade their clothes belong to.

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