Wearing a suit to watch James Bond won’t make you any more of a man
You’re not Roger Moore, your mum still does your ironing
As he has been at regular intervals over the past 53 years, James Bond is in the cinema again – shooting up scary foreigners with funny voices and strange faces, drinking Heineken for breakfast out of contractual obligation and shagging loads of women.
Plenty of people are excited by this. Spectre will gross hundreds of millions. The Fanta Ice Blast will be flowing for months to come. It’s a pleasure you’d be miserable to begrudge anyone.
Unless, of course, they’ve turned up in black tie. Horrifyingly, there are grown men who think this smug pointlessness is a good idea – a Matalan Riot Club ready to tear up the hallowed linoleum quadrangles and halogen-lit cloisters of Cineworld College, Braintree and prove their midweek night out is the only thing worthy of everyone else’s attention, even when it’s in competition with Daniel Craig on a screen measuring almost 70ft across.
Here’s the critique at its most basic and instinctive: these people look properly stupid. There are several reasons nobody else is wearing black tie. Vue aren’t hosting an undergraduate summer ball. Jeans are more comfortable. Ordinary people have been at work all day. Herbert Asquith isn’t prime minister anymore. Being lauded as an absolute legend isn’t the first thing most people want out of a quiet trip to a retail park.
These are the lads who sat on the back row of the ski trip coach, the kind of people who circulate their grandparents’ wedding photographs on Facebook but don’t seem to talk to them in real life. This weird hollow propriety, born of a stiff England which never was, demands adulation and respect without ever obliging anyone else with anywhere near the same: the dry-cleaned equivalent of a boy in lower sixth sharing pictures of Dan Bilzerian.
The UK’s bleary-eyed popcorn merchants are by now completely desensitised to this kind of opening night routine: they’ve seen it for Star Wars, Twilight, Harry Potter, maybe even the Rocky Horror Picture Show. But lumping the wannabe Bonds with these proud, endearing thick-skinned cosplayers whose lives are their fandoms is lazy, and does a rich tradition of geek-hood a clumsy disservice.
Bond doesn’t live in a fantasy universe, but one which is constantly sold to us – in adverts, at the Olympic opening ceremony and even in speeches at the Tory conference – as our own. There’s no whimsical spirit to get into: if there was and Bond existed, he’d very likely pistol whip anyone enjoying it.
These Moss Bros packs of self-styled jokers are no more than aggressive attempts at codifying a masculinity pieced together from misread GQ centrefolds about Bradley Cooper and memories of distant BMW dads bluetoothing the office on the touchline of the rugby pitch as their sons shirk tackle after tackle. It’s just another example of lad culture’s PR front, up there with cardboard cars at the drive-thru and pretend funerals for grown men who spend time with their girlfriends. Their one fervent belief is you’re either in on the joke or you’re nothing. Men are men and women are girls.
Sure, wearing black tie to the pictures is a bit of a laugh – but only in the same way kecking someone in the school changing rooms was. These boys in their incongruous evening dress are just a fleeting vision of a horrifying parallel universe.
In this world, Peter Crouch is doing the robot at the top of Nelson’s Column – forever. Michael Caine is our reluctant king, Jack Whitehall is prime minister, Gary Barlow is poet laureate and Tim Sherwood manages England. Every night, James Corden reads the ten o’clock news, but Niall Horan writes “tits” into the autocue. Everyone laughs. Russian bombs rain down on Syria. Piers Morgan is hanged after a televised show-trial for crimes against banter. But worst of all, everyone’s wearing black tie.