In Ian Fleming’s From Russia, With Love, there is a terrific exchange between James Bond and Tatiana Romanova — a Soviet corporal who takes up with the British agent. On a sleeper train out of Turkey, the two are readying themselves for the day ahead and Romanova, noticing that 007 doesn’t wear cologne, asks him why this is.
“We wash,” replies Bond, drier than a martini. And this clean-cut, neatly clipped and slightly stinging response sums up the superspy’s attitude to his grooming routine. It’s a thoroughly English approach; leaning on trusted, heritage brands — and not preoccupied with overly strong scents or convoluted bits of kit. So this got us thinking: if a pared-back, simple grooming routine was good enough for MI6’s finest, surely it should be good enough for us?
Quicker than you could draw your Walther PPK, we flicked open the copies of Fleming’s Bond novels lying around the Gentleman’s Journal office — from Casino Royale to Octopussy and The Living Daylights — and set to work piecing together 007’s grooming routine. And, with our razors at the ready and soaps prepped for scrubbing, we embarked on a week in the life of James Bond — or his bathroom, at least…
“Floris provides the soaps and lotions in the lavatories and bedrooms…”
First up came Floris; a grooming brand we know well. And, in Moonraker, Bond uses a selection of products from the company. We, however, were looking for some specific recommendations from the bathroom cabinet of the superspy, so turned to the following passage from Dr. No:
“There was everything in the bathroom — Floris Limes Bath Essence for men and Guerlain bathcubes for women.”
Limes Bath Essence it was, then. And just in the nick of time we were, too, as Floris revealed after we picked up a bottle of the concentrated essence. For, after many years, Floris Limes Bath Essence will be discontinued at the end of this year.
If you’re a Bond aficionado, we’d recommend stocking up; because Floris’ best is a relaxing, vibrant burst of skin-softening loveliness. A little different to modern day salts or bubbles, it disperses its fragrance throughout the warm water and leaves you smelling of lime blossom, neroli and lily of the valley. And how calming! No wonder Bond was always so cool under fire.
“Bond thought it time to make some show of independence. He said firmly, 'Un moment, je vous en prie,' and went into the bathroom and cleaned himself up…”
Next up, we traced the above passage from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which goes on to name drop more English heritage grooming brands than you could shake a bar of soap at. Among them, coincidentally, is Pears Transparent. Bond was “amused to see that the soap was that most English of soaps,” so we took the nod of approval and invested in a couple of bars ourselves.
A week later, we’ve got no complaints of the bright orange soap. The natural oils in the amber bar seem to have softened our skin more than our usual handsoap — and there’s something a little more therapeutic about using an old-school bar rather than bashing a pump-bottle.
“There was a bottle of Mr Trumper’s ‘Eucris’ beside the very masculine brush and comb by Kent,” continues Fleming’s description, adding that Bond felt very at home of European crime syndicate boss, Marc-Ange Draco. Cue us replacing our daily aftershave with the black bottle of Geo.F. Trumper’s eau de toilette, and our comb with a 5T Dressing Table Comb from Royal Warrant holder Kent.
The aftershave left a little to be desired. There’s a warming sandalwood in there, but it’s not strong, masculine, musty or mossy enough for the alpha James Bond. You’d be better off with Ian Fleming’s well-documented favourite; Floris No.89. As for the comb, we’re converted forever. A quality tortoiseshell item, it’s tactile, flexible and strong — and considerably better than the flimsy freebie we’d picked up from a business class flight earlier this year.
“He went into the bathroom and had an ice-cold shower and washed his hair with Pinaud Elixir, that prince among shampoos, to get the dust of the roads out of it…”
We didn’t find any dusty roads to dirty our hair, but we were so intrigued by this passage from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service that we went to seek out E.D. Pinaud’s Elixir Quinine Shampoo. Sadly, the exact product is no longer made — it seems we didn’t get to it in the nick of Floris Limes Bath Essence time. Instead, we opted for Pinaud’s Country Club shampoo, a panthenol-enriched offering that seemed like the spiritual successor to the Bond-approved product.
It was a success, with the shampoo doing a handsome job; but adding volume a touch too enthusiastically. Perhaps Bond was thinning on top, because it left us with a very full-looking head of hair…
And, finally, for the shave. In the novels, Bond tends to use a heavy, double-sided safety razor, but for this final foray into the superspy’s bathroom cabinet, we were taken by a couple of his big screen products. In Live and Let Die, Bond uses a sleek Schick razor when tidying himself up in his bungalow at The San Moniquan Hotel. Schick kindly sent us a razor to test out, and it was just as we expected; a trusty, smooth shave fit for a man with no time to waste.
Nickless, we waited for our stubble to return, before testing out Dovo’s 41 Stainless Steel Straight Razor with Buffalo Horn — as seen in the suggestive shaving scene in Skyfall. A riskier razor, it certainly felt more Bond — but was a little time consuming to squeeze in before a busy morning commute. We’ll stick with the Schick.
We did, however, use Palmolive Shave Cream with the Dovo, which offered a lightly fragranced formula and good level of protection against the blade. Why did we lather up such an unassuming brand? As it appears in the passage below, in From Russia, With Love:
“More important was the thick tube of Palmolive shaving cream in the otherwise guileless spongebag. The whole top of this unscrewed to reveal the silencer for the Beretta, packed in cotton wool.”
Of course, our shave cream didn’t serve any double purpose; but neither did our Floris or Geo.F. Trumper aftershaves appear in the lair en-suites of supervillain’s bases, or our shampooing come after half a bottle of Taittinger Blanc de Blancs. Because, try as we might — and you really should, as he had a first rate grooming routine — we’re just not Bond material.