James Bond and the Gauntlet (Turnback) Cuff

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Gauntlet Cuffs on Sean Connery’s dinner jacket in Dr. No

Before we are introduced to James Bond’s face in Dr. No, we first see his dinner jacket’s satin silk gauntlet cuffs. The gauntlet cuff, also known as a turnback cuff, is a turned back cuff at the end of the sleeve that extends approximately to the first button. It’s a subtle Edwardian detail that saw a resurgence in popularity in the 1950s and 1960s. The cuff is mostly decorative, but it can add unique character to one’s dinner jacket, suit jacket, odd jacket or overcoat.

There’s almost no restriction on what type of jacket or coat can have a gauntlet cuff. Some say it’s a sporty detail and should only be worn on sports coats and sporty suits. These people may prefer them on heavier cloths like tweeds and flannels because a heavier cloth gives the cuff more relief from the sleeve. Others only favour them on dinner jackets because the dinner jacket descended from the cuff-adorned smoking jacket or they may think the gauntlet cuff is too flashy to be on anything else. A gauntlet cuff can be appropriate on almost any jacket or coat, whether it’s light or heavy, whether it’s formal or informal, or whether it’s single-breasted or double-breasted. Tailcoats and frock coats historically have taken gauntlet cuffs, but the cuffs on those were made in a different style from the cuffs that Bond wears.

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Gauntlet Cuffs on Daniel Craig’s’s dinner jacket in Quantum of Solace

James Bond creator Ian Fleming was a fan of gauntlet cuffs and often wore them on his jackets, from double-breasted suit jackets to country tweed jackets. He dressed a number of his characters in his James Bond stories in suit jackets with gauntlet cuffs, including Sir Hugo Drax in Moonraker, Wing Commander Rattray in “From a View to a Kill” and Dr. Fanshawe in “The Property of a Lady”, for whose dress he describes as “neo-Edwardian fashion”. Fleming uses the terms “turnback cuffs”, “turned-back cuffs” and “turned-up cuffs”, respectively.  Fleming also specified “two new suits with cuffs” for James Bond to wear disguised as Sir Hillary Bray in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Cuffs in this case still likely mean gauntlet cuffs, since a British person would probably not refer to trouser turn-ups as “cuffs” like an American would. Fleming never specified gauntlet cuffs on Bond’s own clothes, and the literary Bond would probably not have worn gauntlet cuffs considering the minimalist tendencies Fleming gave him.

In the films, James Bond has mostly worn gauntlet cuffs on his dinner jackets. Sean Connery’s midnight blue Anthony Sinclair dinner jacket in Dr. No and his similar dinner jacket in From Russia with Love have midnight blue satin silk gauntlet cuffs with four buttons. Roger Moore wears an off-white silk dinner jacket made by Cyril Castle with single-button self gauntlet cuffs in The Man with the Golden Gun. Daniel Craig brought back the gauntlet cuff on his Tom Ford midnight blue dinner jacket in Quantum of Solace, and this time the cuffs are are half gauntlet cuffs (more on this below) in black satin silk with five buttons. Though this dinner jacket was an homage to the original Dr. No dinner jacket, Tom Ford is a fan of gauntlet cuffs and has them on many of the dinner jackets in his line. Bond’s only piece with gauntlet cuffs that isn’t a dinner jacket is the Roger Moore’s double-breasted chesterfield in Live and Let Die, also made by Cyril Castle. The cuffs on the chesterfield fasten with one button. David Niven wears gauntlet cuffs as Sir James Bond in the 1967 Casino Royale film, for which his clothes were made by Ian Fleming’s tailor Benson, Perry & Whitley.

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Gauntlet Cuffs on Roger Moore’s dinner jacket in The Man with the Golden Gun

Cyril Castle made many jackets for Roger Moore with gauntlet cuffs before he was Bond, as Castle was Moore’s tailor for The Saint and The Persuaders television series. Most of Moore’s suit jackets and sports coats in the colour series of The Saint have gauntlet cuffs with a single button whilst the dinner jackets usually have gauntlet cuffs with three buttons. In The Persuaders, Roger Moore wears a striped double-breasted blazer with single-button gauntlet cuffs.

There are a number of different styles of gauntlet cuffs, including some that the buttons go through. Gauntlet cuffs are typically a separate piece laid on to the end of an ordinary sleeve, which is obvious in the case of silk cuffs on a dinner jacket. When in the same cloth as the rest of the jacket, they are still typically made from a separate piece and not just folded back. It’s not impossible to have a cuff that is folded back, but if there’s a pattern it will not match. There are other types of cuffs on a jacket or coat, but James Bond only wears the kind that are laid on separately. Gauntlet cuffs work best on narrow sleeves, whereas on wide sleeves they may look or feel too heavy.

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Gauntlet Cuffs on Roger Moore’s double-breasted chesterfield coat in Live and Let Die

All of Bond’s gauntlet cuffs have an elegant curved shape—they all curve out of the way of the first cuff button—but there are slight differences in the way the cuffs are styled. Connery’s cuffs starts at the corners of the cuff’s opening and look the most integrated with the sleeve of all of Bond’s cuff designs. Moore’s cuffs start in from the corner to line up with the center of the button, so the corner of the sleeve opening can be tucked under the opposite end of the gauntlet cuff (Moore leaves the corner of the sleeve untucked). These cuffs, however, look less integrated with the sleeve than Connery’s do. Craig’s cuffs are only half gauntlet cuffs, in which the cuffs wrap around only the outside of the arm. They end at and are sewn into the seam at the front of the arm. The inside of the arm isn’t seen much, but this kind of cuff seems like a shortcut when compared to a full gauntlet cuff.

Comparing the cuffs: Anthony Sinclair, left; Cyril Castle, middle; Tom Ford, right
Comparing the cuffs: Anthony Sinclair, left; Cyril Castle, middle; Tom Ford, right

Though gauntlet cuffs are mostly decorative, they have one practical purpose: they protect the end of the sleeve. When worn out, the gauntlet cuff can be removed to reveal an unworn sleeve edge under the cuff. When made in contrasting silk on a dinner jacket, the cuff can be replaced. Half gauntlet cuffs, however, do not protect the full edge of the sleeve and are even more decorative than the full gauntlet cuff. All this said, the protective advantage to gauntlet cuffs is only beneficial on overcoats. The ends of the sleeves on dinner jackets, suit jackets and sports coats should not wear out because one’s shirt sleeves should be a little longer than one’s jacket sleeves to protect the jacket sleeves.

7 COMMENTS

  1. I’m a little confused – do the Tom Ford cuffs simply go from seam to seam, around the back of the wearer’s hand? Doesn’t this look a little untidy when looking from the front?

    • It goes around the back of the hand, and there’s no cuff under the hand. When looking from the front you see the cuff, since the outer part of the arm is larger than the inner part.

  2. Thanks Matt!

    It’s a nice detail on dinner jackets and overcoats but on a regular suit jacket it’s perhaps a bit overdone. I have seen once such a gauntlet cuff on a dark blue velvet dinner jacket (in a contrasting midnight blue) and it looked fantastic.

  3. I must admit, unlike cocktail cuffs (which I wear myself) I don’t really like this style, which is a shame as a lot of the odd little fashion choices of Bond are excellent. However, it definitely looks better on that Navy chesterfield than it does on the dinner jackets.

  4. In a thrift shop, I picked up a button-one, ventless 60’s suit with turnback cuffs, but without buttons on the cuffs.

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