James Bond’s Cravats and Other Fancy Neckwear

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There are numerous forms of neckwear beyond the four-in-hand tie (long tie) and the bow tie, and James Bond has worn quite a few of these fancy neckwear items throughout the series. These include the day cravat, dress cravat (ascot), neckerchief, stock tie and jabot.

Day Cravat

Pierce Brosnan wearing a cravat under his shirt and jumper in GoldenEye

The cravat, which may be more specifically called a “day cravat” to distinguish it from the formal dress cravat, is a casual neckwear item that has two wide blades at the ends and is gathered and pleated to a narrower middle section. The ends of the cravat may be pointed or square. The construction of a cravat mimics a folded neckerchief, which is a large square silk scarf that may be worn around the neck in a similar fashion to the cravat. The cravat may be known as an “ascot” in America.

The cravat is worn inside an unbuttoned shirt collar, and it is typically made of a soft silk since it sits directly against the neck. The cravat may make someone look fancier or dandier, but it only makes an outfit a hair more formal than the same outfit is would be without the cravat. The cravat is not an equal alternative to a buttoned collar with a tie, but it gives a more polished appearance than an open collar without a tie. Bernhard Roetzel explains the cravat’s place in Gentleman: A Timeless Guide to Fashion:

A cravat emphasizes the sporting look, or lends a light touch to a more formal outfit. However, some men do not like this kind of nuance, and prefer a clear distinction between the formal and the casual to the in-between stage represented by the cravat. If you would rather look formal even at the weekend, they say, why not stick to your guns and wear a necktie, shirt, and jacket, instead of going in for halfhearted measures like the cravat? But other men do not care to wear an open-necked shirt, which they feel is just a bit too casual, exposing to much throat, and for them the cravat is highly recommended; it helps them to demonstrate, even at weekends and off duty, that they like to observe a certain code of dress.

Cravats may be made in any colour or pattern, though they are rarely striped. Paisley and foulard prints are most common. Choosing the proper colour of a cravat is very important since it sits up against the face. The cravat is difficult to wear well even in the most flattering colours, so in unflattering colours it will be guaranteed to draw unnecessary attention and a poor reception.

Roger Moore wearing a cravat in A View to a Kill

The cravat makes a man look like either an old-school dandy or a rich playboy, and James Bond was going for both when he wears one for the first time in A View to a Kill when posing as stable-heir James St John Smythe. He wears a muted burgundy cravat under a white shirt with only the collar button open and with a blue blazer. The blue blazer and cravat is the ultimate playboy outfit, but without the right attitude this combination will make someone look sleazy or like they live at a country club. James St John Smythe comes off as both of these, as James Bond intends for this character he is playing.

James Bond wears a cravat when being himself in Monte Carlo in GoldenEye. This time he wears a dark green silk foulard cravat under a blue shirt and navy crew neck jumper. The cravat here blends in with the outfit for a subtle look that works elegantly and does not draw attention. Bond looks like the playboy he is, but he wears it with aplomb and elegance.

Bernard Lee as M wearing a day cravat with his smoking jacket at home

Other characters in the Bond series wear cravats. Both Largo in Thunderball and Vijay in Octopussy wear cravats with their double-breasted blazers for the playboy look. Draco in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service wears one with his brown pinwale corduroy sports coat, and in being a suave mature man he wears it brilliantly without looking like he is playing dress-up. M wears an ancient madder cravat under his smoking jacket in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and his age and wealth help him wear it well.

Roger Moore’s characters before James Bond also are fans of the cravat. It’s a natural item for a wealth playboy like Lord Brett Sinclair of The Persuaders, who wears it with a norfolk suit and with a sporty striped suit. Simon Templar of The Saint was also a fan and wore one with his traditional safari jacket.

Ascot (Dress Cravat)

Timothy Dalton wearing a clip-on dress cravat (ascot) in Licence to Kill

The dress cravat may also be properly known as the ascot, and it more appropriately deserves that moniker than the casual version does because of where is was first worn. It is also known as the plastron. Alan Flusser defines the ascot in his book Dressing the Man:

A square-ended tie with each end of equal width, worn primarily for formal day wear. Deriving its name from Ascot Heath, the English racetrack where the tie was first worn, the ascot consists of two knots. The first is a single knot, while the second is a Gordian knot with one end crossing over the other and held in place with a stockpin.

Unlike the day cravat, the dress cravat has no pleats. It has the same shape, with a wide blade on either end and a much narrower band in the middle that sits around the neck. It is worn around a stiff stand-up collar, with or without wings.

The dress cravat was worn in the late Victorian era and the Edwardian era with frock coats and morning dress. By the end of the Edwardian era the dress cravat was largely replaced with the four-in-hand tie for morning dress, though it continued to be worn for decades with morning dress for more formal occasions like weddings. It saw a resurgence with the peacocks of the 1960s and with wedding hires in the 1970s and 1980s, though today it is considered outmoded. It is no longer permitted at Royal Ascot.

James Bond wears a sad excuse for a dress cravat in Licence to Kill as part of Felix Leiter’s wedding party. The wedding outfit is a hire, and as a result the dress cravat is not surprisingly a clip-on. It was outdated at the time as far as the British were concerned, but it was a popular part of wedding attire in the United States in the 1980s.

Black Tie Guide and Morning Dress Guide touch on the dress cravat as part of their guides to morning dress.

Neckerchief

Roger Moore removing his neckerchief in Live and Let Die

The neckerchief is a square that is folded and tied or draped around the neck, and like the day cravat it sits directly against the neck inside or outside of a shirt’s open collar. It is sportier than the day cravat, but the neckerchief can be worn in any situations when the day cravat can be worn, and it can also be worn more casually. The neckerchief may be made of silk, cotton or linen in any colour or pattern. Like the day cravat, it cannot take the place of a tie. Alan Flusser wrote about the appeal of the neckerchief in Dressing the Man:

Since ancient times, a man has always felt the necessity to wear something around the neck. With the explosion of modern sportswear in the 1920s, the novelty of the open-necked sport shirt inspired a variety of new ways to appoint the neck. Long a popular fashion at European watering holes, the sports scarf was, and still is, closely identified with Riviera high style.

Hardy Amies calls this a “choker” in ABC of Men’s Fashion and is not a fan of it.

Cary Grant was fond of the neckerchief, and Roger Moore’s James Bond wears it on two occasions. The first time Bond wears it is in Live and Let Die, and it’s equally as practical as it is stylish. Whilst hang gliding in his navy leisure suit, he ties a large navy silk scarf in a single knot around his neck and spreads it over his shirt and tie. He tucks into the leisure suit jacket to conceal the front of his light-coloured shirt amongst his otherwise dark outfit.

Roger Moore wears a neckerchief with his poncho in Moonraker

The second time Bond wears a neckerchief is with his poncho disguise in Moonraker. The neckerchief is a dark brown silk square scarf that is tied in square knot with the ends tucked inside the shirt.

The neckerchief is more common for women today, whereas a man wearing one may fear being compared to Freddy from Scooby Doo. Nevertheless it is still a classic men’s sportswear accessory.

Stock Tie

George Lazenby wearing a stock tie and Gabriele Ferzetti wearing a day cravat in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

The stock tie is a traditional part of equestrian dress and is still widely worn for such purposes today. It is longer and more scarf-like than a cravat and wraps around the neck twice. Hardy Amies wrote about the stock in ABC of Men’s Fashion:

Stock is the form of neckwear used with hunting dress or with cutaway morning coat. I don’t think you’ll be interested in details of its history or want to know how to tie one.

James Bond wears a beige silk stock wrapped around his neck, tied in a single knot and fastened with a stock pin over a stock collar as part of his traditional equestrian outfit in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Jabot

George Lazenby wearing a jabot in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

George Lazenby wears a jabot with his Scottish highland dress in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The jabot is “a cascade of lace or ruffles on the breast of a garment”, as defined by Black Tie Guide. The site specifies that the jabot and corresponding stiff shirt is worn with the full-dress version (white tie equivalent) of highland dress, but the rest of James Bond’s outfit of Prince Charlie coatee and matching waistcoat follows the black tie equivalent of highland dress.

The jabot is also worn for court dress throughout the world. United States Supreme Court judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s jabot collection is famous.

36 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve always loved Brosnan’s day cravat, and cannot for the life of me figure out how to wear one quite as well.

  2. Let’s say a person like me were to wear a day cravat, and know matter how much style my outfit shows, will it look like I’m trying too hard?

    • Saul,
      You just have to wear it with pizzazz and give absolutely no thought to what others may think or say. That’s the only way to wear an ascot/cravat. If you appear in the least self-conscious or apologetic, all is lost.

    • I agree with Dan that it’s the only way to wear it. You need to put it on and forget that it’s there. In Italy, the scarf is commonplace as an accessory for men. The cravat is not a whole lot different.

    • I’ve asked myself this question and have always concluded that I would not be able to pull it off under normal circumstances. It’s a shame, because I think Brosnan’s look is understated and elegant. But unless I have occasion to go driving through the French Riviera in a vintage sports car, I think I would look silly wearing a cravat.

  3. Very educative and interesting article! I hadnt realized just how many variations of theese neckwear types Bond or other characters in the series have worn. I have wondered about one such item though, the neckwear that Carl Stromberg wears in his last scene in TSWLM. That neckwear stood out to me because it is tied like a tie and worn under the shirt collar yet is wide and long like a shawl. Do you know what it is? Stromberg also wears a normal day cravat in the film.

  4. Nice article! Somehow, I just can´t think of Daniel Craig wearing a day cravat as James Bond.

  5. I like the way Brosnan wore his cravat In Goldeneye, just peaking out of his shirt collar. Also with the navy jumper, which seems like something Bond would actually wear casually all the time if he was a real person. The way Moore wore his in AVTAK looked great, especially the burgundy colour against Moore’s warm complexion. The cravat added to the sporty outfit of the blue blazer and beige gaberdine trousers. Brosnan and Moore’s gentlemenly look made it easier for them to wear a cravat then it would have been for Connery. Do you agree Matt ?

    • I can’t picture Connery, Dalton or Craig wearing a cravat, but Craig could probably do a neckerchief well. As part of a fisherman disguise in You Only Live Twice, Connery wears small linen scarves around his neck. They are rather neckerchief like, but he isn’t wearing them as himself and doesn’t seem like he would.

    • I agree that Craig could pull of the neckerchief. He would probably look ridiculous in a day cravat.

    • Actually burgundy isn’t a typical colour to flatter warm complexions (rather something for winters). And with regard to Brosnan / Moore being more “gentlemanly” than the others: We already had that discussion and I still think that the term”Gentleman” doesn’t apply to the Bond character (has no basis in fact). Consequently if one considers “fancy neckwear” as a typical part of a gentleman’s outfit it would not be not appropriate for Bond (unless it is disguise). Please don’t get me wrong – I personally have nothing against fancy neckwear (on the contrary) but it is rather “un-Bondian”.

      Best,
      Renard

    • Ryan did not call them “gentlemanly” but said they have a “gentlemanly look”. Looking like something and being something are completely different. However, I think it is better to describe fancy neckwear as “showy” or “dandy” rather than “gentlemanly”.

  6. Craig wore a short brown scarf tucked into his white henley and blue jumper in Skyfall. That looked good on him, it had more of a rugged outdoors men look then the dandy cravat.

    • It’s not that similar. The shoulders of Kennedy’s suit are much more built-up than Connery’s, and the button stance is much higher. Those two features give the suit a much different look. The chest is similar to Connery’s trimmer suits in Thunderball and You Only Live Twice.

  7. JFK’s suit looks undarted to me, Matt is a better judge in that regard. Kennedy was very lean even in his forties, he didn’t have a strong build like Connery did as Bond. He looked good with more shoulder padding. As we are talking about US Presidents Matt, who do you believe to be best dressed ?, I guess since JFK.

    • I can’t see a dart, but considering the swelled shape of the chest I would presume there is a dart. I don’t find any of the US presidents’ styles to be anything noteworthy as far as my tastes go.

  8. Excellent and, as always, thorough coverage of your subject. Both Brosnan and Moore wear their cravats (not surprisingly) perfectly. I agree that this item lifts an outfit such as a sweater, sports coat or blazer above the look just an open neck shirt confers but it’s not for everyone (as you say it needs aplomb to pull off) nor is it for every situation. For example, for Pierce seducing in his Aston on the Riviera its fine. Yet if it were worn with Roger’s similar chunky sweater and corduroys rock climbing in FYEO it would seem superfluous. I like them and have worn one myself but not often and judiciously.

    The other issue with this garment has always been its “Quentin Crisp” type associations or alternatively Terry Thomas and both while different can have unintended and somehow unfortunate connotations!

    Just one more thing (to quote Peter Falk’s wonderful Columbo – definitely not a man for an ascot!); while I got St John Smythe as being a bling, country club playboy, I hadn’t really thought of this invented character (but still an extension of Moore/Bond) as being “sleazy”. This seems quite strong and while when I now consider the persona projected by Moore it still seems, somehow, a little overstated.

    • Moore came across in general in his Bond films as charming and more urbane then say Sean Connery. Moore really in general played Bond how Cary Grant would have played the role, maybe with a bit more humour then Grant even. Cary Grant never came across as sleazy and neither did Moore. As St. John Smythe in AVTAK, Bond plays his cover as a playboy, a bit smarmy, dandish and a fop. But not sleazy, Apart from some witty lines Moore never chases after young girls in his films, they always chase after him.

  9. Interesting bringing up Cary Grant. North By Northwest is one of my favourite films and has a lot of parallels with Bond IMO (a hero in danger yet you never really feel like he’s not gonna come through, a wonderful femme fatale, a bit of winking humour in what seems to be an action/spy thriller etc). Cary Grant was in the frame to play Bond in Dr. No but his asking price was one MILLLION dollars which was the entire budget. Grant was self conscious about his thick neck and rarely exposed it. In ‘To Catch A Thief’ he wears a day cravat to cover his neck, with his white shirt and gray blazer while ‘house hunting’ and pic-nicking with Grace Kelly along the riviera.

    • “…a hero in danger yet you never really feel like he’s not gonna come through, a wonderful femme fatale, …”

      -…and a very fine villain – James Mason does a great job in one of his best roles ever. And sartorially he is definitely a match for Cary Grant. Mason was also supposed to play Bond but like Grant turned down Broccoli’s / Saltzman’s offer. IMO as an actor his type would have suited even better for the Bond role than Grant’s.

  10. “Apart from some witty lines Moore never chases after young girls in his films, they always chase after him.”
    -Yes, and especially in his later Bond films it’s ridiculous and totally uncredible because he already looks so old that he could be their grandfather (like “Bibi” in FYEO). He should have finished playing Bond earlier.

    And no – I don’t think that Moore outplayed Connery in terms of urbaneness. The thing is that Moore plays Bond more like a pretender – i.e. with a lot of hypocrisy and flim-flam. Like a playboy, that’s to the point. And sometimes he exaggerates it in such a way that his Bond portrayal becomes utterly silly. I myself would never call that “charming” or whatsoever. Connery just makes lesser fuss – of course he also “knows the right wines” (to quote Red Grant) but he doesn’t use that to show off. He sometimes uses his knowledge in order to mock or provoke others (in an ironic way), f. i. in GF (dinner scene). IMO that’s much cooler and yes, far more urbane than Moore with his ever-raised eyebrows and other affected to-do. Cary Grant never performed like that, especially not in North by Northwest. His humour was by far more subtle otherwise Hitchcock would not have chosen him. I see more parallels between Grant and Connery than between Grant and Moore.

  11. renard,
    the important thing to remember is Sir Roger wanted to leave. He wanted to leave numerous times but cubby along with the public kept hounding him to come back. AVTAK, was one of the most successful films of the year it was released and this was after Sir Roger himself kept insisting he was too old but yet the offer they made him was just too good to pass up. Do the numbers decide who was the better Bond at the time? If it does Sir Roger certainly did beat connery at the box office.

  12. Connery vs. Moore: I think it was “Octopussy” and not AVTAK which came out the same time as “Never Say Never Again”. And as to the numbers: No, I don’t think that they decide. To me “Never Say Never Again” in comparison by far is the superior Bond movie. I think that Connery was at a disadvantage because NSNA wasn’t part of the official Bond series. Connery then wasn’t young any more but I think he handled that better than Moore did.

  13. A few points Renard:
    1. Re James Mason – OF COURSE! I should have included him in the analogy as he possesses many of the traits we’ve come to know in a typical Bond villain. I love his “Mister Kaplan we really are getting rather tired of your foolish games … the Madison Avenue executive, the outraged victim wrongly accused of murrrrrrderrrrr, and now you play the peevish loverrrrrrr …” speech!

    2. I agree with your comparison of Moore vs Connery. Moore constantly seemed to be phoning it in, picking up the paycheck and winking at all this nonsense. Connery’s portrayal evolved and became more languid too over time but started out perfectly – the cold bastard assassin. Note how he blows on the silencer after whacking Professor Dent in Dr No.
    3. Revenue Moore vs Connery – IIRC Thunderball was the most successful Bond film adjusted for inflation right up to Brosnan and possibly beyond (I stand to be corrected on this).
    4. I don’t like Connery’s portrayal of Bond at the end of his tenure, and he does show off his ‘upper crust’ knowledge in that cringeworthy scene early in DAF where we’re supposed to believe with one sip he can tell the year of the champagne vintage used to be distilled into the brandy. In this regard we didn’t see much of that nonsense from Brosnan, and Craig would probably have disdain for such things as Vesper assumed he wore his tailored suit on the train with “such disdain”.

    • But Rod, James Bond without what you call his “upper crust knowledge” (which is really quite encyclopedic, extending to lepidoptery and rare orchids) is simply Jason Statham in a better suit – just another tough guy who kills people and blows things up. Bond’s unique blend of a cultivated exterior surrounding a warrior’s core is what has allowed him to outlast all the other screen heroes. All the Bournes and Transporters come and go, but Bond is a cultural mainstay.

    • OK Dan I can see your point. It could be argued that this is what Daniel Craig has become. Part of why I / we remain into the whole cult of Bond may be his cultured references, which largely originated from Fleming’s own habits (nice threads , good taste in food, drink, women, cars and expensive but usually understated gadgets). Maybe we can agree that the DAF scene was just a bridge too far, and in poor gentlemanly taste in upstaging M in front of the diamond expert?

  14. Certainly DAF is not the height of Connery’s Bond performances. And sartorially – well, some people think that in comparison with his preceding films it’s an improvement, some (including myself) think that this is not the case.

    Best,
    Renard

  15. Rod,

    “Maybe we can agree that the DAF scene was just a bridge too far, and in poor gentlemanly taste in upstaging M in front of the diamond expert?” By the time DAF rolled around we were already in Roger Moore territory whether or not anyone told Connery, so the concept of “a bridge too far” was in the process of being redefined! I would agree, however, that upstaging M was a little rude, but then again, for all of his respect (and perhaps even love) for M, Bond has never shied away from “jerking his chain” a little bit.

    • Starting with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Bond was quite an obnoxious person, and he stayed that way through Moonraker. That aspect was toned down a bit in the 1980s.

  16. @Dan Ippolito: What you are referring to (orchids etc.) is no upper-crust knowledge in the strict sense of the word. That’s really primarily knowing the right wines etc. I am not sure if Bond is bound to know rather special things about phytology etc. if his mission doesn’t requires it. But then it would be rather “ad-hoc knowledge” that he only acquires when it is needed.

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