The odd jacket finally retuned to the James Bond series in Spectre after a twenty year absence. Bond has worn many odd jackets, sports coats and blazers throughout the series, but why does Bond wear odd jackets sometimes rather than suits?
What is an odd jacket? It’s a tailored jacket that is not part of a suit, simply meaning that it does not have matching trousers. A sports coat or sports jacket is an odd jacket that is worn for participation in sports—such hunting or riding—or worn for watching sports. Most sports coats aren’t made for these sports today, but they descend from this pedigree. The blazer is a specific type of sports coat, though this article will focus on non-blazer odd jackets.
Why do some jackets work on their own whilst others must always be part of a suit? It all comes down to the cloth. Formal and business-like cloths do not make effective odd jackets because odd jackets are simply not all that formal or business-like. This leaves out most worsted and smooth cloths. If it is worsted, it needs to have a large pattern or a heavy texture. Practically any tweed, cashmere, linen, cotton or silk can make a great odd jacket, so long as it doesn’t have pinstripes or chalk stripes. Pinstripes and chalk stripes are businesslike and thus do not work well for odd jackets, which are inherently unbusinesslike.
There is no difference between the cut of a suit jacket and the cut of an odd jacket. Some people prefer a softer construction for their odd jackets and more structure for their suit jackets, but it is not a rule by any means. The way one’s jacket fits and is cut is largely personal preference, but that’s the same whether the jacket is part of a suit or stands on its own. Some people like a looser fit for their odd jackets because it looks less formal or to be able to fit a jumper underneath. Any odd jacket can be a part of a suit if it has matching trousers, though most jacketings—cloths meant to be tailored into jackets—do not make up well as trousers since they won’t hold their shape or a crease. Such a suit would end up being an informal or sporty suit rather than a business suit.
For example, Roger Moore’s brown tweed suit in Moonraker that he wears for hunting with Drax is a sports suit. The jacket could easily stand on its own as a sports coat. The donegal tweed cloth is what allows this. The hacking pockets and flapped breast pocket add to the sportiness of the suit’s jacket. But even if it were detailed with straight pockets and an ordinary welt breast pocket, it could still work just as well on its own because of the sporty cloth.
Sports coats are often tweed, which is historically worn for country sports. James Bond has worn numerous tweeds, often subtly patterned or plain. Sean Connery’s brown barleycorn jacket in Goldfinger and Thunderball and Roger Moore’s brown broken twill jacket in A View to a Kill are similar subtly patterned tweeds. Sean Connery wears two tweed jackets in Diamonds Are Forever with sporty Nofolk-jacket-inspired details. In A View to a Kill, Moore also wears a plain grey twill tweed jacket. George Lazenby wears a houndstooth tweed hacking jacket in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service for equestrian sports. Though many of these jackets have sporty hacking pockets, casual patch pockets or horn buttons, it is purely the cloth that makes these proper sports coats. Bond’s last tweed jacket was Timothy Dalton’s gun club check jacket in The Living Daylights.
Bond has worn a number of warm-weather odd jackets in addition to the traditional tweeds. In Live and Let Die he wears a tan basketweave jacket whilst in New Orleans. The texture of this jacket, both in the hopsack weave and the possibly linen or silk content, makes it a great odd jacket. In The Man with the Golden Gun, Moore wears a lightweight sports coat with a large check that is inspired by traditional tweed checks. Instead of tweed it is made in a light, open, plain-weave cloth appropriate for the hot South Asian weather. In The Spy Who Loved Me, Moore wears a cotton sports coat with safari-jacket details in Egypt. In Spectre, Daniel Craig wears an unstructured brown wool, linen and silk blend jacket in Morocco.
Though the right cloth is the key to a proper odd jacket, the details can make an odd jacket special. A true sports coat should have sporty details, such as slanted hacking pockets, patch pockets, bellows pockets, deep vents, a half belt, a throat latch or swelled edges.
Buttons should complement the cloth of the jacket. Tweed jackets should have rustic horn, bone, wood or leather buttons. Lightweight odd jackets should have mother-of-pearl or corozo buttons. Smooth, plain buttons are rarely a good choice on any sports coat. However, changing the buttons on a dressy suit jacket will not make it into a sports coat. Changing the buttons only works on a solid navy jacket, when it can be turned into a blazer.
James Bond wears sports coats when he is not in a formal setting or a business setting but still needs to dress like a sophisticated gentleman. He wears them for social occasions during the day and never at night. Today, sports coats can be worn in less formal business settings and for most social occasions at any time of day, though darker sports coats are better to wear at night. Odd jackets have recently seen a surge in popularity because they allow people to dress up in today’s casual society without worrying people that they will be too dressed up.
Odd jackets can more easily be dressed up or down than a suit can. Most odd jackets need a less formal shirt and tie than a suit needs. Bond usually dresses up his sports coats and often wears the same shirts with his odd jackets that he wears with his suits. These shirts are usually poplin, but Bond sometimes wears less formal shirts like oxford with a tweed jacket or chambray with a cotton jacket. Bond’s shirts have spread or point collars, though many Americans prefer a button-down collar with their sports coats. Bond’s shirts almost always have button cuffs, cocktail cuffs or tab cuffs, though Bond shows in Goldfinger that double cuffs can be appropriate with a more structured odd jacket.
Bond’s ties with his sports coats are often the same as the ties he wears with his suits, but some tend to the less formal side. Bond wears many knitted ties—silk or wool—with his sports coats, which is where knitted ties work best.
Bond sometimes dresses down his odd jackets. In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service Bond wears a shirt with a stock collar and a cravat for an old-fashioned look with his tweed jacket. In Diamonds Are Forever he wears polo and polo neck jumpers with his tweeds. In Octopussy he wears a yellow dickey under his tweed jacket. Bond never dresses down his sports coats by wearing a shirt without a tie, though it is more acceptable to wear an open-neck shirt with a sports coat than it is with a business suit.
The trousers should always match the weight of the jacket. With tweed jackets, Bond wears flannel and cavalry twill wool trousers. With lightweight jackets, he wears trousers in tropical wool, gabardine wool or cotton. Cotton trousers can work with odd jackets if the jacket is less structured. This would be corduroy and moleskin for heavier jackets and gabardine and chino for lightweight jackets. The more contrast between the jacket and trousers the less formal the outfit is. However, there needs to be at least enough contrast to easily tell that jacket and trousers are not mismatched suit. Jackets with bolder patterns do not need as much contrast with the trousers.
Shoe choices with odd jackets is more varied than it is with suits. Whilst oxfords are the best choice with suits, derby shoes, slip-ons and boots can all be excellent choices with odd jackets. Bond often takes out his suede shoes and boots to wear with his odd jackets.