What do most of James Bond’s formal shirts have in common? They are light in colour and almost always solid. There are some basic guidelines to follow when getting a Bondian shirt wardrobe but no absolute rules. The Bond shirt wardrobe is typically very limited within a single film, only with significant variation in Roger Moore’s Bond films. If you’re getting a first order from an English bespoke shirtmaker, you’ll likely need six shirts to fill your order. Here is a list of shirts that Bond may get when getting his first six from a bespoke shirtmaker like Turnbull & Asser or Frank Foster.
1. White poplin double cuff
The white cotton poplin shirt with double cuffs (French cuffs) is the formal shirt for the modern Bond. The simplicity of this shirt makes it the most formal shirt and one of the most versatile shirts to wear with a suit. Almost any count of poplin can work for this shirt, from 80s to a 140s Sea Island quality and beyond. While Bond oftens wears the fine, soft Sea Island poplin shirts, they are more difficult to iron and wrinkle more readily than a lower count cotton.
The classic Bond collar is the spread collar, but point and tab collars can also work well for this shirt. Because a white poplin shirt is one of the most formal shirts to wear with a suit, double cuffs fit well with this style. The double cuffs can be square or rounded. If you don’t want double cuffs, cocktail cuffs or simple rounded button cuffs are classic Bond choices for such a shirt. The classic Bond shirt has a front placket and no pocket, which goes for all of Bond’s formal shirts to give them a dressy and symmetrical look.
2. Light blue poplin cocktail cuff
No Bondian shirt wardrobe is complete without a cocktail (turnback) cuff shirt. This cuff works well on one of Bond’s perennial favourites, the light blue poplin shirt. Traditionally in Sea Island quality cotton, this is the classic shirt that Connery wears with most of his suits and blazers in the Bond films. Roger Moore wears this shirt too. The spread collar is the classic style for this Connery Bond staple.
3. Cream poplin
Though Bond has not worn a cream shirt since Tomorrow Never Dies, its many appearances throughout the Bond series up to that film make it a Bond classic. It has a softer, friendlier look than the white shirt, but it can sometimes look a bit old-fashioned. It pairs especially well with earth-toned outfits, but like white it goes with anything. This shirt is good with cocktail cuffs or button cuffs to make it more versatile than a double cuff shirt. Most of Bond’s cream shirts are cotton poplin, but he also wears them in royal oxford cotton or silk poplin.
4. Another blue shirt
Bond proves over and over again how versatile the blue shirt is, pairing it with suits, blazers and occasionally other sports coats. A second blue shirt is a useful addition to any wardrobe, and it can be differed from the first light blue shirt in many ways. The colour for a second blue shirt may be a darker mid blue or French blue, the latter for a sportier look. The weave may have more texture, like end-on-end, royal oxford or voile. The collar could also be varied from the first blue shirt with something narrower. And the cuff may be different, dressing it up with double cuffs or making it more versatile with button cuffs. It is easy to have two blue shirts that are very different yet equally Bondian.
5. White evening shirt
A Bond shirt wardrobe would be incomplete without an evening shirt, also known as a dress shirt or a Tuxedo shirt. The classic Bond evening shirt has a pleated front, but a pique bib front or a plain front could also work for this type of shirt. Bond’s evening shirts are often made of cotton voile, but white-on-white striped or waffle-weave cotton, silk crepe de chine and basic cotton poplin are other options for a Bondian evening shirt. His evening shirts always have a spread collar and usually have double cuffs. Sometime Bond wears an evening shirt with cocktail cuffs. The front of the shirt should have butons or a fly front for pleated-front or plain-front shirts, while a pique bib shirt should take studs.
6. Short-sleeve shirt
A shirt with short sleeves is essential for Fleming’s Bond, who hated dirty cuffs. Though Fleming’s Bond wears short-sleeve shirts with his suits, Bond in the films only wears short-sleeve shirts casually. Connery’s Bond likes it in the camp shirt style, with a camp collar and a short, straight hem to be worn untucked. Blue or pink with stripes or a gingham check are amongst his choices, while Roger Moore likes his in cream silk crepe de chine and Pierce Brosnan likes his in a blue floral pattern. Such a shirt is good in either cotton or linen, or a blend of the two. Roger Moore also wear short-sleeve shirts in cream knit cotton jersey with a make like his formal shirts with a two-piece collar and placket front. There is no quintessential short-sleeve shirt for Bond, but it is a staple of his classic wardrobe.
7. Another white or cream shirt. Or something else.
Bond often has duplicates of his shirts and has room for many white and cream shirts in his wardrobe. A second white or cream shirt can be very useful for those who regularly wear suits, and putting a different collar or cuff style on the second shirt can help vary it from the first. A different material like cotton voile, royal oxford or silk can make this second shirt something unique. Bond has also occasionally worn blue or grey stripes or pale pink semi-solid, which could be a good choice for a more varied shirt wardrobe.
Simon Crompton of Permanent Style recently published a similar article on how to choose five shirts, and his advice can also produce a Bond-approved shirt wardrobe.