Bill Tanner: Double-Breasted Charcoal Flannel Suit



Though Bernard Lee’s M generally wasn’t a fan of double-breasted suits—but he wears one in Dr. No—his chief of staff Bill Tanner prefers them. James Villiers plays Tanner in For Your Eyes Only to take M’s place for the one film whilst M is on leave, as a result of Bernard Lee’s death. Tanner wears two double-breasted suits of the same style in For Your Eyes Only: a charcoal rope stripe suit, which was already covered here two years ago, and a charcoal flannel suit. The charcoal flannel suit and the rest of the outfit have a very conservative approach. The suit is most likely made by an English tailor.


The jacket has six buttons with two to button, but Tanner fastens only the bottom button in the manner attributed to Prince George, Duke of Kent. The middle row of buttons is made to fasten as well as the bottom row that Tanner fastens. Though the button stance is slightly lower than what is common today for English tailors, it’s only about an inch lower. A higher button stance, however, is better if the wearer chooses to only fasten the bottom button. The jacket has a classic British military cut with straight, padded shoulders with roped sleeve heads, similar to what Dege & Skinner or Gieves & Hawkes make. The jacket has a clean chest made fuller by leaving the middle row of buttons open, a gently shaped waist and a flared skirt. It is detailed with flapped pockets, deep double vents and three buttons on the cuffs. Neither lapel has a buttonhole.


Tanner wears two different shirts and ties with this suit. The first shirt is medium blue end-on-end with white stitching to bring out the white in the shirt’s weave. The shirt has a spread collar, placket and double cuffs with the link holes placed close to the fold. The collar, cuffs and placket are stitched 1/4 inch from the edge. Tanner wears a solid navy tie without a discernible weave, tied in a four-in-hand knot. The colours of this outfit recall a common combination that Sean Connery’s James Bond often wears with his charcoal flannel suits. Tanner also wears a navy and white striped silk pocket square with a thick navy border, which is stuffed casually, but elegantly, into his suit jacket’s breast pocket. The navy in the pocket square picks up the navy in the tie whilst the white stripes bring out the white in the end-on-end shirt.


The second outfit is not as nice as the first. The shirt is a complicated shadow stripe pattern of grey and maybe other colours on a cream background. The shirt’s warm tone does not flatter Tanner’s winter complexion. It has a moderate spread collar and sleeves too short to be seen. The tie is solid burgundy, likely repp, and tied in a four-in-hand knot. He does not wear a pocket square with this outfit.


  1. A well-made suit which is indeed very “British” – perhaps even a bit too stiff. But it makes a nice counterpart to all those Armani suits etc. which were in vogue at that time. You are right about the second outfit – the shirt’s pattern is rather ugly. Probably something bought off-the-peg.

  2. Interesting article.

    Bond’s suits in FYEO have made an interesting transition into the 80s, loosing the wide lapels and flares and going for a more timeless look. However, as with Tanner’s double-breasted suit, the button stances are all low. Button stance is probably the most dated suiting detail in this film.

  3. I think For Your Eyes Only has some of the finest tailoring of the series, and Tanner is quite appropriately dressed for the character. Very timeless, classic and British. I’m not crazy about this characterization of Bill Tanner though. In the novels Tanner is described as Bond’s closest friend and I don’t think that relationship is evident in this film. If anything they are a bit hostile towards one another. As far as characterization goes, the only Tanner that gets close to the Fleming interpretation of the character is Michael Kitchen’s, though Villiers is by far the best-dressed Tanner.

    • You’re right, I’d have thought now that Tanner has been a series regular since 2008 that we’d have seen some evidence of this friendship but they’ve hardly had any scenes together. I hope SPECTRE will change this.

  4. Very elegant less the lack of on buttonholes on the lapes (a real faux pas).
    I like double breasted suits,and ask for this style to my tailor.

  5. Great looking suit and shirt-tie combination, I would wear it today if I could. And I think the ‘stiffness’ is appropriate and well-suited to the character. This actor could have made a very decent M, much interesting than the M we began to see in AVTAK (correct me if I am wrong).

    About low button stances : Moore’s Hayward suits have indeed a very low button stance, which, combined with a high lapel notch, has the effect of making Moore look taller and less heavier in the midsection. As it is pretty low -but it’s on purpose-, I understand some might see it as ‘dated’. But here with this charcoal suit I don’t think it’s dated at all. Actually I think a low button stance is timeless and should be a standard. I have rarely seen people on which a high button stance is flattering, and about its effect of making men taller and slimmer, well I still doubt it. As we se with Moore, the so-called dated aspect serves a practical purpose and isn’t a question of fashion trend.

    Actually, I think a high button stance is pretty uncomfortable (they often leave that ugly ‘tie gap’ between the jacket and the trousers, and you must wear your trousers pretty high to prevent this gap. Unless you are as tall as Connery, it can look a bit unproportionate sometimes with people of small or medium height) and not aesthetically pleasing. I don’t see why people see low button stance as dated, unless because a high button stance is the norm now ! Even Craig looked better and taller with a classic button stance in QOS whereas in Casino Royale his lounge suit jackets (as opposed to his dinner jacket which had a lower button stance) had a rather high button stance, and I didn’t think it made him look taller !

    I wonder on which physique is a high button stance flattering. Tall and slim men don’t need it to appear slimmer since they are already slim. Tall men with an important stomach will never look good with such a button stance since they allow their midsection to appear just under the top button of the jacket (see Brosnan in DAD wearing his modern two-button suit). And for shorter men, a high button stance means less tie showing and V-shaped torso to show on the jacket, so I don’t see what’s in it for them anyway !

    • Excellent points. I think a higher button stance is best on short people, but I’d say higher in the form of a medium button stance (like on the Casino Royale suits). A low button stance shortens the legs of short men too much. I see no point in a truly high button stance. It doesn’t move with the body.

      Robert Brown’s M first appeared in Octopussy.

    • Le Chiffre,

      I agree with you. Having a somewhat pear shaped body, I too prefer a lower button stance.
      I don’t think Tanner’s button stance is really that low. But the way he fastens it is what makes it look off IMHO. It makes the low button stance look even lower and kind of sloppy in the second picture. If he had buttoned the middle row, it would have looked much better and less “dated”.

    • Matt, this is interesting. How about a short man wit relatively long and big legs in comparison to his upper body? Not all short men have short legs. In my case I feel like my torso is one size smaller than everything else, including my head, and while I do have rather broad shoulders I have trouble finding clothes today when everything is supposed to be so skinny, because that kind of fit really emphasizes my lack of chest mass. Any suggestions? I am 176 cm btw.

    • Matt, I fully agree with you about a medium button stance (ie, the middle button being placed at about the middle of the jacket’s full length) being better suited to short men.

      However, in Casino Royale, Craig’s suit jackets -by the way, Craig isn’t short, he is of medium height I’d say, he just isn’t tall- could have had a slightly lower button stance (an inch lower), since he wears trousers at a medium rise, which look great on him, but the middle button of his suit jacket (see the picture of the charcoal blue suit when Craig meets Mathis with Vesper) could have been lowered a bit, to meet the trousers’ waistband. Since the trousers already had a classic rise I think this wouldn’t have make his legs appear shorter but it would have improved the overall look of the suit -although it already looked quite nice !
      About the dinner jacket, I guess the trousers have the same medium rise as the other suit trousers, but I can’t say whether the jacket has a slightly lower button stance than the city suits or if it’s just an illusion due to the fact it’s a one-button jacket.

      In QOS the lower button stance was better suited to Craig but unfortunately the trousers’ rise was way too low !

      @ Hagensen : indeed a low button stance will look better on you, but if I may add something : at 176 cm you certainly are not short !

      Being tall and very slim myself I appreciate a low button stance too, although I would certainly keep the same button stance even if I were 30 pounds heavier ! It’s also very pleasing, aesthetically.

  6. Prince George’s wife, Princess Marina of Greece, was a great beauty. However, the Prince’s taste for only fastening the bottom button of his double-breasted jackets is questionable at best. To my eye it looks plain stupid, almost slovenly; as if the wearer has just awoken from a drunken stupor and fluffed the buttoning with an inability to use his hands…
    At least the Prince knew how to fasten his 8 button double-breasted naval uniform properly.

  7. Country Life magazine 20 May 2015 reviewed the book “Fashion on the Ration”, and informed us that Henry “Chips” Channon possessed a stock of 40 suits at the outbreak of World War II, and so he found “make do and mend” not too much of a problem.


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