If I had to single out one of James Bond’s jacket cuts as my favourite, I would choose Cyril Castle’s cut for Live and Let Die. It’s undeniably English, and the cut has character and a bit of drama without being overly flamboyant. The fit is superb, and the proportions do not date. The bootcut flare on trousers may not hold up today, but the jacket completely does. While there are many superb cuts and styles throughout the Bond series, and no one tailor can be singled out as the best, Cyril Castle together with his brother Claude—the cutter for Cyril Castle—made my favourite jacket silhouette.
Cyril Castle was Moore’s tailor for at least 12 years. He tailored Moore through his series The Saint and The Persuaders! and his films Crossplot, The Man Who Haunted Himself, Live and Let Die, Gold and The Man with the Golden Gun.
Of all the suit coats and sports coats in Live and Let Die, I’ve chosen the tan crocodile farm jacket to use because it’s the one with the most screen time. Being a solid-coloured and light-coloured jacket, it is easy to see the shape and details. But this article is only about the cut and style of the jacket, not the colour, the fabric or how he wears it.
The shoulders are narrow with a fairly straight line but have little padding. The sleeve heads have a slight bit of roping, punctuating the shoulders without drawing attention to them. The shoulder line is defined but still has a mostly natural look to it.
The notched lapels are typical of an English tailor. The gorge (seam where the lapel meets the collar) is fairly straight. The lapels are neither narrow nor wide, being a width halfway from the fold to the sleeve. In Live and Let Die the lapels lack the excessive width that all plague the jackets of the four other 1970s James Bond films. The lapels have some belly, giving the impression of a wider lapel and a fuller chest. Castle increased the width of the lapels for the next Bond film, The Man with the Golden Gun, to adjust to the trends of the 1970s, but he never went to excessive widths.
The chest has a full cut with a swelled shape for an imposing look and maybe even the ability to conceal a Walther PPK. The shape is something that usually only bespoke garments have, as it takes a special effort from a world-class tailor to form a chest like this through cutting, tailoring and ironing.
The waist is suppressed, which tames the fullness in the chest and adds drama to the shape. The jacket is closely fitted where it needs to be to look neat, but it also has fullness where it serves for comfort and balance. The waist is high at the sides but lower in the front where the jacket’s waist button is. This is the top of the two buttons on Moore’s jackets in Live and Let Die, but Castle did the same with the middle of the three buttons on Moore’s jackets in The Saint and The Persuaders!.
The button stance (position of the waist button) is fairly low; it’s slightly below Moore’s natural waist by about 3/4 inch. It makes the chest look larger and lengthens the torso. The low button stance is the only thing that prevents the jacket from looking like something off Savile Row today, where the button stance is often at a more natural position. However, it looks balanced and works to good effect.
The hacking pockets on the hips add a bit of classically British flair to the jacket. The slant is neither too gentle nor too extreme. The slant is not so steep that it wouldn’t be appropriate on a suit jacket. There’s no ticket pocket, which could otherwise break up the length of the jacket or make it look too crowded or sporty. The pocket flaps are a classic width, and the bottom of the flap elegantly lines up with the bottom button.
The skirt of the jacket has a slight English flair. There are long double vents of about 12 inches at the rear, and the top of the vents is almost as high as the top button on the front of the jacket. The long vents are the only part of the jacket that dates it, but I like the drama of long vents. Shortening the vents by about two inches would give the jacket a more perennial look. The vents are cut with an elegant outward flare, but I think a little more flare would help them drape a little better over the seat.
The front quarters beneath the waist button are cut away and have a pronounced outward curve towards the hems. This gives what is otherwise a very English jacket a bit of an Italian look. English jackets typically have straighter, more closed quarters. The rounded open quarters on this jacket balance the chest opening and give the jacket an ‘X’ shape.
The front of the jacket is cut with the front dart extended to the hem of the jacket rather than displaced across the pocket to the side for a sidebody cut. This jacket does not have a sidebody, so the dart at the side of the jacket under the sleeve ends at the pocket. The extended front dart was typical for English tailors to use in the few decades following World War II but by the 1980s it had fallen out of favour. This kind of cut is mostly used by Neapolitan tailors today. It can tame the amount of flare at the skirt of the jacket, but ultimately it changes the silhouette very little from today’s ubiquitous sidebody cut, which is easier to shape and looks cleaner from the front of the jacket.
The sleeves have a full cut at the top with a lot of taper to the forearm. The full cut in the upper sleeve helps the sleeve drape well while also adding strength to the upper body. The cuff flares out, which is common for English sleeves, but there’s more to this cuff. The cuff has additional flare and meets in a kissing fashion (instead of overlapping) with a cufflink effect. The inner part of the sleeve has buttons sewn back-to-back, while the outer part of the sleeve has one buttonhole. It looks like there is only one button on the cuff cuff, but there’s one on the outside and another on the inside. The cuff’s flare mirrors the trousers’ flare, though since this kind of cuff is not typical to the 1970s I don’t think it dates the jacket. Castle previously used this cuff on a few of Moore’s jackets in The Persuaders! when he was still wearing narrow drainpipe trousers, so they don’t need to be paired with flared trousers. I find it to be a fascinating, if fussy, detail.
The jacket fits exceptionally well. In some shots, the left sleeve looks too long and the right sleeve looks too short. This is because the jacket is not sitting evenly across Moore’s shoulders, which is something that can happen when wearing a jacket and is no fault of the jacket’s. The only problem with the fit is that the collar is too low and shows off too much shirt collar. However, Moore requested this because he found that Castle’s collars would ride up.
The jacket has timeless proportions with a balanced design and unique details. It’s well-cut but also interesting, particularly in how it combines a mostly English cut with a bit of Italian flair. It draws a little attention to itself, but it’s not excessively flashy. When you look at Moore from the knee-up in Live and Let Die—ignoring the flares—Moore rarely looked more elegant. For me, it’s the perfect silhouette.