Does James Bond Use Collar Stays?

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Whether you call it a collar stay, a collar stiffener, a collar bone or a collar tab, they’re often said to be an essential part of the standard formal shirt and dress shirt. Collar stays are a stiff strip made of rigid plastic, metal, mother of pearl other other materials that fit into a pocket sewn into the underside of a collar leaf that ensure the points of a collar stay straight and sit against the collarbone.

Without collar stays, the collar can often look flimsy and the points may float. But are they really necessary? James Bond has varied his use of them over the years.

Sean Connery’s shirt in Goldfinger stays neat and in place with collar stays. Notice the slight imprint where the collar stay is.

About Collar Stays

Point, spread and cutaway collars almost always require collar stays. Stays not only ensure the points don’t lift or curl away from the collarbone, they also give these collars a more formal look.

Plastic collar stays come with most shirts, including high-end bespoke shirts. Plastic collar stays may not seem as fancy as metal or mother-of-pearl, but when made of a thick plastic they work effectively. Flimsy collar stays should be replaced as they won’t do a good job. But thicker plastic collar stays still have the advantage of being slightly flexible over the stiffest metal and mother-of-pearl stays, so they put less stress on the collar.

Collar stays usually come in different lengths to fit different collar point lengths. Frank Foster trim their plastic collar stays with scissors to perfectly fit each collar. Finding collar stays for collars with long points can be difficult.

Collar stays give a collar a stiff, formal and neat look.

Collar stays should always be removable. Sewn-in collar stays exist, but despite their convenience they should always be avoided. They can leave an imprint on the collar when ironed and can even make holes in the collar, and for this reason collar stays that can be removed should be when the shirt is laundered and ironed.

Collars that have visible methods of securing the points, such as button-down collars, tab collars and pin collars do not take collar stays, though some tab collars take stays to give them a stiffer and more formal look. Wing collars do not take stays, and rounded collars, such as club collars or rounded point collars, may or may not. These collars are starched to stay stiff, though rounded collars may also be worn unstarched with a pin.

Sports shirts often are meant to have soft collars and will not take collar stays.

Button-down collars are known for their roll and do not have collar stays

Bond and Collar Stays

James Bond almost always wears collar stays, since he usually wears spread and point collars that usually need collar stays. Bond’s shirts typically have a formal look, and as a British military man he would generally prefer the crisp look of a collar with collar stays.

His English shirts from Turnbull & Asser and Frank Foster have collars with substantial sewn-in interfacings, and the stays complement their formal look. His continental shirts from Brioni and Tom Ford have fused interfacings, and the stays are necessary to keep the spread and point collars in place.

Tab collars do not need collar stays because the tab keeps the collar in place.

On occasion, Bond has worn shirts with button-down, tab and pinned collars, and these collars are typically meant to have a softer and less formal look.

Bond does not always wear collar stays in his spread collars. In most cases this can result in floating collar points, but in a well-constructed and a well-ironed collar, the points can still lay flat against the collarbone without stays. A collar without stays can be desirable for a softer, more relaxed look to pair with a sports coat or a flannel or linen suit rather than a stiff collar.

Sean Connery’s shirt in Diamonds Are Forever does not have collar stays.

Bond forgoes collar stays in most of Diamonds Are Forever. Without stays, the unfused collars of his Turnbull & Asser shirts have a casual roll like a button-down collar. Occasionally the collar points lift off the collarbone, but for the most part the collars stay elegantly put. The relaxed look of these collars matches Sean Connery’s relaxed performance in the film. Some may say that both the collars and his performance have an aspect of carelessness.

Roger Moore’s shirt in A View to a Kill does not have collar stays.

Bond goes without collar stays in the ecru Frank Foster shirt that he wears with his hacking jacket in A View to a Kill. This shirt was likely worn without collar stays on purpose to give the shirt a sportier and more casual look. The collar does not look as neat, but that is the intention.

Daniel Craig forgoes collar stays in Spectre.

Bond does not wear stays in his Tom Ford shirts in Spectre. The fused collars still look fairly neat without the stays, but the collars have a relaxed look and don’t always stay put. When he’s wearing an unstructured linen, silk and wool-blend jacket from Brunello Cucinelli, the softer look of a collar without stays goes particularly well with it.

With Bond’s blue point-collar shirt in No Time to Die, the collar stays have returned.

Cary Grant famously wears a soft point collar without stays in North By Northwest, and he pulls off the look beautifully. He wears a collar that is sewn in a way to stay neat without stays.

Cary Grant’s shirt in North By Northwest does not have collar stays but still looks neat.

Dare I say that going without collar stays is an expression of sprezzatura? It’s a subtle one, and some may find that it looks sloppy. But when worn with a sportier outfit this carelessness fits in. With a dressy worsted lounge suit it may be more difficult to pull off, but that isn’t to say that it can’t be done.

When wearing a collar open without a tie, collar stays can help the collar stand up better. It generally won’t help a non-button-down collar sit against the collarbone. Bond often wears stays in his collars when the collars are open, but it’s not so much of a necessity there.

Pierce Brosnan wears collar stays in this open-necked shirt in The World Is Not Enough.

Do you think collar stays should always be present in a collar with pockets for them, or it it okay to omit them?

42 COMMENTS

  1. Were stays always included with shirts, or was there a time when pockets were included in the collar but wearers simply expected to supply their own stays?

  2. I generally always wear collar stays with shirts that take them. I’ll often wear stays that are a little shorter than intended for the length of my collar points to get some roll at the top while still keeping them in place.

    • I agree – slightly shorter collar stays are more comfortable and easier on the collar points.

      On a different note, I happened to be traveling by plane shortly after 9/11, and had the harebrained idea of putting a spare pair of brass collar stays in my wallet. Airport security came down on me like a ton of bricks, and I thought the young man with the Uzi might shoot me because he had never seen collar stays (let alone metal ones) in his life!

    • jdreyfuss, I do the same. I agree it gives the top of the collar a very refined roll around the tie knot, which somewhat approximates the way Turnbull&Asser cut Connery’s collars as Bond. For a budget alternative, I have always been a big fan of Polo Ralph Lauren’s dress shirts with the Regent collar and I find mine always come with stays that are a bit shorter than the shirt collar as standard.

  3. I sometimes wear brass collar stays and bend them ever so slightly so that the collar and the tie will “pop” a little more.

  4. “Some may say that both the collars and his performance have an aspect of carelessness”…Ha ha. Well put, Matt!

    When I was younger, I would always pull the collar stays out of my shirts as soon as I bought them because I thought it made the shirt look stuffy. Now Its hard for me to put on a shirt unless it has the collar stays that makes the collar look so neat and in place. Most of my linen and heavy wool shirts lack collar strays and they can fight with lapel of my suit jacket occasionally.

  5. It seems to me that collar stays were necessary back in the days when collars were very soft, unfused and unlined (I’m not an expert, so, not sure about the difference). In the film “Darkest Hour” you may notice that the collars look very soft, which is historically correct. Modern fused collars are stiff enough to stay in place without collar stays. I, personally, prefer a softer look (less corporate/uniform-like) and always remove the collar stays. I think that the reason why many young people don’t like jackets and ties is because of the strong associations this style has with corporations, finance, law, and politics. In other words, the look is too conventional, standard, conformist and anything but cool. However, tailored clothing and classic accessories don’t have to be stiff and formal. One can absolutely look easy and “cool” in a jacket and tie. Omitting collar stays to purposefully make the collar look softer is a good start.

  6. I had never actually noticed that Connery wore the shirts without stays in DAF though it doesn’t come as a surprise. He hadn’t a clue regarding clothing protocol and to be fair, he hadn’t an interest and never claimed otherwise. Dalton was the same and Connery would have looked as bad with the wardrobe Dalton had in his movies. I’m surprised that Roger allowed this in AVTAK. It is a pointless exercise softening the collar on one shirt in a movie especially when the 2 button down collar shirts which he wears in the same movie actually have stays!

    I have occasionally forgotten to put the stays in the collar and notice it as soon as I’d put the shirt on and rectify it. As the others have said, the collar falls down completely without them. Why buy a high end shirt and ruin it. Good trick from Dan with the metal stiffeners!

      • Quite possibly but in the case of Connery in DAF; why would a costume designer issue instructions to have shirts with no stays? My feeling is Connery was let do whatever he wished on that movie and he did so. I guess with AVTAK Roger just went along with this though I see no reason for them to do this with one particular shirt. It’s not a natural look for Roger and didn’t enhance the outfit.

  7. I bought a set of brass collar stays many years ago from Brooks Brothers. They come in several different lengths and with a black leather pouch to keep them organized for storage and travel. I do the same as jdreyfuss as far as using a slightly shorter stay in the pocket but for a different reason. When I first started using them and placed the exact length required in the pocket, I found that it caused a great deal of stress on the collar point and even caused the metal stay to wear through. I prefer the brass stays for durability and to keep the collar standing tall so I would likely never switch back to plastic. I have some Charles Tyrwhitt shirts and they provide metal stays which is a nice touch.

    • Ditto. When I get bespoke shirts at T&A I request collar stays slightly smaller than the collar pocket… the ones they’ve supplied in the past for me were “too perfect” for the size and after washing and wearing, I can feel it poking at my jugular through the collar lol.

    • I had that issue too. I originally started wearing short stays because the longer ones would poke me in the neck or collarbone during the day, but even with better quality shirts and stays I still do it because I like the look.

  8. I never use them. The best thing about bespoke shirts is that the collars are so well crafted and cut that they have a natural roll to them. The collar stiffeners defeat that aesthetically pleasing feature entirely. Besides, it’s best that the collar is left soft so that neck movement is not impede.

    Then again, I have a very weird approach to my garments, so consider my words with at least 16 oz of salt.

  9. I’m a little surprised that collar stays haven’t been used as a gadget in a Bond film. I could see it modified into a lock pick or small blade.

  10. I was given silver stays by my Italian shirtmaker, as a recognition for the amount of shirts I ordered, both personally and through customers I gladly introduced.
    From that day, I never again used plastic alone. Plastic is brittle and silver patina is a feast for the eyes, over time. Also, when wearing different, larger collars, I sometimes use old plastic ones in parallel with the silver ones, adapting their length while keeping them even more in place.

  11. A problem which I’ve experienced is that quite often the stiffeners break while I’m wearing the shirt. I don’t know, quite honestly, why this occurs. The problem is that the part of the collar which holds the stays on Frank Foster shirts is somewhat wider than average as the stays are too (obviously) so finding a more solidly built replacement is problematic! Any thoughts?

    • Metal ones, they surely be unbreakable. I have a whole no full and will be happy ro send you some as I have a ton of Tyrwhitt shirts which always come with a brass pair.

      • Rod, thanks for the offer and much appreciated however, Matt is right. The problem is the length and indeed width of the Foster stays. Any metal ones i’ve seen would be shorter and narrower so would just fall out of the pocket where they’re meant to sit

      • You may need to go custom on this. I’m sure there’s someone near you who would be willing to cut you a set of collar stays out of rolled brass or aluminum. It wouldn’t even need to be that expensive, since they could be CNC-cut and wouldn’t need custom dies. Bring an exemplar to them and they’d quote you a price and timetable.

      • Thanks for the suggestion (Jdreyfuss too). This makes sense. I will look further at Ywbutton.

    • I’ve noticed you can tell Connery wears one under some of his dress shirts (you can see a faint outline), though I don’t think we the viewer are meant to think he does. e.g. in FRWL when he removes his shirt to shower he is not wearing anything underneath

    • Out of canon, but he did wear one in Never Say Never Again, since it served as a disguise when he and Leiter escaped from the police by pretending to be a boxer out for a run and his trainer trailing on a bike.

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