If you live in the northern hemisphere, it is the season for overcoats and topcoats. An overcoat is a long, heavy coat that extends below the knee. A topcoat is lighter and is knee-length or shorter. There are numerous variations of each. Both are types of outercoats, which also includes raincoats, trenchcoats and a number of other coats.
In current fashions, the topcoat is trendier than the overcoat, despite both serving different practical purposes. The overcoat is meant for the cold of winter while the topcoat is designed for more moderate temperatures at the end of autumn and beginning of spring. Long and heavy coats are currently unfashionable, despite them performing superiorly to topcoats in below-freezing temperatures.
Outercoats are meant to keep you warm and dry before fashion. Bond wears both overcoats and topcoats, depending on the weather.
This article looks at how Bond wears his outercoats, which will be called “coats” for the rest of the article.
Wearing it Over a Suit or Blazer
Bond always wears his coats over a suit, dinner suit or a blazer. Overcoats and topcoats are dressy coats meant to be worn over another coat: a lounge coat. They should be large enough to fit over another coat, and traditionally brands size their coats to fit over a suit of the same size. A size 40 coat is traditionally designed to fit over a size 40 suit, but with people now commonly wearing topcoats only over a shirt, some brands are making their coats smaller.
Bond does not wear his coats over tweed jackets, which are traditionally intended to be outerwear on their own, but there’s nothing wrong with doing so.
How Bond Buttons His Coats
All of the buttons on a coat that have buttonholes may be fastened. As the coat is designed to protect the wearer from the elements, it is not going to have buttons that are meant to be left open like a suit jacket has. Double-breasted coats naturally have a mirror set of buttons for visual balance, and a formal double-breasted coat may have a vestigial top button without a corresponding buttonhole. But if a coat’s button has a buttonhole, it is always okay to fasten it.
Bond sometimes buttons all the buttons on his coats, he sometimes buttons only one button, and he sometimes wears it open.
If you are cold, all buttons should be fastened. A coat is meant for warmth over fashion. A coat should not be so tight that it cannot stay fastened while seated in a car. One should be able to step out of a car into the cold winter with the coat fully buttoned.
Daniel Craig’s Bond frequently fastens only one button of his coats, which is always the second button from the top. This fashionable way to wear the coat makes it easier for Bond to get to his PPK, either by making it easier to reach into his coat or by only having only one button to unfasten to get to it.
Bond often wears his coats open, either because he does not need to take advantage of the full warmth of his coat or to look stylish. Pierce Brosnan’s Bond always wears his coats open for a nonchalent look.
Sometimes Bond “pops” the collar of his coat. This should never be done with a suit jacket, but because the purpose of a coat is to protect one from the elements, flipping up the collar of a coat can do that. It is especially helpful in windy weather. This works better with less formal coats, but it can be done with any coat.
Carrying a Coat
Bond occasionally carries his coat when he thinks he may need his coat or because he became too warm and still had to carry the coat with him. He drapes his topcoats over his forearm in Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Thunderball and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
In For Your Eyes Only Bond carries his trenchcoat over his shoulder when he enters Moneypenny’s office, most likely just as a prop in the film for Bond to place on the coat tree with his hat and to give context to the hat he brings with him. If may have looked too inelegant to watch Bond unbutton and doff a trenchcoat on screen, so he carries it into the office instead.
When Bond Takes Off His Coat
Coats are meant for wearing outdoors and should be removed at one’s final destination. They can be removed for long train rides and on flights. When to wear and when to remove a coat is more about practicality than it is about ettiquette. If you’re cold, wear a coat. If you’re too warm, unbutton it or remove it.
At the office Bond usually removes his coat in Moneypenny’s office and leaves it on the coat tree before meeting with M. This is both so Bond is comfortable in his briefing without a heavy coat on and to show M he has time to stay.
When Bond wears his topcoat in M’s office in Spectre, it seems to be because he was in a rush to get in there (based on the original script’s cut scenes). He may also have his coat on because he knows he’s in trouble, and it psychologically acts like a layer of armour. However, leaving his coat on is rude to M because it gives M the impression that Bond can’t stay long.
A host should always offer to take a guest’s coat upon entering. M’s butler Hammond takes Bond’s coat in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service when Bond enters M’s house.
When Bond enters Sir Hilary Bray’s office at the College of Arms in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Sir Hilary immediately and politely says to Bond, “let me take your coat”, and hangs it on his coat tree using the locker loop sewn into the collar. Using the locker loop is the correct way to hang a coat on a peg to prevent the coat from being misshapen. But coats are heartier than suits and can take a fair beating without damage.
Coats are best hung on a hanger when not in use, but Bond hangs his coats on the peg of a coat tree in Moneypenny’s office, or he throws it on his chair in his foyer. It is best to use a trustworthy cloakroom when available.
I can’t place that Timothy Dalton image. Which movie is that from?
That’s from The Living Daylights.
I’m surprised he wore an overcoat in either of his movies. Licence to Kill took place entirely in the subtropics and tropics and I got the impression The Living Daylights took place in the summer, given that they were at the Viennese amusement park without coats.
I wouldnt argue for an overcoat solely for functional reasons – after all wool coats are all vastly inferior to modern outdoor jackets and wool caps in that regard.
But maybe its indeed less time spent outdoors, warmer climates, heated cars and lighter weight that people prefer topcoats to overcoats.
I have found wool overcoats to be superior to modern outdoor jackets in a few ways. The weight of a heavy coat does an excellent job at blocking wind, better than any high-tech coat I have worn. Heavy wool coats also breath better than most modern coats. Wool overcoats are especially helpful for city life, which involves walking in cold, windy city streets and then riding in warm subway cars. I stay protected outside and don’t sweat inside. Cashmere is even better for warmth.
I see many en walking the streets in the coldest days of New York’s winters wearing topcoats over nothing but a shirt. They are dressing for fashion rather than warmth and are in need of something warmer.
I walk to work and back every day in the frigid winter, over a mile each way, and wool coats have kept me comfortable in all but the coldest days. But they are not great for a place like Canada. They were designed for European winters.
Lets agree to have different experiences. :)
Having to occasionally walk about half a mile each way between my office and the courthouse here in Cleveland, I’m gonna have to agree with Matt on this. I can make the trip in my big, heavy bridge coat over a suit while keeping safe from the snow and biting wind off the lake and not overheating. The length also means I’m often the only one without road grime on my pants.
I will mention that it has an Ulster collar, which is also useful against the wind, much more than the traditional collar and lapels on my Crombie coat or the Prussian or standing collars you see on most synthetic jackets.
I’d love a bespoke Chesterfield, but it’s a dilemma. On one hand, it’s a lot warmer, a lot more water resistant (if you go heavyweight), and, well, we all need a coat.
On the other hand, I, too, am aware of the etiquette. But I’m also a forgetful person. Imagine a coat, $2.5k – $3k, forgotten somewhere, because I have to be indoors most of the time.
Well, until I have less to remember, or I can learn to remember better.
This is compounded by the fact that most places don’t have a coat check or coat hooks for their guests as was once common. The last two places I went to which had them were throwback 1950s-style diners. (And thus have probably had them as long as the building has existed.)
For me, losing one of my nicest raincoats was the learning experience that made sure I never lost another coat…
Since I live in Australia a top coat is really all I need, I have a navy peak lapel top coat in a mid weight wool. I wear it over suit jackets and sports coats in the winter. It is perfect for this climate and are mild winters. I also have a black car coat as well that I can wear casually or with a suit.
I have seen no other coat worn by Bond which looks even close to the impressiveness of the Live and Let Die chesterfield. It was Roger’s first appearance (outside of nightwear in the initial M scenes) and it really helped make him stand out and gave an imposing and confident air which was completely different to Connery. It helped him put his stamp on Bond right from the off; classic, sophisticated, top-drawer!
Davis, as usual, is 100% on target here.
Also, I am not sure what “modern outdoor jackets” means. Different jackets and coats for different purposes, contexts. I must agree with Matt and jdreyfuss on the coats. While I don’t have much occasion to wear it in LA, I have a vintage and custom cashmere overcoat from the 1960s that I inherited long ago. When I have worn it in the past (in San Francisco, Chicago, D.C., and New York), it has been a wonderful coat for the cold weather and looks great over a suit. I do have a long trench coat that, with the lining taken out for LA, is perfect to stay dry from the sometimes heavy rain we get and far better than the alternatives.
I agree with Christian. Spot on as always, David. Pierce Brosnan’s two overcoats in DAD come in second, albeit a distant second.
Thanks, John. Pierce had some beautiful overcoats which always looked a little “highly remunerated cultural attache” rather than British bespoke but, for me, he ruined their impact with the unfortunate habit of wearing them open. Same as the Goldeneye blazer.
It’s less of a sin to leave a double breasted overcoat open than it is a double breasted lounge coat, in my humble opinion. Brosnan did that blazer dirty in Goldeneye, I agree.
I agree with David, I don’t think you can beat the navy chesterfield overcoat from Live and Let Die that Roger Moore wore, it would have to be one of the most timeless overcoats of the series.
Indeed it is, and it would have been a pleasant surprise to see Daniel Craig in one.
What I like about the older entries in the series vs those of the Craig era are that, in the main, the coats were a decent length.
Brosnan’s coats are beautiful, as is Moore’s LALD coat. I have a Crombie topcoat now which ends just above the knee, but I would love something a bit longer.
Do any of you know of a maker who offers fuller length coat these days? They seem as rare as hens teeth without having something made.
Ironically, Crombie still makes some full length coats even though they are famous for their 3/4 length ones.