In the 1960s it would have been unthinkable for James Bond to wear any suit, or even a sports coat, without a tie. Even today, James Bond almost always puts on a tie when he puts on a suit. Naturally, there are exceptions to this, especially when Bond wears a suit in hot weather. But when wearing a business suit, Bond almost always wears a tie.
Though in many industries it is common to wear a suit without a tie—with a tie only donned for important meetings—James Bond always puts on a tie when he wears a suit for business. This includes most worsted and flannel suit, particularly when these suits are in city colours like grey and blue. For a traditionalist like Bond, these dressy city suits are incomplete without a tie. These suits can also look particularly boring without a tie. Though the tie may be a symbol of conformity, the tie actually provides people with a way to express themselves in their dress. Without the tie, men in suits look even more similar to each other. Additionally, the tie is a connective piece that when well-chosen can unify an outfit.
However, often when Bond wears a very informal warm-weather suit, he forgoes putting on a tie. This works for two reasons. First, if a suit is sportier or less formal than the typical business suit, the lack of tie is not incongruous with the suit. Second, wearing an open-neck shirt in hot weather is more comfortable than wearing a closed-neck shirt with a tie. The tie not only feels stuffy, it can look stuffy with a less formal suit in hot weather.
Bond shows how to successfully wear a suit without a tie
Moonraker features the first time that James Bond wears a suit without a tie. The suit is a cream silk or silk and linen blend for tropical and casual look. Because it is so far removed from a traditional city suit, the tie is not missed. When George Lazenby wore a similar suit in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service a decade earlier, he wore a tie with it. Moore could also have worn a tie with this suit, but in a desire to look more fashionable along with no social need for a tie, Bond makes a bold choice—but only a bold choice for Bond—to wear a suit sans tie. This outfit also features Moore’s only pocket square of all his Bond films, which may have been worn to make up for the lack of a tie. A pocket square can never make up for the lack of a tie, but it can add some of the interest that a tie would otherwise have brought to the outfit.
Bond does not again wear a suit without a tie until The Living Daylights, when he wears a tan gabardine suit in Tangier. The tan gabardine suit is a staple of Roger Moore’s Bond in the 1980s, but Moore always wears this suit with a tie. Because the tan gabardine suit is less formal than a typical city suit, both due to the colour and the weave, Dalton wears this suit successfully without a tie. In darker colours, however, gabardine suits are more difficult to wear sans tie.
In three out of Pierce Brosnan’s four Bond films, Brosnan wears linen suits in informal settings and always forgoes the tie. Because linen suits have more than a tendency to wrinkle, a linen suit isn’t worn for business or for very fancy occasions. Linen suits today are worn more for the fun of wearing a suit than the necessity of wearing a suit. They are amongst the least formal of suits, and a tie is not missed with these suits. Bond’s tan linen suit in Cuba in GoldenEye, his cream herringbone linen suit in The World Is Not Enough and his tan linen suit in Cuba in Die Another Day all do not miss their ties. These tan suits are worn in especially casual settings where a tie would have made Bond look out of place, but without a tie Bond looks cool and comfortable. The dark blue shirt in Die Another Day especially makes up for the lack of a tie, but it also makes this outfit the least formal of Brosnan’s three linen suit outfits.
Daniel Craig follows Brosnan’s linen suit-without-a-tie look in Casino Royale, with a navy blue linen suit in the black-and-white pre-title sequence and with a grey linen peaked lapel suit in the Bahamas. Bond has no reason for wearing suits in these scenes other than being James Bond, but by dressing down these already very informal suits by not wearing a tie, he does not look like he’s trying too hard with his clothes.
Bond occasionally discards his tie, such as in Quantum of Solace when his stressful circumstances have made him remove the ties he wears with his blue striped suit, his midnight blue suit and his midnight blue dinner suit. Bond usually does not get undressed until he gets to his hotel room, but if you find yourself in similar situations to when Bond removes his tie, you can feel free to do so yourself.
Bond shows how not to wear a suit without a tie
For a brief lapse in his sartorial judgement, only in Licence to Kill does James Bond wear dark, worsted city suits without a tie. The dark city suit, even when worn in the warm climates that Licence to Kill takes place in, demands a tie. When Bond arrives at the airport in Key West wearing a charcoal grey suit, likely dressed for his return to London, he should have been wearing a tie. He looks like he forgot a tie or was too lazy to wear a tie, and that is not Bond. Bond wouldn’t wait until he gets to London to put his tie on, he would wear it on the flight. A suit without a tie would be appropriate in Key West, but the dark worsted suit is not the appropriate suit to wear in Key West without a tie.
During the climax of Licence to Kill at Sanchez’s base, Bond again looks like he forgot his tie when wearing a navy suit. He is the only man there who wears a proper business suit sans tie. Bond has no excuse for not wearing a tie in this scene. A more casual suit like what Sanchez wears would have been a better choice to wear without a tie, if Bond was intent on not wearing a tie. With all the money he acquired, it’s a surprise a less formal suit—like a blue linen suit—was not amongst his many purchases. His anger towards Sanchez is no excuse for dressing below his usual standards.
James Bond is typically the model of when to and when not to wear a tie, but Bond makes more than a few mistakes in Licence to Kill when it comes to his clothes.
Wearing a sports coat without a tie
Because sports coats and blazers are less formal than suits are, they are easier to wear without a tie. James Bond first wears a sports coat without a tie in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but he still wears a collar that is fastened at the neck with a type of cravat: it’s a stock collar with a stock tie. This example is not particularly relevant today.
More relevant is in Diamonds Are Forever when Bond wears wears a polo jumper and a polo neck jumper with his tweed jackets. These tie-less methods avoid wearing an open-neck formal shirt that is meant to be worn with a tie.
In For Your Eyes Only, A View to a Kill and GoldenEye, Bond wears blue blazers—both single-breasted and double-breasted—with an open-collar formal shirt, just as he wears with his suits in the examples mentioned above. In A View to a Kill, Bond covers his neck with a day cravat, avoiding the bare-neck look that was long avoided by upper class men such as James St John Smyth, Bond’s cover. The open-neck shirt with a double-breasted blazer is more difficult to pull off than it is with a single-breasted blazer, but both can be done.
James Bond limits how he wears an open-neck shirt with tailored clothing. Despite changing attitudes towards neckties, Bond is just as much a fan of the tie in 2015 as he was in 1962. Bond understands that the tie is still a necessity to be well-dressed in most suits. Contrary to the way most people dress today, forgoing the tie is still the exception to the way Bond wears a suit.