The cotton jersey shirt, originally trendy in the 1970s when James Bond first wore it, has been become popular again. The jersey shirt is by no means a James Bond staple or a menswear staple, but it’s a unique shirt that deserves more recognition than it gets.
Cotton jersey is a knit cotton with fine lengthwise ribs that has natural stretch, a soft hand and a bit of a sheen. It is also very easy to iron and naturally wrinkle-resistant. It is often used for t-shirts, polos, rugby shirts and roll necks as well as bedding and baby clothing. Though it’s a less popular use, cotton jersey can also be made into sports shirts. Cotton jersey is made in a variety of weights for year-round wear, though lightweight cotton jersey is most commonly used for shirts. Thomas Mason and Canclini are amongst the few producers both have a selection of cotton jersey and cotton pique for making up into knitted sports shirts.
The jersey shirt is amongst the most casual of sports shirts, but it’s also versatile. Because it’s knitted like a polo, it’s essentially only one step up in formality from a polo. But when it’s made with a two-piece collar, like James Bond’s are, it can easily be worn with a tailored jacket. Compared to a dressier woven cotton poplin shirt or another dressy woven, a jersey shirt will never look like it’s missing a tie.
Roger Moore wears a few cotton jersey shirts made by Frank Foster in his Bond films. Frank Foster constructed them just like any of Moore’s formal shirts, with semi-stiff sewn-in interfacings in the collar and cuffs and a front placket. The shirts are all closely fitted and are tailored with rear darts.
The Half-Zip Jersey Shirt
Bond’s first jersey shirt shows up as part of an all-black outfit in Moonraker for two sneaky nights out, and it’s one of the most unique shirts of the series. It’s a black shirt that has a half-zip opening in the front like a half-zip jumper, which makes for a very casual shirt. Orlebar Brown reimagined this shirt as a piece of knitwear in their 007 collection, but Moore’s was a proper shirt with a two-piece collar and cuffs, albeit in a knitted fabric. The black jersey shirt almost resembles a piece of athletic wear.
Sam Frank of Frank Foster Shirts told me that they made many half-zip shirts in the 1970s. While the half-zip aspect of the shirt does not necessarily date the shirt, its point collar with long points does. The shirt also has single-button mitre cuffs with smoke mother of pearl buttons and a patch breast pocket with mitred corners. The zip is black so it does not stand out.
Long-Sleeve Button-Front Jersey Shirt
Under his fisherman’s jumper and gilet in For Your Eyes Only, Bond wears a dark blue cotton jersey shirt. This shirt is styled like his formal shirts in the film with a high spread collar, front placket and two-button mitre cuffs. It also has a patch breast pocket with mitred corners.
This is the most versatile of Bond’s jersey shirts in the series because of the long sleeves and button front. While Bond wears it as a piece of casual sportswear, he could just as easily have worn it under a blue blazer without a tie. Without being up close, it looks similar to a heavy woven sports shirt. This shirt occupies the space between a long-sleeve polo and an oxford shirt, but it’s closer to the latter.
Kamal Khan (played by Louis Jourdan) also wears a jersey shirt from Frank Foster in Octopussy, and he shows how they can be dressed up. He wears his in brown with a beige herringbone suit and no tie. Because the suit is of the more casual variety, and he’s not wearing a tie, the dark jersey shirt is a perfect choice because he doesn’t look like he is missing a tie as he might if he were wearing a formal shirt. Like Bond’s long-sleeve shirt in For Your Eyes Only, Kamal’s also has a spread collar, two-button mitre cuffs, a front placket and a mitred breast pocket.
Short-Sleeve Button-Front Jersey Shirts
James Bond also wears two short-sleeve jersey shirts in For Your Eyes Only: one is beige and the other is a pale yellow. These two are purely summer shirts and are more casual than the long-sleeve button-front shirts because of the short sleeves. Bond wears them both very casually, like how other Bond actors wear polo shirts. Compared to the long-sleeve shirts, the short-sleeve shirts have more of a resort feel. He wears the beige shirt with a sage green suede blouson and light brown linen trousers, and he wears the pale yellow shirt with stone-coloured cotton trousers.
Like Bond’s long-sleeve jersey shirt in For Your Eyes Only, it also has a high spread collar, a front placket and a patch breast pocket with mitred corners. The sleeves are an elegant length, extending three quarters to the elbow, and have a trim but not snug cut. They are finished with a turned-up cuff, which is deeper on the yellow shirt than on the beige shirt.
These shirts, as well as most of the other jersey shirts, have Frank Foster’s usual placket stitching at 15mm from the edge. But they also have edge stitching to keep the placket’s edges looking crisp since jersey does not hold a press as well as woven cottons do. Frank Foster’s usual 15mm stitching is not entirely necessary since the buttonholes are anchoring the centre of the placket, but the stitching visually anchors the centre of the shirt.
Bond always wears his jersey shirts tucked into his trousers, but like all Frank Foster shirts they are made with a straight hem with vents at the sides, a style that lends itself well to being untucked. Moore’s shirts are probably too long to look good untucked, but if they were made shorter, these shirts would also look good untucked.