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.
Very interesting Matt I must say a well written post just in time for the warm weather! It is interesting to notice that it seems like Roger Moore is the only James Bond to wear these types of shirts. It is also an interesting to point out that Roger Moore’s James Bond never wears a short sleeve polo shirt.
On a different note I was wondering do you Matt enjoy wearing jersey shirts in the warmer months with causal wear. I myself own a dress shirt like Roger Moore’s zip on in Moonraker. My is like his however the difference is my has a shorter collar then his does. Anyway great article and take care!
I have two long-sleeve jersey shirts. One is quite heavy and not good for summer. The other is lightweight but not the best for very hot weather because of the long sleeves.
Matt on the topic of shirts – Turnbull & Asser are now charging £275 a shirt which seems like a vast increase from prices past. What justifies this cost over something like TM Lewin?
Turnbull & Asser shirts cost considerably more because of the cloths, the construction, the design and making them in England.
Im sure there are other shirtmakers that are extremely capable of making shirt just as good if not better for 275…
From my experience :
1. Know your fabrics
2. Take them a sample shirt and be prepared to lose it.
3. Know your fabrics.
4. Did i mention knowing your fabrics is recommended?
Unfortunately, there’s much more to shirts than fabric. Anyone can make shirts out of nice fabric. Knowing how to cut and construct shirts is far more important than the fabrics. There are few shirtmakers who are comparable in quality and construction to Turnbull & Asser. Frank Foster, Emma Willis, Budd, Hilditch & Key, and maybe one or two others can compare.
Jack Hedley as Sir Timothy Havelock is one of my favorite characters in FYEO, nicely dressed in pale blue shirt and trousers. He also did a great performance as Senior British Officer Colonel Preston in Colditz.
I was waiting to see an article like this. I’m thinking of getting some cotton pique knit sport shirts styled like an OCBD, similar to this from Brooks Brothers. https://www.brooksbrothers.com/knit-pique-sport-shirt/MP01486.html?dwvar_MP01486_Color=WHIT
It would be my summer equivalent of an OCBD. I do have one cotton linen blend shirt but it doesn’t appear to breath well in the heat to me.
I have a couple of pique knit shirts from Kamakura that might be what you’re looking for so take a look and see if they’re still doing them. Really nice combination of casual button down style with pique cotton and they are great for travel as they don’t seem to wrinkle much unlike poplin, Oxford etc.
I can also recommend those. I have one jersey button-down shirt from Kamakura, which I’m wearing in the photos here: https://www.bondsuits.com/no-time-to-die-dove-grey-albert-thurston-braces-from-h-n-white/
Most of their knitted shirts are now made of a cotton and polyester blend, but I recommend the 100% cotton shirts. They don’t need polyester to be wrinkle-resistant.
Unfortunately, they don’t have them anymore. All they have is the Traveler Fabric which has polyester in it, YUCK!
It looks like there are some in 100% cotton again. I’m puzzled as to why they would put polyester in a naturally wrinkle-resistant fabric.
I am a fan of jersey shirts, especially lightweight ones. They are one of my favourite wardrobe items. I own a number of them, by Italian brands such as Barba Napoli and Boggi, all long-sleeved, in white, navy, red, mid-brown, sky blue. I wear them both under a suit, with or without a tie, and in more casual occasion. They are so versatile because fabric is soft and smooth, and can be easily dressed up or down, working well on either a formal or a sportier look. What’s more, their fine knitted fabric is fresh and breathable, and therefore comfortable in hot weather.
Slightly off-topic: closely related to jersey shirts are cotton knitted polos. I own a wide range of them, both long and short-sleeved, by British and Italian brands such as John Smedley, Kangra, Boggi, Filati, Canali, Zanone, in any colour. They are good under a suit or a sport coat, to dress the outfit down a little bit on an informal occasion. Naturally they are great also alone I prefer knit to cotton piquet since the former drapes much better, looks more elegant, and wears less. Knit cotton is slightly heavier than fine jersey, so it is great on mid-season, but not quite advisable in very hot weather
I don’t like most polos with tailored jackets because the collar doesn’t stay up. The jacket collar ends up swallowing the polo’s collar, and it’s not a good look.
Yes Matt this is one thing I’ve mentioned a few times in my own blog posts. In days gone by I would often wear a polo shirt under a suit for casual events but came to really dislike the way the polo collar sinks down beneath the jacket collar. Eventually I got over my mental block for button down shirts and now have a few casual shirts and popovers with button down collars which look much better than polo shirts when worn under blazers / suit jackets, although to stay on topic I don’t think they’re a very Bondian look with the rare exception of Mr Moore IIRC. I have mentioned before that Kent Wang ‘Rugby’ shirts (ie pique cotton long sleeved polos) have a shirt-style collar and stand up very nicely under a tailored jacket.