James Bond and the Tie Clip

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A 1960s trend that has resurfaced in recent years along with the skinny tie, the tie clip is piece of men’s jewellery that adds a bit of fun and a unique elegance to wearing a tie.

The tie clip is both a decorative and a functional accessory that is worn across the blades of a tie that holds the two blades together and secures them to the placket of a shirt. A tie clip, also called a “tie clasp”, clips the tie to the shirt from the wearer’s right side and through the front opening of a shirt between the buttons to prevent the tie from swinging around. It can also help the tie elegantly arch away from the neck. The tie clip is especially useful when the tie does not have a keeper to hold the narrow blade in place behind the wide blade.

A tie bar is like a tie clip that only slides onto the tie without a spring the clips it. The tie pin or tie tack is another piece of jewellery with a similar function that pins the tie to the shirt, though it can leave a hole in tightly woven ties and shirts. The tie clip or bar is better for the health of your clothes, though they can leave an indent in certain ties.

James Bond only wears a tie clip on one occasions in the films: he uses one in Goldfinger to secure his brown knitted silk tie to his shirt with his barleycorn tweed hacking jacket. He wears the tie clip only about two inches above the top button of his hacking jacket, which means it is mostly obscured under the jacket. Occasionally we see a sliver of it between his jacket’s lapels. The tie clip is more visible in behind-the-scenes photos when he wears it a little higher. We can see in some of these photos that it is decorated with a dark lengthwise bar in the middle of it and is just longer than the width of the tie. This means that the tie clip is too long, but it still works.

A behind-the-scenes photo from Goldfinger showing the tie clip, from THUNDERBALLS James Bond Picture Archive

Because Connery’s tie clip is hardly seen, we are possibly not even meant to see it. It may just be there to keep the tie in place rather than serve as a decoration. This low position is commonly said to be incorrect because the tie clip is obscured, but it still functional at this position. The tie clip should ideally be positioned around the middle of the tie (up or down a couple inches), so not much tie will be free to hang below the tie clip. If the tie clip is placed too low it won’t help the tie arch away from the neck and the clip will be hidden under the jacket, and if the clip is placed too high it won’t do much to hold the tie against the body and can distract from the face. Too low is better than too high.

The ideal position of the tie clip varies depending on the position of the jacket’s top fastening button, typically about a quarter to half of the distance up from the jacket’s opening to the shirt’s collar. There is flexibility here. Today’s usual advice for tie clip placement is too high. Today’s trends make it difficult to both display the tie clip and wear it in a functional position. With trousers worn low, ties are worn longer to make up for the low trouser rise. Jackets with a high button stance have a small opening to display the tie clip and force the tie clip up higher. With the tie clip up higher, too much of the longer tie is left free to swing and the effectiveness of the tie clip is diminished.

With the 1960s’ lower button stance and higher trouser rise compared to today’s fashions, the tie clip could be placed in a more functional position—just below the middle of the tie—and still be visible, which is not possible with today’s fashions.

Tiger Tanaka wearing a tie clip in You Only Live Twice

With the hacking jacket is the only time Sean Connery wears a tie clip in Goldfinger. A tie clip should not be worn with a waistcoat, since the waistcoat serves the same purpose as the tie clip by holding the tie in place.

Because tie clips were trendy in the 1960s, it should be no surprise that Sean Connery wears them in other 1960s roles and was no stranger to the tie clip before Goldfinger. He wears them throughout Marnie, which was released before Goldfinger earlier in 1964. He also wears one in The Frightened City, a 1961 film he made before he was James Bond. A few other characters in the Bond films wear tie clips, such as Tiger Tanaka and Mr Osato, both in You Only Live Twice.

Sean Connery wearing a tie clip in Marnie

James Bond also wears a tie clip in Ian Fleming’s novel Live and Let Die when he “had to submit to a certain degree of Americanization at the hands of the FBI”. Far removed from his own preferences, Bond acquires “a ‘Swank’ tie-clip in the shape of a whip”.

While the tie clip is by no means a Bondian look, is the tie clip appropriate for James Bond? The character generally avoids extra jewellery, and while the tie clip serves a function it is nevertheless an unnecessary and fussy piece of jewellery. On the other hand, the function it serves can keep a tie from getting in the way during a fight. For someone who likes to wear ties but doesn’t want them getting in the way, the tie clip is a very useful accessory.

27 COMMENTS

  1. I never noticed that, but it’s true…Bond isn’t much into jewelry. Tie clips are rare for 007.

    The etiquette for tie clips is that they are to be fastened between the 3rd and 4th buttons on the shirt. Of course, hanging them lower – as in Goldfinger – can be chalked up to displaying a bit of sprezzatura.

    I just got into tie clips a year ago. I recently went to a Christmas party and the first people I met were a lesbian couple. One of them remarked quite suddenly how they thoughts tie clips were sexy on a man. I’m quite sure this woman was NOT hitting on me. I just think that’s the effect tie clips have on some people.

    Great article. Thank you.

    • Positioning the tie clip based on the number of shirt buttons is not reliable. It is often said to place the tie clip between the third and fourth buttons of a shirt, but it is never said if when counting the buttons to include the collar button. Shirt button spacing can vary (it does on my shirts). Basing the tie clip position visually based on the jacket’s button stance is a better system, but not as straight-forward.

  2. I’ve always had an issue with my tie clips continuously tilting up or down. I’ve found that just wearing a vest of some kind or keeping my jacket closed will work just as well without requiring the constant fuss to make sure everything is in place.

  3. Hi, I very much enjoy reading your blog. Never had the feeling I had something usefull to add to what was written until now. I don’t think Bond or anybody who would pass himself as a sophisticated dresser should be wearing a tie clip. Managers in factories wear tie clips to prevent being caught in the machinery. Guess that speaks for itself. Keep up the good work with the blog. Cheers!

  4. I swear by The Tie Thing. Cleaner look, serves the same basic function. It will not help keep your tie arched, but that’s a minor drawback. I do have a few tie clips, but wear them sparingly now. Last time I wore one was with a tie that had lost its keeper label and thus couldn’t make use of a Tie Thing. It was hidden under a double breasted suit jacket.

  5. When tie clips became very trendy about 8 or 9 years ago, it was remarkable how so few people wore them correctly. Again and again I would see the clip used to fasten the two blades of the tie together, but not attached to the shirt!

    Thankfully, the tie clip resurgence, along with the shrunken suit, is very much on the wane.

    • There’s nothing inherently wrong with tie clips, but I did notice that as well. Even in a movie! A character bent over and his stylish gold clip swung along with the tie. A bigger problem I noticed was that everyone was wearing them too high, including coworkers of mine at the menswear store I was employed — they of all people should know better.

  6. Did Maxwell Smart ever wear them? In earlier seasons he wore three-piece suits often, and in later ones four-button suits took over so I can’t remember ever seeing him wear tie clips.

  7. I’ve tended to wear my tie clips and bars nearly even with the opening on my chest pocket. Do you feel this is a reasonable placement?

    • I feel that it’s too high, though if your suits have a fashionable high button stance it may be hidden if you wear it any lower. I don’t think it should be any higher than the bottom of the breast pocket welt. If you’re short like Mr Osato, that’s where to put it. For a tall man like Sean Connery, it should be well below the breast pocket welt.

  8. I like tie clips and wear one whenever I’m wearing a tie. Usually positioned below the buttoning point of my jacket so it’s only visible when I unbutton the jacket to sit and eat. I agree that for the minimalist Bond as outlined in the books it would seem to be out of character for him, but today’s Bond wears equally/more fussy collar bars and tab collar shirts so who knows?

    “ … and while the tie clip serves a function it is nevertheless an unnecessary and fussy piece of jewellery. On the other hand, the function it serves can keep a tie from getting in the way during a fight. For someone who likes to wear ties but doesn’t want them getting in the way, the tie clip is a very useful accessory.”

    The above paragraph seem to be loaded with contradictions – are they “useful” and “functional” or “unnecessary” and “fussy”?

  9. Crucial question: what is the key to finding a tie clip that stays horizontal and doesn’t slide diagonally one way or the other? (eg, Tiger Tanaka above). Tie clips are very elegant, but too often one spends much time constantly readjusting them to the horizontal.

    • There is no key to that. Every single tie clip I’ve worn, whether slide or clasp, does that at some point. You can either deal with straightening it, the same way one inevitably needs to straighten their tie knot throughout the day, or just leave it be. I’ve seen a lot of people do the latter and, to me, it doesn’t look inelegant or bad.

  10. I have also read that when wearing a tie clip that it is supposed to be tilted up at a 45 degree angle and not horizontal. As anyone else heard or know about this? I have only seen it worn once like this in the movies. It was the Gordan Gekko character in Wall Street (1987). I’m sure I have seen it other places but it seemed to standout in the Wall Street movie. They seemed pretty careful about the wardrobe for Wall Street so I am not sure it was a mistake.

    Thanks for pointing out the tie clip in Goldfinger Matt. Until I read your post I didn’t know the tie clip was even there. But I agree, Bond does not seem to enjoy wearing tie clips. Stick to the basics!

    • I’ve only seen that advice on menswear forums and perhaps from one of the experts out there. Perhaps they’re just anticipating the inevitable tilting and making it a feature rather than a bug.

      • Yeah I agree. The only time to be concerned about keeping the clip perfectly horizontal IMO is when wearing a square ended knit tie as it seems to look better that way. I only own a couple of these and hardly ever wear them. A good argument could be made that a knit tie being lower (lowest?) on the formality scale of ties, it maybe doesn’t merit the fastidiousness of a clip.
        I don’t think there are any rules about clip angle but there’s a nonchalance about not fussing over it being exactly horizontal. I might cant mine at a bit of an angle or it might gravitate that way during the day and I don’t care. The only slight incongruence might come when you have a repp stripe tie with British stripes (from the wearer’s top left to bottom right) which conflicts with a downward facing clip going from top right to bottom left.

        (I was brewing up a post for my blog on this very topic so some interesting comments here!)

  11. Hmm. Never heard of a 45 degree angle rule. Appreciate Jovan’s notes: some of my tie clips are reasonably sticky/horizontal, others need constant adjustment–never exactly sure why. I do think that (like the move from .25 cal Beretta to the Walther PPK) tie clips are a logical progression for Bond: he likes discipline & control (see chapter 1 of Casino Royale). But it must be admitted that neither the book Bond nor the film Bond has the given the humble tie clip much of a place in his dress code. 😉

  12. Matt, I noticed you often mention how low rise trousers can ruin a look. Most of the time they do, but they’re a god-send for me. I have extremely long legs compared to my torso. If I wear regular rise trousers at my natural waist, my torso just dissapears and I have this cartoonish look. I really need lower rise trousers for a balanced look, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

    • Seems like the only way to continue the balance for your extremely long legs relative to your torso is also to have your jackets cut with the buttoning point way below your natural waist. In a way similar to Douglas Hayward’s cut in order to give as much length to your torso, below your chest as possible.

      You sure would not want your jacket button point to be at your natural waist height while your low rise trousers create a huge triangular hole of dress shirt in the middle of your already short torso, making it seem even more awkward.

  13. When Bond is in a fight…he can tuck the blade of his tie into the waistband of his trousers. It would be more efficient than using a tie bar or clip.

  14. I can’t stand wearing a tie without a tie clip! I work in an office environment, for the most part without a jacket, and to have the tie swinging around, getting in the way when leaning over, etc. just irks me intensely. I also think it looks terribly untidy. Add to that the fact that a chap doesn’t have much latitude for jewellery or adornment of any kind, so a nice tasteful tie clip I think is a nice finishing touch to the outfit. I do confess however to having worn one with a waistcoat for this reason – don’t judge me too harshly

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