Many people consider the wing-collar shirt the quintessential shirt for black tie. They like how it is distinguished from an ordinary turn-down collar like a spread collar or point collar. They like how it stands up high to make a strong impression. They like it because it looks more old-fashioned. They might be under the impression that it’s necessary or more proper for black tie. James Bond and many other well-dressed men disagree.
The first accessories worn with the dinner jacket originated with full evening dress (white tie), including the stiff-fronted shirt with a starched detachable collar. The wing collar is the most well-known of the starched collar styles and was historically always a detachable collar. The imperial collar is another starched stand-up collar style, which is a predecessor to the wing collar and stands up straight without wings. There are also detachable starched turn-down collars, which some men wore for black tie instead of a stand-up collar. Detachable turn-down collars are still worn for morning dress.
A new shirt fashion emerged for black tie in the 1930s that was popularised by the Prince of Wales (later known as Edward VIII and the Duke of Windsor). For black tie, he replaced the stiff shirt with a shirt that has a soft, attached turn-down collar, a soft pleated front and double cuffs. Black tie fully transitioned away from starched wing-collared shirts by the end of World War II, leaving them exclusively for tailcoats.
James Bond always wears shirts with a turn-down collar for black tie, never a wing collar. If you think otherwise, chalk it up to the Mandela Effect. (Dolly didn’t wear braces either.) When James Bond appeared on screen in 1954 in the original television adaptation of Casino Royale, he wears a point collar with his dinner jacket. He wears a spread collar with his dinner jacket in Dr. No in 1962, and depending on contemporary fashions during subsequent films he wears spread, semi-spread and point collars with his dinner jackets. The collars on his evening shirts usually matches the shirt collars he wears with his suits in the same film. There are exceptions to the rule in a few of the Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig films.
Bond never wears a wing collar for black tie because since World War II the British have generally considered it outdated costume and lacking in good taste. Taste is, of course, subjective, but British menswear taste has historically been defined by the royalty, who have been wearing soft turn-down collars for black tie since the 1930s. James Bond usually follows what his fellow countrymen largely consider to be in good taste. Since James Bond is the primary tastemaker for this blog, this blog generally takes the position that wing collars are not for black tie.
We are free to wear whatever styles we want, but the way we dress is a form of communication and we should be aware of what our clothes are communicating to those around us. James Bond communicates that he is a sophisticated Briton in a way that his peers recognise through his choice of clothes, and wearing turn-down collars with his dinner jackets is part of this.
The wing collar saw a renaissance for black tie in the 1980s and 1990s, but James Bond maintained his preference for the turn-down collar during that time. When the wing collar returned in the last quarter of the 20th century, it came in a new form as an attached collar. The attached wing collar rarely has the stiffness, shape or height of the authentic detachable wing collar. The shirts it comes attached to often have a soft pleated front instead of the traditional boiled or marcella front. This shirt is not an historically accurate style for black tie or white tie. Like the pre-tied bow tie and clip-on braces, it is a shortcut and usually lacks the elegance, drama and tradition of the original article.
Wing collars were historically worn for morning dress—as well as with lounge suits—during the Victorian era. The detachable turn-down collar first became popular with lounge suits, and around the turn of the 20th century it also became popular for morning dress alongside the wing and imperial collars. By the middle of the 20th century the turn-down collar had replaced wing and imperial collars for morning dress, but unlike for black tie the proper morning dress collar continues to be detachable. Morning dress is more formal than black tie, hence the stiffer collar.
Black lounge, an outdated form of dress where a black lounge coat replaces a morning coat, should also be worn with a detachable turn-down collar. George Lazenby wears a shirt such a collar in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service with his black lounge wedding attire.
When James Bond wears morning dress to Royal Ascot in A View to a Kill, he wears a shirt with a cutaway collar. It is most likely an attached collar, but in an effort to look more formal his collar has a wider spread than what he ordinarily wears in the film.
Like for black tie, shirts with an attached wing collar became popular to morning dress in the last quarter of the 20th century, particularly in America. Hire shops, who pair the same wing collar shirts for both morning dress and black tie, may be responsible for this trend. The wedding party’s attire for Felix Leiter’s wedding in Licence to Kill has all the hallmarks of hired wedding attire of the 1980s, including clip-on dress cravats and too many similar shades of grey that clash with each other.
This is where title of this blog post isn’t 100% accurate. James Bond wears a wing collar—the dreaded attached-wing-collar shirt with a fine pleated front—for Felix’s wedding. This is the one and only time James Bond wears a wing collar. Since the outfit was hired in America and probably not by Bond, Bond should not be blamed for this morning dress mistake. Unlike the morning dress in A View to a Kill, this outfit shouldn’t be admired as an example of how Bond would dress, especially since he didn’t choose to dress this way.
Full Evening Dress
A shirt with a wing collar, a boiled or marcella front and single cuffs—a stiff cuff that takes cufflinks but does not fold over—is still the only choice for full evening dress, or white tie. White tie is rarely worn today, and it has been very uncommon since the middle of the 20th century. It’s a style that is two centuries old and looks it because it’s quite different from anything else men wear today.
White tie has been approaching costume in the 21st century, but because is still the dress code for certain occasions today the evening tailcoat and its accompanying wing collar shirt are not yet costume. Classical musicians are also amongst those who still wear white tie, but fewer orchestras are wearing it today than they were just a few years ago, and performance attire is somewhere between uniform and costume. Even if orchestras still keep the evening tailcoat and wing collar alive, they may sooner become extinct in the wild.
An article at Gentleman’s Gazette formerly published at Black Tie Guide takes an interesting look at the wing collar versus the turn-down collar for black tie.
Wing collar shirts seem to generic for my taste. When I see wing collar shirts I automatically imagine a young high school kid going to prom or carnival. One of my favorite wardrobe investment/evolution was purchasing a turndown collar for black tie.
When I was younger, I used to believe that wing collar shirts where only used for black and no other collar could not be worn. When I say young, I am meaning around the age of eight to ten! I’m just glad the 80s and 90s Bond films lacked Bond wearing wing collars with tuxedos.
When I was 15 I found an ex-hire tailcoat at a charity store in my size and decided to wear it to my school formal dance. To go with the tailcoat I rushed to a menswear store and had my mother buy me an ill-fitting wing-collared shirt in cream, to be worn with an oversized and too-large-for-my-thin-neck pre-tied bow tie. I felt so smart in that outfit. Now I look back at photographs from that night and cringe, but I allow myself to laugh, because I see the beginning of a menswear journey that would lead to who I am today. That poor teenager just didn’t know the rules, and it shows!
We all have had those learning experiences! Few of us have had the proper guidance. My father only taught me so much, but he did teach me many valuable lessons about menswear.
Thank you for another article, Matt!
It’s a shame classical musicians are abandoning traditional dress codes. Classical music is rooted in traditions, and dressing up in a traditional manner wouldn’t hurt those who choose classical music as their vocation. But modern classical musicians are people of their time and, understandably, very few have any idea how white tie and tails is supposed to be worn and how it’s supposed to fit. There are very few tailors left in the world who can make a decent tailcoat, and few classical musicians can afford commissioning one anyway. In my opinion, it’s better if a classical musician wears a well-fitting and properly accessorized Black Tie ensemble, than an ill-fitting, incorrectly accessorized White tie outfit. Ultimately, what matters is the effort. Many male classical musicians these days don’t seem to care how they look on stage, which is a sign of disrespect, especially if you compare them to their female colleagues, who still tend to wear beautiful long gowns on stage.
Perhaps the last orchestra that follows old-school dress codes is the Vienna Philharmonic. Not only do they wear white tie on stage, but also proper morning coats on New Year’s Day for their traditional afternoon performance.
PS If the dinner suit fits well and has tasteful details, a winged collar shirt isn’t something that would necessarily annoy me much. However, a winged collar shirt should be of high quality (there are some Italian and French brands that make high quality ones) and it should be worn with a low-cut waistcoat. It could work as a “retro-inspired” look that way. What would annoy me way more would be a perfectly symmetrical pre-tied bow tie or a non-black bow tie.
All that being said, winged collars are not in style now and I can’t recall when or where I saw one last time.
That’s because the Vienna Philharmonic is steeped in tradition.
Bond wearing hired morning dress for Felix’s wedding is an example of manners trumping etiquette. He might ordinarily pause before putting on such a hideous thing, but because it’s for his old friend’s wedding he dons it without hesitation.
Unfortunately it’s only one of many “hideous things” which Tim sports in this movie so, while there’s logic in what you’re saying, it doesn’t really let him off the hook. Whatever way you break it down it wouldn’t have occurred in a Roger Moore Bond movie because Roger himself would have likely suggested otherwise and I don’t think it would have appeared in a Connery or Lazenby Bond either, tbh.
Yes indeed! Just another Timothy Dalton fashion faux pas. Mercifully we only had to see him twice, and his ill fitting clothing, as Bond. Of course once would have been sufficient.
I think that your faith in Moore’s taste far too generous. Look at the ghastly colour scheme he follows in TSWLM. It’s virtually at Brett Sinclair levels of cringe worthiness. Then there is his refusal to acknowledge his age, hispaunch and his bizarre hair dye.
“The wing collar saw a renaissance for black tie in the 1980s and 1990s”. Yes and I hated it at that time and still do. Of course, Dalton managed to find some way to introduce this abomination in to the rest of the uninspiring (I’m being kind in that description) wardrobe he defiled the established Bond image with. Particularly offensive to Bond has been the sloppy way movies and TV shows purporting to show some Bond or Bond-like character, have actually dressed him in a dinner suit with this type of collar, ignoring the fact that Bond never wore it with black tie.
And I thought i was weird saying if i wore black tie I’d wear it with a (pale) blue shirt.
With a midnight blue suit or a dark blue velvet smoking jacket like Connery wore at the end of DAF, you could get away with a pale blue shirt if done with panache!
Moore wore wing collars with evening dress in the 70s when it was definitely out.
Terry Benedict in Ocean’s Eleven, on the night the casinos are robbed, wears a wing collar with a white tie tied in some form of windsor knot and a black sweater, with the rest of the outfit appearing tuxedo-like. No one else in the movie dresses like this. This blurring of styles coupled with the way his character behaves seems like he’s supposed to look like a douche.
There’s a Old World/Eastern European flair to the wing collar/single cuff shirt when worn with a dinner jacket. The character of Sky du Mont in Eyes Wide Shut always comes to mind when I see someone wearing a (rented) dinner jacket with a wing collar and stiff single cuffs.
Fleming abhrorred cuff-links (according to John Pearson), jewellery and other fussy details and accessories. Bond does too. I’m sure wing collars would be included in his “hate list” along with Windsor Knots and french cuffs.
Licence to Kill is one of my favorite movies in the series, but the wardrobe is atrocious. Even so, Bond is wearing something Leiter rented, and it’d be offensive to the groom to suggest something else. I am myself currently in a similar situation as the best man to a friend’s wedding: black suit, white shirt and polyester rose tie (a gift from the couple). Awful, but it’s an honour and I wouldn’t dare to suggest something else.
Source of Pearson’s quote: https://www.thejamesbonddossier.com/lifestyle/style/james-bond-suits.htm
I have to agree with Alan Flusser on this, it really is a ‘mutt’ of a construction in its modern interpretation. Not being original (detachable and very stiff) it invariably has a mind of its own and after several ‘wears’ just does not stand up very well. I’ve worn it briefly and found the turn down collars far more practical, elegant and durable. Another drawback is that if the wearer is a novice and wears a pretied or adjustable bow tie with a wing collar the slider is visible at the back which is another ‘faux pas’ to be avoided.
P.S. another very fine primer on black tie is Kirby Allison’s rules of black-tie on YouTube, I highly recommend it.
A pretied cravat just does not look as formal.
Nothing makes me want to poke my eyes out more than a wing collar with a pre-tied bowtie. I had an unpleasant shiver go through my body just from typing the two things in the same sentence.
That may be the most overly dramatic comm comment ever posted on this website
What’s the difference between black and white tie?
They are two separate dress codes. At its most basic, black tie means a dinner jacket while white tie means a tailcoat.
As a younger man I was extremely hesitant to get into any kind of black tie rig and I’m sure the eighties resurgence of wing collars was a large part of the reason why. As mentioned above, seeing the buckle on a pre tied bow tie, or the versions of wing collared shirts with those ridiculous ‘tunnels’ to hide the tie at the back of the neck, just add to the mess.
I was watching a 1959 film recently called ‘The Young Philadelphians’ in which we see pals Paul Newman and Robert ‘Napoleon Solo The Man From UNCLE’ Vaughan in shawl collared ecru dinner jackets and narrow batwing bow ties. Curiously Newman’s jacket has a centre vent. Both wear turn down collars and I wonder if this was a subtle hint by the costume department at their modern take on black tie as many of the older established Main Line Philadelphians at the party are wearing black dinner jackets and wing collar shirts. Admittedly the jackets and shirts are tailored such that the tie is hidden by the jacket at the back of the neck. Decent flick – worth a watch!
Thanks Matt for yet another great article.
Would you consider doing a follow-up on Bond’s use of cufflinks and studs for Black Tie? My premonition is that he generally prefer cocktail cuffs and ordinary mother-of-pearl shirt buttons, but occasionally choses cuff links and sometimes studs for his dress shirts. Perhaps even barrel cuffs like the Lapidus cuff? When wearing cuff links I suspect he prefers the “quick fix” of bullet back and toggle closure or whale back closure rather than more elegant old-school cuff links on a chain.
In LTK, Bond seems to be wearing black studs with his Black Tie outfit. It may empathize that he is in mourning for the loss of his friends wife and also that he is on a mission for revenge.
Bond wears double cuffs for black tie the majority of the time. He usually wears cufflinks with a toggle closure because double-sided cufflinks went out of fashion in the 1930s. I’ve been looking into Bond’s cufflinks, but it’s been an arduous task. One day I’ll finish it.
Arduous task indeed. I’ll share my findings with you Matt.
Bond’s cufflinks in GoldenEye are probably solid silver (either a very thin toggle or whale back) most of the time. No evidence of the solid gold rectangular ones found in promotional stills (even with his dinner jacket).
My bet is that Brosnan wears this pair with almost every outfit in the movie:
https://www.thunderballs.org/goldeneyepromotionalstills?lightbox=dataItem-jxp0cjiw. Because silver is very reflective, it looks black/gunmetal most of the time (reflecting the lining of his jackets or the dark cinematography of the entire film).
In OHMSS Lazenby wears double cuffs with a lounge suit only once in Portugal and I still haven’t found any stills from the set to identify his cufflinks, but would bet on the round ones he wears in some production stills, or the gold pair from the casino scene (if they are not the same).
Connery wears the same gold pair (probably chain links with one panel linked through a chain to a bar on the other side; I bet it’s a chain link because of the weird angles it is seen in his introduction in Dr. No and the lab scene in GF) most of the time, except in the opening sequence in Goldfinger (round ones this time). These are present in Dr. No, probably FRwL (dinner jacket), Goldfinger (with his suits; not sure if he wears the round pair with his black dinner jacket or if it is a different pair), Thunderball (briefly in one take with the jet pack). Unsure of the cufflinks from YOLT with the double cuffs in the submarine scene.
Moore probably wears gold cufflinks with his dinner suits when they have shirts with double cuffs.
Dalton probably wears gold cufflinks with his dinner jackets in The Living Daylights, and round silver with onyx in Licence to Kill (maybe with a toggle bar instead of studs, but matching the style of his studs).
Don’t forget the backwards ones worn by Sean with the barkeycorn hacking jacket in Goldfinger!
I actually like the look of double sided cufflinks, but only with a chain. The bar is too stiff and probably a b*tch to fasten and unfasten.
The chain double sided cufflinks are probably no fun to fasten either, though. But nowhere near the pain in the @$$ that the bar double side cufflinks are to fasten.
And the chain design drapes much better than the annoying stiff bar design.
Yeah LTK gets a lot of stick (much of it deserved in the clothing department) but I like it and certainly I think it improves on TLD which is essentially a Moore film with Dalton shoe-horned in. Both Bond girls in LTK are vastly superior to Maryam D’Abo who is another hapless screaming version of Stacey Sutton. It would have been interesting to see what Dalton would have made of the role in the more realistic and gritty era that eventually followed. LTK didn’t do so well financially in the US but did very well elsewhere IIRC. In one of the many books on Bond I have, there’s one – The Bond Files or something – in which they lambast LTK and say that from the earliest scene when Bond is being lowered from the helicopter to “go fishing” for Robert Davi’s plane he heralds the ridiculous tone of the film by flapping his arms like a turkey. I think this is harsh and unfair, as to me he was just signalling to Felix and the chopper crew above “lower … lower …”
I wonder if the costuming – and the entire film – might have been judged less harshly if Felix and Della (who seems waaay over-familar with Bond at the wedding) had chosen to go with Lounge suits or even black lounge as 007 did twenty years earlier, instead of the ‘Florida Strip Mall’ rentals!
I concur that LTK is a very good Bond movie! I like it more than TLD. It is partly inspired by Japanese Samurai movies by Akiro Kurosawa and, just like FRWL (with the glove ritual before a kill), is partly inspired by Orson Welles brilliant film noir Touch of Evil (1958).
I totally disagree that TLD is “essentially a Moore film with Dalton shoe-horned in,” it’s one of the most grounded films in the series, certainly one of the most espionage-y. There’s no way Moore could have done some of the action scenes that Dalton does. TLD is a great film for Dalton, I love both it and LTK.
I see The Living Daylights as being both a continuation of John Glen’s previous three films with Moore but also a return to Fleming and a return to the style of the 1960s Bond films. For Your Eyes Only did the same.
I really like John Glen and have great respect for his work and how he moved up through the ranks in the film industry. The 5 Bond movies that he directed in the 80’s are very near and dear to me. John Glen still holds the record for directing more Bond movies than any other film director.
My views on wing collars were informed by an old Miss Manners column. I googled and actually found it (dated Sept. 25, 1997). It’s true, you can find everything online.
Here is the column – “ Dear I have been studying the way people wear their bow ties with wing-tip tuxedo shirts since someone pointed out to me that I was wearing the tips of my collar over the bow tie as opposed to behind the bow tie. I have since then observed people wearing it both ways. Is there a proper way to wear it?
Gentle reader is tempted to say no. She hates the ring-around-the-collar look of a black tie with a wing-tip shirt, which only looks right with the more formal white tie worn with tails.
But she can’t actually claim that it is wrong. Wrong is wearing ruffled shirts, pink ties, collarless shirts with black bands around them, or any other of the many ghastly variations one shudders to see these days. Such as putting on a wing-collared shirt and then clipping its wings behind the tie.”
Also, I liked the rented from a Florida strip mall look of the License to Kill wedding scene. That sort of thing happens when people get together from different places to be a part of a wedding. Happened to me and I will take anything that makes me like Bond.
Now, I know Bond is fantasy, and part of the deal is luxury clothing for all, but I liked that bit of reality. Though Bond should have worn a tie with his suit at the airport. Suits without ties just look like someone forgot his tie.
It is amusing that some commenters choose to take this as a specific and deliberate sartorial lapse of Timothy Dalton, and imply that he, casual-dress vulgarian that he is, specifically contrived to wear this outfit to tweak the collective noses of Roger Moore-adherent BondSuits connoisseurs of the future. As others have observed, and as Mr. Spaiser is at pains to note in the article, Bond is simply showing good manners by wearing the outfit selected for his friend’s wedding. Not all our friends are blessed with good taste (my brother’s fiancee is currently trying to get me to wear a pink shirt to their wedding to coordinate with her maid of honour–I only hope I’ll be able to work around it more forcefully than Bond managed with Leiter). It would be more accurate to view this as Bond wearing a costume or disguise–no more representative of his taste and style than Mischka’s maroon circus top and the clown outfit in “Octopussy”, the Atomic Energy jumpsuit in “TWINE”, Sir Hilary Bray’s tweeds and kilt in “OHMSS”, the Dia de los Muertos get-up in “SPECTRE”, or the seagull headgear in “Goldfinger”.
Exactly. As Timothy Dalton said at the time this is Bond in a situation of social obligation.
Unfortunately there are a couple of people who will shoehorn in an attempt to attack Dalton at any opportunity, while screaming like obsessed teenagers if anyone comments negatively on some of Moore’s outfits, especially the seventies leisure suits
I think the lash out at Dalton was a combination of both poor 1980s aesthetic (then again, the culture of mid- to late-80s and early 90s sucks) and the fact that they cannot adjust themselves immediately to such a gritty storyline. I recall how impressed Dalton was with the cold and nasty literature Bond, and how he stated that he wanted to play that exact Bond. If he was better tailored and dressed in much less cliché manners, I bet they wouldn’t complain as much (they’d still do, because they got used to a comedian Bond).
In any case, the late 1980s was when population stupidification is beginning to take effect, so I’d say don’t be surprised.