There are numerous forms of neckwear beyond the four-in-hand tie (long tie) and the bow tie, and James Bond has worn quite a few of these fancy neckwear items throughout the series. These include the day cravat, dress cravat (ascot), neckerchief, stock tie and jabot.
The cravat, which may be more specifically called a “day cravat” to distinguish it from the formal dress cravat, is a casual neckwear item that has two wide blades at the ends and is gathered and pleated to a narrower middle section. The ends of the cravat may be pointed or square. The construction of a cravat mimics a folded neckerchief, which is a large square silk scarf that may be worn around the neck in a similar fashion to the cravat. The cravat may be known as an “ascot” in America.
The cravat is worn inside an unbuttoned shirt collar, and it is typically made of a soft silk since it sits directly against the neck. The cravat may make someone look fancier or dandier, but it only makes an outfit a hair more formal than the same outfit is would be without the cravat. The cravat is not an equal alternative to a buttoned collar with a tie, but it gives a more polished appearance than an open collar without a tie. Bernhard Roetzel explains the cravat’s place in Gentleman: A Timeless Guide to Fashion:
A cravat emphasizes the sporting look, or lends a light touch to a more formal outfit. However, some men do not like this kind of nuance, and prefer a clear distinction between the formal and the casual to the in-between stage represented by the cravat. If you would rather look formal even at the weekend, they say, why not stick to your guns and wear a necktie, shirt, and jacket, instead of going in for halfhearted measures like the cravat? But other men do not care to wear an open-necked shirt, which they feel is just a bit too casual, exposing to much throat, and for them the cravat is highly recommended; it helps them to demonstrate, even at weekends and off duty, that they like to observe a certain code of dress.
Cravats may be made in any colour or pattern, though they are rarely striped. Paisley and foulard prints are most common. Choosing the proper colour of a cravat is very important since it sits up against the face. The cravat is difficult to wear well even in the most flattering colours, so in unflattering colours it will be guaranteed to draw unnecessary attention and a poor reception.
The cravat makes a man look like either an old-school dandy or a rich playboy, and James Bond was going for both when he wears one for the first time in A View to a Kill when posing as stable-heir James St John Smythe. He wears a muted burgundy cravat under a white shirt with only the collar button open and with a blue blazer. The blue blazer and cravat is the ultimate playboy outfit, but without the right attitude this combination will make someone look sleazy or like they live at a country club. James St John Smythe comes off as both of these, as James Bond intends for this character he is playing.
James Bond wears a cravat when being himself in Monte Carlo in GoldenEye. This time he wears a dark green silk foulard cravat under a blue shirt and navy crew neck jumper. The cravat here blends in with the outfit for a subtle look that works elegantly and does not draw attention. Bond looks like the playboy he is, but he wears it with aplomb and elegance.
Other characters in the Bond series wear cravats. Both Largo in Thunderball and Vijay in Octopussy wear cravats with their double-breasted blazers for the playboy look. Draco in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service wears one with his brown pinwale corduroy sports coat, and in being a suave mature man he wears it brilliantly without looking like he is playing dress-up. M wears an ancient madder cravat under his smoking jacket in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and his age and wealth help him wear it well.
Roger Moore’s characters before James Bond also are fans of the cravat. It’s a natural item for a wealth playboy like Lord Brett Sinclair of The Persuaders, who wears it with a norfolk suit and with a sporty striped suit. Simon Templar of The Saint was also a fan and wore one with his traditional safari jacket.
Ascot (Dress Cravat)
The dress cravat may also be properly known as the ascot, and it more appropriately deserves that moniker than the casual version does because of where is was first worn. It is also known as the plastron. Alan Flusser defines the ascot in his book Dressing the Man:
A square-ended tie with each end of equal width, worn primarily for formal day wear. Deriving its name from Ascot Heath, the English racetrack where the tie was first worn, the ascot consists of two knots. The first is a single knot, while the second is a Gordian knot with one end crossing over the other and held in place with a stockpin.
Unlike the day cravat, the dress cravat has no pleats. It has the same shape, with a wide blade on either end and a much narrower band in the middle that sits around the neck. It is worn around a stiff stand-up collar, with or without wings.
The dress cravat was worn in the late Victorian era and the Edwardian era with frock coats and morning dress. By the end of the Edwardian era the dress cravat was largely replaced with the four-in-hand tie for morning dress, though it continued to be worn for decades with morning dress for more formal occasions like weddings. It saw a resurgence with the peacocks of the 1960s and with wedding hires in the 1970s and 1980s, though today it is considered outmoded. It is no longer permitted at Royal Ascot.
James Bond wears a sad excuse for a dress cravat in Licence to Kill as part of Felix Leiter’s wedding party. The wedding outfit is a hire, and as a result the dress cravat is not surprisingly a clip-on. It was outdated at the time as far as the British were concerned, but it was a popular part of wedding attire in the United States in the 1980s.
The neckerchief is a square that is folded and tied or draped around the neck, and like the day cravat it sits directly against the neck inside or outside of a shirt’s open collar. It is sportier than the day cravat, but the neckerchief can be worn in any situations when the day cravat can be worn, and it can also be worn more casually. The neckerchief may be made of silk, cotton or linen in any colour or pattern. Like the day cravat, it cannot take the place of a tie. Alan Flusser wrote about the appeal of the neckerchief in Dressing the Man:
Since ancient times, a man has always felt the necessity to wear something around the neck. With the explosion of modern sportswear in the 1920s, the novelty of the open-necked sport shirt inspired a variety of new ways to appoint the neck. Long a popular fashion at European watering holes, the sports scarf was, and still is, closely identified with Riviera high style.
Hardy Amies calls this a “choker” in ABC of Men’s Fashion and is not a fan of it.
Cary Grant was fond of the neckerchief, and Roger Moore’s James Bond wears it on two occasions. The first time Bond wears it is in Live and Let Die, and it’s equally as practical as it is stylish. Whilst hang gliding in his navy leisure suit, he ties a large navy silk scarf in a single knot around his neck and spreads it over his shirt and tie. He tucks into the leisure suit jacket to conceal the front of his light-coloured shirt amongst his otherwise dark outfit.
The second time Bond wears a neckerchief is with his poncho disguise in Moonraker. The neckerchief is a dark brown silk square scarf that is tied in square knot with the ends tucked inside the shirt.
The neckerchief is more common for women today, whereas a man wearing one may fear being compared to Freddy from Scooby Doo. Nevertheless it is still a classic men’s sportswear accessory.
The stock tie is a traditional part of equestrian dress and is still widely worn for such purposes today. It is longer and more scarf-like than a cravat and wraps around the neck twice. Hardy Amies wrote about the stock in ABC of Men’s Fashion:
Stock is the form of neckwear used with hunting dress or with cutaway morning coat. I don’t think you’ll be interested in details of its history or want to know how to tie one.
James Bond wears a beige silk stock wrapped around his neck, tied in a single knot and fastened with a stock pin over a stock collar as part of his traditional equestrian outfit in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
George Lazenby wears a jabot with his Scottish highland dress in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The jabot is “a cascade of lace or ruffles on the breast of a garment”, as defined by Black Tie Guide. The site specifies that the jabot and corresponding stiff shirt is worn with the full-dress version (white tie equivalent) of highland dress, but the rest of James Bond’s outfit of Prince Charlie coatee and matching waistcoat follows the black tie equivalent of highland dress.
The jabot is also worn for court dress throughout the world. United States Supreme Court judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s jabot collection is famous.