James Bond’s Gold and Silver Blazer Buttons

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There are numerous definitions of the term ‘blazer’. In the 21st century, I hesitantly say that ‘blazer’ has become a synonym of ‘lounge coat’. More traditionally, a blazer can be a number of different types of sports coats. Of the traditional types of blazers there are solid-coloured blazers with metal buttons, boldly striped boating blazers and piped tennis or school blazers. James Bond has frequently worn the first kind of blazer, and this blazer’s many kinds of metal buttons are the subject of this overview.

Metal buttons are often said to be the defining trait of the blazer and the difference between a solid-coloured suit jacket and a blazer. It’s not uncommon for this to be the only difference between a suit jacket and a blazer, though blazers are ideally made of a cloth with more texture than the average suit jacket, and they are frequently detailed with sportier pockets and swelled edges. However, the blazer’s metal buttons stand out far more than any of the other traits of a blazer.

Many argue that metal buttons are necessary to make an odd jacket into a blazer (unless it is one of the other types of traditional blazers mentioned above). A blazer in a plain-weave worsted, serge, fresco or flannel benefits tremendously from metal blazer buttons to differentiate it from a suit jacket. A blazer in a more uniquely textured cloth such as hopsack, mesh, mock leno, doeskin, cashmere or linen does not need to rely on special blazer buttons to set it apart, but blazer buttons can also be a wonderful complement to solid-coloured jackets in these cloths.

The blazer button originated with the military uniform, and it can still be found on all sorts of uniforms throughout the world, from military to police to railroad to security guard to hotel porter to doorman. Blazer buttons are most frequently used on solid navy blazers, but they are traditionally used on solid-coloured blazers in various colours, such as green, maroon, light blue and grey. Cary Grant wears a grey blazer with gold buttons in To Catch a Thief. These metal-buttoned blazers may be single breasted or double breasted.

The classic blazer button is of the shank type, meaning the face of the button is solid and it is sewn to the blazer via a look hidden on the back of the button. The shank blazer button is frequently emblazoned with heraldic, nautical or sporting symbols. It may also have a simple pattern like a weave or checkerboard or be plain and smooth. They may be flat or domed. A blazer may also have sew-through metal buttons with holes, but these are far less common.

Type of Blazer Buttons

Turnbull & Asser’s ‘Quorn’ gilt blazer buttons

To learn more about blazer buttons, I spoke with Richard Tyler of Tyler & Tyler, who make blazer buttons in their own Birmingham, England factory. Their factory has been producing blazer buttons since 1908 and is one of a few facilities in Birmingham that produce classic blazer buttons. They sell blazer buttons to the public, and they sometimes produce military blazer buttons as well.

Gilt buttons from Holland & Sherry

The base for most blazer buttons is brass, but they usually have another metal on top of the brass. The classic gold or gilt blazer button has real gold plating to give it a gold finish. For those who want true luxury, some makers offer solid gold blazer buttons, which should be removed when the blazer visits the cleaners. For a shiny yellow metal finish, some brands offer polished brass blazer buttons. Antique gilt and antique brass offer a darker and duller yellow metal look.

Gun metal buttons

There are numerous options for silver-toned metal blazer buttons, for those who find yellow metal buttons too flashy, too old fashioned or too stuffy. Silver-coloured blazer buttons are typically nickel with an anti-tarnish finish. Nickel offers a warm-toned silver look. For a darker and duller look, antique silver buttons are a classic choice. Darker grey blazer buttons may also be made of pewter or gun metal. Blazer buttons can also be found in sterling silver, which may be polished for a shinier look or left to oxidise to a dark colour. Buttons may also be polished chrome, which has a cooler tone than nickel and a mirror-like finish. Stainless steel buttons may be found, but they are less common.

Polished chrome buttons on a Zegna blazer

Blazer buttons may also have an enamel inlay to add colour and/or highlight the detail in the button. Navy is the most common colour for enamel in a blazer button because it matches a navy blazer, but enamel is commonly found in red and black too and may be any colour.

Canali blazer buttons in polished brass with a black enamel inlay

Tyler & Tyler is one source for traditional blazer buttons. Benson & Clegg is an old brand name famous for blazer buttons. Trimmings merchant Richard James Weldon and fabric merchant Holland & Sherry also have wonderful selections of classic blazer buttons. The Waterbury Button Company is a wonderful maker of blazer buttons in the United States that furnishes the military, police, fire and railroad, private company uniforms and American brands like Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren. Blazer buttons can also be found at button and trimmings shops all over the world.

Waterbury Button Company blazer buttons in a gilt oxide finish

People who do not care for metal buttons instead may prefer buttons in contrasting horn or mother of pearl, but it is arguable that such a jacket would no longer qualify as a blazer. Smoke mother of pearl can provide a similar look to silver-toned metal button without the button being metal.

James Bond’s Blazer Buttons

For James Bond, the blue blazer with metal button not only follows sartorial tradition, it also reflects his naval heritage. The gold buttons on his naval uniforms are a strong part of his identity. Both Bond’s parade uniform and his greatcoat in The Spy Who Loved Me have gold buttons. The uniform has the traditional crown and anchor button, while the greatcoat appears to have plain buttons.

Bond wears many different blazer buttons of various kinds of yellow and white metals on his many blue blazers. The Dr. No blazer sets the standard for Bond’s blazers with simple plain, domed shank buttons. They have a dark silver tone with a slight shine, resembling pewter or gun metal. A gun metal button would certainly be on theme for Bond. The subtlety of the button compared to a more traditional gold button follows Bond’s pared down style in Dr. No. This kind of button also lends a more modern look compared to emblazoned gold buttons.

In Thunderball, Bond wears a similar type of button but in antique brass. These buttons have a dark rosy tone with a dull sheen. Bond’s blazer in Diamonds Are Forever introduces him to classic gold blazer buttons, but again they appear to be plain without a motif.

Bond is introduced to the double-breasted blazer in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. This garment’s buttons are flat and plain in a silver colour. The buttons are likely polished chrome, which gives them a mirror-like surface.

The double-breasted blazer in The Man with the Golden Gun has traditional silver blazer buttons with an emblazoned motif, but it is difficult to identify the motif. It may be the coat of arms of the City of London Corporation, which is a common blazer button motif.

In The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, Bond switches to an Italian tailor, and his blazers have four-hole sew-through button, likely from Italy. The single-breasted blazers in both films have nickel buttons while the double-breasted blazer in Moonraker has polished brass or polished gilt buttons. The buttons are sewn with navy thread to match the blazer and buttonholes. These sew-through buttons have a much more modern look compared with the traditional shank buttons. It continues the metal button tradition without the old-fashioned stuffiness that some associate with blazer buttons.

For For Your Eyes Only, Bond returns to a British tailor and wears his most classic blazer buttons of the series on his double-breasted blazer. These are gold shank button with an emblazoned motif, but it is difficult to identify the motif. Bond’s entire style became far more traditional and conservative in For Your Eyes Only, reflecting both the fashions and the politics of the era. The single-breasted blazer in A View to a Kill has similar or identical gold buttons.

GoldenEye‘s double-breasted blazer continues the classic blazer button tradition with gold buttons emblazoned with Brioni’s own heraldic symbol, which is two lions facing a ship’s wheel. Above the wheel is an eagle with spread wings, and below the wheel is a banner with Brioni’s wordmark logo. Bond looks at home in this blazer at the Monaco seaside.

After GoldenEye, blazer buttons had become outdated in Britain, so Bond has not worn them since despite his history wearing the style. Steve Coogan’s character Alan Partridge had given the metal-buttoned blazer an undesirable reputation and turned the garment into a caricature of itself. The blazer held strong in the United States for another decade, but it fell out of favour there too as the taste for tradition waned. Those who appreciate the history of the blazer and blazer buttons still wear them today.

18 COMMENTS

  1. “For those who want true luxury, some makers offer solid gold blazer buttons, which should be removed when the blazer visits the cleaners.” – Or else they will be removed by the cleaners …

  2. Nice article. I take your early point about the mis-naming of coats into “blazer”. I work part-time in a tailors in the UK, and the amount of people calling every type of jacket or suit coat a “blazer” is immense. People ask for a “formal blazer”, and it turns out they want a dinner suit. Apparently all suits also come with a blazer.

  3. Amazing research, Matt. Thanks for all the links. Always loved Moore’s blazer in THe Man with a Golden Gun. Hardly anyone could pull it off so well.
    Personally, I fell for sterling silver hemispheric buttons, and had a series made, with a simplified crest. Why use someone else’s logo ?

  4. Great entry Matt.
    I have a navy blazer with a silver bullion crest badge from my alma mater Carnegie College. The badge symbol is the discobolus, the Ancient Greek discus thrower. I stayed in contact with my favourite professor down the years and when I mentioned to him.that I was having this blazer made he offered to cut the buttons off his own (moth eaten) version which were also engraved with the discobolus and send them to me. This was the prof with whom I interviewed during the application process and despite my patchy academic record to that point he gave me a shot. I often say I trace back every success in my academic and professional journey to that moment and wonder what my life would be like if he’d shut the door. He was my biggest cheerleader when I was pursuing my doctoral degree and came to my wedding with his daughter in 2012. A couple of years later he sadly passed from stomach cancer in his eighties. I don’t have many occasions where pulling on a crested blazer works these days but every time I do I give a nod to ‘Admiral’ GB White RIP!

  5. When I bought a nice Dormeuil navy blazer in Paris decades ago, I immediately had the buttons changed from a set of silver-toned with an unconspicuous “D” engraved and brown enamel to gold tone with the Dormeuil blason on green enamel. It changed the blazer from bland modern to pure classic. Il will have to re-use the nice set of 6+8 buttons I have on my aged double-breasted blazer for a new one.

  6. Interestingly, Viyaj’s blazer in Octopussy has tennis rackets on the buttons as you had mentioned on the post about his outfit.

    • Benson & Clegg, Tyler & Tyler and Waterbury Button have tennis racquet blazer buttons in their collections, but the buttons are all different. It seems to be a popular motif.

  7. I personally like the gunmetal colored buttons the best on a navy blazer. It still makes it feel like a blazer without making you look too high class and stuffy looking.

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