Though James Bond may be best known for his more formal attire, sport shirts are an indispensable part of his wardrobe. This article focuses on his long-sleeve sport shirts, which he often wears much differently from the short-sleeve variety in a wider variety of ways. Long-sleeve sport shirts are some of the most versatile items a man can have. But what differentiates a sport shirt from a formal shirt (also known as a dress shirt in the US)?
This article will be focusing on sport shirts that aren’t shirt-jackets or polos, which are sporty garments but would otherwise be worn differently from sport shirts. This is not a complete guide to every long-sleeve sport shirt that Bond wears in the series.
There’s no fine line between a formal shirt — per the British name; what is called a dress shirt in US — and a sport shirt, but it mostly has to do with the cloth.
The more texture a fabric has the sportier the shirt is. Oxford is the quintessential sport shirting, with its notable basketweave. Pinpoint oxford and royal oxford are dressier variations on Oxford, with finer weaves and a smoother finish that make them better for wearing with a suit. Most sports shirtings are seasonal, and oxford is a heavier cloth that is better in cooler weather, though it can still breathe well.
James Bond wears a light blue oxford shirt with his grey tweed sports coat in A View to a Kill. This is a versatile shirt that dresses up well with a tweed jacket or blazer or dresses down with a casual jacket or cardigan.
Heavy cotton twill is another sporty fabric that should be exclusively worn for cool weather. Finer twills make for excellent formal shirts, but the more noticeable the twill wale the sportier the shirt is. Twill does not breathe as well as plain-weave and basketweave fabrics.
Bond wears a cotton twill shirt with his tweed suit in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service as part of his disguise as Sir Hilary Bray. This shirt has a tattersall pattern, a multicoloured grid check that adds a level of sportiness of the shirt.
This shirt also has a brushed surface to give it a soft, comfortable nap, increasing the sportiness of the shirt.
Denim is a variant on twill, usually in blue and white, and is currently a trendy cloth for a sport shirting. Denim shirting is a lighter weight than for jeans and jackets. Bond wears a denim shirt in No Time to Die, nicely matching the relaxed nature of his corduroy suit.
For warm weather, linen is the most popular sport shirting. Its texture and propensity to wrinkle makes it a very sporty fabric. To soften the hand and to decrease wrinkling, linen is often mixed with cotton.
Sean Connery wears a pink shirt that is likely a linen and cotton blend in You Only Live Twice. It is made in the same style as his formal poplin shirts in the film with a spread collar and cocktail cuffs, but he flattens the collar out like a camp collar so it has sportier look in combination with the soft look of linen.
Chambray is another sporty summer shirting. It’s a plain-woven cotton cloth with a coloured warp and white filling yarns, more commonly in blue and white.
Bond is not a big fan of chambray, but he wears a chambray shirt in Never Say Never Again.
For an even more casual look, Bond on occasion wears knitted cotton jersey shirts, constructed like a shirt rather than a polo. Roger Moore was a fan of these, as they are very soft.
His black shirt in Moonraker with a half-zip placket is a notable example of Bond in a long-sleeve Jersey shirt. He also wears one in dark blue in For Your Eyes Only under his grey jumper. Other knitted cottons, such as pique, can also make excellent sport shirts.
Silk works well for sport shirts designed to be worn untucked. There’s something about the look of a silk shirt that makes it look more complete as a standalone piece compared to a shirt designed to be worn under a jacket. Silk blends are good for warm weather, as silk on its own can wear very warm.
Bond wears an untucked silk shirt in No Time to Die in retirement in Jamaica.
Colour and Pattern
Sport shirts can be made in any colour. Darker shirts are traditionally not formal shirts, but sport shirts are equally sporty no matter the colour.
Checks can also make a shirt sportier, so even a smooth cotton poplin can make up a sport shirt if it has a check. Larger checks are sportier than smaller checks and can be dressed down more easily.
The list of fabrics above is a better indicator of what makes a shirt sporty, since checks of all sizes can be worn as both formal and sporty shirts.
Bond rarely wears checked shirts, with only a few throughout 25 films. The tattersall shirt in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is Bond’s sportiest checked shirt. In GoldenEye he wears a very subtly checked blue shirt as a sport shirt with a navy blazer and under a navy jumper. This kind of shirt can be dressed up with a suit or dressed down in a variety of contexts.
Stripes are not as sporty as checks, but fancy stripe patterns can work well on sport shirts. A dark blue shirt with yellow stripes is suitably sporty with a tan linen suit in Die Another Day.
Printed shirt also tend to be sportier. Bond wears a printed shirt untucked on the beach in a very casual manner in Skyfall.
Though most of Bond’s sport shirts are made with a spread collar, there are a few uniquely sporty collar styles. The button-down collar, the hidden-button-down collar and one-piece collar (like a camp collar) are inherently sporty collars, even though the button-down collar can be dressed up on a poplin shirt. One-piece collars are more common on warm-weather sport shirts.
A long-sleeve sport shirt will have button cuffs and never double cuffs, which are too formal. Cocktail cuffs can work for sport shirts, as Connery shows in You Only Live Twice, though they are just as unusual on a sport shirt as they are on a formal shirt.
Sport shirt often have one or two breast pockets, but the presence or lack of a single open pocket does not make a shirt a sport shirt. A single flapped or buttoned breast pocket or two breast pockets can make any shirt a sport shirt.
Military-inspired safari-style shirts with two flapped breast pockets and shoulder straps are a more creative sporty style for warm weather.
Some sport shirts have a straight hem with vents at the side for wearing untucked. Wearing a shirt untucked is more casual than wearing a shirt tucked, but a straight hem gives an untucked shirt a more ‘finished’ look than one with curved tails designed for tucking. Bond wears a deep navy polyester with a straight hem in Casino Royale.
How to Wear a Sport Shirt
For the most part, long-sleeve sport shirts pair well with sports coats and sports suits, though they should be tucked in. When they have a two-piece collar they can usually be worn with a tie, though they always should look good without a tie.
Sport shirts can wear well under a jumper for cool weather. More formal shirts can also look perfectly fine under a jumper, but a sportier shirt is most at home here.
For those who work in a business-casual office, sport shirts in more conservative colours and patterns can often look more stylish than a formal white or light blue shirt that would traditionally be dressed up with a suit and tie. A formal shirt can often look incomplete or out of place without a suit and tie.
Ready-to-wear sport shirts are typically not sold with a sized collar, let alone a sized sleeve, which relegates them to more casual dress. However, there’s no reason why a sport shirt shouldn’t have the same attention to fit as a more formal shirt. As sport shirts are more commonly worn without a jacket than more formal shirts are, the fit of a sport shirt is even more important and is the perfect kind of shirt to have made by a bespoke shirtmaker.