James Bond’s Occasions for Black Tie

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Are you looking for occasions to dress more like James Bond and wear his black tie uniform? Bond usually wears black tie for one of a few purposes: casinos, dinner, nightclubs, fancy parties and musical performances. These occasions can all be appropriate for black tie, or at least many of them were in the 1960s.

Casino

Sean Connery wearing a midnight blue shawl collar dinner jacket playing chemin de fer in Dr. No

When James Bond is introduced on screen in Dr. No, he is wearing a midnight blue shawl collar dinner suit and is properly dressed for his fancy London club casino. When James Bond visits a casino, it is usually a fancy casino in a place like the Bahamas, Corfu, India, Monte Carlo or Macau. There’s no one style of dinner jacket that Bond wears to a casino; it may be black, midnight blue or ivory with a shawl collar, peaked lapels or notched lapels.

Daniel Craig wearing a black peaked lapel dinner suit in Casino Royale

The only time Bond looks out of place in a dinner jacket at a casino is in Las Vegas in Diamonds Are Forever. In his ivory dinner jacket, Bond is overdressed and out of place, and he look culturally unaware of how people dress in Vegas. Bond dressed for his usual type of Casino, and the Vegas casino is not Bond’s type. James Bond does not repeat this mistake at the casino at the One&Only Ocean Club casino in Casino Royale, where Bond is a bit under-dressed in his shirt sleeves compared to the other patrons. Bond also goes to a casino in a lounge suit in The Man with the Golden Gun, so not even black tie is mandatory for all of James Bond’s casino adventures.

Today, not even the Casino de Monte Carlo requires black tie. A jacket is recommended for the evening, and it is only enforced in the Salons Privés.

Bond gambles in black tie in:

Dr. No
Thunderball
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Diamonds Are Forever (ivory dinner jacket)
For Your Eyes Only
Octopussy (ivory dinner jacket)
Licence to Kill
GoldenEye
The World Is Not Enough
Casino Royale
Skyfall

Dinner

Roger Moore in Octopussy wearing a black notched lapel dinner jacket for dinner at Kamal Khan’s home

The dinner jacket got its name because it was originally worn in the evening for dinner, at a time when other fancy evening occasions would have called for a black tailcoat. For Bond, dinner is often a special occasion and calls for fancy dress. Bond my put on a dinner jacket for dinner at restaurants, dinner at others’ homes or for a private romantic dinner.

Usually for dinner, Bond wears some of the less formal variations of the dinner jacket, such as dinner jackets with notched lapels, double-breasted dinner jackets, ivory dinner jackets and, on one occasion, a velvet dinner jacket. Today it is rare for men to wear black tie to a simple dinner.

Bond dresses for dinner in:

Goldfinger (black dinner suit)
Diamonds Are Forever (velvet dinner jacket)
The Man with the Golden Gun
For Your Eyes Only
Octopussy (black dinner suit)
A View to a Kill (midnight blue dinner suit)
The World Is Not Enough (at the end of the film)
Spectre

Fancy Party

Pierce Brosnan wearing a midnight-blue three-piece peaked lapel dinner suit for a launch party in Tomorrow Never Dies

Fancy parties are the most common occasions for black tie today, with the decline of white tie for balls and state affairs. “Black tie affairs” are how most modern men wear black tie, such as galas and American weddings. Bond wears black tie for receptions hosted by Bond villains, such as by Max Zorin in A View to a Kill, by Elliot Carver in Tomorrow Never Dies or by Gustav Graves in Die Another Day. The later two villains use these events to launch their secretly villainous endeavours.

Bond wears black tie when attending fancy dress balls in:

A View to a Kill (ivory dinner jacket)
Licence to Kill (at the end of the film)
Tomorrow Never Dies
Die Another Day

Concerts/Opera

Timothy Dalton wearing a shawl-collar dinner suit to a classical music concert in The Living Daylights

In The Living Daylights, Bond attends two concerts and one opera in three different black dinner suits. For Bond, attending a performance is always both a mission and a fancy dress ball. Opening night at the opera or symphony is still a common occasions to wear black tie. In Quantum of Solace, Bond arrives at the opera improperly dressed, so he breaks into a locker to steal a dinner suit. Bond always wears dark dinner suits to such performances in the evening.

Bond wears black tie to the symphony and the opera in:

The Living Daylights (shawl collar dinner suit)
The Living Daylights (notched lapel dinner suit)
The Living Daylights (double-breasted dinner suit)
Quantum of Solace

Nightclub

Sean Connery wearing an ivory peaked lapel dinner jacket at a nightclub in Goldfinger

James Bond visits the classier types of nightclubs, not the kind where people go “clubbing”. Where Bond spends his nights out, he drinks a vodka martini and watches local dancing accompanied by live music. Black tie is out of place at such clubs today, and not even Bond always wears black tie to nightclubs.

Bond wears black tie when visiting nightclubs in:

Goldfinger (ivory dinner jacket)
The Spy Who Loved Me

Other Occasions

Bond wears black tie for a few other one-off occasions. In From Russia with Love, a man in a James Bond mask wears Bond’s signature midnight blue shawl collar dinner suit to be a human target for SPECTRE’s Red Grant. Before we know that it is not the real James Bond, we assume that Bond has just left a fancy dinner party and is walking around the gardens of a fancy estate. But for a man to be placed in both a James Bond mask and Bond’s suit for target practice by SPECTRE seems a bit far fetched.

Sean Connery wearing a black dinner suit for climbing up the outside of the Whyte House in Diamonds Are Forever

In Diamonds Are Forever, Bond puts on a black dinner suit to scale the outside of a skyscraper hotel with the intent to rescue Willard Whyte imprisoned in the penthouse. Why does Bond wear a dinner suit for this endeavour? Perhaps he wants to be properly dressed when he meets the famous Willard Whyte. Whyte, being an American, likely would have understood if his rescuer was properly dressed for a rescue in tactical gear rather than for a fancy dress ball. Whyte certainly would have made a sarcastic comment at the site of someone rescuing him in black tie, and it would have been all too appropriate. James Bond had become a caricature of himself in this outfit.

Roger Moore wearing a black double-breasted dinner suit at Carnival in Moonraker

Carnival in Rio de Janeiro in Moonraker is a grand occasion, and a grand occasion for James Bond means black tie. Most people are wearing some sort of costume or are dancing around shirtless, but Bond is not the type who would wear a silly costume (at least not until Octopussy), and 51-year-old Roger Moore wasn’t prepared to be seen without a shirt. Bond is essentially wearing a costume in this scene: a James Bond costume. Bond is not the only man at Carnival in black tie, but in his perfectly tailored black mohair dinner suit, he still looks out of place.

Since Moonraker, Bond has always looked more appropriately dressed in black tie, despite formalwear becoming less commonly worn. With each Bond film, it is a necessity that Bond has an occasion for black tie, and the audience can accept that Bond will always wear black tie even as the world becomes more casual.

24 COMMENTS

      • I think a rundown of the outfits the other poker players were wearing in either the Ocean Club or Casino Royale scenes would make for an interesting post. A quick analysis of each player’s mode of dress and what it says about him or her.

    • The best would have been to have had the scene in a different, more formal setting which would have allowed the wearing of a dinner suit/jacket. This is what the earlier movies would have done and as was often the case (the backgammon scene in India or the Mujaba Club in Egypt) the situation is tailored (sorry) for Bond’s predilection for evening wear. Everything about Craig’s wardrobe in this movie leaned the wrong direction for me and this was just one of many examples which defiled the original Bond image

      • David, the reason they didn’t do that is because they wanted Bond to wear a proper dinner jacket for the first time playing cards against Le Chiffre. Having him in a dinner jacket earlier in the movie would have diminished that.

      • One of the many reasons I never liked craig as bond, and a billion dollars later i still don’t like him as bond.

      • To some extent, I think the idea behind the first two acts of Casino Royale was that Bond needed to grow up before he could be the suave, sophisticate he is known as. He could still be the loose cannon that every previous Bond had been to a greater or lesser extent, but needed to refine his tastes and curb his impulses before he could be taken seriously as an agent.

      • jdreyfuss, this nonsense (while true) is the reason I didn’t warm to Casino Royale, Craig and his lousy wardrobe. For the preceding 44 years (barring 1989) Bond was the template for the suave, urbane, man of the world agent. So much so that others tried to emulate him and without as much success. Then some clown thought it a great wheeze to “reboot” the franchise with an actor who didn’t fit the established template either. This premise is big yawn. His wardrobe never improved that much either with most of the outfits in Skyfall being clear evidence of this!

  1. “Today, not even the Casino de Monte Carlo requires black tie. A jacket is recommended for the evening, and it is only enforced in the Salons Privés.” Why doesn’t any of this surprise me?? Sad “development”.

    • The reality is that people do not want to dress up as they used to. They either had to adapt to this changing climate or risk losing business.

      • Changing climate? So are you saying that a man dressed in the company polo has a better chance of closing the deal than a man dressed in a finely tailored suit?

      • No Saul. I’m saying businesses such as fine casinos and fine dining establishments have had to adapt to changing customs over time. Otherwise, they risk losing customers as people become increasingly casual. Just as many formal events had to adapt to black tie becoming the norm rather than white tie in the last century.

        I’m not saying I agree with either, necessarily. I wear a suit 3-4 times a week, especially when selling my hotel to prospective clients.

      • That’s true but the interesting thing is what started that particular ball rolling and is it a “chicken or egg” situation? The masses seem like sheep with little personal preference – much less discernment – of their own.

    • “Craig and his lousy wardrobe”

      I find that a bit strange since you always praised Brosnan’s Bond for his Brioni wardrobe – just in case that you did not notice: Craig is also wearing Brioni suits in CR. And although I am certainly not an fan of Brioni for Bond I must say that some of those CR Brioni outifts are put together quite tastefully. And the black dinner suit is also not bad. So what are you complaining about? And please don’t restart arguing about the Madagascar outfit etc. – because that would for sure would produce a true “big yawn”.

    • Traditionally, the only acceptable colors for a pocket square in a black tie ensemble are white or red, usually scarlet or a dark red. If it’s a white linen or cotton square, it’s best to use a TV fold, single point, or puff. If it’s a white or red satin square, it should be a puff. You want the square to complete the outfit, not stand apart from it.

  2. “With each Bond film, it is a necessity that Bond has an occasion for black tie, and the audience can accept that Bond will always wear black tie even as the world becomes more casual.”

    That’s part of why we love him. To borrow a line from a recent Bond film, “Sometimes the old ways are best!”

      • Saul, Brosnan may not be my favorite Bond, but that has to be one of my favorite Bond lines!

    • Yeah but the most recent one, white dinner jacket on a train through North Africa, has to be one of the most ‘stretched’ reasons. As locations and occasions to wear black tie are ever-shrinking, I hope in the next outing they come up with a slightly more realistic scenario for Bond to don the tux.

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