Terry cloth clothes have taken off in popularity this summer. Past fashions always return, and the 1960s trend of wearing clothes made of towelling is once again in vogue.
Terry cloth or ‘terry-towelling’ is a type of towelling material, usually in cotton, that is woven with protruding loops of thread to give is a soft and plush texture. Clothes made of terry cloth are usually made of the ‘French terry’ type, which is knitted similar to jersey and only has a pile on one side of the fabric, which is typically the side used for the outside of the clothes. Like any other knitted fabrics, French terry has a natural stretch. Towels are made of a double-sided woven terry cloth, so terry clothes are usually made of a different kind of material than terry towels are. Though terry cloth clothes generally don’t have the feeling of towelling on the inside, some clothes are made with the pile on the inside or are lined in terry cloth.
Though there is an undoubted novelty element to terry cloth clothes, there is also a practical side to them. French terry is a comfortable material. Other people may want to touch you if you’re wearing terry cloth clothes, which may be desirable in certain situations. Terry cloth can feel heavy, but if you sweat in it on a hot day, at least it is absorbent.
James Bond has only worn a handful of terry cloth clothes in the series. The most iconic terry item is the baby blue playsuit, or ‘onesie’, in the 1964 film Goldfinger. A playsuit is a jumpsuit with short legs (very short legs in Connery’s case, which allow the short legs of his swim shorts to stick out the bottom), something typically worn by women rather than men. It takes the concept of a terry cloth bathrobe but turns it into a fitted piece of clothing. It has a built-in belt around the waist with elastic around the back, an open patch breast pocket and large patch pockets below the belt. There are interior facings in terry cloth, but not a whole lining.
This is one of James Bond’s most controversial outfits in the series because it’s neither a classic garment nor is it a traditionally masculine garment. While the average Bond fan can don most outfits that Bond has worn and feel confident and more Bondian, wearing this outfit successfully needs Sean Connery’s assurance and won’t provide the wearer with any confidence they lack. Without Sean Connery’s confidence, Bond could have looked rather silly in this outfit.
In the same scene, Auric Goldfinger wears a yellow camp shirt with a white terry cloth lining. Goldfinger is a man of luxury, and the towelling interior of his shirt provides comfort rather than merely the look of towelling. The lining folds over onto the outside of the garment for towelling facings, and the pockets are also trimmed in towelling. Compared to Bond’s garment, Goldfinger’s shirt is easier to wear. Both Bond and Goldfinger look appropriately and fashionably dressed for 1960s Miami.
For a brief scene in Diamonds Are Forever‘s pre-title sequence, Sean Connery is reintroduced as Bond for the 1970s wearing an item of towelling. This time it is in the form of a camp shirt. This shirt has a deep pile with a lengthwise ribbed texture. Compared to the playsuit, the shirt looks more like typical clothing. The shirt is mottled cream and beige with four large buttons down the front placket. It has two breast pockets with flaps and box pleats, a rear centre box pleat and a straight hem.
The Diamonds Are Forever shirt is particularly fashionable at the moment thanks to the terry cloth clothing revival, and it’s much easier to wear than the playsuit. It also has a modern, fitted cut. The only part of the shirt that does not hold up at amongst today’s fashions is the oversized one-piece collar.
Orlebar Brown, who have made swim trunks for Daniel Craig’s Bond and have an official 007 resort wear collection, have helped popularise the towelling clothing trend for men. They’ve replicated the Goldfinger playsuit and the Diamonds Are Forever camp shirt. One of their most popular pieces relating to James Bond is a Dr. No-inspired polo made in towelling. Sean Connery’s original polo was cotton pique, like many ordinary polos. Orlebar Brown made their own interpretation in towelling because they like towelling. It also takes the towelling from the Goldfinger playsuit and makes it into something more accessible and less controversial.