James Bond’s White Dinner Jackets: Warm-Weather Black Tie Etiquette

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Daniel Craig’s ivory dinner jacket in Spectre

After 30 years, James Bond will once again be wearing an ivory dinner jacket in Spectre. Bond started a tradition of often wearing an ivory dinner jacket in warm climates 51 years ago in Goldfinger. In the six appearances of the ivory dinner jacket throughout the series, Bond has demonstrated how to properly wear warm weather black tie.

Bond’s warm-weather dinner jackets are ivory and not pure white because many natural fibres—particularly wool—have oils that prevent them from being bleached pure white. Calling it a “white” dinner jacket is not incorrect since white is the intended colour. Though Sean Connery’s ivory dinner jackets are made of wool, Roger Moore wears ivory dinner jackets in silk and linen. Daniel Craig’s ivory dinner jacket in Spectre is made of 56% silk and 44% viscose, a cool-wearing semi-synthetic fibre derived from cellulose.

Bond's first ivory dinner jacket in Goldfinger
Bond’s first ivory dinner jacket in Goldfinger

The ivory dinner jacket is part of the black tie dress code, which means it should only be worn after 6 pm. A light jacket does not mean it is for daytime. The jacket follows the conventions of its black and midnight blue counterparts, with one button on the front of single-breasted models and two, four or six buttons on double-breasted versions, with one or two fastening buttons. Lapels should ideally be peaked or shawl, and notched lapels less ideal because they make the dinner jacket look more like a sports coat. Pockets should be jetted, and there may be two vents or no vent in the rear. Buttons should be mother-of-pearl, though covered buttons in the material of the jacket are acceptable.

The biggest difference that the ivory dinner jacket has with it’s black and midnight blue cousins is that the it traditionally does not have silk facings, neither on the lapels nor on the pockets or buttons. Silk facings on an ivory dinner jacket are typically the mark of the cheap rental, though Daniel Craig’s considerably expensive ivory Tom Ford dinner jacket in Spectre has grosgrain silk facings. It lacks the refined taste of Bond’s previous ivory dinner jackets. Whilst black and midnight blue dinner jackets have silk facings to primarily differentiate them from ordinary lounge jackets, the ivory dinner jacket does not need such a distinctive mark. White dinner jackets are always worn with black or midnight blue trousers.

The ivory dinner jacket is strictly worn in warm weather. There’s no absolute consensus as to where the ivory dinner jacket should appropriately be worn, except it should never be worn in the British Isles, never in large cities and only in warm weather. Bernhard Roetzel states in his book Gentleman: A Timeless Guide to Fashion, “The white tuxedo is worn at open-air evening parties and on cruises.” Roetzel’s statement suggests that if the weather is warm enough to be comfortable outdoors, the ivory dinner jacket is appropriate.

Sean Connery's ivory dinner jacket in Diamonds Are Forever
Sean Connery’s ivory dinner jacket in Diamonds Are Forever

The tropics are the most appropriate place for an ivory dinner jacket. Sean Connery wears his ivory dinner jacket in the Goldfinger pre-title sequence in an unknown country in Latin American, a tropical region. Connery again wears the ivory dinner jacket in Diamonds Are Forever in Las Vegas. Las Vegas in not in the tropics, but the ivory dinner jacket is well-suited for its hot desert climate. The ivory dinner jacket is generally considered appropriate anywhere in the United States during the summer months, though some consider the northern states’ climate to not be right at any time of year for it.

In Thunderball, Bond visits the Bahamas, which is an appropriate location for an ivory dinner jacket. In the casino scene there, Adolfo Celi’s villain Largo is dressed in an elegant double-breasted ivory dinner jacket, whilst Bond contrasts him in an equally suitable midnight blue mohair dinner suit. However, Bond opts for the white dinner jacket in Ian Fleming’s novel Thunderball.

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Roger Moore’s ivory dinner jacket in The Man with Golden Gun

Roger Moore first wears an ivory dinner jacket in The Man with the Golden Gun for a 9 pm dinner with Hai Fat in Thailand, which is within the tropics. Moore later wears an ivory dinner jacket in Octopussy in Udaipur, India, which lies one degree of latitude north of the Tropic of Cancer. Though technically not in the tropics, the weather is certainly hot enough to justify wearing an ivory dinner jacket. When Bond arrives at Kamal Khan’s club in his dinner jacket, the sky is still light. If it is June or July, it could be 6 pm. Only a few scenes later, Bond is having dinner in the same dinner jacket under a night sky.

Roger Moore’s last ivory dinner jacket is worn in daylight in A View to a Kill at Château de Chantilly in France, just north of Paris. Though it is daylight, the reception Bond attends starts at 6 pm, and because this scene takes place not long after the Royal Ascot at the beginning of summer, the sunset in the part of France would have been close to 10 pm. However, the location for wearing an ivory dinner jacket is questionable as it is very far north of the tropics and has the same climate as England. But since the weather is warm and the reception is outdoors, the ivory dinner jacket doesn’t look out of place. The ivory dinner jacket is more appropriate down south in the sub-tropical Mediterranean region, where Roger Moore occasionally wears a white silk dinner jacket in The Saint.

Roger Moore's ivory dinner jacket in A View to a Kill
Roger Moore’s ivory dinner jacket in A View to a Kill

Daniel Craig wears an ivory dinner jacket in Spectre in Morocco, a country with a largely Mediterranean climate. Humphrey Bogart established a precedent for wearing an ivory dinner jacket in Morocco in the 1942 film Casablanca. Based on the trailer, Bond appropriately wears his dinner jacket in the evening whilst having dinner on a train.

Despite the ivory dinner jacket being just as classic as black and midnight blue, they go in and out of fashion, and some people don’t care for them. Hardy Amies writes in his 1994 book The Englishman’s Suit:

One has to say firmly that a white dinner coat is effortlessly ‘naff’. It was derided by those who knew what was what in Venice ten years ago. I don’t suppose it matters what you wear in the Caribbean. But it looks seriously awful in Europe. It is also very impractical. A dinner suit should be made in a cloth of the lightest weight available, in midnight blue, of course. You can then wear it all the year round. The cloth used in white coats is not lighter and, if not wool, creases unattractively.

Also in the 1990s, Bond shared Amies’ opinion and did not wear any ivory dinner jackets. He could have in the Monte Carlo casino in GoldenEye, but every man in the casino is dressed in black. In The World is Not Enough, some men in the Azerbaijan casino are dressed in ivory dinner jackets, but Bond wears midnight blue. It’s a less appropriate location for an ivory dinner jacket, especially considering that it’s wintertime. Bond’s ally Valentin Zukovsky wears a flashy light taupe dinner jacket, which, like the ivory dinner jacket, is better suited for a warmer place.

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Roger Moore’s ivory dinner jacket in Octopussy

The ivory dinner jacket is worn just like a black or midnight blue dinner suit, just with the jacket exchanged for an ivory jacket. This means that the trousers are black or midnight blue with a silk stripe or braid down the side of the leg. The shirt to wear with it is the traditional evening shirt in white cotton. The only exception is the ivory dress shirt that nicely matches the ivory silk dinner jacket in The Man with the Golden Gun. Typically Bond wears a soft pleated shirt with his dinner jacket, but in Octopussy he wears a plain voile shirt to battle India’s heat. Bond never wears a marcella dress shirt or shirt studs with his ivory dinner jackets. A marcella shirt, and especially a shirt with a wing collar, is too formal to wear with an ivory dinner jacket, since the ivory dinner jacket is slightly less formal than a dark dinner suit. Bond’s dress shirts for warm-weather black tie always have a spread collar and double cuffs or cocktail cuffs.

The bow tie to pair with an ivory dinner jacket should be in black satin or grosgrain silk to match the stripe down on the trousers. Either type of silk can match trousers with a braid down the side. Bond wears a black satin cummerbund with his ivory dinner jacket in Spectre, and goes without a waist-covering on all other occasions. Ian Fleming had Bond wear a wine-red cummerbund with his white dinner jacket in the Thunderball novel to point up “his rich, property-seeking status”. A waistcoat can also be worn with a white dinner jacket, but cummerbunds are more traditional because they were developed as a warm-weather alternative. They cover much less of the body than a waistcoat does, though backless waistcoats are more effect in warm weather than a full-backed waistcoat.

Like with a dinner suit, shoes with an ivory dinner jacket should be black patent leather oxfords or pumps. Less formal alternatives like black patent leather slipper-style shoes can also work well for warm-weather black tie.

41 COMMENTS

  1. Splendid post, Matt.
    Difficult to resist not writing about the specific topic, you would have guessed, of silk-facing lapels!
    Peter Marshall, the eminent authority of The Black Tie Guide provides an example of silk-facing lapels, without specifically pointing it out:

    http://www.blacktieguide.com/History/1974-1979/1976_12winter_GQ_p96.jpg

    Technically, apart from the rather extreme width, I must admit I have spotted more hideous specimens. Honestly.

    I won’t comment on Craig’s ivory jacket, as I have not seen enough of it. The inspiration comes from jackets that Tom Ford himself wore, with the silk.
    I am already biased by the 2 front buttons and the last sleeve button undone..
    To me this is far worse than silk on the lapels.

    Everyone likes the iconic version worn by Sean Connery in Goldfinger. And that includes me, of course. Now, if I really want to be sincere and objective (having read so much, thanks to you, and having checked and compared) is this particular one that impressive?
    In other words: is there really so much to write home about?

    Pocket flaps apart, I much prefer the one worn in Diamonds are forever. A remarkable tailoring to accommodate Connery’s increased girth, on top of that.
    Moore’s jacket in the Man with the Golden Gun is even more outstanding. Octopussy my favourite.

    In Goldfinger, it appears that we appreciate the jacket also because we know it is James Bond, because of Connery’s charisma, his gait, and his pose. And the red carnation, of course.

    However (and am bordering with heresy here ..) without those elements, could he not be confused with a waiter ?

    I know it is ivory, not white, and that it is tailored, and in wool, not polyester, but the overall cut, now that I compare with all the others, is not so impressive, and if worn by ‘anyone else’, could (freely quoting Peter Marshall) “…vvirtually guarantee that you spend your evening taking other guests’ drink orders or being asked what time your band starts playing”.

    I do not wish to reignite an old debate, but my point is: don’t the silk-facing lapels, all things being equal, ultimately differentiate one jacket from the others, such as the staff’s, for instance?

    We know that traditionally, there are no silk facing lapels on ivory jackets and that you not liking it would be putting it mildly. However, it is not described as a sartorial crime by Marshall or anyone else, and the tailoring of the example (1970s) above does not really smell of cheap rental, IMHO.

    • Peter Marshall has stated that it’s not a traditional aspect of ivory dinner jackets, but he has avoided commenting any further than that. He only mentions self lapels when discussing classic warm weather black tie. I can’t agree with you on the 1970s dinner jacket. It’s a fashionable and less tasteful take for the 1970s, on the level of Roger Moore’s flares. Since then, silk lapels on white dinner jacket have been done from all kinds of brands, mostly cheap brands but I’ve seen them on Brioni. On the question regarding silk lapels differentiating one’s dinner jacket from the staff’s, I’d be inclined to say that silk lapels would make me think it belongs to the staff. My dislike for silk lapels on a white dinner jacket is mostly historical, though I also feel that making something unnecessarily flashy makes it look cheaper.

      One could argue that the silk lapels on Daniel Craig’s dinner jacket balance the two buttons on the front. Since the second button makes the dinner jacket more like an ordinary jacket, silk lapels are necessary to elevate it to another level.

  2. Thanks for your prompt comment, Matt.
    Obviously, the 1970s’ lapel width is something I don’t abide by. That goes without saying. Something much narrower would also diminish the flashiness of the material. Personally , I have never seen silk lapels on any brand, except on Tom Ford himself, nor on any cheap brand, but probably I have not noticed those. Interesting that Brioni has done it. If you have a link to a picture, I would be curious to see it.
    Neither have I ever seen staff wearing silk lapels. Rest assured that since I started reading you and expanding my sartorial horizon, I have been increasingly checking these details.
    I perfectly understand the historical reason behind your choice, and respect it. Same can be said about aversion to flashiness. I am personally very fond of tradition and value discretion over flamboyance.
    Whilst being an anachronism, the very jacket worn by Harrison Ford does not strike me by its flashiness.
    The silk on the lapels is not that apparent (at least as it appears on my screen: http://bamfstyle.com/2015/07/17/indiana-jones-tux/) and that is what prompts me to ‘not dislike’ it and most of all not feel as disturbed by it as my conventional inclination would command me to.

  3. I was very excited to see that the white or ivory dinner jacket would make a return to SPECTRE, but the fact that it’s a 2-button version is a big letdown.

  4. I actually agree with Stan re: Connery’s ivory dinner jacket in Goldfinger. It’s very unremarkable, which I think is down to the fit–I’ve always thought it as a little off compared to the other tailored clothing in the film. All three of Moore’s examples shown above are better, in my opinion.

  5. I think that the main reason because white dinner jackets are not silk facings is that in 30s,before drywash the white or cream dinner jacket were washed in water.
    In those times the cloth for these summer tuxedo coats were “palm beach” (a blend of mohair and cotton),tussah,rayon with linen,mohair or silk,linen.
    Obviously a white garnment gets dirty easily,so had to be washed.
    A silk facing makes the thing more complicated.
    For the same reason these coats were often unlined.
    So the tradition of not silk facings lapels is continued also in modern laundry times.

    P.S.
    Matt,an information for you: all the old Esquire,from 30s to now issues are online in a site named classic esquire.
    You can see a lot of bondesque suits in mid 60s issues!

    • Thanks for the tip on the Esquire issues. I see that June 1965 has a photo of Sean Connery in the Goldfinger ivory dinner jacket outfit on the cover, with a good look at the angled double cuff.

    • I was just about to drop by and mention the Esquire archives, now if we could just get GQ to do the same thing (I’ve been spending far too much money collecting the physical back issues…)

    • Yes,It would be great if all “Apparel Arts”/Gentleman Quarterly” issues would be online…and i would also the 20s/30 issues of “Vanity Fair”: the column “For the well dressed man” and “Letters from London” were fantastic!!!

  6. “The ivory dinner jacket is generally considered appropriate anywhere in the United States during the summer months”

    Same for Italy.
    I don’t know for France,but i think that is appropiate in riviera,less in Paris.

    • In the U.S. it definitely seems seasonal, as even Northern summers get hot and humid, but just on a pop culture level ivory suits always felt very Southern, or Californian. Particularly in New England, one imagines the rules of Old England apply. And given our long-shared history, the overlap in fashionable families, navy traditions and the frequency of rainy or cloudy weather even in the warmer months, it’s definitely safer to err in that direction.

      Though I’m having visions of early Twentieth Century art deco Manhattan being rife with ivory jackets, so perhaps there’s a notable exception.

  7. Grazie, Carmelo !
    This is a very valuable information. And finally a sound explanation to a long lasting question. So we can now assume that the classic ivory jacket standards date back to before the introduction of Tetrachloroethylene 😉

  8. Since we brought up the term “Rental” I recall reading somewhere many moons ago that nothing says rental like patent leather shoes. I thought it made sense to me so I stayed away from anything patent leather altogether. Your thoughts?

    P.s. is there any type of skin color that should not be worn with a white dinner jacket? I ask because I am an individual of mexican descent and I do not want to be mistaken for a waiter….

    P.s.s. bring pierce back! And Frank Langella for M !

    • Patent leather is the most traditional shoe for black tie, so I have no problem with it. It’s what James Bond used to wear. Most complexions should look good in the traditional ivory colour. I’d assume your complexion is similar to Sean Connery’s?

    • A tiny bit darker, I’m always confused with being middle eastern. I’m almost 6,2 and weigh around 210lbs. I tried white before but it looked like it accentuated certain parts that did not need to be, like my neck and chin. So I’m having a hard time deciding what shade and lapel to go with. Unfortunately with tom ford, his designs just don’t match my anatomical differences. As far as pierce goes , I have been told that everything he wears looks good on me with the exception of the Hawaiian shirt he wore in DAD. In my opinion no one should wear a Hawaiian shirt unless your Jim henson.

  9. I think Stan makes an interesting point, one I can appreciate too. Connery’s “Goldfinger” dinner jacket is fine but nothing special. This jacket became the template because it was the first. I would also find his version in “Diamonds are Forever” (inappropriate setting notwithstanding) a little better. For what it’s worth my favourites would be the “Octopussy” jacket, followed by “The Man With the Golden Gun” and “Diamonds are Forever”. “Goldfinger”, “A View to a Kill” and “Spectre” are probably on a par. The “A View to a Kill” version had also less traditional features and was, I think, Hayward’s attempt to make a less formal dinner jacket, if that makes sense, to fit with its setting in the plot. I’m constantly dubious about the untra bling Ford’s suitability for dressing the cinematic Bond and his less orthodox version of the dinner jacket fits with this. But its return is, nevertheless, welcome.

    • The ivory colour of Sean Connery’s dinner jacket in Goldfinger draws attention to the full 1950s cut that most of Connery’s jackets have in his first three Bond films. The hacking jacket has the same cut, it’s just broken up by the textured cloth and more pocket detail. After Goldfinger, the jackets didn’t have as full of a cut.

    • I second this. The Goldfinger dinner jacket has the nicest details (the lapels are exquisite, and would be perfect with narrower shoulders), but the fit is not great and the shoulders are too big. Connery had a similar problem with his blue suit in From Russia With Love – a man of his size doesn’t need extended shoulders.

      Moore’s Hayward dinner jackets are unbeaten in fit. Whilst I’m not a fan of the low button stance/high gorge on business suits, it works excellently for a black tie rig.

    • Unsurprisingly, I agree with David that the Octopussy ivory dinner jacket is the best in terms of fit and overall proportions. The GF dinner jacket would not be nearly as memorable if it weren’t for the incomparable panache of Sean Connery in his absolute prime. I am inclined to disagree with Matt’s contention that the GF hacking jacket is very full cut, but maybe it’s the optical illusion of slimness created by the slanted hacking pockets. Regardless, it’s one of my favorite items in the entire series.

  10. Amazing research, Carmelo. I did not know about the all white factor either.
    Maybe we should have a poll on all ivory dinner jackets ?

  11. Another famous white tuxedo is Indiana Jones’ in Temple of Doom, almost certainly included as a tribute to Bond in Goldfinger. And with silk lapels. Silk seems to work a lot better on very wide lapels, and I can’t really imagine this jacket with wool lapels instead, although it still looks fairly tacky, but mainly due to the so very wide lapels. Something borderline narrow like Connery’s in Goldfinger looks far better, but of course it wouldn’t really fit the late 30’s timeframe Temple of Doom takes place in.

    https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/4d/60/e5/4d60e599bf745f876cb36238196bdaa8.jpg

  12. I notice, while reading these excellent articles on black-tie etiquette, that while Bond sometimes sports a pocket handkerchief with a black dinner jacket he never does so with an ivory one.

    Do you have any views whether these choices in fact reflect a broader rule? If so, do you agree with the practice?

    • There’s no rule or convention regarding this, except a white handkerchief doesn’t go with a white dinner jacket because there’s no contrast. Black or red go well, but perhaps Bond feels those colours (and pretty much any other) stand out too much on a white dinner jacket stands out too much. A coloured pocket handkerchief stands out on a white jacket more than it does on any other jacket. Pierce Brosnan wears a red handkerchief with his white dinner jacket in Remington Steele: https://www.bondsuits.com/remington-steele-white-dinner-jacket/

  13. In the 1946 version of The Razor’s Edge, the lead characters attend a black-tie event during a heatwave in 1919 in Chicago. Many of the males wear white duck trousers instead of the heavy black wool which would have made up the dinner suit trousers of that era. I imagine that tailors would be able to convince their clients that they’d be even cooler if they kept the traditional trousers and opted for an ivory dinner jacket. Technically, an ivory dinner jacket is OTT for strolling the floor of a Vegas casino, but Bond is convinced that the diamond smugglers are embedded in the Whyte House and he wants to taunt them into revealing themselves. That is: he is trying to stand out. And that he does, in a very fine warm-weather black-tie ensemble.

  14. @David
    “Connery’s “Goldfinger” dinner jacket is fine but nothing special.”

    Ought it be something special? I think a white dinner jacket in itself is already outstanding enough. I like the DAF, Octopussy and TMWTGG versions, too. But to me it’s the GF dinner jacket only that will remain one of the immortal classic Bond garments. And I particularly like its “Sinclair” cut – IMO it’s not too loose and its peaked lapel is very beautifully shaped (better than the DAF one in comparison).
    Patent leather shoes are – for my taste – always over the top. Unless your dinner jacket has shiny satin silk lapels they look too garish to be elegant.

    BTW: I must say that I am a bit confused – everybody is criticising the “sausage look” of Tom Ford’s Bond suits but at the same time the same people complain about Connery’s suits being to loosely cut. Only because they have that small amount of drape around the chest? Seems a bit exaggerated to me.

  15. Hi Matt,

    I’m not so much of an expert that I am up on all the terminology, so forgive me if this is a silly question. I’ve noticed that there is a difference for peak lapel jackets, both single and double-breasted. For the Goldfinger and Octopussy jackets, the outside edge of the lapel looks like a straight line from bottom to top. In the Diamonds and Spectre jackets, it looks like it curves outward from the bottom. If I was to order a suit from a tailor and wanted to specify one or the other, are there specific words to differentiate from these two styles? Thanks.

  16. Hi Matt – very useful information here.

    Recently in another comment (my apologies if I’m mistaken), you mentioned that you’re not too fond of pick stitching on dinner jacket’s silk facing lapels. What do you feel about subtle pick stitching on warm weather black tie’s self-facing lapels? Is it appropriate or do you believe that pick stitching should not be present on all form of black tie in general?

    Thank you in advance.

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