Open-Collar Shirts

25

TWINE-Open-Collar

For most people today, ties are limited to wearing only for special occasions. A formal shirt—dress shirt to the Americans—is meant to be worn with a tie, but it’s common now to wear them with the collar open. James Bond has worn his collar open as far back as You Only Live Twice and as recently as Skyfall. In You Only Live Twice, Sean Connery folds his collar flat to behave more like a camp collar. Otherwise, Bond lets his collar stand up more naturally.

The two-button collar

Since the formal shirt’s collar is meant to be worn with a tie, it doesn’t always look right when worn open. Wide cutaway collars are too formal to be worn open, but narrow collars open don’t work so well either. Some people will disagree, but I think a middle-of-the-road spread collar is best, which is the type of collar James Bond usually wears open. Small, flimsy collars worn without a tie make an equally flimsy impression. A taller, firmer collar is most effective when worn open. Roger Moore’s two-button collar in Live and Let Die is a great example of this, as is Daniel Craig’s large Tom Ford collar in Quantum of Solace.

Leather-Blouson

In A View to a Kill, Roger Moore’s open-collared shirts have a button-down collar, a rather casual style that’s best worn without a tie. The buttons keep the collar points anchored to the shirt, propping up the collar. Hidden button-down collars are a similarly effective option for those who don’t like the look of a button-down collar. Yet another option is magnetic collar stays. Some will say that only a button-down collar, and never a spread or point collar, can be worn without a tie.

GoldenEye-Cable-Jumper-Day-Cravat

When wearing a jumper it’s often debated whether to wear the shirt collar inside or outside the jumper’s collar. Roger Moore wears his collars outside a V-neck jumper in The Spy Who Loved Me and outside a crew-neck jumper in For Your Eyes Only. Pierce Brosnan does the same with his crew-neck jumper in GoldenEye. Currently it’s more fashionable to wear the collar inside the jumper, like Timothy Dalton does in The Living Daylights. When wearing a jacket, the shirt collar should stay inside the jacket’s collar, not over it like in Moonraker.

Grey Linen Suit

The placement of the first button under the collar makes a difference as to how well the collar stands up. A higher first button keeps the collar standing up better. Turnbull & Asser’s first button is 3 inches from the bottom of the collar. Frank Foster’s first button is a mere 1 3/4 inches from bottom of the collar, which considerably helps keep the collar stand up. Roger Moore fastens all buttons under the collar on his Frank Foster button-down shirt in A View to a Kill (see image above), and it shows how high that first button is. However, that top button is ordinarily too high for Moore to keep fastened. When he wears his collar open, he typically also leaves open the first button, if not both the first and second buttons. Timothy Dalton in The Living Daylights, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig also leave the first button open on their shirts.

In Licence to Kill, Timothy Dalton keeps his top button fastened, showing that he’s not as relaxed as Bond usually is with an open collar (see image below). Though dark lounge suits aren’t worn well without a tie, more informal summer suits and sports coats can be worn without a tie more effectively. It’s common to see men dressing in a dark suit and open collar for business these days, and in a professional setting only the collar button should be open. Unbuttoning more isn’t appropriate for men in a professional setting, especially when there’s chest hair present.

Dalton-Blue-Suit

25 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Matt, nice post. But just thought I’d mention a detail on Frank Foster’s shirts. On my shirts (by Frank) the distances vary between the collar and top button: The button-downs appear closest at 1 3/4 inches – but are mostly 2 – 2 1/2 inches, with the more formal shirts all coming in at around three. My evening shirt (with proper round-cut button holes for the studs) has a gap between collar and top “button” of 4 inches.

    best, Tim

    • All of mine have the first button at 1 3/4 inch from the top, and most of Roger Moore’s shirts in the 1980s appear to be similar. All of my shirts have a spread collar. The first button on the 1970s shirts looks a bit lower, which you’ve experienced. The evening shirt with the stud holes lower makes sense.

  2. We have very strict rules of dress where I work, although we are allowed to go tie-less on Fridays. I don’t always, but when I do I always undo both the collar button* and the next button. I had never given it any thought other than it just looked “wrong” to me to have only the collar button undone. Now I realize that the first button under the collar on my shirts is spaced very closely to the collar. Perhaps it’s my long face, or my general dimensions overall, but my shirts look far better on me with that button undone.

    * Remember the trend of leaving the collar button on your dress shirts done up (without a tie) in the late 80s? I was saying to someone a few months back that I wonder when that will make a comeback. Now I see that Peter Capaldi is doing that with his costume on Doctor Who. I wonder if, like David Tennant’s suits and Matt Smith’s bow ties, they’re catching an emerging trend just before it takes off with the general public?

    • I actually like this open collar look, especially Brosnan’s with the cream suit. I think the hardest thing with this look is to keep the collars standing “just right” inside the suit jacket. And Brosnan of course pulled it off beautifully.

      I, too, just started noticing this trend of leaving the collar button on without a tie. I honestly don’t see the point. You are just as hot as if you are wearing a tie. So why not just wear a tie?
      I just saw someone a few days ago wearing jeans, a charcoal blazer (although it looked more like an orphaned suit jacket) with a pink shirt untucked with the collar button on. Also, the jacket was shorter than the shirt and he had the collars turned up. Weird…

  3. “When he (Roger Moore) wears his collar open, he typically also leaves open the first button, if not both the first and second buttons.”

    Because it was the seventies and everyone was doing it!

  4. I like this look when worn in a casual setting, such as Brosnan does with the linen suit in Goldeneye (which like the BMW he drives is seen all too briefly!) It also works very well with a blazer. Most of the examples shown here look nice too. With Dalton the problem is with the suit, not the open collar, as it doesn’t make sense for him to be wearing a tie in that scene but a lighter color would work better for the setting.
    However, with a dark business suit I still prefer to wear a tie. I always cringe at that moment in the beginning of Quantum of Solace in which Craig unceremoniously yanks off his tie before the interrogation of Mr. White; not something that James Bond should do!
    With regard to the placement of buttons I’ll quote Jerry Seinfeld, who says “The second button is the key button, it literally makes or breaks the shirt.”

    • The suit and shirt that Dalton is wearing at the end of Licence to kill is, I am assuming, the same tux he wore in the casino scene as it was left pressed and cleaned for him when he woke up from his ninja attack in Sanchez’s apartment. From the casino onward, he wears the same thing till the end scene, the weirdly inappropriate party at the dead drugs baron’s house! Does this tally up, Matt?

      • The suit and shirt you see in the last picture here are what he wore in the last part of the film. The black tie outfit at the party at the end is the same as at the Casino, but he’s not wearing it in the laboratory and tanker scenes.

  5. It’s really a good thing that Bond shows us how to properly wear an open-collar shirt. I think Brosnan example in TWINE can’t get better -or perhaps with a brown belt…
    I also like the look of Brosnan in the end of Goldeneye with the white open-collar shirt and beige suit (probably linen). Out of material, Matt ? 🙂

    That said, congrats for Lazenby’s Bond who never sported this look, always keeping his tie !

  6. I find the open shirt with a dark lounge suit to be appalling, especially when found in a business setting. Atleast Bond had never worn this look in the office. The times he has gone sans tie with a dark suit, there has typically been a reasonable explanation in the story.

    As for a shirt work under a jumper, I prefer the button down collar. It’s a neat look that will never go out of style.

  7. You cite Roger’s “collar outside the jacket” look in MR as a no-no, but I wonder: are you saying it’s wrong today or that it was wrong even then? I remember that being a common look at the time (notably for Lee Majors as The Six Million Dollar Man) and it almost seemed to my then-young and even now-untrained eye that maybe shirt collars of the 70s were made extra wide for this express purpose, given the popularity of the tie-less “leisure suit” (if one may utter that phrase here without risk of censure).

    So I guess my question goes to the heart of this site’s mission: Is it possible that some do’s and don’ts of fashion are flexible according to era, or are some practices just plain “wrong” no matter how large a percentage of the population embraces them for a stretch of time? If lapels and collars are able to shrink and expand to fit an era, if pleats are allowed to come and go, then does it follow that wearing a shirt collar open over your jacket lapels is always wrong regardless of era?

    Not that I’m arguing in favor of the look, mind you.

    • The dos and don’ts of fashion do indeed change with the era. Right now, the way Pierce Brosnan wears his shirt collar outside of the jumper in GoldenEye is not fashionable, but I’d hardly say it’s wrong. On the other hand, wearing the collar outside the jacket doesn’t come naturally. It’s an affected look and it’s confined to 1970s fashion. Pleats come and go, but wearing the shirt collar outside of the jacket has only been around once. That’s why I wouldn’t compare that fashion to pleats. I don’t think collars in the 70s were made larger to wear outside the jackets. I think people realised they could wear the ever growing collars in the 1970s outside of their jackets and started doing it.

      • I must disagree with you on the collars, Matt. Whether an “incorrect” look or otherwise, there were shirts made in the 1970’s that were made with the intent of the collar being worn over one’s jacket.

        The trend may have not started with shirts designed for the purpose, but the clothing industry did pick up enough on the trend to start making shirts with collars designed expressly for being worn like this.

        Said collars are essentially camp collars cut very high with oversized leafs – the end result is a collar that will stand up over any jacket without issue (thereby preventing the leafs from curving upwards), with collar points/leafs that run parallel with a jacket’s gorge.

        What’s more, these beasts are unreasonable to button at the collar, as the point spread on them is minimal. Trying to do so will cause the oversized leaf to flatten out on the shirt – anyone attempting to use one buttoned with a tie will look like they’re wearing a cartoonishly oversized tab collar – without the tab. That’s not even taking into account the de-facto, tall height, which will choke anyone with a short neck.

        Granted, the average Match Game contestant often did attempt to wear such a shirt buttoned – with ties, no less.

        Frankly, I don’t mind collars – provided they’re cut as described above – over the jacket. I do so almost every day, unless it’s cold enough to warrant a tie (welcome to Miami).

        Call it affected, but I’d rather see a stiff 1970’s collar being worn outside of a jacket than some wrinkly hipster shirt collar being worn inside one. I don’t even care for Brosnan’s look from TWINE – that blue shirt with the emaciatedly tan jacket looks too blatantly chic and fashionable in its setting.

        On the note of Brosnan’s TWINE attire:

        Perhaps the reason why I don’t find Moore’s period fashions as jarring as Brosnan’s appearance here (aside from my general preference to the ’70s look) is the simple fact that Moore wore fashionable clothing in an era when EVERYONE ELSE was being just as fashionable. He didn’t look like the odd man out, because everyone was wearing equally oddball clothing.

        On the other hand, here we have Brosnan looking as if he stepped out of Miami Beach into the film – in an era of T-shirts and slip-on flip-flops. Need I point out that the characters of Christmas Jones and Mr. Bullion are doing just that?

        -Kurt

      • “The trend may have not started with shirts designed for the purpose, but the clothing industry did pick up enough on the trend to start making shirts with collars designed expressly for being worn like this.

        I didn’t mean to say they weren’t made to be worn outside, just that it probably didn’t start off that way. Sorry if I wasn’t clear.

        Roger Moore’s shirts were designed to be worn buttoned and are not camp collars.

      • Kurt,

        The “emacietedly tan jacket” you refer to is actually a herringbone linen suit, and a rather nice one at that. Brosnan looks terrific, as always. The fact that we live in an age of t-shirts and flip-flops doesn’t mean James Bond shouldn’t look elegant – after all, if he doesn’t keep up standards, then who?

  8. In relation to the wearing of a shirt in or outside of a sweater/jumper, I would venture that, provided the shirt has any collar other than button down that either option is acceptable and a matter of personal taste. After all, neither look offensive. A button down collar (as I have seen from time to time) unbuttoned and with collar flapping outside the shirt does look rather gauche. But then again, no more gauche than many fashions which are currently accepted as “normal” and even, no doubt, by some as representative of good taste. While I find David Morefield’s question posed very relevant my approach is that good taste is timeless and has little to do with (and indeed is completely divorced from) the very concept of fashion. In relation to Moore’s collars as worn open neck outside the jacket in “Moonraker” it wasn’t really Roger’s finest hour and it was a nod to fashion but, who knows, anything can re-appear in the future.

  9. Interesting post. Personally, if I put a tie on at the start of the day, I like to keep it on until the end of the day. I don’t see it as an encumbrance that should be taken off, I see it as an integral part of what I’m wearing. I don’t take my socks or my trousers off half-way through the day – why should I take my tie off?

    In Australia, men will put on a tie for a wedding or other formal occasion, but rip if off within minutes. Obviously when it’s hot a tie and buttoned-up shirt can get sticky, but I see that a small cross to bear.

    If undoing your collar button after it’s been done up all day, you usually have to undo the next button too, as otherwise the two parts of the collar will stay in play and look as if they’re still buttoned up. The newer/crisper the shirt is the more likely this is to happen.

    Which brings me to the buttoned-up-collar-but-no-tie look. I find it ugly and inexplicable. A formal shirt can certainly be worn without a tie but should not be done up all the way if it is.

    A big fashion in Britain in recnt years has been polo shirts with button-up collars worn buttoned up (search for “Henri Lloyd polo shirt” on Google images to get an idea). These garments are at the most casual end of the formal-casual spectrum, and the buttons are essentially decorative, not functional, so the look is bizarre. It’s usually worn with shorts and white trainers in Mediterranean holiday resorts, so is not really comparable to the smart formal wear that this blog is about, but it’s an interesting if ugly, and hopefully short-live fashion.

    Button-down collars (casual and formal) were very popular in Britain in the 1990s (they would have been at their peak ca. Goldeneye and Tomorrow Never Dies, and are one of the fashions that I think of when I see those films) but have since largely disappeared, particularly in the formal/business sphere. I don’t think they look very smart and if your shirt collar is even barely adequately constructed then they shouldn’t be necessarily. They are tolerable if worn casually but look terrible (IMO) if worn with a tie.

    • Rob, fully agree with your views. Fully buttoned up shirts without a tie should NEVER be worn! This has the most severe implications of lack of manliness that I know.

      I also concur with David’s earlier comments. True style and elegance are timeless. I believe that Coco Chanel said that the first thing to go out of fashion is fashion.

  10. “a button-down collar, a rather casual style that’s best worn without a tie”

    I think this should be stated as a matter of opinion rather than as a fact. The first button-down collars made by Brooks Brothers were meant to be worn with a tie. Most made today don’t have a lot of roll or tie space (similar to Roger Moore’s collar in “Happy Anniversary 007”), which makes them unsuitable for wearing with a tie, but ones made by Brooks Brothers, Mercer & Sons, and others keeping the long roll button-down alive — including Frank Foster and pretty much any bespoke shirt maker — can definitely be worn with a tie. However, I’d advise keeping them to sport coats, two piece suits, and not worn in more formal settings.

  11. Hi Matt,

    What is your opinion about hidden button-down collars for shirts that are to be worn without a tie? Do you feel the absence of visible buttons makes them look smarter whilst still also having that more casual look, and sitting better than a normal collar would without a tie (which is why I assume some say that only button-down collars should be worn without a tie)?

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