‘Gig line’ is a US military term that means the opening of the shirt placket, the trouser fly opening and the front edge of the belt buckle are all lined up. James Bond sometimes dresses with a gig line.
The gig line can give an outfit a neat look at the waist, but if you thought a gig line was the pinnacle of dressing perfectly, think again. It disregards the natural drape and symmetry of clothes because it’s not considering where the centre of each item is.
Aligning the clothes to a gig line can provide a certain level of neatness, but it can also throw off the symmetry and drape of the outfit, mostly because it disregards where the centre of either the trousers or the shirt is. It’s important to understand where the centre of each item is, as the gig line forces the shirt out of its natural drape.
The following explains how the shirt, trousers and belt are aligned with a gig line, and how each item is naturally centred on the body.
Trousers are always worn centred on the body, and the centre of the trousers is at the fly opening. The fly aligns with your navel. The zip itself is off to the wearer’s left. If there’s a visible button on the waistband and there’s no waistband extension, the button is also off to the left, not in the centre.
Belt loops, if the trousers have them, are typically centred on either side of the fly, though some trousers place the belt loops off-centre to allow the belt buckle to be lined up with the fly and still have the buckle centred. Roger Moore wears a pair of tan trousers in Live and Let Die with off-centre belt loops, though most of his other trousers have symmetrical belt loops.
The buttons on the front of a shirt are down the centre of the shirt, whether it has a placket front or a plain front. Thus, the opening of the shirt lies to the right of the buttons. Naturally, a shirt’s opening would not drape to line up with the trouser fly, and the shirt’s buttons would not line up with the trousers’ button.
When lining up the shirt placket opening to the trouser fly, it shifts the shirt out of alignment and angles or twists the shirt’s placket. On a full-fitting shirt this isn’t so noticeable, but on a fitted shirt it will end up markedly tighter on one side than on the other and will cause one side to bunch. It’s also less noticeable when the collar is worn open, and even less so when more buttons are worn open.
A well-fitted shirt won’t look quite as perfect when arranged with a gig line, unless the fit of the shirt specifically accommodated for this.
The typical single-prong belt buckle works well with the gig line because it’s not particularly prominent. A rectangular single-prong buckle looks best when it’s lined up with the trousers’ fly, and many high-end trousers come with a belt prong keeper to ensure that the belt stays put, but the prong keeper only works well with a single-prong buckle.
Centre post buckle, plate-style and box-frame buckles look noticably off-centre when lined up with a gig line if the belt loops are symmetrical. These more prominent buckles look best when centred on the body, and are thus centred between the front belt loops.
Rounded D-ring and O-ring buckles also don’t work well with a gig line because these rounded buckles won’t line up with anything.
James Bond and the Gig Line
According to Thomas Felix Creighton, @flemingneverdies on Instagram who is a former RNR Midshipman, the gig line is not something that the Royal Navy are familiar with. Thus, Bond would not have been obligated to dress with a gig line in his service. That said, James Bond often dresses with the gig line in mind. Creighton surmises that Bond could have learned this from Americans he spent time with.
Other times Bond completely disregards the gig line. With his pale yellow shirt in For Your Eyes Only, his shirt is completely out of alignment, neither aligned with the trousers and belt nor centred on his body. The belt buckle is centred on his body, but because it’s a simple single-prong buckle is looks off-centre with the fly and between the belt loops. It’s a complete mess and out of character for Bond, who is typically a fastidious dresser.
Rather than following a gig line, in most cases I recommend wearing the shirt buttons aligned with the trousers’ fly to preserve the drape and symmetry of the shirt. This is especially important when wearing a jacket or dinner jacket with a bow tie. Properly aligning the shirt symmetrically will allow it to be centred within the opening of a jacket. Not aligning the shirt with the trouser fly will not be noticeable when wearing a jacket, and the presentation overall will look neater if the shirt is truly centred.
Notice on Daniel Craig in Casino Royale how the placket drifts off to his left and is not centred in the opening of his jacket. This is because he’s following a gig line and lining up his shirt opening with the trouser fly, and it’s making the outfit look less than perfect. This demonstrates the faults of the gig line. If he centred the placket with the trouser fly rather than the edge of the placket, the shirt would look even within the deep ‘V’ opening of his dinner jacket.
When trousers have an extended waistband and no belt, the discrepancy between the opening edge of a centred shirt and the trousers’ fly is broken up by the waistband. If one is wearing a cummerbund, the gig line is completely masked and a centred shirt matters far more than lining it up with the trousers.
When wearing a tucked open-neck shirt, the gig line makes more sense. The way the shirt shifts off centre to line up with the trousers is less noticeable (unless the shirt is very fitted), and the gig line is on complete display. Here the neatness of this alignment can outweigh the shirt being off-centre.