‘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.
Very interesting as I just lined up my shirt and trousers in a gig line this morning. Did not realize it made my shirt off center, although it isn’t surprising as you have to make some effort to do it. Since I always wear a tie it isn’t visible and so probably something I shouldn’t worry about, and I should just align the shirt naturally.
Wow – something else in plain sight that I knew nothing about but now will be seeing everywhere.
it does seem to be one of those things that seems like a good idea, but doesn’t work in practice. if you’re wearing a jacket, nobody is going to see it. i suppose it would be possible to make clothes slightly offset so that the gig line is straight with everything draped straight too, but who has the kind of time?
on the belt loop subject the car salesman in Psycho has pants with an odd collection of belt loops, about 2:24 here, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkHMgyBU_Ws gig line is pretty good too…
That’s very interesting. It looks like there’s an extra belt loop to balance his belt’s keeper. His gig line is off, but his shirt is in the centre. That man is neatly put-together.
I have seen some vintage suits and trousers with the same extra belt loop as “California Charlie” has here. They serve a similar function to a belt prong keeper, but do it in a different way. Here’s an old discussion about it: https://askandyaboutclothes.com/forum/threads/suit-pants-have-extra-belt-loop.81113/
I used to try to adjust my shirts and trousers to the “gig”, but as time went on, I just elected to care a lot less. The skewed placket makes my OCD worse than the alignments of the two lines.
Besides, outside of military regulations, I think it’s best if one just take it easy. The point of tailoring, again, is to put it on and forget about it, as I paraphrase an old tailor saying so.
The ones that make the effort and then forget all about it are the ones worth talking to.
As i told my older brother
“Are you wearing the suit or is the suit wearing you?” Till this day the suit is wearing him.
Indeed, one should wear their garment (s), not the other way around. Standards may be upheld in times of need, but it’s wearing the clothes, not worn by the clothes.
As I always say no matter what type of suit you wear, just get ready to start swinging in it should the need ever arise.
As Kurt Russell said in Tombstone
“Get to fightin or get away”
keep firing comrades,
Do you think that that strap that goes in between your legs to keep the shirt tucked in is also designed to keep the gig line straight?
SINATRA was a big fan of that
Such a device that will keep the shirt tucked is also going to be good for keeping it straight, which means it will not be keeping the gig line intact.
If you’re talking about shirt stays, I have those and they’re definitely better than keeping a gig line!
No, they’re talking about a leotard or bib bottom on the shirt, where the tails connect between the legs to keep it from riding up over the course of the day.
As an owner of male reproductive organs, that sounds… uncomfortable.
Matt, what about inventing a new tailored detail for trousers, such as making the front seam shifted left to the centre, or extending the entire crotch flap to the left? So as to have always the gig line perfectly aligned, without distorting the garments. Shall we patent that?!?
If the trousers are cut like this, it makes the body look uneven. To prevent this you’d need a folded placket like on a shirt, and that would just draw too much attention to one’s crotch.
Not really a folded placket. The usual fly should work right, just with its edge not aligned to the central seam, but shifted to the right. It would be paired to an extended waistband, suitably aligned to the “gig line”. I see that it would be a quite “expensive” tailored detail, not less than many well known others (split yoke on shirts, belt keeper on trousers, real buttonholes on jacket, and so on)
My point is about symmetry. I think slightly asymmetrical trousers such as this are going to look wonky on the body. They need something to visually centre them on the body, otherwise your hips will look lopsided, but it won’t be obvious why. I think that symmetry is more important than the gig line.
And that’s my point, too! Your article shows off a thing that I had never realized by myself: trousers are all but symmetrical. All the stuff – fly, zip, button – is placed on the left size. Instead, shirts are symmetrical, and the symmetry axis is aligned to the buttons. That’s the whole problem. So I am trying a solution to make trousers symmetrical… Far from easy!
The fly opening is not placed on the left side, it is in the centre and divides the trousers in half. That’s why I don’t think moving it is a solution. If you want a centred button, you could make a waistband with a slightly extended waistband with a pointed or curved end to centre the button over the fly.
That is certainly something I could see done by a fashion house, particularly one in Europe or Asia, on casual trousers or jeans. However, it still sounds like a solution in search of a problem to me. We already have minimalism down to a tee with the closure, buttons or zipper, hidden in the fly and a hook and bar closure at the top — whether or not it has an extended tab. It looks good, it functions well, and I don’t see it changing much in the next 60 years from the last 60 years.
Instead of messing with the symmetry of a trouser fly it might be easier and cheaper for those wanting a perfect fit line to have their shirts made with the placket slightly off centre so the leading edge of the placket lines up with with the edge of the trouser fly.
This of course would mean the buttons aren’t centred from the throat to the waist unless some tricky tailoring is involved.
I agree with the comment that this is a solution in search of a problem. If o e is dressed with a tie and a (presumably most of the time buttoned) jacket then the point is moot anyway. It only becomes apparent, as in Matt’s choice of photos, with no-tie shirts tucked into trousers.
The whole gig line business is an artefact from the military. In a similar manner military service dress tunics don’t fasten the way a normal suit jacket does. They have an extended tab on the buttoning side which allows the fastened buttons to line up perfectly below the apex of where the lapels meet, and centre perfectly over the tunic belt buckle.
I tend to slide the belt buckle of my strides so that it more or less lines up with my fly if I remember to, but that’s about as much time and attention as I pay to this.
That shirt solution is still really overthinking it in my opinion!
Of course – that was my point!
I mean: to the right of the wearer
Matt, is it evident that Connery was dressed to have matched shirt placket to gig line for Thunderball? The shirt placket is quite skewed to his left, and the skewed line is visible even on top of the uncovered region of the waistcoat, such as
This doesn’t prove that he’s matching his shirt to his trousers. It’s just a skewed shirt. If he were using a gig line, the shirt wouldn’t be that skewed.
I think it’s the way he’s positioned in that photo. His head is cocked and his left shoulder is slightly higher than the right, which shifts the shirt over to the right and makes it look like it’s skewed to the left.
How to combine Bond watches with Bond outfits ?
Example; im traveling in summer, I choose Casual Cream outfit from TMWTGG, safari suit from Moonraker and blue v-neck t shirt from For Your Eyes Only. In each of these movies Bond wears different wristwatch, that means that each outfit have different wristwatch since each outfit is from different movie. How to choose wristwatch in that situation ? Should I combine correct watch with each outfit (which means traveling with 3 different wristwatches) or should I choose one ? What would you guys do ? And what do you think Bond would do ?
Those are all casual outfits, so any sports watch would do well for all three. I see no reason to travel with three different watches when one will do; I’ve never travelled with multiple watches. Bond would usually only travel with one watch, though I believe there are occasions when he has travelled with two watches. Life doesn’t have to be that complicated.
Particularly when it’s something as versatile as a metal banded watch.
Thank you for your answer.
You are right, it doesn’t have to be that complicated.
If (literary) Bond can purpose his “Rolex Oyster Perpetual” (common consensus has taken this to mean a Submariner but I don’t believe Fleming was ever any more specific) for a wide variety of activities and outfits, from black tie to actual scuba diving I don’t see any reason why we mere mortals can’t do likewise.
Rod, I think if anything most people speculate the fictional Bond wore an Explorer, not a submariner. In one of the novels there is a reference to “big phosphorous numerals”, which would rule out the Sub. Plus Fleming wore an Explorer in his personal life.
Thanks a lot for the interesting post. Always a pleasure to read your blog and to add something new to my ever expanding universe of … I am missing the right word … it’s not exactly useless knowledge as it’s good to know something even when you do not actually use it.
As for the gig line: Visually, it sure makes a difference whether placket and fly are aligned or not. But I doubt that a shirt will look skewed when you move the placket 0.5cm to the right. Maybe on very slim guys with very tight shirts?
I wonder though, why one would care about something like the gig line when your coat is supposed to cover your waist, anyway? When the shirt is visible between your coat and your trousers, a proper gig line will probably make it s*ck less, but it will look sloppy nonetheless.