The Grey Tie and James Bond

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From silver to mid-grey to charcoal, the grey tie is a versatile and Bondian accessory. It has an understated elegance that can seem boring to some, but sometimes not standing out is just what a well-dressed person needs. The grey tie can complete an outfit without being the focus of it.

Because of their lack of colour, grey ties often have a formal appearance without the solemn feeling of a black tie. Grey ties aren’t necessarily always more formal than other ties, but they often work well in formal situations. Grey checked ties are a traditional part of morning dress, while silver satin ties are a popular choice to pair with white shirts and dark suits in the evening.

A grey grenadine tie from Sam Hober

Grey ties can be a little difficult to wear. They are easiest to wear by people with low-contrast complexions, such as someone with light skin, light hair and light eyes. They never overpower, but on someone with a high-contrast complexion they can get lost. A high-contrast complexion often needs the tie to be stronger to compete with the face, so dark grey ties are best for these people.

When wearing a grey tie, one has to be careful that the tie does not get lost within the outfit. For this reason it pairs well with grey suits and with white and cream shirts. With other lighter shirts and with white-ground striped shirt it can also work, but with darker shirts one must take care to avoid a hollow look where the middle of the body looks empty and unfocused.

Before grey ties were a part of James Bond’s wardrobe, Cary Grant wore a medium-dark grey repp tie in North By Northwest. It keeps his outfit understated and matches flatteringly with his salt-and-pepper hair. For Grant, it’s a tie for all occasions. No film better proves the case for the grey tie than North By Northwest.

Bond in Grey Ties

While Bond mainly wears black and blue ties, he wears grey ties on a few occasions too. Roger Moore and Daniel Craig, the Bond actors with the lightest complexion, wear the most grey ties because they look good in them. For Bond, the unassuming look of a grey tie ensures that Bond doesn’t stand out in a crowd. Notice the trend of Bond matching his grey ties to his grey suits.

Bond’s first grey tie of the series comes in the final scene of Live and Let Die, the eighth film of the series. The dark grey ground, particularly when matched with the colour of his suit, allows the large red motif to pop without competing with it. This tie is the furthest removed from anything Bond wore before, being both patterned and in a new colour for the character. It’s one of the many things that helps Roger Moore to stand out as a new Bond.

Roger Moore’s silver-grey striped tie in Moonraker presents the rare time that his grey tie does not match the ground of his suit. The dark stripes in the tie help it to connect with the suit and pop from the cream shirt, but the light colour overall flatters Moore’s lighter complexion.

For Your Eyes Only Charcoal Suit

Roger Moore later successfully pairs a charcoal tie with a charcoal suit and a blue-and-white-striped shirt. The darker grey is needed in a tie so it can stand up to the intensity of the shirt’s dark blue stripes, though it gets a bit lost in thestripes. A black tie would have been a better choice with the rest of the outfit, particular because Bond visits his wife’s grave wearing it, but a black tie would have looked rather harsh against Roger Moore’s older visage in daylight.

Later in For Your Eyes Only, Moore matches a mid-grey grenadine tie to a mid-grey suit. Combined with the cream shirt, the outfit is very neutral with nothing drawing attention, and it’s perfect for Moore’s light complexion. On someone like Moore, the lack of contrast helps him look younger. Sean Connery wears the same grey tie with a grey suit in Never Say Never Again, but on him it only emphasises his age because he looks better in higher-contrast outfits.

Bond adopts the traditional morning dress use for the grey tie in A View to a Kill. Again, it matches his grey morning suit. This one has a small check, per morning dress custom. It’s one of the 56-year-old actor’s most flattering looks in the film, and he continues with a number of other low-contrast looks in the film for the same reason.

Charcoal Pinstripe Suit

Pierce Brosnan revives the grey tie and grey suit look for his final film, Die Another Day. Brosnan wears dark shades of grey, which look better with his darker complexion. The iconic dark-grey tie with blue circles from Turnbull & Asser is able to pop from his blue shirt, while lighter shades of grey are more likely to get lost in the shirt.

Daniel Craig once again brings back the grey-on-grey look for his Bond films. Like Moore, Craig has a lighter complexion and look good in low-contrast outfits. One of his most iconic looks of the series includes a grey suit and a grey tie for Skyfall‘s action-packed pre-title sequence (see top photo). The suit is made up of black and white threads to give it a vibrant mid-grey look, whilst the tie is made up of a larger pattern of black and silver for a similar effect. Bond wears a Cary Grant-esque solid grey repp tie instead in Spectre with his grey striped suit. He mainly wears it under a blue coat, so the grey-on-grey effect is less noticeable.

8 COMMENTS

  1. Nice post. I do like a grey tie. Has Bond ever worn a grey tie with a navy suit? It’s a great combination, in my opinion.

    That shirt in For Your Eyes Only (the penultimate Moore photo): does it look ‘creamier’ in other shots? Because it looks very yellow here.

  2. Just so you’re aware, Matt, the link to the Never Say Never Again article takes us to Sean Connery’s grey tracksuit, not his lounge suit. Though, in fairness, it still well indicates your point about the colour aging him!

  3. Matt,

    What are your thoughts on taking away the white dress shirt a putting Craig in a pale blue dress shirt with the grey suit and grey tie combo? Would that further help his low contrast complexion, or does white look better?

  4. I have a tie that’s very similar to Cary Grant’s that looks very good against all shades of gray suits. It has a hint of blue in it, like Grant’s does, but it doesn’t really work against any cool shades of blue or any blue darker than a light navy.

  5. I always find myself thinking, “shouldn’t a spy ultimately be washing himself out?”
    I mean, it’s important to look good in bespoke tailoring, but if that brings too much attention to your face… it’s not exactly what you might want. But I may be overthinking.
    If Craig’s doing the “low contrast but wearing high contrast clothes” thing intentionally, that’s worth appraisal!

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