The Polo: The Essential James Bond Casual Shirt

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If there’s one item that defines casual James Bond style it’s the polo, particularly the blue polo. The polo is a staple of the Sean Connery and Daniel Craig casual Bond wardrobes, in both short-sleeve and long-sleeve variants. The polo allows Bond to dress down but at the same time maintain a refined appearance, unlike a t-shirt that leaves an outfit looking unfinished. However, Bond is careful to treat his polos as casual garments and not try to dress them up too much. Polos are highly versatile casual shirts, sometimes being able to be dressed up as ‘smart casual’.

Types of Polos

The Classic Piqué Polo

The polo shirt is also known as a tennis shirt or a golf shirt. The quintessential version was designed for tennis by René Lacoste in the 1920s, and today the Lacoste polo still defines the quintessential polo that many brands have copied. This classic polo is made of cotton piqué and has a ribbed collar and ribbed sleeve bands. The collar may be worn folded down or ‘popped’ up. There is a two-button placket at the front. The hem is slightly longer at the back, and there are short vents at the sides. This hem is sometimes called a ‘tennis tail’, which was designed to keep the shirt securely tucked.

This classic version of the polo is frequently adorned with a small logo on the right side of the chest, most famously in the form of the Lacoste crocodile, the Ralph Lauren polo player or the Fred Perry laurel wreath. Many men find logo-less polos to be more sophisticated, while others like the iconography of a famous logo.

These classic polos usually have short sleeves but commonly are made as long-sleeve too. They aren’t always made in cotton piqué; they can also commonly be found in cotton jersey and its heavier cousin interlock, which are smoother than piqué.

Polos have evolved from this style and now are made in a tremendous variety of ways. But the classic will always have its place.

James Bond wears classic piqué polos in Dr. No and Thunderball. In Dr. No the polo is light periwinkle blue cotton piqué—not towelling, which Bond has never worn in a polo—and doesn’t have a logo. The polo has a subtle horizontal stripe effect, which is sometimes seen in inexpensive polos today. Bond wears it tucked into his matching trousers. The fit is slim for a 1960s polo, with a close fit through the body and short, fitted sleeves. Connery’s muscular build helped fill out the polo, and it may have been altered for a closer fit.

In Goldfinger Bond wears a short-sleeve grey heather cotton polo under his burgundy V-neck jumper for a game of golf. The grey polo has a two-button placket and a ribbed collar. The body of the polo is most likely cotton piqué. Bond tucks the polo into his trousers so the jumper has a clean appearance over the trousers.

The dark blue Thunderball polo is from Fred Perry and has their logo on the chest. Bond wears it untucked with white swim trunks. It’s a long polo shirt that would look too long if untucked with trousers, but with short swim trunks the long length is more balanced. Tucking into swim trunks would have looked awkward. The sleeves are a traditional length, almost extending to the elbow. They are snug around Connery’s upper arms, but on a more average man the sleeves would be fuller.

Banded-Bottom Polos

The banded-bottom polo, which has a ribbed hem and ribbed sleeve bands like a jumper, is another traditional style. These polos come in a wide variety of materials including wool, cashmere, silk blends, cotton jersey and cotton piqué. The collar is usually ribbed similar to the bottom. The banded bottom is designed to be worn untucked, but Bond sometimes wears his tucked. The banded bottom gives the untucked polo a neater and more finished look than a tennis tail when worn untucked.

Bond wears a number of banded-bottom polos, and most are likely in lightweight wool. In Goldfinger he wears a short-sleeve model from John Smedley in black wool under a black long-sleeve V-neck jumper for sneaking around at night. The black polo has a three-button placket. Like earlier in the film with the grey polo, Bond wears the black polo tucked so the layered knitwear looks neater.

Again for sneaking around at night in Thunderball, Bond exchanges the layered look for a single banded-bottom long-sleeve fine-gauge wool polo with a three-button placket and wears untucked. By not layering knitwear, Bond has a neater look. When he wears it at Shrublands early in the film he may have been a bit cold, but the fine-gauge wool was likely comfortable at night in The Bahamas later in the film.

In Casino Royale, Bond briefly wears a black polo with two buttons down the placket and a fold-down stand collar that has its own button, for a total of three buttons. The polo is likely a smooth cotton jersey. Bond wears the polo under a topcoat, which suggests the sleeves would have been long sleeves for cool weather. The stand collar helps the collar not get swallowed by the coat’s collar, which is important when wearing any kind of tailored jacket or coat over a polo. The sleeves are not visible, which either means they are long sleeves folded up or pushed up, or the sleeves are short. Because the polo’s hem is not visible in the film or in production stills, it may or may not be banded. A banded bottom would look more appropriate with this outfit, particularly if the polo is worn untucked.

This is the most Bond dresses up a polo in the series, due to both the tailored trousers and the dressier topcoat. The topcoat is not a core part of the outfit, however, as it is meant to be removed indoors. Bond leaves his topcoat on because he doesn’t want to make himself feel too comfortable in M’s home, which he has broken into. It also makes him look more dramatic in this scene.

Bond wears an updated banded-bottom short-sleeve polo from Tom Ford in Spectre. The polo is made of a 57% cotton and 43% rayon piqué knit. This polo is unusual in that it has a Johnny collar, which is an open placket without buttons. This polo’s opening is especially deep, for a quite revealing look. Bond wears this polo under a suede blouson, which is just slightly longer than the polo’s hem.

Modern Polos

Bond wears an unusual dark blue long-sleeve polo in The Living Daylights with a long nine-button placket that has the buttons closely spaced. The long placket makes this polo resemble a popover, but the collar, construction and details keeps it in the polo category. He fastens the bottom four buttons. It appears to be made of a lightweight cotton jersey. The polo is worn tucked, so the hem is hidden, which means it’s impossible to know what kind of hem it has. Bond wears the collar popped because it was fashionable to do in the 1980s, but it also protects his neck from the hot sun in Morocco, and less so in Afghanistan.

Daniel Craig wears a few polos in Casino Royale, but his navy Sunspel ‘Riviera’ polo is the most iconic. It remains his most iconic polo out of all Craig’s Bond polos, and perhaps out of all of Bond’s polos with the light blue Dr. No polo being a close second. The ‘Riviera’ polo is made of a mesh-knit cotton, which is open and airy to wear cool, but it still has a lot of body for a attractive feel and drape. The ‘Riviera’ has a self collar instead of a classic ribbed collar, which gives the polo a more modern look. There is a small, angular pocket on the left chest with a pointed bottom. The hem is even at the back and front and has a short vent at each side.

Sunspel have been making their ‘Riviera’ polos since the 1950s, but the fit is what sets the modern ‘Riviera’ polo apart. This polo was tailored particularly for Daniel Craig and revolutionised the way people like a polo to fit. It has a fitted silhouette, most notably with short and tight short sleeves to show of Craig’s muscles in a way that a suit cannot. Now Sunspel sell their polos with this fit, which is flattering to many body types.

In Quantum of Solace Bond wears another dark blue mesh polo, but this one is from Tom Ford, not Sunspel. It appears to have been modelled after the Sunspel polo, albeit with a number of changes. The polo is made of a cotton and linen blend rather than pure cotton, for even better breathability in hot weather. The colour is a much darker shade of navy that looks almost black. The chest pocket has rounded corners and is straight across the bottom. The fit is close at the top but it’s straight down from the chest so it is much fuller around the waist.

Related Styles

For the climax of Casino Royale in Venice, Bond wears a mid-blue rugby shirt from Massimo Dutti. The rugby shirt is similar to a polo in that it is also a knitted shirt with a fold-down collar and a short placket at the neck. It’s like a polo with certain stylistic details. Rugby shirts are alwaya long-sleeved with ribbed cuffs. Some rugby shirts, like Bond’s, have tennis tails, while other examples have a straight hem, with or without vents. The most classic examples of rugby shirts have a wide stripes across the body in cotton jersey and a white twill collar and inside placket, but they may be made in a solid colour in all jersey like Craig’s shirt is.

Rugby shirts often have a two-piece collar with a separate stand and leaf. Other examples, like the Casino Royale shirt, have a one-piece collar that stands up and folds over but has the addition of an extra piece of fabric at the base of the collar to help it stand up. The collar has a button, and the placket below the collar has another button or two, which is hidden under a fly. Bond’s rugby shirt has only one button on the fly placket.

Craig appears to have sized down in his rugby shirt so it has a closer fit than the designer intended, which is particularly apparent in the too-narrow shoulders. He wears the shirt over a grey crew-neck t-shirt, which was a fashionable way to wear shirts in 2006 and adds to the warmth of the outfit, but it ends up looking sloppy to layer this way. A jacket over the rugby shirt would be a more elegant way to layer.

In Diamonds Are Forever, Bond wears another shirt that is like a cross between a polo and a cardigan, essentially being a fine-gauge cardigan with a polo collar. It has large buttons like a cardigan on the front, so it is likely designed to be worn as a cardigan, but Bond wears it as he would wear a shirt: without anything underneath and tucked into his trousers. He wears it under a herringbone tweed jacket. The shirt’s collar is just high enough to not get swallowed by the jacket’s collar, which can be an issue with any kind of polo collar that isn’t a two-piece collar.

Wearing the Polo

Bond usually wears his cotton polos with cotton trousers such as chinos or jeans, lightweight wool trousers or swim trunks, while he often pairs his wool polos with wool trousers. He sometimes wears a blouson or a V-neck jumper over his polos, and on rare occasions he wears a tailored coat over them. He only wears polos in casual, relaxed situations and never tries to dress them up. When he wears them in a smarter manner he ensures they have a higher collar that can stand up under a jacket or coat.

How many buttons should you fasten?

Bond never fastens his polos to the top. While fastening the top button of a polo isn’t the same as the ‘air tie’ look of a formal shirt without a tie, it can look too forced and stiff. A polo should look relaxed, so Bond will either fasten all but the polo’s top button or leave all of his polo’s buttons open. The polo in The Living Daylights is an exception because it has a total of nine buttons.

To Tuck or Not to Tuck

When Bond wears his first polo in Dr. No, he tucks it into his trousers. Polos were traditionally designed to be tucked, and some are made with long hems for tucking. More modern polos are often made shorter so they look better untucked, which is the more fashionable way to wear them now. Polos with banded bottoms, whether made in wool, cashmere or cotton, are designed to be worn untucked, but Bond will sometimes tuck them too when the outfit calls for it. If Bond is wearing a short blouson, he tucks the polo if its longer than the blouson so the outfit fits together neatly. He may also tuck a polo worn under a jumper so it doesn’t show below the hem of the jumper.

23 COMMENTS

  1. I would have thought a camp collar shirt would have been one of Bond’s casual shirt staples, but I guess the polo is more prevalent and versatile. What colors do you think work best for a polo shirt, especially for those with fair complexions?

    • The camp shirt is far rarer for Bond and is only for warm weather, whereas the polo is a year-round garment. I’d go with any muted shade of blue, whether its light or dark.

  2. Interesting that Roger never wore a polo as Bond. In my experience they work well with a blazer, so this is surprising. Or did polos fall out of favour in the 70s?
    Also interested to see Sean in a Slazenger jumper. I never thought of Slazenger as a classy brand, but now I think again. That golf look could be so wrong but Sean pulls it off with aplomb.

    • I have not found polos to go well with blazers unless they have a collar stand, which is uncommon. Since Roger preferred dressier blazers, polos don’t go well with them. I don’t know if polos fell out of favour in the 1970s, but they were in fashion in the 1980s when Moore was Bond.

      The Slazenger jumper in Goldfinger was nothing fancy (it was made of acrylic), but it’s on theme for the golf scene.

    • Roger wore polo shirts with blazers and sweaters in The Saint in the 1960s but, as far as I’m aware, never on screen after that.

  3. Re: Slazenger. It was a more upmarket brand in the early 1960s. Then the brand then fell into hard times and was snapped by a well-known (in the UK) discount sports retailer. Their products are not now, sadly, something that the Craig or future Bonds would likely wear. You could still get a version of Sean’s burgundy V-neck sweater recently with the original logo but my understanding is that this is a different company not the current mass-market products.

  4. I find the Sunspel polos and their fit look good on Craig and guys of similar build, but virtually no one else.

    • I’m not a guy, but I bought the Riviera polo a few years ago on sale. Sunspel seems to think ladies don’t want to wear polo shirts in the same way, so the couple they do make aren’t as special. I’m finally going to take the plunge and have it tapered on the sides so it looks nicer on me. The sizing doesn’t really match the size chart, so I think other Bond fans who want a similar fit to Daniel Craig’s will need to do the same.

  5. Another enjoyable article, Matt. Everything I wanted and didn’t want to know about 007’s polos. I admit I only used them for tennis until Craig started wearing them.

  6. Hello, great article. I have problems with fit on some of the brands, including Sunspel. I am somewhat or well, I am very slim, have trouble to gain muscle. The Kenneth Cole and Sunspel polos do look reasonably well in shoulders and arms, but the lower part, make me look like if I had a skirt, it forms a big bell. It does not look good, it also makes the polo look short on me and I am only 5′ 8″. The lacoste polo is a better fit, but I do need more schooling on good taste, the shade of blue I got is not muted, I feel mine is a bit flashy. I probably went for a bright mid blue trying to get the Dr. No shade.

  7. The polo is such a classic staple of Bondian style. It looks really good on a fit and muscular chap, like Sean and Craig. David Zaritsky of the Bond Experience also really owns the look. But it can be somewhat less inspiring and forgiving on a portly chap. Roger wore polo’s in some episodes of the Saint, in locations like Southern France. It looked great on him in combination with navy club blazers, white cotton chinos, espadrillos, and his white Volvo P1800.

  8. Another great entry Matt. I tend to reserve crew-neck T shirts for in the house or at the beach so I don’t really feel dressed unless there’s a collar, thus polo shirts are a staple in my closet year round. I have dozens, both long and short sleeve, mostly Lacoste (solids) and Fred Perry (tipped), along with a few PRL and other brands. I have the navy CR Sunspel Riviera from which I removed the pocket as I hate them. Something about its unique weave makes it feel even lighter than standard pique.

    Back in my nightclubbing days I would sometimes wear a Lacoste polo under a suit as the wide mesh helped keep me cooler but I came to really dislike the way the collar would get swallowed up by the jacket’s collar so I left that look behind. I now think that a polo under a tailored jacket only works in a very casual rig (cotton or hopsack blazer, white jeans, etc) and prefer a more substantial collar when wearing a jacket. There are polos with more upright collars from Suitsupply and Kent Wang that could pass for pique popovers (they have shirt cuffs as opposed to ribs) that fill that need very well. If that doesn’t work then the next step up in formality is a popover or a button down to keep the collar upright under a jacket. Polos work OK under casual jackets like a Harrington or a cotton golf / bomber jacket (‘monkey jacket’ as they are known back home in England!) as there’s no issue of the collar being swallowed!

    I also like the ‘sneaky Bond’ rig of a knitted long sleeve polo in wool or cotton for cooler evenings when a jacket may not be required. I have a few of these (Uniqlo, Tyrwhitt, Far Afield) and I recently got a couple of button through polos which are knitted cardigans with a polo style collar. I never knew Connery wore one of these in DAF but in any event the effect is wasted as we never see it sans jacket.

    • I, too, view the polo as the bare minimum for going out in public. T-shirts are for yardwork, lifting, and goofing off at home.

  9. Hi Matt,

    I was wondering if you could elaborate on your point that layering a crew neck t-shirt under a polo looks “sloppy”. I suppose it’s ultimately a matter of taste, but I ask because I live in a warm climate, (so dressy polos are an absolute stable of my wardrobe for three quarters of the year), and I always wear a crew neck T under them. I do this for several reasons:

    1. Most importantly, I wear an undershirt to protect the polos from sweat and deodorant.
    2. I don’t like the way my neck looks under the buttons without an undershirt. (This isn’t as big of an issue with sport shirts since they fit closer to the neck.)
    3. I use the undershirt as an accessory by tonally coordinating the color of the T-shirt with the color of the polo, almost always in Bondian shades of blue.
    4. Finally, while I’m in fairly good shape, I find that the T-shirt provides an extra layer of structure that I believe is more flattering than wearing a polo over a bare chest and stomach. Aesthetically, I might be able to pull off wearing the polo without an undershirt, but as I said in point one, I wouldn’t do that because I would soon have sweat and deodorant stains on a polo I purchased for $80 to $100.

    I could see how it would look sloppy to wear an undershirt if the sleeves were longer than the polo’s sleeves or if the hem was longer and it was peeking out at the bottom when you wear them untucked, but I avoid doing that. More often than not, I tend to wear my polos tucked in with lightweight wool or cotton/linen trousers that have side adjusters instead of belt loops (purchased from Spier and Mackay).

    Anyway, like I said, I’m sure it’s ultimately a question of taste, but I’d love to hear from you on:
    1. Why you think wearing a T-shirt under the polo looks sloppy.
    2. What you would recommend doing to protect a polo from sweat and deodorant if you’re not wearing an undershirt.

    • Hi Will,

      I will try to answer the best I can.

      1. The t-shirt prevents the polo’s collar from framing the face, and it looks sloppy because there are two collars competing at the face. The t-shirt disrupts the polo’s collar. If you want a round collar around your face you’d look better if you just button the top button of the polo.

      2. Cotton polo shirts are designed to be worn against the skin. The go in the washing machine, so they don’t need protection against the skin. Short-sleeve polos are meant for warm weather, so an undershirt makes them less practical. Long-sleeve polos, particularly wool polos, can benefit from a v-neck undershirt or A-shirt for warmth and/or protection.

      • Thanks for taking the time to respond, Matt! I’m still hesitant to wear fairly expensive, soft cotton polos without an undershirt – I fear they’d quickly develop stains and darkening under the arms even if I washed them after each use – but I take your point.

        Likewise, while I don’t necessarily agree, you make an interesting point about the collars competing. I hadn’t considered that. I may try wearing the top button fastened just to see how it suits me since I liked the way that looked on John David Washington in TENET. That would allow me to still wear the undershirt without it showing.

        Thanks again!

  10. Is there a polo brand which has a generous collar, that would look good under an unstructured jacket? My other issue with polo shirts is the sleeves, either they’re too snug on the bicep, or the length is a touch short.

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