Tweed (00)7 Ways: How James Bond Wears the Classic Cloth

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Tweed is a heavy, rough and tough woollen fabric that originated in the British Isles. It was designed for outdoor wear in the countryside while it remains comfortable inside cool, draughty country homes. The name ‘tweed’ comes from when the name tweel, the Scots word for twill, was mistaken for being named after River Tweed. Tweed cloths are most commonly woven in a twill weave or the herringbone variation on twill, but Irish Donegal tweed is known for its plain weave. The barleycorn weave is another common weave for tweed, which is also called ‘bell hopsack’ or ‘bell celtic’.

Faux tweeds are made of non-carded wool yarns, most frequently in worsted wool yarns for a smoother hand and lighter weight than a traditional tweed. Some people find such cloths more palatable or wearable than tweed. They are typically made in tweed-like colours and patterns or they may have a texture that resembles tweed without being as rustic. The ‘Worsted Alsport’ bunch from Huddersfield Fine Worsteds is one of the best known for smoother worsted tweed-like cloths. ‘Summer tweeds’ are cloths that resemble tweed but are made in summer fibres like linen, silk and/or in lightweight wool. Roger Moore’s sports coat in The Man with the Golden Gun has a tweed-like pattern but is lightweight and not woollen.

This post is in honour of #SirHilaryBrayDay, which was created by Licence to Queer in honour of George Baker’s birthday on 1 April. Baker is the actor who played Sir Hilary Bray in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and voiced James Bond when disguised as Sir Hilary. Sir Hilary lends Bond his tweed three-piece suit, tweed Inverness coat and tweed trilby in order for Bond to appear in disguise as him. The character is responsible for Bond’s tweediest outfit of the series.

James Bond wears numerous articles of tweed clothing throughout the Bond film series, both in and out of his disguise as Sir Hilary Bray. They can be broken down into the following seven categories.

001. The Hacking Jacket

The hacking jacket is Bond’s favourite way to wear tweed, featuring in Goldfinger, Thunderball, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Octopussy, A View to a Kill and Never Say Never Again. It’s a jacket designed for leisurely horseback riding. The hacking jacket is defined by its hacking pockets, which are steeply slanted pockets that are easy to access on a horse. In addition to the two main pockets it commonly has a ticket pocket, a small pocket above the right hip pocket. A long single vent is traditional, but it may have long double vents instead. The traditional hacking jacket has three buttons, but many of Bond’s have two buttons. It may also be made in a slightly long length. The A View to a Kill hacking jacket lacks the basic feature, hacking pockets, but it is still worn for the same purpose.

Bond’s tweed hacking jackets can be found in brown barleycorn; black, cream and red houndstooth; brown herringbone; and black-and-grey herringbone patterns. The hacking jacket is one of the most versatile tweed jackets: it easily dresses up with a tie or dresses down in a more casual way. Bond usually pairs his hacking jackets with tough wool twill trousers.

002. The Half-Norfolk Jacket

In Diamonds Are Forever, Bond wears two tweed jackets in the half-Norfolk style. This style of sports jacket incorporates some elements of a Norfolk jacket, like flapped bellows pockets and no breast pocket, without going the full costume look of a Norfolk jacket. Whilst a Norfolk jacket has a full belt, a half Norfolk jacket has a belt only across the back. Bond’s half-Norfolk jackets have long double vents instead of the more typical single vent. It also has the sporty detail of leather button and an unusual Ulster-inspired collar. Bond wears his half-Norfolk jackets in dark brown herringbone and in a bold and rustic brown plaid.

003. The Casual Sports Jacket

Tweed jackets are always sporty because tweed is a sporty cloth, but some tweed jackets lack specific sporting details. Such sports jacket are merely for leisure wear more than for actual sports like hacking jackets or shooting jackets are. Bond wears a grey tweed jacket in A View to a Kill with a casual design of three open patch pockets—one breast pocket and two hip pockets—and a single vent that’s merely just a jacket for smart casual wear. It’s perfect for wearing in the country when not participating in any country sports. It’s merely a very stylish tweed jacket.

The gun club check jacket in The Living Daylights also falls into this category of jackets, as it lacks any special sporty features other than than sporty cloth. It has ordinary straight, set-in pockets with flaps. This one appears to be made of a worsted tweed, as it appears too smooth to be a true tweed.

004. The Suit

Bond’s tweed suits are made up of a hacking jacket with matching tweed trousers. When Bond wears a tweed suit, it’s in a subtle pattern like a brown Donegal tweed in Moonraker or in a charcoal Cheviot tweed with a subtle windowpane in The World Is Not Enough. Bond wears his tweed suits in minimal cloths to prevent them from being too overwhelming.

When Bond is undercover as Sir Hilary Bray in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, he wears Sir Hilary’s tweed three-piece suit. It’s in brown with a beige tic pattern and has a rust windowpane. Though it is bolder and more rustic than Bond’s tweed suits, it’s still elegant. Bond himself avoids tweed three-piece suits as they can look too old-fashioned.

005. The Shooting Suit

In the 1967 film version of Casino Royale, Sir James Bond—played by David Niven—wears a rustic tweed shooting suit in an olive-and-brown Glen Urquhart check tweed with a red overcheck. This suit differs from an ordinary suit with special details on the jacket and a special kind of trouser for shooting. The shooting jacket is trimmed with light brown leather shoulder patches for resting the gun and matching elbow patches to reinforce from excess wear at the elbow. While a proper shooting suit has bellows pockets with an expansion pleat to hold ammunition, Sir James Bond’s shooting jacket has hacking pockets and a ticket pocket.

There is no good shot of the suit trousers, but they’re likely breeches based on the way the stay fastened on the legs just below the knee when the trousers fall down at the end of the scene. Breeches are practical for the countryside where they’re less likely to get caught in the brush compared to full trousers.

006. The Overcoat

Heavy tweeds 18 oz and up make for wonderful overcoats, traditionally in balmacaan and double-breasted Ulster styles. Bond’s Sir Hilary Bray disguise in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service includes Sir Hilary’s tweed Inverness coat, a Victorian style knee-length single-breasted coat with a wrist-length cape attached. Sir Hilary’s coat is made in a rust brown tweed with a Prussian collar, straight jetted pockets and set-in sleeves with a single-button closure. The colour of the coat coordinates with the suit’s windowpane. This tweed coat is far too old-fashioned for Bond, but a coat in a herringbone tweed could work for the character. Bond’s black-and-cream herringbone coat in Thunderball is most likely melton, but its pattern brings tweed to mind.

In Casino Royale, Bond wears a barleycorn tweed or tweed-like topcoat when he breaks into M’s flat. This coat has a finer texture and cool colour that makes it look more modern and appropriate for the rookie version of James Bond.

007. The Hat

Tweed hats and caps are a bit too rustic to be Bond’s style, but he wears them as disguises. To top off his Sir Hilary disguise in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Bond wears Sir Hilary’s tweed trilby in subtle plaid pattern in brown tones with a rust overcheck. The hat perfectly compliments the brown and rust tones in the suit and coat without making the outfit look too busy.

In Octopussy Bond wears a brown herringbone tweed flat cap that matches his herringbone tweed hacking jacket as part of his disguise as a horse transporter. The flat cap’s history with the working class makes it look out of place on Bond—despite the association being less relevant in recent decades—but it’s an effective disguise. The cap reverses into a military cap for another disguise as Colonel Toro.

8 COMMENTS

  1. This is a very timely article for me as I recently purchased a Bond-inspired tweed sport jacket. I drew inspiration from the literary Bond’s tweed dogtooth country suit and Dalton’s dark Gun Club jacket and got a houndstooth tweed sport jacket in navy and slate, which I plan to pair with grey flannel trousers.

    I found it extremely difficult to find cooler toned dark tweed items these days that fit high contrast, cool toned complexions like mine.

    • I might actually have one ~ two replicas of Dalton’s gun club check-patterned tweed sport coat made for myself one day if Holland and Sherry have the same / a similar fabric in such colours (something that Mr. Spaiser himself might be able to confirm) . . . That really is a superbly subtle and yet timelessly elegant coat and Dalton really does accentuate it well with the brown knit tie . . .

  2. I’ve been on the lookout for a tweed suit for ages whenever I’ve passed a thrift store, but no such luck yet. I feel like today, suits in sporting cloths are perhaps easier to wear (recreationally) than ‘regular’ suits, because the former looks like you want to wear a suit for fun, the latter like you got lost on your way to the office, since nearly nobody wears suits as everyday wear anymore.

    I’ve been meaning to ask, since the term comes up: what exactly is a prussian collar on a coat? Googling it only turns up pictures of historic military uniforms and such.

    • Well, Walker Slater, a Scottish company, sell great tweed suits. They have a website and deliver internationally. However, you should pay attention to their size guide, because it’s different from other brands. I own some of their garments and I’m very satisfied.

  3. In my experience Harris tweed breathes very well in warm weather and is surprisingly cool in summer. Truly an all-round fabric. It’s nice to see Niven featured but I think Pierce wears it best

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