How to Wear Black Tie (A Tuxedo) Like James Bond

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Thunderball-Dinner-Suit

James Bond inspires more men to wear black tie—a.k.a. a tuxedo—than any other person, real or fictional. Whether you call it a dinner suit, dinner jacket, evening suit, tuxedo or tux (but please don’t!), 007 sets the ultimate example for how to follow the black tie dress code. Bond usually follows traditional protocol for the black tie dress code, but there is a certain way to follow the protocol if you want to wear black tie like Bond. What follows is a summary of Bond’s usual black tie styles. It doesn’t cover all black tie outfits Bond has worn, but it’s a general guide to how Bond wears black tie. There are a few exceptions to what is written here, but those exceptions are not part of the essential James Bond black tie look.

Dr. No Dinner Suit
Sean Connery wears a midnight blue shawl-collar dinner suit in Dr. No

The Cloth

Bond’s favourite colour for his dinner suit is midnight blue, but he often wears black dinner suits as well. Until recently, midnight blue was rarely found off the rack and signified that one bought his dinner suit from a bespoke English tailor or a high-end Italian maker. The dinner suit (or tuxedo) is a suit, meaning that both the jacket and the trousers match, whether the suit is black or midnight blue. Bond ordinary follows tradition and wears his dinner suits in a pebble-like barathea-weave wool, but sometimes he wears them in a wool and mohair blend that has a slight sheen. The image at the top of this article is of a mohair-blend midnight blue dinner suit that Sean Connery wears in Thunderball.

The silk trimmings—the lapel facings, trouser stripes and button coverings—on Bond’s midnight blue dinner suits are sometimes matching midnight blue and sometimes contrasting in black. On his black dinner suits they, of course, match in black. They are usually in satin silk, but sometimes in grosgrain silk.

Daniel Craig wears a peaked lapel dinner jacket in Casino Royale
Daniel Craig wears a peaked lapel dinner jacket in Casino Royale

The Dinner Jacket

There are dinner jackets and dinner jackets; this is the latter. And I need you looking like a man who belongs at that table.

Vesper Lynd’s advice to James Bond in Casino Royale is sound for any man wearing black tie in any occasion. Bond’s dinner jackets are almost always single-breasted, and they follow tradition with only one button on the front. The jackets may have peaked lapels, notched lapels or a shawl collar. Since notched lapels are less dressy than peaked lapels or the shawl collar, Bond mostly wears notched lapels for private dinners, like for his dinner with M in Goldfinger or his dinner with Kamal Khan in Octopussy. Because black tie these days is more often worn for grander occasions, Bond prefers peaked lapels and shawl collars.

Roger Moore wears a midnight blue double-breasted dinner suit in The Spy Who Loved Me
Roger Moore wears a midnight blue double-breasted dinner suit in The Spy Who Loved Me

Bond wears double-breasted dinner jackets a number of times in the 1970s and 1980s. They usually have six buttons with two to fasten in the most traditional style for double-breasted suit jackets, but in A View to a Kill his double-breasted dinner jacket has four buttons with one to button. The simpler double-breasted style is thought by some to be more appropriate for a dinner jacket, but either style is acceptable.

Bond’s dinner jackets usually have double vents, but they sometime have no vent, which is the most traditional style for a dinner jacket. Double vents, especially when 8 to 10 inches long, are appropriate on a dinner jacket and keep the back draping neatly and elegantly. In Skyfall, Bond makes a mistake by having a sporty single vent on his dinner jacket, which is an error typically found only with American makers.

The hip pockets on Bond’s dinner jackets are straight and jetted without flaps for the cleanest look, and the jettings are usually done in the same cloth as the jacket’s body, not the silk trimming. The jacket cuffs have three or four buttons. On occasion they have gauntlet—or turnback—cuffs in the silk trimming, like in Dr. No, From Russia with Love and Quantum of Solace. The dinner jacket’s buttons are either covered in the same silk as the lapels or made of horn.

The Trousers

Bond’s dinner suit trousers follow black tie tradition and have a silk stripe down the side. The stripe matches the silk facings on the jacket’s lapels. The front style of Bond’s trousers has varied considerably, from double forward pleats and double reverse pleats to darted fronts and plain fronts, and any of these styles is appropriate. The trouser bottoms are always finished without turn-ups. The trousers are either held up with white silk braces or with side-adjusters on the trousers. Dinner suit trousers are never worn with a belt.

The Waist Covering

The cummerbund in Skyfall
The cummerbund in Skyfall

Though low-cut waistcoats and cummerbunds are traditional, Bond more often than not breaks traditional black tie protocol and goes without any waist covering, which has been completely acceptable now for decades. Pierce Brosnan wears low-cut waistcoats in his first two Bond films, and on occasion, like in the most recent two Bond films, Bond wears cummerbunds.

In For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy Bond wears trousers with a wide silk waistband that buttons at the side to give the illusion that he is wearing a cummerbund, even though he is not. Though the waistcoat is not a very Bondian part of black tie, the cummerbund is the best way to go if you want to dress like Bond and also wear traditional black tie. Though going without any waist covering isn’t ideal if you’re a traditionalist, it’s not the biggest sin provided the trousers have a rise long enough so that the white shirt does not show beneath the jacket’s button. Forgoing the waist covering is the classic Bond method.

Goldfinger-Dress-Shirt
Sean Connery wears a pleated and striped dress shirt in Goldfinger

The Dress Shirt

The most important part of the shirt is the collar, and James Bond always wears a turn-down collar—usually a spread collar—with black tie and never a wing collar. Bond wears one of three different styles of shirt with black tie: the pleated shirt, the marcella shirt and the textured shirt.

The pleated shirt has a bib on the front of half-inch pleats, and it has either mother-of-pearl buttons down the front placket or occasionally a fly placket that covers the buttons. The pleated shirt doesn’t take studs since it’s a soft and relaxed alternative to the older and dressier marcella shirt. Studs are not necessary with this kind of shirt and not part of the classic James Bond black tie look. Bond does not wear studs until Licence to Kill, the 16th film of the series! The pleated shirt may have double (French) cuffs or cocktail cuffs.

Pierce Brosnan wears a marcella dress shirt with studs in Tomorrow Never Dies
Pierce Brosnan wears a marcella dress shirt with mother-of-pearl studs in Tomorrow Never Dies

The marcella shirt has a marcella—or piqué—bib on the front, and the front has no raised placket and is fastened with studs due to the stiffer front. Bond’s studs are white mother of pearl, not black onyx. The marcella shirt also has not only a marcella bib but also the collar and cuffs—always double cuffs—in marcella cotton. Marcella is too stiff for the body and sleeves. The marcella shirt is the dressiest of all black tie shirts.

The textured shirt is made with the same weave all over with no bib in front. The texture may be a white-on-white waffle weave, like in Casino Royale, a white-on-white self stripe, like in Thunderball or an airy voile weave for hot weather, like in The Spy Who Loved Me and Octopussy. The shirt may either have a fly placket that covers the buttons or regular mother-of-pearl buttons down the front. Even less than the pleated shirt, the textured shirt is not dressy enough to take studs. It may have double (French) cuffs or cocktail cuffs.

Sometimes Bond combines the textured shirt with the pleated style, like in the pleated self-stripe shirts in Goldfinger and For Your Eyes Only. Bond’s dress shirts are almost always white, but Roger Moore occasionally wears cream dress shirts, like in The Man with the Golden Gun, Octopussy and A View to a Kill. The elegance of black tie comes from the contrast between the black and white elements, but a cream shirt slightly softens that contrast for a more flattering look on Moore’s warm complexion. A non-white shirt for black tie should be worn with caution.

Daniel Craig wears a diamond bow tie in Quantum of Solace
Daniel Craig wears a diamond-point bow tie in Quantum of Solace

The Bow Tie

Bond’s bow tie is always black and matches the texture of lapel facings, whether the facings are satin or grosgrain. Bond has occasionally made the mistake of not wearing a matching bow tie, and this is not recommended. Sometimes the bow tie is a thistle shape and other times it’s a batwing shape. It usually has straight ends, but sometimes Bond wears a diamond-point bow tie. All of these shapes are valid for the Bond look. The only thing that is a must is a self-tie bow tie. If you can tie your shoes correctly (not a granny knot) you can tie a bow tie. They use the same knot! Bond never wears a pre-tied bow tie or long four-in-hand tie with his dinner suits.

Plain Toe Shoes

Black plain toe shoes are the most traditional choice. James Bond’s shoes are usually patent leather, but recently they haven’t been. Bond mostly wears plain toe oxfords—per the British definition with closed lacings, also known as balmorals in American—but George Lazenby and Roger Moore wears slip-ons.

Though oxfords are preferred, if the slip-ons have a plain toe they are almost like a variation on the traditional opera pump. In Casino Royale, Bond wears black calf plain-toe derby shoes with his dinner suit, which are not as traditional as oxfords but not a poor choice either.

White Dinner Jacket
Sean Connery wears an ivory wool dinner jacket in Goldfinger whilst in Latin America

Warm Weather Black Tie

Though James Bond hasn’t worn an ivory dinner jacket since Roger Moore played the role in A View to a Kill, it is still a classic style for warm-year-round locales. It’s what you’ll want to wear for black tie occasions in places like The Bahamas, Latin America, Southeast Asia and India.

Bond’s warm-weather dinner jackets are never usually pure white, but they are ivory. Bond’s ivory dinner jacket may be made of wool like in Goldfinger, in silk like in The Man with the Golden Gun, or in linen like in Octopussy. Bond’s ivory dinner jackets follow the same styles as the black and midnight blue dinner jackets, except they have self lapels rather than silk-faced lapels. The buttons are also different; they are always white mother-of-pearl except for the beige horn buttons in A View to a Kill. Bond’s ivory dinner jackets are worn with black dinner suit trousers as described above, as well as the same shirts and bow ties.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to follow the black tie dress code, read Peter Marshall’s Black Tie Guide, which is the ultimate source for formalwear. You can also leave any questions about wearing black tie like James Bond in the comments below. For more specific examples of James Bond’s and related characters’ black tie outfits, see this blog’s black tie tag.


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42 COMMENTS

  1. Great work Matt (as usual)!

    I like Connery’s way of wearing black tie – totally at ease, never stiff. And I appreciate the subtle way how he “breaks the rules” – i.e. wearing cocktail cuffs with black tie, dispensing with the cummerbund etc. Only the two side vents bother me a little but that’s minor.
    Although I am not the biggest fan of Bond’s Brioni suits, the black tie outfit in TND turned out very well – IMHO it is among the very best ones of the series.

  2. Correct me if I’m wrong, but has James Bond never worn a shawl-collared white dinner jacket? Aside from the one notch-lapel one in A View to a Kill, I’ve always liked the extra bit of formality that peak lapels add to Bond’s warm weather black tie ensembles.

  3. Nice summary as usual Matt. I have never attended a black tie event and so have never had a chance to wear a dinner suit. But watching James Bond has certainly made me want to have one. Midnight blue, shawl collar with double vents. I’ll probably only be able to justify getting one when (if) I get married someday.

  4. Re: “sethblack – I have never had a chance to wear a dinner suit. I’ll probably only be able to justify getting one when (if) I get married someday.”

    What’s your opinion, Matt? It’s only in recent years that I have noticed this odd trend for wearing what is evening wear for a formal daytime event like a wedding and it goes without saying that this is entirely inappropriate even if it has started to become mainstream. Where did this come from? I don’t want to offend Seth, but I assume it sprung from the idea in people’s mind that black tie is the epitome of formal chic and in an increasingly (sadly) informal world this is seen as what one should aspire to wear on any formal occasion.

    • Any wedding I have ever attended had the service held (in either church or registry office) during daylight hours whereas the celebrations afterwards (meal, drinks, speeches, dancing etc.) were afternoon, evening and beyond. This may be different in the US to Europe though. The wedding affairs I have seen with black tie were European. Protocol would indicate that the evening wear would ONLY be properly acceptable for the celebrations if the participants had changed from the appropriate formal wear for day time. The use of evening wear for a formal daytime situation is, mind you, no worse than some of the tacky rental monstrosities I have observed being worn by individuals ostensibly following protocol!

      • 6 pm is the start time of a black tie or white tie event. 6 pm in the summer time is very light out, like when Bond wears his two dinner jackets in A View to a Kill. In the winter when it’s dark at 5 pm, I don’t think it’s inappropriate to wear a dinner jacket.

    • Black tie weddings appear to be much more common in the US and parts of Europe, than in the UK. This is, in part, I think, because evening weddings are (or until recently were) illegal in England and Wales (it has to be light so you know you are marrying the correct person). That means the association with morning coats is stronger in the UK.

      I also suspect that – for many people – black tie has simply come to mean ‘formal’, rather than specifically evening wear.

    • Well, it was just a offhand comment from me (as I have no actual plans to get married in the near future). But you’re probably right that the dinner suit or tuxedo has simply become the “formal” attire for a man. I have seen a picture of a relative of mine in the US getting married in a dinner suit. Although I can’t be sure if it was in the day or the evening.

  5. I’m drawing a blank Matt – when has Bond worn WHITE dinner jackets?
    I’m aware of both Connery (Goldfinger) and Moore (a couple of times) wearing tropical dinner jackets in traditional ecru but don’t recall any in pure white.

    I also notice how you carefully omitted Lazenby’s awful ruffle shirt, which I hope will be the one and only appearance in the canon.

    How about some details on how trousers are held up? I notice that belts have appropriately never been worn by Bond with dinner clothes. Connery as usual seems to favour side adjusters, Brosnan and Craig have both been seen with braces.

    • “White dinner jacket” includes ivory, as I mentioned in the article.

      Lazenby’s midnight blue dinner suit is one of the nicest of the series, it’s just too bad he wore a ruffled shirt with it.

      Dalton and Craig have worn braces, but not Brosnan. You’re right that belts are certainly not an option.

  6. Is the white poplin shirt, with fly front and double cuffs appropriate for a dinner suit? I have one, but I’ve worn it couple of times with the regular suit as I don’t own a dinner jacket.

    • If it is English-tailored, it is lined since the English tailors rarely have the skills to do a partial lining. A half or quarter lining, however, makes more sense. Roger Moore’s linen dinner jackets need a full lining so they stay looking neat.

  7. Another great post. As Matt said in a prior post, Bond (and the production team) has, at times seemingly almost alone, kept black tie alive. Much of Bond’s black tie has been near perfect, some trendy, a few forgettable (and one or two just weird), but it is an essential part of a Bond movie. Here’s to hoping the screenwriters continue to come up with scenarios in which Bond’s black tie can be (reasonably) believably worn.

    As for the interesting wedding tangent discussion, I have been to one black tie wedding where the guests were to wear black tie, and that was an evening wedding in NYC. Most weddings I have been to has the groom and his wedding party in black tie of some variety to complement the bride (ina wedding dress) and her party, who are invariably in cocktail dresses. While I usually think certain rules should be followed for black tie (minus the cummerbund) one’s wedding seems like a time when one can wear whatever one wants.

  8. I cannot abide the term “tuxedo”. It’s just so awful and crass. I don’t know why it took off in the vernacular but it should stop.

  9. Very well put, Matt (& others). All I’ll add is the response of a tailor who was rigging me out in black tie for my sister’s wedding. I was fretting over the cost of patent leather shoes, and he asked if I would be dancing at the reception. I replied in the negative and he said I should simply wear black business shoes. I asked why and he said that patent leather pumps are lighter and have thin soles and thus the wearer looks like a better dancer than he actually is.

  10. They also made the error of a single vent with the Windsor tux in spectre. I think that the ivory jacket had a good look, but the biggest errors were the 2-button front and the single vent. Why didn’t the costume designer make these 2 changes on the jacket? Was it that Tom Ford didn’t want to alter the Windsor model, which is their “signature” model?

    • The costume designer didn’t know any better. She’s in charge of the wardrobe, not Tom Ford, and can ask Tom Ford to make whatever she wants for the film. The O’Connor suit, after all, is her design rather than Ford’s.

  11. Why does Bond never wear ivory dinner jackets with the matching trousers, so they are a suit? I would think that if you are wearing an ivory dinner jacket, you’re probably in a hot place. So the black trousers would absorb more heat. I know that it looks slightly worse to wear an ivory dinner suit rather than the ivory dinner jacket with black trousers, but I would think the ivory dinner suit would be better because of breathablility. Also, what kind of shirt do you like the best? I prefer the marcella front, because it’s essentially a flat front with studs. I don’t get the whole point of pleats anyway. What purpose does the pleats serve? I actually don’t get why many people in black tie like to wear pleated wing collar shirts. The wing collars look absolutely horrible in my opinion, and you will never catch me wearing a wing collar. And the ruffles look like shit, like he just vomited on the shirt. Why did Lazenby wear a ruffled shirt? It completely ruined his look! However, I have heard that wing collars are more formal than laydown collars. Is this true?

  12. With a dinner suit, is it ok to wear a vest like the one you wear with a 3 piece suit? I once went to a black tie event and wore a 3-piece suit vest with my dinner suit although I kept everything else normal. Boys at my school’s prom also wear 3-piece suit vests, because I think that those low-cut vests that Brosnan wore usually only come from higher-end retailers. Also, why does Bond usually not wear a vest or a cummerbund with his black tie outfits.

  13. So what would Bond wear to his sons wedding?
    My boy is getting hitched (and my tux does not have to match with the tan coats the men will wear).

    Notched lapel I would guess, but black or midnight blue?

  14. I know things seem to be a little different in the US, but James Bond would surely never wear a tuxedo/dinner jacket to a wedding. In the UK evening weddings are not permitted and so evening wear is generally regarded as inappropriate.

    If the wedding invitations specify black tie then, of course, you should wear a dinner jacket. Otherwise conventional British etiquette, which Bond would unthinkingly follow, would suggest a simple lounge suit for an informal wedding, morning coat for a formal wedding or black lounge/stroller – as BOnd wore to his own wedding in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – for something in between.

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