There’s more to well-fitting jacket sleeves than the right length. Jacket sleeve width is an oft-forgotten aspect of fit, and a well-fitting sleeve subtly makes a jacket much more flattering. Compare Sean Connery’s James Bond to Jack Lord’s Felix Leiter. Whose sleeves look better? Connery’s sleeves neatly taper whilst Lord’s sleeves are very full from shoulder to cuff. Sleeves should taper to the cuff, and altering sleeve width can be a risky endeavour. The sleeve opening should be large enough to fit a double cuff with enough room for it to slide through easily. A sleeve that’s too tight is restricting and will crease readily. The sleeve’s width should also be in balance with other parts of the suit. A very tapered sleeve looks out of place on a suit with a full-cut jacket and wide trouser legs, but that doesn’t mean the sleeve should be as wide as the trousers legs are either. Connery’s sleeves mimic the taper of his trouser legs whilst Lord’s wide sleeves don’t mesh well with the rest of his outfit.
Daniel Craig appropriately shows roughly 1/2″ of shirt cuff in Skyfall, though his jacket sleeves taper too much. The sleeves should drape more smoothly with the arms relaxed like this.
Sleeve length is the easiest part of the sleeve to alter—as long as buttonholes haven’t been cut—so there’s no excuse for sleeves that are too long. The jacket sleeves should end roughly at the wrist bone so they show 1/4- to 1/2-inch of shirt cuff when the arms are relaxed, and this applies to button cuffs and double cuffs. Showing shirt cuff is ultimately a personal preference, but it’s something James Bond does more often than not. Visually, it balances the shirt collar showing in above the back of the jacket collar. Practically, it protects the edges of the jacket sleeves and prevents fraying. Shirt cuffs and shirts are much cheaper to replace than an entire suit because of frayed jacket cuff edges.
A perfect sleeve
Another thing related to the sleeve that people often mention is the armhole and that it should be high. A high armhole means that the armhole is short in height and the bottom of the armhole is high into the armpit. The armhole should be felt in the armpit, but it shouldn’t dig into the armpit. A higher armhole gives the arms more vertical motion, so even though it might feel tighter it is actually less constricting. The width of the armhole is also important, since an armhole that is too narrow will constrict movement and cause the upper sleeve to bind. The armhole cannot be altered, and most ready-to-wear suits have rather large armholes that can fit people of different shapes. Unfortunately that leaves the majority of men with an armhole that is often far too large.
Sean Connery wears a casual outfit for a brief boat outing in Woman of Straw. On top he wears a black and brown horizontal-striped crew-neck jumper, probably made of cashmere. The jumper has black ribbed collar, cuffs and hem. The tan gabardine trousers have single reverse pleats. Connery was rarely seen wearing trousers with reverse pleats in the 1960s—he mostly wore forward pleats. Whilst they aren’t particularly slimming, they fit his large thighs very well.
A dress watch with black tie in Dr. No
James Bond is known for wearing sports watches like the Rolex Submariner and the Omega Seamaster with suits and black tie, but such watches should be worn only with sportswear and not with dressier outfits. The practice of wearing a sports watch with a suit is common now, but just because a watch is expensive and well-made doesn’t mean it goes well with all fine clothing. For dressy outfits exists the dress watch.
A gold dress watch with a suit in You Only Live Twice
A dress watch is simpler, lighter and overall more elegant than a sports watch. Typically the case is thinner, the bezel is narrower, the crown is smaller and the dial is cleaner. Often it has a leather strap rather than a metal bracelet. Though we remember Sean Connery’s Rolex Submariner in the four Bond films, in most of Connery’s Bond films he also occasionally wears with his suits or black tie a gold dress watch from Gruen. This watch has a white dial and a black fabric strap. It may not be as iconic as or comparable in make to the Rolex, but it goes much better with the dressier clothing. Though Connery often commits the faux pas of wearing his Rolex diving with his suits, he only wears his Rolex once with Black Tie in Goldfinger’s opening scene. Bond has an excuse, however, in this case: he had just been diving!
After Sean Connery left the role, James Bond doesn’t again wear a dress watch until Roger Moore wears a two-tone Seiko undercover as James St. John Smythe in A View to a Kill. More recently, Daniel Craig’s Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra in some scenes of Skyfall is a sports watch, but its simple style means it can work with a suit in a pinch. It’s an elegant sports watch but a little clunky as a dress watch.
I do not plan to write more on James Bond’s watches because there is already a wealth of material available written by more knowledgable people than I. For a list of all of Bond’s watches, visit JamesBondWatches.com
Clothes are often made for film productions that are either never used or made as a gift for the stars. Diamonds Are Forever features a staggering seven lounge suits, three sports coats and three dinner jackets. It is the most tailored clothing that Bond wears in any one film, but Sean Connery’s tailor Anthony Sinclair made even more clothes than that for Diamonds Are Forever. Sinclair also made a chocolate brown pinstripe worsted two-piece suit at the same time as he made the rest of the suits, but it didn’t feature in the film. It has a button two jacket with slanted flap pockets, and it most likely has double vents like the rest of the suits in the film have.
The suit was sold at Christie’s in South Kensington on 17 September 1998, and it can be seen in the picture above from the Christie’s catalogue on the right beside the black dinner suit and cream linen suit, both also from Diamonds Are Forever. This brown pinstripe suit sold for £575, which is considerably less than the selling prices of the suits that Sean Connery actually wears in the film.
Sean Connery’s and Daniel Craig’s Bonds are both fond of the folded handkerchief in their jacket breast pockets. Sean Connery’s Bond always wears white linen—it goes with everything—whilst Daniel Craig’s Bond matches his cotton handkerchief to his white and light blue shirts. Though silk handkerchiefs are made only to be used pocket squares, cotton and linen handkerchiefs can be used either as a pocket square or as something to blow one’s nose in. Folding a handkerchief to wear as a pocket square is relatively simple, but depending on the size of the handkerchief it may need to be folded differently to fit in the breast pocket. The handkerchief should be folded to fill the breast pocket without being so tight that it binds when you move around. Bond typically uses a rectangular fold know as the TV fold or the presidential fold, amongst other names.
Most breast pockets will fit a handkerchief folded to roughly 3 inches wide. That’s easy with squares around 11 to 12 inches and around 17 to 18 inches. For squares of both those sizes fold it in half right side over left, and then fold if in half again top to bottom. Now you should have a single folded edge along the top, and this will be the top edge of the handkerchief that shows outside the breast pocket. If your initial square measured around 11 to 12 inches just fold it in half right side over left and you’ll have the right size to put in your breast pocket. If your initial square measured more than 12 inches you’ll need to fold it in three sections, though you may need to make one of the three sections smaller to better fill the space in the breast pocket. Again, keep the outside edge a folded edge. In my visual demonstration above I’m using a 15-inch handkerchief.
So far I’ve left out the final steps of placing the handkerchief in the breast pocket. Before placing the handkerchief in the pocket you have the option to iron it flat, which can tame springy linen. Fold it in half again bottom to top and place it in the pocket with the amount you want to show. The handkerchief won’t sit at the bottom of the pocket, so to get it to fill the height of the pocket I hold the top in place whilst using the back end of a pen or pencil to push the rest of the handkerchief down into the bottom of the pocket.
Bond keeps his handkerchiefs looking neat by keeping the edges of the handkerchiefs hidden, but dandies will show the edges of their handkerchiefs. Many are made with coloured borders that can be nice to show. If you choose to show the edges of the handkerchief, it looks best when the edges are rolled and sewed by hand. A machine-sewn edge should be kept hidden.
How do you like to wear your pocket squares?
It’s time again to look at one of Sean Connery’s Goldfinger suits in its original setting in Woman of Straw. Both Goldfinger and Woman of Straw end with Sean Connery in the same charcoal grey woollen flannel, three-piece suit. This slightly rustic suit does just as well in Woman of Straw‘s country setting as it does in Goldfinger‘s dressier setting of Bond on his way to meet the president. It’s Connery’s usual Anthony Sinclair suit. The button two jacket has natural shoulders with roped sleeveheads, a full chest and a nipped waist. It has four buttons on the cuffs, jetted pockets and no vent. The waistcoat has six buttons with five to button, though Connery fastens the bottom button. Because the bottom button is not meant to close, the bottom of the waistcoat bunches up rather unattractively. The trousers have double forward pleats and button side adjusters.
The shirt and tie differ slightly from what Sean Connery wears in Goldfinger. The elegant white shirt has a self-stripe pattern, which is either created by a mini-herringbone weave or a fancy white-on-white weave. Due to the country context the mini-herringbone is more likely since it’s not as formal as a white-on-white stripe. The shirt has a spread collar, front placket and double cuffs with rounded corners. The black satin tie is a little formal for a woollen flannel suit, but at the same time it creates a pleasant contrast with the texture of the flannel suit. It is tied in a small four-in-hand knot. Like in Goldfinger, Connery wears a white linen handkerchief in his breast pocket, but here it’s folded in a single point instead of in a TV fold. His shoes are black.
Sean Connery wears two stylish double-breasted overcoats in Woman of Straw that didn’t make it into Goldfinger. Over this charcoal flannel suit he wears a very dark navy double-breasted, knee-length overcoat. It has six buttons with three to button, narrow notched lapels and slanted hip pockets. The overcoat is cut with natural shoulders, has set-in sleeves and is slightly shaped through the body. There’s no name for this style of overcoat, but nevertheless it is a very elegant coat. With the overcoat Connery has a dark hat with a white lining, but it’s difficult to what type of hat it is or what colour it is. A trilby would be most likely considering the relative informality of the coat and flannel suit, and it could be the same brown trilby that Connery wears in Goldfinger or one similar to it.
In You Only Live Twice, Bond visits Dikko Henderson’s (Charles Gray) home and follows the Japanese custom of removing his shoes. Bond finds himself leaving in a hurry to chase after Henderson’s killer, without time to put on his shoes. After running outside in his stocking feet, Bond kills the man who killed Henderson, taking not only his shoes but also his trench coat and fedora as a disguise. Bond wears the olive trench coat over his black and white herringbone suit. The knee-length trench coat is double-breasted with ten buttons. It has raglan sleeves, shoulder straps, a yoke across the upper back, a storm flap on the front right, and a single vent. It has a self belt—which Bond lets hang—and wrist straps that close with a leather buckles. The hat is a black fedora with a medium-narrow brim, a centre dent and front pinch in the crown, and a wide grosgrain ribbon.
Though the shoes are black and white and resemble co-respondent/spectator shoes, they are not such shoes in the traditional sense. The vamp is white and has a black stripe up the middle. The quarters are also white. The toe piece that extends around the front of the shoe is black, as is the heel counter. The shoes have black elastic gussets on the sides of the instep. The soles and heels are black. It difficult to tell if these shoes are leather, but the soles look like leather due to the wear. Rest assured, these ugly shoes are not Bond’s own!
During the fight, the shoes appear to be taller. The white extends higher in the front and back, but not on the sides. You can see the difference in the photo above. It’s not unusual for different shoes to be used in the same scene for more physically demanding parts.
The darts on Sean Connery’s suit jacket, highlighted in red
All of James Bond’s lounge coats—suit jackets, sports coats and dinner jacket—have a front dart. Darts are folds sewn into the cloth to help provide a three-dimensional shape. The front dart gives fullness to the chest and is used by almost all British and Italian tailors. Almost all suits today have it. Tailoring in the American Ivy League style, like what Cec Linder wears as Felix Leiter in Goldfinger, dispenses with the front dart for a cleaner and straighter look, but it relies on an underarm dart for a little shape. A GQ article from April 1966 says that Sean Connery’s tailor Anthony Sinclair doesn’t use a front dart in patterned cloths, only a side dart. The dart noticeably disrupts a large pattern. Sinclair darted all of Connery’s lounge coats, but Sean Connery’s athletic drop would be difficult to tailor well without a front dart.
The extended darts, highlighted in cyan, disrupt the large pattern on Roger Moore’s jacket.
All of Bond’s lounge coats from Dr. No through The Man with the Golden Gun feature a front dart that extends from the chest down to the hem. The dart needs to extend to the hem to prevent too much skirt flare. This method of darting isn’t used very much today since the long dart is more disrupting, especially when a pattern is involved. Some tailors only extend the dart to the hem when cutting a jacket with patch pockets since the dart is partially hidden. Anthony Sinclair, Dimi Major and Cyril Castle all cut their lounge coats this way. One tailor that still uses the extended front dart is Napolisumisura in Naples, Italy, but very few others still do. The extended front dart is used in conjunction with an underarm dart.
The displaced front dart, highlighted in red. This is how most lounge coats are cut now.
From The Spy Who Loved Me to now, all of Bond’s front darts extend to only the pocket, where the rest of the dart is displaced horizontally across the pocket and continued down from the bottom of the underarm dart. The effect is still the same as if the dart continued straight down. This creates a separate piece called the side body. There are other methods of cutting coats, but this is the most common. On patch pockets coats you can look inside the pocket to see how the front dart is cut horizontally to be displaced in the side body seam. Displacing the lower part of the dart hides it under the sleeve and makes pattern mismatching less noticeable. Angelo Roma, Douglas Hayward, Brioni and Tom Ford lounge coats are all cut like this. The new Anthony Sinclair suits are also cut in this manner.
For more on the front dart, whether extended straight to the hem or displaced to the side, see The Cutter and Tailor.