The Rocketeer: A Purple Dinner Jacket

Rocketeer-Purple-Dinner-Jacket

1991’s The Rocketeer is one of the few films to feature Timothy Dalton in well-tailored 20th century clothing. Since the film takes place in 1938, what Dalton wears is more costume rather than clothing. However, not all of the clothing is accurate to the late 1930s. Dalton plays movie star and Nazi villain Neville Sinclair, who wears a muted dark purple dinner jacket that is fitting for his character. Purple is quite an unusual colour for a dinner jacket, but it’s not unusual for a smoking jacket, an ancestor of the dinner jacket. I don’t know if purple dinner jackets were popular in the late 1930s, but purple had seen a rise in popularity a few years before The Rocketeer was made. Jack Nicholson famously wore a purple suit as the joker in Batman two years earlier, and Miami Vice popularised purple and lavender clothes for men. A purple dinner jacket is less formal than the traditional black or midnight blue jacket, which makes it an acceptable—but nevertheless flashy—choice for a night out as Sinclair wears his.

Rocketeer-Purple-Dinner-Jacket-2The purple dinner jacket is cut with straight shoulders, roped sleeveheads and a clean chest. The jacket is full-cut, but it still fits well and isn’t a size too large like the jackets in Licence to Kill are. The jacket drapes elegantly without any extra folds of cloth. The wide, dark purple silk peaked lapels elegantly roll down to the jacket’s single button. The buttons are covered in the same dark purple silk that the lapels are faced in. The jacket has no vent, jetted pockets and three buttons on the cuffs. The black trousers have double reverse pleats and the traditional black silk stripe down each leg.

Rocketeer-Purple-Dinner-Jacket-4The black brocade waistcoat is one of the least historically-correct parts of this outfit. The waistcoat has five buttons with the bottom left open, peaked lapels and a full collar. A proper evening waistcoat, which is low-cut with three or four buttons, would have been worn at the time rather than a high-buttoning daytime-style waistcoat in a fancy evening cloth. Sinclair’s white-on-white stripe dress shirt has a point collar, double cuffs and a placket with two black onyx studs. His bow tie is black barathea silk in a batwing shape. His shoes are patent leather.

Rocketeer-Purple-Dinner-Jacket-3Sinclair also wears a red boutonnière pinned to his lapel. Besides looking unsightly, pinning a boutonnière to a silk lapel can easily damage the facing. Ideally, the boutonnière’s stem should be stuck through the lapel’s buttonhole and held in place by a loop sewn on the back of the lapel. One should only resort to pinning a boutonnière when the lapel has no buttonhole. But there is a buttonhole hiding behind Sinclair’s boutonnière, so he has no excuse for pinning it to his lapel.

The Skydiving Jumpsuit

Skydiving-Jumpsuit

The Living Daylights opens with James Bond and two other 00 agents parachuting to a training exercise on Gibraltar. They’re all wearing black skydiving jumpsuits, commando boots and parachute packs on their backs. Bond’s jumpsuit is probably made out of polyester. It has a zip front, a ribbed tall collar and ribbed cuffs. There is a flapped patch pocket on the upper part of each sleeve and a flapped patch pocket on the front of the upper thigh of each leg. The pocket flaps most likely stay closed with velcro. Bond wears the legs of his jumpsuit tucked into his boots.

Skydiving-Jumpsuit-2

Under the jumpsuit, Bond wears a black crew-neck T-shirt. The black leather commando boots have a plain toe, closed lacing and metal reinforced eyelets. Bond and the other 00 agents skydive with a black helmet and goggles.

Plastic Buttons

Grey plastic buttons on the three-piece glen check suit in Goldfinger

Grey plastic buttons on the three-piece glen check suit by Anthony Sinclair in Goldfinger

Plastic buttons are currently held to be less desirable than buttons made of natural materials, but when Sean Connery was James Bond in the 1960s they were the standard choice for lounge suits amongst England’s best tailors. Almost all of Sean Connery’s Anthony Sinclair suits in his 1960’s Bond films have thin, plain, glossy plastic buttons, and most of Roger Moore’s Cyril Castle suits and sports coats in Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun have the same type of buttons. Though it may seem illogical to put inexpensive plastic buttons on bespoke garments, there are reasons to why plastic buttons were used.

Connery-Plastic-Buttons

Dark grey plastic buttons on an Anthony Sinclair dark grey flannel suit in Dr. No. The smooth texture of the buttons does not fit with the fuzzy texture of the flannel cloth.

The uniform look of plastic buttons matches the clean look of worsted suiting, and some people believe that horn buttons look too rustic for a city suit. Plastic buttons also can be made in virtually any colour, so they are typically matched with or used in a slightly darker shade than the suit. In the 1960s and 1970s, synthetics were not so taboo in quality clothes the way that they are now. Tailors may also have liked how plastic buttons were thinner than other choices. Douglas Hayward, who typically used horn buttons, used grey plastic buttons on both Roger Moore’s grey flannel suit in For Your Eyes Only and on his grey tweed jacket in A View to a Kill since horn is not found in a flat medium grey, and he wanted to match the buttons to the suit. These grey plastic buttons, however, have a matte finish like horn instead of the shiny finish buttons that Sinclair and Castle used.

Plastic Buttons on Daniel Craig's suit in Casino Royale

Plastic Buttons on Daniel Craig’s Brioni suit in Casino Royale

Timothy Dalton’s suits in Licence to Kill, not surprisingly, have plastic buttons. Most of Pierce Brosnan’s and Daniel Craig’s Brioni suits—worn in GoldeneEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, Die Another Day and Casino Royale—also have plastic buttons. Not all plastic buttons are created equal. Brioni’s plastic buttons both look nicer and are more durable than the average plastic buttons. This is not to say they are just as good as natural materials, but the plastic buttons give the makers of Brioni suits the look they want.

Urea buttons on Timothy Dalton's suit in The Living Daylights

Urea buttons on Timothy Dalton’s Benjamin Simon suit in The Living Daylights

Timothy Dalton’s suit buttons in The Living Daylights are another kind of plastic, made from urea. These urea buttons mimic horn but often have a more pronounced grain. Unlike horn buttons, which due to nature can never be identical to each other, the grain of urea buttons will often match each others. If the buttons look like horn but are suspiciously identical, they can’t possibly be authentic horn. The grey buttons on the black-and-white pick-and-pick suit in Skyfall are similar fake horn in urea.

Button Cuffs

Roger-Moore-One-Button-Rounded-Cuff

The button cuff, also known as the barrel cuff, is certainly the most forgettable of all shirt cuffs. They lack the personalisation that double cuff have from cufflinks and the flare of the cocktail cuff. But they are, nonetheless, worth discussing. They’re certainly the most versatile, since they can be worn casually and with a suit. They don’t, however, go well with anything more formal than a suit. Button cuffs can have one, two or three buttons and rounded, mitred (angle cuff) or square corners. The ordinary button cuff has one button with rounded corners. Because the cuff can pivot on a single button, the rounded corners look best on top of each other when the cuff pivots. Rounded corners follow the cuff’s pivot. George Lazenby wears rounded one-button cuffs in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Roger Moore wears them in Octopussy and A View to a Kill, Timothy Dalton wears them in The Living Daylights, and Pierce Brosnan wears them on a few shirts in GoldenEye. One-button cuffs are typically shorter than other cuffs, around 2 to 2 1/2 inches, though Roger Moore’s cuffs from Frank Foster are around 3 inches long. Moore’s cuffs are also more rounded, which, when combined with the larger size, make the cuffs look quite elegant.

Daniel-Craig-One-Button-Square-CuffSquare corners look better on cuffs with multiple buttons, since the multiple buttons prevent the cuff from pivoting and ensure the edge will always be continuous. When a square-cornered one-button cuff pivots, the corners end up awkwardly juxtaposed on top of each other. Bond, nevertheless, occasions wears a square one-button cuff. Pierce Brosnan’s blue shirt in Tomorrow Never Dies and Daniel Craig’s black shirt in Casino Royale have square one-button cuffs.

Timothy-Dalton-One-Button-Mitred-CuffMitred one-button cuffs fit somewhere between the rounded and square cuffs. They look more elegant than square one-button cuffs, but they don’t have the rounded corner to follow the pivot of the cuff. Roger Moore’s black shirt in Moonraker, TImothy Dalton’s formal shirts in Licence to Kill, and Daniel Craig’s floral shirt in Skyfall have mitred one-button cuffs.

Roger-Moore-Two-Button-Mitred-CuffAdding a second button to the cuff usually means that the cuff will be larger. The second button also keeps the cuff more rigid, which makes the two-button cuff slightly dressier than the single-button cuff. When the cuff has a square corner, the rigidity that the second button provides ensures that the edge of the cuff will always stay continuous around. Roger Moore wears a brown striped shirt with square two-button cuffs in Live and Let Die. A mitred corner is another elegant option for the two-button cuff, and Roger Moore wears mitred two-button cuffs on his formal shirts throughout For Your Eyes Only. Like how Roger Moore’s rounded cuffs are extra round, his mitred cuffs have a deeper cut to exaggerate the style.

Pierce-Brosnan-Three-Button-CuffThree-button cuffs aren’t as popular as one- and two-button cuffs, but they are Turnbull & Asser’s signature cuff style. Considering how Turnbull & Asser made so many shirts for James Bond, the cuff only appears once in the series. Pierce Brosnan wears them on the blue royal oxford shirt he wears with his cream suit in The World Is Not Enough. The three-button cuff doesn’t behave any differently than a two-button cuff, but it needs to have a square edge. A rounded or mitred edge would require extra length beyond the button, which would make a three-button cuff excessively long.

Oversized T-Shirt

Oversized-Blue-T-shirt

Like all of Timothy Dalton’s clothes in Licence to Kill, his royal blue t-shirt is a size too large. Or if judged by current fashions, Dalton’s shirt is two sizes too large. Even though baggy clothes were fashionable in 1989 when Licence to Kill was made, nobody else is wearing such large shirts. This is mostly likely a shirt that Bond found rather than bought, unless the store where Bond shopped was sold out of his size. The shirt looks even worse when it’s wet, and the large size makes it even more cumbersome for swimming in than a t-shirt ordinarily would be. The shirt has a large crew neck, an open patch breast pocket and sleeves down to his elbows. Dalton wears full-cut dark blue jeans, which one of the rare occasions Bond wears jeans. He doesn’t wear shoes or a belt.

Oversized-Blue-T-shirt-2

In this scene Bond is likely attempting to dress like what the henchmen aboard the Wavekrest wear without having their actual clothes to wear. Bond’s shirt is a little darker and it doesn’t have the Wavekrest emblem on the left side of the chest that the henchmen’s shirts have. Bond’s jeans are a little darker than the security guard’s jeans and have a fuller cut compared to the henchmen’s bell-bottom trousers.

Milton Krest's henchmen

Milton Krest’s henchmen

 

The Cummerbund

The cummerbund in Skyfall

The cummerbund in Skyfall

Though the cummerbund is a well-known part of black tie, Bond has only worn a cummerbund on a handful of occasions. Traditionally, one isn’t wearing a cummerbund because he’s wearing a waistcoat or a double-breasted dinner jacket, but those situations do not make up the rest of Bond’s black tie outfits. Bond is well-known for omitting the waist-covering altogether, but Bond wears the seemingly pointless piece of silk around his waist a few times.

According to Black Tie Guide, the cummerbund originated from coloured sashes that British officers wrapped around their waist in India. Now cummerbunds ordinarily come in the form of a piece of pleated silk—with the pleats worn facing up—in the front that connects in the back with a strap and buckle. The purpose of the cummerbund is to act as a formal waist-covering that wears cooler than a waistcoat. It covers the bottom of the shirt front and the trousers’ waistband, so it serves an aesthetic purpose if not a practical one. The cummerbund is not a belt and does not hold up the trousers, so there is no rule about not wearing a cummerbund with braces. Braces can be worn with a cummerbund just the same as they can—and should—be worn under a waistcoat. Bond wears both a cummerbund and braces in Licence to Kill and Skyfall.

Diamonds-Cummerbund

A fancy, coloured silk cummerbund in Diamonds Are Forever

The cummerbund is traditionally black and matches the bow tie in both colour and texture, but it can be other colours. Burgundy is the most common choice for a coloured cummerbund, but the bow tie should always be black no matter the colour of the cummerbund. Coloured matching bow tie and cummerbund sets are often sold and can be worn for “creative black tie” functions and high school proms, but if you’re trying to follow the elegant example that Bond sets the bow tie should always be black. After all, it’s called “black tie”. The only time Ian Fleming mentions Bond wearing a cummerbund it’s a “wine-red cummerbund” that he wears with his white dinner jacket and dress trousers in the Thunderball novel. Since the bow tie isn’t mentioned, we can assume that Bond wears a proper black bow tie. The first time Bond wears a cummerbund in the films it’s a fancy silk in burgundy and black in Diamonds Are Forever. It’s a flashier 1970s take on the “wine-red cummerbund” that Fleming writes about, but the bow tie is still black. It’s the only time in the series that Sean Connery wears any sort of waist-covering with black tie.

Built-In-Cummerbund

The built-in cummerbund in For Your Eyes Only

In For Your Eyes Only, Bond wears trousers with a sort of waistband that acts like a cummerbund. The waistband is very wide, flat silk that extends across the entire front and fastens with two buttons at the right side. It’s a little narrower than a real cummerbund, but it’s a clever design and acts like a built-in cummerbund. The same type of built-in cummerbund returns in Octopussy. It may not be a proper cummerbund, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Licence-to-Kill-Cummerbund

A flat cummerbund in Licence to Kill

The first time Bond has a traditional black, pleated cummerbund is in Licence to Kill. It’s one of the few redeeming qualities of the black tie outfit in that film. But actually there are two cummerbunds used. The one Bond removes is flat silk and is used with the purpose to conceal rope. But later when Bond wakes up at Sanchez’s villa and sees his dinner suit neatly hung up, it’s the traditional cummerbund with pleats.

Quantum-of-Solace-Cummerbund

The cummerbund briefly appearing in Quantum of Solace

When Bond wore his dinner suit without a cummerbund or waistcoat in Casino Royale, many people took note of it and started doing the same. Though Bond’s tradition of foregoing the waist-covering began from the start of the film series in Dr. No, it took 44 years for people to notice and make a big fuss over it. When Bond returned in Quantum of Solace two years later, the cummerbund returned. And Bond wore a cummerbund again in Skyfall despite the cummerbund not being very popular at the moment.

The cummerbund does not work well with the low-rise trousers that make up the majority of suit trousers today since the cummerbund should be worn up at the waist and not down at the hips. Some people say that the cummerbund should be used with such low-rise trousers to prevent the white of the shirt from showing between the jacket button and the top of the waistband, but that’s not a true solution for a poorly-designed suit. The cummerbund’s purpose is not to prevent that bit of shirt from showing. The jacket’s buttoning point and the trousers’ waistband in a well-fitting suit should not be very far from one another. The cummerbund should actually be mostly hidden under the jacket and only show just a little above and below the jacket’s button, if it shows at all.

Afghan Combat

Living-Daylights-Afghan

During the climax of The Living Daylights, James Bond dresses as one of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan whilst fighting as one of them and also to disguise himself. On top he wears a medium brown leather—probably sheepskin—waistcoat, and it has four buttons from the neck down to the waist, where it cuts away. He wears the waistcoat open. Underneath the waistcoat Bond wears a warm grey shirt that has a short point collar that is laid flat. The collar has a band but it doesn’t have a button. However, the top button on the shirt isn’t more than an inch below the collar. The shirt also has an open breast pocket on the left side, a narrow placket and square 1-button cuffs.

Living-Daylights-Harem-PantsBond’s harem-like trousers match the shirt’s warm grey. They aren’t harem trousers to the extreme that M.C. Hammer made popular at the time, but they are very baggy in the thigh, have a somewhat low crotch and are fitted at the ankle. The waistband gathers with a drawstring. Bond wears a black belt around his waist on top of the shirt but underneath the waistcoat to hold his combat gear. To complete the disguise Bond wears a black Afghan turban.

Living-Daylights-Commando-BootsBond’s black leather derby-style combat boots have rubber soles attached with a storm welt. The boots also have a whopping 14 eyelets, and by that I mean 14 on each side! They are all metal eyelets and there are no speed hooks. They are laced in a standard criss-cross method, but combat boots are often laced in other methods, like the “Army Lacing” method mentioned on Ian’s Shoelace Site. The criss-cross lacing that Bond’s boots are laced in isn’t the best choice for him in this situation because he needs to cut the laces open quickly. Straight lacing methods—there are a few different methods listed on Ian’s Shoelace Site—are best for cutting the laces open because the horizontal sections of the lacing can be cut very quickly with a knife. Different militaries may have different ways of lacing shoes, and Bond may be used to lacing his shoes a certain way. With straight lacing, Necros would have died even quicker, making for perhaps a less suspenseful scene. The boots are the only part of this outfit that isn’t costume. With the boots Bond wears tall black socks.

Open-Collar Shirts

TWINE-Open-Collar

For most people today, ties are limited to wearing only for special occasions. A formal shirt—dress shirt to the Americans—is meant to be worn with a tie, but it’s common now to wear them with the collar open. James Bond has worn his collar open as far back as You Only Live Twice and as recently as Skyfall. In You Only Live Twice, Sean Connery folds his collar flat to behave more like a camp collar. Otherwise, Bond lets his collar stand up more naturally.

The two-button collar

Since the formal shirt’s collar is meant to be worn with a tie, it doesn’t always look right when worn open. Wide cutaway collars are too formal to be worn open, but narrow collars open don’t work so well either. Some people will disagree, but I think a middle-of-the-road spread collar is best, which is the type of collar James Bond usually wears open. Small, flimsy collars worn without a tie make an equally flimsy impression. A taller, firmer collar is most effective when worn open. Roger Moore’s 2-button collar in Live and Let Die is a great example of this, as is Daniel Craig’s large Tom Ford collar in Quantum of Solace.

Button-Down-CollarIn A View to a Kill, Roger Moore’s open-collared shirts have a button-down collar, a rather casual style that’s best worn without a tie. The buttons keep the collar points anchored to the shirt, propping up the collar. Hidden button-down collars are a similarly effective option for those who don’t like the look of a button-down collar. Yet another option is magnetic collar stays. Some will say that only a button-down collar, and never a spread or point collar, can be worn without a tie.

Collar-Outside-JumperWhen wearing a jumper it’s often debated whether to wear the shirt collar inside or outside the jumper’s collar. Roger Moore wears his collars outside a V-neck jumper in The Spy Who Loved Me and outside a crew-neck jumper in For Your Eyes Only. Pierce Brosnan does the same with his crew-neck jumper in GoldenEye. Currently it’s more fashionable to wear the collar inside the jumper, like Timothy Dalton does in The Living Daylights. When wearing a jacket, the shirt collar should stay inside the jacket’s collar, not over it like in Moonraker.

Open-Collar-Grey-SuitThe placement of the first button under the collar makes a difference as to how well the collar stands up. A higher first button keeps the collar standing up better. Turnbull & Asser’s first button is 3 inches from the bottom of the collar. Frank Foster’s first button is a mere 1 3/4 inches from bottom of the collar, which considerably helps keep the collar stand up. Roger Moore fastens all buttons under the collar on his Frank Foster button-down shirt in A View to a Kill (see image above), and it shows how high that first button is. However, that top button is ordinarily too high for Moore to keep fastened. When he wears his collar open, he typically also leaves open the first button, if not both the first and second buttons. Timothy Dalton in The Living Daylights, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig also leave the first button open on their shirts.

In Licence to Kill, Timothy Dalton keeps his top button fastened, showing that he’s not as relaxed as Bond usually is with an open collar (see image below). Though dark lounge suits aren’t worn well without a tie, more informal summer suits and sports coats can be worn without a tie more effectively. It’s common to see men dressing in a dark suit and open collar for business these days, and in a professional setting only the collar button should be open. Unbuttoning more isn’t appropriate for men in a professional setting, especially when there’s chest hair present.

Dalton-Blue-Suit