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.

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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.

Gold: Dressing Up a Bold Shirt

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Gold features Roger Moore in a James Bond-esque story but in a slightly more flamboyant wardrobe. Like Moore’s navy double-breasted suit in Gold, the beige jacket in that film could have been picked straight out of Live and Let Die or The Man with the Golden Gun. The jacket—perhaps made of a silk and linen blend—is tailored by Cyril Castle in the same style as the single-breasted suits that Moore wears in his first two Bond films. The button two jacket has softly-padded shoulders, a swelled chest, a nipped waist and medium-width lapels. It is detailed with slanted pockets, deep double vents and flared link cuffs. The tan wool trousers, though similar in value, contrast in texture and hue. have a darted front, a coin pocket below the waistband and a slightly flared leg.

Gold-Beige-Suit-2The shirt is where Moore breaks from Bond style. It has a rust and navy check on a cream ground. Whist the pattern is bolder than something Bond would wear, the shirt has the same spread collar and cocktail cuffs that Moore’s Frank Foster shirts in Live and Let Die have. Such a bold shirt needs a simple tie, and Moore wears a solid rust-coloured tie that pulls out the rust in the shirt’s check. He ties it in a four-in-hand or a double-four-in-hand knot. Though the tie works well with the jacket and shirt, the bold shirt could keep the outfit interesting without a tie. This is the kind of outfit that can be worn well without a tie, but the tie keeps the outfit “tied” together. With the suit, Moore wears dark brown shoes, a wide dark brown belt and aviator sunglasses.

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The Persuaders: A Sporty Striped Suit

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Though Roger Moore wears the flashiest clothes of his career playing Lord Brett Sinclair in The Persuaders, the suits are also amongst the best-tailored and best proportioned of any of Moore’s suits. Cyril Castle, who made Moore’s suits for The Saint and for his first two Bond films, made the suits for The Persuaders. Castle experimented with fashion trends more than most Mayfair tailors did, but at the time The Persuaders was made in 1971 the narrow styles of the 60s were out and the wide styles of the 1970s hadn’t fully taken hold yet. The suits in The Persuaders instead get their flashiness from unconventional colours and patterns along with the occasional odd detail. Roger Moore himself is responsible for all the flashiness, and he is credited with designing Lord Sinclair’s clothes.

Persuaders-Cream-Stripe-Suit-3The episode of The Persuaders titled  “Nuisance Value” features a very unique striped double-breasted suit, and the cloth is what makes it most remarkable. It has a cream base with thick light brown stripes, and medium grey pinstripes are closely spaced in-between the light brown stripes. The medium grey pinstripes also border each light brown stripe. Though striped suits are ordinarily thought of as business suits, this isn’t a typical pinstripe, rope stripe or chalk stripe suit. These stripes unquestionably have a sportier look, and such a sporty suit is appropriate for the Lord Brett Sinclair character who wears suits for fun.

Persuaders-Cream-Stripe-Suit-2The suit jacket is cut in Cyril Castle’s usual double-breasted style. It has six buttons with two to button, and the jacket is cut with an extemely narrow wrap (the overlap in front). The narrow wrap makes the buttons very close together horizontally compared to their farther vertical distance to give the jacket more vertical lines and help slim the slightly heavyish Moore. The jacket has softly-padded shoulders, roped sleeveheads, a lot of fullness in the chest and a nipped waist. The peaked lapels are made in the Tautz style, in which the top edge of the lapel points horizontally rather than angles up. The lapels are on the wider side of classic width, and, as usual for Castle, there’s only a buttonhole in the left lapel. Double-breasted jackets traditionally have a buttonhole in each lapel since both sides of the jacket fasten. Like on the jackets that Moore wears in his first two Bond films, this suit jacket has flared link-button cuffs, slanted pockets and deep double vents. The buttons are smoked dark grey mother of pearl, which add some additional flash to the suit. The suit trousers have a dart on each side of the front, and an offset jetted frogmouth pocket cuts through the dart. The trousers legs are tapered to the knee and straight from the knee down. Moore wears the trousers with a belt.

Persuaders-Cream-Stripe-Suit-4Under the suit Moore wears a peach-coloured shirt from Frank Foster. It has a spread collar, placket and button-down cocktail cuffs that fasten around the wrist with a single button. Peach isn’t a traditional colour for formal shirts, but it’s similar to the classic ecru only a little darker and with a hint of pink. The champagne-coloured tie is a couple shades darker than the shirt, and it pulls out the light brown stripes in the suit. It is tied in a four-in-hand knot. When Moore opens his jacket we can see that the tie is too short and wider than the lapels, but since most of the tie is obscured inside the jacket—and the jacket should always be kept fastened—neither of the tie’s problems actually matter.

Persuaders-BootsMoore’s zip boots are even more fashionable than the colour of his shirt or the pattern of his suit. The boots’ light brown colour fits the Spanish setting and complements the warm colours in the rest of the outfit. The height of the boots is difficult to describe, since they are taller than ankle boots but shorter than mid-calf. They have a square toe and leather soles. Like most of Moore’s shoes, these zip boots are likely Italian-made. Zip boots are ordinarily too casual to wear with a suit, but the sporty nature of this suit makes zip boots almost appropriate.

Persuaders-Grey-Stripe-SuitThis cream, brown and grey-striped suit could easily be confused for another very similar suit that Moore wears in The Persuaders. In the same episode Moore wears another suit that is in the same pattern, but it has a light grey base with thick dark grey stripes instead of a cream base with light brown stripes. Like the cream-based suit, the grey-based suit also has medium grey pinstripes. Both suits have the same cut and same details, except the grey suit has a larger wrap than the cream suit has. Moore wears the all-grey suit with an open-collar black shirt, and a black silk day cravat is tied inside the collar but hangs outside the shirt. He also wears black slip-on shoes, which echo the black shirt and go well with the greys in the suit.

The Saint: Dressing Down the Navy Blazer

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Compared to most sports coats, which are at home in the country, the navy blazer is better suited at seaside and resort towns. However, the single-breasted navy blazer is one of the most versatile sports coats, and due to its solid navy colour it can just as effectively be dressed up in the city as it can be dressed down at a resort. Roger Moore playing Simon Templar shows a great example of the latter when he wears his blazer in the 1965 episode of The Saint titled “The Spanish Cow”.

Casual-Navy-Blazer-2In the first through fourth series of The Saint from 1962 to 1965, Moore often wears a button three, lightweight wool navy blazer with straight flapped pockets, a ticket pocket, three buttons on the cuffs and a single vent. Tailor Cyril Castle made no less than two examples of such a blazer made since it got more wear than any other item of clothing in the show. The blazer in “The Spanish Cow” isn’t much different than the blazer that Moore wears in the first episode of The Saint three years earlier in 1962, except the shoulders are softer and the lapels are just a little narrower. The fashionably narrow lapels, however, look disproportionately narrow and are somewhat unflattering on Moore.

Casual-Navy-Blazer-3So how does Moore dress down his navy blazer? Underneath the blazer he wears a light-coloured camp shirt with a straight, untucked hem. The shirt has a one-piece camp collar that stands up nicely inside the blazer’s collar, which is the key to successfully wearing any shirt other than a formal shirt under a jacket (unless you like to wear t-shirts under your jackets). And because the shirt has a camp collar and not a more formal collar, Moore doesn’t have to worry about people thinking he forgot his tie. In the 1960s, wearing a formal shirt without a tie wasn’t done. It wasn’t something that Simon Templar or James Bond ever did in the 60s, unless you count Sean Connery’s pink shirt in You Only Live Twice. Moore’s trousers are stone-coloured cotton and have either a flat front or darted front and a plain hem. He wears canvas slip-on shoes with white rubber soles, and he matches his white socks to the soles of his shoes. Essentially, Moore put his tailored blazer on top of a very casual outfit, and it works successfully. The blazer’s soft, natural shoulders help it to work better when worn casually.

Simon Templar mentions the name of his shirtmaker in a conversation with the “South of France” police chief Colonel Latignant—a recurring character played by Arnold Diamond—when Latignant comments on the shirts in Templar’s suitcase:

Templar: And how is the most efficient chief of police in the South of France?

Latignant: That depends.

Templar: Oh—on what?

Latignant: On your behaviour in the South of France.

Templar: My behaviour everywhere is impeccable.

Latignant: So is your taste in shirts. These are magnificent.

Templar: Sulka makes them for me in London.

Colonel Latignant (Arnold Diamond) holding one of Moore's Sulka shirts

Colonel Latignant (Arnold Diamond) holding one of Simon Templar’s Sulka shirts

Comparison: The Button Three Double-Breasted Blazer

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Reader TheLordFlasheart made the excellent suggestion of comparing similar outfits worn by different James Bonds throughout the series, so I had to find two outfits that I think could be compared fairly. I’ve chosen to begin with comparing George Lazenby’s and Roger Moore’s button three double-breasted blazers. These are the only two Bonds who have worn this naval-uniform-like blazer, and they wore them only five years apart. Considering Bond’s background as a commander in the Royal Navy, this is a very appropriate style for the character. In the naval tradition, both blazers have metal buttons, and both have silver-toned buttons rather than the ordinary brass. Though both blazers are English-tailored, neither have straight, uniform-like shoulders. The shoulders have less padding than military uniforms do for a more natural and civilian look. Roped sleeveheads are typical of the military style, and whilst Moore’s blazer has a little roping, Lazenby’s blazer doesn’t have any. Both blazers, however, have a clean and fitted military-like cut through the body.

The two blazers have the appropriate detail of double vents, though both also have the then-trendy detail of slanted pockets. Slanted pockets are also known as “hacking pockets” because of their equestrian origins, and the blazer’s origins are quite far from that. That makes slanted pockets an unconventional choice for a blazer—especially a double-breasted blazer—but it was nevertheless a fashionable choice. Though unconventional and trendy, I rather like the rakish slanted pockets. Lazenby’s blazer adds a ticket pocket.

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Some aspects of fashion had changed significantly between On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1969 and The Man with the Golden Gun 1974. As far as the blazer is concerned, those differences are in length and lapel width. Though Lazenby’s single-breasted jackets have medium-width lapels, the double-breasted blazer has narrow peaked lapels similar to those on a Royal Navy uniform. Roger Moore’s blazer has wider lapels, but since it’s double-breasted the lapels don’t proportionately look too wide. Lieutenant Hip shows how ridiculously wide double-breasted lapels could be in 1974, with the points only about a quarter-inch from touching the armhole. Lazenby’s blazer is slightly shorter than Moore’s traditional-length blazer, which was a trend in the late 1960s. Moore’s blazer has a slightly narrower wrap than Lazenby’s blazer, which was the way Moore’s tailor Cyril Castle cut double-breasted jackets and didn’t reflect any particular trends. Lazenby’s blazer adds the sporty detail of swelled edges, whilst Moore’s has the unique link-button cuffs.

Trouser leg width changed more than anything else between 1969 and 1974. We don’t see much of the trousers that Moore wears with his blazer, but it’s assumed he wears trousers with a slightly flared leg. Lazenby’s trousers and very narrow and tapered, though they are still neatly tailored. Lazenby’s trousers are light grey and Moore’s trousers are charcoal and white, respectively.

Frank Foster made both Moore’s and Lazenby’s shirts. Moore wears his blazer with a blue and white mini-Bengal stripe shirt and a white shirt, whilst Lazenby wears his blazer with sky blue and pink shirts. Lazenby’s shirts have a narrower collar than Moore’s shirts have, and the collar choices were probably what Foster or the costume designer through looked best on the actors rather than what fashion trends dictated. Lazenby’s shirts have single-button cuffs whilst Moore’s shirts have cocktail cuffs. Lazenby’s ties are medium-width navy and red knitted ties, and Moore’s ties are wide slate blue satin and white and navy striped. The tie width, of course, matches the lapel width.

Though Lazenby’s look would certainly look more fashionable today than Moore’s would, I think both Lazenby and Moore wear their blazers very well. Both dress in good taste and neither commit any sartorial sins. Who do you think wore the button three double-breasted blazer better?

The Saint: The Light Brown Three-Piece Suit

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One of Simon Templar’s favourite suits to wear when travelling to climates warmer than Great Britain’s is a light brown worsted three-piece suit. Roger Moore wears this suit tailored by Cyril Castle in many episodes of The Saint‘s fifth series, including the final episode of that series featured here titled “The Gadic Collection” when Templar travels to Istanbul. The suit jacket resembles others that Moore wears in this season of The Saint. The jacket is a button three, and the lapels roll gently at the top button. The jacket is cut with natural shoulders and a draped chest, which gives the suit a more relaxed look for the warmer climate. The flapped hip pockets are slanted, and the breast pocket has a flap to give this suit a sportier look, whilst narrow lapels and narrow pocket flaps reflect the contemporary 1960s trends. The jacket has turnback “gauntlet” cuffs with a large single button, and there are double vents at the rear.

Saint-Light-Brown-Suit-2Under the jacket Moore wears a button six waistcoat, and he fastens all six buttons. Unlike most other waistcoats in The Saint, which have a straight bottom, this waistcoat has the traditional pointed bottom. The waistcoat also has notched lapels and four welt pockets. The back of the is in a medium brown lining and has a waist-adjusting strap. Though three-piece suits are often associated with increased formality, a waistcoat is just as appropriate with a dark city worsted as it is with a sportier suit like this lightweight brown suit.

Saint-Light-Brown-Suit-3The suit’s trousers have a darted front, cross pockets, belt loops and two rear pockets. At different points in the episode the belt loops can be seen used with a brown belt and unused. Ideally the trousers worn with a three-piece suit would be without belt loops and supported by side adjusters or braces. The belt creates an unsightly bulge under the waistcoat. The leg is tapered with a plain hem. Moore wears his usual cream shirt with this suit, and the shirt has a spread collar, double cuffs and a plain front. The shirt is possibly from Sulka, who Templar mentions in an earlier episode of The Saint, or Washington Tremlett, whose shop was next-door to Cyril Castle’s. Moore’s long relationship with Frank Foster most likely didn’t start until the following series of The Saint.

Saint-Light-Brown-Suit-4Moore wears two ties with the suit. The first tie is olive green satin silk, which is the tie that Moore typically wears with this suit. After Templar discards his olive tie he dons a solid brick red repp tie. Both ties are tied in a small four-in-hand knot with a dimple. Moore’s tan socks and brown short boots follow the outfit’s earth-toned colour scheme. The boots are like shorter chelsea boots with elastic gussets on the sides.

The cream shirt, olive tie and light brown suit flatter Roger Moore’s warm spring complexion better than the common cool, dark city colours do. People often criticise Moore for wearing brown suits in his 1970s Bond films because those people associate brown suits with fashion trends from that decade, and brown suits were indeed popular at that time. But Moore didn’t wear them just because they were fashionable in the 1970s, and he didn’t only wear brown suits in the 1970s. Per this article, he wore brown suits in the 1960s, and he wore them in the 1980s too. Roger Moore wore brown suits because they looked good on him.

Front Darts

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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.

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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.

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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.

The Saint: Three-Piece, Shawl-Collar Dinner Suit

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Tonight is the only night of the year many people wear a dinner suit. In the two-part episode of The Saint titled “The Fiction Makers”, Roger Moore wears a three-piece dinner suit, something only Pierce Brosnan to date has worn as James Bond. “The Fiction Makers” was filmed as part of Series 5, so the clothes stylistically follow the others from Series 5, but it was aired in December 1968 as part of Series 6 and later released as a feature film. The midnight blue dinner suit tailored by Cyril Castle has a deep lustre that means it must be made of mohair. The dinner jacket has natural shoulders with roped sleeveheads. It is a button one, with the button elegantly placed low about two inches below Moore’s natural waist. The narrow midnight blue satin shawl collar gently rolls down to the button and lacks the belly of a typical shawl collar. The dinner jacket follows black tie tradition with jetted pockets and no vent. The cuffs button three and have midnight blue satin gauntlet cuffs. All of the buttons are covered to match the lapels.

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The button three waistcoat matches the midnight blue mohair dinner jacket and also has midnight blue satin silk shawl lapels. The buttons are spaced apart a little more than they traditionally are on an evening waistcoat—about 2″ apart like on a regular daywear waistcoat instead of 1.5″ inches apart—making the front a little taller. It’s commonly said that waistcoats go better with peaked-lapel dinner jackets and cummerbunds go better with shawl-collar dinner jackets. The formality of the waistcoat does indeed better match peaked lapels, and the angular shape of the waistcoat “V” complements the angles of peaked lapels. But there’s also nothing wrong with wearing a waistcoat with a shawl-collar dinner jacket. A U-shaped waistcoat goes well with a shawl collar dinner jacket, though Roger Moore’s waistcoat has a regular V-front. However, Moore’s waistcoat has rounded shawl lapels that match the dinner jacket’s shawl collar, helping to connect the two pieces. The waistcoat’s straight bottom also does away with the angles the typical waistcoat has at the bottom, helping it to better complement the shawl-collar dinner jacket.

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The trousers, of course, match the dinner jacket and waistcoat. The trousers have tapered legs, cross pockets and a midnight blue satin stripe down the side of each leg. The white dress shirt has a spread collar, double cuffs and a pleated front with mother-of-pearl buttons down the placket. Moore’s bow tie is midnight blue satin silk to match the facings on the dinner suit.

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