The Royal Oxford Shirt

Royal-Oxford-Shirt

Pierce Brosnan wears a royal oxford shirt with his charcoal suit in the opening scene in The World Is Not Enough

The royal oxford shirt should be more popular than it is. Though Bond has primarily worn poplin shirts throughout the series, Pierce Brosnan wears royal oxford shirts from Turnbull & Asser in Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough. All oxford cloths are basket weaves, from the finer pinpoint to the heavier standard oxford cloth, but the royale oxford is a more elaborate weave than the others and has a diagonal effect along with the basket weave look. Whilst royal oxford is the dressiest of the oxford cloths, it can be effectively made into both dressier and sportier shirts. Pierce Brosnan usually wears his with double cuffs, but in The World Is Not Enough he wears a royal oxford shirt with button-cuffs and an open collar with his herringbone linen suit.

Royal-OxfordRoyal oxford is just below poplin in formality and can be worn for the same purposes, whilst twills and other oxfords are all progressively lower in formality depending on the size of the texture. Unlike poplin, royal oxford irons very easily and doesn’t crease so readily. The floated yarns in the weave mean that it wrinkles less, but they also make royal oxford a softer cloth. If you’re used to non-iron shirts but want something more luxurious, a regular royal oxford shirt may be the best shirt to get. Royal oxford is also a heavier cloth than poplin, but the weave is open so it breathes very well. It is one of the most versatile shirtings whilst also being one of the most practical.

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.

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Anatomy of a Turnbull & Asser Shirt

Turnbull-Asser-Shirt

We all know Turnbull & Asser for making shirts for not only four of the six James Bond actors, but also for Bond creator Ian Fleming and the first Bond film director Terence Young. What makes a Turnbull & Asser shirt the special shirt that it is? There are many parts to it, but the most important part of any shirt is its collar. The Classic Turnbull & Asser Collar has a very special shape. Turnbull & Asser describes the collar as having a “unique outward flare to the collar point.” The collar curves the opposite way from most collars, since the edge of the collar that sits on the body flares outward from the point rather than curve in. Frank Foster thinks the shape is counterintuitive since it goes against the shape of the body, but I find that it lays against the body just fine.

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The Classic Turnbull & Asser Collar

The collar is a very middle-of-the-road spread collar, not particularly narrow or wide. The points measure 2 7/8″, the back height measures 1 3/4″ and the collar band measures 1 1/8″ in front. There is 3/8″ tie space and the collar points sit 4 1/2″ apart. The collar is stitched 1/4″ from the edge, has a non-fused but moderately stiff interfacing, and has removable collar stays. Despite many Bond films featuring Turnbull & Asser shirts, the collar design is always made especially for the actor wearing it and James Bond never wears the Classic Turnbull & Asser Collar, except for maybe on the dress shirt in Die Another Day.

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The signature three button cuff

Turnbull & Asser’s signature cuff is their three button cuff. The cuff is 3 1/4″ long and is cut with an elegant curve to the buttoning edge—it’s not a square. The three button cuff, as well as the rest of their cuffs, has a non-fused interfacing, but it’s lighter than the collar’s interfacing. Like the collar, the cuffs are stitched 1/4″ from the edge. Turnbull & Asser doesn’t put a sleeve gauntlet button on their ready-to-wear shirts, except for on the Sea Island cotton shirts. Their cuffs are attached to the shirt with gathers rather than the more typical pleats. Gathers look very elegant, but they make the sleeve more difficult to iron.

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Turnbull & Asser’s Double Cuff

Like most English shirtmakers do, Turnbull & Asser places the link holes on their double cuff close to the fold rather than centred. The link holes are one inch from the fold. This allows the cuff to flare out a little—which can get it caught inside a narrow jacket sleeve—and it shows off the cufflinks better. What also can cause it to get caught inside the sleeve is the square corner. Most people regard the square corner as more elegant over the more functional rounded corner, which slides through the jacket sleeve better. The double cuff measures 5 5/8″ long when unfolded.

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Turnbull & Asser’s modern Two Button Turnback Cuff

James Bond fans know Turnbull & Asser for their cocktail cuff, or the “Two Button Turnback Cuff” as they call it. They say they invented the cocktail cuff, but they aren’t the only ones who make that claim. The cuff they make now is different from the one Sean Connery wore in his Bond films. Their modern turnback cuff is contoured where it folds back, and the corner is not rounded as much. This cuff is 5 5/8″ long and folds 2 1/8″ from the base, unlike Connery’s cuff which folds closer to the middle.

The split yoke and shoulder pleats

The split yoke and shoulder pleats

Turnbull & Asser folds a narrow placket on their shirts, at 1 3/16″ wide. The stitching is 3/8″ from the edge, which matches the stitching at the sleeve attachment and at the base of the cuff. The placket has a fused interfacing to keep it crisp. There are six buttons down the front of the shirt, not including the collar. Turnbull & Asser uses mother-of-pearl buttons, of course, but I find that they are not sewn on with enough slack and can be difficult to button.

The hexagonal gusset

The hexagonal gusset

On solid shirts the stitching and buttonholes matches the shirt, but on semi-solid shirts with white in the weave and on shirts with white in the pattern, Turnbull & Asser uses white stitching and buttonholes. The tails of the shirt are curved, and to reinforce the base of the side seams Turnbull & Asser uses a hexagonal gusset. The gusset is white on ready-to-wear shirts and made in the same cloth as the shirt on bespoke shirts. The back of the shirt has a split yoke, which according to experts serves no purpose on a ready-to-wear shirt since it only helps with uneven shoulders. However, split yokes make striped shirtings look very nice by forming a chevron. Under the yoke the shirt has a pleat on either side to give ease over the shoulder blades.

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Grenadine Silk Uncovered

Today is the third anniversary of the first post on The Suits of James Bond, the dinner suit in Dr. No. But I’d like to revisit another one of my early topics, the grenadine tie. The grenadine tie is a staple of Sean Connery’s Bond wardrobe and even made it to one of Roger Moore’s Bond films. Like I said in my original post, the grenadine tie is not a knit tie and is in no way related to the knit tie, despite the similar appearance. To further show what grenadine silk is, I created an illustration. I had some grenadine garza grossa swatches from Sam Hober and I put one under a microscope to pick it apart (with my eyes–no harm was done to the silk!). The swatch is much easier to see than an actual tie since it lets light through. Below is the result:

Grenadine garza grossa is a very complex weave. It’s a type of leno weave, in which the warp yarns are twisted around the weft yarns. It gives another dimension to the weave, which is why grenadine silk has so much texture. The twisting also gives strength to the cloth to make a very sturdy, yet open, cloth. There’s not as much space in the real grenadine silk as in my illustration; I’ve spread it apart to better illustrate the weave. Both sides of the silk can be used. Drakes—along with most manufacturers—use the side illustrated here, whilst Turnbull & Asser makes their grenadines using the wrong side. Since I don’t have a Turnbull & Asser grenadine tie from the 1960s I can’t say which side they were using when Connery was wearing them, but I have one from the 1970s and they were using the wrong side then.

Drakes on the left, using the right side of the silk, and Turnbull & Asser on the right, using the wrong side of the silk

Drakes on the left, using the right side of the silk, and Turnbull & Asser on the right, using the wrong side of the silk

I’ve also made an illustration for the grenadine garza fina weave, which you can now see here. Bond only wore the type of grenadine featured here, garza groza.

Click here to read my earlier post on grenadine ties.

Never Say Never Again: Business Casual?

Blue-Shirt-Black-Trousers

In Never Say Never Again, Sean Connery wears an odd choice of clothing aboard the Flying Saucer. A sky blue shirt with black trousers is more like the standard uniform today for a casual office than it is a stylish yachting outfit. The sky blue shirt from Turnbull & Asser has a spread collar, button-down cocktail cuffs, shoulder pleats and a front placket. The black trousers—probably made of tropical wool—have a flat front, slanted side pockets and plain hems. Connery wears a black shoes and a black belt with a brass buckle. With the exception of button-down cocktail cuffs, this boring outfit would fit in without notice at almost any business casual job. For a yacht, cream gabardine trousers and brown shoes would have been a more fitting choice, like we saw from the cream suit from earlier in the film.

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Does anyone recognise where the belt comes from?

The Spread Collar

Turnbull & Asser Spread

Turnbull & Asser spread collar

The standard collar amongst the English shirtmakers is the spread collar, and it’s the collar Bond wears more often than not. If it’s wider than a point collar and narrower than a cutaway it’s safe to call it a spread collar. A moderate spread flatters almost everyone and is always a safe choice. They’re great with a suit and tie, with a dinner jacket and bow tie, or open, as long as the collar isn’t too wide.

Frank Foster

Frank Foster moderate spread collar

Turnbull & Asser made a wider spread for Sean Connery, whilst Frank Foster typically made a rather moderate—but tall—spread for Roger Moore. Sulka made a smaller, moderate spread for Pierce Brosnan in GoldenEye, and Turnbull & Asser made a similar spread for Tomorrow Never Dies. For The World Is Not Enough they made a wider spread, and Brioni continued with the wide spread for Die Another Day. Daniel Craig wore Brioni shirts with a more moderate spread in Casino Royale and a similar collar from Tom Ford in Quantum of Solace.

Apart from the obvious differences of length, height and spread width, there’s the matter of tie space. It’s the quarter-inch to half-inch—or more—space between the collar leaves where the collar meets at the neck. Bond’s spread collars almost all have tie space, with the exception of the Brioni spread collars and Roger Moore’s brown stripe, double-button-collar shirt in Live and Let Die. Even with a very wide spread, a little tie space will help the knot to stay in place. Without it the knot often slips down and reveals the collar band above it because the collar leaves will push down the knot. A collar band with tie space is usually angled so the band will not show above the knot. Tie space plays just as large a roll in how large a tie knot can be worn with a collar.

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Brioni spread collar with no tie space 

Shirt Darts

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Darted Turnbull & Asser shirt in From Russia With Love

Darts on the back of a shirt are currently more popular than ever now that people like wearing their clothes tighter. When darts are used, two are typically placed at the back towards the sides. They start above the waist and may extend down to the bottom of the shirt or as far as needed. Most often shirts are shaped as much as possible with the side seams and back darts are used when needed. Traditionally darts are not used on men’s shirts, but can often be found in both the backs and fronts of women’s shirts. But it’s completely acceptable for men to have darts on the back of their shirt for a more shapely and less blousy look. Darts are rarely found on ready-to-wear shirts because the closer fit they provide is very specific to the person wearing the shirt. However, they can easily be added to the shirt if taking in the side seams is not enough.

Turnbull & Asser put darts on Sean Connery’s shirts because of his large drop rather than for a close fit. Without darts, a shirt on someone as athletic as Connery would be much too large around the waist. Connery’s shirt also shows that pleats and darts on the back can work well together.

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Darted Frank Foster shirt in Octopussy

Frank Foster used darts for George Lazenby and Roger Moore’s shirts to achieve a closer fit. Foster fits his shirts much closer than most English shirtmakers, but the clean, streamlined look is perfect for James Bond. The back is shirred under the yoke for fullness across the shoulder blades, and the darts take in the fullness at the waist. Daniel Craig’s dress shirt in Casino Royale is darted, and his Tom Ford shirts in Quantum of Solace and Skyfall are also darted.

Darted Tom Ford shirt in Quantum of Solace

Darted Tom Ford shirt in Quantum of Solace

Turnbull & Asser Shirt Patterns

Turnbull & Asser Jermyn Street

Turnbull & Asser’s main shop at 71-72 Jermyn Street

Whilst visiting Turnbull & Asser in July, employee Steven Quin brought some James Bond shirt patterns out of the archive to show me. Though they didn’t have Daniel Craig’s pattern on hand, they had two other Bond actors’ patterns.

Pierce Brosnan Shirt Pattern

Pierce Brosnan’s Pattern

Above is Pierce Brosnan’s pattern, showing the body and various collars. Though not shown in the picture, also included in Brosnan’s pattern envelope was a cocktail cuff pattern, in the same style as Connery’s cocktail cuff. They said Brosnan had a cocktail cuff shirt made for his personal wardrobe, though he didn’t wear one in any of his Bond films. Most of his shirts in the Bond films had Turnbull & Asser’s standard double cuffs

Sean Connery Shirt Pattern

Sean Connery’s Pattern

Though Turnbull & Asser no longer has Sean Connery’s pattern from the 1960s, they were able to show me his pattern from 1982, which would have been made for Never Say Never Again. Above you can see the button-down cocktail cuff pattern on the bottom right. Above the cuff are a collar band and two different collar patterns, the lower one being very similar to the Classic Turnbull & Asser collar. The upper collar was the one used mostly in the film, though the lower one may have been used as well.

And pictured below, in a corner at the bespoke shop, is a James Bond wall featuring three of the Bond ties that can still be purchased. Beneath the ties are two signed photos.

Turnbull & Asser Bond Ties