Black Tie Outerwear

Dr. No Chesterfield and Homburg

As many of you know, today is the 50th anniversary of the release of Dr. No as well as Global James Bond Day. The first outfit I wrote about when I started this blog two years ago was Bond’s first dinner suit in Dr. No (now with additional information added to the article), but I merely touched on the outerwear comprised of a navy melton Chesterfield coat and a black homburg. The Chesterfield is a rather dressy coat, appropriate with black tie, black lounge (stroller) and dressier lounge suits (dark worsteds). It tends to look out of place even over a sports coat. Chesterfield coats are typically made in dark colours like navy, charcoal and black, in a milled melton cloth or a herringbone weave. It’s a longer coat that hits below the knee, and it’s a fitted coat that is darted and shaped through the waist. The length and heavy weight make it a very warm coat. Single-breasted models, like what Sean Connery wears, have a fly front with 3 covered buttons. This coat has notch lapels, a long vent down the back, jetted hip pockets and a welted breast pocket. Connery’s coat has a black velvet collar, a formal as well as a practical element; the collar will wear out before most other parts of the coat, and replacing black velvet is easy compared to finding matching wool. However, a Chesterfield coat does not need to have a velvet collar nor does a velvet make a coat a Chesterfield.

Dr. No Homburg

The first hat of the series Bond throws on the coat tree at the office is a black homburg, a hat which occupies the same formality spectrum as the Chesterfield coat. A homburg is best worn with black tie, black lounge and dressier lounge suits. The homburg is identified by its dented crown (without a pinch) and a stiff, bound brim turned up all the way around. Bond’s hat has a thicker black grosgrain ribbon than his trilby. With black tie less worn today, formal outerwear is even less commonly worn. However, as suits and dinner suits are being made of increasingly lightweight cloths, the Chesterfield coat is even more relevant for cold weather today. Die Another Day saw a missed opportunity for another Chesterfield. Whilst everyone else was wearing some sort of overcoat, Pierce Brosnan seemed unusually comfortable in snow-covered Iceland without one.

13 thoughts on “Black Tie Outerwear

  1. Thanks for this very developped article, Matt. By the way, are the coats Connery wore in FRWL (with a peaked lapel ! rather original by the way) and Thunderball (both mid or pale grey) “cover coats” ones ? They don’t seem to be Chesterfields, but the cut is very similar, except for the length and perhaps the fitting of the coat. You called the one in Thunderball a topcoat ; I am a little lost between coats, overcoats and top coats :)

    • Coat is a very generic term, and an overcoat is another generic term within coats. An overcoat is a heavy coat to be worn over regular clothes. A topcoat is a type of overcoat, not as heavy and usually hits above the knee. But there’s still no specific definition on what it, compared to the Chesterfield or a Polo Coat. Do you mean “covert coat”? That’s made of a unique material called covert cloth, though the Thunderball overcoat is a variation on it.

    • Thanks for answering so quickly, Matt.
      Yes, that is what I meant, a covert coat. I used to think that the “classic covert coat” was less close to the body than the Chesterfield and had no sleeve buttons, but a triple (or more) pick-stitching at the end of the sleeves and of the front, a fly front and flapped pockets, often with a ticket one. Connery’s coat in Thunderball matchs the description. But is the one he carries in FRWL (when he goes to his hotel room and when he goes to the Soviet embassy) a covert coat too ? Have you any idea about it ?

      By the way, since you mentionned the polo coat, I am not shure of what it is. Is it a typical 30s-40s overcoat, often double-breasted, with wide lapels and wide “mailbox” pockets, often with a belted back ?

    • You seem to know exactly what a polo coat is. The standard polo coat is made of camel hair, or at least a similar camel-coloured cloth. I’m not sure about the FRWL herringbone coat since it’s hardly seen.

    • Dear Matt and Le Chiffre,
      The stitching on the sleeves and lower end of a covert coat consists in four lines and is called, IIRC, “railroading”. It is in my opinion a very elegant piece of clothing but in provincial France is considered quite snobbish, especially with a velvet collar.
      That does not prevent me from wearing such items as matching chesterfield-inspired coats, ie with no fly, and flapped pockets and shorter in length. Both with black velvet collars, one in black, one in a nice herrigbone grey for less formality.
      Regards,

    • @ Eric from France :
      merci pour la précision au sujet de la surpiqûre. Je crois que nous fréquentons les mêmes adresses (le “railroading” vient de Stiff Collar, je présume ? je viens de relire un article à l’instant ^^) !

  2. Interested that you say that the Homburg is without a pinch. I understood that the Homburg could come with or without a pinch – in fact I own what I understand to be a Homburg with a pinched front. Or is it that the pinched front is inappropriate with a dinner jacket?

  3. It’s to my understanding that chesterfields are actually supposed to be dart-less, loose, and extends past the knee traditionally. But what makes the coat is the melton fabric, rather than the construction. Still, the velvet collar is most attached to the chesterfield and with good reason as shown here in Connery’s ensemble.

    • Some Chesterfields have darts and some do not, though they range from slightly fitted to very fitted as I’ve seen from examples in person, book definitions and tailors’ patterns. They are never loose coats like a balmacaan. They are loose in comparison to the frock overcoats that came before. You can see the shaped waist in Connery’s coat even with it unbuttoned. And Connery’s Chesterfield does indeed have a front dart. The more shape an overcoat has the more formal it is. Melton is one of the most common cloths for overcoats and you could have a melton balmacaan that would be quite far from a Chesterfield. I hope this explains it better.

    • You’re too kind! I hardly knew anything until about 7 years ago. But my father taught me one solid piece of advice: Never wear a black suit, it’s only for tuxedos. And Bond doesn’t even wear black dinner suits half the time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


1 + seven =

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>