Since From Russia with Love, striped suits have been a staple of James Bond’s wardrobe. There are many different kinds of stripes for suits, including pinstripes, chalk stripes and variations on those stripes, such as bead stripes, rope stripes, track stripes, multi-stripes, shadow stripes, self stripes and more. There are not universally accepted definitions for all of these different stripes, but suiting stripes are defined purely on the appearance of the stripe and not how far they are spaced apart. James Bond has worn all of these different types of stripes, with the chalk stripes being the most common.
A pinstripe is a stripe that is very fine but usually well-defined. Alan Flusser writes in Dressing the Man that pinstripes are “fine stripes the width of a pin scratch resulting from the use of white, gray, or other yarns in a series in the warp of a worsted fabric.” Hardy Amies writes in ABC of Men’s Fashion that pinstripes “are really a series of dots”. These two definitions aren’t exactly the same, but they aren’t at odds with each other either.
Pinstripes are often woven into the cloth separately from the background weave on a Dobby loom rather than as simply part of the background weave. In those cases the pinstripe isn’t one or two of every twenty to forty or so yarns in the weave, but it’s added to the cloth in on top of the base colour. This helps makes the pinstripe more defined and keeps it from blurring into the cloth. These kinds of pinstripes are often made of silk or mercerised cotton instead of wool so they stand out even more. A variation on the pinstripe is the bead stripe, also called a beaded pinstripe or a rain pinstripe, which looks like a line of tiny beads spaced apart. These can be either one or two yarns wide. On some pinstripes, two yarns of beads alternate above and below to create a more continuous pinstripe. This kind of stripe is what tailor Richard Anderson calls a “true” pinstripe in his book Bespoke: Savile Row Ripped and Smoothed.
A single-yarn pinstripe woven as part of the warp in a twill weave can also have a bead effect since the twill wales break the stripe. These single-yarn pinstripes that are part of the background weave don’t stand out as much as the kind described above and often can’t be seen clearly from a distance. When woven into the cloth, a stripe that is two yarns wide can look either like a pinstripe or a chalk stripe depending on the weave and type of cloth. In these cases the stripe could fairly be called either a pinstripe or a chalk stripe.
The track stripe is a variation where the pinstripes come in groupings of two or three, with the stripes in each grouping spaced one or two yarn’s width apart.
A chalk stripe is woven two to five yarns wide and resembles the lines of a tailor’s chalk, hence the name. Chalk stripes are woven as part of the warp of the weave, which makes the stripes less defined than typical pinstripes. Amies describes the difference, “‘pin’ stripes … look very ‘set’ when compared to ‘chalk’ stripes, the outlines of which are blurred and thus blend with the background.”
Chalkstripes, especially in wider spacings, are less formal than pinstripes. Chalk stripes are woven as two to four yarns of every forty or so yarns. A true chalk stripe is a stripe on a flannel cloth, which gives it a blurry appearance that resembles chalk. Wider stripes on worsted suitings can also be called chalk stripes. On a plain weave a chalk stripe has a pebbled effect and may be called a pearl chalk stripe. On a twill weave the diagonal wales make diagonal breaks in the stripe. This kind of chalk stripe mimics the look of twisted rope, and consequently this stripe is called a rope stripe or a cable stripe.
Worsted suits with stripes are best worn in a business setting, especially in the darkest of charcoal and navy worsteds. Riccardo Villarosa and Giuliano Angeli write in The Elegant Man, “It seems as if the design on the fabric of a pinstriped suit was inspired by the lines in accounting books. In reality, continuous or dotted lines be traced to the lines of the trousers worn with a morning coat, which was very popular in London during the first half of the century.” Pinstripes, however, do resemble the lines in ledger books more than they resemble the much bolder stripes of trousers worn with a morning coat, and thus they look most appropriate in a business setting. Flannel chalk stripes, on the other hand, can work well in social settings, especially when in lighter shades of charcoal and navy. Pinstripes and chalk stripe cloths are best made up as suits and not as odd jackets or trousers. Pinstripes and chalk stripes look too serious enough to wear outside of a suit, and they look best when they can continue from the shoulders down to feet.
James Bond’s Striped Suits
James Bond’s first striped suit is in From Russia with Love, and it is navy flannel with wide-spaced grey chalk stripes (pictured above under the “Chalk Stripes” header). The grey stripes don’t stand out as much as white chalk stripes would, but it is overall a very classic chalk stripe suit. This suit works well in Venice in a non-office setting because the flannel cloth and wider stripe spacing make this suit less formal than the typical striped suit.
Bond’s second striped suit is a brown shadow stripe suit worn in the Fort Knox scene in Goldfinger. Shadow stripes are created in two ways, either by a variation in the weave—woven on a dobby loom—in the same colour as the background of the suit or by using darker yarns. When the stripe is the same colour as the background of the suit it can also be called a self stripe. Shadow stripes can be any thickness, from one yarn to many more than a chalkstripe. Bond’s suit in Goldfinger has a stripe most likely two yarns wide.
In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, James Bond starts a long tradition of wearing striped suits in London along with a tradition of three-piece suits. The suit in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is navy flannel with white chalk stripes in a narrower spacing than on the suit in From Russia with Love. The narrower spacing gives the traditional chalkstripe a more modern and slightly more formal look. Narrower spacing between stripes became more popular in the 1960s, and Roger Moore wore suits with stripes spaced much closer than this throughout The Saint.
In Diamonds Are Forever, Bond visits Blofeld’s oil rig dressed for business in a navy suit with blue chalk stripes. Chalk stripes on worsted suitings are fairly bold when in white, but since these stripes are medium blue they don’t have so much contrast with the suit’s background. Blue stripes are an effective way to wear stripes without the fear of making too bold of a statement in stripes. However, in some settings blue stripes may be seen as too fashionable compared to the bolder, yet more traditional, white stripes.
In The Man with the Golden Gun, Roger Moore continues the tradition started in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service of wearing stripes in London. Moore’s suit is a double-breasted medium grey flannel with white chalk stripes. Medium and lighter greys are not as popular in London as dark greys are, and consequently this suit has a less business-like appearance. This suit could just as easily be worn for a daytime social occasion, but the colour is too light to wear in the evening. Later in The Man with the Golden Gun, Bond wears an olive multi-stripe double-breasted suit out at night in Hong Kong. A multi-stripe pattern has a series of stripes in different weights or colours. The olive suit in The Man with the Golden Gun has both different weights and different colours, with a series of very closely-spaced tan pinstripes between wider-spaced red chalk stripes. Multi-stripes are the least serious of all suit stripes and function better for social occasions than for business.
The next time Bond visits the office is in Moonraker, and once again he wears a striped suit. This time it’s a navy pinstripe suit, and the pinstripes are spaced so close together that they dull and lighten the navy from a distance and thus make the suit look blue-grey. The suit has about six pinstripes per inch.
Bond returns to more traditional styles of clothing in For Your Eyes Only, and in his visit to the office he once again wears a striped three-piece suit. And just as Sean Connery and George Lazenby wore before, Roger Moore wears a navy chalk stripe suit. This suit is worsted flannel, so the stripe is more defined than it is on Connery’s and Lazenby’s fuzzier woollen flannel suits. Moore continues wearing a striped three-piece suit to office in Octopussy, but this time it’s a worsted dark grey twill rope stripe, a more defined variant of the chalk stripe. A View to a Kill is Roger Moore’s only Bond film in which he does not wear a striped suit to the office.
TImothy Dalton’s Bond continues the tradition of wearing a striped three-piece suit to the office in The Living Daylights with a navy suit with narrow-spaced grey chalk stripes. Though the grey stripes are thick and spaced close together, being grey prevents them from looking overbearing. After The Living Daylights Bond does not wear a striped suit again for twelve years. The next striped suit comes in The World Is Not Enough, when Bond wears a dark charcoal three-piece suit with subtle grey pinstripes to the office (pictured above under the “Pinstirpes” header). The grey stripes on this suit are of the “bead stripe” variety.
Every Bond film that follows The World Is Not Enough has Bond wearing a striped suit. Die Another Day sees Bond wearing a suit in dark grey with light grey pinstripes. Bond even wears two navy pinstripe suits in Casino Royale: a suit on the train with narrow-spaced, hardly seen grey pinstripes and a three-piece suit with slightly wider-spaced light grey double track stripes in Italy. This is the first film since Sean Connery’s Bond films that Bond wears striped suits outside of London, but he wears them to show he is in a business mindset. In Quantum of Solace, Bond wears a navy suit with blue pinstripes. These stripes are three yarns wide, with the three yarns creating horizontally arranged series of dots. I consider the stripes on this suit pinstripes rather than chalk stripes because the yarns are very fine and make up narrow stripes of pin dots. These stripes are spaced a half-inch apart.
Bond’s latest striped suit in a fancy charcoal rope stripe suit in Skyfall. The charcoal suiting is in a twill weave, as is necessary for a rope stripe, except on either side of each grey rope stripe there is a plain-woven section framing the stripe, hence the “fancy” part. With the exception of Skyfall, Bond’s striped suits in recent years have tended more towards pinstripes than chalk stripes.