Horn Buttons

Horn buttons on Sean Connery's hacking jacket in Goldfinger

Horn buttons on Sean Connery’s hacking jacket in Goldfinger

Real horn buttons are often a mark of a quality suit. They’re currently the standard at most Savile Row tailors and can be found on many of James Bond’s suits over the years. There are quality alternatives to horn buttons, such as corozo nut buttons—often preferred by the Italians—and mother of pearl buttons. Some of the best suits may have inferior alternatives for buttons, thus buttons have no bearing on the overall make of a suit. Quality buttons like horn have the power to improve the look of any well-fitting suit. Horn buttons typically come from ox or buffalo horn, and the buttons are cut out of the hollow part of the horn, whilst toggles—like on a duffle coat—are made from the solid tip.

Goldfinger Charcoal FlannelAnthony Sinclair presumably found horn buttons to be too countrified for most city suits and ordinarily used plastic buttons on his worsteds. But on some of his more rustic suits, like Sean Connery’s three-piece grey flannel suits in Goldfinger and Thunderball, he used grey horn buttons. Sinclair used light brown horn buttons on the hacking jacket in Goldfinger that match both the jacket’s rustic look and its colour. As standard practices amongst tailors changed, Sinclair put horn buttons on most of Sean Connery’s suits in Diamonds Are Forever. The buttons in that film usually match the colours of the suits as close as possible, and the buttons are polished horn for a less rustic appearance.

Lazenby-Tweed-Jacket-Horn-ButtonsGeorge Lazenby’s suits in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service all have horn buttons. The navy suits have black horn, the cream linen suit has beige horn, the glen check suit has dark grey horn, and the tweed three-piece suit and the houndstooth sports coat have medium brown horn. The black lounge coat Lazenby wears in the wedding scene has black horn buttons whilst the light grey waistcoat has dark grey buttons. Suit buttons ordinarily match the colour of the suit as closely as possibly, or at least aim to have little contrast. More contrast in buttons results in a less dressy look.

Like Sean Connery’s suits, most of the Cyril Castle suits that Roger Moore wears in Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun have plastic buttons. His beige sports coat in Live and Let Die, however, has matching beige horn buttons. The Angelo Roma suits in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker mostly have non-horn buttons, but the brown tweed suit in Moonraker has medium brown horn buttons, which are a natural fit for the country suit.

Horn buttons on the dinner jacket in For Your Eyes Only

Horn buttons on the dinner jacket in For Your Eyes Only

Douglas Hayward, who made Roger Moore’s suits for For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy and A View to a Kill, uses dark brown or black horn buttons on navy and charcoal suits, beige horn buttons on his tan and light brown suits, and black horn buttons on the morning suit in A View to a Kill. The brown tweed sports coats have medium brown horn buttons. Hayward does not use horn buttons on his medium grey suits and sports coats.

Surprisingly, Hayward even puts horn buttons on his dinner jackets. The black dinner jackets in For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy and the midnight blue dinner jacket in A View to a Kill have black horn buttons. Horn buttons are paradoxically more refined and more rustic than the black plastic buttons that English tailors often used to use on dinner suits as a simpler alternative to covered buttons. Plastic button today on any item of clothing are seen as undesirable in favour of natural materials, but if horn buttons are to be worn on a dinner jacket they should ideally be the polished type. The dull horn buttons that Hayward chose for his dinner jackets, as beautiful as they are, look out of place. Hayward also uses beige horn buttons on the white linen dinner jacket in A View to a Kill, which could allow it to double as a sports coat. But again, the horn buttons are too rustic for even a white dinner jacket.

Tom-Ford-Horn-ButtonsTom Ford often mimics English styles in his suits, and the English practice of using horn buttons is present on his suits. Consequently, Daniel Craig’s Tom Ford suits in Quantum of Solace and Skyfall have mostly dark brown or black horn buttons. The grey pick-and-pick suit in Skyfall is the exception with grey horn-effect plastic buttons. There will be more to come on other types of button later.

The Avengers: Steed’s Signature Suit

Steed-Brown-Suit-Velvet-Collar

With the first day of September here, it’s time in the Northern Hemisphere to look toward autumn clothes. John Steed of The Avengers, played by Patrick Macnee, wears mostly autumn appropriate clothes with some of the most interesting details. Previously I’ve written about his navy high button two suit and his grey three-piece suit with covered buttons, but now I’m finally getting around to writing about one of his signature suits. This signature suit jacket style has a button one front, no breast pocket and a velvet collar that usually matches the colour of the suit. The jackets have different pocket and vent styles. Macnee said of his signature suits:

I like the idea of velvet for the collars, it helps mould and complement the suits. There are no breast pockets and only one button to give the best moulding to the chest. Plus a deliberately low waist, to give the effect of simplicity, but with an individual style.

According to the book Reading between Designs by Piers D. Britton and Simon J. Barker, Macnee designed his own suits with the help of tailor Bailey and Weatherill of Regent Street. Steed’s signature style made its way in various forms throughout all the seasons of The Avengers and The New Avengers.

Notice the mother-of-pearl buttons on the waistcoat

Notice the mother-of-pearl buttons on the waistcoat

The pale brown flannel suit featured in this article—he also wears his signature suit in other shades of brown, grey, blue, olive and burgundy—is taken from the 1967 episode “The £50,000 Breakfast” and has a button one front, a velvet collar and no breast pocket. Single-button cuffs, double vents placed further to the sides than usual, and slanted, jetted hip pockets contribute to the ultra-sleek look of the suit. The jacket is cut with straight shoulders on the natural shoulder line, a clean chest, closely-fitted waist and flared skirt. The low waist that Macnee mentioned in the quote above is particularly flattering to his not-so-slim figure. The suit’s waistcoat has six buttons and a straight-across bottom. The trousers have a trim, tapered leg and probably a flat front. The buttons on the suit are black mother of pearl.

Steed-Brown-Suit-Velvet-Collar-4Steed wears a cream herringbone silk shirt with a wide spread collar—it’s not quite a cutaway collar—that has a copious amount of tie space. Such a wide collar is not flattering to Macnee’s very round face, and a more moderate spread would be ideal for him. However, the wide collar and large amount of tie space provide plenty of room for the windsor knot he uses to tie his steel blue repp tie. A simple tie is necessary because there is so much going on in the suit’s details. Steed’s umbrella has a pale brown canopy that matches his suit and a whangee wood handle. His sandy beige bowler hat has a dark brown ribbon. Steed’s shoes are light grey suede slip-ons with cap-toe and monk strap, but the vamp is low like on a slip-on shoe rather than high like on a monk shoe. The shoes are actually very similar to George Lazenby’s shoes in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Steed’s light grey socks match his shoes.

Few people could get away with dressing like John Steed, and even Steed looks somewhat ridiculous. But his clothes show creativity in a way that doesn’t look garish or sacrifice good tailoring, and they serve as an excellent inspiration for those looking to have a little extra fun when bespeaking a suit.

Marnie: A Glen Check Suit Appropriate For Bond

Marnie-Glen-Check-2

In honour of Sean Connery’s 84th birthday earlier this week, let’s look at a glen check suit he wears in Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie that’s quite befitting for James Bond. The lightweight black and white glen check cloth is in a hopsack weave, and it’s very similar to the cloth of the glen check suit that Connery wears in Goldfinger. However, the two-and-two—or puppytooth—section of the glen check has a smaller repeat. The cloth is approximated in the diagram below.

Marnie-Glen-Check

The button three suit jacket has narrow lapels that roll through the top button but not down to the middle button. The jacket is cut with a full chest, natural shoulders and roped sleeveheads, and it has no vent, three buttons on the cuffs and pockets with very narrow flaps. The buttons are grey horn, as opposed to the grey plastic buttons that are on Sean Connery’s worsted Anthony Sinclair suits for Bond. Not much of the trousers can be seen, but they most likely follow the other suit trousers in the film and have double forward pleats, turn-ups and button-tab side-adjusters.

Marnie-Glen-Check-1

The white shirt—it looks cream, but I suspect that’s due to the way the film is treated because all of the colours have been warmed—has a spread collar, rounded single-button cuffs and a placket stitched close to the centre like on Frank Foster’s shirts. The narrow black repp tie—which isn’t as interesting as the textured dark grenadine ties Sean Connery often wears as Bond—anchors the overall light-coloured outfit by giving the outfit the necessary contrast to flatter Connery’s cool, high-contrast complexion. Because the tie is so narrow, it’s difficult to tell if the symmetrical knot he is using a Windsor or Half Windsor knot. Connery secures his tie with a tie bar that is mostly obscured by his jacket, slightly angled downward and placed about an inch below the jacket’s top button.

Marnie-Glen-Check-3

Auric Goldfinger: The Brown and Gold Silk Dinner Jacket

Goldfinger-Silk-Dinner-Jacket

Goldfinger may just as well have said in this scene, “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to dye my dinner jacket a shade of gold.” All of Goldfinger’s clothes are gold in colour, or close to it in yellow or brown. Even though Goldfinger is one of the most garishly-dressed villains, there are still a few things to admire about his clothes. He certainly knows what he likes, and that’s something to admire. And as one could expect from a man with a fortune in gold, he wears very expensive clothes. His button one, shawl-collar, brown silk dinner jacket is certainly very expensive, but even though it was made for him it doesn’t fit all that well. That may be because silk—especially lightweight shantung silk—doesn’t have much give and doesn’t tailor as easily as wool does. The flaws in the fit are quite noticeable; there are ripples in the upper chest and pulls at the waist, and the collar sometimes stands away from the neck on the right side. The dinner jacket is cut with a clean chest, and the shoulders have a little padding that attempts to straighten Goldfinger’s very large, round shoulders. The jacket has no vent, three buttons on the cuffs and jetted pockets, all following the classic dinner jacket style.

Goldfinger-Silk-Dinner-Jacket-3A brown dinner jacket lacks the elegance of a black or ivory dinner jacket, but on the other hand it flatters Goldfinger’s warm autumn complexion more that the more traditional colours would. The gold shantung silk lapels bring Goldfinger’s favourite colour into the dinner jacket, and gold metal—or likely brass considering it’s only a film costume—buttons add another level of gaudiness to the jacket. Metal buttons would ordinarily make any jacket look like a blazer, but Goldfinger’s dinner jacket still looks like a dinner jacket since the gold buttons somewhat match the colour of the lapels.

Goldfinger-Silk-Dinner-Jacket-2Under the dinner jacket, Goldfinger wears classic black trousers. They probably have a silk stripe down the side of each leg, but the scene is dark and the trousers aren’t seen much so it’s difficult to tell. Goldfinger’s white-on-white stripe dress shirt has a rounded point collar—it’s not as rounded as a club collar—and double cuffs. The front is pleated, the placket is stitched close to the centre and the buttons—not studs—are shanked gold metal. Goldfinger follows black tie convention and wears a black batwing bow tie. He wears a folded white linen handkerchief in his breast pocket. His shoes are black.

Q’s Bush Shirt and Bermuda Shorts

Q-Bush-Outfit-1

Q, on the left, in a bush shirt and bermuda shorts.

When Q visits Japan in You Only Live Twice, he wears the classic British military warm-weather outfit of a bush shirt tucked into Bermuda shorts. Q’s military-issued, khaki cotton bush shirt has a two-piece point collar, front placket, shoulder straps and two breast pockets, each with a box pleat and button flap. The shirt’s buttons are light brown horn. Q wears the collar button and first two buttons open. He also wears the shirt’s long sleeves rolled up above the elbow.

Q-Bush-Outfit-2Q’s linen bermuda shorts are british tan—darker than the khaki shirt—and have single forward pleats and slanted side pockets. The shorts’ waistband is wide and has an extended button closure and slide-buckle side tabs. In the rear, there are two darts on either side in the rear and no pockets. The hem is knee-length, though more traditionally for Bermuda shorts it’s an inch or two above the knee. Though Bermuda shorts can be tailor-made, Q’s certainly are not. They are too large in the seat and bunch up, and the legs are a little baggier than they should be. Bermuda shorts are cut like dress trousers, and in Bermuda they are treated as such when made of dressy materials. With this outfit, Q wears the requisite light brown suede, 2-eyelet, crepe-soled desert boots with tan over-the-calf socks.

Q-AssistantsQ’s two assistants who set up Little Nellie wear similar clothes to Q’s clothes, all surely provided by the military. They both wear bush shirts; one wears a khaki shirt with the sleeves rolled up and the other wears a british tan shirt with the sleeves down and cuffs buttoned. His shirt’s cuffs are rounded with a single button. Both assistants wear khaki cotton Bermuda shorts, light brown desert boots and long light brown socks, all in the same style as what Q wears.

Kerim Bey: Light Grey Suit

Kerim-Bey

Kerim Bey, played by Pedro Armendáriz in From Russia with Love, is not only one of the most charismatic characters of the James Bond series, but he is also one of the best-dressed. In a number of scenes he wears a light grey pick-and-pick wool suit, made of different shades of grey for more depth in the cloth than a solid light grey would have.

Kerim-Bey-2The suit jacket has straight shoulders, a clean chest and three buttons down the front. The buttons are spaced closer together than on a contemporary button three jacket, and the middle button is placed at the waist level. This jacket could look good either with the top two buttons fastened—the way Bey wears the jacket—or with only the middle button fastened. The lapels have a nice roll above the top button, but that roll would continue further down if only the middle button were fastened. The jacket has moderately narrow lapels, and a long collar makes the lapel notches smaller than usual for a more fashionable 1960s look. The jacket also has three buttons on the cuffs, jetted pockets and no vent. The suit trousers have a tapered leg with turn-ups, and, most likely, reverse pleats.

Kerim-Bey-3Bey wears a cream shirt with a spread collar, placket and double cuffs, and he shows a folded white linen handkerchief in his jacket’s breast pocket. He wears two ties with this suit. His first tie is charcoal grey satin with a pairing of a white stripe and a slightly wider black stripe going down from the Bey’s right shoulder to his left hip, opposite the traditional English direction. Bey wears this tie when he first meets Bond and on the Orient Express. The second tie’s stripes go the other direction, up from Bey’s right hip to his left shoulder. This tie has a silver satin ground with a thin black stripe, a wide dark grey stripe beneath it with a space in between, another thin black stripe with a wide dark grey stripe touching it beneath it, and a thin brown stripe spaced below. Bey wears the second tie when he discusses with Bond the plans to steel the Lektor. Bey’s shoes are black.

Peter Lorre’s Le Chiffre

Le-Chiffre-Dinner-Jacket

In the 1954 “Casino Royale” television play on CBS’s Climax!, the legendary Peter Lorre became the first actor to play Le Chiffre. Lorre wears a warm-weather dinner jacket like the dinner jacket Barry Nelson wears as Bond, but Lorre’s double-breasted dinner jacket is slightly lighter than Nelson’s buff (pale yellow-brown) or burma (pale red-brown) dinner jacket. Lorre’s dinner jacket is probably light buff, with lapel facings in a similarly-coloured satin silk. Anything but a self facing on a warm-weather dinner jacket’s lapels is not traditional, and it may have been trendy in the 1950s. The satin lapels add an unnecessary flashiness to the dinner jacket, but the flashiness is appropriate for a Bond villain.

Le-Chiffre-Dinner-Jacket-HomburgLorre’s dinner jacket has four buttons with one to button, and the two rows of buttons are evenly spaced about and below the waist. The jacket has natural shoulders with roped sleeveheads, and the jacket’s chest is clean but cut with a little fullness. This contrasts with the large shoulders, oversized fit and low button stance of Barry Nelson’s dinner jacket, which now looks very outdated. The natural shoulders and clean fit keep the corpulent Peter Lorre from looking any larger than he needs to, whilst the classic proportions and higher button stance keep the 5’3″ Lorre from looking any shorter than he needs to. He may be very short, and nothing can hide that, but he still looks as menacing as always.

The jacket also has three buttons on the cuffs, jetted pockets and no vent. The type of buttons on the jacket is difficult to determine, but they are dark and very shiny like black mother of pearl. Lorre wears traditional black trousers—which probably have a black stripe down each leg and are supported by braces—with the dinner jacket. The white dress shirt has a point collar, double cuffs and a wide placket. The black bow tie is in a thistle shape. Briefly, Lorre carries a black homburg hat with him, and you can see it on the table in the photo above.

Notice the different dinner jacket

Notice the different dinner jacket

In Lorre’s final scene, he wears a different, but very similar, dinner jacket. Either the original dinner jacket was damaged, or this dinner jacket is an accidental continuity error. This jacket doesn’t flatter Lorre nearly as well as the original dinner jacket does, which is because the new dinner jacket has larger shoulders and a lower button stance like Barry Nelson’s dinner jacket has. The lapels are darker and narrower, and the lapel peaks point more upwards than outwards like the original jacket’s lapels do. The buttons are white or cream. The top of the trousers shows at the bottom of the dinner jacket’s opening.

Robbie Coltrane as Valentin Zukovsky wears a very similar dinner jacket in The World Is Not Enough.

René Mathis: Draping Knitwear

Mathis-Villa

Along with Jeffrey Wright’s Felix Leiter, Giancarlo Giannini’s René Mathis is one of Daniel Craig’s Bond’s best-dressed allies. When Bond visits Mathis at his new Tuscany Villa in Quantum of Solace, Mathis is stylishly dressed in an open-collar button-down shirt with a jumper tied around his neck. The pale blue button-down shirt is most likely made of a linen and cotton blend, since it’s lightweight and slightly rumpled. The button-down collar has an stylish roll for a casual look, and the inside of the collar band contrasts in ecru. The shirt has a placket, button cuffs and a mitre-cut breast pocket. The mitre-cut breast pocket is a rectangle, open at the top, with the bottom corners angled off.

Mathis-Villa-2Mathis wears a light blue-grey cashmere jumper like a scarf around his neck with the arms tied in front and the body draped over his back. It may be worn for a little warmth, but it’s probably worn primarily for style. He may have tied the jumper around his neck so he can conveniently don it if the weather becomes too cold, but since he’s at home he could just as easily leave it anywhere he wants to. Mathis wears flat-front navy linen trousers with a light brown suede belt and light brown leather slip-on shoes. The belt and shoes nicely complement the navy trousers, and the contrast is stylish for a casual outfit. This type of contrast, however, would not be appropriate for a suit. Mathis’ metal sunglasses are the Ray Ban Caravan model.

There’s more of Mathis’ clothing to come later.