The Man from U.N.C.L.E.: Dinner Suit and Backless Waistcoat

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Napoleon Solo, Ian Fleming’s creation for the American television series The Man from U.N.C.L.E played by Robert Vaughan, wears black tie just as well as James Bond does. Solo’s black tie style is not as pared-down as Bond’s is, and his clothes incorporate a little more 1960s fashions than Bond’s do. In the 1965 episode “The Virtue Affair”, Solo wears a midnight blue dinner suit with midnight blue satin silk trimmings and a double-breasted backless waistcoat.

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The dinner jacket is a button one with gently-rolled, narrow midnight-blue satin silk peaked lapels. The jetted pockets and single-button gauntlet cuffs are also trimmed in midnight blue satin silk. Silk-trimmed pocket jettings are not as traditional as body-trimmed jettings, which is the way James Bond’s dinner jackets typically are. Napoleon Solo’s dinner jacket has no vent. The shoulders are straight and narrow with a little padding, the chest is clean and the waist is gently shaped, though the jacket probably follows the American tradition and does not have front darts. The flat front trousers have a midnight blue satin stripe down the side of the leg and braces buttons on the outside of the waistband, which are not used.

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Solo’s backless waistcoat is made of midnight blue silk. The waistcoat’s shawl lapels are made in satin silk to match the jacket’s lapels but the waistcoat’s body is made in a fancier watered silk. Backless waistcoats are wear cooler than full-back waistcoats, so they’re often used as a warm-weather alternative to the cummerbund. Still, they can also be worn year-round. With the dinner jacket on—and it should always stay on when in the company of others—the backless waistcoat looks just the same as regular waistcoat. It looks rather unattractive when the jacket is off, as Solo demonstrates in his jail cell. It has an adjustable strap across the back of the waist like on a cummerbund, and it has an adjustable strap that curves around the back of the neck. This allows the off-the-peg waistcoat to fit a large variety of figures. Whilst Solo’s waistcoat appears to be ready-to-wear, bespoke tailors can make backless waistcoats as well. Solo’s waistcoat is double-breasted and has six buttons with three to button in a keystone arrangement. The waistcoat is in the low-cut evening style so the buttons have little vertical space between them.

With the dinner suit Solo wears an ivory dress shirt. It has a spread collar and double cuffs fastened with large round silver cuff links. The front has small pleats, which are also known as “swiss” pleats or “pin tucks”. The front placket has interesting scalloped edges and is fastened with three black studs. The back of the shirt has shoulder pleats. The bow tie is black and does not match the rest of the silk trimmings in the outfit, but it is not a significant faux pas considering it can be difficult to find proper midnight blue bow ties. Solo’s shoes are black patent leather plain-toe slip-ons.

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For more on Napoleon Solo, see the post I did on his black and white glen check suit.

How to Wear Black Tie Like James Bond

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James Bond inspires more men to wear black tie—a.k.a. a tuxedo—than any other person, real or fictional. Whether you call it a dinner suit, dinner jacket, evening suit, tuxedo or tux (but please don’t!), 007 sets the ultimate example for how to follow the black tie dress code. Bond usually follows traditional protocol for the black tie dress code, but there is a certain way to follow the protocol if you want to wear black tie like Bond. What follows is a summary of Bond’s usual black tie styles. It doesn’t cover all black tie outfits Bond has worn, but it’s a general guide to how Bond wears black tie. There are a few exceptions to what is written here, but those exceptions are not part of the essential James Bond black tie look.

Dr. No Dinner Suit

Sean Connery wears a midnight blue shawl-collar dinner suit in Dr. No

The Cloth

Bond’s favourite colour for his dinner suit is midnight blue, but he often wears black dinner suits as well. Until recently, midnight blue was rarely found off the rack and signified that one bought his dinner suit from a bespoke English tailor or a high-end Italian maker. The dinner suit (or tuxedo) is a suit, meaning that both the jacket and the trousers match, whether the suit is black or midnight blue. Bond ordinary follows tradition and wears his dinner suits in a pebble-like barathea-weave wool, but sometimes he wears them in a wool and mohair blend that has a slight sheen. The image at the top of this article is of a mohair-blend midnight blue dinner suit that Sean Connery wears in Thunderball.

The silk trimmings—the lapel facings, trouser stripes and button coverings—on Bond’s midnight blue dinner suits are sometimes matching midnight blue and sometimes contrasting in black. On his black dinner suits they, of course, match in black. They are usually in satin silk, but sometimes in grosgrain silk.

Daniel Craig wears a peaked lapel dinner jacket in Casino Royale

Daniel Craig wears a peaked lapel dinner jacket in Casino Royale

The Dinner Jacket

There are dinner jackets and dinner jackets; this is the latter. And I need you looking like a man who belongs at that table.

Vesper Lynd’s advice to James Bond in Casino Royale is sound for any man wearing black tie in any occasion. Bond’s dinner jackets are almost always single-breasted, and they follow tradition with only one button on the front. The jackets may have peaked lapels, notched lapels or a shawl collar. Since notched lapels are less dressy than peaked lapels or the shawl collar, Bond mostly wears notched lapels for private dinners, like for his dinner with M in Goldfinger or his dinner with Kamal Khan in Octopussy. Because black tie these days is more often worn for grander occasions, Bond prefers peaked lapels and shawl collars.

Roger Moore wears a midnight blue double-breasted dinner suit in The Spy Who Loved Me

Roger Moore wears a midnight blue double-breasted dinner suit in The Spy Who Loved Me

Bond wears double-breasted dinner jackets a number of times in the 1970s and 1980s. They usually have six buttons with two to fasten in the most traditional style for double-breasted suit jackets, but in A View to a Kill his double-breasted dinner jacket has four buttons with one to button. The simpler double-breasted style is thought by some to be more appropriate for a dinner jacket, but either style is acceptable.

Bond’s dinner jackets usually have double vents, but they sometime have no vent, which is the most traditional style for a dinner jacket. Double vents, especially when 8 to 10 inches long, are appropriate on a dinner jacket and keep the back draping neatly and elegantly. In Skyfall, Bond makes a mistake by having a sporty single vent on his dinner jacket, which is an error typically found only with American makers.

The hip pockets on Bond’s dinner jackets are straight and jetted without flaps for the cleanest look, and the jettings are done in the same cloth as the jacket’s body, not the silk trimming. The jacket cuffs have three or four buttons. On occasion they have gauntlet—or turnback—cuffs in the silk trimming, like in Dr. No, From Russia with Love and Quantum of Solace. The dinner jacket’s buttons are either covered in the same silk as the lapels or made of horn.

The Trousers

Bond’s dinner suit trousers follow black tie tradition and have a silk stripe down the side. The stripe matches the silk facings on the jacket’s lapels. The front style of Bond’s trousers has varied considerably, from double forward pleats and double reverse pleats to darted fronts and plain fronts. The trouser bottoms are always finished without turn-ups. The trousers are either held up with white silk braces or with side-adjusters on the trousers. The dinner suit trousers are never worn with a belt.

The Waist Covering

Though low-cut waistcoats and cummerbunds are traditional, Bond more often than not breaks black tie protocol and goes without any waist covering. Pierce Brosnan wears low-cut waistcoats in his first two Bond films, and on occasion, like in the most recent two Bond films, Bond wears cummerbunds. In For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy Bond wears trousers with a wide silk waistband that buttons at the side to give the illusion that he is wearing a cummerbund, even though he is not. Though the waistcoat is not a very Bondian part of black tie, the cummerbund is the best way to go if you want to dress like Bond and also wear proper black tie. Though going without any waist covering isn’t ideal, it’s not the biggest sin provided the trousers have a rise long enough so that the white shirt does not show beneath the jacket’s button.

Goldfinger-Dress-Shirt

Sean Connery wears a pleated and striped dress shirt in Goldfinger

The Dress Shirt

The most important part of the shirt is the collar, and Bond always wears a turn-down collar—usually a spread collar—with black tie and never a wing collar. Bond wears three different styles of shirt with black tie: the pleated shirt, the marcella shirt and the textured shirt. The pleated shirt has a bib on the front of half-inch pleats, and it has either mother-of-pearl buttons down the front placket or sometimes a fly placket that covers the buttons. The pleated shirt doesn’t take studs since it’s a soft and relaxed alternative to the dressier marcella shirt. The pleated shirt may have double (French) cuffs or cocktail cuffs.

Pierce Brosnan wears a marcella dress shirt with studs in Tomorrow Never Dies

Pierce Brosnan wears a marcella dress shirt with mother-of-pearl studs in Tomorrow Never Dies

The marcella shirt has a marcella—or piqué—bib on the front, and the front has no raised placket and is fastened with studs due to the stiffer front. Bond’s studs are white mother-of-pearl, not black onyx. The marcella shirt also has not only a marcella bib but also the collar and cuffs—always double cuff—in marcella cotton. Marcella is too stiff for the body and sleeves. The marcella shirt is the dressiest of all black tie shirts.

The textured shirt is made with the same weave all over with no bib in front. The texture may be a white-on-white waffle weave, like in Casino Royale, a white-on-white self stripe, like in Thunderball or an open voile weave for hot weather, like in The Spy Who Loved Me and Octopussy. The shirt may either have a fly placket that covers the buttons or regular mother-of-pearl buttons down the front. Like the pleated shirt, the textured shirt isn’t dressy enough to take studs. It may have double (French) cuffs or cocktail cuffs.

Sometimes Bond combines the textured shirt with the pleated style, like in the pleated self-stripe shirts in Goldfinger and For Your Eyes Only. Bond’s dress shirts are almost always white, and they alway should be white. Roger Moore occasionally wears cream dress shirts, like in The Man with the Golden Gun and Octopussy, but these should be avoided since the elegance of black tie comes from the contrast between the black and white elements.

Daniel Craig wears a diamond bow tie in Quantum of Solace

Daniel Craig wears a diamond-point bow tie in Quantum of Solace

The Bow Tie

Bond’s bow tie is always black and matches the texture of lapel facings, whether the facings are satin or grosgrain. Bond has occasionally made the mistake of not wearing a matching bow tie, and this is not recommended. Sometimes the bow tie is a thistle shape and other times it’s a batwing shape. It usually has straight ends, but sometimes Bond wears a diamond-point bow tie. All of these shapes are valid for the Bond look. The only thing that is a must is a self-tie bow tie. If you can tie your shoes correctly (not a granny knot) you can tie a bow tie. They use the same bow! Bond never wears a pre-tied bow tie or long four-in-hand tie with his dinner suits.

Plain Toe Shoes

Black plain toe shoes are the only choice. Bond’s shoes are usually patent leather, but recently they haven’t been. Bond mostly wears plain toe oxfords—per the British definition with closed lacings, also known as balmorals to the Americans—but Roger Moore wears slip-ons. Though oxfords are preferred, if the slip-ons have a plain toe they are almost like a variation on the traditional opera pump. In Casino Royale, Bond wears black calf plain-toe derby shoes with his dinner suit, which are as appropriate as oxfords but not the worst choice either.

White Dinner Jacket

Sean Connery wears an ivory wool dinner jacket in Goldfinger whilst in Latin America

Warm Weather Black Tie

Though Bond hasn’t worn a white dinner jacket since Roger Moore played the role in A View to a Kill, it’s still a classic style for warm-year-round locales. It’s what you’ll want to wear for black tie occasions in places like The Bahamas, Latin America, Southeast Asia and India. Bond’s white dinner jackets aren’t always white, but they are ivory when made of wool. Bond, however, does wear pure white dinner jackets made of silk or linen. Bond’s white and ivory dinner jackets follow the same styles as the black and midnight blue dinner jackets, except they have self lapels rather than silk-faced lapels. The buttons are also different; they are always white mother-of-pearl except for the beige horn buttons in A View to a Kill. Bond’s white and ivory dinner jackets are worn with black dinner suit trousers as described above, as well as the same shirts and bow ties.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to follow the black tie dress code, read Peter Marshall’s Black Tie Guide, which is the ultimate source for formalwear. You can also leave any questions about wearing black tie like James Bond in the comments below. For more specific examples of James Bond’s and related characters’ black tie outfits, see this blog’s black tie tag.


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The Thomas Crown Affair: The Dinner Suit That Wasn’t Allowed

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It has widely been said that Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond contract states that he “wasn’t allowed to wear a tuxedo in any other film” (read at IMDB). Rather than cut or alter a scene in 1999’s The Thomas Crown Affair that places Brosnan at a “black and white ball”, Brosnan sports a midnight blue wool dinner suit and improperly wears it with an open shirt collar and an untied white bow tie so that he is not wearing true black tie. The dinner suit is made by Milanese tailor Gianni Campagna, who made all of the elegant suits for The Thomas Crown Affair. The button one dinner jacket is cut with a clean chest and straight shoulders on the natural shoulder line, and it has black satin peaked lapels, jetted pockets, four-button cuffs and no vent. The buttons on the dinner jacket are black corozo.

The dinner suit has a matching midnight blue waistcoat, properly low-cut with three buttons and black satin shawl lapels. The dinner suit trousers are cut with double reverse pleats, in the Italian traditional.

Though the men at the ball surrounding Brosnan are dressed in proper black tie, Brosnan wears the nicest dinner suit and has by far the nicest shirt. Most of other men are following the 1990s fashion trend of wearing an attached wing collar with black tie, which is a modern imitation of the traditional stiff, detachable wing collar. Brosnan, on the other hand, wears a classic dress shirt from Turnbull & Asser with a spread collar. The shirt also has double cuffs, shoulder pleats and a pleated front with mother-of-pearl studs down the placket.

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Brosnan, however, wears the shirt unbuttoned at the collar and open at inconsistently the first stud or both the first and second studs. Wearing the shirt open further distances it from a proper black tie outfit, which would breach his James Bond contract. And instead of a proper black silk bow tie, Brosnan drapes around his neck—rather that ties around his neck—a white cotton marcella bow tie, again to distance the outfit from black tie. A white bow tie should only be worn with the more formal white tie dress code and never black tie. Wearing an improper white bow tie with a dinner suit, wearing the bow tie untied and wearing the shirt collar open allows Brosnan to wear a dinner suit outside of the Bond series without breaching his contract.

At a black tie event, dressing as Pierce Brosnan does here is unacceptable. Since the dress code is black tie, that means a black bow tie is required. Anything else, such as a white bow tie or a black four-in-hand tie, violates the dress code—that is what traditionally sets apart the help from the guests. And wearing the shirt collar unbuttoned and the bow-tie draped over the neck is both sloppy and disrespectful to the host. On the other hand, someone as wealthy as Thomas Crown can sometimes make his own rules and dress however he wants to. He certainly could get away with it at a charity ball, though no amount of money should give a gentleman reason to disrespect his host by dressing sloppily and improperly.

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M’s Green Smoking Jacket

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In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, M (Bernard Lee) wears a modern take on the smoking jacket in dark green velvet. Traditional smoking jackets have a frog closure—a button or toggle that fastens through an ornamental braided loop—but M’s smoking jacket is updated with a conventional button and buttonhole. Smoking jackets are meant for private wear, either as an alternative to the dinner jacket or as a garment for lounging. M wears his for the latter purpose when tending to his butterfly collection.

M-Smoking-Jacket-2M’s double-breasted, shawl-collar smoking jacket has four buttons with one to button, the same style as his dinner jacket is Goldfinger. It is cut with natural shoulders, roped sleeveheads and a draped chest. M’s smoking jacket has one button on the cuffs rather than the customary ornamental braid that would accompany a frog closure on the front, but the jacket follows tradition with jetted pockets and a non-vented skirt. The black velvet lapels contrast with the body of the smoking jacket, but the buttons are covered in the body’s green velvet. The jacket could essentially be called a velvet dinner jacket, but M wears the jacket in the manner of a smoking jacket.

M-Smoking-Jacket-3Under the jacket, M wears an ecru shirt with a spread collar, button cuffs and a plain front. Around his neck and under the shirt he wears a day cravat in an ancient madder print in brown, red and chartreuse on white. His trousers are dark grey and probably flannel. Though we don’t see M’s footwear, the natural choice for this outfit would be a pair of velvet Albert slippers with quilted linings and leather soles.

The Rocketeer: A Purple Dinner Jacket

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1991’s The Rocketeer is one of the few films to feature Timothy Dalton in well-tailored 20th century clothing. Since the film takes place in 1938, what Dalton wears is more costume rather than clothing. However, not all of the clothing is accurate to the late 1930s. Dalton plays movie star and Nazi villain Neville Sinclair, who wears a muted dark purple dinner jacket that is fitting for his character. Purple is quite an unusual colour for a dinner jacket, but it’s not unusual for a smoking jacket, an ancestor of the dinner jacket. I don’t know if purple dinner jackets were popular in the late 1930s, but purple had seen a rise in popularity a few years before The Rocketeer was made. Jack Nicholson famously wore a purple suit as the joker in Batman two years earlier, and Miami Vice popularised purple and lavender clothes for men. A purple dinner jacket is less formal than the traditional black or midnight blue jacket, which makes it an acceptable—but nevertheless flashy—choice for a night out as Sinclair wears his.

Rocketeer-Purple-Dinner-Jacket-2The purple dinner jacket is cut with straight shoulders, roped sleeveheads and a clean chest. The jacket is full-cut, but it still fits well and isn’t a size too large like the jackets in Licence to Kill are. The jacket drapes elegantly without any extra folds of cloth. The wide, dark purple silk peaked lapels elegantly roll down to the jacket’s single button. The buttons are covered in the same dark purple silk that the lapels are faced in. The jacket has no vent, jetted pockets and three buttons on the cuffs. The black trousers have double reverse pleats and the traditional black silk stripe down each leg.

Rocketeer-Purple-Dinner-Jacket-4The black brocade waistcoat is one of the least historically-correct parts of this outfit. The waistcoat has five buttons with the bottom left open, peaked lapels and a full collar. A proper evening waistcoat, which is low-cut with three or four buttons, would have been worn at the time rather than a high-buttoning daytime-style waistcoat in a fancy evening cloth. Sinclair’s white-on-white stripe dress shirt has a point collar, double cuffs and a placket with two black onyx studs. His bow tie is black barathea silk in a batwing shape. His shoes are patent leather.

Rocketeer-Purple-Dinner-Jacket-3Sinclair also wears a red boutonnière pinned to his lapel. Besides looking unsightly, pinning a boutonnière to a silk lapel can easily damage the facing. Ideally, the boutonnière’s stem should be stuck through the lapel’s buttonhole and held in place by a loop sewn on the back of the lapel. One should only resort to pinning a boutonnière when the lapel has no buttonhole. But there is a buttonhole hiding behind Sinclair’s boutonnière, so he has no excuse for pinning it to his lapel.

Auric Goldfinger: The Brown and Gold Silk Dinner Jacket

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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.

Peter Lorre’s Le Chiffre

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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.

The Cummerbund and Bond

The cummerbund in Skyfall

The cummerbund in Skyfall

Though the cummerbund is a well-known part of black tie, Bond has only worn a cummerbund on a handful of occasions. Traditionally, one isn’t wearing a cummerbund because he’s wearing a waistcoat or a double-breasted dinner jacket, but those situations do not make up the rest of Bond’s black tie outfits. Bond is well-known for omitting the waist-covering altogether, but Bond wears the seemingly pointless piece of silk around his waist a few times.

According to Black Tie Guide, the cummerbund originated from coloured sashes that British officers wrapped around their waist in India. Now cummerbunds ordinarily come in the form of a piece of pleated silk—with the pleats worn facing up—in the front that connects in the back with a strap and buckle. The purpose of the cummerbund is to act as a formal waist-covering that wears cooler than a waistcoat. It covers the bottom of the shirt front and the trousers’ waistband, so it serves an aesthetic purpose if not a practical one. Unlike how braces and belts aren’t worn together because they serve the same purpose, the cummerbund is not a belt and does not hold up the trousers. Thus, there is no rule about not wearing a cummerbund with braces. Braces can be worn with a cummerbund just the same as they can—and should—be worn under a waistcoat. Bond wears both a cummerbund and braces in Licence to Kill and Skyfall. Though belts and cummerbunds serve do different tasks, a belt should not be worn under a cummerbund since it will show as a bump underneath.

Diamonds-Cummerbund

A fancy, coloured silk cummerbund in Diamonds Are Forever

The cummerbund is traditionally black and matches the bow tie in both colour and texture, but it can be other colours. Burgundy is the most common choice for a coloured cummerbund, but the bow tie should always be black no matter the colour of the cummerbund. Coloured matching bow tie and cummerbund sets are often sold and can be worn for “creative black tie” functions and high school proms, but if you’re trying to follow the elegant example that Bond sets the bow tie should always be black. After all, it’s called “black tie”. The only time Ian Fleming mentions Bond wearing a cummerbund it’s a “wine-red cummerbund” that he wears with his white dinner jacket and dress trousers in the Thunderball novel. Since the bow tie isn’t mentioned, we can assume that Bond wears a proper black bow tie. The first time Bond wears a cummerbund in the films it’s a fancy silk in burgundy and black in Diamonds Are Forever. It’s a flashier 1970s take on the “wine-red cummerbund” that Fleming writes about, but the bow tie is still black. It’s the only time in the series that Sean Connery wears any sort of waist-covering with black tie.

Built-In-Cummerbund

The built-in cummerbund in For Your Eyes Only

In For Your Eyes Only, Bond wears trousers with a sort of waistband that acts like a cummerbund. The waistband is very wide, flat silk that extends across the entire front and fastens with two buttons at the right side. It’s a little narrower than a real cummerbund, but it’s a clever design and acts like a built-in cummerbund. The same type of built-in cummerbund returns in Octopussy. It may not be a proper cummerbund, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Licence-to-Kill-Cummerbund

A flat cummerbund in Licence to Kill

The first time Bond has a traditional black, pleated cummerbund is in Licence to Kill. It’s one of the few redeeming qualities of the black tie outfit in that film. But actually there are two cummerbunds used. The one Bond removes is flat silk and is used with the purpose to conceal rope. But later when Bond wakes up at Sanchez’s villa and sees his dinner suit neatly hung up, it’s the traditional cummerbund with pleats.

Quantum-of-Solace-Cummerbund

The cummerbund briefly appearing in Quantum of Solace

When Bond wore his dinner suit without a cummerbund or waistcoat in Casino Royale, many people took note of it and started doing the same. Though Bond’s tradition of foregoing the waist-covering began from the start of the film series in Dr. No, it took 44 years for people to notice and make a big fuss over it. When Bond returned in Quantum of Solace two years later, the cummerbund returned. And Bond wore a cummerbund again in Skyfall despite the cummerbund not being very popular at the moment.

The cummerbund does not work well with the low-rise trousers that make up the majority of suit trousers today since the cummerbund should be worn up at the waist and not down at the hips. Some people say that the cummerbund should be used with such low-rise trousers to prevent the white of the shirt from showing between the jacket button and the top of the waistband, but that’s not a true solution for a poorly-designed suit. The cummerbund’s purpose is not to prevent that bit of shirt from showing. The jacket’s buttoning point and the trousers’ waistband in a well-fitting suit should not be very far from one another. The cummerbund should actually be mostly hidden under the jacket and only show just a little above and below the jacket’s button, if it shows at all.