Sea Island Cotton

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Sean Connery wears a pale blue Turnbull & Asser shirt in From Russia with Love that is probably made of Sea Island cotton.

James Bond has a long history of wearing Sea Island cotton. Ian Fleming wrote in his novels that Bond wears a “dark blue Sea Island cotton shirt” in Moonraker, “dark blue Sea Island cotton shirts with collars attached and short sleeves” in Diamonds Are Forever, a “white sea-island cotton shirt” in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and “sea island cotton underpants” in The Man with the Golden Gun. Sean Connery’s Turnbull & Asser shirts were likely made of Sea Island cotton poplin, and some of Pierce Brosnan’s Turnbull & Asser shirts auctioned with his suits at Bonhams were made of “Sea Island Cotton Quality” royal oxford.

Sea Island cotton is an extra-long staple cotton, and due to the fibre’s fine diameter and long length it has a silky look and feel. Sea Island cotton is also a very strong fibre, which is what allows it to be made into finer shirtings. It is typically spun in a 140 yarn count. Originally it was grown on the Sea Islands of South Carolina and Georgia in the United States, but now it is grown in the British West Indies. Turnbull & Asser has not sold genuine Sea Island cotton shirts for some time and now sells “Sea Island Quality”, which is extra-long staple cotton grown in Egypt. Turnbull & Asser’s”Sea Island Quality” shirts are at the top of their ready-to-wear range.

Though Sea Island cotton is both durable and has the silkiest feel of all cottons, there are downsides. It doesn’t have much body, and in a poplin weave it can be somewhat translucent in white. Because Sea Island cotton is so fine, it is very difficult to iron and wrinkles easily. Underpants, like what Bond wears in The Man with the Golden Gun novel, may be the best usage for Sea Island cotton since they touch one of the most sensitive parts of the body, and it doesn’t matter if they wrinkle.

Button Cuffs

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The button cuff, also known as the barrel cuff, is certainly the most forgettable of all shirt cuffs. They lack the personalisation that double cuff have from cufflinks and the flare of the cocktail cuff. But they are, nonetheless, worth discussing. They’re certainly the most versatile, since they can be worn casually and with a suit. They don’t, however, go well with anything more formal than a suit. Button cuffs can have one, two or three buttons and rounded, mitred (angle cuff) or square corners. The ordinary button cuff has one button with rounded corners. Because the cuff can pivot on a single button, the rounded corners look best on top of each other when the cuff pivots. Rounded corners follow the cuff’s pivot. George Lazenby wears rounded one-button cuffs in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Roger Moore wears them in Octopussy and A View to a Kill, Timothy Dalton wears them in The Living Daylights, and Pierce Brosnan wears them on a few shirts in GoldenEye. One-button cuffs are typically shorter than other cuffs, around 2 to 2 1/2 inches, though Roger Moore’s cuffs from Frank Foster are around 3 inches long. Moore’s cuffs are also more rounded, which, when combined with the larger size, make the cuffs look quite elegant.

Daniel-Craig-One-Button-Square-CuffSquare corners look better on cuffs with multiple buttons, since the multiple buttons prevent the cuff from pivoting and ensure the edge will always be continuous. When a square-cornered one-button cuff pivots, the corners end up awkwardly juxtaposed on top of each other. Bond, nevertheless, occasions wears a square one-button cuff. Pierce Brosnan’s blue shirt in Tomorrow Never Dies and Daniel Craig’s black shirt in Casino Royale have square one-button cuffs.

Timothy-Dalton-One-Button-Mitred-CuffMitred one-button cuffs fit somewhere between the rounded and square cuffs. They look more elegant than square one-button cuffs, but they don’t have the rounded corner to follow the pivot of the cuff. Roger Moore’s black shirt in Moonraker, TImothy Dalton’s formal shirts in Licence to Kill, and Daniel Craig’s floral shirt in Skyfall have mitred one-button cuffs.

Roger-Moore-Two-Button-Mitred-CuffAdding a second button to the cuff usually means that the cuff will be larger. The second button also keeps the cuff more rigid, which makes the two-button cuff slightly dressier than the single-button cuff. When the cuff has a square corner, the rigidity that the second button provides ensures that the edge of the cuff will always stay continuous around. Roger Moore wears a brown striped shirt with square two-button cuffs in Live and Let Die. A mitred corner is another elegant option for the two-button cuff, and Roger Moore wears mitred two-button cuffs on his formal shirts throughout For Your Eyes Only. Like how Roger Moore’s rounded cuffs are extra round, his mitred cuffs have a deeper cut to exaggerate the style.

Pierce-Brosnan-Three-Button-CuffThree-button cuffs aren’t as popular as one- and two-button cuffs, but they are Turnbull & Asser’s signature cuff style. Considering how Turnbull & Asser made so many shirts for James Bond, the cuff only appears once in the series. Pierce Brosnan wears them on the blue royal oxford shirt he wears with his cream suit in The World Is Not Enough. The three-button cuff doesn’t behave any differently than a two-button cuff, but it needs to have a square edge. A rounded or mitred edge would require extra length beyond the button, which would make a three-button cuff excessively long.

The Royal Oxford Shirt

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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 royal 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

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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.

Turnbull-Asser-Button-Cuff

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