Bond’s Goldfinger Notched Lapel

(Danjaq, LLC)

(Danjaq, LLC)

Inspired by an exhibit I attended with my 17-year-old nephew that showcased the design of the James Bond films, I recently rented Goldfinger to show him what the original Bond was all about.  Many notched-lapel dinner jacket apologists point to the appearance of the model in this 1964 movie as a validation of its legitimacy and pedigree.  I believe the opposite: that the context proves the style’s role as an alternative option to the more formal (and more correct) shawl and peaked lapels.

The scene featuring the tuxedo in question is one where Bond is briefed by the head of British Intelligence and a representative of the Bank of England.  Both men are senior in position and in years and the meeting takes place in a private dining room that’s the epitome of an old boy’s club.  In contrast to this depiction of the British establishment, Bond is deliberately presented as a young, hip playboy.   While the older men’s kits are representative of the slightly relaxed post-war formality (cummerbunds and buttoned shirts with turndown collars), Bond’s getup is marked by contemporary stylings of the early 1960s in the form of a tone-on-tone striped shirt  and a slim bow tie.  Similarly, 007’s notched lapels represent a modern stylishness that contrasts with the older men’s traditional shawl collars.

Regardless, Bond films shouldn’t be taken as the be-all and end-all of black tie.  You’ll see why in my next post.

(For the record, my nephew loved Goldfinger and is now working his way through the entire Bond franchise on Blu-ray.  What a cool kid.)

4 Comments

  1. Hal

    Good points about this notched lapel suit. I think that Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton both appeared in notch collared DJs, too.

    Over at The Suits of James Bond website Matt Spaiser suggests that part of the reason why Bond wears a notched lapel jacket here (as opposed for instance to the peak lapels on the white dinner jacket earlier in the movie) is that the private dinner is particularly informal. Bond certainly looks better elsewhere, however, when wearing shawl and peak lapels on his evening wear, even if the notched collar doesn’t offend me as much as it clearly does some.

    Reply
  2. Jesse MacLeod

    Excellent analysis. This was what I had suspected when I recently watched the film. From what I recall, the tone of the scene is also very much in-line with the presentation of Bond as the younger, hipper representative of an older system/organization in the British government.

    Reply
  3. Cormac

    I quite agree that Bond films should not be held a touchstone for black-tie etiquette. That being said, I think you overlook the more important context of the referenced scene. In Goldfinger the filmmakers goal was to make the character the epitome of cool, hip, and suave. If there is an underlying style message in the scene, it is that the shawl collars of the older generation shows how fuddy-duddy and out of it they are. This technique of dressing older authority figures in faded styles to emphasize the vitality and hipness of the younger hero is an old, old, movie convention. The scene isn’t giving props to the old boys as members of the establishment – it is mocking them with a bit of a sly smirk.

    None of which means that the notch/step lapels of the 60s is as elegant as the peak or shawl – for my money it isn’t!

    Reply
    1. Peter Marshall

      I didn’t mean to imply that the filmmakers were championing the establishment over Bond. When I described Bond as being hip I meant it to be complimentary, not facetiously or condescendingly.

      Reply

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