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.)