Next year will be the 50th anniversary of the James Bond film franchise.
Marked by the launch of Dr. No, the franchise has grown into a 5 billion dollar box office success.
And for those last fifty years – between saving the world and watching Honey Rider emerge from the water – James Bond has inspired men to dress sharp no matter the situation.
Consistent throughout the series has been the Tuxedo – aka Black Tie.
It has surfaced in more films than any other outfit and never grows old because it’s lines and silhouette are timeless.
So why not use a Tuxedo to your advantage this New Year’s Eve?
That’s right – call on your inner James Bond for one evening.
You’re probably going to respond with “I never wear a tux – and I would stand out”.
That’s exactly the point.
This article isn’t about being a wallflower. It’s not about doing what you’ve always done.
This article is about using New Year’s Eve to wear the one outfit that’s guaranteed to make almost any man look like a million bucks.
But you have to do it right – and just like James Bond was guided by Vesper Lynd – this article is your guide to pulling this off.
Most men – unless they travel in rarified circles – receive only a handful of Black Tie invitations in their entire lives. A wedding here, an awards ceremony there, and plenty of men manage to dodge even those. Tuxedos are not common dress.
Whether you own a tux or just rent one for the night this is a once-a-year chance to dress-up beyond the established code and have fun with it.
Black Tie – The James Bond Way
Black tie menswear follows a formal set of rules that offers variety but not extreme room for improvisation.
You need to stay within the established boundaries – otherwise you’re wearing a Halloween costume.
Many of you reading this may be thinking – wow, that sounds stuffy and unimaginative.
On the contrary – this is Black Tie’s greatest strength. A well made tuxedo builds off of a proven masculine suit silhouette that has been perfected for a century.
You only need follow directions – make a few small decisions on style options – and you can be guaranteed to look like a million bucks.
Guiding Principle – The James Bond “look” is defined by an elegant, minimal style, and perfect fit.
Bond never improvises with color (beyond either black or midnight blue as the dinner suit’s base) or with casual accents. If you need a refresher – consider grabbing the James Bond movie set here.
James Bond black tie basics are:
• A single-breasted dinner jacket in midnight blue or black.
• Black-tie trousers in a matching dark wool.
• Jacket lapels and a band on the outside of each trouser leg in dark satin.
• Suspenders (braces), never a belt.
• Cummerbund or waistcoat –the most common mistake men make when wearing a tuxedo is not utilizing a waist covering. Don’t be a black-tie amateur – make the transition from trouser to jacket seamless.
• No vents or double jacket vents – the no vent look is more classic, but the double vent look is a fine modern twist and makes perfect sense for a man of action.
• Tab waist adjusters rather than a belt. In the Ian Fleming novels Bond even discusses adjusting these to go with his hidden holster.
• Hand-tied bow tie – never a clip-on. Bond in his various incarnations favors diamond-pointed ends to the bow.
• Matching shirt studs and cufflinks. Mother-of-pearl in several movies – always a timeless classic.
• Black, plain, highly-shined dress shoes – specifically polished calf oxfords rather than patent leather pumps — again, Bond a man of action.
A few things do vary stylistically from movie to movie, and although I dearly love Bond I’m forced to insist on a few traditional touches to complete the look:
• Shawl or peak lapels only – Bond occasionally appears in a notched-lapel dinner jacket, and it always looks hopelessly dated.
• Always wear a waist covering – A cummerbund is ideal for someone as active as Bond although a waistcoat helps with concealed carry. Without a waist covering Bond tends to show his suspenders and their clips, always a sloppy look.
• Neatly-folded pocket squares are usually part of the Bond ensemble but have been occasionally absent (Yes Timothy Dalton – I noticed). Make sure you stick with the traditional look and have one in plain white, neatly-folded. Or red if you’re looking to shake things up.
• Working lapel buttonhole — this isn’t necessary, but it makes boutonnières and similar decorations possible. If you’re buying a tux you should certainly insist on one; rentals may have to do without.
What Bond Never Wears
A few things that get passed off as “black tie” nowadays are anachronisms with no place in formal dress. James Bond avoids them and you should too.
Men renting a tuxedo (and there’s nothing wrong with renting, so long as you’re careful) need to be particularly wary of anything that crosses the line from “black tie” to “costuming,” as more and more rental tuxes do these days:
• Colors should be entirely absent. A classic black tie ensemble is black or midnight blue with a simple white shirt.
• Shirts are plain white with studs or mother of pearl buttons. Collars are either point or wing. Do not try to introduce color here or bring in patterns. It’s not creative – it’s hideous.
• No colored lapels, vests, or cummerbunds. Yes, we said it before, but it bears repeating. These are not black tie elements. They’re purely novelty items introduced to the rental tuxedo industry in the 1970s that sadly surface at every high school prom and most American weddings. If you have someone try to sell you this – run like the wind friend, run.
Stick to the simple, elegant standard set by James Bond and you’ll be ready for anything New Year’s Eve can throw at you.