[…] this shirt is even more classic than a “Classic” T&A shirt
Article by Dan of A Very English Institution on Instagram.
Last October, Turnbull & Asser released a new James Bond capsule collection, with one of the offerings being an updated version of their popular “Dr. No shirt”, modelled after the bespoke shirts worn by the late Sean Connery in 1962’s Dr. No. The original Dr. No shirt was released about 7-8 years ago as part of their Legends collection.
This was significant, as at the time (unlike today), ready to wear options for shirts with two-button turnback (or cocktail) cuffs were not abundant, and varying in quality. Outside of the limited edition Casino Royale tie-in dinner shirt, that move marked one of T&A’s most clear attempt to date to capitalise on the James Bond connection with their brand.
Upping the Game
While the first iteration of the shirt was certainly based on what had been worn by Connery in Dr. No, some visible differences were apparent with the cuff design. Given the contemporary landscape, T&A have really stepped up their game and taken an already quality shirt and made it a more appealing and accurate product for Bond aficionados, while also updating this shirt to be consistent with other changes that have been introduced to their product lineup.
It’s a Young Man’s Game
It is well established lore by now that Dr. No director Terence Young was directly responsible for introducing Sean Connery to his various clothiers, including Turnbull & Asser. Connery himself once remarked that “the budget for the clothes were astronomical in relation to the rest of the film.” Connery was famously photographed being measured at T&A in Jermyn St by then employee Michael Fish.
While I have read different tales including that Mr. Fish designed the cocktail cuff or selected the cuff for Connery (both claims suspect), a more recent account of history from T&A indicates that the iconic photograph was largely staged.
Being one of the new and younger employees, Mr. Fish offered himself up for the photos. Whatever the case may be, the style template set in the first movie has been hugely influential for all subsequent Bonds, even for those who did not wear turnback cuffs or Turnbull shirts.
The first thing to note when considering this shirt is that although much effort has been made at screen accuracy for some details, it is nonetheless overall a contemporary take on what was worn by Connery in Dr. No. Connery’s shirts being bespoke notwithstanding, this shirt is based around the current “Regular” fit (the fullest sized shirts T&A currently offers) introduced around 2018, which itself is an update to what was previously known as the “Classic” fit.
Back in the late 2000s, T&A had updated the fit of their shirts to incorporate a slightly more tapered waist and higher armholes. In 2018, the fit was updated again, with further tapering of the waist and a more considered approach to the grading of the shirts (the amount of change between sizes at different parts of the shirt).
An additional 7th button was also added towards the bottom of the shirt, to help with a more tidy look when tucked. The updated Dr. No shirt inherits all these changes and conforms to the current “Regular” fit sizing.
Out of Darts
Connery wore a particularly full fitted shirt in Dr. No, and that degree of blousing would likely not suit modern tastes. Back darts which were added to Connery’s pattern for subsequent films took in some of the fullness to a degree. However, this shirt respects the original in that regard and is absent of any darts. Over time, I have also come to appreciate the classic style of Connery’s much more relaxed and fuller shirt in the movie.
Read our interview with Retail Manager James Cook and T&A’s relationship with James Bond in the book From Tailors With Love: An Evolution of Menswear Through the Bond Films, available on Amazon.
The Story Goes ..
One possibly apocryphal story from the production is that part of the effort to polish up Connery for the role included having him sleep in his tailored clothing. While this is usually retold in relation to the Anthony Sinclair suits, it’s worth mentioning that (if true), his bespoke T&A shirt would presumably have been worn underneath as well, and would had to have been similarly as breathable and comfortable.
Nonetheless, I think following the modern sizing was absolutely the right approach here, and allows this shirt to be accessible to the widest range of customers.
In Dr. No, Connery wore poplin T&A shirts in white and pale blue made of Sea Island cotton. In this case (as with the first iteration of the “Dr No shirt”), the fabric is a 2×100 poplin in a sky blue. The fabric code is ‘1004 0001 07’ (colloquially referred to as the “Bond Blue”), if you ever wish to acquire the same material and colour in bespoke.
While these obviously represent some differences in terms of fineness and colour, again I do feel these are practical changes. The sky blue here is more in line with the type of light blue most gentlemen have in their wardrobe to complement their white shirts.
When I spoke with the bespoke manager (Mr. Daniel Stroupe) at the Turnbull Townhouse about this shirt, one thing he mentioned to also consider is that the finer the cotton, the more difficulty there is with colour steadfastness, and thus shirts in Sea Island cotton tend to be lighter in general. While not as fine as poplin in a Sea Island cotton, the 2×100 poplin selected for this shirt is less translucent and will be more hard wearing.
Anyone who was worn Sea Island cotton also knows that wrinkles can form even if you so much as look at it wrong.
To offer something in the ‘Sea Island’ range, the shirt would have been considerably more costly, and if true Sea Island cotton is desired, then it would’ve been necessary to go one step beyond T&A’s “Sea Island Quality” (which is high-grade extra-long staple cotton grown in Egypt) to their West Indian Sea Island cotton (comprising just 0.0004% of the world’s cotton production), which are among T&A’s most pricey shirts.
Now we come to the most interesting part of this shirt. While T&A officially call it the two-button turnback, the most popular name for this cuff style has probably been the cocktail cuff. Director Terence Young himself wore cocktail cuffs, and it is believed that this was chosen for Connery to wear so as to create a kind of practical elegance for the character of Bond.
The first edition of the Dr. No shirt actually had a cuff style that was quite different from what Connery wore in his films, with a more angular shape that resembled the type of cuffs worn by Roger Moore from his shirtmaker Frank Foster. For T&A, that cuff was a more recent interpretation of the cocktail cuff based on a design they had introduced around the 1980s.
For this latest revision however, T&A have made the effort to try and closely recreate the original style of the cuff from Dr. No. While some original patterns do exist of the cocktail cuff that Connery wore in 1983’s Never Say Never Again, that was a button-down variant which had a different shape than what was worn in the ‘60s.
From my inquiries to T&A, my understanding is that they were not able to simply duplicate an archival pattern of the ‘60s cocktail cuff in its entirety, as one does not exist. Thus, this is a recreation based on some existing fragments of archival patterns along with careful examination of film stills and photographs, under the direction of their head pattern cutter in Bury Street.
Without question this is certainly the closest version I have seen of this cuff amongst all the offerings available today, and the signature scalloped curve has been faithfully reproduced. Accuracy aside, I do find this curved style more aesthetically pleasing and overall less “chunky” looking.
There now remain only very slight differences from the movie version, one of which is the button placement. The new cuff maintains the same button spacing as the cuff on the first Dr. No shirt. Connery’s cuff had buttons that were spaced slightly further apart, which also had the functional benefit of reducing some of the splaying of the cuff from the folded portion.
There are also mild differences in the stitching (particularly at the base of the cuff), however for all intents and purposes T&A have faithfully executed the aspects of the cuff that will be important to most people. If I have one critique, it is that the sizing of the cuff (for me) is on the looser side, likely to accommodate the widest range of wrist sizes possible for my given shirt size.
I think this particular variant of the cocktail cuff looks the best when it is fairly fitted.
While the cuff on this shirt may be the interesting part, the collar remains the most important part of almost any dress shirt, particularly if one plans to wear it primarily with a jacket. The collar is T&A’s “Regent” spread collar, but modified with an extra 1/8” all around to be more in line with the sizing of Connery’s collar in the film.
T&A’s standard collars are unfused with a floating interfacing, along with ‘stayflex’ at the collar tips, which helps maintain some of the stiffness. The stayflex material is most apparent if you hold the collar up to the light.
At the bespoke level, it is possible to get collars which are fused, or unfused with various lining options, including even having stayflex all around the entire collar. Connery’s collars in his movies were probably similar (if not slightly softer) to the standard lining used on T&A’s current ready-to-wear shirts, minus the stayflex.
The Other Details
Without labouring unnecessarily into the specifics, the rest of the shirt generally follows the details of the original shirt designed for Connery in Dr. No. The sleeve gauntlet has no buttons, the back has side pleats, and no darts are present.
I do want to take a brief moment to pay tribute to my favourite part of a T&A shirt, which is actually the placket. When I watched Dr. No many years ago, the first thing I noticed that was atypical about his shirt was of course the cocktail cuffs, which I had never seen before up to that point. The second thing that caught my eye was actually the placket, which was particularly visible in a close-up during his confrontation with Professor Dent.
Unless you shopped at Jermyn St at a very young age, this style of placket was probably unlike the ones you have seen on most men’s shirts, which typically have stitching much closer to the edge. Virtually unchanged since Dr. No, T&A have a placket design that is stitched about 3/8” from the edge, bracketing the buttons nicely and sectioning it almost equally into thirds.
It’s quite visually distinctive.
A few other shirtmakers have a similar placket as their house style (Emma Willis, Hilditch & Key come to mind), although it is certainly is by no means common.
Just as other competitors were stepping up their game and offering shirts with cocktail cuffs, T&A really did a nice job with this new offering. As I mentioned above, there are a few compromises/changes that I don’t feel detract from the overall value being offered. The only reason I have not acquired one myself is that I have already had this new cuff style incorporated into my bespoke pattern with T&A and can pair it with my preferred collar and fabrics.
Lastly, I would add that one could perhaps make the argument that this shirt is even more classic than a “Classic” T&A shirt (with the signature curved collar and 3-button cuff), as some features like the curved collar were not even introduced until the mid 1990s. Similarly, Sean Connery had been wearing the cocktail cuffs for a few years before T&A began adopting the 3-button cuff as a signature house style. With this shirt, you are certainly getting some of the best of what T&A has to offer, with some good history to boot.
The new Dr. No shirt is available from T&A in stores and online for £250/$405.
Credits & Thanks
Thanks to Turnbull & Asser, and particularly Mr. Daniel Stroupe – the bespoke manager at the Turnbull Townhouse in NY – who provided me with one of the Dr. No shirts on loan to write this review.