Plastic Buttons

Grey plastic buttons on the three-piece glen check suit in Goldfinger

Grey plastic buttons on the three-piece glen check suit by Anthony Sinclair in Goldfinger

Plastic buttons are currently held to be less desirable than buttons made of natural materials, but when Sean Connery was James Bond in the 1960s they were the standard choice for lounge suits amongst England’s best tailors. Almost all of Sean Connery’s Anthony Sinclair suits in his 1960’s Bond films have thin, plain, glossy plastic buttons, and most of Roger Moore’s Cyril Castle suits and sports coats in Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun have the same type of buttons. Though it may seem illogical to put inexpensive plastic buttons on bespoke garments, there are reasons to why plastic buttons were used.

Connery-Plastic-Buttons

Dark grey plastic buttons on an Anthony Sinclair dark grey flannel suit in Dr. No. The smooth texture of the buttons does not fit with the fuzzy texture of the flannel cloth.

The uniform look of plastic buttons matches the clean look of worsted suiting, and some people believe that horn buttons look too rustic for a city suit. Plastic buttons also can be made in virtually any colour, so they are typically matched with or used in a slightly darker shade than the suit. In the 1960s and 1970s, synthetics were not so taboo in quality clothes the way that they are now. Tailors may also have liked how plastic buttons were thinner than other choices. Douglas Hayward, who typically used horn buttons, used grey plastic buttons on both Roger Moore’s grey flannel suit in For Your Eyes Only and on his grey tweed jacket in A View to a Kill since horn is not found in a flat medium grey, and he wanted to match the buttons to the suit. These grey plastic buttons, however, have a matte finish like horn instead of the shiny finish buttons that Sinclair and Castle used.

Plastic Buttons on Daniel Craig's suit in Casino Royale

Plastic Buttons on Daniel Craig’s Brioni suit in Casino Royale

Timothy Dalton’s suits in Licence to Kill, not surprisingly, have plastic buttons. Most of Pierce Brosnan’s and Daniel Craig’s Brioni suits—worn in GoldeneEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, Die Another Day and Casino Royale—also have plastic buttons. Not all plastic buttons are created equal. Brioni’s plastic buttons both look nicer and are more durable than the average plastic buttons. This is not to say they are just as good as natural materials, but the plastic buttons give the makers of Brioni suits the look they want.

Urea buttons on Timothy Dalton's suit in The Living Daylights

Urea buttons on Timothy Dalton’s Benjamin Simon suit in The Living Daylights

Timothy Dalton’s suit buttons in The Living Daylights are another kind of plastic, made from urea. These urea buttons mimic horn but often have a more pronounced grain. Unlike horn buttons, which due to nature can never be identical to each other, the grain of urea buttons will often match each others. If the buttons look like horn but are suspiciously identical, they can’t possibly be authentic horn. The grey buttons on the black-and-white pick-and-pick suit in Skyfall are similar fake horn in urea.

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.

Driving in a Suit

Driving-Quantum

When you drive, do you wear your suit jacket or hang it up? James Bond always chooses to drive in his suit jacket because he’s usually in a hurry to get in or out of his car. Besides that, it just wouldn’t look elegant for him to remove his jacket to simply get in the car. There’s no need for Bond to remove his jacket in the car because the magic of filmmaking means that Bond’s suit won’t be wrinkled when exits his car. And since his suit only has to last for a small part of a single film he doesn’t need to worry about seatbelt abrasion. The problems of wrinkling and abrasion have become more noticeable to the average suit wearer with the rise in popularity of lighter cloth weights and higher super numbers, which both make the wool less wrinkle resistant and more prone to shining with abrasion.

Driving-Dr-NoBut what about the physical act of driving in a suit? A well-fitting suit shouldn’t constrict movement. The key to being able to move the arms is high armholes. That means the armhole is smaller and hugs the armpit. Feeling the bottom of the armhole in your armpit may give the impression of being constricting, but it is actually quite the opposite. A higher armhole means that less of the suit jacket moves when the arm is raised, and it helps the arm to move more independently of the rest of the jacket. A little ease over the shoulder blades also gives the arms more range of movement. Nevertheless, it helps to unbutton the jacket when driving.

Driving-TWINEThe higher armhole is demonstrated whenever Bond is driving. The jacket sleeve rides up to reveal most of the shirt cuff, which shouldn’t ride up as much as the jacket sleeve does. If the armhole is too low or the suit is too tight, the jacket sleeve will ride up more.

The same goes for riding a motorcycle as it does for driving a car, though James Bond is probably the only person who rides a motorcycle in a suit. In Skyfall, Daniel Craig wears a suit specifically made with longer sleeves for riding a motorcycle (below) so that the amount of shirt cuff that shows when he is riding is consistent with the amount that shows when he is standing with his arms at his side. It’s nonsensical to expect the same amount of shirt cuff to show no matter the arms positions, and I find it absurd that Skyfall’s costume designer Jany Temime felt that a special suit needed to be fitted for riding a motorcycle. Since the sleeves are expected to rise up when the arms are bent, it looks like the sleeves are too long. Plus, it’s a missed opportunity to show off Bond’s cufflinks!

Skyfall-Motorcycle

Remington Steele: The Double-Breasted Power Suit

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The 1980s “power suit” look was something James Bond mostly avoided, but it became a big part of Pierce Brosnan’s look in Remington Steele. The power suit is characterised by a jacket with large shoulders, a low buttoning point and a low gorge and full-cut trousers with double or triple reverse pleats. Brosnan’s grey striped double-breasted suit in the 1985 Remington Steele episode “Springtime for Steele” fits the 1980’s power suit mould perfectly, but even though the suit looks dated now it’s still very flattering on Brosnan. This suit first appeared in Remington Steele in the 1984 episode “Woman of Steele”, and it was a much more fashionable suit than what Roger Moore was wearing as James Bond at the time. Apart from a low button stance, Roger Moore’s suits as Bond in the 1980s avoided most 80’s trends in favour of a more timeless style.

Remington-Steele-Grey-Power-Suit-2Brosnan’s suit has 3/4″ stripes alternating slightly lighter and darker greys, and those stripes are framed by alternating white pinstripes and chalk stripes. Fancy stripes like the one this suit is were very popular in the 1980s and were integral to the power suit look. The double-breasted jacket has six buttons with one to button, a style popular from the mid 80s to the early 90s. Double-breasted suits like this were occasionally made in the 1930s, but at that time the still-classic button two cut made up the majority of double-breasted suits. However, it wasn’t uncommon for people to fasten their button-two double-breasted suits only at the bottom button for an effect similar to what Brosnan wears here. A double-breasted suit that buttons only at the bottom has a longer lapel line that is very flattering to shorter men, but in Brosnan’s case the longer lapel line gives him the strong-looking V-shaped torso that he lacks. On the other hand, buttoning the jacket so low means that the jacket’s fulcrum doesn’t match with the body’s waist and natural fulcrum. The jacket moves poorly with the body, and folds radiating from the bottom buttons occur with the slightest movements because of the unnaturally low fulcrum. The folds are not an issue with the fit but instead an unavoidable issue with such a low buttoning point. Even the Duke of Windsor and his contemporary the Duke of Kent had this problem from buttoning their double-breasted suits at the bottom. Overall, Brosnan’s suit jacket fits very well. Though the low button stance makes the front look sloppy, the back has a perfectly smooth fit and the sleeves drape elegantly.

Remington-Steele-Grey-Power-Suit-3Along with the low 1980s button stance came the low gorge, which is results in low lapel peaks. The low gorge actually goes well with the low button stance since it shortens the lapel line. Otherwise, a regular, higher gorge height with such a low button stance would result in ridiculously long lapels. The low gorge makes the low button stance look less awkward, and along with the low button stance contributes to a more relaxed look. The lapels follow tradition with a buttonhole on each side to match the buttonholes and buttons on both sides of the jacket.

A power suit wouldn’t be complete without copious amounts of shoulder padding. Brosnan’s suit jacket has plenty of shoulder padding, which makes the shoulders straight and close to parallel with the ground. Brosnan’s slight build certainly benefits from shoulder padding, though nobody needs as much padding as this jacket has. Though the shoulders are built up, they are not built out. That style came later in the 80s, which is evident on the suits in Timothy Dalton’s two Bond films.

Remington-Steele-Grey-Power-Suit-4The built-up cut of power suits in the 1980s mimicked styles from the 1930s and 1940s. Many details from that era also returned, like jetted pockets and no rear vent. Jackets without vents aren’t good for Brosnan since he has the habit of keeping his hands in his pockets. Without vents in the back, the jacket rides up. If he had double vents, he could keep his hands in his pockets and the jacket would still look neat. The jacket’s cuffs have three buttons. The suit trousers have double reverse pleats and a full, straight leg with plain hems. Though braces were a common part of the power suit look, Brosnan rarely wore them in Remington Steele and instead wears a belt with this suit. This suit could possibly be Italian in origin, since the Italians were best-known for making such power suits in the 1980s, but an American tailor could also have been responsible for this suit.

Remington-Steele-Grey-Power-Suit-5Brosnan’s white shirt has a point collar, double cuffs and a placket down the front. The placket is stitched 3/8″ from the edge, which means the shirt is likely English in origin. A power suit wouldn’t be complete without a “power tie”. A power tie is any brightly-coloured tie, but red is the quintessential power tie. Brosnan’s tie is red with navy stripes in the English direction. The navy stripes are bordered by brown pinstripes, and there’s also a brown pinstripe through the centre of each navy stripe. The tie has the look of a regimental stripe, but it most likely isn’t one since the Steele character has no prior affiliations. He knots the tie in an asymmetrical, though rather chunky, four-in-hand knot. It could possibly be a double-four-in-hand knot. A stuffed red silk pocket handkerchief with a navy edge complements the tie. Because Brosnan is wearing this suit in the evening, he wears it with black shoes and a black belt. During the daytime in other episodes, Brosnan wears this suit just as successfully with brown leather.

The White Linen Shirt

White-Linen-Shirt

In a brief scene in Die Another Day in Cuba, James Bond wears a white linen, long-sleeve camp shirt. White is the dressiest colour for shirts, but when made of linen in a casual style it’s great for dressing down in hot weather because white is best at reflecting the heat of the sun. Long sleeves may seem impractical to wear in the heat, but they protect the skin from the sun when outdoors during the day. For the evening, long sleeves make this a slightly dressier shirt than if it had short sleeves. Nevertheless, Bond rolls the sleeves up his forearm for a more casual look. The shirt has an open breast pocket on the left, which is a great place to keep sunglasses.

White-Linen-Shirt-2The shirt has a camp collar, which is a one-piece collar without a separate collar band. This camp collar is made up of a top-side piece of fabric and an underside piece of fabric, probably with an interfacing fused to the top piece. The top piece of fabric continues down into the inside front of the shirt for a seamless look when the top front of the shirt rolls over. The collar’s underside piece of fabric attaches to the front of the shirt at the base of the neck like an ordinary collar does. The front edge of the shirt has quarter-inch stitching that goes up into the collar. When there is no placket, a shirt ordinarily has no stitching on the front edge for a cleaner look. But since the top side of the collar extends down to the inside front of the shirt, the quarter-inch stitching visually continues the collar into the shirt body, and it holds the shirt together as well. Unlike how Sean Connery’s camp collars in Thunderball lay flat, Brosnan’s camp collar is designed to stand up and roll over. Also unlike Connery’s camp collars, Brosnan’s camp collars have a button and buttonhole at the top.

The shirt is the only part of the outfit we can see, and we can’t even tell if Bond tucks the shirt in or leaves it out. Bond is likely wearing dark linen trousers and brown suede chukka boots like what he wore earlier in the film with the less sophisticated blue floral shirt.

Remington Steele: The Brown Multi-Check Suit

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In honour of Pierce Brosnan’s 61st birthday we look at one of his many Remington Steele suits. By Remington Steele‘s third season, Pierce Brosnan had, for the most part, traded classic elegance for the fashions of the day. The majority of his suits by that time were low-buttoning double-breasted suits with large shoulders and full-cut trousers, but these suits actually flattered Brosnan’s skinny frame despite them looking very dated now. However, not all of Brosnan’s suits fit the fashionable mould. One of the few relatively classic suits that was still around on the show in 1985 is this dark, cool brown suit in a very subtle glen check, pictured here in the episode “Gourmet Steele”. There are multiple windowpanes over the glen plaid, which are difficult to make out the exact colours of due to the DVD quality. From what I can tell, there are windowpanes in red, tan and blue, but they are very faint. Multi-stripes and multi-windowpanes on top of a pattern like nailhead or herringbone were very popular in the 1980s, but they were usually understated like on Brosnan’s suit. The multiple windowpanes surely aren’t to everyone’s tastes, but on Brosnan’s suit they are done in a tasteful way. Take away two of the three windowpane colours and the suit immediately becomes more relevant to today’s fashions.

The suit is well-cut with high armholes to allow freedom of movement

The suit is cut with high armholes to allow freedom of movement

In brown with multiple windowpanes, this suit is more of a social suit than a traditional business suit. Since Steele is a private investigator he can wear more adventurous suits on the job than the average man can wear to work, but here he appropriately wears this suit to dinner at a fine restaurant. It’s not a particularly dressy suit, but Brosnan dresses it up for the evening with a white shirt, black shoes and understated accessories. The button two suit jacket is trim-cut with narrow, slightly-pagoda shoulders, roped sleeveheads, a clean chest and a closely nipped waist. It has flapped pockets, three buttons on the cuffs and deep double vents. The lapels have a steeper gorge (the lapel’s notch) than what is typical today, but it’s not too steep or too low. The button stance is in a classic, balanced position. The majority of the suits Brosnan was wearing at the time had a lower gorge and lower button stance, which looks very dated now. The trousers have double reverse pleats and a medium-wide straight leg, and they are worn with a belt.

Remington-Steele-Brown-Check-Suit-4Brosnan downplays the suit’s coloured windowpanes by wearing a white shirt and unassuming brown accessories. The white shirt has a moderate spread collar, placket and double cuffs. The tie has dark brown and medium brown stripes, which may or may not be the effect of a herringbone weave. The overflowing pocket handkerchief is also dark brown, and even the flamboyant way he wears the handkerchief doesn’t make it stand out. Brosnan could have chosen a blue shirt and red tie to make the windowpanes in the suit pop, but keeping everything toned down makes the outfit look more elegant. The predominantly monochromatic look is reminiscent of Connery’s brown suit and tie in Thunderball, though Connery’s outfit has a simple elegance that is absent from Brosnan’s.

Remington-Steele-Brown-Check-SuitThough brown shoes are typically the first choice with brown suits, Brosnan wears black cap-toe oxfords and a brass-buckled black belt with this suit. One could argue that brown leather would still go better with this suit, but because the suit is cool-toned the black leather doesn’t clash. The suit’s cool tone is flattering to Brosnan’s cool complexion, whilst most warmer and richer browns wouldn’t look so good on him. Connery’s brown suit in Thunderball similarly has a cool tone, and he too wears his brown suit with black shoes.

Sulka Shirts

GoldenEye-Charcoal-Windowpane-Suit

Pierce Brosnan wears white poplin, ivory poplin and blue end-on-end shirts as well as a pleated fly-front dress shirt from Sulka in GoldenEye. Originally a New York company, Sulka expanded to have stores elsewhere in the United States, in London on Old Bond Street and in Paris. Sulka closed its last store in 2002. Sulka was amongst the world’s finest men’s clothing shops, and costume designer Lindy Hemming made an excellent choice to dress James Bond in their shirts and ties for GoldenEye.

Sulka-ShirtBrosnan’s shirts have a moderate spread collar, bordering on a point collar. The collar points are about 2 3/4″ long, and the collar has about 3/8″ tie space. Brosnan wears shirts from Sulka with both double cuffs and button cuffs. The double cuffs have the link holes placed slightly off-centre further the fold, which keeps the cuff neater but hides the cufflinks further into the jacket sleeves. The button cuffs are rounded with a single button. The collar and cuffs are stitched 1/4″ from the edge, as they traditionally are. The placket is 1 3/8″ wide and stitched 3/8″ from the edge. The shirts have shoulder pleats under the split yoke in the back.

Cool in Cuba

Goldeneye-Tan-Suit

On his arrival in Cuba in GoldenEye, Bond wears a linen or linen blend twill suit made by Brioni. The twill suiting is two-tone, woven with light brown and white yarns to effectively look tan overall. The twill weave helps the linen to wrinkle less than it would in plain weaves, though it’s not going to breathe as well. But since it’s linen it still wears cool. The button three suit jacket is full cut with straight shoulders. It has swelled edges, button three cuffs and straight pockets with flaps. The trousers have a wide leg with double or triple reverse pleats, and the bottoms are finished with turn-ups. Bond wears the suit trousers without the jacket on the beach and rolls up the bottoms.

Goldeneye-Tan-Suit-2Bond’s white shirt from Sulka is most likely linen or a blend of linen and cotton. This shirt has a moderate spread collar, front placket, shoulder pleats and double cuffs. Double cuffs are a little out of place with this rather casual suit, but Bond isn’t committing a faux pas either by wearing them. Double cuffs would look more congruous if Bond were wearing a tie, however, this suit is casual enough that it can work well the way Bond wears it without a tie. Bond’s shoes are medium brown brogues, which look rather heavy for such a light suit. On the other hand, the Persol sunglasses are the perfect accessory for a linen suit in Cuba.