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

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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.

Comparison: The Button Three Double-Breasted Blazer

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Reader TheLordFlasheart made the excellent suggestion of comparing similar outfits worn by different James Bonds throughout the series, so I had to find two outfits that I think could be compared fairly. I’ve chosen to begin with comparing George Lazenby’s and Roger Moore’s button three double-breasted blazers. These are the only two Bonds who have worn this naval-uniform-like blazer, and they wore them only five years apart. Considering Bond’s background as a commander in the Royal Navy, this is a very appropriate style for the character. In the naval tradition, both blazers have metal buttons, and both have silver-toned buttons rather than the ordinary brass. Though both blazers are English-tailored, neither have straight, uniform-like shoulders. The shoulders have less padding than military uniforms do for a more natural and civilian look. Roped sleeveheads are typical of the military style, and whilst Moore’s blazer has a little roping, Lazenby’s blazer doesn’t have any. Both blazers, however, have a clean and fitted military-like cut through the body.

The two blazers have the appropriate detail of double vents, though both also have the then-trendy detail of slanted pockets. Slanted pockets are also known as “hacking pockets” because of their equestrian origins, and the blazer’s origins are quite far from that. That makes slanted pockets an unconventional choice for a blazer—especially a double-breasted blazer—but it was nevertheless a fashionable choice. Though unconventional and trendy, I rather like the rakish slanted pockets. Lazenby’s blazer adds a ticket pocket.

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Some aspects of fashion had changed significantly between On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1969 and The Man with the Golden Gun 1974. As far as the blazer is concerned, those differences are in length and lapel width. Though Lazenby’s single-breasted jackets have medium-width lapels, the double-breasted blazer has narrow peaked lapels similar to those on a Royal Navy uniform. Roger Moore’s blazer has wider lapels, but since it’s double-breasted the lapels don’t proportionately look too wide. Lieutenant Hip shows how ridiculously wide double-breasted lapels could be in 1974, with the points only about a quarter-inch from touching the armhole. Lazenby’s blazer is slightly shorter than Moore’s traditional-length blazer, which was a trend in the late 1960s. Moore’s blazer has a slightly narrower wrap than Lazenby’s blazer, which was the way Moore’s tailor Cyril Castle cut double-breasted jackets and didn’t reflect any particular trends. Lazenby’s blazer adds the sporty detail of swelled edges, whilst Moore’s has the unique link-button cuffs.

Trouser leg width changed more than anything else between 1969 and 1974. We don’t see much of the trousers that Moore wears with his blazer, but it’s assumed he wears trousers with a slightly flared leg. Lazenby’s trousers and very narrow and tapered, though they are still neatly tailored. Lazenby’s trousers are light grey and Moore’s trousers are charcoal and white, respectively.

Frank Foster made both Moore’s and Lazenby’s shirts. Moore wears his blazer with a blue and white mini-Bengal stripe shirt and a white shirt, whilst Lazenby wears his blazer with sky blue and pink shirts. Lazenby’s shirts have a narrower collar than Moore’s shirts have, and the collar choices were probably what Foster or the costume designer through looked best on the actors rather than what fashion trends dictated. Lazenby’s shirts have single-button cuffs whilst Moore’s shirts have cocktail cuffs. Lazenby’s ties are medium-width navy and red knitted ties, and Moore’s ties are wide slate blue satin and white and navy striped. The tie width, of course, matches the lapel width.

Though Lazenby’s look would certainly look more fashionable today than Moore’s would, I think both Lazenby and Moore wear their blazers very well. Both dress in good taste and neither commit any sartorial sins. Who do you think wore the button three double-breasted blazer better?

Cool in Cuba

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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.

Printed Ties

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Whilst the more conservative English ties are made in woven patterns like basket weaves, repp stripes and traditional checks, as well as simply and complex dobby and jacquard patterns, ties made of printed silk are another traditional style. Printed ties are more popular amongst the French and Italian makers, and prints make any type of pattern possible. Woven patterns and motifs can still be very complex, as Turnbull & Asser proves, and the patterns tend to be more vivid. But printing is easier and anything can be printed on silk, from pin-dot patterns to pieces of art. Printed patterns are mostly done on repp- and satin-weave silk.

Roger Moore wears a grey tie with a red printed motif in Live and Let Die and a navy tie with a discreet printed pattern (above) in Moonraker. One or both of the striped ties in Moonraker may also be printed.

Ian Fleming’s Golfing Jacket

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A tweed golfing jacket that belong to Ian Fleming was auctioned at Bonhams on New Bond Street on 23 November 2010 and sold for £1,080. This jacket was made by Fleming’s tailor Benson, Perry & Whitley in 1963, only a year before Fleming died. This jacket is most reminiscent of the literary James Bond’s “battered black and white dogtooth suit” that Fleming first mentions in Moonraker, and he subsequently mentions it as the suit that Bond wears for golf in Diamonds Are Forever. This jacket is in a shepherd’s check that is more than twice the size of a houndstooth check. It could have been part of a suit like Bond’s dogtooth suit, but the large scale probably means that this was made only as an odd jacket. Also like Bond’s dogtooth suit, this jacket is a “yellowing” black and white. However, this jacket also has a teal overcheck.

The style of the jacket is the closest to what we can guess Bond’s suit jackets were like. It is a button two with narrow lapels and flapped pockets. Though we can see the cut from the pictures of it laying flat, it is probably cut like Fleming’s other jackets with natural shoulders and a little drape. To match the sporty tweed look, the buttons are black leather. Like on some of the film Bond’s dinner jackets, this jacket has turnback “gauntlet” cuffs as well, with two buttons. Gauntlet cuffs have little bearing on formality, so they are just as appropriate on a sports coat or an overcoat as they are on a dinner jacket. They are, however, too fussy for tailcoats.

View the auction listing

Largo’s Charcoal Suit and Camel Coat

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The always well-tailored Emilio Largo, played by Adolfo Celi, is introduced in Thunderball wearing a charcoal three-piece suit. The suit is probably made of worsted flannel since it has a fuzzy nap but doesn’t look as heavy as the typical flannel. The button three jacket is tailored with very strong, straight shoulders and a clean chest. The narrow lapels gently roll over the top button. The jacket also has jetted pockets, three-button cuffs and no vent. The overall cut as well as the stylistic details are all very characteristic of a continental suit. Since the jacket has little fullness in the chest or flare at the shirt, it doesn’t look like an English suit. And neither the Italian character Largo nor the Italian actor Adolfo Celi would have likely used an English tailor. An Italian tailor would most likely have made this suit.

Largo-Charcoal-Suit-2Little is seen of the waistcoat and trousers. Since the top button of the waistcoat isn’t particularly high, I would guess that the waistcoat has five buttons. The trousers have a tapered leg with turn-ups. They are probably pleated, and I would guess they have reverse pleats since the suit is likely of Italian origin. The Italian tailors almost always make their trousers with reverse pleats.

Largo’s cream shirt has a spread collar and double cuffs. He uses a four-in-hand knot to tie his black tie with white polka dots. His socks and shoes are black.

Largo-Charcoal-Suit-3Over the suit Largo wears a three-quarter-length camelhair coat. The button three coat has notched lapels, swelled edges, turnback cuffs and a single vent. He wears the coat draped over his shoulders as if it were a cape, and I wouldn’t recommend wearing a coat in such a manner since that seems like something only a flamboyant villain would do. He also wears his charcoal trilby like a dandy: tilted and with the brim turned up all the way around. The hat’s crown has a centre dent and a front pinch, and the roughly 2 1/4″ brim has a sewn overwelt. His cream leather gloves take his outerwear yet another step further into flamboyance.

Sleeve Width

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There’s more to well-fitting jacket sleeves than the right length. Jacket sleeve width is an oft-forgotten aspect of fit, and a well-fitting sleeve subtly makes a jacket much more flattering. Compare Sean Connery’s James Bond to Jack Lord’s Felix Leiter. Whose sleeves look better? Connery’s sleeves neatly taper whilst Lord’s sleeves are very full from shoulder to cuff. Sleeves should taper to the cuff, and altering sleeve width can be a risky endeavour. The sleeve opening should be large enough to fit a double cuff with enough room for it to slide through easily. A sleeve that’s too tight is restricting and will crease readily. The sleeve’s width should also be in balance with other parts of the suit. A very tapered sleeve looks out of place on a suit with a full-cut jacket and wide trouser legs, but that doesn’t mean the sleeve should be as wide as the trousers legs are either. Connery’s sleeves mimic the taper of his trouser legs whilst Lord’s wide sleeves don’t mesh well with the rest of his outfit.

Daniel-Craig-Sleeves

Daniel Craig appropriately shows roughly 1/2″ of shirt cuff in Skyfall, though his jacket sleeves taper too much. The sleeves should drape more smoothly with the arms relaxed like this.

Sleeve length is the easiest part of the sleeve to alter—as long as buttonholes haven’t been cut—so there’s no excuse for sleeves that are too long. The jacket sleeves should end roughly at the wrist bone so they show 1/4- to 1/2-inch of shirt cuff when the arms are relaxed, and this applies to button cuffs and double cuffs. Showing shirt cuff is ultimately a personal preference, but it’s something James Bond does more often than not. Visually, it balances the shirt collar showing in above the back of the jacket collar. Practically, it protects the edges of the jacket sleeves and prevents fraying. Shirt cuffs and shirts are much cheaper to replace than an entire suit because of frayed jacket cuff edges.

A perfect sleeve

A perfect sleeve

Another thing related to the sleeve that people often mention is the armhole and that it should be high. A high armhole means that the armhole is short in height and the bottom of the armhole is high into the armpit. The armhole should be felt in the armpit, but it shouldn’t dig into the armpit. A higher armhole gives the arms more vertical motion, so even though it might feel tighter it is actually less constricting. The width of the armhole is also important, since an armhole that is too narrow will constrict movement and cause the upper sleeve to bind. The armhole cannot be altered, and most ready-to-wear suits have rather large armholes that can fit people of different shapes. Unfortunately that leaves the majority of men with an armhole that is often far too large.