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

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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

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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.

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.

The Royal Oxford Shirt

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Pierce Brosnan wears a royal oxford shirt with his charcoal suit in the opening scene in The World Is Not Enough

The royal oxford shirt should be more popular than it is. Though Bond has primarily worn poplin shirts throughout the series, Pierce Brosnan wears royal oxford shirts from Turnbull & Asser in Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough. All oxford cloths are basket weaves, from the finer pinpoint to the heavier standard oxford cloth, but the royal oxford is a more elaborate weave than the others and has a diagonal effect along with the basket weave look. Whilst royal oxford is the dressiest of the oxford cloths, it can be effectively made into both dressier and sportier shirts. Pierce Brosnan usually wears his with double cuffs, but in The World Is Not Enough he wears a royal oxford shirt with button-cuffs and an open collar with his herringbone linen suit.

Royal-OxfordRoyal oxford is just below poplin in formality and can be worn for the same purposes, whilst twills and other oxfords are all progressively lower in formality depending on the size of the texture. Unlike poplin, royal oxford irons very easily and doesn’t crease so readily. The floated yarns in the weave mean that it wrinkles less, but they also make royal oxford a softer cloth. If you’re used to non-iron shirts but want something more luxurious, a regular royal oxford shirt may be the best shirt to get. Royal oxford is also a heavier cloth than poplin, but the weave is open so it breathes very well. It is one of the most versatile shirtings whilst also being one of the most practical.

Polo Jumper and Golf Wear

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With spring here, the polo jumper is a great and versatile casual piece for the season’s mild weather. Pierce Brosnan wears a black polo jumper in The Thomas Crown Affair for a game of golf, and though they can be found in wool I doubt Thomas Crown would ever wear a jumper made of anything less than cashmere. Fine merino wool or cashmere is necessary for knitwear that has direct contact with the skin because anything coarser would get itchy. It has a rather full fit, which was the fashion in the 1990s. It looks unattractively baggy around the waist, and the current trend toward closer-fitting knitwear is one to follow. Polo jumpers that have a taller collar than ordinary polo shirts can be worn casually under a sports coat, and they go especially well with tweed like Sean Connery wears in Diamonds Are Forever‘s pre-title sequence. It’s hard to tell if Pierce Brosnan’s polo jumper has a collar tall enough to wear under a jacket, but the key is for the collar to not get lost under the jacket.

Thomas-Crown-Golf-2The golf trousers aren’t nearly as versatile as the jumper. No trousers are too loud for the golf course, but Thomas Crown’s trosuers are rather tasteful in a dark blue and red plaid. Still, they wouldn’t work anywhere but on the golf course. If you have a pair of trousers that don’t go with anything, wear them for golf. I have two pairs that qualify, but I have yet to take up golf. Brosnan’s trousers have a flat front and plain hems. They have belt loops but Brosnan wears them without a belt. The top of the jumper covers most of the trousers’ waistband, and the lack of a belt makes the jumper’s ribbed hem look neater.

The shoes are chestnut-coloured split-toe norwegian-front derbies, and they are very similar to what Sean Connery wore for golf in Goldfinger. They have leather golf soles with cleats, attached with a 360º degree welt. This type of welt is when the stitching goes all the way around the top of the soles, as opposed to typical welted shoes where the welt stops at the heel (called a 270º welt or breast-to-breast welt). The American maker Allen Edmonds use a 360º welt on almost all of their shoes, but this type of welt can be found on more casual styles from many other makers, American and English. It’s not as sleek as the breast-to-breast welt, but it’s great for more casual styles like these norwegians. These shoes also have a kiltie, which is the fringed and brogued piece of leather that covers the lacing and eyelets.

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Puffed Pocket Squares

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The puffed silk pocket square is the standard for those who wish to add a splash of colour in their breast pocket instead of the staid folded white linen handkerchief. To create a puff, lay the handkerchief flat and pick it up by pinching it from the centre. Slide it though your hand to gather it together, turn up the bottom and place the pocket square in your breast pocket. Once in the pocket you can adjust the pocket square to puff it up.

GoldenEye-Plaid-SuitIn GoldenEye, Pierce Brosnan wears solid pocket squares that pick up one of the colours in his tie. In the M’s office scene, Brosnan matches a medium blue pocket square to the medium blue squares in the tie (right). A light brown or gold pocket square would also have been a good choice to echo the tie’s light brown squares. In the Q’s lab scene he wears another medium blue pocket square that is lighter than but still echoes the base colour of his tie (top). It’s the easiest choice to match the tie’s base colour, but it would be more interesting if Brosnan matched his pocket square to the red or yellow in the tie. He again wears a medium blue pocket square with his navy birdseye suit in Russia, which subtly echoes the lighter blue in the birdseye weave.

In The World is Not Enough, Pierce Brosnan wears a rather unexciting grey puffed silk pocket square with his pinstripe suit, but it echoes both the grey in the tie and the suit’s pinstripes. It’s a smart match whilst at the same time is subtle enough that it doesn’t look too studied.

Remington-Steele-Pocket-SquareBrosnan was no stranger to wearing puffed silk pocket squares in GoldenEye. He consistently wore them in Remington Steele, but then he most often went for the uninspired method of matching the pocket square to the base colour of his tie, and he occasionally matched his pocket square to his shirt as well. There were some exceptions to that, like in the second season premiere “Steele Away with Me”. Brosnan uses a red pocket square to echo the pink spots on his tie (left). It complements the outfit without looking too studied. But this method of matching the pocket square doesn’t only apply to matching with ties. Pocket squares can also be effectively used to echo the colour of a stripe or check in a shirt or a suit. Brosnan also could have worn a yellow pocket square to echo the stripes in his shirt.

Moonraker-Pocket-SquareRoger Moore shows in Moonraker how not to wear a pocket square, with his cream suit in Rio de Janeiro. He wears a light brown pocket square that’s such a close match to the shirt it’s probably made from the same cotton (right). Daniel Craig’s matching light blue pocket square and shirt aren’t so bad because they’re in a very neutral colour, but Moore’s shirt and pocket square are far more noticeable. A pocket square should not be an exact match to any other part of the outfit—unless it’s white or otherwise very neutral—or else it looks amateurish and unstylish. It’s a shame that Moore’s only pocket square in his seven Bond films is a failure since Moore is otherwise one of the most creatively-dressed Bonds.

Matching a patterned pocket square with a patterned shirt or tie can be difficult because there can often end up being too much going on. Wearing a patterned pocket square that has the same colours as the tie is almost as bad as wearing a matching tie and pocket square. If you find yourself often without a tie, a patterned pocket square can often be the best thing since it can add the interest that is lost without a tie. And no, there is no rule about not wearing a pocket square without a tie.