James Bond’s Many Brown Suits

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Roger Moore is often criticised for succumbing to 1970s fashion and causing him to wear uncharacteristic brown suits in his James Bond films. However, Bond has worn brown suits spanning five decades, from Goldfinger in 1964 to Quantum of Solace in 2008. Brown suits have a very long history that is independent of 1970s fashion. Brown suits are traditionally worn in the country made of rustic cloths like tweed and flannel. Brown worsted suits also have a long history, though they were never a conservative choice in London.

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The first brown suit in the series is Sean Connery’s brown and black houndstooth check country suit (pictured above) that he wears to the office in Goldfinger. No fashion trends influenced the colour of this suit, though it’s not the most appropriate choice for conducting business in the city. This is the perfect suit for country pursuits—and it was cut for that purpose for Connery to first use in the film Woman of Straw—and the dark colour and subtle pattern fit the James Bond character. Later in Goldfinger for the scene at Fort Knox, Bond wears a worsted brown striped suit (pictured top). This suit likely has black mixed with the brown, since the suit’s colour is very dark and muted. It’s certainly not a country suit, though it’s not a conservative choice to wear in town either. It works best for business and dressy occasions outside of the city, and it’s certainly appropriate to wear when foiling a villain’s plans at Fort Knox. A brown worsted suit is a great choice for when a proper city suit is too dressy but a traditional country suit is too relaxed. This kind of dark, muted brown also suits Connery’s complexion better than light, rich browns. Connery dresses it up with a white shirt, black tie and black shoes. Conservative accessories can make a brown worsted suit passable for business in the city, depending on the setting.

Connery Anthony Sinclair Brown Suit

In Thunderball Sean Connery again wears a muted brown suit, but this time it’s a three-piece brown suit at the office (pictured above). Like the striped suit, this suit is brown mixed with black, and Connery dresses it up conservatively with a simple cream shirt, a solid brown grenadine tie and black shoes. Being a three-piece makes the suit dressier, and that tries to make up for the less conservative colour. Keep in mind that James Bond was never one to follow all the rules.

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In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service George Lazenby wears a bolder brown suit for the swiss mountains; it is brown tweed with a cream tick pattern and a rust windowpane (pictured above). This might seem a bit too bold for Bond, but it actually belongs to the man Bond is impersonating: Sir Hilary Bray. Bray himself wears this suit to work at the College of Arms in London. Like Connery’s brown suits, it’s a muted brown but much lighter. It’s a very traditional country suit with hardly any influence from the era’s fashions.

Roger Moore is the Bond known for wearing brown suits, but since he’s not the first—or the last—Bond to have worn brown, most criticisms toward him for wearing brown aren’t quite fair. There’s never anything inappropriate about the colour of his brown suits, especially since he never wears them in London and only where they fit the—usually warm—location. The first brown suit he wears in Live and Let Die is only a basted brown worsted suit for a fitting with his tailor. Though the brown is dark like Connery’s brown suits, it’s not as muted. This is the first of Bond’s brown suits that is a result the fashions of its time. However, the colour is very flattering to Roger Moore’s warm complexion. Moore has a much different complexion than the two Bonds the came before him, and to dress him the same would not have been the best look for him.

The brown worsted suit returns in The Man with the Golden Gun, though this time it takes the form of olive. It’s still a classic suit colour, though it should be worn in the same settings that brown is worn in. Like brown, olive is very flattering to Moore’s warm complexion, and it suits the Hong Kong setting very well.

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The most notorious of Moore’s brown suits in the silk suit in The Spy Who Loved Me because it’s a light brown (pictured above). Though it’s the furthest from being a conservative business suit, it’s the perfect colour to wear in the Mediterranean. Sure, marine blue and light grey would also have been excellent choices, but there’s nothing wrong with light brown for an informal suit. It’s not just 1970s fashions that dictated Moore’s preference for this colour; it’s actually one of the best colours to flatter Moore’s warm complexion. Roger Moore wears a three-piece suit in a very similar brown—also in the Mediterranean—over ten years earlier in The Saint. And Moore wears this kind of light brown suit as Bond—again in the Mediterranean—in For Your Eyes Only. 1970s fashion was gone by this time, but light brown still looked fantastic on Moore.

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One of Moore’s brown suits is of the very traditional, country-type of brown suit: the brown donegal tweed suit in Moonraker (pictured above). Though the style of the suit is influenced by 70s fashions, the colour and cloth are certainly not. Though the wide lapels and flared trouser legs are poor fashion choices, brown tweed could not more perfectly fit the setting of a hunt in the country.

Though many of Pierce Brosnan’s suits have some brown in them, the only suit of his that is noticeably brown is his Prince of Wales check suit in GoldenEye. It recalls Sean Connery’s houndstooth check suit in Goldfinger, and like that suit, this one is not a good choice for the office in London either. Most recently, Daniel Craig wears a muted brown hopsack suit in Quantum of Solace (pictured below). Like Connery’s brown suits, this one is a very muted brown. Craig looks no less like James Bond in this suit than he does in his blue and grey suits. In fact, the warmer tones of this suit compared to his dark blues and greys is very flattering to Craig’s warm complexion. Though Bond is best known for his blue and grey suits, the brown suit is so not against the established Bond look as many believe.

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I’ve left out the beige and tan suits from this article since those are in a different category: warm-weather suits.

A Poncho and Sombrero on Horseback

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Roger Moore’s James Bond wears more disguises—and more outlandish disguises—than all of the other Bond actors. Just as he rides a camel wearing a keffiyeh with agel, a tunic and a cloak in the desert in The Spy Who Loved Me, Bond rides a horse wearing a poncho in South America in Moonraker. This is one of Bond’s most pointless disguises; it looks like he’s just wearing a poncho for fun. It helps him fit in with his surroundings, but Bond may have gone too far this time.

The poncho is a simple garment, which is essentially a blanket draped over the body with a hole for the head. Bond’s long poncho reaches the knees and has a boat neck opening for the head. Traditionally, ponchos are made of wool, and Bond’s likely is. Bond’s poncho is woven in beige, tan, medium brown and dark brown stripes, varying in sizes. The bottom ends of the poncho have a short beige fringe.

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Under the Poncho Bond wears a brown and white plaid shirt. The clear white in the shirt looks a little jarring against the warm, muted colours in the poncho, but this outfit isn’t meant to be a perfectly-coordinated fashion piece. The shirt still goes decently well with the poncho over it. The shirt has a medium-sized point collar and button cuffs. Inside the shirt’s collar Bond wears a dark brown silk neckerchief.

Bond’s dark brown trousers are bombachas, which are similar to breeches since they fasten around the leg below the knee. Bombachas are longer and fuller-cut than breeches; they are actually really baggy. Bond’s bombachas end around the top of his black leather riding boots. At one point, the bombachas ride up a little to reveal Bond’s tall brown socks.

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Bond’s black hat is a sombrero cordobés, also known as an Andalusian sombrero. The hat originated in Córdoba, Spain, and the character Zorro is known for wearing this hat. The black felt sombrero cordobés has a wide, flat brim and a flat crown. It also has a black triple-rope band at the base of the crown and a leather chin cord. In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Tracy wears a similar hat to the bullfight.

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Since I am not an expert on South American clothing, most of my research on these clothes came from Wikipedia and websites of the makers of this style of clothing. Feel free to correct me on anything wrong!

Drax: The Three-Piece Double-Breasted Suit

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Though the most memorable pieces of Hugo Drax’s wardrobe in Moonraker are his Mao jackets, his double-breasted, three-piece black flannel chalk stripe suit is perhaps the nicest suit that anyone wears in Moonraker. It is Drax’s only outfit that is reminiscent of what the character wears in the 1955 Moonraker novel by Ian Fleming. Drax is actually one of the few villains in the novels that dresses in good taste, and elements of literary Drax’s clothes are taken from Fleming’s own wardrobe:

Bond concluded his inspection with Drax’s clothes which were expensive and in excellent taste—a dark blue pinstripe in lightweight flannel, double-breasted with turnback cuffs, a heavy white silk shirt with a stiff collar, an unobtrusive tie with a small grey and white check, modest cuff-links, which looked like Cartier, and a plain gold Patek Philippe watch with a black leather strap. (Moonraker, Chapter 3)

The film Drax, played by Michael Lonsdale, also wears a double-breasted flannel suit, though it’s not exactly the same as what the literary Drax wears. The suit is not so lightweight and is black instead of dark blue. Though well-dressed men avoid solid black suits for all occasions other than funerals, the striped black suit isn’t treated the same way as its solid cousin. The soft, light grey chalk stripes break up the large sea of black so the suit doesn’t look too dreary. Chalkstripes on black flannel are also better than pinstripes and rope stripes on worsteds because they aren’t as bold. Strong white rope stripes on black give the suit a gangster-esque look, but Drax’s soft, grey chalk stripes make his black suit an elegant one. A black chalkstripe suit can still be difficult for most people to pull off, but Drax has a cool, high-contrast winter complexion, so the black does not overpower him.

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The literary Drax’s suit is assumed to be a two-piece suit, but in the film the suit is a three-piece. The three-piece double-breasted suit went out of fashion around the time of World War II. Few men today could actually benefit from the intense warmth of a flannel, double-breasted, three-piece suit.

Though the double-breasted three-piece suit recalls the 1930s, Drax’s suit jacket is timeless and has medium-width lapels and—unlike 1930s double-breasted suit which were made without vents—double vents. The jacket is in the classic double-breasted style of six buttons with two to button. It is cut with straight shoulders on the natural shoulder line and gently roped sleeveheads. The chest is clean but full, and the waist is slightly shaped. There is only one lapel buttonhole in the peaked lapels, in the left lapel. The jacket also has jetted pockets, double vents and four buttons on the cuffs.

Not much of Drax’s waistcoat is seen since so little of it sticks out above the suit jacket, but enough of it is seen to tell that it is single-breasted and has no lapels. Both single-breasted and double-breasted waistcoats, with or without lapels, are appropriate with a double-breasted suit, and Drax wears the leanest option since his flannel double-breasted suit jacket already has so much bulk. Drax’s suit trousers have wide, straight legs.

Drax’s white shirt is has a sheen, so it’s probably silk like the literary Drax’s shirt is. It has a point collar with a generous amount of tie space and square double cuffs with the link holes off-centre towards the fold. The cuffs are attached to the sleeve with pleats. Drax’s square cuff links are black with a gold frame, and they could possibly be from Cartier like in the Moonraker novel. Drax wears a black knitted silk tie, tied in a symmetrical half windsor knot. It’s the same tie that the literary James Bond wears but tied in a knot he would not approve of. A knitted tie may seem too informal for a double-breasted, three-piece suit, but the knitted silk texture is a good complement to flannel no matter the fastening style or the presence of a waistcoat. Pinned to his breast pocket he wears a brass Drax industries badge, which takes the place of a pocket square. Drax’s shoes are black.

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Brioni and a Disciple, Angelo Roma

Pierce Brosnan in a Brioni pinstripe suit in The World Is Not Enough

Pierce Brosnan in a Brioni three-piece suit in The World Is Not Enough

Brioni is very well-associated with making James Bond’s suits in the five films from GoldenEye to Casino Royale, tailoring both Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig under supervision of costume designer Lindy Hemming. But years before Pierce Brosnan took over the James Bond role in 1995, Brioni’s style came to the Bond series in 1977 when Angelo Roma provided Roger Moore’s suits for The Spy Who Loved Me, and then again two years later in Moonraker. Angelo Vitucci, a former manager of Brioni Coutoure and Brioni model, started Angelo Roma. Angelo Roma is not to be confused with the more famous and adventurous Roman fashion house Angelo Litrico, You can read more about Angleo Vitucci’s time with Brioni in this article and this article in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Angelo Vitucci brought Brioni’s Roman silhouette to his own suits. The Roman silhouette is based closely on the English military and equestrian cut popularised by tailors like H. Huntsman, Henry Poole and Dege & Skinner, and it is defined by powerful, straight and padded shoulders, often with roped sleeveheads, a clean chest and a suppressed waist. Though the style of Roger Moore’s suits in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker is eclipsed by wide lapels and flared trouser legs, the cut of the suit jacket is classic and not far removed from classic examples of Brioni’s tailoring. In the image below on the right, I’ve narrowed Moore’s lapels to a balanced width—as well as narrowed the tie and shortened and widened the collar—to demonstrate what a classic cut the suit has. Compare it to the original suit on the left below.

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Roger Moore wearing a grey dupioni silk suit Angelo Roma suit in Moonraker

The suit in the altered image essentially has the same look as a classic Brioni suit. If the gorge (the seam where the collar meets the lapels) wasn’t so curved, it almost looks like it could be from Savile Row! English tailors typically cut their gorges straighter than the Italians, though some Italians also cut their gorges very straight. It’s amazing what a difference just the width of the lapels makes to the perception of the chest size and shoulder width. The balanced lapel width gives Moore a more masculine chest without making him look barrel-chested like in his suits in The Saint do. Angelo Vitucci is quoted in a 1954 article in the Panama City News-Herald about Brioni tailoring:

“‘Mainly,’ comments Signor Vitucci, ‘our suits are designed to camouflage figure faults, like bow legs or other unfortunate handicaps.’ No cuffs on Brioni’s trousers. It’s not a matter of saving cloth but saving appearance. Uncuffed trousers, explains Angelo, give a clean, uncluttered look and are more hygienic besides, since they do not catch dust.”

Brioni appears to have changed their mind about trouser turn-ups when they made Pierce Brosnan’s trousers. Though James Bond’s relationship with Italian tailoring started with a disciple of Brioni, Brioni finally came to the James Bond series sixteen years after Moonraker in GoldenEye.

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Pierce Brosnan wearing a charcoal windowpane Brioni suit in GoldenEye

The excellent book Dressed to Kill: James Bond, The Suited Hero names Checchino Fonticoli as Brioni’s master tailor who fits Pierce Brosnan in his suits for GoldenEye. He was capable of altering Brioni’s house style to make just the right look for James Bond in the 1990s. Lindy Hemming’s is quoted in the book saying, “I wanted a company which was capable of tailoring in the Savile Row manner”. Brioni’s Roman style is certainly reminiscent of military Savile Row tailoring as I mentioned above, though, as stated in the book, Hemming also wanted the suits to look current just as Anthony Sinclair’s suit did in the 1960’s:

“We discussed style and proportion and came up with a very modern jacket shape; although classic, it is slightly longer and looks good with three buttons as well as two. I also wanted to incorporate traditional details such as ticket pockets which would suggest that the clothing might have come from Savile Row.”

Whilst Savile Row tailors, especially those in the military tradition, would probably not make their suit jackets as loose as Pierce Brosnan’s were in GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies, Hemming’s choice of Brioni was more for their ability to produce a large number of suits quickly than it was for their Italian style. As well as ticket pockets, Brosnan’s Brioni suits mostly have double vents and slanted pockets to carry on the illusion of an English suit. Hemming is also quoted in Dressed to Kill saying, “This man [Bond] must look immaculate, not strange or foppish or too fashionable.”

At the time, Brosnan’s suits could have been more fashionable if the trousers had triple pleats (like the trousers with his navy blazer in GoldenEye) or quadruple pleats instead of classic double pleats. But Lindy Hemming failed in not making Brosnan’s suits too fashionable since they have very full cut in his first two Bond films. The tight-fitting suit trend now as Daniel Craig wears in Skyfall makes the loose cut of Brosnan’s suit jackets even more apparent.

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Pierce Brosnan wearing a charcoal flannel Brioni suit in Tomorrow Never Dies

Though Daniel Craig’s Brioni suits are cut trimmer like an English suit, they lack the English details that costume designer Lindy Hemming put on Brosnan’s suits, like the ticket pockets, slanted pockets and, usually, double vents. Craig’s Brioni suits have straight pockets and, on all but one, single vents, which are still classic styles and ultimately have no bearing on a suit’s style. Whilst Brosnan’s Brioni suits are characterised by their long, loose cut and low button stance, Craig’s Brioni suits have a trimmer cut and classic button stance like Moore’s Angelo suits, and a very high gorge. It’s difficult to draw direct comparisons between Moore’s, Brosnan’s and Craig’s Italian suits since they all reflect their contemporary fashions, but they all are tied together with the straight, padded shoulders and clean chest that define the Roman tailoring that Brioni made popular.

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Daniel Craig wears a charcoal blue Brioni suit in Casino Royale

Two Lapel Buttonholes on a Double-Breasted Jacket

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A buttonhole in each lapel on Roger Moore’s Douglas Hayward blazer in For Your Eyes Only

Why do double-breasted jackets and coats often have a buttonhole at the top of each lapel whilst single-breasted jackets and coats only have a buttonhole at the top of the left lapel? It is because double-breasted jackets and coats symmetrically have both buttons and buttonholes down the left and right sides whilst a single-breasted jacket or coat only has buttons down the right side and buttonholes down the left side. The buttonholes at the top of the lapels reflect what’s below. Though peaked lapels on a double-breasted jacket never fold over and close like single-breasted notch lapels sometimes do on sports coats, pea coats and some double-breasted overcoats—like the greatcoat—are able to fasten up to the top. These coats do have a button on each side either under the collar or at the top of the chest for the lapels to fold over and fasten to. The two buttonholes on a double-breasted coat are carried over from these more functional garments.

A buttonhole in each lapel on Pierce Brosnan's double-breasted overcoat

A buttonhole in each lapel on Pierce Brosnan’s double-breasted Brioni overcoat in Tomorrow Never Dies

Dimi Major put a buttonhole in each lapel of George Lazenby’s double-breasted car coat and blazer in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Douglas Hayward made Roger Moore’s double-breasted blazer in For Your Eyes Only, his double-breasted suit jacket in Octopussy and his double-breasted dinner jacket in A View to a Kill with a buttonhole in each lapel. Brioni put a buttonhole in each lapel in Pierce Brosnan’s double-breasted blazer in GoldenEye and in his double-breasted overcoats in Tomorrow Never DiesThe World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day. Sean Connery’s, Roger Moore’s and Pierce Brosnan’s naval uniform jackets and Roger Moore’s naval greatcoat all have a buttonhole on each lapel, and the greatcoat’s lapels can close to the top. Daniel Craig’s greatcoat in Quantum of Solace also has a buttonhole in each lapel, and like Roger Moore’s greatcoat it can close to the top.

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A buttonhole only in the left lapel in Roger Moore’s double-breasted Cyril Castle suit jacket in The Man with the Golden Gun

Cyril Castle, however, only put a single buttonhole in the left lapel in Roger Moore’s double-breasted chesterfield and silk suit jacket in Live and Let Die and Roger Moore’s double-breasted suits, blazer and white dinner jacket in The Man with the Golden Gun. A single lapel buttonhole on a suit jacket discards the ancestry and symmetry of having two lapel buttonholes for instead considering only the actual usage of a suit jacket’s lapel buttonhole: the boutonnière. Even when there is a buttonhole in both lapels, only the left buttonhole should be used for a boutonnière if you are so inclined to wear a boutonnière.

Daniel Craig’s Billy Reid pea coat in Skyfall also only has a lapel buttonhole on the left, which takes into account the reality that even if the lapels were closed, only the left side would actually fasten over to a button on the right. There wouldn’t be a jigger button at the top of the coat like there is at the waist. Since the Billy Reid pea coat has peaked lapels and no buttons at the top, it actually can’t close at the top like a traditional pea coat could anyway.

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No buttonholes in the lapels of Roger Moore’s double-breasted Angelo Roma dinner jacket in Moonraker

Angelo Vitucci didn’t put any lapel buttonholes in the two double-breasted dinner jackets in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker and the double-breasted blazer in Moonraker. This is the coward’s solution for those who can’t decide if a double-breasted jacket should have a lapel buttonhole in the left lapel or both lapels. Though history and symmetry says there should be a buttonhole in each lapel of a double-breasted jacket, it’s not a faux pas to have one buttonhole only in the left lapel. No lapel buttonholes at all ends up looking cheap and leaves no place to wear a flower.

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.

The Lapidus Cuff

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For The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, Frank Foster made Roger Moore’s shirts with a special kind of cuff: the tab cuff. Foster calls it the Lapidus cuff, after the French fashion designer Ted Lapidus who invented this cuff. The Lapidus cuff is a square barrel cuff with an extended tab to fasten the cuff. Though there doesn’t appear to be any special benefit to the cuff design, the Lapidus cuff pivots in a unique way compared to typical single-button cuffs.

Roger Moore wears his Lapidus cuff shirts with his suits and sports coats in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, as well as with his dinner suit in the former film. Moore’s Lapidus cuffs are stitched 1/4 inch from the edge all around, but on my own lilac pinpoint example from Frank Foster (see below) the tab portion is stitched on the edge whilst the rest of the cuff has regular 1/4 inch stitching. Foster puts a 25 ligne button on the cuff instead of the typical 16 ligne button, which makes the cuff stand out more than it already would. However, an unconventional shirt cuff is a rather subtle—but also unique—way to make a fashion statement.

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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.