Commander of the Cloth, Part 3: Pierce Brosnan

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Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond wardrobe brought Bond’s suits and coats up to the new standards of the 1990s. Lighter weights had become the standard in luxury Italian suits, which were at the height of fashion at the time. And by this time, super wools were no longer special; they had become the standard. Consumers were demanding the softest hands from their worsted wools. The full cut of the time that showed off a surplus of the finest fabrics was the height of luxury in the 1990s.

Luxurious Lightweight Suitings

Brosnan mostly wears suits made of lightweight superfine worsted wool in blue birdseye, subtle blue and brown patterns or greys with hints of brown and blue or the occasional subtle pinstripe or windowpane. Brosnan’s pinstripes are subtle like how the Italians or Americans prefer theirs, in comparison to the thick chalk stripes that the British and James Bond traditionally prefer. Brosnan also also wears a couple of lightweight worsted flannel suits, which are made of combed worsted yarns but has napped finish liked flannel has. Compared to traditional woollen flannel, worsted flannel can be woven in a lighter weight and is harder-wearing in the lighter weight.

A charcoal lightweight worsted flannel suit in Tomorrow Never Dies

These worsteds and worsted flannels give Brosnan’s Bond the look of modern international businessman and less of the look of a refined English playboy that Sean Connery’s and Roger Moore’s suitings gave them. The re-occurrences of many of these cloths define the look of Brosnan’s Bond.

When not wearing his businesslike suitings, Brosnan’s Bond has a penchant for sand-coloured linen suits in warm locales. And in damp, cool Scotland, Brosnan appropriately wears a tweed suit. An article in Chicago’s Daily Herald mentions that Brosnan wears suits in The World Is Not Enough made of Irish linen and cheviot tweed. Irish linen depending on if it is referring to the cloth or the yarns does not necessarily mean that the cloth was made in Ireland or that the linen was spun in Ireland, but there is some Irish work involved. Cheviot tweed at one time meant that the wool was from Cheviot sheep from Scotland or northern England, but that is no longer the case.

A cream Irish linen suit in The World Is Not Enough

For evening wear, Brosnan wears a black barrathea wool dinner suit with satin silk lapels in GoldenEye. In his three subsequent Bond films, Brosnan wears midnight blue dinner suits with grosgrain silk trimmings. In Tomorrow Never Dies his dinner suit in barrathea wool, and in The World Is Not Enough it’s a shinier wool and mohair blend.

A cashmere coat in Tomorrow Never Dies

For his outerwear, the traditional heavy armour-like melton wool English coats were a thing of the past for Bond. Most or all of Brosnan’s long overcoats are 100% cashmere. While there may be more luxurious and softer wools like vicuña, cashmere follows the modern mainstream idea for a luxurious coat. Cashmere has a soft hand and feels comfortable and flexible even at the weight of an overcoat.

Cloth from the British Isles

Though Pierce Brosnan’s Bond is known for wearing Italian suits from Brioni, at many of the cloths his suits were made from were sourced from England. Costume designer Lindy Hemming spoke about Italian tailoring being necessary to updating Bond’s look in the 1990s. She said of Brioni, “The new Brioni clothing that Mr. Brosnan wears in Tomorrow Never Dies establishes the James Bond character as a totally modern man of international taste, dressed in classic but contemporary proportions”. Though Brioni did exchange Bond’s English tailoring for Italian, England was not uninvolved with the suits.

GoldenEye Plaid Suit
A suit in a glen check cloth from Bower Roebuck & Co

Suitings for GoldenEye were sourced from West Yorkshire, the heart of England’s cloth-making industry. An article by Peter Curtain in the Yorkshire Post named William Halstead, Bower Roebuck & Co and Schofield & Smith as sources for the suitings in GoldenEye. William Halstead is credited for the black cloth of the dinner suit, while Schofield & Smith proudly claims the navy birdseye as theirs. Schofield & Smith mentions on their website that Brioni made thirty suits of their navy cloth.

The article mentions Bower Roebuck & Co along with Schofield & Smith as providing the material for Brosnan’s daytime outfits in GoldenEye. Excluding the navy birdseye suit, this leaves the blue and sand check and the charcoal windowpane cloths as likely examples of their work, and Schofield & Smith attribute the checked cloth to Bower Roebuck. The linen suit from Cuba likely was not made from a Yorkshire cloth.

A suit in a blue birdseye cloth by Holland & Sherry in Tomorrow Never Dies

For Tomorrow Never Dies, Brosnan wears another navy birdseye suit, and it is from one of the most well-known of English cloth merchants, Holland & Sherry. Brosnan went Italian for his charcoal suit, which is a lightweight worsted flannel from Loro Piana. Though flannel is a traditional English cloth, the English had not yet mastered in 1997 how to weave a flannel cloth as lightweight as the Italians had.

Sources for suitings in Brosnan’s other Bond films are not known.

26 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks Matt!

    “These worsteds and worsted flannels give Brosnan’s Bond the look of modern international businessman and less of the look of a refined English playboy that Sean Connery’s and Roger Moore’s suitings gave them.”

    -I have some (serious) doubts about that: IMO Connery looked very businesslike in most of his suits (with their almost military sobriety); he is perhaps the one whom I would associate least with that Bond-as-a-playboy image.
    However Brosnan’s Bond is IMO the playboy par excellence, and his suits’ style always conveys that. All those very soft luxurious suitings together with that particular Brioni-cut create an (over-) opulent, showy or, in a nutshell, a “lush” look, which is – IMO – not appropriate for Bond. Brosnan’s look is least British of all – indeed “international” could be the right word to describe it: It is “as clean as a whistle”, but, at the same time, it comes with a complete lack of individuality: No signature style items like the navy grenadine tie or the cocktail cuffs, no (skilfully) breaking-the-rules etc.; overall it is – quite simply – boring and nondescript. And in that sense certainly not worth to be called “refined”.

    • I’m not sure I understand your reasoning. How can Brosnan’s style be both “over-opulent” and “showy,” but also “boring” and “nondescript”?

      • Exactly. I always thought Brosnan’s suitings were very sober and conservative. Mostly charcoal and navy for city and sand for exotic locations. No mohair silk or these kind of things. Stripes and checks were rare and subtle, not loud.
        Also a suit being conservative in design (as Brosnan’s were : mostly identical in design : 3 button, double vents) doesn’t make it automatically boring. I always liked his suits a lot and thought that it was the Brioni shoulder that gave the whole suit all of his interest and made it work.
        The only playboy thing I can see in Brosnan was his choice of ties for the first two movies. Cashmere coats could count too but after all cashmere is a perfect suiting for a winter coat. Of course a wool and cashmere blend is less expensive.
        Overall I think you are quite unfair with Brosnan and he definitely had a definite style. The often dark, sober, conservative suits mixed with colored and patterned ties is clearly his style. Every Bond actor must find his right style -that’s what the costume designer is here for !- and not just be a pale copy of Connery’s or Moore’s style.

        I agree with Renard though about Connery’s style : sober and minimalistic so I would definitely not call him playboy. Lazenby (rakish cuts) and Moore (specific shirt and jacket cuffs) come more to my mind when I hear playboy.

        Brosnan’s wardrobe only « problem »is that it doesn’t look particularly British. Perhaps has he worn one Glen Urquhart check and one chalk striped suit more, we would have a different impression.

      • “How can Brosnan’s style be both “over-opulent” and “showy,” but also “boring” and “nondescript”?”

        -That is no contradiction. What I mean is that his suits look all the same – they don’t have any character, because there is little to no change in texture. Always those “softest of the softest wools” – as Matt pointed out, that is typical 1990s style. Quite common, no individuality, not even the slightest bit of it (there is of course a connection to Brioni as a “mass-producer”). If only he could have had some suits / jackets made of cloths with a more coarse texture, i.e. heavy tweeds or flannels. Or a different kind of weave like herringbone, glencheck etc. But even his tweeds and flannels appear to be made of that soft wool. That is why even such luxurious and opulent clothes can easily look boring. And it does not matter if it is blue or grey or whatsoever, that overwhelming monotony I described is always there, no matter what colour. And also no matter what shirt, or tie, or cufflinks are worn in combination with it.

    • Indeed. Very true. It’s clear that Brosnan, with these “opulent” luxury fabrics in bling Brioni suits, knows little about tasteful dressing. Even worse than that earlier flash merchant, Moore. Connery, who often buttoned both buttons of his 2 button suits and Craig, who makes Norman Wisdom look like David Niven; these would be much better examples of sartorial elegance.

      • “It’s clear that Brosnan, with these “opulent” luxury fabrics in bling Brioni suits, knows little about tasteful dressing.”

        -Yes, exactly, that’s right. With your ironic (ha-ha-ha!) remark you hit the nail on the head. I am not sure if Brioni is really bling; that’s not my point. But someone who relies on appearing well dressed only by buying himself nothing but Brioni suits will be achieving the contrary.

        “Even worse than that earlier flash merchant, Moore. ”
        -And again: true! From a technical point of view, I would always prefer Moore’s Bond wardrobe to Brosnans, because Moore’s suits were true bespoke suits (albeit in 1970s, as you stated correctly, rather “flashy”ones). It’s not the first time I am stating that.

        “Connery, who often buttoned both buttons of his 2 button suits ”
        -Oh what a crime!! It is not to be believed! But look at this guy:

        https://bamfstyle.com/2017/08/14/affair2remember-grayplaidsuit/#more-19149

        https://bamfstyle.com/2013/01/18/charade-dark-suit/

        Shocking, isn’t it? Positively shocking!! But what can you expect? He is known as the greatest slouch in cinematic history (alongside with Connery, of course!)!

      • “Rescue”?? I couldn’t care less! I let my opinions stand or fall on their validity. Moore certainly knew how to wear his suits properly. That’s for sure!

    • Bringing in the same faux pas made by another actor doesn’t serve to validate anything. The fact of the matter is; Connery, of himself, is not s stylish dresser. Neither is he interested in this and has said so. During filming of YOLT he got irritated when complaints were made by fans about his scruffy appearance when off-set. His sartorial nous can be seen in any tv interview, for example. Lazenby, Dalton and Craig aren’t any better. In contrast, view Pierce and Roger being interviewed on tv etc. Connery was a manifestation of director Terence Young and his interpretation of the character. That’s being fair and objective about it and he’d still be my second favourite Bond.

      • “Bringing in the same faux pas made by another actor doesn’t serve to validate anything.”
        -Admittedly. But IMO there are faux pas who deserve being criticised more harshly than this one (IMO it’s minor).

        “The fact of the matter is; Connery, of himself, is not s stylish dresser. […] In contrast, view Pierce and Roger being interviewed on tv etc.”
        -But the discussion’s point is not those men’s offscreen, but their onscreen appearance in the role of Bond. Besides, Brosnan’s stylistic choices are often also quite questionable (See http://pbfiles.net/twine/twine-premiere2.html). And I remember having seen him wearing jeans and sneakers during an interview (which, as I see it, is no crime at all).

        You seem to be really determined to try everything in order to rescue your “innate style” theory.

      • It is only that “innate style” is self-contradictory: Style is something to be acquired, not something you are born with. Therefore it cannot be valid. What you have in mind, is perhaps a certain kind of charisma which makes someone look better in a suit than another. But I can’t see why Brosnan and Moore should be privileged in this regard – the other Bonds, especially Connery, Craig, and Lazenby, are undoubtedly at the same level (IMO Connery even outplaying them).

  2. Brosnan’s suits were well-matched with his portrayal of Bond. As you point out, he often posed as a continental business man, so I can see why Hemming chose Brioni. Given what some people were wearing at the time, these suits are all in good taste. I also appreciate the consistency with which Brosnan’s Bond dressed, even if the simplicity from the character’s origins was missing.

  3. On another note. The suit fabrics of Brosnan never striked me as very opulent. Onscreen I mean. I think the luxurious effect came perhaps of the fact that massive amounts of suits were used for the movies, because of Brioni production capacity. So that in every shot, he looks like he is wearing a brand new suit (and he probably is !) Such things were not the case with Connery, Lazenby, Moore… maybe it’s the reason. I have the same impression while seeing Craig’s suits onscreen too.
    Anyway I always wondered why going with lightweight suitings in Goldeneye since Brosnan was quite slim here. A heavier fabric is always a good thing to add an extra presence I think.
    On a last note -I think everybody nows where I am standing concerning Brosnan’s style right now ;)- Brosnan deserves a mention for being the first Bond actor (Matt will correct me if I am wrong) to bring the windowpane suit to Bond’s wardrobe. And I think he did it very tastefully.

    Matt, thanks for this great post. I never thought some suitings came from British cloth merchants !

    • “So that in every shot, he looks like he is wearing a brand new suit (and he probably is !) Such things were not the case with Connery, Lazenby, Moore… maybe it’s the reason.”

      -That’s a very valid point – is it really sophisticated to have a closet full of, say, 30 suits who look basically all the same?

      “Massive amounts of suits were used for the movies, because of Brioni production capacity.” – Spot on, that’s to the point. Are you likely to hold such a mass of almost identical-looking clothes in high esteem? I suppose you are not.

      • Come on Renard, you must be doing this on purpose ?! Or you must be joking ?
        It’s not a question of having a realistic wardrobe here. The 30 or so many suits are used for the action scenes, perhaps also for one or two stuntmen sometimes too, and that’s it. Having a wardrobe of 30 suits isn’t the point at all here. You mix up the fictional Brosnan wardrobe with the realistic facts of movie costume needs and production.

        On another note, you can blame Connery’s suits too -although I precise that he is my favorite in term of style- to be as bland and as uniformal-like as well : 2 button, notched lapels, straight pockets. Only the vent style changed and rarely a ticket pocket was added. Same trousers cut for 5 movies. Grey is omnipresent. I agree that DAF saw a big change in style but that could have been the same thing for Brosnan had a made one more Bond movie. He would probably have worn more 2-button suits. Don’t forget Connery made 6 movies, Brosnan only 4.

  4. There were some ties I personally didn’t care for. Cufflinks also hit or miss. The fit could have been slightly closer in the first two movies, but at least the shoulders were not too wide as in LTK. They also could have done a little more to pass his suits off as English besides the ticket pockets and double vents, such as nipping the waist a bit more. Are they bad suits? No. Not by any stretch. I think those who complain about him looking like a “used car salesman” today are simply accustomed to seeing close-fitting suits.

    All in all, the worst you can say is that he looks expensively dressed rather than quietly in the background as is the case with Connery and Craig.

    • Jovan, good to see you here.
      Interesting idea that you have. I agree that Connery obviously blends in with the crowd. But if Craig doesn’t look expensively dressed, then I will be damned ! I think he clearly doesn’t fit quietly in the background, both because of the bold (mostly due to the clothes being too tight as we all agree on that) cut and luxurious feel (most QOS and Spectre suitings). I honestly think Tom Ford looks much more opulent and showy than Brioni (at least the Brosnan and Craig-era Brioni). But it’s up to debate of course !

    • @Le Chiffre
      “Having a wardrobe of 30 suits isn’t the point at all here.”

      But it’s the same if you have only 5 or 10 suits which are all the same in cloth, texture and style. It’s equally boring. I am not concerned with realistic vs. film wardrobe here.

      And as to Connery: No, there is a (big!) difference between him and Brosnan. Almost all of Connery’s suits have different textures and are made of different cloths. You are of course right about his uniform-approach with regard to suits, but there are subtle things which make them all unique. The difference lies in the details.

  5. I always thought Brosnan looked amazing in his suits. Although I do agree that he doesn’t have a trademark look, like the grenadine tie or the white pocket square, he always looked the business.

    In terms of dress, he comes 3rd after Connery and Lazenby, at least to me.

  6. Renard, you should look again at the outfits Brosnan wore in TWINE. These are some of the most timeless suits of the entire series. Only the T&A tie at the beginning is a bit too loud. But of course you have the right to find them boring…

    Just out of curiosity, what is your favorite Bond in terms of style ?

      • Renard: Reasonable minds can differ, I suppose. To me, Connery’s Bond has the most “boring” wardrobe by far. Full-cut two button suits, solid blue or off-white shirts, and navy, black, or brown solid ties. No notable outwear. I love the grenadine ties and the cocktail cuff shirts, but everything else is pretty forgettable. In my opinion, it was Connery’s legendary performance that caused the clothing to become iconic.

        Brosnan, on the other hand, wore checks, birdseye, windowpane, pick-and-pick, tweed, linen, etc. paired with a wider array of shirts and ties. He also wore beautiful overcoats that I would think most men of style could easily appreciate.

        It’s perfectly valid to prefer Connery’s style over Brosnan’s, but your present critique of Brosnan is not supported by the evidence, much of it contained in this article!

      • It seems like your argument is that Connery’s wardrobe was boring because it was essentially the same cuts and colors, but Brosnan’s was interesting because he mixed differnt patterns and textures into his limited silhouette and palette. However, the names could be reversed without changing anything else.

        Brosnan, up until Die Another Day, had basically the same suit in different cloths for his entire run, but was able to keep his clothes interesting looking by having the same suit in the same few colors but with different patterns. Connery, up until Diamonds Are Forever, had basically the same suit in different cloths for his entire run, but was able to keep his clothes interesting looking by having the same suit in the same few colors, but with different weights and textures. In From Russia With Love alone, he had six suits, all gray, but all immediately discernible from each other and all interesting in their own ways.

        The ability to find a cut, style, and palette that flattered them and then use different cloth weights, textures, and patterns to provide interest is what makes them the two best dressed Bonds.

  7. @FS
    “Reasonable minds can differ, I suppose.”

    -But of course! Certainly they can, and they should (otherwise it would be quite a dull affair). I have no problem with “agreeing to disagree”.

    As to your remarks: Connery’s Bond wardrobe is not flamboyant; and if one prefers a more rakish style, then, quite naturally, one would rather be leaning towards Moore’s or Brosnan’s style. That’s perfectly all right. I prefer Connery’s because I think that of all Bonds he comes closest to the style Fleming had in mind when he created the character. I also like that “old world” flair his clothing has – it is therefore that in my book he is the most British of all Bonds. And his suits (as well as Lazenby’s and Moore’s) were all bespoke, something I appreciate and also something I miss very much nowadays. I really wonder why Craig’s Bond can’t wear nice bespoke suits as Ralph Fiennes’ “M” does. It’s clear that they can’t provide him with 30 bespoke suits which are most likely to be ruined during shooting, but perhaps a single one (for the non-action scences) should definitely be possible.

  8. Brosnan, did the job that was needed for his portrayal of bond. He was very “grace under fire” that to me is gives the “untouchable ” factor that every bond should have. Even dalton had this characteristic when tom mankiewicz said he had a face like you do not what he is capable of doing.

    This being said, brosnan brought out the best in brioni and brioni brought out the best in bond by taking the classic gray and navy and making them more internationally renowned rather than the dull classic flat colors of the connery era.

    However with craig, everytime I see him in brioni he looks he borrowed the suit from his father.

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