All Black: Suit, Shirt and Tie

29

Tomorrow-Never-Dies-Black-Suit

Though he doesn’t wear this in the movie, Pierce Brosnan wears a black suit with a black shirt and black tie in stills for and on half the advertising materials for Tomorrow Never Dies. At the time it was very fashionable to match your shirt and tie, and wearing everything in black was even cooler. Now it’s mostly worn by young men trying to look hip, or it’s worn as a uniform in a jazz orchestra. It’s very showy and not at all elegant, more appropriate for a Bond villain than for Bond. Thankfully we never see this look on Bond in any film.

Since the entire outfit is so dark, it’s difficult to make out the details. The suit is Brosnan’s usual button-three from Brioni. The silhouette is recognisable from the straight shoulders and roped sleeve heads. The slanted hip pockets have flaps, and there are four buttons on the cuffs. The trousers are worn with a belt and have turn-ups. The black shirt has a point collar, and since the collar is different than the collar on the shirts in the film I cannot tell if the shirt is made by Turnbull & Asser. The tie is solid black, most likely satin silk. The shoes are black, but the style is difficult to make out. The toe has a very chiselled shape, unlike any of the Church’s shoes Brosnan wears in the film.

Though it’s a look that should be avoided, Brosnan executes it as well as it can possibly be done. What’s most difficult is making sure that the three blacks do not clash with each other. Not all blacks are the same; some may have a hint of green whilst others may have a hint of purple. It’s not uncommon now to see celebrities wear a black suit and black shirt sans tie, and I find that is more successful than with a tie when it is worn in a casual evening setting. But in that case, a dark grey shirt would be a way to improve that type of outfit and still keep it all dark. I must admit, there is something cool about wearing all black, but wearing a black suit, a black shirt and a black tie is not the best way to do it.

One of my VHS box sets from 1999, released shortly before The World Is Not Enough. It came with GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies and some Connery and Moore films. At the time I got this, I though the all-black look was cool.
One of my VHS box sets from 1999, released shortly before The World Is Not Enough. It came with GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies and five others. At the time I got this, I though the all-black look on James Bond was cool.

29 COMMENTS

  1. That’s a beautiful suit, and I must admit that I myself fell victim to the Regis Philbin-style of matching my tie, usually satin, to my shirt in the late 90’s/early 2000’s, since this was all the rage when I first started to become interested in men’s fashion. Thankfully that trend hasn’t carried over to the present decade. Looking back I feel that I looked more like a low-rent gangster than anything else, and I’m glad to see that within the film Bond’s style was kept pretty traditional– most of the clothes in Tomorrow Never Dies hold up very well today.

    There is something inherently cool about being dressed all in black, though I think it only works in more casual occasions. I’ve always associated the all-black look with Johnny Cash.

  2. In Italy was not much common; was a look considered “da mafioso” or vulgar.
    I think that is orrible,and much more “boring” that Connery’s minimalist look of 60s.

  3. Although I was just a teenager in the late 90’s when this look was popular, I can remember hating it even then. I think vulgar, as Carmelo mentions, is probably the best term to describe it.

    That said, Brosnan somehow manages to make it look alright. I think it’s a look he’s kept in his personal wardrobe over the years, so that might explain why he was wearing it for these publicity photos. In any event, I’m quite glad that it didn’t make it into the film.

  4. This style is not something I miss about the 90s. But, I’m in agreement…there is something cool about all black. However, if I was to do this, I would lose the tie. Maybe go with a charcoal suit instead of black.

    • As I recall, Patrick McGoohan did charcoal (?) over black, with a black polo shirt rather than a formal shirt, in Danger Man (and the outfit subsequently turned up in the opening and closing episodes of The Prisoner). The effect was informal but pleasing, to my eyes at least, and avoided sounding the gangsterish note that the tie creates.

  5. Brosnan gets away with it in the first photo (probably because of the artistic merits of the photography than anything else) but the ultra-staged VHS box art is beyond terrible.

    I thought it couldn’t get worse than Sam Mendes’ overdone “superhero-pose” (even the character of Severine does so while on deck of the Chimera) in Skyfall was bad. Guess I was wrong.

    -Kurt

  6. I generally agree with the comments and with the post. All black can be very cool; adding a black tie seems to subtract from the look. Pierce does seem to wear this (or did, back in the day…) in his real life. Glad it didn’t make it into TND. It would have been competitive with any “worst of Bond look.”

  7. One thing that this post reminds me of is how Tomorrow Never Dies was the first Bond film that I remember trying to be “cool”. From the typeface for the advertising to the techno-including soundtrack to the stylish picture of Brosnan in all black against a red background – we were light years away from Dalton’s tenure and even later Roger Moore (Octopussy was the first Bond film that I saw in a theatre). I really loved the not-quite-in-our-world glamour of Goldeneye – Bond wearing a cravat while driving around Monte Carlo! – as it reminded me of the way I felt watching the old Connery movies; because they were before my time there was an almost mythical, mystical quality to their world that I could never be a part of. Yet I appreciated that TND was trying to become relevant to the world I lived in (although I think the soundtrack is terrible).

    As for the all black look I remember it looking very cool at the time, although even then I couldn’t imagine Bond wearing that in a film. I seem to recall trying this look going out to a club one night but as Matt says there were too many types of black so I ditched the tie.

    If anyone thinks the picture of Brosnan on the movie case above is bad then they should see the one (I believe taken at the same photo shoot) where his legs are spread apart and he’s holding the barrel of the gun between them – complete with smug smirk on his face. To me it epitomized “trying too hard”.

    • GoldenEye was the film with the techno soundtrack, and definitely the worst of the series. David Arnold included some techno in his Brosnan soundtracks, but it was underneath an orchestra with a more classic Bond sound.

      • Ironically enough, most of Arnold’s variants on the Bond theme are based on only one or two orchestral arrangements – sometimes re-performed, and sometimes the same recordings chopped and mixed under the techno tracks.

        Even Bond’s escape from MI6 at the hotel was punctuated by an Arnold cue that was “new” for the film, but was based off of left-over arrangements from TND.

        -Kurt

      • I can understand why someone would think that GE was the one with “the” techno soundtrack, but both GE and TND had techno sounds.

        The reason that I mentioned techno in TND is that its soundtrack included “cool” techno, or that is to say it was playing to what was cool and new at the time. That, along with other elements, is why it seemed to me the first Bond film that tried to be cool (at least out of what I had seen as “new” Bond films.

        Whereas with GE I remember sitting there on opening night and there was a palpable “What the..?” feeling when the funky, jokey music came on during the car chase between Bond and Xenia. It was so far removed from not just the Bond films, but what was common in films at the time that it totally took the audience out of the film (but then it was followed by the lovely theme as Bond approaches the casino).

        It’s funny, but I mentioned a while back that the car chase music from GE would be far more suited to a Luc Besson movie, not realizing that Eric Serra had indeed worked with him!

        To paraphrase Le Chiffre, can we get back to talking about clothes now?

  8. Haha. Thanks for sharing, Matt.
    I am glad the outfit didn’t make it into the film, you could have add it to the poll on the worst suit ever -even if there’s no problem at all about the cut.
    Brosnan would also have been hardly different from Carver, in term of clothing…
    It looks like a nightclubber’s outfit, or an outfit someone would wear in a video game.
    Even the common gangster look is a bit different : it’s more a charcoal/black/very dark suit, dark/black shirt, and light colored tie to provide a deep contrast. It’s flashy but could look nice sometimes.
    I quite agree with Brosnan making this work, although it doesn’t flatter him -all black makes him look slimmer.

    On another topic, I really don’t understand what’s so cool about wearing all black, yet I am 22 years old ! To me black looks cool when you wear it casually, and only one item at a time, like a shirt with sleeves rolled up, or a polo shirt, and works better with a non black suit. I appreciate the look of a mid-grey or navy suit -or pants and sport coat- combined with a black three-button polo shirt.
    That said, the coolest way to wear black will still be white tie to me…

  9. In the same way that the black bow tie and white shirt amidst a black tuxedo draws attention upward and to the face, I find that the silver belt buckle being the only light in his all black ensemble immediately draws attention to his crotch.

    I don’t think that was intentional.

  10. This photo was used on the cover to the UK paperback of Raymond Benson’s novelisation of the screenplay.

    The movie Bond has often worn just black to help sneak around in the shadows (snooping around Palmyra in Thunderball, Whittaker’s villa in The Living Daylights and the black shirt with rolled up sleeves in the aquarium in Licence to Kill). I’m not sure a tie is necessary if you’re trying to be incognito, although Brosnan liked straightening his during action scenes…

    The key thing that screams “wrong” to me in this photo is the gun is almost being held above his head…

  11. Yes, the all black look was all the rage here (Australia) in the ’80’s. Generally without a tie, but most guys fastened the collar button, and looked a little like priests. On one tragic occasion, the synthetic rubbish in my shirt reacted to the disco strobe lights and staged it’s own light show. Needless to say, my all black attire stayed in the closet after that. That being said, men of Italian or Greek origin seemed to carry off this look with much more panache.

  12. In my opinion an all black look its only acceptable if you are in one of the next three hyphotesis:

    1.- If you are a teenager that has never used a suit.
    2.- If you are a metalhead that has never used a suit.
    3.- If you are a night club bouncer.

  13. I actually really like the black on black look just as long as you have the right skin color and hair color to pull it off. I know it is a look that should mostly be avoided, but I think in some occasions, even higher scale ones, it works. I am Indian, and I have medium brown skin and black hair. Here are the 2 occasions in which I wore it. I own a black Brioni suit and and a navy Brioni suit with the same 3-button front and a double vent with peak lapels,

    I had a wedding recently, but in Indian weddings, there are 3 ceremonies to it: the pre-wedding, actual wedding, post-wedding, with the pre-wedding taking place 2 days before the wedding and post-wedding. This is what I wore to each:
    Pre-wedding: navy suit with blue shirt and navy blue tie
    wedding: black suit white shirt black tie
    post-wedding: black suit black shirt royal blue tie
    And I wore the black suit with my black shirt but without a tie to my cousin’s sweet 16 a couple of weeks ago. I actually got all positive comments with no negative comments! Do you think that you would have given me positive comments had you seen me in this look(s)?

    • A dark shirt is never dressy enough to wear with a suit, in my opinion. It’s not a particularly creative look either. One’s tie should always be darker than the shirt as well, and that’s not possible with a black shirt. Black suits should also be avoided for anything other than funerals.

    • I really only wear all black because I like the color black, and also, because I am a short man, I think that all black gives strengthening look rather than black and white, and it also makes me look taller. Even though I do wear white shirts a lot, I always seem to notice that they sometimes make my waist look bigger. Other style consultants have said to avoid white shirts with dark suits because they “cut my body in half”. I think that white shirts with navy, charcoal, and black suits look great on me, although I do see what they mean when I take off the jacket. What do you think of this?

  14. Bond could wear this if he is disguised as a villian maybe? I think a black shirt might have actually worked with the Windsor suit in Spectre, because like Jany Temime said,”Bond is in disguise as a gangster.” Also, if Bond is planning to disguise as a villain or gangster etc, a black shirt might come in handy! He should probably ditch the tie in that case. Also, in this case, I think that it was Brosnan’s idea to wear all black because he does that a lot to press conferences and other events. And I don’t think the shirt was made by Turnbull and Asser because when I checked on their website, they don’t have any black shirts. It was made from Brioni as my inference.

    • The shirt is probably not from Brioni because they don’t usually do collar space. Why do you think what’s on Turnbull & Asser’s website means anything?

  15. Actor Julian McMahon wore a similar outfit from Gucci in the series Nip/Tuck in 2003 to an evening cocktail event. His suit was a herringbone weave in jet black from memory. He played an arrogant, peacock of a man, who was devious and the look suited the character.

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