Now There’s An Outfit to Die For
James Bond: Pierce Brosnan
Director: Lee Tamahori
Costume designer: Lindy Hemming
Shirts: Brioni and Turnbull & Asser
Ties: Turnbull & Asser
Die Another Day was made during one of the best times for menswear and one of the worst times for menswear. In the early 2000s there were no new trends in suits, but that’s not a bad thing. Suits were hardly any different than they were in the 1930s: well-balanced, structured and traditional. Both two buttons and three buttons were popular on suit jackets. Trousers could have either pleats or a flat front. There were no extremes in the styles, and the only mark of suits from this era was a higher button stance. The suit trends and costume designer Lindy Hemming’s classic approach to dressing Bond coincided perfectly.
However, suits were becoming less common for work and less common overall. And without any trends in suits, there was nothing to excite people about suits either. Nondescript casualwear was the average man’s uniform, though classic casual styles were readily available. Die Another Day took advantage of the classic styles in both tailoring and casualwear that were common at the time, building upon the traditional wardrobe of Brosnan’s first three films while refreshing Brosnan’s look by removing the 1990s elements.
This wardrobe is the one I’ve previously thought about the least of all the Bond wardrobes because Die Another Day is one of my least-watched Bond films. It has involved a more considered examination and reassessment than any of the other wardrobes. Though Die Another Day is generally considered one of the weakest films of the series, it has a fairly strong wardrobe.
The dinner suit in Die Another Day is Brosnan’s fourth with peaked lapels, his third in midnight blue and his second in wool barrathea. It’s a beautiful example that’s overall similar to his others dinner suits, but he wears it in a way that’s a cross between GoldenEye and The World Is Not Enough.
Like in GoldenEye his shirt has a fly front with pleats. The body of the shirt is in cotton voile with narrow pleats on the front while the collar, cuffs and fly placket are made of cotton marcella. It’s an unusual shirt but works perfectly for Bond. My only criticism is that a voile shirt must have been too cold for an ice palace. A cotton poplin shirt would have been more appropriate, offering moderately more insulation. Overall, I find Lindy Hemming’s creativity with this shirt fascinating in how it combines the marcella and pleated shirt styles. Turnbull & Asser made this shirt.
Like in The World Is Not Enough, Bond lacks a waist covering such as a waistcoat or cummerbund, continuing the style from the first three decades of Bond films. Overall, the outfit is perfect for James Bond and still looks fantastic today.
Lounge Suits and Jackets
The suits are evenly split between button-two jackets and Brosnan’s usual button-three jackets. Both were fashionable in 2002, and men would usually choose between the two what they thought suited them best. Brioni’s Roman silhouette remains with straight, roped shoulders, but the silhouette has been slimmed down. Unfortunately Brosnan’s weight fluctuates throughout the film, and the new trimmer fit doesn’t provide much allowance for this. All of the suit trousers have a darted front with a medium-width tapered leg and take a belt, so they don’t look all that outdated today.
The first suit is a charcoal worsted suit with three buttons, made by Bond’s Hong Kong tailor in universe. Brioni, of course, made all of Brosnan’s suits for the film, and they also made most of his shirts. The white shirt isn’t a bad choice, but I think a light blue shirt would have looked better to make the outfit look a bit less formal and stark. The tie’s fine design in red, orange, blue and light brown is the focus of this outfit, but I think it looks too strong against the white shirt. It’s one of Bond’s brightest ties of the series thanks to the red and orange in the tie, and something more subdued would have been a more classically Bondian choice.
The tan linen suit in Cuba is Brosnan’s third relaxed tropical suit in the series. It reintroduces the button-two style to Bond after having been missing since Brosnan’s previously sole example in GoldenEye. Here is contributes to a more relaxed look than three buttons would have. Brosnan wears it open to look more relaxed and to stay cooler, but it would have looked better buttoned. The suit has swelled edges to emphasise its sportiness. He wears this suit with a casual shirt in dark blue with stripes that may be orange and yellow. The shirt has a one-piece collar, so it’s designed to be worn without a tie and look natural when worn open. The tan perforated suede hand-sewn Venetian slip-ons add to the relaxed look. This is one of Bond’s most successful casual tailored looks of the series thanks to how all the pieces of the outfit are just the right level of casual.
This suit and shirt are laid out on the bed in Bond’s Hong Kong hotel room. It’s nice to see these clothes travelling with Bond throughout the film.
When Bond flies first class to London, he’s again wearing a button-three navy birdseye suit. This suit makes an appearance in all of Brosnan’s Bond films, establishing it as Brosnan’s signature suit. He wears this suit on two occasions in Die Another Day, reinforcing it as Brosnan’s signature look. The first time on the plane is with a tie in gold and navy squares, and the second is at a military bunker in South Korea with a mid-blue honeycomb tie. Both ties beautifully coordinate with the suit and look elegant against the white shirt.
It’s a shame that we don’t see more of this suit, but more of this outfit was intended to be seen on screen. Production stills at Thunderballs.org show an extended plane sequence with Bond hanging on the landing gear as the plane lands to escape passport control. However, I suspect that scene was cut for good reason.
In London, Bond is wearing a different suit: a dark grey button-two suit with subtle pinstripes. This time he buttons his suit and the new silhouette is more visible. The button stance is slightly high, which is one of the few identifying features of suits of the ’00s. The low button stance of the 1990s was more flattering on Brosnan, but had the suit been let out to accommodate Brosnan’s weight gain it would have looked much better. Subtle pinstripes were also popular at this time, and they also mark this suit as more Italian than English. I think Bond should have been wearing a slightly bolder stripe like a chalk stripe. The suit has English details such as hacking pockets with a ticket pocket.
The colours of this outfit are the most classically Bondian of all the suits in the film. He wears the suit with a light blue shirt and a dark grey tie with a blue circle pattern. The tie beautifully connects the suit and shirt and keeps the outfit subtle. Later in Moneypenny’s virtual reality sequence Brosnan is wearing the same outfit but with a simple and elegant navy tie that has burgundy rectangles.
Long, luxurious cashmere overcoats are an essential part of Brosnan’s Bond look, and Die Another Day treats us with two of his best coats. Over his grey pinstripe suit in London he wears a long dark navy guards coat, a double-breasted style that reaches below the knee with two fastening buttons, three show buttons and a half belt in the back.
His second coat is a navy single-breasted chesterfield with a velvet collar and slanted pockets with a ticket pocket. He wears a scarf draped around his neck. It has a unique colour fade design, which is grey in the middle fading to orange at the ends. I think the scarf looks too fashion-forward for Bond, and I think it is ugly. A solid grey scarf would have been far better. This is only the second time Bond wears a scarf in the series, the first being part of Bond’s disguise as Sir Hilary Bray in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
Both coats are classic British styles with added Brioni luxury. It’s odd for Bond to be wearing two navy coats in the same film, but it is possible that one is a different colour despite them both looking navy on screen.
Unlike Brosnan’s evening shirt that is from Turnbull & Asser, all of his day shirts are from Brioni. They have a wide spread collar, which was becoming popular at this time. The shirts all have double cuffs, except the casual shirt in Cuba. Most or all of the ties are from Turnbull & Asser.
Casual and Mission Attire
Brosnan starts the film in a camouflage drysuit for the surfing scene. The outfit works for the scene, but an all-black suit would have looked better than the camouflage suit. He unzips the suit to reveal his Van Bierk disguise, which is hardly as exciting as the ivory dinner jacket he revealed under his drysuit in Goldfinger.
Bond’s look as Mr Van Bierk is unrealistically identical to the real Van Bierk’s outfit. While intelligence may be able to find out where he purchased his clothes, MI6 would have had to purchase copies of Van Bierk’s entire wardrobe and find out what outfit he was wearing on this day so that Bond could be dressed the same way. Despite the absurdity of Bond dressing exactly the same way, the outfit is not a good one. There are too many items layered, including a suede jacket over another jacket.
The suede jacket is a very attractive one, particularly with its lounge-coat styling and its pleats in the back, and his khaki trousers are nice too. But the grey button-down shirt isn’t particularly stylish. Bond’s outfit can be excused as poor because it’s a disguise, but there’s no reason for it to have been such a specific disguise. The Oliver Peoples sunglasses that Bond steals off Van Bierk’s face were Brosnan’s own, but they look too small for his face. Nonetheless, it’s a fun moment in the film when Bond completes his disguise. Bond should have worn a similar outfit but modified to his own taste, as Fleming’s Bond often did.
Under the button-down shirt, Bond is wearing a grey t-shirt, which he is still wearing as a prisoner of North Korea. This is a logical choice and it does not need to be stylish. However, his khaki trousers have become black trousers. His trousers were been changed before he was dragged to torture, but if his t-shirt was good enough for his imprisonment, it’s odd that his trousers we not.
When Bond is held by the British in a locked infirmary room, he is wearing a light blue pyjama set. It looks like the cheapest possible pyjamas they could have provided for him, but it’s a step up from a hospital gown. It wouldn’t have been a stretch for Bond to have been provided with luxury pyjamas from a Jermyn Street brand considering the unnecessary luxury we see from British intelligence throughout the Bond series, but this costume choice is a realistic one.
When in Cuba, Bond wears a blue floral short-sleeve shirt from Brioni with a one-piece Lido collar and a straight hem. The shirt is beautifully cut and made, but the pattern is loud for Bond. Bond should have been wearing a plain shirt or one with a fine pattern. Wearing it over a white vest was trendy at the time, but it would have looked better for Bond to not be wearing anything under the shirt and to button it up higher. The navy linen trousers and brown suede chukka boots, however, are classic Bond and a superb choice for this scene. His Persol 2672 sunglasses have a rectangular wrap-around shape, which was trendy in the 2000s and looks a bit outdated today.
His white linen long-sleeve shirt with a Lido collar is a tremendous improvement and is one of Bond’s best casual tropical shirts of the series. This is the most elegant way to dress casually in the tropics and stay cool.
The white fencing outfit is a necessity of the story. It’s silly when he removes the jacket after upping the stakes, but it’s again part of the story. The uniform looks like a high quality piece suitable for the Blades club. However, the fit looks poor in some shots with his stomach sticking out below the jacket and above the trousers. I do not know much about fencing, but I do believe the shirt is not supposed to show between the bottom of the jacket and the top of the trousers.
When Bond arrives in Iceland, he’s wearing a dark grey parka with a black warming insert over a navy ribbed zip cardigan and a dark grey roll neck. He’s in a cold place and needs to the dress for warmth, and that means layers. While these clothes may not have Bond’s usual elegance, the quality is visible in these layers of clothes. These kinds of clothes were trendy at the time for cold-weather purposes, and Bond is dressing appropriately for the times and for the weather.
The charcoal cashmere cableknit rollneck jumper from Ballantyne that Bond wears for infiltrating Gustav Graves’ lair in Iceland is the highlight of film’s casual wardrobe, and it stands out more than any other garment in the film. It’s perfect for Bond in how it’s equally tactical, practical and fashionable. Few of Bond’s knitwear items have the beauty of this jumper. The full outfit includes a parka and black neoprene diving jacket over the jumper, and a black jumper with a stand-up collar and waterproof insulted trouser under the rollneck jumper. The whole outfit perfectly combines style and Bond’s needs in a perfect way.
For the finale, Bond has been outfitted in military fatigues. While they suit the action, they are too soldier-like for Bond. It continues with the theme during Brosnan’s tenure of turning Bond into a soldier for the final act of the film.
Gustav Graves is an interestingly dressed character who tries to dress like the British aristocrat he’s pretending to be but lacks the taste one should have. His double-breasted dinner suit is a beautiful piece, but he wears it poorly with a wing collar as if he’s going to a 1920s dinner party. The wing collar is perfect for the character since it makes sense he would have questionable taste. His brown shadow-stripe suit for London also draws his taste and character into question, though his light blue shirt from Turnbull & Asser is spot on.
Well Done, James
The styles of the suits, coats, shirts and ties hold up extremely well. They hardly look dated today, and there’s little to suggest what era they are from. Apart from the jackets’ slightly high button stance (which may have looked better if Brosnan hadn’t put on weight), the suits are timeless. The two overcoats are amongst the best in the series.
The charcoal roll neck is one of the best pieces of knitwear in the Bond films and set a new standard for Bond’s cold-weather sportswear. It does its job of keeping Bond warm in Iceland while also looking elegant, luxurious and classic.
Not Perfected Yet
Like with Sean Connery in Diamonds Are Forever, Brosnan’s weight fluctuated during the production, and some of the fits suffer as a result. Some of the suits should have been let out, which would have made Brosnan look much better.
Some of casualwear looks a bit awkward. Unlike the previous film that mainly relied on tailoring, this film has a number of casual looks that don’t hold up well today. A few of the outfits are layered to the extreme, which ends up looking sloppy and overly bulky. The sunglasses don’t hold up well either.
The wardrobe has many classic and beautiful pieces. The design of the suits, coats and ties are amongst Brosnan’s best and still look fantastic today. Or they would had they been altered to suit Brosnan’s changing weight. The casual styles apart from the wonderful roll neck are also forgettable or awkward. However, much of Bond’s casual style does not match his tailored sophistication, nor does it look as good on Brosnan. Still, there is much to love about the wardrobe in Die Another Day, perhaps more than the film itself.
Do you agree or disagree with my assessment? Leave your comments below.