Remington Steele: The Double-Breasted Power Suit

19

Remington-Steele-Grey-Power-Suit

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.

19 COMMENTS

  1. Ugh. Here it is in all its glory, the previous disastrous men’s fashion era which, although Matt mentions the 1980’s actually dragged on until about 1994. Until the current shrunken look, this was for me, the absolute nadir of men’s tailoring.

    As you say, Matt, “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”. No surprise there. They were tailored by a master craftsman called Doug Hayward. These suits aren’t fit to be mentioned in the same breath. Here’s Hayward’s nod to the era but tastefully crafted with natural shoulder, double vents and neater cut trousers; https://www.bondsuits.com/the-1980s-double-breasted-suit/

    You mention the phenomenon of the low gorge and low button stance; “Along 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.” This phenomenon occurs here with Brosnan’s monstrosity and with Dalton’s “Licence to Kill”, single breasted versions. But here https://www.bondsuits.com/roger-moores-navy-chalkstripe-suit/, the gorge is high with a corresponding low button stance and it works beautifully. I’m assuming it’s in relation to the double breasted jacket that you draw the distinction, Matt but wouldn’t the “Octopussy” suit also have a high gorge or did Hayward temper this here? I’m curious about this.

  2. Having lived through this era, and worn suits during it, my first reaction was “What? That’s not a power suit..!”. But I realize that Brosnan was so incredibly thin that his frame dampens a lot of the features of this style of suit.

    As this was the first style of suit that I ever wore there’s an almost default reaction to this where it appears “normal” to me – something that I think happens to a lot of us (I know a couple of gentlemen who came of age during the 70s who think that wide flared trousers and big lapels are “the standard” for men’s suits!). For example, the peaks of the lapels don’t seem low to me at all on this suit. It would be interesting to see this style of suit on someone of a more average build; that would show the distinguishing features a bit better.

    My own favourite suit from this time was a navy blue DB Hugo Boss suit that I usually wore with a red tie. I remember that purple or green were big colours for “power ties” as well. I loved that the style seemed influenced by 30s/40s style and I occasionally wore a grey fedora with that suit as well.

    Although I think we’re getting closer to fuller cuts coming back soon I wonder when heavily padded or built-out shoulders will come back..?

  3. Matt,why “power suits”?
    I think that the peoples really rich and powerful in 80s dressed by tailors,at Saville Row or in Italy,but also at New York were still good tailors at time.
    Suits like these in this post were for medium/low level executive or lawyers.
    So,why “power suits”,was a joke?

    • I’m not sure I understand your question. Middle to high level executives in America dressed in Italian suits like this, often from Armani or Valentino. The lower end of power suits would have been from Canali or Hugo Boss. Brosnan’s suit was likely very expensive. Lower level people were more likely to wear American suits.

      • Ah,okay,
        I forget that Armani and Valentino were perceived in USA as “exclusive” (in Italy was only pretentious ready to wear with more marketing that quality).
        The point is why suits in this style were called “power suits” in USA?
        Because they created a more athletics figure?
        Or because were considered a symbol of success?

      • I think for both of those reasons. The look was so much different than the shapeless natural-shoulder suits Americans had been used to.

      • As I said above, I lived through this era. My recollection was that the built-up nature of the suits gave a man a more “powerful” presence by making him look physically bigger (think of how some men who are…”husky” are considered more intimidating than a smaller, more muscular man by a lot of people).

        I’d have to dig them out of storage, but I recall GQ Magazine at the time using several words like “powerful” and “impressive” to describe this style of suit, contrasting them with “anemic” and “soft” silhouettes that had been around previously (I seem to recall one writer, but I don’t remember in which magazine, mentioning how you’ll make all the other men at work look even more effeminate when you show up in one of these suits!). Ah, memories of Reagan’s America…

  4. “This suit could possibly be Italian in origin, since the Italians were best-known for making such power suits in the 1980s”.

    Possible.
    I remember similiar cut at time for suits of Valentino and Coveri.
    But the irony is that in Italy at upper flors these suits were considered “vulgars” (and for the most were exported).
    In 80s the real “powers suits” were the bespoke suits cut by the Caraceni dynasty,in Rome and Milan,or similiar tailors (Neapolitan tailors were still little known outside Naples and Campania).

    • But people in America knew nothing of these Italian tailors. In the 80s and 90s people wanted an Italian suit, and a suit like this is exactly what they imagined.

  5. Thanks, Matt, for reminding us that the 1980s power suit included features from an era widely regarded as a highpoint of men’s fashion: the 1930s. Brosnan’s suit is stylish. I’d wear one like it myself today. Without irony.

  6. I remember this style very clearly. The “Power Suit” trend actually only became widespread around here in the late 80’s / early 90’s. It was very popular among businessmen/politicians who wanted the “athletic” V shape torso. The trouble is, because most of them are rather large, they buy suits with very wide shoulders to compensate. And the label is always Italian, Hugo Boss, Armani and the like.
    My father grew up in the 70’s but reached managerial position in the 90’s so most of his suits are actually of this cut. His favorite is a double breasted charcoal suit with very low buttons that is cut very similarly to Brosnan’s suit. Whenever he had an important meeting, he would wear that suit with a french blue shirt and a red “power tie”. It’s a look he said he copied from Clinton.

  7. I may be in the minority here, but I believe that Dalton’s Licence To Kill dinner suit would have looked much better and would have been fashionable for the times if it were cut in this manner and fit as well as Brosnan’s suit does here.

    Having said that, I much prefer the suits that Brosnan wore as Bond.

    Another semi-related thought, in my opinion the finest example of a double-breasted suit in the Bond franchise belongs not to 007 but to Ralph Fiennes’s M in Skyfall.

  8. I think apart the way too low button stance, which elongates Brosnan’s torso and makes him look taller and thus even thinner, it looks quite good, and it’s not too roomy.
    But why stripes here ? Brosnan looks slimmer with stripes, why not a subtle plaid or windowpane ? Or just plain grey ?
    Speeking of which, I think it’s a shame Brosnan wore only one glen plaid suit as Bond. He certainly would have looked great in a three-button, light grey, glen plaid Brioni suit.

  9. My father wore mostly this style of suit and blazer in the 1980s and early 1990s, minus the peaked labels and double breast, and passed those to me as my first suits, and they were of exceptional quality. He was a wealthy attorney in New Orleans who owned the firm. You are right Mr. Spaiser. During that time, when Americans wanted an Italian suit, this sort of style was anticipated, regardless of what actual Italians were wearing at the time.

    While I am not a fan of the double-breasted style for myself, the I think the “power suit” looks fine and still very presentable if the fit is proper like the one Mr. Brosnan wears in that instance. The shoulders are not as bad as some of the other suits he wears in that series. The width of the tie and fit of the suit compliment his figure.

    The style is dated yes, but for the time I think it was tasteful. I just take that as a lesson in buying trendy apparel. No matter how appealing and popular the media makes a style of the day appear, it will always seem tacky and outdated after the fad dies out. As others have mentioned here, the slim-fit suits with thin lapels and low-waisted, plain front pants which are especially popular in the entertainment industry now are one such trend. In a decade or so people will watch films and television from the late 2000s and 2010s asking “What were they thinking?”

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.